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The Walls Have Teeth (1/18/1998)
by Patti (email address unknown)
The members of the San Francisco Legacy House investigate the grisly
murder of a young girl which occurred within
Alex & Philip Investigate
When the red mustang pulled up down the street from the house on California Avenue, it was obvious that Frank Karmak had not yet arrived. There was no vehicle in either the driveway or in front of the house in question.
"C'mon Philip, let's go in." Alex suggested.
The young man in the driver's seat looked uncomfortable. He glanced several times in the rearview mirror, and at the clock in the console.
"I don't know Alex. I think I'd rather wait for Frank. He did say he'd meet us here. Why don't we give him a few more minutes. I don't like breakin' and enterin', when we can do it proper like."
The young woman just smirked. "Well, if it's approved by the police department, then it's not breakin' an' enterin' is it?" she asked, mimicking his Irish lilt.
The priest grinned. "I guess not. Okay, c'mon then. Let's get this over with!"
They opened their doors and stepped out of the car. Alex stood in the gutter for a moment with a pensive look on her face. Philip came around the side of the car. When he asked if she was all right, she simply nodded and took his arm. She began to pull him gently in the direction of the house that was the cause of their concerns.
As they neared the structure, Alex began to tremble violently and her eyes went wide. Suddenly a sharp gasp escaped her lips.
"Oh my God! Philip!" She moaned and terrified the already worried priest.
"Alex!!! What is it?" he cried, and began to drag her away from the house.
"No! C'mon!" she insisted, and dragged him back toward the structure.
Soon it was evident that she could go no closer. They had only been able to get as far as the driveway before whatever it was caused her to stop dead in her tracks and gaze at him with a pleading look. She gratefully allowed her friend to guide her back to the car.
Once inside, the exhausted young woman put her head back against the cushion and closed her eyes. They sat in the mustang for several minutes without speaking. Philip was unsure whether to interrupt her thoughts or not. Finally, Alex broke the silence. There were tears in her eyes when she turned to look at him.
"Oh Philip. There are hundreds…no, thousands…of voices in that house, all screaming in horror! No wonder Derek was so overwhelmed. I can even sense them from here, now! I felt nothing before we started to get close! You know, if his natural mental barriers were up, and he didn't sense anything until he was right on top of it, and then it all came flooding in…well, it's a wonder he's even alive!"
"Wow! You can really feel them now?"
"Yes. It's awful!"
"Wait a minute. You said horror. What's got them so horrified? From what I've heard, this house isn't associated with those sorts o'memories."
"I don't really know. There are so many voices that I can't make out what they're saying…only the feeling of horror!"
She sighed deeply with regret.
"I don't think psychic abilities are going to help us here, Philip. I don't know anyone who has strong enough mental barriers to withstand the sort of deluge that these spirits would subject them to, up close and personally. If you know what I mean?"
"Damn! I was really hopin' that you could help us. I'm sorry for bringin' you here Alex."
The girl smiled wanly. "Oh yeah, like I wouldn't have come without you? Not! Anyway, I think I might be able to make something of all of this when I've had time to think about it, and separate the emotions from the thoughts. I hate to do this, but can we get out of here? This place is starting to really give me the creeps. It's taken on a dark tone since we got back into the car."
Just then they saw Frank pull up in front of the house. Philip honked the horn briefly to let the detective know they were there, and got a nod in return. Lieutenant Karmak leaned back against the hood of his car to await their arrival on the scene.
The young man at the wheel turned to Alex and looked at her long and hard before speaking.
"Look, why don't you take the car and go find a spot t'relax for a few minutes, while I go inside with Frank? I wanna take another look around without the reminders of Gabe's gruesome death hangin' over me. Do you think you're up t'drivin' a short distance? I can meet ya…get Frank t'drop me off. There was a small bistro not too far from here."
Alex acutally laughed softly. "What? You're going to trust me with Nick's baby?! Oh Philip, what would he say? Of course I feel up to the drive. I'll wait for you…"
He nodded with a smile. She watched him gather his things and then a thought occurred to her.
"But Philip…" she waited until she had his complete attention, "…if you don't show up in half an hour, I'm calling Nick and we're coming in after you. I don't like the feelings I'm picking up from that place right now."
