Written between February the 12th and 15th of 1988 Era Vulgari, Solomon King #3, For Lola, was but one step further for me as a storyteller. The protagonist is pretty much the usual leading man type, as is, for instance, Grimm in Grimm Justice. It would be some years before I started to develop characters with greater dimension and depth and humour. Characters, I hope, you will one day in the not too distant future be reading about in well published books.
Nevertheless, I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Solomon King, even if he never goes beyond Internet publication on the Castle of the Silver Star. I present this story to you now, with its original faults and naiveté.
By Leslie Golden
California Courier Staff Writer
At 3:20 P.M. today two twelve year old boys on their way home from school, taking a short cut their parents had forbidden them to take, found the remains of a three year old girl. The body of the child was found carelessly tossed in a gully where normally it may have never been discovered, and although identified, the name is being withheld until the parents have been notified. Evidence in the case not only indicates sexual molestation and physical abuse, but the details of the crime, too shocking to print in this place, strongly suggest some form of ritual satanic sacrifice with similarities to those once practised by the ancient Aztecs.
No suspects have as yet been named, but Police Chief Michael Conrad agrees that this is becoming a growing problem. The number of missing children reported to his office alone is astounding, and all too often when they are found it is in a condition similar to that of the present case. In most cases sexual molestation and physical abuse are prominent features, and while Police Chief Conrad is certain that many of the missing children found murdered are the victims of satanic rituals, he, long known for his enlightened attitudes, insists that not all parties interested in or even practising occult rites would commit such crimes. He further reassures us that it is only a small minority, a lunatic fringe, that is responsible for such atrocious outrages against children, and he has hinted that there are those involved in the occult who actually lend assistance to the police department in locating and identifying those responsible for crimes of a satanic nature.
BAPTIST MINISTER ARRESTED
FOR RAPE OF 7-YEAR OLD BOY
San Francisco Bulletin
34-year old Gregory Hammet, a Baptist minister from south Carolina, was arrested and charged yesterday with the rape of a 7-year old boy. The child was at that time of day in the day care center of which Hammet was in charge. Police officials seems certain that Hammet is guilty and claim that other children are now coming forward with similar accusations against the minister.
PHILLIP DONOVAN (Host): You are telling us that this ten year old child was kidnapped, sexually and physically abused, and then used in some kind of a satanic ritual during which her heart was literally cut out of her living body?
MARGARET BLANCHARD (Representative of the Save Our Children Society): Yes. And no amount of words can accurately convey just how horrible it was. I was fortunate in that I only had to look at photographs of the child's body. I honestly don't think I could have beared to see the actual mutilated body. What this poor child must have gone through before death ... well ... death after all of it may have been a mercy for had the child been permitted to live she would have been terribly scarred for life.
DONOVAN: For those children who do survive such ordeals, is there hope for a normal life?
DR. RICHARD MELLON (Child Psychiatrist): All too many of the cases I have had were the result of what we may call satanic abuse ... not merely sexual abuse, but the using, the abusing of young children in rituals that can only be called satanic ... and although we of the psychiatric community do our best, in far too many cases most of the mental and emotional scarring is permanent. I have been in the profession for nearly fifty years now and I have had the opportunity to interview some of my patients at later times in their lives ... as teenagers and young adults ... and Phil, sometimes those interviews were conducted in hospital mental wards, institutions for the criminally insane and prisons.
DONOVAN: You failed to help them when they were children?
MELLON: Apparently. At the time of their treatment they seemed to overcome the residual psychological effects of their ordeals, yet at some later time in their lives certain latent tendencies created by their experience which had apparently remained hidden deep within the unconscious, so deep that even hypno-therapy failed to root them out, surfaced. In most of these cases the individuals attempted suicide or murder, sometimes succeeding, claiming later that the Devil or Satan, their lord, came to them and ordered them to either "execute" those who did not believe in his power or to take their own lives as punishment for their own wavering belief, or sometimes so that they might escape this world to be with Satan.
Some of these children, the victims of satanic, ritualistic abuse, upon reaching their teens or early twenties end up joining satanic cults to go on to do to others what had been done to them as children. It is not unlike the way some children of alcoholics and drug addicts react, or the victims of child abuse growing up to eventually abuse their own children.
DONOVAN: Do any of you think that, just maybe, these satanic cults are not only interested in satisfying their own perverse urges and perhaps worshipping a Satan that they believe to exist, but that they may also, in some sick way, be recruiting members for the future?
BLANCHARD: Oh yes. Most certainly.
MELLON: And those that they cannot program they destroy emotionally and mentally so that they will pose no threat to their cult in the future by standing up to the programmed, the converted.
DONOVAN: Incredible. Just incredible. Mr. Kelly, what do you think of all of this?
G. M. KELLY (Thelemic Magician and Writer): I am a rational, compassionate man. I am just as appalled and disgusted ... outraged ... perhaps even more than the rest of you. You see, everything that you feel for these children I too feel, but I am also angered by the way these lunatics cast a dark shadow over the esoteric arts and sciences, which are based upon reason and logic as well as love and compassion for humanity. It is, in fact, the purpose of a genuine magician to not only raise himself, to evolve, to transmute the base metal of his personality into the true spiritual gold of his essential being, but to thereby assist in the evolution of humanity as a whole. These barbarous and insane acts of violence are not part of the true esoteric, magical tradition. They are the perversions of sick minds bent not upon intellectual and spiritual evolution, but dedicated to devolution. The true magician, whether of the Thelemic tradition or another, does not even believe in the concept of Satan, the Devil, a kind of all-powerful anti-god. To such a person the concept is repugnant because all is God, to put it simply. By implying that there is a God and there is a separate and individual Devil or anti-god one insists upon a true duality, and to believe in an absolute duality is to deny the unity of God which is a contradiction to the idea that God is absolute, that is, insisting that God is in fact not absolute.
As for the specific subject of child molestation and abuse, especially in the context of satanic ritual sacrifice ... well ... let me put it this way: I am one of many practitioners of the occult arts working with the police and FBI to identify and prosecute leaders and members of so-called satanic cults responsible for crimes such as those being discussed here. It is worth noting that children are also being abused and even murdered within the confines of the so-called Eastern religions and cults, as well as within so-called Christian sects. Be that as it may, I feel that my involvement with the authorities in prosecuting these criminals is an act of mercy.
DONOVAN: Mercy for the children and their parents?
KELLY: Yes. And for humanity as a whole. However, I am referring more specifically to the perpetrators of these atrocities.
DONOVAN: By helping to put these criminals behind bars and in some cases be executed you are showing them mercy?
KELLY: A great deal of mercy.
DONOVAN: How so?
KELLY: If I decided to take the law into my own hands their punishment would be far more severe than the state and federal authorities sanction.
KATHY ELLERBEE (Interviewer): Mr. King, do you think that the murder of this six year old girl is the result of a satanic ritual?
SOLOMON KING: There is no question of it. Yes.
ELLERBEE: I am told that you are working with the police on this case. Is that true?
KING: In an unofficial capacity ... yes, I am.
ELLERBEE: Is there any conflict of interest involved?
KING: On the contrary. I am just as interested, perhaps more so for professional and personal reasons, in finding and punishing the person or persons responsible for this ... this maniac crime against nature and humanity.
ELLERBEE: There has been talk of a vast network of satanists in this country which plots national, even world, domination, beginning with the sacrifice and primarily the programming of children. What do you think of this theory?
