Read The Devil's Touch Online

Authors: William W. Johnstone

Tags: #Horror, #Religious Horror, #Fiction, #Satan, #Devil, #Cult, #Coven, #Occult, #Demons, #Undead

The Devil's Touch (3 page)

BOOK: The Devil's Touch
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The wind picked up, blowing hotly in the priest's face.

The calling, pleading slurred words continued to reach Le Moyne.

Father Le Moyne stepped into the murky shadows.

A bloody hand reached for him as a scream touched his ears.

Chief of Police Monty Draper drove the streets of the small college town. He could not understand the feelings of … doom, was the word that came to him, that had slipped into his mind just after supper. His face must have registered his thoughts, for his wife had asked him what was wrong.

"Oh, nothing," he lied to her, and that was something he did not like to do. "I just remembered some paperwork 1 have to do at the station."

"Will you be late?"

"I—I don't know, Viv. Don't wait up for me."

She had smiled at him. "All right, Monty. Just be careful in dealing with the desperadoes."

It was a standing joke between them. Logandale had the lowest crime rate in the entire state. The college was known as a haven for eggheads, not raucous and reveling frat boys. The town itself was just under four thousand population, with a full-time police force of only four men and one woman. The sheriffs department had a substation in Logandale, with one deputy living in town.

Monty had spent ten years on the NYPD, going on disability retirement at the age of thirty-two after taking a shotgun blast in his legs. He walked with a slight limp that became more pronounced as he grew tired. Unable to put police work out of his mind, and not trained for any other type of work, Monty had answered an ad in a police magazine, driven up to Logandale for an interview, and was hired on the spot. That was three years ago. There had been no major crime in the small town during that time. A few break-ins, some petty theft, a fist fight or two on the weekends. Several domestic situations involving husbands beating the shit out of wives, and one domestic situation of a wife beating the shit out of her husband. No rapes, no armed robberies, no shootings, no knivings, no embezzlements—that came to the attention of the police force—no nothing.

It was boring. But the job paid surprisingly well. But a Boy Scout troop could have handled the job. Up to this point. All that was about to change.

Monty gripped the steering wheel and sighed heavily, trying to shake off the feelings of impending doom. Monty was of average height, average weight, average build; everything about Monty Draper was average, which was the reason he had spent nearly all his time doing undercover and stake-out work for the NYPD. One watch commander had commented that Monty Draper could get lost in a crowd of two.

Logandale, set off the beaten path, with no major highways or interstates running near it, was, putting it simply, a nice place to live. The town was surrounded by dairies, farms, and a sometimes colony of kooky writers and nutsy artists just a few miles out of town. When the colony was in residence—during the summer months—the townspeople viewed them with scarcely concealed amusement. But the writers and artists never caused anyone any trouble.

The man who owned the land where the colony was located was the Writer-In-Residence at Nelson College, Noah Crisp. Noah had inherited an obscene amount of money from his mother and father; had published many books, but had never had a best-seller. As a matter of fact, since most of his books were so off-the-wall, so to speak, Noah paid for their publication. But since he was the nearest thing Logandale had to a celebrity, he became sort of an instructor at the college. The board felt that Noah's babblings really weren't harmful, since no one in control of their faculties would pay any attention to them anyway. His classes were usually titled under something like: The Transcendental Aspects of Creating Salable Fiction. Or, The Haruspextic Pitfalls of Writing.

Classes any serious student of writing should take. Surely.

Noah was fifty, a bit on the pudgy side, and wore a beret, of the type featured in the Village back in the early and mid-fifties, and usually wore a painter's smock over jeans and cowboy boots. To say Noah was a bit eccentric would be putting it kindly. Many townspeople just called him a fucking nut and let it go at that.

As Monty drove the streets of the quiet little town, he recalled the visit by Noah, just a few weeks past. The man had not been his usual flaky self, not speaking in his usual pompous and/or condescending manner.

Monty had waved the small man to a seat.

Seated, Noah blurted, "Chief, are you a religious man?"

The question had caught Monty off balance. He had not expected that. Monty shook his head. "Not really. I was raised in the Catholic church, but I broke away from it years ago. While I was still in high school."