He nodded solemnly. Suddenly she realized that he was sensing something of the evil nature that had taken over the house since they had been sitting in the car, which was why he wanted to go back in. The young Irish priest always held that confronting the enemy was the only way to handle these situations, and didn't always listen to that part of himself that argued it was the most dangerous way, as well.
"Right. Just make sure Nick brings his big gun when he comes, will ya?!" he added jokingly.
Alex shook her head and got out to trade places with him. Frank waved
and she waved back as the got into the driver's seat and began to maneuver
the car in a tight "Y-turn". The smart young woman knew that she would
be foolish to pass as close to the house as the street in front of her
would do. She went back the way they had come with grave misgivings about
leaving Frank and Philip alone at the house.
Philip Gets a Clue
The priest walked down the sidewalk, stopped at the bumper of Frank's car and shook the taller man's hand.
"Hi. Alex has had a rough time, so I thought you and I could just take a quick look around now that I've gotten over th'shock of Gabrielle's death. Okay with you?"
"Fine by me Philip. Anything that might help us figure out what happened here is just dandy! By the way, we've uncovered a bit more information about that couple mentioned by the neighbor."
"Oh, have they gone missin' too?"
Frank looked startled. "How'd you know?"
Philip smiled briefly and replied, "Just a hunch. So wha'dya find out?"
"Well for starters, they were last seen on their way here. The man had gotten their license plate number…it's a good thing that some people are so nosy…and so we tracked it to the impound yard. It had been towed away after the regular patrol noticed it sitting here for two weeks straight. It belonged to a Mr. and Mrs. Wendell Jordan. It turns out that they're sort of amateur psychic investigators, and their friends told my detectives that the two were very interested in this place. They'd been known to visit at all hours of the day and night, collecting information for a book that they were writing."
"That fits with th'profile o'this place, doesn't it? Anythin' else?"
"Yeah, they were seen in a deli just south of here picking up food for an all night vigil. The owner verified that they'd been in at least four times a week for two months, and then nothing…nothing after that last night. Turns out to be the last night that the man across the street saw them here, and two weeks before the car was impounded. Want to hazard a guess as to what happened to them?"
Philip looked up at the taller man and nodded. "Oh, I think we know th'answer t'that, don't we, Frank? The real question is, where are th'bodies?" he asked, then continued as if thinking aloud, "O'course, if they were th'first, then maybe it felt the need to hide them. Who knows? Oh well, these are answers that we'll hopefully find, right?"
Frank grinned down at the priest. "Right. Want to start with the living room?"
The younger man nodded. "Sounds good. We'll just play it by ear, okay?" and was rewarded with another smile and a nod from the detective. Frank pulled a key out of his pocket, and unlocked the door.
"Age before beauty, laddie" the detective said with a smile, and offered to let the younger man go first.
"Ho! Don't you wish Frank!" Philip chuckled and joked back softly, but took the proffered excuse to precede the detective.
When they first entered the house, both men were unaccountably overcome with the need to whisper, even though they were apparently alone in the place. As they moved through the living room, Frank said he would look around upstairs. Philip nodded absently. He had discovered a scrap of paper in the grate of the living room fireplace, which confirmed that Gabrielle had been coming to this house for weeks before she died.
"So that's why she was so much improved! And here I thought it was my doin! Philip, you silly boy…you shoulda known it was somethin' like this." He whispered to himself in surprise at his discovery.
He stood and dusted his fingers on the jeans he wore, covered in soot as they were from the ashes in the fireplace. As he turned around he suddenly found himself face to face with the woman of his dreams.
The surprised young man simply stood and stared at the vision before him for a full minute without speaking a word. It wasn't the first time this particular spirit had visited him, but each time she surprised him anew with her ethereal beauty and the feelings he could never quite purge no matter how long or hard he tried. He knew with certainty that this had to be the spirit of his late fiancée and not the real, flesh and blood Briony who was at that moment in Ireland visiting his family.
"Brie? Is it you love? Whatcha doin' here in this house?"
The young woman looked at him with sad eyes and shook her head. Obviously she couldn't speak, but she raised one arm and pointed toward the door, as if to instruct him to leave. Her eyes implored him to run, he knew without question that was her message.
