Fiction Friday - Biggs and Wedge Occult Occurrences: Like a Whore in Church
Another Friday, another short story. It's the sixth in this series, which means I'm thirty percent done with that I have planned for this. It's also the longest to date and, in my opinion, the best. But that's for you to decide, so read it and let me know what you think!
Biggs and Wedge Occult Occurrences:
Like a Whore in Church
“Now there’s definitely something you don’t see every day.”
I turned my head in the direction Alexa had nodded. There, seated down at the other end of the bar nursing a Corona was a priest with his collar open, the white part at the end sticking up. It almost reminded me of someone waving a white flag, and I had to grin.
“You’re right about that, Lexy,” I answered. “Maybe you should go see if he needs any help.
Alexa Fogel, manager of the bar me and my partner owned, called the Haunted Hops, flashed a dazzling smile at me from behind the bar. “I don’t think so, Hank. I’m just guessing, but I think a priest in here is probably more interested in your other services.”
Between her smile and the way she said my name, I had to stifle a sigh. She was the only one in my life who called me anything other than “Biggs” or “Biggsy.” Of course, since she was the only person in my life other than my partner Wedge, it wasn’t that impressive a distinction. The fact that I was secretly in love with her, on the other hand…
“You’re probably right.” A small groan escaped my lips. The occult business had been quiet since that nonsense with the double-haunted grandfather clock, and I was happy about it. But, like Robert Frost said, nothing gold can stay.
I picked up my Heineken and walked to where the priest was seated, trying to see what I could notice about him. One thing was clear right off the bat: this man had not been sleeping well. He looked tired and on edge. I slid onto the stool next to him. “Help you with something, padre?”
He looked up at me, startled. He must not have noticed my approach. “Well, yes,” he finally said, composing himself, “I’m looking for either Mr. Biggs or Mr. Wedge.”
“You found Mr. Biggs,” I answered. “What can I do for you?”
“My name is Fr. Rube Elliot,” he said, “and I’m the pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows, and, well, I believe the church is haunted.”
I took a long drink from my beer to buy myself time, and still couldn’t stifle a dickish response. “Are you sure it isn’t a miracle?”
He frowned. “I’d hardly call the ghost of a women who looks like she’s from the nineteenth century materializing out of nowhere in the middle of Sunday Mass and killing a man a miracle, Mr. Biggs.”
“Depends on the man,” I said without thinking. Once I realized I might be pushing this clearly frazzled priest a little too far, I held my hands up in a placating gesture. “I’m sorry, Father. I don’t have the best relationship with the Church, but I shouldn’t take it out on you.” I noticed his beer was almost empty. “Let me buy you another drink and you can tell me all about it.”
It took him a moment, but he nodded. Maybe he was weighing the size of his problem against the risk of getting any more verbal abuse from an asshole in a bar. In any event, I signaled to Lexy and when she came over to us I asked for another beer for myself and the padre. “Thanks, Lexy,” I said as she handed them to us. “And if you can find Wedge and send him over to us, I’d appreciate it.”
“You got it, boss,” she said playfully before she spun on her heels and walked off.
“Beautiful young woman,” Fr. Rube remarked.
“Yes, she is,” I said softly, watching her across the bar. I shook my head and then turned to face him before my mind wandered to dangerous places. “Okay, Father. Take it from the top.”
He took a long drink, obviously steadying himself before he began. “It was during the ten a.m. Mass Sunday morning. I was at the lectern, giving my homily, when a baby started crying. I ignored it, of course; there are always crying babies, and I can outshout them when I have to. It’s part of the job. It went n for a few minutes, and then I heard a man’s voice, I assumed the father’s, telling the child’s mother to shut the baby up. He was very loud and insistent, and he eventually started cursing. I was about to step in, to tell him to calm down, when it happened.” He paused for another drink. After he finished sipping, he stayed quiet, staring across the bar. Finally, just as I was about to prompt him to speak, he continued. “The ghost appeared, right in front of the altar. It looked like a woman, as I said, dressed like she was from the nineteenth century, with rips and tears in the dress she was wearing. She… I don’t want to say ran, but floated doesn’t feel right either… down the aisle to where the baby was crying. People started yelling and scrambling to get away, but over all the noise there were two sounds I could hear clearly that I’ll never forget. The first was a scream of anger so loud and intense it couldn’t be from this world, and the second was a scream of pain that ended suddenly as she ripped the man’s head from his shoulders.”