KING: It sells newspapers and boosts ratings. There are, no doubt, some perverse cults which have nothing to do with the true magical tradition that are indeed interested in domination, as you say, but the scope of the thing has been rather exaggerated and sensationalized. Most so-called satanists are paper-satanists ... rather pathetic individuals. They correspond with others and in writing, reading and fantasizing pretend to be terribly vicious and powerful individuals when in fact they are weak, stupid and insecure ... without the nerve, fortunately for the rest of us, to actually act as "wicked" as they pretend to be ... as they would like to be. As for the established satanic cults that do practice these thoroughly disgusting crimes, they are mostly isolated from one another, unaware of what each is doing. It is not as organized as the media implies. Very often only a single individual or small group imagining that they are satanists serving the Devil. Nevertheless, all this is becoming a terrible problem that must be dealt with now and as efficiently as possible.
ELLERBEE: I see. Now what about your involvement in satanism?
KING: I am not involved in satanism. I am opposed to it ... intellectually opposed to it and when it leads to things like ... things like this ... emotionally opposed to satanism.
Through understandable but inexcusable ignorance, the authorities and the press have a strong tendency to lump all of the esoteric arts and sciences, all of the mystery religions, into the category of devil worship and satanism, also failing to differentiate between the vast majority of dabblers, cranks and charlatans and the small minority of sincere and intelligent students, aspirants and practitioners.
Satanism is, in fact, not part of the true magical tradition. It is a perversion of Christianity and Judaism. It is, in part, the result of an unhealthy over abundance of irrational restrictive religious and social rules that inhibit normal, healthy human feelings and expressions ... the sexual appetite and expressions of love for instance. The Devil, Satan, as the concept is known to us today, is the creation of bible-thumping evangelists and hell-and-damnation conversion tactics. Originally, both in the Old and the New Testament, HaSatan or Satanas was employed by God, so to speak, to try and test humankind and so lead it along the path of initiation and spiritual growth. He was considered to be humanity's teacher and initiator, and given rulership over all of the earth.
ELLERBEE: We hear the leaders of some satanic cults saying the same thing.
KING: You can teach a parrot to talk but it does not mean that it understands what it is saying, nor that it practices what it seems to preach.
Despite all of the pseudo-intellectualism upon the part of some satanic cult leaders, it boils down to the fact that they are worshipping and serving the perverse and twisted concept of the original Satan, merely a natural negative, not moralistically evil, aspect of existence, which to them is, more to the point, their own baser instincts ... the gross desires of their petty egos ... and since the primary aim of magick is the so-called "annihilation of the ego" to become one with the essential or True Self, that is, to "become one with God", they are obviously operating along completely different lines as that of a true magician, not to mention a genuine, initiated member of Wicca.
KING: Witchcraft, which never has and does not now worship the Judao-Christian Devil, but rather God manifest in nature as symbolized by the moon or tripartite goddess and the sun or god ... the yin and the yang or negative and positive of nature, of existence. Neither Wiccans, Witches, nor genuine magicians of any tradition are devil- or satan-worshippers. Our focus is upon what is commonly called "God" and our main concern is the continual evolution of humanity to achieve a union with That ... a realization of God in the core of every human soul.
ELLERBEE: Very interesting, Mr. King. But getting back to the subject of child molestation and satanic sacrifices for just another moment ... you mentioned your personal reasons for involvement with the police in locating and prosecuting child molesters. Does this have anything to do with your daughter ...?
KING: I was married some years ago. Both my wife and daughter were murdered. I found their bodies and assisted the police in finding and prosecuting the people responsible. One of those people, a woman, escaped.
ELLERBEE: They were murdered by a satanic cult?
KING: Not a satanic cult, per se, but yes, a cult ... however, I do not wish to talk about it. If you don't mind...
"Carrie," the man sweetly called to the approaching girl.
Carrie stopped dead in her tracks and looked up at the man standing before her on the sidewalk. She had to squint, scrunching up her pretty little face, to see the man who appeared to have a halo, the sun buring bright behind him.
"Your mother would like you to come with me."
"My mommy says I'm not s'posed to talk with strangers and I'm never never to get into a stranger's car."
"But your mommy is with me, Carrie." He smiled and gestured to the car. The window slid down into the door electrically and Carrie saw the sweet face of her mother, her blonde hair illuminated by the sunlight."
"Mommy!" Carrie cried out with joy and relief.
"Come with me and the nice man, Carrie. Everything is all right."
Carrie ran to the car as the rear door opened and virtually leaped into the back seat. The man smiled, not pleasantly, and then settled into the front seat behind the wheel. The car was dark inside and due to the bright sunlight on that crisp winter's day it took some time for Carrie's big blue eyes to adjust to the dim light that filtered through the tinted windows. By the time the little girl could see well enough to make out the woman's features the car was already in motion.
The woman had dark hair--she wasn't blonde as Carrie had at first thought--and she did not look at all like her mother.
Like the man, Carrie realized, she too was a stranger.
And she was in the strangers' car.
"Lady Olwyn! How many witches does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
The statuesque woman with long, thick 'red' hair smiled at the man beside her. He was tall, wide-shouldered and slender, giving the impression of lithe grace and strength. His face was ruggedly handsome, sporting a neat mustache, and his hair was naturally dark, with a natural streak of white which ran from his high forehead back.
"I don't know, Solomon. How many witches does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
"Only one, but it takes twelve more to turn it on by incantation."
"Ha, bloody ha, Solomon," she chuckled. "That was a positively beastly joke."
"Of course it was!" he smiled. Solomon King poured tea into the woman's cup. "Sugar, milk, lemon?"
"Just lemon today, please." With a tiny pair of silver tongs King gave her a slice of lemon and she thanked him.
"So tell me," he said settling back in his chair with a cup of coffee in his hand--King was not much of a tea drinker, "how's the covenstead and the Pagan Alliance doing?"
"You would know how the Alliance was doing if you would officially join it."
"I know, Olwyn, I know ... but as I've told you before, as much as I respect the work the Alliance is doing I really haven't the time to devote to it that you would like. So what's happening with it these days?"
"Well," she sighed, "we are reorganizing again. You know how it is. People start out positively bursting with enthusiasm and ambition and then they quickly poop out."
"Yes," King agreed, "seems that that is a part of the human condition ... unsustained will ... even for God and Nature loving Pagans."
"So," Olwyn continued after taking a sip of her herbal tea, kept in stock especially for her visits, "things are a mess again but we'll get it all in order soon."
"Glad to hear that. And the reporter?"
"Batts?" the lady asked. Solomon nodded assent. "He's gotten involved with Pamela and that crew. They are crowding around a ouija board now and 'invoking the spirits.' They act as if they were talking directly to God."
"When in fact they are in all probability merely allowing their own subconscious desires to rise to the surface and 'confirm' their petty and egoic wishes and fantasies about themselves."
"Exactly. At best," Olwyn added, "they are making contact with sub-human entities whose intelligence is far inferior even to theirs, thus debasing their humanity and the God ... or Goddess ... within."
"Ah well," King said, "better Pamela should have Batts in her belfry than you should have him in yours!"
"Like attracts like," Lady Owyn laughed.
"Then why the hell is a lady like you hanging around with a scoundrel like me?"
"Because, Solomon, you are the only person I enjoy gossiping with ... and you're a charming scoundrel." Solomon smiled and genuinely blushed.
"Oh thanks very much!" he laughed.
The room, already cozy with gaiety, suddenly lit up brilliantly with the beautiful presence of Kyoko Toshiro. Her relationship with Solomon King was something of a mystery. That they were close, extremely close, was obvious, yet it was difficult to say whether she was King's paramour, associate, employee or what. However, King's green eyes sparkled even more than usual as Kyoko walked into the room, her long, thick, straight black hair flowing down over the back of the tight-fitting snow-white dress which set off the richly tanned Nipponese flesh of her face, bare arms and legs. To see his expression would be confirmation enough that to him Kyoko was everything.
"Big Dragon, there was a telephone call for you from Michael."