Philip suddenly realized that his companion was in very real danger. He turned and dashed up the stairs two at a time, calling out Frank's name as he ran. Receiving no immediate answer fear clutched at his heart, and he screamed the man's name again.
By now he was on the landing of the second floor. A quick check revealed no sign of the detective. Philip darted up the next set of stairs, gasping for breath. When he reached the third floor, he dashed off down the hall throwing open doors as he went, stopping just long enough to ascertain that Frank wasn't in the room before moving on.
Suddenly a head popped around one of the doorframes and a very curious Frank Karmak asked, "What's up Philip? I was just…uh…well, you'd better come and see for yourself."
The winded young man bent over and put his hands on his knees, struggling to catch his breath, which had been driven out of his body by both fear and exertion.
"Why the Hell didn't you answer me?" he gasped out.
"I think you need to look in here, Philip." was all that Frank would say.
The priest stood erect again, and walked toward the open doorway. When he reached it and looked inside, he crossed himself out of sheer instinct. Standing in the middle of the room looking as angelic as she had in life was Frank's deceased 12-year-old daughter, Helena.
"H-e-l-e-n-a?" he asked in wonder, and looked at Frank who was wreathed in smiles.
"Isn't it wonderful Philip? She came to see me! She says she's been lonely, and knew we were coming, so she made the effort to come through to see her papa!"
The priest looked at the specter standing before them and knew without doubt that this was not the ghost of the child his companion believed her to be. As he watched the girl, her face changed…transformed from angelic beauty into a mask of pure evil. Philip glanced at Frank to see his reaction, but realized that only he could see the creature in it's current state. Her eyes glowed red, and with a mouth full of rotting teeth she actually leered at him.
Whatever it was, it was using the body of Frank's child, and with obvious deadly intent. As Philip gazed in horror at the "child" he had a revelation. This thing was using people's loved ones to get to them…just as Azaziel had used Ellen to get close enough to him to obtain the key that he guarded. As he looked at the detective again and saw the sheer happiness on his face, he was suddenly filled with an unaccountable terror.
"C'mon Frank, we have t'get outta here…NOW!" he said, and grabbed the unwilling man by the arm.
Just as he reached out, the child also moved…with lightening speed it grabbed the detective's other arm and began to pull. When the priest started to pull Frank from the room, the demon filled his mind with visions of standing in a lake of fire, and being consumed by molten liquid. The pain was excruciating, but he ignored it as best he could and pushed the demon child away, throwing it across the room.
Frank screamed as he saw his "child" hit the wall, and tried to wrest free of the priest's stranglehold on his arm. With a strength that could only have been heaven sent, the young Irishman had to literally drag the larger man from the room, down the stairs and out of the house.
Once outside, Philip looked back up at the house and saw Briony's face in the uppermost window. She smiled down at him, blew him a kiss and then disappeared.
Frank wrenched his arm out of the priest's grasp and moved to return to the house, but Philip blocked his way, shaking his head and hoping that he'd understand that he'd done what he had to do, and wouldn't allow him to return to the house. Tears gathered in the detective's eyes when he jerked away and stomped off toward the car.
Filled with relief, the young priest slumped against a nearby tree and closed his eyes for a moment, willing the terror of his very recent vision to go away. Soon he had overcome the pain and terror that such a possible fate held for him, and he turned his thoughts to his companion. The detective was still very upset, and his grief was almost palpable.
Years of training made Philip stand off to one side while the older man attempted to gain control of his emotions. He knew that any overtures of sympathy would be rebuffed by his friend, and so didn't offer the offending gestures. Instead he watched with a penetrating stare, waiting until he was certain that Frank could hear what he had to say without prejudice.
Finally Frank looked at him with all the anger that he had been dreading.
"You son of a bitch!" he said, and Philip winced at the accusation implied by everything the detective had not said.
Frank saw the priest's reaction, and his anger turned to confusion. "Why did you do it Philip? Don't you understand? I've waited so long…even prayed...for a sign that she was where she belonged. Suddenly she's here in the flesh and you not only hurt her, but you then proceed to drag me away! Why?"