“Jesus,” I said softly, then caught myself. “Sorry, Father.”
He smiled weakly. “Given the circumstances, I don’t think I can blame you.”
“I know I don’t,” a voice said from behind me. I turned to see my partner standing there.
“Fr. Rube Elliot,” I said, “this is my partner, Aldredge Thompson.”
“Call me Wedge, Father,” he said as he shook the priest’s hand. “Everyone else does. That’s a hell of a story you’ve got there.”
“It sure is,” I said, turning from Wedge to Fr. Rube, “but I’m not sure why you need us. Doesn’t the Church have something set up for things like this? An exorcist or something?” I felt Wedge’s elbow lightly nudge my ribs, a reminder to be nice; he hadn’t quite given up on his faith like I had.
“Yes, well,” the priest responded, clearing his throat nervously, “the Church does have an official exorcist, but he’s versed in demonic possession, something nobody really believes exists as far as I know, and not… well, ghosts. And as I’m sure you know, the Church has never really reached an opinion yet on all this spiritual phenomena since it came to light.”
“I had thought maybe you people had someone or something on hand for this stuff that you were keeping to yourselves.” Another elbow from Wedge.
“If we do, it’s so secret none of the other priests I’ve spoken to have ever heard of it.” He sounded a little perturbed at my questions, but he took another drink and then looked at both of us, a pleading look on his face. “But I’ve heard you are the best at this, and I need my parishioners to be safe. Can you help me?”
I sighed. I knew Wedge wouldn’t let me turn this one down. “Yes, padre, we can probably help you. But a couple of things first. It isn’t going to be free. The Church is going to have to open up the coffers for this one.” I heard Wedge gasp in horror, but I plunged ahead. “And second, just to be clear, you don’t have a ghost problem. Ghosts are nice, friendly spirits that stay out of people’s way. Something that decapitates a person in the middle of Mass? That’s a poltergeist, and a nasty one at that. So you’re going to call ahead, clear the church out completely, give us the keys, and wait here until the job is done.” I looked at how fast he had finished his Corona and grinned. “I’ll make sure Lexy knows your drinks are on the house.”
“I’ll clear the church out, but I’m coming with you. I can’t let you go there without me. You might get hurt. And it’s my church, my parish that needs protecting. I have to be there.”
Wedge and I both shook our heads immediately. “Did you miss the part where I said this is a nasty poltergeist we’re dealing with here?” I looked at him, starting to suspect he might be two beers over his limit. “This is going to be dangerous.”
“Then I’ll pray for us all,” he answered.
I exhaled loudly. “Yeah. Because that always helps.”
* * * * *
Fr. Elliot let us into Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow and locked the door behind us. I have to admit, it had been a long time since I had stepped foot inside a church, but it looked exactly like I remember it. Statues of happy saints, stained-glass windows showing saints and children and animals frolicking together happily, every scene more annoyingly upbeat than the last, all of them completely ignorant of the realities of the world we lived in. I had to remind myself not to take all my resentment out on the priest. He had certainly been through enough already.
“Alright. Wedge, stay back here with Fr. Rube, keep him safe just in case,” I said. “I’m going to see what I can feel.” Without waiting for a response, I took a few steps down the main aisle into the church, reaching out with the sixth sense I had that made me a medium. Immediately, I could tell this church had seen a lot; there was a lot of psychic residue left over from decades and decades of weddings, funerals, and any other event that had gone on there. Emotions, both good and bad, were everywhere. Finding what I was looking for, some trace of the poltergeist haunting the place, was going to be tough.
In the meantime, I could overhear Wedge and Fr. Rube deep in conversation. “He doesn’t like me very much, does he,” the priest was asking.