"Thank you, Little Phoenix," he smiled as he used Kyoko's pet name, "and apparently there is a message?" The beautiful Japanese woman was silent for a moment. Although she had tenderly used her pet name for Solomon there seemed to be no laughter or joy in her heart. King's expression changed. He became deadly serious. "Another one?"
"I'm afraid so, Solomonsan."
"Would you please get the car, Kyoko?"
"Lady Olwyn," King said, turning to the Wiccan High Priestess, "I have to see Police Chief Conrad."
"I understand, Solomon. Is there anything I can do?"
"Maybe. May I call you later?"
"Certainly, Solomon. And don't worry about me. I'll see myself home."
With a grave expression upon his face, Solomon King departed, making directly for the Mercedes 450SL which he called his only real vanity. With Kyoko behind the wheel and Solomon sitting silently on the front seat, deep in dark thoughts, they drove to police headquarters where both were greeted with great respect by the desk sergeant and his fellow officers. This had not been the first time that they had visited the police chief under these circumstances, yet King always hoped that it would be the last time such a visit was necessary.
"Solomon." Chief Michael Conrad was a big, bulky man--exactly what one would expect--especially if this were old Chicago instead of sunny California. "It's always a pleasure to see you and Kyoko," Conrad took King's hand and nodded curtly to Kyoko, "but why is it that we always seem to meet under circumstances like this?"
King attempted to smile.
"If you weren't so busy all the time, Mike, you could make it out to my beach house for a social visit. You know my door's always opened for you."
"I know, Solomon, I know. But this job ... well ... you know how it is ... especially in California!"
"I understand, Mike. California is a nice place to visit ... that's why I have a house out here ... but I do prefer living back east."
"Not much of this crap going on back there?"
"Sad to say, Mike, the East Coast is almost as bad ... at least around New York. This whole thing is getting out of hand." King took a deep breath and said, "Since you've asked us to come here instead of the city morgue I assume that there is a bit of good news with the bad."
"No news in cases like this is good news ... sometimes." Conrad offered his guests seats then handed King a file folder. It was pretty thin. Inside there was only a written description and a police report on a missing girl named Carrie Stephens, as well as a photograph. Her eyes were blue and not green, her hair blonde instead of jet black, but once again in the face of a missing child Solomon saw little Lola's face. Lola who would never grow up, bedevil her father as a teenager, break the hearts of many a young man, and then perhaps marry and have children of her own. Lola King was very much on Solomon's mind of late, even more than usual, as was Leah, Lola's mother.
"The long and short of it, Solomon, is that Carrie disappeared somewhere between school and her house. She was supposed to walk home with her friends, but for some reason, we don't know why as yet and it really doesn't matter, she ended up walking home alone."
"Distance between school and home?" Kyoko asked.
Conrad's bull-like chest heaved with a great sigh.
"A quarter of a mile."
"So close to home," Kyoko said.
"Did anyone ...?" King began.
"Yes, Solomon. Finally someone saw something." King sat up straight in his chair. He had not expected an affirmative answer. "An old lady that all the kids on the street called Granny has a habit of watching over the children from her window when school lets out. This time it paid off. By the time she saw Carrie getting into the dark blue 4-door sedan," King gasped, "it was too late for the old lady to do anything to stop the little girl. However, she did the next best thing and called us right away. The old lady recognized Carrie so there was no trouble in identifying the victim. Her parents have already been contacted.
"Did this lady see who was driving the car?" King asked with obvious eagerness.
"The license plate number?" Kyoko inquired.
"The old lady's vision wasn't up to it."
"But she is certain that it was a dark blue 4-door sedan?" King persisted.
"Then this time we have him!"
"Not so fast, Kyoko. We thought we had him before and like the worm that he is Avery slipped out of our fingers."
"Mike's right, Kyoko, and there must be dozens if not hundreds of cars in the area that fit the description."
"Unfortunately, Solomon, you are right. However, if we can get a search warrant and find any trace of the girl's having been in Avery's car, any trace whatsoever ... a thread from her clothes, a single hair, anything ... we can start pulling Avery and all of his loonies in."
"Mike, you know I have the highest respect for the department," Solomon said, "but we've been down this road before and it's always proven to be a dead end."
"Of course you are right, my friend, but maybe this time..." Conrad shrugged, "who knows?"
"Well, Mike, you know I will do everything that I can to help and I will be available at any time of the day or night should you need my assistance."
"I know that, Solomon." King and Kyoko stood up and stepped over to the door.
"May I...?" King held the file folder in his hand.
"Of course. As usual, Solomon, they are copies especially made for you."
"Thank you." King looked at the thin manila folder in his hand. "At least there's a chance she may yet be alive and perhaps even as yet unharmed. There's a chance." He turned to look at Kyoko, to gaze into her sparkling dark eyes. "Do you think...?"
"It's possible, Big Dragon. Maybe."
"Then, Michael," King and the police chief again shook hands, "we have to go. There is work that we must do."
"And don't it turn the mayor's hair white!"
King smiled. The mayor was not very big on the occult and frowned upon King's occasional involvement in police affairs. However, quite often in the past King and his lovely assistant got results. What bothered the mayor most was when the press got wind of King's involvement. Solomon King did not advertise his association with the department and he certainly did his best to stay out of the limelight, but the press and the media was persistent and thorough. A psychic occasionally assisting the authorities had long ago ceased to be news, becoming a relatively common occurrence, especially on the West Coast. A Thelemic magician, however, was another matter entirely. There were still a lot of people, the mayor among them, who associated Thelema and the name of its prophet, Aleister Crowley, with some very unthelemic things. Never mind the fact that Thelema teaches that "The word of Sin is Restriction," and that to interfere with another person's True Will or purpose for existing, by, say, robbing him of possessions that he may need to discover and do his Will, or by robbing him of his emotional, mental or physical health, or of his very life through an act of murder, is the only recognized "sin" in Thelema, but covers every possible "moral" situation. Also, there is the fact that Thelema's first true prophet, Aleister Crowley, a man libelously slandered in the most outrageous ways during his life and still long after his death in 1947, loved children so much that he could never simply say "abortion", but, partly because he was crushed when he lost his own daughter to illness, he had to always qualify it as "criminal abortion" in his prolific literary output. None of this mattered. Crowley was still slandered as a sacrificer of children, Thelema labelled as "occult", the word constantly associated by most of the media and many of the authorities with demons, devil worship, satanism and the Black Mass. The fact that Crowley and Thelemites do not even recognize the existence of The Devil has never stopped those with a religious or literary agenda from calling them "devil worshippers" and "satanists".
Decades, even centuries of slander and dysinformation spawned a great many psychological "demons", and it will take even longer to exorcise those demons with the sword of reason and the wand of will. Solomon King did his best to dispel the myths, reveal the slanders and reeducate society whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Later that evening Solomon King and Kyoko sat on the beach. The sun was turning red and apparently sinking below the waters of the blue Pacific. The only sounds were that of the gentle surf and the sea gulls overhead. The man and the woman sat crosslegged, facing one another. If they had been at King's East Coast home they would have been in his specially built meditation room with its thick glass roof, surrounded by tropical plants, in which a small stream, waterfall and pond had been constructed along naturalistic lines. The present circumstances, however, were preferable to Kyoko who felt more at home on the beach, near the ocean. It reminded her of her home in Osaka, Japan.
Kyoko's eyes closed, holding the photograph of the young girl to her heart, as she regulated her breathing until it was light and even. King, having also slipped into his pranayama routine, allowed his own energy to mingle with Kyoko's. With their combined force, their vital prana or chi, Kyoko began to reach out and search for little Carrie Stephens.