The priest chose his words carefully. He didn't want to hurt the grieving father by telling him that his daughter was being used by an evil spirit, but there really wasn't any other way.
"Frank, that wasn't Helena…" he raised a hand when the detective looked like he was ready to argue the point. "No Frank! I'm tellin' you that whatever that was in there, it WASN'T your daughter. Not even her ghost! It was usin' her face and form to appeal t'you, but I believe it was th'same thin' that killed Gabrielle. I couldn't risk losin' you th'same way!"
Frank Karmak looked like he had just lost his best friend, but was trying valiantly to believe the earnest young man standing before him. At the sympathetic look he received from the priest, he broke down completely. Philip put his arms around the other man and let him cry unabated.
"Oh God Philip! I miss her so much…Katarina too! Why did it have to happen? Why?"
"We can't always be blessed with knowing why things happen Frank. You know that. We simply have to accept that they do, and that somehow in time, all will be made clear. I know that doesn't help right now, but you've dealt with this before, don't let that thing in there take your strength of will from you now, or it's won."
Frank dropped Philip off at the bistro where Alex waited. It had taken him some time to come to terms with what his priestly companion had told him, especially when Philip saw fit to divulge the visions he'd been "graced" with…both the true nature of the beast and the lake of fire. The priest sensed that in his present emotional state, Frank could do with some confidences, so he'd shared his own devastating overwhelming fear. Now, sitting in front of the diner, the detective didn't get out of the car, but simply told the other man that he needed time to get over what had happened.
"Fine. I truly do understand Frank, but you must promise me not to go near that house again unless we are with you! You've been targeted now, and I don't know what might happen if you went back there by yourself. Promise?"
"Oh yeah! I believe you about it not really being Helena. Anyway, you've scared the bejeezus out of me, so I'll stay clear of the place! See you later…Oh and Philip, tell Derek you did good! Tell him for me. I'll talk to him later."
"Take care of yourself Frank, and I'm here if you need to talk, okay?"
When the young priest entered the diner, Alex asked him if Frank was
going to join them, but he told her that the detective had other business
to attend to. He didn't want to discuss the near miss at the house yet…not
even with her.
Paying the Piper
When they walked into the house Derek called out from the Library. His voice held a note of steel and so they veered in that direction.
Alex smiled grimly at Philip and said, "Uh oh, we're in for it now."
They walked in to find Derek, Rachel, Nick, Randy and Sydney all assembled waiting for them to return. Philip glanced at the clock on the wall and mentally swore. He hadn't realized that they'd been gone as long as they had.
"Sit down." Derek said between gritted teeth and bit out, "NOW!" when they hesitated over which chairs to take.
Alex looked up sharply and was shocked to see his knuckles were white on the book he was holding. She couldn't remember when she'd seen him so angry…or was it more than just anger pure and simple? Suddenly she realized that he had cozened on to their plan and had probably been out of his mind with worry over her.
"Oh Lord! I could have at least called him to reassure him!" she thought belatedly.
"Derek…" Philip began, but was silenced by the look of fury that the precept threw him.
"You! How dare you take her into such a situation?! Goot Got! Don't you have ANY sense Philip? I mean, I know you're scatterbrained sometimes when it comes to details, but I always thought you had good judgement…until now!!!!" he was practically raving.
The young priest blanched at the accusatory air of the older man's words. It hurt him to think that Derek didn't realize that he was trying to protect Alex by accompanying her, not harm her. However, he held his tongue. In fact, they were all unusually silent in the face of the precept's total fury. Only Alex dared to contradict him.
"Now wait just a damn minute Derek! Don't you take this out on Philip! He was trying to watch out for me…we both know I would have gone with or without him, so don't pull that 'it's all his fault' thing to avoid facing the fact that I'm the one you should be furious with!"
Alex was truly angry too. She had seen their priestly friend wince and turn pale at Derek's harsh comments, and it angered her that even in his present state their leader could begin to think of blaming Philip.
"Oh don't think that you and I don't have a lot to discuss Alex…we do. Your future in this house for one, if you're not careful!"