“Ah, it’s not you,” Wedge answered, “so much as it’s what you represent. Biggsy has seen a lot in his life, a lot of weird, horrible things that fly in the face of the things we were taught to believe in as we grew up. We both have.”
“And what about you? You seem to be much finer with the Church than he is.”
“Me?” I could hear Wedge laughed. “I served in the Marines, Father. In a unit so secret I’ll never be allowed to talk about it, not even on the day I die. A unit so secret we had to have our own chaplain because the base chaplain wasn’t one of us. That priest and I, we went through a lot together. So no matter what else I go through, me and the Church will always be okay. Biggsy doesn’t have that kind of link that I have, and the weird shi… I mean, stuff, we deal with hits him a lot harder than me because he’s the medium. I’m just the muscle.”
“I can hear you, you know,” I called back over my shoulder irritably. “There are definitely better things to talk about right now than me. Is there anything else you can tell us, Padre?”
“No, I told you the whole story,” he responded, sounding chastened enough that it brought a smile to my face. I quickly turned away so he wouldn’t see it.
“What about after the attack?” It sounded like Wedge had an idea. “Did you talk to the woman who had been with the victim at all?”
“I did,” Fr. Rube said, sighing. “I did my best to console her after her loss.”
I turned to face him. “Did she say anything about what happened?”
“She said her boyfriend, who wasn’t the baby’s father, by the way, was yelling at her to quiet the baby, and when she couldn’t, he grabbed her arm roughly, and the next thing she knew, the… poltergeist, as you said… was on top of him, and…”
“That was it,” I cut him off as it hit me, “the violence against a woman is what brought her out. You said it yourself, her dress looked like it was torn and had holes in it. “
“So she was probably attacked herself, most likely in the church itself,” Wedge said, picking up on what I was thinking, “and she’s been stuck here ever since, but no one noticed because a woman was never attacked before, so she never had a reason to manifest, until now, to keep whatever happened to her from happening to someone else.” He looked at me and grinned. “Good work, Biggsy.”
The priest looked at us hopefully. “Now that you know that, can you get rid of her?”
I shook my head. “There’s way too many emotions wrapped up in this place. Even if we painted up a double pentagram, I can’t get a solid enough fix on her feelings to summon her.”
Wedge cursed under his breath, and then looked up at me as a thought struck him. “We do know a woman we could bring here to try to draw her out.”
I was already vehemently shaking my head before he finished. “No way. Absolutely not. We are not bringing Lexy into this. It’s too dangerous.”
“Not for her,” Wedge argued. “The ‘geist was protecting that woman when the guy grabbed her. So if we make it look like I’m going to hurt Lexy, it’ll come after me, not her. She’ll be completely safe. As soon as the ‘geist manifests, Fr. Rube can get Lexy out of the way.”
“And what happens when it realizes we tricked it,” I shot back before the priest could respond, “and flies into a rage and attacks whoever it can get to before we banish it? What if it gets away from us and goes after her?”
“So, what? We do nothing? And if some other guy gets a little rough with a woman at a wedding in here because he was drinking… maybe he doesn’t even hurt her, he just gets loud, and he gets his head ripped off too. Could you live with that? Do you think Lexy could, if she knew she could have helped stop it?”
I stared daggers at him for a moment, but I knew he was right. “Damn you Wedge,” I finally said. “If anything happens to her…”
“I know, buddy, I know,” he said as he pulled out his cell phone. “I’ll protect her with my life if I have to, just like I would for you.”
That makes two of us, I thought to myself.
* * * * *
As soon as she got the call, Lexy left the other nighttime bartender in charge and drove to the church to meet us. She was there in twenty minutes.
“I’m sorry to ask you to do this,” were the first words out of my mouth as soon as Fr. Rube unlocked the front door to let her in.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said with a smile. “I’m happy to help. So, what’s the plan?”
“Well the ridiculous plan we’ve come up with since we can’t do the sane, safe plan…”
“Oh, leave it alone, Biggsy,” Wedge broke in, annoyance in his voice. We’d been having this argument the entire time we were waiting for Lexy to arrive.