The clear blue sky seemed to gradually turn a dusky indigo and a multitude of silvery stars became visible to them. The air became brisk and cool. The axiom "as above, so below" was once again proven as the actual temperature began to drop. If the couple's concentration had wavered for even a moment, they would have thought about how, if they had been doing this on the East Coast, they might have come close to freezing during the mystical operation.
Outward ranged their linked minds, King more or less in tow, reaching, reaching, reaching--searching far and wide. Of course they could have gone directly to Avery's house in search of the missing girl, but time and time again the authorities did just that with no result. It was obvious that the missing children were never taken to the home of Marston Aubrey and Letha Avery. Although basically dull-witted pseudo-intellectuals, the Averys were too smart to do that. Yet they had to be taking the children somewhere, but where was the big question. Normally it should have been easy for Kyoko to find the meeting place of the so-called satanists, especially if the child they sought was still alive, yet for some reason Kyoko could never get beyond a certain point. Something--or someone--more powerful than the Averys was interferring and protecting them.
The rose-coloured stream of light...! Do you see it, my love?
Yes, Kyoko. Is it Carrie?
It is her trail. We must follow it.
Into the astral stream of being they plunged, their united state of consciousness merging with that of the missing girl's. The sensation was both exhilerating and frightening for not only did they become part of her vibrant youthful essence, but they were also assailed by all of her fears--very justified fears to judge by the sensations produced by the surrounding energies. Nearer and nearer they came to the source of those fears, both the force of Carrie's innocent spirit and those less than innocent forces growing stronger as they moved foward in the astral state of consciousness.
She has not yet been harmed, but she is very frightened.
The way was growing dark, muddy and fetid. The general sensation was not unlike what one might expect of a toxic waste dump in the heat of July. Still, Kyoko and King went forward although greatly tempted to turn back and return to the somatic or physical state of consciousness.
The trail stopped at a wall of pure negation where there appeared to be no light whatsoever. It was not simply blackness--it was something far more impenetrable.
If I didn't know better...
Beware, my love!
Like some hideously magnified microorganism the blackness suddenly reached out and drove directly for the conscious beings of King and Kyoko. At the very last moment they avoided the strike, pulling back with instinctive caution. The blackness began to advance upon them when, without warning, there was a change in the surrounding atmosphere. A certain brightness seemed to fill the astral, adding to King and Kyoko's combined strength.
You should have called. I offered my assistance earlier.
Of course! I have a daughter of my own, you know.
Olwyn's mind, her spirit, the very essence of her being, joined that of King's and Kyoko's, forming a trinity. Suddenly their power was more than doubled, more than tripled, and the blackness began to retreat.
Whatever it is it fears our combined forces.
I should have anticipated this and contacted the members of our Order.
Not necessary. You asked about the covenstead. Now find out for yourself.
Coming as if from nowhere the combined force of many good souls joined them. Instantly the united force of the Wiccans and Thelemites became incredible--a brilliance that would have blinded mortal eyes if they could but see the astral light. The blackness seemed to rear and mentally scream with great surprise and agony. As one, the Wiccans and Thelemites generated as much energy as they could muster and projected it towards the blackness. Again there was that horrendous mental scream of anguish which shook the astral planes of consciousness and the light burst through the blackness, shattering it into a million fading pieces
There! It's Carrie!
With their proverbial mind's eye the team saw Carrie upon the outer material plane, at the end of her rose-coloured trail of misty, pulsating light. She glowed brightly with that rosy light, but that light was tinged with the darkness of fear.
I know where she is.
I must return to the somatic plane and go to her. Kyoko...
Go! I know what must be done.
We will protect her. Go!
Back King's consciousness went, alone, back to his physical body, the realm of material things--the outer planes of consciousness. He opened his jade-green eyes and looked upon the still form of Kyoko as she sat opposite him.
"I love you, my little Phoenix," he said, kissing her lightly upon the cheek and then quickly running to his car.
"Damn it!" the woman screamed. "Damn them!"
She was an intensely attractive woman with steel grey hair, younger looking and more vibrant than a woman her age normally is. She had, in fact, been a model with strinkingly dark hair until about a year ago. At that time Serilda, one of the country's newest stars in modelling, vanished. She was actually quite dead--her body now possessed by another.
"Grant!" The woman fell back into her chair, visibly shaken. "Grant!"
She looked towards the large man who seemed to be made of stone, her refuge upon the brink of death. She could hardly keep her eyes open now.
"I am weak. You know what I need. Tell them to hurry. They haven't much time anyway. That interferring magician knows where they are keeping the girl."
"Yes, madame. Immediately."
"Damn stupid satanists!" she cursed to herself after her servant's departure. "Their heads are filled with sawdust. They'd accomplish nothing if it wasn't for me. I push the buttons. I pull the strings. Them with their silly, irrational beliefs in an anti-god." The great age of the woman began to show on the young face that she wore. She was in pain. Even at times when her plans were not being interferred with she was in pain. This was because she had, for a very long time, cheated death and tenaciously held onto her ego, well beyond the lifetime of her god-given physical form. That ego was continually being torn to shreds by the forces of existence. Ego is a temporal thing and to try and maintain its coherence beyond its alotted time is an outrage against nature. Still, this woman, and others like her, those commonly called Black Magicians, the worst of their lot being Black Brothers, clung to those egos, worshipping the false self as God Almighty-- refusing to accept the essential godhood of every living being. Ego is a jealous and false god that will tolerate no others--the most cruel of all the slave masters.
"These foolish little dabblers in evil...they know nothing of the true power they serve. The Devil! Satan! The bogeyman of childish mentalities! What fools they are. What utter fools. But they have their uses...and they are expendable. Give them a little sense of personal power and they become perfect slaves."
Grant, his severe slate-grey suit adding to the impression that he had been carved from living rock, reentered the dimly lit room.
"I have notified the Averys."
"Good. Once they move King will lose again." She sank further into her chair. "And then my little playthings can furnish me with new youthful vital energy."
"Yes, Grant?" Her voice was weakening--her strength waning.
"Once the ritual is performed and you recover your strength, will you...?"
"Yes, Grant, I think I must. They don't realize it, but out pet satanists are expendable and they are getting too sloppy. If we do not do away with them soon it will not be long before they lead King and the others to us.
"Then we will be moving on soon?"
"Yes, Grant. Make the appropriate arrangements for our departure."
"Right away, madame."
Although rapidly weakening, her frailty worsened by the outcome of the recent astral encounter that she had not anticipated, deadly power still glowed deep within the eyes of Madame Varina Velikazora.
The Mercedes 450SL broke every traffic law on the books racing to the address he, along with Kyoko and the others, had perceived in the astral state of consciousness. Solomon King, a veritable Master who had achieved tremendous control over the microcosm, was now terribly agitated and nervous. He knew that he was losing a little control, but just a little. It was understandable. Soon he would finally be able to catch the man responsible for the disapperance and murder of a number of young children--children that reminded him of his own now deceased daughter. Children whose parents would never be completely happy again, either mourning the death of their children endlessly or never knowing for certain exactly what had become of their young ones, whether they were alive or dead. Such people King could sympathize with while he hoped that at least through death Leah might be spared the sense of great loss that he never ceased feeling.
It was not the Averys who were responsible for the death of his wife and daughter several years ago, but the people responsible were very much the same. They were of no consequence now. They were quite dead--in every sense of the word. Solomon King saw to that personally. Unfortunately, one of their number escaped--but she was of no consequence either, for she too was now dead. Or was she? Again and again as King raced wildly down the thankfully empty highway his mind kept returning to that one name--the name of that woman who had escaped him before but whom he felt certain had been destroyed.
Madame Varina Velikazora.
