[Mysteriousheartland.com] As the Fallen strolled down a gravel drive in rural central Illinois, Greg walked ahead of the group like a tour guide, excitedly waving his hands in the air. “What did the skeleton say to the bartender?” he asked. “I’d like a beer and a mop!”
Davin snickered. “That was bad,” he said.
Emmet made a noise like a buzzer and gave Greg a ‘thumbs down’.
“Are you done?” Mike asked as he walked shoulder to shoulder with Aurelia. She wore camouflage pants and a black sleeveless undershirt, and tied her dark brown hair into a ponytail. Emily brought up the rear and repeatedly looked over her shoulder to see if someone was following them.
“I’m sick of these cemeteries,” Davin whined. “Remember what happened at Williamsburg Hill? I don’t want to get hypothermia again in the middle of summer.”
Aurelia sighed. “Oh, stop complaining.”
“We have serious work to do,” Mike added as he adjusted his glasses. The Fallen walked past two red traffic barriers into a corridor of trees. A few yards ahead, they saw a clearing and an old, rusted fence along the crest of a ridge that ran parallel to the drive. Mike picked up his pace and arrived at the cemetery entrance before the others.
“This is the infamous Peck Cemetery?” he announced. “It doesn’t look so scary.”
“Yeah, well maybe that’s because it’s so early in the morning,” Emmet yelled. “Tell me again why the heck we came here at five o’clock? I barely got any sleep last night.”
Greg fished a miniature powdered doughnut from his shirt pocket and stuffed it into his mouth. “Yeah,” he mumbled. “What’s the deal?”
“I wanted to arrive at the cemetery before it got too hot,” Mike replied. “We’ll go to IHOP after we’re done, I promise. Besides, early morning is the perfect time for what I have planned.”
“Oh geez,” Emmet said. “Here we go.”
The Fallen stepped inside the rusted gates and waited while Mike examined the area with the gaze of an experienced investigator. “There.” He pointed at an empty patch of grass in the middle of the cemetery. “Aura, you already know the plan. Go set up the ritual. Davin and Emily, I want you to help.”
Aurelia did what Mike ordered, but Davin could not tear his eyes away from Emily, who wore a short, plaid skirt and a charcoal-colored blouse matted with sweat. She smiled at him mysteriously.
Mike glared angrily at Davin, and he finally stumbled after Aurelia. Emily followed.
Greg raised an eyebrow. “Ritual? I don’t get it,” he said when they were several yards away. “What are we doing here? You never mentioned anything about a ritual or why we came to Peck Cemetery.”
Mike grinned. “I know,” he said quietly. “Secrecy was essential. We’ll see what happens in a few minutes.”
“I won’t hold my breath,” Emmet said sarcastically.
Deep inside the graveyard, Aurelia pulled a dark blue pouch from her pocket. She tore it open and scooped out a handful of salt. Inspecting Emily’s face for any reaction, she began sprinkling it into the grass until she produced a circle that was invisible to the naked eye. She then produced five quartz crystals from her pocket and placed them at even intervals around the circumference of the circle. She bowed her head and began muttering in Latin.
“What is she doing?” Greg asked, annoyed. “What’s going on?”
“You remember those zealots who gave us so much trouble last year?” Mike replied.
“Yeah,” Greg said. “We haven’t seen them since.”
“One wore a six-pointed star pendant. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, until I noticed that obese Satanist, Balor, had one tattooed on his arm.”
“It’s a common symbol used by many different groups,” Emmet interrupted.
“Yeah, maybe,” Mike said. “But isn’t it coincidental both groups use that symbol and both are trying to find the astral gate? If a connection exists, I’m going to figure it out.” He removed his glasses and wiped them clean with the hem of his black t-shirt.
About a dozen yards away, Aurelia had completed her preparations. Nearby, Davin and Emily hovered around each other like birds. Since they met at Airtight Bridge, they had spent every waking moment together. Aurelia worried about what Davin had been telling Emily. He already had a tendency to disappear for weeks on end, and she questioned his reliability.
No sooner had she signaled to Mike, two figures, one overweight and the other tall and thin, emerged from the nearby forest through a gap in the fence. It was Balor and Malik, the Satanists. The rising sun reflected off metal objects in their hands.
“Son of a—” Emmet began, but Mike cut him off.
“Aura, get over here!” he shouted.
Aurelia snarled, but before she could move, Emily tripped her and shoved her to the ground. Only the element of surprise protected Emily from an immediate reprisal.
Davin looked confused, but Emily grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the interlopers.
“Where is he going?” Greg demanded.
“Haven’t you noticed those guys show up every time we investigate a suspected location of the astral gate?” Mike whispered.
“Do you think—?” his friend began.
Mike nodded. “Yes, Davin sold us out. You were right. Aura and Davin were the only people I told we were going to Peck Cemetery. There was no way those Satanists could have known unless Davin told Emily and Emily told them. She’s been playing the innocent victim this whole time, all to get at Davin and break us up.”
“Divide and conquer,” Emmet said. “Clever.”
“Not quite,” Mike replied.
Defying her instinct to attack, Aurelia reluctantly ran to join Mike, Greg, and Emmet near the cemetery entrance.
“It looks like they brought guns,” Aurelia said. “Guns! What do you want to do?”
“What a bunch of scumbags,” Mike said with a smirk. “It looks like there’s nothing we can do.”
By this time, Davin, Emily, Balor, and Malik stood inside the circle of salt Aurelia had made. The Satanists pointed their pistols menacingly at the Fallen. “You know what we want,” Balor demanded.
“Are those BB guns?” Emmet whispered.
Mike produced a scroll from his shorts’ pocket and tossed it to the Satanists, making sure it fell short so they would have to bend over to pick it up.
“Just read this out loud and you should be able to open the portal,” Mike yelled. “I hate to say it, but you got us this time. We’ll leave. We won’t stop you.”
Balor made Davin retrieve the scroll and hand it to him. He licked his lips as the Fallen backed out of the cemetery gates and retreated down the gravel drive.
As they passed beyond the far corner of the cemetery, Greg, Aurelia, Emmet, and Mike heard chanting coming from beyond the rusted fence, then silence. Moments later, frantic curses and screams broke the silence and the Fallen ran toward their car.
Slamming the door, Mike made sure everyone was inside before he threw their Toyota Corolla into reverse.
“What did you give them?” Greg asked through ragged gasps for breath.
“Nothing,” Mike said. “The scroll is nonsense, but that ‘salt’ Aura scattered was actually sugar coated in ant pheromones. Thousands of ants should be swarming all over them!”
Emmet and Greg broke out into laughter.
“All I really wanted to do was confirm how those Satanists keep tracking us down,” Mike explained. “It worked perfectly.”
“This is far from over,” Aurelia reminded him, but of that, everyone was already aware.
[New episode every Friday…]
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