by Frank G. Murdock
Somewhere isolated and beneath the ground:
The chains that held Blue Devil bound did not strain under the reluctant hero’s attempts to escape. The darkness around him was like a weight of futility that sought to drown him in the sea of hopelessness he was beginning to feel.
Then there came the sound of the key into the lock from the door beyond, followed by a dim ray of light that pierced the veil of oblivion, glowing like the dying ember of a campfire as a figure entered the pitch, holding a torch.
Blue Devil would have said something had it not been for the hoarseness of his throat. He had been calling out for what felt like days, and his voice had finally taken a much-needed respite.
Instead, he merely watched as the robed figure began to take on more clarity as sconces were ignited throughout the room, one by one. When all were lit, the robed figure moved before Dan Cassidy and began to unclasp a large tome he was carrying under one arm. Large leather bands were loosened from tarnished clasps of bronze before the thick, patch-worked leather covers opened to show aging pages filled with indecipherable scrawling.
Slowly, the bent and crooked fingers of the man in black turned through the pages of the thick tome before resting on that which he sought. For several minutes, the man in black seemed to gaze at the pages, unmoving, before finally looking up at the chained hero and letting a sinister chuckle break the silence.
“I believe it has been said, ‘that which does not kill you will only make you stronger.’ In your case, that will not be true.”
Reaching into his robes, he pulled forth a small jar and opened it. Dabbing his finger into the container, he then pressed the substance onto Blue Devil’s forehead. The hero tried to flinch away, but he was unable to avoid the man’s touch. In his weakened state, he could do nothing but groan within.
The man in black marked his lips with the same substance and then began to recite passages from the text.
Blue Devil felt nothing at first. The words initially came off the man’s tongue like a dark symphony, but as his voice raised in timbre and strength, the words seemed to become guttural and, at their crescendo, a bastardization of all that was holy.
And it was at this point that the azure hero began to feel something happen to him.
First came the raising of his hair across the landscape of his body, the feeling of things crawling over his skin, the squirming and digging of things beneath his flesh, and finally a pain like none he had ever felt before, so painful that, from deep within his core, his voice found new strength and tore out from strained vocal cords and past his lips to fill the small room with such intensity that the flames of the torches seemed to sway from the impact of his cries, reverberating through the stone passages beyond.
Dan Cassidy screamed for what felt like an eternity. But in truth, only a few minutes passed as a flicker of ectoplasmic energy formed where the man in black had marked the horn-headed hero upon the forehead. There, a wisp of otherworldly substance shot forth like a tendril and was consumed by the parted lips of the sorcerer.
And when it was over, the hero known as Blue Devil lay crumpled upon the ground, unmoving.
Georgetown, Washington, D.C., November 1, 1988:
Baron Winters stood over a small cauldron upon a dais. He spread a grayish powder into the cauldron that matched the color of his gothic apparel. His formal attire of a suit and vest ensemble, highlighted by a short cape and silken ruffled shirts, gave him a regal distinction of authority.
His grey eyes peered into the cauldron through rising mists, his face seemingly unmoved by the images he beheld.
Waving his hand over the cauldron, he caused the mists to fade away. He then stepped away from the cauldron and walked toward a wall of books. Reaching up, he withdrew an aged volume from the shelf and purposely thumbed through its yellowed pages.
Stopping at one point, he read from the tome’s pages intently before closing the book and placing it under his left arm. He moved over toward a large desk and reached for a golden rope, then pulled it.
Moments later, a tall man of Middle-Eastern descent walked into the room from a side door.
“Baron Winters?” he queried in a reserved tone.
The man in gray, now sitting at the large oak desk in the back of the room, once again was engaged in the text lying open in front of him. He looked up at the servant.
“Zadok, a crisis of immense proportion is taking shape; it is time to once again assemble the Night Force.”
Zadok Grimm nodded. “The old team?”
“No,” returned the Baron. “We will need others.” Before the Baron could elaborate further, the phone rang.
“Wintersgate Manor,” said Zadok as he put the receiver to his ear, listening to the voice on the other end for several moments. “Of course. One moment, please.” Laying one hand over the receiver, he turned toward the Baron. “Sir, an important call from Ingolstadt. Would you like to take it here in your study?”
Baron Winters turned toward Zadok, and with an unreadable face and knowing tone said, “I am aware of her situation. Tell her to journey here, and we will work together to find that which she seeks.”
As Zadok relayed the information over the phone, Baron Winters eyed the picture within the book.
The image was that of a lone figure. The figure was that of a man. His clothing was ragged, and he held what appeared to be a jagged, toothed longsword. Two massive columns of stone stood on either side. It was an image of power and light. Beneath the image read:
It is said that a hero came from the sky, a man who defeated this evil and buried the book in the Castle of Kandar.
“Kandar…” muttered the Baron indifferently. “Kandar…”
The autumn colors of orange, yellow, and brown covered the streets of the small town, the cool northern winds of the day whispering a warning of the bitter winter ahead. The local school was full of children whose excitement of the beginning of a new school year had started to wane. Seniors worked diligently in their yards, raking and pruning for the winter to come. All in all, it was a Norman Rockwell portrait in the making.
A Dodge Omni pulled up to the curb and parked. The sound of the metal band The Misfits could be heard blasting from the speakers within.