Before her body, shrivelled and corpselike, crumbled to dust, Madame Velikazora virtually laughed in his face and said "I shall live within my servant." Then she was dust scattered to the four quarters of the earth by a magically invoked wind. Madame Velikazora's servant was a mountain of a man with apparently no emotions whatsoever. His name was Grant. He disappeared after the death of the sorceress.
The short hairs at the nape of King's neck began to prickle. Instinctively he looked over to the empty passenger side of the front seat and perceived a vague, ghostly form materializing. It was Kyoko. Her translucent and yet still lovely ethereal face turned in his direction. Apparently from the lovely spirit lips of the woman, although more accurately within King's own mind, he heard her speak.
"You must change your direction, Big Dragon. They have moved the girl. They did not know that we remained behind to watch over her. Turn left at the next intersection and look for a large grey house. We cannot read the address but it is very modernistic with many angles, flat roofs and large windows. They have taken her there and she is below ground in a large chamber that lies beneath the cellar. It is a very bad place, very well guarded, and there are several others there beside the Averys. You must ask for Michael's assistance. Please, Big Dragon. I love you too."
The astral form of Kyoko Toshiro then faded to nothingness.
The accelerator jammed to the floor, King drove on. He glanced at the car 'phone and hesitated. Certainly he should call Mike. Most probably he would need his assistance. But sometimes the law, as well intended as it was, interferred with justice, and he was afraid that these people would somehow get away with their crimes. Yet there was the little girl's safety to consider. Alone he might be overpowered and then be unable to prevent Carrie from being brutally murdered for a purpose he could not imagine. He had to call Mike. It was the only logical thing to do. The problem was that he doubted if the police could get to the girl in time, especially since he did not have an exact address to give them. The best he could do was to make his turn at the intersection and then tell Mike the same thing Kyoko had told him. It would have to do.
His thoughts revolving around these things, King nearly missed the turn off, and in making the left he almost over turned the car at the high speed he was travelling. Luck was with him, however, and he made the turn in one piece then lifted the receiver to make his telephone call.
"Solomon! Is that you? Where the hell are you? We've got a terrible connection."
"Mike. No time to explain. I'm in my car." He told him where he was and in which direction he was headed. "I need your help. I've located the girl, Carrie, and if you are quick enough we might be able to finally net Avery and his whole gang!"
"But how did you do it?"
"You know my methods, Mike. Too difficult to explain now. A bit of luck and a lot of help from my friends. Mike, come on! I need you!"
King shook his head to keep the perspiration from dripping into his eyes.
"I can't get a warrant!"
"To hell with the bloody warrant! You have probable cause. An anonymous tip."
"It's not an anon..."
"Did I identify myself, Mike? It's anonymous. A credible source. Call it whatever you like, just get your ass in gear! If I get there first I'll try to stall them."
"But you shouldn't..."
"If I don't the kid may be dead by the time you arrive. Now move it, Mike!"
"Okay. Be careful." And Chief Conrad rang off.
A few moments later the house came into view. It was just as Kyoko had described it. There was no mistaking it, especially as there were no other houses around. Oddly it reminded King of another house, a house in which he had put to rest the McGregors. But that was another story.
The magician eased up on the gas pedal, down-shifted and cut off his headlights. By the time he pulled into cover behind some brush not far from the house he had also killed the engine so that his Mercedes came to an almost perfectly silent stop.
There were lights on throughout the house, all of the windows were uncurtained, no movement perceivable, and the grounds around the large structure were very well lit--not only for artistic effect, but also for security. To get from where he was to where he wanted to be unseen King knew that he would have to live up to his reputation as a magician.
It was nearly impossible, under the circumstances, considering his nervous agitation and personal anger, but with effort King managed to calm himself and begin a deep, rhythmic breathing pattern. There was only one way he could cross that space unseen by human eyes, the television cameras that might be positioned in the trees and the electronic beams King imagined might be out there. He had to do the impossible. Solomon King had to forget himself entirely. He had to set his course and then cease to be unto himself. He had to completely lose consciousness of self. In doing so, in negating his existence unto himself, there would be nothing of him to reflect in the consciousness of others. He would become, for all intents and purposes, invisible.
King was concerned about the possibility of electronic beams that, interrupted, would set off alarms. A television camera was only the extension of the human eye, and the eye only saw that which made an impression upon the brain, and this could be prevented. But what of electronic beams? If they were out there and his physical form interrupted the beam and set off alarms, this would certanily alert the house's inhabitants of his presence. And certainly the alarms, unless they sere "silent alarms", would break his concentration with the effect of making him visible to whomever might be watching. He had never tried this before, under these circumstances, but he had no time to think about it and no time to carefully avoid the invisible beams of light that might be out there--that instinct told him almost certainly were out there. A little girl's life hung in the balance and time was of the essence.
As if in a dream, Solomon King calmly walked, almost floated, over the wide expanse of clearly illuminated ground. Sure enough there were cameras hidden in the boughs of the trees scattered about, and each one followed his progress. The electronic devices "saw" the magician, but the two security guards in front of the monitor screens saw nothing out of the ordinary. One of them, an ex-police officer who had been caught dealing in drugs and who had been suspect of greater crimes that could not be proven in a court of law, had noticed something odd about the behaviour of the cameras. They were programmed to sweep the grounds in a certain way and they seemed to be moving contrary to their program, as if the heat sensors built into them had picked up a warm body, superseding the regular program to follow that body. There appeared to be, however, nothing on the screen that the guard could see so he shrugged and made a mental note to have the equipment checked in the morning.
Looking for all the world like a somnambulist, the magician continued his steady course towards the house. Slowly, apparently without being aware of it, King approached the first invisible beam of light which stretched from tree to tree, the devices cleverly camouflaged so as to be virtually undetectable by the human eye. The beam of "invisible light" was at about the level of the magician's chest. Surely his physical body, since the heat sensors in the cameras had detected it, would interfere with the steam of light and set off the alarms. How could it be otherwise? Although the minds of the guards failed to perceive Solomon King, his physical presence was nonetheless there and the electronic equipment did not have a mind to "cloud".
Inches before crossing the path of the invisible steam of light, as if still in a trance, King suddenly ducked low and passed under it.
Not long after he came to yet another less than two feet from the ground and just as automatically as before he stepped gently over that one. But the mind is another thing entirely, not completely dependent upon the physical senses, and King was operating upon another level of consciousness, or rather he was operating outside of consciousness.
Once more the magician came to not one, but two beams--one about the level of his chest and another which came to just below his knees. Like an automaton, King sprang forward, rolling his body in the air, slipped between the beams, landed, rolled once on the grass, and came to his feet as if he were no more than a highly trained, well designed robot constructed purely for acrobatic functions. In his normal state of consciousness, despite his physical fitness, even King could not have executed such a gymnastic feat as the one his body had just performed automatically. The action was not unlike the perfect shot in billiards when the player ceases to think about what he has to do and how he should do it and simply gives himself over to his essential "higher" Self and simply does it.
Despite King's slow pace, because of the sureness and smoothness of his motion, in no time at all he had made it across the grounds and was now within the shadow of the great grey house. Having come to his chosen destination, Solomon King returned to the somatic state of consciousness with full awareness of himself and his purpose. Certainly the windows and doors to the house would also have security alarms wired to them, but these King could take care of in the normal way. A magician he might be, but should he have ever chosen to take up a life of crime he could have possibly become the most successful criminal in history.
The sub-basement temple was the complete opposite of the building above. Where the structure above ground was clean, bright and modern, this infernal temple was filthy, dark and archaic. Above almost every wall was a large pane of clear or translucent glass. Below there was not a single window and on the other side of every wall there was nothing but solid rock. The dark subterranean temple, stinking of brimstone, was adorned with objects of a gruesome and horrid nature. Yet unlike most modern satanic temples the relics were neither artificial nor comically evil. The skulls that were everywhere, small human skulls, were not made of plastic. They were all too real and some of them were still moist.