Noah nodded his head in understanding. "I, too, was raised in the church. But I haven't attended in years. Personal reasons. Chief, something very—strange is occurring in this town. I use that adverb in lieu of bizarre."

Monty elected not to tell Noah that strange was an adjective, not an adverb. He thought.

Monty waited.

"My dog disappeared, Chief."

Monty looked at the man.

"But I found him—yesterday."

"I'm … glad, Noah. Do you consider your dog's disappearance bizarre?"

"What! Oh, no. Of course not. But I do consider it quite bizarre when the animal was tortured to death. Wouldn't you?"

"You want to go into more detail?"

Noah laid half a dozen Polaroid prints on the chiefs desk. Monty looked at them and felt like vomiting. The little dog had been hideously tortured, then patches of the animal had been skinned. Strange markings were cut into the skin. Alive, the thought came to Monty. The little animal was alive while this … depravity was done. Monty lifted his eyes from the pictures of pain.

"Where did you find the animal, Noah?"

"About a mile from my home. Down a dirt road."

"What prompted you to look there?"

"Because I had looked everywhere else. Really. Victor, that's my dog's name—was his name, had a habit of running off quite often. But I always knew where to look for him. But this time, no Victor. So I began a systematic search for him. This spot," he said pointing to the prints, "was the last area in the quantum. I was—I became quite ill when I found him."

"That's understandable." Monty looked at the prints. Something was disturbingly familiar about the scene. But he couldn't pin it down.

"You look perplexed, Chief," Noah said.

Monty had mumbled something; he couldn't recall what. Now, driving the quiet streets of Logandale, it came to him: his sergeant handing out prints of a dead man found in an old condemned building. "We got us a bunch of Satan nuts," the sergeant said. "Coroner's office says the old guy was alive when this was done to him. Look at it real hard, boys and girls, and keep your heads up on this one."

That had been Monty's first year on the department. The pictures had made him violently ill.

And the same type of skinning had been done to Noah's dog; the same strange markings found on both the dog and the old man.

They never did find out who tortured and killed the old guy, but department shrinks said it definitely was the work of Satan worshippers.

Devil worshippers … here in Logandale? Monty just could not accept that. College kids up to something.

He rolled down the window to catch some air.

The air was hot and smelled bad.

"What the hell?" Monty muttered. It had been cool for the past few weeks; now hot air that smelled bad. Last week in October and getting summertime weather that smelled worse than the Hudson. Didn't make sense.

That's when Monty heard the shouting.

The hand that touched Father Le Moyne's face was sticky with blood. When Le Moyne recovered sufficiently from his initial fright to run inside his quarters and grab a flashlight, he could see why the man was bloody.

The man was naked, his body covered with strange-looking cuts and slashings and markings. The man was bloody from his mouth to his toenails. Or where his toenails were supposed to be. Father Le Moyne tried to avert his eyes from the man's groin. The man had been castrated. Among other hideous acts. Covering the tortured body with his jacket, Father Le Moyne told him, "Lie still. I'll get help."

He ran back inside and jerked up the phone. The phone was dead. But it had been all right an hour before. "Damn!" the priest said. He ran out the side door of his quarters and toward the street.

The church was located on the edge of town, the nearest neighbor a full block away. The gas station across the street was closed. Le Moyne saw the lights of an approaching vehicle. He ran toward the street, waving his arms and shouting.

Monty slammed on his brakes and jumped out of the car. "Steady now, Father. What's the matter?"

Pulling the chief toward the church, the priest explained as best he could. Monty could not believe what the priest was saying. In New York, yeah, it would not even make the pages of the worst rag in town. It seemed to the rest of the nation—Monty had been told, many times—the people living and working in the Big Apple seemed more concerned about the rights of street slime than in the rights of the citizen. That wasn't true. But just try explaining that to a tourist with a busted head, minus his watch, ring, and wallet. And the punks that mugged him back out on the streets before the tourist is out of the emergency room.

Maybe there was some truth in it, Monty finally admitted privately.