“No, Wedge. This is nuts. We should do this the safe way, paint the double pentagram, let me and Lexy stand in the middle of it so the poltergeist is bound when it reaches us, then we jump to safety while you banish it with the sword.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Biggs.” Fr. Rube heaved an exasperated sigh. “I can’t let you paint pagan symbols on the floor of the church. I just can’t.”
“Fine,” I snapped, turning on him angrily. “Let’s paint a Catholic symbol instead, see how useful that is!”
“Biggs!” Wedge was horrified.
I didn’t care.
“Hey,” Lexy said calmly, coming to stand in front of me and looking up at me, staring until I looked back down at her. “It’s okay. I trust you guys. I’ll be fine. What’s the plan?”
I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself. “The plan,” I finally said as softly as possible, “is for us to walk to the middle of the aisle, and then I’m going to hurt you, which should bring the poltergeist down on top of me, and then Wedge will take care of it.”
“That sounds easy enough,” she said bravely. “You’re going to hurt me, huh? I guess we’d better get on with it then,” she added, a teasing twinkle in her eye. Without another word, she started walking down the aisle.
I shook my head and turned to follow her when Wedge grabbed my arm. “Biggsy, I know you don’t want to do this,” he said. “I’ll go with her instead, take care of it.”
“No, you need to be ready with the sword in case this shit happens faster than we’d like.” Besides, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hurt Lexy, but I damn sure wasn’t going to watch someone else do it. I looked over at Fr. Rube. “Stay back here, Padre, and if things go wrong, get out as fast as you can.” Looking at Wedge again, I said, “Let’s go.” I saw him heft his sword and dagger, both anointed in innocent blood to banish spirits, and turned to follow Lexy.
I caught up to Lexy and stopped her when we were roughly halfway down the aisle between the door and the altar. “Here’s good. The priest said the poltergeist manifested right in front of the altar first, we don’t want to get closer than this because we don’t know how fast it’ll get to us.”
“Alright, you’re the boss.” She looked around, and then at me. “So, now you have to hurt me, right?”
“Right,” I said, having no desire to do anything of the sort.
She shrugged and grinned at me. “Have at it then.”
I reached out and pinched her arm.
She looked at her arm, and then shook her head at me before looking at the altar. I could hear Wedge laughing from where he stood a few feet behind us. “I think you’re going to have to do better than that, boss,” Lexy said. “C’mon, let me have it!”
I pressed my palms against my face. I really didn’t want to be doing this. But needs must when the devil drives, or whatever the hell that saying is, even when he’s driving in a church. So I reached out and slapped her across the face as lightly as I could while still looking like I meant it.
She fell back a few steps, her hand instinctively going to her face. I hated myself immediately, afraid that maybe I had struck her too hard. I reached out for her, but was interrupted by an awful keening coming from the altar.
The poltergeist was here, and she was pissed. She covered the distance from the altar to where we were in the blink of an eye, faster than Wedge could react behind me, and before I knew it she had grabbed my arm tight in a grip that burned.
And with contact, my medium senses kicked in, and I could see what she saw, feel what she felt, read her memories…
I saw a beautiful young woman, long red hair, deep green eyes, running in terror at night. She had been at a party celebrating the end of the Civil War and left early after a fight with the man she had gone with, and now three men were chasing her, yelling horrible things.
She saw the church up ahead and felt a glimmer of hope. Surely these men wouldn’t follow her into a house of God. She ran to the door and threw it open; pushing it closed behind her, she ran towards the well-lit altar. To her horror, though, she heard the door fly open behind her as the men charged in. They caught up to her as she reached the steps leading up to the altar and grabbed her roughly throwing her down to the floor.
There were hands all over her, grabbing and ripping. She cried, but they didn’t care. One of the men held her down while the other pulled her legs apart, and the third…
Her memories became disjointed after that, but two things were sure: she had been a virgin until that night, and the three men had their way with her until they were done, and then they killed her. A slew of emotions came over me at that point… pity and sorrow for her, anger over what had happened… but I didn’t have any time to process them. Communing with her like that happened in an instant, but it went both ways.
She knew it was a trap.