Alex had opened her mouth to continue, but at that she snapped it shut again. When Derek noticed her flashing eyes and Philip's sad and somber demeanor, he realized that his scolding had had the opposite effect to the one he had hoped for. He had wished to chastise Alex so that she would realize the enormity of her error. Instead, he had hurt the one person who had truly had her best interests at heard.
His anger suddenly dissipated and he just felt tired. The precept's voice was much softer when he continued.
"After what happened to me, the two of you go off on your merry way to try to see if you can do it too? I'm beginning to think that you're both unhinged. Not to mention that we've had no word from either of you for HOURS!!!!"
"I know Derek, and I'm sorry. I had no idea so much time had passed…truly." A chastened Philip said.
He then continued in a soft voice of such clarity that nobody in the room failed to hear his words, for all their whispered quality.
"However, I now know what happened to Gabrielle."
A moment of complete and utter silence followed this surprising announcement. He hadn't said a word about what had happened in the house during his drive home with Alex, and so even she was caught off guard.
"What?!" she asked heatedly. "You found out something inside that house didn't you? Didn't you? And you didn't even have the courtesy to tell me?! Thanks a lot Philip!"
Rachel spoke for the first time since their return to the house.
"Yes Rachel?" she answered, meekly for the spirited Southern woman.
The tall young woman whipped around to stare at the doctor in complete surprise. Derek grinned at her shocked look, and turned to the other miscreant with a mellower attitude.
"Please go on Philip. You know what happened to your friend in that house? What did happen, how and why?"
The priest sighed.
"Well, I said I know what happened…I didn't say that I know why. Of course, I know a bit about the how and who, but nothin' at all about the why."
Nick's coughing interrupted the comment Alex was prepared to make, and Derek shook his head imperceptibly at her. She subsided into an irritated silence.
"Go on Philip. Tell us everything in your own way." He said graciously.
"It was when Frank and I were inside the house. We split up…" the priest smiled grimly at Derek's angry look.
"I know, I know, 'Never split up when you've got safety in numbers'," he quoted from the Legacy Handbook, then went on to add, "but we didn't think."
"Anyway, I was in the livin' room when I saw Brie. I mean, the Late Briony Murphy. Not our Brie, but my Brie." He looked around to see if he'd made any sense, and when Rachel nodded her understanding, he continued.
"She was just standin' there like she wanted t'talk t'me, but she didn't say anythin'. When I asked what she was doin' there, she just pointed at the door like she wanted me t'use it! Then I had this feelin' that Frank was in trouble, so I went tearin' upstairs, and there he was sittin' and talkin' t'Helena, just like nothin' was wrong!"
"Helena? Who in the hell is Helena?" Nick asked.
Derek sighed and answered him briefly.
"Helena Karmak. She is…was…Frank's daughter. Died of leukemia when she was…what was it Philip? Twelve? Thirteen?"
"Right. Anyway, she's been dead now for almost six years. Frank's wife left him shortly after her death…irreconcilable differences. I think she just blamed him for the girl's death, responsible or no. Some people just can't handle seeing their spouse deal with the death of a child. Frank grieved very privately, and she didn't think he was grieving at all."
They were all silent for a moment, each lost in their thoughts of what a parent must endure when they lose a child. Philip was thinking about Frank and the grief that he had personally witnessed that afternoon. Finally Derek cleared his throat.
"Go on Philip."
"Ah…well, where was I? Oh yes, he was so excited t'see her, and said she'd spoken t'him about her loneliness and need t'see him. Then I got this feelin' of…I can't even begin t'describe it, but it was pure evil…emanating from that childlike figure in the room with us. That's when it hit me. She wasn't Helena!"
"Uh…I'm not sure I follow you Philip. If she wasn't Helena, then who was she?"
This time it was Nick who answered.
"Not she Rachel…It! Right Philip?"
The priest nodded, and Nick continued, "Like Azaziel used Kat to get to me, and Winston…sorry Derek…"
The older man smiled wanly and waved his understanding as the young man continued.
"…to get to him. This thing is using people's loved ones to get close to them so it can kill them. Am I close, buddy?"
Philip nodded emphatically in approval of the ex-SEAL's encapsulation of the situation.
