Stormtrooper Terry

Stormtrooper Terry

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fiction Friday - Biggs and Wedge Occult Occurrences: Table for Three

I know it's Saturday. I had bronchitis all week, cut me some slack. This is the story that should have been posted last week, but between on overactive social life and then the aforementioned bronchitis, I couldn't get it done til now. So I'm a week behind, but I'll get back on track now. Anyway, this is the tenth story in the series, making it the midway point of what I have planned. Don't be shy about giving me some feedback if you read it, folks.

Biggs and Wedge Occult Occurrences:
Table for Three

            “Okay, this place is definitely nicer than I thought it would be from the name.”
            I smiled at my date for the night, Alexa Fogel, as I pulled her chair out for her. “I’m glad you like it,” I said, pushing her chair in before going to sit down in the chair on the opposite side of the table.
            “I have to admit, I’ve passed by it a few times before, but the name always chased me away: Mario and Luigi’s Italian Ristorante.” She smiled. “I always thought it would be run by two guys who liked Nintendo way too much, but I was wrong. I love it, Hank.”
            I laughed. “Oh, it’s definitely run by two guys who love Nintendo too much, I know the owners.” They were two brothers, that much was true, but they weren’t Italian. They just loved Italian as much as my partner and I loved Star Wars, so they named their business for what they loved, just like we did. That’s the very short version of the story of how me, Henry Biggs, and my partner, Aldredge “Wedge” Thompson decided to call our spirit-banishing business “Biggs and Wedge Occult Occurrences.”
            I saw the look on Lexy’s face as she digested this information and grinned. “Don’t worry; the food is still great, I promise.”
            “It better be,” she teased. “A first date is like a good impression… you don’t get a second chance.”
            The gleam in her eye and the slight upward curve of her lip made it obvious she was just playing around, but that didn’t help; I was nervous as fuck already. Lexy managed the bar Wedge and I owned, and she also helped run the occult business, handling the administrative aspects of it.
            But more than all that, I was already head-over-heels in love with her.
            According to Wedge, I had nothing to worry about. He swore she was in love with me, too. Of course, she never told him that, he said he just “knew” it. And Wedge changed women about as often as I changed socks, so I took everything he said with a salt shaker.
            “Hank? Are you okay?”
            Lexy was pretty much the only one who called me Hank. And as I heard her say my name, I realized she had been talking to me for a few seconds now and I had no idea what she was saying. “Oh, yeah, I’m fine,” I answered weakly.
            She reached across the table and took my hand, squeezing it softly. “Relax,” she said. “It’s only me.”
            Yeah. Only her.
            I was saved from having to reply by the arrival of our waiter. He wore blue slacks and a button-down blue shirt, as did all the staff of the restaurant, with a red tie. Some of the staff wore red ties, and other wore green ties. I’m sure you can see where they were going with the color scheme. “Welcome to Mario and Luigi’s,” he said. “My name is Tommy and I’ll be your waiter tonight. Can I get you started with something to drink while you look over the menu?”
            Looking at him, his dark brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, the stud in his left ear, I could just tell he had a screenplay under his bed waiting for someone to buy, or a monologue memorized he was just dying to perform. The life of a starving artist. “Sure. Bring us a bottle of your best red wine; I’ll leave the type up to you.”
            “Very good, sir,” he said. ‘I’ll be back with your wine, as well as water and some rolls in a moment.” He looked like he was about five minutes over twenty-one and all the formality sounded a little off coming from him.
            “Look at you, pulling out all the stops with the wine,” Lexy giggled. “You sure I deserve it?”
            I looked at her, the way her hair fell down around her shoulders, the sparkle in her beautiful eyes, the way her smile melted my heart… not to mention how good she looked in the strapless back dress with the plunging neckline she was wearing… “Yeah, I’m pretty sure,” I croaked, feeling all kinds of inadequate wearing just a dark red button-down shirt and matching tie over black slacks, having listened to Wedge’s advice that a suit jacket would be too formal for tonight. I really should stop listening to him. “You look gorgeous tonight,” I told her.
            “You don’t look so bad yourself,” she said, raising her eyebrow appraisingly, “although a jacket wouldn’t have killed you, you know.”
            I gaped at her for a second. “Friggin’ Wedge,” I finally muttered.”
            Lexy burst into laughter. “I’m teasing! I heard the two of you arguing about that as you came down the stairs before,” she admitted around laughs. “You really do look great, Hank.”
            “Thanks,” I said, trying not to blush and desperately wishing Tommy had brought our water already, I could feel my mouth going dry.
            As if on cue, Tommy appeared, putting two full glasses of water in front of us, as well as a full pitcher for refills. He also put a basket full of sliced bread and rolls in the middle of the table, and told us he’d be back with our wine and to take our orders in just a bit.