The poltergeist, angrier now, threw her arms out, knocking Lexy back from where she was trying to pry the ‘geist’s hand off me. She fell backwards her back slamming against a pew loudly. I was thrown across the aisle onto the opposite pew, my head painfully banging against the wood.
That momentary distraction was all Wedge needed, though. As she was throwing both of us, he lunged forward and impaled her through the chest with his sword. With a scream that sounded like it was ripped from the depths of hell itself echoing behind her, she vanished.
Once she was gone, Fr. Rube came running up to us. “Is it over?”
“It’s over,” I confirmed as I pulled myself up and immediately went to Lexy’s side.
The priest leaned over us. “Is everyone alright?”
I grunted an affirmative as I helped Lexy to a seat on the pew. “I’m okay,” she answered, rubbing her back with one hand. “Just a little sore.”
“Thank God,” the priest said, sounding relieved as he made the sign of the cross.
“Yes, let’s thank God,” I snapped bitterly, “because he did so much.”
“Whether you see it or not,” he responded, “God had a hand in all this.”
“You’re right, He absolutely did.” I stood up and rounded on the priest, feeling myself almost bubbling over with anger. “Let’s go through the checklist of what God’s hand in all this was. He let a young woman get brutally raped and murdered in front of His altar and didn’t lift a finger of that mighty hand to help her. He left her spirit stranded here for over a century, stuck in her pain and rage. He let her murder someone. God certainly had a busy hand in this mess!”
Wedge laid his hand on my shoulder. “Easy, Biggsy. It’s not Fr. Rube’s fault. Back off.”
“No.” I shoved Wedge away from me, no easy feat considering he was built like a solid wall. “He wants to talk about the hand of God, right? The role God plays in everything? God, who wants all the praise for the good things that happen, and wants to move in mysterious ways according to his plan when the world goes to shit, right? Let’s run through what this God does, if he even exists. He makes a little boy have to talk to the spirit of his dead grandmother, and then send her away, only to come back and banish her years later. He gives another boy’s baby sister fatal cancer, and then lets her haunt and almost destroy that family until the first little boy has to come and tell her to go away, too, only to eventually banish her as well? What kind of God is okay with shit like that? Or what about a God who lets a baby boy got drowned by his parents so they can save money? Or lets people make clocks out of bones, clocks that are then haunted and kill people for revenge?” I turned towards the altar and started marching towards it. I was really raging now. “What kind of God lets that happen? Or lets a couple get dismembered by a poltergeist because a fuck-up like me couldn’t do his job right? This God of yours, Padre, if he exists, is a fucking con-man who…”
I stopped when I felt a small hand slip into my own and hold it tightly. Turned to my left, where Lexy had taken my left hand in her right, her own left hand holding her back. “Stop, Hank,” she said softly, looking up into my eyes, sympathy in her own. “It’s over. Let’s go home.”
Faced with those eyes and her words, my anger deflated a bit. I let her turn me around and lead me out of the church, Wedge falling into step behind us. As we passed Fr. Rube, I couldn’t resist one last jab. “The check will be in the mail, Padre. Maybe God’s hand will reimburse you.”
Behind me, I heard Wedge apologize for me, and Fr. Rube say that it was okay, he understood.
I didn’t care.
* * * * *
When we got back to the Haunted Hops, Wedge went upstairs to his apartment without a word to me. Lexy said she was going to check with the bartender, make sure everything was okay. I went down to the office and grabbed the expensive bottle of Glenfiddich 1937 I had stashed in my desk. I drank deeply. I knew I should have savored it, but after the night I had, I didn’t care.
I slumped into my desk chair miserably. I felt like an ass about so many things. The way I had acted, the things I had said, especially in front of Lexy. I had never wanted her to see that side of me. And I had hit her, too. It didn’t matter if it was necessary…
I was interrupted by a brief knock on the door before Lexy walked in. “So, that was some night, huh?” She walked around to my side of the desk and sat on the edge.
“Yeah. Listen, about what I did, what I said back there…”
Before I could finish, she leaned over and kissed me on the lips very softly. Caught completely by surprise, all I could do was look at her.
“Hank,” she said softly, sitting up on the desk now, “I’m here if you want to talk."
And I did.