"And Ellen t'get...well, you're on th'money Nick. I think that this demonic presence is usin' the spirits in that house t'lure their loved ones in, and then feeds on 'em, on their fear and terror, then rips them to pieces like an animal. That would account for the feelin's of horror Alex encountered when we visited the house. The 'ghosts' who live there are horrified at what's being done."
"He's right. That's exactly the feeling that I got from them. Like it was something they have no control over." She said in surprise.
"I also get the feelin' that this demon has some power over the spirits who are there. I believe that's why Brie wasn't able t'speak t'me. How does this all sound t'you Derek? D'you think it's even remotely possible?"
The precept rubbed his chin for a second before responding. "Oh yes. Entirely possible…frighteningly so Philip. The real question is 'What do we do about it?' I don't suppose you have any ideas on that score, do you my friend?"
The priest smiled ruefully and shook his head.
"However, if I do think o'somethin' you'll be the first t'know, I guarantee it Derek!"
The precept had no doubts on that score. He realized that his previous harsh words would have a lasting impact if he didn't take action. Derek was resolved to have a talk with his young friend before they went to bed that night. He owed him at least a slight apology.
"Well, I'm completely open to suggestions…no matter how outrageous they might seem in the cold light of day. We can't allow this thing to continue using that house as it's feeding grounds. For all we know, kids play in that place!"
Everyone nodded in complete agreement. At that moment Dominick entered
and told them that dinner was ready.
After a rather somber and silent meal, everyone retired to the Living Room…everyone except Philip. He was still very upset over the fact that he'd been the cause of so much worry, and he wanted nothing more than to be alone with his thoughts for a while. He slipped through the door of the Library, and walked out to the garden to sit and ruminate.
The priest's thoughts were soon interrupted by the soft clearing of his precept's throat behind him.
"Yes Derek?" he asked softly.
"May I join you, Philip?"
"O'course…although, I can't say I'll be very good company at th'moment."
"Oh that's alright. What I have to say won't take long."
Philip sighed. "Derek, if you're plannin' t'chastise me again, there's truly no need. I was totally wrong for even allowin'…"
The priest looked at his friend in surprise. Derek's voice held a note that he was unfamiliar with…self-recrimination.
"Philip, I owe you a sincere apology. I should never have said the things I said to you this afternoon. I shouldn't have said them in private, let alone in front of witnesses. You were completely right to go with her! Even I know that...it's just that I was so damn worried about you two! Especially her. I wanted her to feel the remorse…not you! I'm sorry Philip. Really."
"Well, I was to blame Derek. I let her go…I should have stopped her somehow."
The older man began to laugh, and Philip smiled at the implications.
"Okay, so tha's totally unrealistic, but I should'a tried! It's what you would'a done, isn't it?"
"Oh yes, and I'd have failed miserably, just as you did. Don't kid yourself Philip. Alex is about the most headstrong woman I've ever met. You never stood a chance. However, lucky for us, she's also one of the most levelheaded women I've been acquainted with, as well. She told me what happened at the house, and I'm just glad you were there with her, my friend. Forgive me for my behavior earlier?"
"Of course I forgive you Derek. It's my behavior I'm havin' trouble with right now."
"Don't. You did what you could, and no harm was done…in fact, you've done quite well. Frank told me about what really happened in that house, and I can only say that you acted with the utmost courage and strength, Philip. I'm very proud to have you on our side."
Philip blushed, and they were both silent for a moment. Then Derek continued.
"Of course, what we have to figure out now, is how to get rid of the blasted thing before it kills again. It's going to be up to you, Nick and Rachel this time Philip. Alex and I will be useless near that house."
"Actually, I was thinkin' that it probably wouldn't be a good idea t'take Rachel there either. Too many ghosts in her life, if you know what I mean? At least I know that Brie's ghost is strong enough to actually help me…"
"Good thinking Philip! Okay, so what do we do next? How do we destroy that thing?"
The young priest just shook his head. He had spent all evening going over the events of the afternoon. He just knew that the secret was right before him, but so far he'd been unable to grasp it. Suddenly he saw in his mind the scene in the room…him holding onto Frank's arm, and the demon child reaching out for the other one. Then he remembered pushing the thing away, and he hit himself on the forehead.
"Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Philip, you bloody fool!!!"