Along with the various perversions of magical symbols to be found everywhere in this lunatic's synagogue were the emblems of power that once adorned every corner of Nazi-held Germany before the second World War's end. The reversed swastika, the ancient and universal holy symbol turning anti-clockwise, was everywhere to be found--on flags and banners, around the necks of the satanists who wore hooded blood-red robes, and even upon the long altar itself. And on that altar laid the body of a very young and terribly frightened girl.
As far as satanists went, Marston Aubrey Avery was one of the most serious, intelligent and deadly. For him satanism was not just a great gimmick to get rich and accumulate followers, although these were indeed important to Avery. For him satanism was also a very real thing that he took seriously--almost as seriously as he took himself. Avery, in fact, had no true sense of humour, most especially in regards to himself and all that he did. Satan was his god and his ego was Satan.
"We have gathered here tonight to witness the passing of this lamb's youth, as decreed by our blasphemous lord Lucifer, unto the body of our queen." Avery made a gesture to indicate a dais upon which stood a large throne-like chair that had once decorated the Nazi stronghold of the Wesphalian castle, a temple of the black arts which witnessed what most men and women would call absolute evil. Upon that chair there sat a woman shrouded in shadow.
Avery took his place, preparations were quickly and smoothly made, and a gong was struck. The sound reverberated throughout the infernal temple and the satanic priest began.
"Before all of creation, this revelation was with the great unmanifest..."
In his hand Avery held a ceremonial Schutzstaffel dagger.
Rerouting the wiring of the door alarm and picking the lock was a simple matter for Solomon King's nimble fingers and quick mind. Avoidance of the electronic beams had also been simple since no great attempt to conceal the "eyes" had been made. It was never expected that anyone could possibly cross the grounds without being detected.
Likewise, getting past the two guards inside was absurdly easy. Although their door was open and they could see out into the hallway that King had to pass through, they paid little attention to what was or might be going on in the house since their pride and arrogance assumed that no one could get into the house--that no one could move across the grounds without being detected.
Having slipped past the security guards, King found that there was no one else in the house, at least above ground. He had no doubt whatsoever that Kyoko was right and that the satanic temple would be well below ground, either in the cellar or below it. The bowels of the earth suited the satanic mentality--the place of graves and Hades.
The mind of a typical occultist is quite easy for a man like Solomon King to fathom, and the mind of a satanist was even more predictable still. King made his way to the library wherein there was an impressive array of books meant more to impress others and glorify the owner's ego than to serve as a source of knowledge and enlightenment. There the magician was certain he would find a passage that led directly to the temple, either going through the cellar or bypassing the cellar entirely. The latter was most likely as the fewer entrances and exits there would be to the temple the more secure from discovery it would be. King's guess was that there would be one entrance through the study and at least one secret exit in case a hasty retreat was necessary. This, he felt sure, would lead to the back, rather than the front of the house, and he kept this in mind just in case.
Still the magician was faced with a problem. The study was vast and complex. The secret door could be anywhere. Even if behind a bookshelf, which was almost certain because of its predictability, there were a great many bookshelves to check. Searching in the normal way could take hours and the magician was dead sure that he had only minutes at his disposal.
Again there was a pause in the proceedings, a gong was struck and after its reberberations died down the satanic high priest continued as he stood over the reclining figure, her delicate wrists and ankles secured to the altar with leather straps.
"I have always been, I am now, and I shall be forever. I exercise rule and dominion over all beings and over the affairs of all those who are under my sovereign protection."
The figure in the great chair jerked her sagging head up, tilting it to one side as if listening to something.
The Thelemic magician sat in the dragon posture, buttocks resting upon heels and the palms of his hands flat upon his thighs. He was in the very centre of the study on the floor. His eyes were closed and he was hoping that the security guards did not make regular rounds through the house as he began controlling his breathing. He reasoned that what was constructed upon the physical plane to be undetectable might be easily detected upon the inner planes of concsiousness. If Solomon King could not immediately discover the whereabouts of the underground temple's secret entrance upon the outer, material plane of consciousness he would raise his level of consciousness and look for it from the inner, astral planes. The concept was not at all different from that of mounting an air search for someone lost in a vast forest or at sea. And if King had rightly gauged Avery's limited abilities it was almost certain that he had not and could not have hidden the temple entrance on the astral as he had on the somatic plane.
Free of physical limitations, Solomon King's essential consciousness studied those surroundings of which his physical body was the centre. From the vantage point of the astral he could see the structure of the room, not only as it was, but simultaneously as it would one day be and as it had been during the process of construction. Time is a relative concept and the truth of this is nowhere better demonstrated than upon the astral plane of consciousness.
King's astral vision made a 360 degree sweep of the room, yet for some reason the secret entrance's whereabouts continued to elude him. It was baffling. Finally he realized what was wrong. There was a kind of clouding, difficult to describe, yet it was not unlike the blurred vision of a person whose eyes had been bandaged for a long time. And there was something more. A living presence. The source of the interference was a person--a very powerful person. When King realized this the whole of the study in the astral grew very dark, then went pitch black. It was a deep stygian darkness that he had encountered before. It was the same darkness that had tried to hide the little girl from him earlier.
He had to penetrate the stygian darkness. But could he do it alone? Before he had had help, a great deal of help. Now, however, he was alone--on his own.
"I am the Lord that magnifies and increases Himself and all of the great wealth of creation is mind," Avery, assuming the role of Satan, declared.
The figure in the chair sat rigid as if straining to hold back something--as if using her last reserves of energy to maintain the integrity of a great force. And the strain was showing. Her body, growing weaker and more frail by the minute, thirsting for the youth that was promised to her, began to tremble.
"I have, O my people, my servants, made known unto you my ways, some of the wonders that I am. So saith Satan, your Lord God Almighty!"
Again the gong was struck and its sound bounced off of every wall again and again.
Like waves of heat, Solomon King, lost in the centre of that deep darkness, felt the sound of the gong. Periodically it was struck and finally he was able to locate the direction of its source upon the material plane of consciousness. He turned his astral vision in that direction but of course saw only the blackness. With a great effort of will, calling upon the Angel of the Aeon and his own Genius or True Self, King pushed forward against the palpable wall of blackness. It was as if he were pushing against the surface of a great black rubber ball within which he was encased. Although the effort was mental and upon the astral plane of consciousness, it was felt by his physical body which trembled with the effort and was drenched in perspiration.
I ... must ... break ... through ...!
He was on the point of giving up when a clear image of his deceased daughter's face came to him. Sweet little Lola. Dear little Lola. Dead little Lola. Then there came the faces of dozens of lost children--hundreds, thousands of lost children-- all the victims of maniacs like Marston Avery.
I ... will ... not ... give ... up ...!
There was a heavy gasp that echoed throughout the astral plane and the blackness gave way. King pushed through and clearly saw the entrance to the subterranean temple. Of course, behind the copy of Mein Kampf and, bound like a Judao-Christian bible, a copy of The Satanic Bible, was the latch which would open the door to the inevitable hidden passage.
With another burst of effort King dispersed the blackness entirely. When it was completely gone, sucked back into the source, snapping back like a broken rubber band, King returned to the somatic level, opened his eyes, rose to his feet, and went directly towards the secret passage entrance.
"In the name of the All-powerful One, the Evil One, Our Blasphemous Lord the Devil, let the youth of this lamb pass unto our queen, Our Lord's concubine on earth!"
Avery raised the ceremonial S.S. dagger high above the child's rapidly beating heart.
"Rege Satanas!" he cried out.
"REGE SATANAS!" the rest of the congregation replied in unison.
"AVE, SATANAS!" The assemblage virtually howled with anticipation and bloodlust.