            I took a very greedy sip of water as Lexy asked, “So what happened the other night? You said you’d tell me over dinner.”
            She was talking about the Reisling case, the one Wedge and I agreed to take while we were drunk that almost ended up being the death of us. I told her all about it while we looked at the menu and waited for Tommy to bring our wine. I told her how a summoning done on the little boy whose parents thought he was possessed was totally useless; how the kid talked with a weird accent and cursed like a sailor and was super-strong; how he tossed Wedge out a window and nearly choked me to death. I told her how the kid pretty much mind-raped me, only releasing me when he saw I knew a priest and how he told me to go ask the priest what the kid was. I told her how Fr. Rube Eliott of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows let us in on the Catholic Church’s secret: that there were demons possessing people, and how they could be exorcised, the symbol to draw in blood and the brief incantation, and how we exorcised the demon Ronwe back to hell after Fr. Rube told us how.
            “Demons,” she sputtered, almost choking on her water. “There are demons now?”
            “Apparently,” I said. “Wedge thinks the odds are against us ever running into one again, though.
            “What do you think?”
            I shrugged. “I think the odds are never against anything happening to me and him.”
            Lexy laughed. “That’s the right attitude!” She took another sip of her water and then recoiled in pain. “Damn! It’s boiling hot!”
            Confused, I raised my own water to my lips, and then winced. She was right; the water was hotter than hell.
            Tommy arrived at our table with a bottle of wine as Lexy and I looked at each other in confusion.
            “Here we have a bottle of 2008 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon, on the house, courtesy of Mario and Luigi themselves for Mr. Biggs.”
            “Thanks, Tommy,” I said, a little surprised. “And pass my thanks on to the guys, too, please. Listen, this water is a little warm; do you think we could have a fresh pitcher?”
            “Certainly, sir,” he said with a little grin. “Can I take your order while I’m here?”
            I gestured to Lexy first, and she ordered a plate of Penne Alfredo with grilled chicken and I ordered Meatballs and ravioli in a vodka sauce. Tommy took our orders, opened the bottle of wine, pouring it for us, and then said he’d be right back with fresh water for us.
            Lexy looked at the bottle of wine. She knew from the stock we kept at our bar, The Haunted Hops, that it was a $135 bottle. “Is there anyone who doesn’t owe you a favor?”
            I smiled innocently. “It isn’t my fault Mario and Luigi’s first oven was haunted.” She laughed, and I picked up my glass. “Wine this good deserves a toast…”
            “How about to first dates?” she suggested as she held up her own glass.
            “I’ll drink to that,” I said. We clinked glasses and drank. “Damn, that’s good.”
            “It really is,” she agreed. “I have another question,” she said suddenly, leaning forward on the table. “I get the whole demon story. But how did that lead to you finally asking me out?”
            I swallowed, not at all sure how I wanted to answer that. “You say ‘finally’ like you think I’ve wanted to do this for awhile now.”
            She leaned back in her seat and crossed her arms, almost like she was daring me to argue with her. “Haven’t you?”
            “I almost died, Lexy,” I said, not taking the bait. I definitely wasn’t ready to fess up to just how long… or how deeply… I’ve been attracted to her. “The demon was possessing that kid and his hands were an iron vise around my neck. I couldn’t breathe. I thought it was finally the end.”
            “Is that when you decided to stop all that nonsense about it being too dangerous to date me?” She peered over her glass of wine to see my reaction as she took a sip.
            Tommy came by and wordlessly replaced our water as I stared at her, mouth agape. After he drifted away, I shook my head. “Do you just know everything?”
            She laughed. “You boys just talk loud, that’s all. And, honestly, it took you awhile to realize I was in the basement the other night, as drunk as you guys were.”
            I couldn’t keep myself from blushing this time as I thought about all the other things. “I was wondering how much you had overheard.” I took a sip of wine to settle myself a bit.
            “Don’t worry,” she smiled reassuringly, “I wouldn’t have said anything. I didn’t want to embarrass you or anything like that. I just want you to know that I think it’s silly. I don’t think it’s dangerous to date you, and I want…” she stopped talking as she noticed the way my face had blanched. “Hank, what is it?”
            “The wine.” I stared down at the glass in front of me in horrified amazement. “It’s… blood.”
            “What? No it isn’t. It’s wine.” She brought her glass to her lips to take a sip and prove me wrong… and promptly spit it back into the glass. “Oh. My. God. That’s gross.” She looked up at me, disgusted and confused. “But it was wine when we started drinking it!”
            “Really good wine,” I agreed. I eyed the glass warily and then took another hesitant sip. “And now it’s wine again. Someone… or something… is fucking with us.”
            “Do you think it’s a spirit?”
            “Only one way to find out,” I told her, getting ready to reach out with that special sixth sense that made me a medium. “Can’t even go on a goddamn date,” I muttered to myself quietly before reaching out.