Derek had been taken by surprise when the young man seated next to him on the bench clapped his hand to his forehead. Philip appeared to have had an epiphany. The older man waited for him to continue. When he looked at the precept his eyes were shining.
"I just realized…It actually takes human form, Derek! I think I know how we can destroy it…at least if my suspicion is correct. Hell, it's worth a shot!"
"What?! What are you thinking?"
Nick came out to make sure his two friends weren't actually ready to strangle each other, and found them in a state of sheer excitement.
"What's going on? You two look like the cats who ate the canary!"
Derek smiled at the analogy and said, "Philip thinks he's figured out a way to kill this thing."
Nick grinned. "Ooooh, killing it is good! What do we do, buddy?"
The precept stopped Philip's reply, and stood.
"I think we should discuss this back inside. The others deserve to know, as well. Perhaps they'll have some ideas, too."
The two young men agreed with him, and the trio walked back up the path and around the house to the door of the Living Room, which Nick had left open.
Alex, Rachel, Sydney and Randy all looked up as the three walked in, each with a different look on his or her face. Rachel looked expectant, Randy appeared uncomfortable…as he had since earlier that afternoon, obviously feeling out of place…Sydney seemed relieved and Alex simply looked worried.
Philip smiled at the latter to reassure her that all was well between he and their mentor, and she visibly relaxed. Derek glanced at the clock on the wall and noticed that it was getting quite late. He turned and addressed the woman seated next to Randy on the couch.
"Rachel, could you stick around a little longer? I know you probably want to get home to Kat, but we've got some business to attend to, and I think I'd like have you here. Could you call and let them know you'll be a bit late?"
Rachel acquiesced, filled with curiosity, and picked up the telephone at her elbow. As she dialed her home number, Derek filled them in on what had transpired in the garden. He left out the personal discussion he'd had with Philip and concentrated on the latest idea that their priestly friend had come up with.
They all waited until Rachel had finished speaking with Kat before continuing with their discussion. As soon as she replaced the receiver in it's cradle, Alex spoke up.
"So you think we might be able to use the fact that it can assume corporeal form against it? How?"
Philip practically glowed. He was obviously very excited by the prospect that he might have solved the puzzle and found a way out.
"It's more a matter of havin' t'take human form, than bein' able t'do it, that I think is the key here. I realize that there's no way t'be sure, but I believe that this thing is forced t'use the body of it's first victim t'kill…manipulatin' it. Kinda like Azaziel did with Rachel…sorry Rachel…" he looked at her sympathetically as she winced.
She smiled wanly at him and said, "S'okay Philip. Go on."
Randy put his arm around Rachel's shoulders for support. She reached up and squeezed his hand in gratitude.
"Well as I was sayin' it's like Azaziel used the body of Seamus Bloom to 'be' Patrick Corrigan. It had a physical body…corporeal form if you will…but still maintained it's supernatural qualities as well. And it could be killed. Nick proved that. Destroyin' it's host while it was occupyin' th'body actually seemed t'send it back t'hell, or at least into another plane of existence. So, why not try the same thing here?"
Rachel found her voice and asked the million dollar question.
"But Philip, couldn't that be very dangerous? I mean, the last time this thing took physical form, you sensed extreme danger. If it has to assume corporeal existence to kill, then you'd be in the worst possible situation. I don't like it."
"Neither do I…"
Philip turned to look at Derek in surprise. He'd not expected reluctance from that quarter, but obviously the precept wasn't finished. He raised a hand and smiled at the priest.
"…I said I didn't like it, not that we shouldn't try it. I really don't see that we have any other options at this point. Anybody got a better suggestion?"
Stony silence reigned in the room. They were all wracking their brains to think of another way out of the current dilemma, but none was forthcoming. Finally, Derek spoke again.
"No? I for one, have none. So the question is, how do we go about it?"
Nick, who'd maintained his own counsel after seating himself on the floor at Sydney's feet and wrapping his left arm around her legs, finally spoke.
"Well Philip, since you seem to be the one with all the answers, what do you think?"
The young Irishman sat deep in thought for a moment, then sighed.