"Hail, Satan, Lord God all-Mighty!" bellowed the satanic high priest.
From out of nowhere seemed to come the deep, resonate voice that interrupted their satanic evocation.
"'I am the Lord of Thebes, and the inspired forth-speaker of Mentu; for me unveails the veiled sky, the self-slain Ank-af-na-khonsu whose words are truth. I invoke, I greet Thy presence, O Ra-Hoor-Khuit!'"
The invocation that rang out, that vibrated throughout the underground temple interrupting the satanic ritual, came from the direction of the temple's entrance. All eyes turned sharply in that direction. There stood Solomon King, his legs spread wide, his arms up-raised in the shape of a Typhonian V. Sometimes one has to fight fire with fire.
"How dare you!" Avery screamed.
King ignored him and continued.
"'Unity uttermost showed! I adore the might of Thy breath, Supreme and Terrible God, who makest the gods and death to tremble before Thee:--I, I adore Thee!'"
Some of the congregation started to move towards King but suddenly stopped dead in their tracks.
"'Appear on the throne of Ra! Open the ways of the Khu! Lighten the ways of the Ka! The ways of the Khabs run through to stir me or still me!'"
The room trembled with a great force that visibly shook everyone in the temple.
"'Aum! Let it fill me!'"
Solomon King ended the recitation from the Stele of Revealing and the Book of the Law. He lowered his gaze upon those in the room, only it was not the jade-green eyes of the magician that looked upon them, that looked through the members of the satanic cult. These were the glowing eyes of a god. They were sparks of the divine, brilliant pure white light that flashed with such intensity that it brought great pain to all who looked in the magician's direction.
Not the eyes of Solomon King, but the eyes of the ancient hawk-headed lord of Egypt, Ra-Hoor-Khuit, the God of War and of Vengeance, gazed out upon that assemblage.
"KILL HIM! KILL HIM!" Avery screamed, his dagger still poised high over the little girl's heart.
"The dagger! The dagger!" Madame Velikazora cried out from her throne. "Use the dagger, you fool, and cut out the heart! Cut out her blasted heart, you idiot! Waste no more time!"
At the same moment the congregation as one screamed maniacally and moved forward to shed King's blood, to tear him to pieces like savage animals.
That which was more than Solomon King suddenly thrust his body forward, one foot advancing, his hands clasped and jutting forward, pointing in the direction of the on-coming satanists. There was a terrific surge of power that even the most hard core skeptic would have felt and then a tremendous flash of brilliant blue-white light seemed to burst forth from the magician's hands. So quickly did the ball of electrial energy manifest itself and then rush into the mob to disappear explosively that those who survived could not be certain of what they had actually witnessed. However, the results could not be denied! Bodies, shattered and burned, flew backwards, smashing against floor and walls, cracking plaster, knocking over ritual furnishings. One luckless man was thrown back against a small table upon which stood the hand of glory, the mummified hand of an executed criminal. So terrific was the impact that the table was shattered and the man's body was impaled upon one of the broken table legs.
Everything turned to chaos after that and no one sought to attack the magician again. Solomon King, however, his eyes returned to normal, slumped against the wall, his head and shoulders sagging. He was momentarily drained of energy and fought to remain conscious.
Upstairs the security guards were alerted by the explosion of energy which had crippled and knocked unconscious many of the satanic worshippers. The force had shaken the entire building from the foundation to the roof, cracking plaster and breaking glass. The guards drew their weapons and began to run towards the study. They froze in the hallway, however, when the sound of sirens, many sirens, hit the house in a crashing wave, setting off every security alarm that was still operational. In moments the house was surrounded by police cruisers, their red, white and blue lights flashing almost cheerfully.
The guards looked to one another as if hoping someone might have an idea as to what should be their response to the situation.
From outside a man's voice boomed forth with the assistance of a bullhorn. It was Police Chief Michael Conrad commanding everyone in the house to surrender immediately, warning that the house was entirely surrounded.
The guards made the foolish mistake of firing upon the police. The command to return fire was given and a volley of pistol and rifle fire literally smashed through the front of the house and tore apart the bodies of the security guards.
Conrad waited a few seconds after he commanded the cease fire and then boldly advanced upon the house.
With his foot the police chief turned over the body of the ex-police officer.
"Wonderful," he said dryly. "I always knew I'd get you sooner or later."
Appropriately, all hell had broken loose in the underground temple. King was still debilitated, but fortunately no one was paying any attention to him at that point. Those worshippers who had survived the uncanny blast of energy knew only one way in or out of that room and they ran past King to get to it. Without regard for one another's safety they all fought and clawed to be first to the stairwell. Some were trampled under foot and those who did make it up the stairs ran straight into the waiting arms of the law.
Soon there were only five people left in the satanic grotto--Solomon King, little Carrie strapped securely to the perverse altar, Marston Avery, who still stood over the girl with the dagger in his clenched fists, and Letha Avery, his wife, standing beside him bare breasted, wearing a great deal of make up, several pounds of cheap jewelry and a diaphanous skirt.
There was also the shadow-hidden figure on the throne-like chair. This was, of course, madame Varina Velikazora in her stolen and now wasting body. Feebly she stood up and took a few steps into the dim light of a candle. Her eyes never left the Thelemic magician who was still slumped against the wall.
"The child's heart, Avery! Use the god damned dagger now, you stinking, cowardly fool!"
Avery looked to the decaying wreck of a human, then his eyes fell upon the intended victim, and finally he shifted his gaze once more towards King.
Solomon King looked up at the satanic priest with imploring eyes. Weakly he said, "No. Please. Don't do it."
"Do it! Do it!" Letha urged her husband.
"Yes, high priest," Madame Velikazora hissed, "do it ... now!"
Avery looked back to the little girl, raised the dagger a bit higher in preparation for the thurst while King tried to rush forward to stop him and ended up falling weakly to the floor, then something very strange and unexpected happened. The darkness of the subterranean temple suddenly lifted and a brightness from no apparent source began to fill every corner of the stinking place. There was a definite electrical charge in the atmosphere and the smell of sulphur and burned flesh gave way to a sweeter, a holier scent as of incense.
"Now! Damn you! Do it now!" Madame Velikazora screamed.
"I ... I can't!" Avery managed to say through clenched teeth, his face a mask of terrific strain and terror. "I ... can't lower ... my arms! Something ... someone ... is holding ... them!"
Letha grabbed her husband's arms and with all of her strength tried to bring them and the dagger down but it was like trying to bend steel beams.
King began to feel strength pouring into him and he was distinctly aware of the incorporeal presence of Kyoko, Olwyn and her covenstead. It was their combined force that kept Avery from plunging the dagger into the little girl's body.
King watched as Letha pulled with all of her strength upon her husband's arms. He studied their position and calculated the probabilities. Then very softly he said, as if to himself, "Release him, my friends. Let go ... now."
At that exact moment the force was withdrawn. Letha was still pulling on her husband's arms. Avery's arms came down, the S.S. dagger clutched tightly in his locked hands, and the weapon buried itself up to the hilt in Letha's bared breast. She screamed in surprise and agony while Avery still held tightly the dagger, blood pumping out onto his hands, his eyes wide with horror as they gazed into the startled eyes of his wife, the only person he had ever come close to loving in his entire life.
"Oh my God!" he exclaimed, forgetting himself, forgetting his precious Satan, forgetting everything. "Oh dear God, no..."
As Letha's eyes closed, her knees gave out and both she and her husband, Avery still holding the dagger in both hands, its blade still buried in the woman's chest, sank to the floor.
At that precise moment Madame Velikazora decided that there was no recourse but to escape. By this time the sound of advancing police officers descending the stairs was quite noticeable. Turning one last time to King she looked upon him with pure hate in her eyes.