The priest knew his story sounded far-fetched. He held out his hands to the cop. Monty looked at the dark blood and quickened his step.

"There!" Le Moyne pointed to the side of the church.

The ground was sticky with blood. The jacket the priest had used to cover the man was there, blood soaked. But the man was gone.

The Beasts feasted that evening. They tore the intestines from the tortured man's belly and ate them while steam rose from the man's open stomach. The Beasts ripped flesh from bone and devoured the sweet meat. They cracked open bone and sucked the marrow from it. One Beast contented herself with eating the flesh from the man's head, peeling the head like an orange, popping the eyeballs into her mouth like grapes. Then she ate the brain.

The few bones that were left were gathered and taken deep underground, through a hole behind the Catholic church. The hole had at one time been a well. It now connected with an elaborate labyrinth of underground tunnels. The tunnels crisscrossed under the entire town of Logandale, with exits under all church basements, the city hall, the police station, the sheriffs department substation, the public schools, many homes, and into the town's sewage system.

The digging and reenforcing of the tunnels had begun years before, back in 1948. For when one coven falls, as happened that year, in another part of the country, it is written in The Book that another must spring forth so the number will remain constant. The coven in Logandale was one of the oldest in the Northeast, and one of the largest. The coven in Logandale was almost ready to begin its full possession of the town. It was down to a matter of hours.

THREE

Father Daniel Le Moyne sat in Chief Draper's small office. He went over his story again … and again. Monty could not break the priest's version. Not that he wanted to, or expected to, for he believed the priest had seen exactly what he described.

"Do you want to go over it again, Monty?" the priest asked patiently.

"That won't be necessary, Father. I believe you saw a man. Hell, here's your bloody jacket. The ground was covered with blood. I have samples to send off to the lab. But what happened to the man?"

Father Le Moyne shrugged, shrugged as eloquently as only a Frenchman can; even a third generation American of French heritage.

"Father, let me ask you a question you—well, may think odd."

The priest waited.

Monty said, "I don't know how to put this except to just jump right in. But bear in mind I fully realize this is not a question you would expect to hear from a trained cop. Have you felt—
evil
in this town? I mean, especially over the past few weeks?"

Father Le Moyne lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. He was thoughtful for a long moment, his eyes hooded with caution. Finally, he said, "Yes. I have."

The chief of police seemed to relax. "Care to elaborate, Father?"

"Are you asking if there is such a thing as varying degrees of evil?" The priest smiled.

"I was raised in the church, Father." Monty's response was dryly spoken.

"Your question about evil concerns the man I found this evening, correct?"

"Yes."

"The poor man had strange, bizarre markings cut into his flesh, Chief Draper."

Strange and bizarre, Monty thought. Those words keep cropping up. First from Noah, now from the priest. "Describe them, Father. We only touched on that."

The priest closed his eyes. When he spoke, his words were slow as he brought back the tortured man's condition. "Stars, moons, upside down crosses. Other symbols I—am not that familiar with. Some I have never seen at all. It looked as though the man had been tortured for several days. Some of the cuttings appeared to be crusted over; others were fresh. There were numbers cut into the poor man's flesh. Sixes and nines. 1 believe part of his tongue had been cut out. His words were so slurred. And as I told you previously, he had been castrated."

Le Moyne opened his eyes. Monty thought them to contain a haunting expression.

"What did the symbols mean to you, Father?"

Did the priest shudder? Monty thought so. "I— would rather not venture an opinion at this time, Chief. If you don't mind."

He knows, Monty thought. Knows more than he is telling me. Without warning, Monty opened the center drawer of his desk and removed the prints of Noah's dog. He flipped them to the priest. Father Le Moyne took one look and covered his mouth in shock.

"What's the matter, Father?"

"That's obvious, isn't it? The poor animal. That's Noah's dog, Victor."

"I wasn't aware you two knew each other."

"The dog or Noah?" Le Moyne asked, with a sense of humor that surprised Monty.

"Go on, Father. But I am glad to see you have a sense of humor. It helps in times like these."

BOOK: The Devil's Touch
8.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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