            This is what made me a medium, what made me so good at finding and banishing spirits. I could reach out with my senses and “feel” where and what a spirit was by tuning into what it was feeling. That’s how I could summon them into taking their version of a physical form so that Wedge could banish them by cutting them with a blade anointed in innocent blood. So I spread my senses throughout the restaurant, trying to ignore the ambient noise created by the feelings of the living… which was harder than usual here because there were so many people.
            What there wasn’t, I knew without a shadow of a doubt, was a spirit. The restaurant was free of ghosts and poltergeists. Confused, I started to pull my senses back into myself when I felt something grab onto them. It was a feeling of evil so deep and perverse that it felt like it made my insides blacken, shrivel up, and die. It was an evil so pure, an evil that exulted in itself just for being evil. It was a sensation of evil that had felt me reaching out with my senses and wanted to let me know it was there because it knew it was stronger than me, and it knew it scared me. I wrenched my own senses away from it and closed back into myself, well aware that I had broken out into a cold sweat.
            “Hank? Are you okay?” I could tell from her voice that Lexy was scared.
            “No,” I said honestly. I didn’t want to frighten her anymore than she already was, but she had to know the truth. “It’s a demon. Someone in here is possessed. And they’re after me.”
            Lexy gasped. “After you? How do you know?”
            “I felt it. The water, the wine… it’s playing with me. I don’t know why, and I don’t know who it’s possessing, but it’s after me.”
            “So much for Wedge’s idea that you’ll never run into a demon again, huh?”
I could see she was trying to be brave for me, so I smiled. “Yeah… he’s just never right, is he?”
She laughed; it was a weak laugh, but it was an honest laugh.
It was then that Tommy arrived with our meals. We sat quietly while he placed them in front of us and told us to let him know if we needed anything else. I nodded and he left.
“What do we do?” Lexy asked when he was out of earshot.
I thought for a moment. “I have no idea who the demon’s possessing. I won’t know for sure until he either exposes himself, or I touch him. Best thing for us to do is pay and go outside, I’ll call Wedge and have him get over here so me and him can figure this out while you… and I can’t stress this enough… while you go home safely.” I had expected her to argue and insist on helping, but I guess the new idea of demons had her sufficiently freaked out, because she just nodded.
I looked down at our plates, thinking about getting them in a doggy bag to take home and eat once we put all this behind us… and instead of ravioli, I was looking at a plate covered with little snakes crawling over my meatballs. Looking up at Lexy’s face as she looked at her plate, I could tell she was having similar experience. “Snakes?”
“Worms,” she corrected.
Fuck the doggy bags, I thought. Tommy was passing by our table to another and I reached out to lightly grab his arm, saying, “Hey, Tommy, something’s come up and we have to run, can we get the check?” When my hand touched his arm, though, I knew. I felt such gleeful malevolence that it overwhelmed me. I let go of his arm and pushed away, wanting to badly to get away from that evil that I knocked by chair over, falling backwards over it. I heard Lexy call my name, but it was Tommy who was standing over me, gripping my arm and starting to pull me to my feet.
“Let me help you up, sir,” he said loudly for the benefit of anyone listening, but the look in his eyes was anything but friendly. His eyes burned, just like Ronwe’s had, peering out from within the Reisling kid. “So now you know, huh?” His voice became quiet now, a muted growl that only I could hear. “Hate to break it to you, asshole, but you’re not going anywhere. I’m not done playing with you yet. You try to leave, and I’ll kill your pretty little girlfriend before you make it to the door.”
I knew firsthand how strong and fast a demon could be, even while possessing a human, and I wasn’t going to test this one with Lexy’s life on the line.
“Now, let’s have a seat,” he said, picking my chair up with his free hand. He pushed me down into it, his hand squeezing my wrist so hard I couldn’t help but wince. “That’s a good boy.” His hand squeezed harder. “Now, we’re going to talk about what you did to my friend Ronwe…”
The demon-possessed waiter suddenly recoiled as Lexy stood in front of him, holding a knife and fork perpendicular in front of her so they resembled a cross. “Back off,” she told it, her voice shaking. But her hand was firm, and even though it wasn’t a real cross, the demon backed off.
“I’ll give you two a few minutes to talk,” he said, aware of the restaurant patrons watching us. “Enjoy your meal; I’ll be back in a few moments to see if you need anything.” He glided away calmly.
“How the hell did that work?” I said, confused as I motioned for Lexy to sit back down. “That isn’t a cross. And you’re not even Catholic!”
She shrugged. “I don’t know, I remembered from your story about the other night that a cross worked, I thought it was worth a shot!” She leaned across the table. “What do we do?” she whispered. “Do we still make a run for it?”