"Once more you have beaten me, magician. But I'm not that easy to kill, as you well know. You may destroy these idiots but you cannot destroy Madame Varina Velikazora!"
Despite her ever advancing frailty, Madame Velikazora turned sharply and leaped off of the dais. King noted that she headed in exactly the direction he had assumed the secret exit to be. It would, no doubt, go underground for some length and then open above ground behind some cover to make for a clean escape. In a moment Madame Velikazora was through the concealed panel which she did not bother to close behind her.
No more than a second later Conrad and several uniformed officers broke into the devastated temple with firearms at the ready. In a flash Conrad took in the scene and ordered the officers to see to the girl and take Avery into custody.
Conrad made it to King as he found his feet again.
"This time, Solomon, we've got him ... not only for kidnapping and attempted murder, but also for the murder of his wife."
The two men looked towards the altar. One officer was releasing the little girl while two others attended to Avery. Unnecessarily, one of the police officers called out, "She's dead, sir", as the cop literally separated the woman's body from the dagger and then pried apart Avery's blood-stained hands to take the weapon away from him. He was in no mood to fight for his freedom. He had surrendered. His mind had snapped.
"Damn it!" King hissed.
"What's wrong?" Conrad asked.
"I've got to go, Mike! I can't let her get away! I can't!"
"You can't let who get away, Solomon?"
"The bitch responsible for all of this! The woman responsible for the death of my wife and daughter!"
"Hold up a minute and I'll send out a few squad cars."
"No time, Mike!" King started running for the revealed secret exit. "Send them if you like, but they'll have to be damn fast to beat me to her!" And he disappeared into the bowels of the earth.
Madame Velikazora was weakening quickly. Her pace through the underground tunnel was slow and awkward. She was rapidly becoming little more than a shambling corpse, losing her strength and coordination. King, on the other hand, was feeling stronger every minute as Kyoko and the others were still feeding him energy through the astral channels. When Madame Velikazora exited the tunnel well out of sight of the policemen that surrounded the house, their squad cars encircling the structure with lights still flashing, King was hot on her heels.
As Madame Velikazora was about to enter her automobile, King emerged from the tunnel. Grant halted half way in the car.
"Kill him, Grant! He's weak now. Kill him!"
Grant stepped out of the car and began moving towards the magician. As he did so Madame Velikazora slipped behind the wheel of the car, turned the key in the ignition, put it in gear and floored it. Dirt and gravel shot up from the rear tires pelting Grant's back but he paid no attention whatsoever to it. Instead he continued forward, slowly, steadily, with one thought and one thought only in mind--the utter destruction of Solomon King.
The car fishtailed and then took off like a bullet.
King stopped, looked desperately at the retreating car, and then back to the monster headed in his direction.
"Damn it!" he cursed. "I haven't time for you. I ... haven't ... time ...!"
As Grant lunged forward, King pulled back his right hand, which he held in a flat, knife-like position. With all of the strength his associates were pouring into him he suddenly jabbed his hand forward. The rigid fingers made contact with the big man's body, then drove directly to the solar plexis--through his body without breaking flesh. It was as if King's hand had indeed become a tempered steel dagger. For a moment the big man just hung there in space, a look of great surprise upon his craggy face, then blood began to pour out of his mouth as he hemorrhaged. King withdrew his hand and watched Grant as he fell to the ground, still alive but dying.
The magician turned sharply and ran around towards the front of the house, ignoring the officers and heading straight for his hidden Mercedes. Within an instant of closing the door the engine roared to life. He quickly put the car in gear, burst through the brush, wheeled around and took off in the same direction that Madame Velikzaora had taken.
Solomon King had at least two things in his favour. One, he was certain that he had the better automobile. Some vanities occasionally pay off. Two, she was growing weak and uncoordinated while he was growing ever stronger, his perceptions and reflexes becoming ever keener thanks to the strength he was still receiving from his friends.
It seemed like forever that he raced down the deserted highway in the dead of night. Or was it early morning? He had lost all concept of time. Rounding a bend he saw her ahead of him. It was her! It had to be her! Madame Velikazora was almost within reach!
King shifted gears, chancing the destruction of his transmission, taking the automobile's finely turned engine to the limits. To hell with vanity! He wanted revenge! He would have justice!
Madame Varina Velikazora looked into her rearview mirror. Headlights blazed back at her, disturbing her already dimming vision. She could see little but light, yet she knew that it was King behind her.
"Damn him! Damn him!" she hissed through teeth rapidly rotting.
With the last remaining reserves of strength, Madame Velikazora once more raised the blackness at her command. With great effort, while doing her best to control the speeding vehicle, she directed that total absence of light at King. Moments later King could see nothing. Night had become blacker than was possible and he was driving at top speed totally blind.
Madame Velikazora laughed wildly as she saw the Mercedes fall back and weave about, its driver uncertain as to the course of the road. Fortunately it was a highway and virtually straight at that point, as King was, after the initial shock, beginning to remember. Meanwhile Madame Velikazora was trying to control her speeding car, maintain the blackness that blinded King, and remain conscious all at the same time. It was, of course, impossible for she had not received the little girl's youthful vitality and she was weakening rapidly--literally decompsoing in her automobile.
"It's over, Madame Velikazora. Give up."
Madame Velikazora was startled. Her head turned sharply in the direction of the soft lilting void and there on the other side of the front seat she saw the ghostly image of a beautiful Oriental woman.
At the same moment she unconsciously swerved into the other lanes and a large truck came up on her fast. The truck's headlights filled her car with dazzling light. The truck driver laid on his horn and swerved to try and avoid the onrushing car. By mere inches, thanks to the truck driver's skill and quick wits, he missed Madame Velikazora's car, brought his truck to a halt and avoided jackknifing. Madame Velikazora lost her concentration completely. Instinctively she hit her brakes while somehow noticing that the passenger side of the front seat was now empty. The car fishtailed violently as the tires grabbed the asphalt, then the car swung around, coming to a complete stop in the middle of the deserted highway.
As Madame Velikazora's concentration broke the blackness surrounding King suddenly vanished and he had only a split second to realize his situation and react. His car was hurtling at top speed and directly ahead of him was Madame Velikazora in her car, stalled across the middle of the road.
The mistress of the black arts looked up and saw the Mercedes bearing down on her. She turned the key in the ignition but the starter made only a grinding noise and then died. The sorceress laughed wildly and screamed out so viciously that her words were perfectly clear in King's now hypersensitive mind.
"You can't win, magician! Again I shall live within my servant! I shall..." Madame Velikazora felt the last dying breath of Grant, her servant, back at the house. "No!" she screamed. "NOOOOOOO!"
King opened his door and jumped out of the speeding Mercedes only an instant before it collided with Madame Velikazora's automobile. There was a terrific explosion as her gasoline tank was hit and a tremendous ball of flame mushroomed up from the exploding vehicles. King had luckily rolled in high grass by the side of the highway, the strength from his friends giving him additional protection against the impact of his fall. Still he was certain that his right arm had been broken and a few ribs cracked.
Painfully King got to his knees just in time to hear what sounded like an unearthly scream combined with the sound of the explosion, and in the ball of flames that rolled above the automobiles, for just an instant, he was certain that he saw the agonized features of Madame Varina Velikazora as she vanished into nothingness, having no servant within which to find refuge.
"That's for Lola," Solomon King said, and as he watched the vehicles burn in the middle of the highway, police cars, sirens whining, lights flashing, arrived on the scene.
Somewhere far away, in a dark room, a man whose face was hidden by the gloom sensed the destruction of the satanists and the death of Madame Varina Velikazora. Without any feeling whatsoever, in a voice that was cold and deep, the man spoke aloud.
"They are only wooden-headed puppets. I pull the strings."