“Believers be on guard
Be strong and take a stand
The time of Armageddon’s here
Some call me the son of the mornin’
Spe-e-e-eak of the Devi-i-i-il…
Spe-e-eak! Of! The! De-e-vil!”
A passenger stepped out from the vehicle and took the last drag from his cigarette before flicking the butt onto the pavement and crushing it out. Handing the driver within a small plastic bag, he lit another cigarette as the vehicle pulled away. Combing his hair back with his fingers, the man stepped onto the sidewalk and strode toward the large house. As he stepped onto the stairs of the second empire Victorian home, his eyes glanced over the sign in the front yard that read Midnight, Mass. Investigations.
Jenny Swan sat at her desk, doodling on a notepad. The voice on the other end of the phone seemed to go on forever as she listened half-heartedly.
“Uh-huh… a witch? You don’t say… Like those girls from The Witches of Eastwick. She’s living in the house across the street… Really… You saw her watching television as her broom and mop cleaned the house on their own… that’s amazing…”
As Jenny spoke to the caller, a tall man with slicked-back blond hair came through the door. He was wearing a tan trenchcoat over a double-breasted, pin-striped blue suit. His dark blue eyes scanned the room before meeting the young secretary’s eyes.
Something about the man’s presence demanded her immediate attention. Jenny quickly returned to the conversation at hand.
“Well, I’ve got your number, Mrs. Kravitz… Yes… 1163 Morning Glory Circle… Yes, I’ll have the Kadmons contact you. Thanks for calling. Goodbye.” Hanging up the phone, she looked up at the gentleman with a smile. “Hello. My names Jennifer. Welcome to Midnight, Mass. Investigations. How might I help you?”
“Look at this, honey,” Julia Kadmon said as she peered into the computer monitor. “Looks like L.A. might have another vampire problem.”
At a table across the room sat Adam Kadmon, a handsome man with dark hair and deep blue eyes. He was sipping a cup of coffee as he thumbed through the latest copy of Beyond Investigation magazine. He looked up at his wife; he could spend all day doing that. He smiled as he said, “Really? Somebody wanting us to clear one out of their basement?”
“No,” replied Julia. “Just noticing there’s going to be a One World by Night convention there next week. Looks like they got Pink Turns Blue to perform during their opening midnight Blood Ball. Nothing to be alarmed about just yet.”
Adam raised an eyebrow to this as he stopped sipping his cup. “Oh. I was worried. I thought it was going to be something serious, like the return of that Bat Child that was attacking small children a few years back. Remember all the hoopla caused when the National Chronicle printed that story without considering the panic it might cause?”
Julia turned from her computer with a mock look of horror. “Yes, I remember. It was awful. All the Orlando schools were shut down for weeks due to parents’ fear of their kids being attacked on their way to school by the creature. It wasn’t until the Feds said that they had captured the creature and sent him to Libya to fight Gaddafi that the fears resided.”
“Yep,” replied Adam. “Though those fears weren’t exactly groundless, especially if the government was able to clone an army of bat children, as reported by them later. Something like that could cause panic in the streets, the complete breakdown of civilization as we know it.”
“That would be bad, wouldn’t it?” said Julia. “How would the two of us hope to stop such an insidious proliferation?”
“I’m not sure we could, my dear,” said Adam as he put down his magazine and stood up. “As a matter of fact, I think it would surely mean the end of the entire world as we know it.”
Julia rose from her seat and moved over by her husband. Wrapping her arms around him, she said, “What would we do in those final hours?” She feigned a whimper.
Adam lifted her chin and smiled. “Well, I have a few ideas…” And he gently kissed her lips.
“Mmm…” she cooed. “Maybe the end of the world wouldn’t be so bad. At least it would end on a climactic note.”
Adam was about to remark on his wife’s innuendo but was cut short by a knock outside the door of their shared office.
“I guess this will have to wait,” sighed Julia as she pushed away from Adam and opened the door. Standing outside was their secretary, Jenny Swan.
“Yes, Jenny. What’s up?”
The young secretary smiled as she looked at her employers. She often remarked how much they looked like Stefanie Powers and Pierce Brosnan from Hart to Hart when she spoke with her friends and family.
“Mr. and Mrs. Kadmon, there’s someone here to see you.”
“Who?” inquired Adam.
“He says his name is John Constantine.”
Adam and Julia looked at each other, surprised. “Lead him to the library, Jenny,” said Adam. “We’ll be there in a moment.”
“Sure thing, sir,” said Jenny before turning and closing the door behind her with a smile.
“John Constantine?” Julia said, somewhat amazed. “Why would he want to talk to us?”
Adam gave his wife another kiss. “I don’t know, dear, but let’s hope he’s not here with tickets to see Pink Turns Blue, eh?”
When the Kadmons arrived in their library, they found John Constantine facing one of the large bookshelves filled with tomes that covered a wide range of topics from apparition sightings to zombie animation. A cloud of smoke hung over the library as they watched the man in the trenchcoat light a new cigarette with the butt of the last one. Turning toward the Kadmons, he crushed out his butt into an ashtray filled with several others of the same brand, all Silk Cuts.
“I think we can help one another. Mind if I smoke?”
The Kadmons looked at one another with sidelong glances before Adam said, “No. Go ahead. What exactly is it that we can do for you, Mr. Constantine?”
“Ever heard of the Necronomicon?” replied Constantine.