I shook my head immediately as I rubbed my hurt wrist. “No way. He said he’d kill you before we reached the door, and he could.” I saw her look at the makeshift cross she had lain on the table and cut her off before she could speak. “Even if that trick worked again, he could just kill someone else in here instead. Or everyone, while we ran. I can’t let that happen.”
Lexy’s shoulders slumped. “And we can’t just exorcise him because we don’t know his real name, right?”
“Right.” I sighed and then gave a resigned shrug. “So we just have to get him to tell us his name.”
“How do we do that?”
“If he’s anything like the other demon,” I answered, “well, you know what they say, right? Pride goeth before the fall.” Before she could answer, I got up from the table and headed towards the “employees only” area in the back of the restaurant, knowing Not-Tommy would see me. “Follow me,” I said to Lexy over my shoulder, “and bring the knife.”
I was right, the demon saw us and headed me off on the way to the back, standing in front of the door. “Where the fuck do you think you’re going?”
“Giving us some privacy to talk,” I answered casually, brushing past his arm and through the door.
He followed me and grabbed me by the shoulders, slamming me against the break room wall hard. “I think you’re a little confused as to who is in charge here,” he snarled as his fingers dug into my skin.
Lexy slid in the door behind us. I caught her eye and flicked my gaze to the lock under the door. She got what I was getting at and locked the door. Then she raised the knife in her hand and motioned towards the demon, obviously asking if she should stab him. I gave a barely noticeable shake of my head; all that would accomplish was stabbing Tommy, it wouldn’t hurt the demon. Keeping my hand below my waist where the demon couldn’t see it, I gestured for her to just wait.
“So you and Ronwe were friends, huh?” I ignored what the demon had said, focusing on my plan. It was harder to ignore the way it felt like he was crushing my shoulders, though. “I hope that piece of filth is enjoying his relaxing vacation back in Hell.”
“We are friends,” he growled angrily, his eyes staring daggers of hatred into mine. “At least as much as demons can be friends. And when he heard I was coming up here on a little joyride, well, he asked me to check in on the hairless monkey who fucked him over. I said it would be my pleasure.”
Lexy had moved directly behind him, I could no longer see what she was doing. But that didn’t matter, I had to focus past the pain both in my shoulders and in my head now from his stare, just focus on getting his name. “I hope you’re a little bit tougher than he was,” I said, trying to sound calm. “He was a bit of a pansy once you got down to it.”
The demon’s left hand left my shoulder and wrapped itself tightly around my neck.
Oh, joy. More choking.
“I think I’ll just kill you now and send your wretched soul to Hell so you can ask him yourself.”
He started squeezing my neck so hard I thought my head was about to pop like a pimple, but I fought through it, managing to wheeze, “Are you going to tell me who you are, or should I go to my grave thinking I was killed by Tommy the waiter?”
The demon squeezed harder. “Without your partner here, there’s nothing to save you, so you might as well know you die at the hands of Blivial, demon master of illusion. Tell Ronwe he owes me one.”
There. I got him to tell me his name. Now what?
            “I banish thee, Blivial, by the power of thy name,” Lexy said from behind the demon. He growled and released me in shock, turning towards her. I slumped against the wall, my hands going to my aching neck as I tried to see around the demon. Lexy had used the knife to cut a line down her arm and had used her blood to draw the symbol needed to exorcise demons on the wall like I had told her: three nines over three sixes, with the bottoms of the nines becoming the tops of the sixes, then a circle around them and then a pentagram around the circle. She smeared her own blood on her palm and slapped the middle of the circle as she continued. “And condemn thee back to the pits of Hell!”
            Blivial howled impotently, a howl that trailed off into silence before Tommy slumped to the floor, unconscious. Ignoring him, I grabbed a towel from the nearby sink and rushed to Lexy, pressing it against the cut on her arm. “I can’t believe you did that,” I told her, a little angrily.
            “Well you weren’t going to do it,” she said weakly, forcing a smile. “I’m just glad I paid attention to your story earlier.”
            I used the edge of the towel to wipe the blood off her palm and arm, still keeping pressure on the cut, not saying anything. This was my worst fear right here. Out with me just one night, and she’s hurt. She could have been killed.
            “Hell of a first date, huh?” She laughed nervously. “Going to be hard to top on the second.”
            “There isn’t going to be a second,” I said softly.”
            Lexy looked up at me, confused. “What? Why not?”
            “This is exactly what I was afraid of, Lexy. You come out with me, and this nonsense I do for a living gets you hurt, maybe even killed. I mean, there are demons. And they’re after me. And we can’t stop them without knowing their name, and we can’t know their name unless they tell us!” I shook my head. “No way. I’m not letting you get hurt. Or killed, just because of how we feel. This can’t happen again.”
            There were tears in her eyes, but I turned away before she could say anything.
            “This is how it has to be, Alexa. I’m sorry.”


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