"It's got t'be someone who's somewhat of a skeptic…uh, no Rachel," he
said as she appeared to be ready to volunteer. "It also needs t'be someone
who doesn't have many weak spots in their spiritual armor. Alex and Derek
are out of it because of their gifts. I'd do it, but it's obvious that
Briony is there t'help me, not harm me, and the demon seems to know that
so it won't use her. Um…sorry, but I don't see any help for it. No offense,
Randy, but I don't think any of us know you well enough t'call on you
t'do this thing…so, it's got t'be you Nick."
Three female voices sounded in unison…Sydney's practically drowning out the other two.
"No way! You're not going in there Nick! You can't! What if you can't kill it?! Philip! How could you!?"
She was beside herself with fear for him and began to cry. Everyone looked on sympathetically except Nick, who was too busy trying to calm her down to sympathize. Almost as one, the others filed out of the room. Left alone with his girlfriend, Nick spoke fast and furiously, yet cajolingly.
"Syd. Sweetheart, listen. I have to do this…Philip is right. Don't ask me why. Just accept that this is part of the job. Besides, if you're gonna stick around, this is what goes with the territory."
Sydney knew in her heart that she was behaving irrationally, but she could no more help herself than she could stop breathing. The dark-haired beauty was filled with dread at the thought of her beloved Nick attempting to face down this thing. She realized that she'd never reacted quite so violently to his necessary risk taking before, and she understood his reasons, but Sydney still couldn't hold back.
"What if you can't kill it? You'll die and then where will I be? Nick, I don't think I could make it without you."
"Hon, I can't help it…this is what I do. I don't want to die either, but if it happens, I'm sure you'll survive. You're a fighter, kiddo. At least, I hope you survive. I wouldn't want to have your demise on my head."
As suddenly as her tears started, they stopped, replaced by cold white anger.
"Oh you do, do you? Hope that I can survive your death? Well let me tell you this you jerk…if you go out there and get yourself killed, I'll HATE you! Forever!"
She pushed him away, and he fell backwards onto the carpet. Sydney stood up and began to pace the room, ranting at him and waving her hands around in her emotional state.
"I've known you to do some pretty stupid things, but this takes the cake! You don't even seem to realize or care how dangerous it could be! Just what if it's Julia that comes at you? Could you even kill her? I don't understand. It's too risky for everyone, but you? I mean they're all acting under the assumption that you'll shoot first and think later, but what if you can't?"
Then before he could open his mouth to speak, she changed tacks. "And just what if it were me that had to kill this thing? Huh? What about that? I'll tell you about it! You wouldn't let me! That's what! Don’t give me that butter wouldn't melt in your mouth look! I know you Nicholas Patrick Boyle! You're just in this for the thrill!"
She looked down at him with an icy stare. "Well, if that's what you want, then you can have it. I give up! Go get yourself killed! See if I care!"
And with the last pronouncement, she strode out of the room, the house and headed down the driveway toward the ferry.
"SYDNEY!" Nick shouted, and ran after her.
The ex-Navy SEAL couldn't remember when he'd known her to be so angry, and it frightened him that she might mean the things she'd just said. Then he remembered the visit she made to see him after Richard Jaimeson had shot him, pretending to be Philip. She was just about as angry as she had been then, and he'd been able to work his way back into her good graces. However, he knew he had to act now, because soon he'd be forced to go to Windwood house with Philip and try to take care of the problem there.
"Syd wait! Dammit! WAIT!" he yelled, catching up to her at last.
As soon as she was within reach he grabbed her arm, pulling her into his own. When she felt his arms wrap around her, all her tears broke loose again. She sobbed into his chest, first pounding on him, and then as her tears took hold, grabbing fistfuls of his T-shirt. Soon her tears began to subside, and she hiccuped that he was a monster to treat her like this.
"Honey, I don't want to go, but I have to go. Please understand! The last thing on earth I want to do is die…not now that I've found you. But this is way bigger than us…you and me, I mean. I'm a soldier in the ultimate battle, and I've got to be on the right side. For us. Understand? I can't allow this thing to go on killing innocent people. You know me well enough to know that's my true motivation here, Sydney. Don't you?"
The girl in Nick's arms looked up at him and nodded, her eyes swimming in unshed tears. Her face told him that she had reluctantly accepted the inevitable, yet was still terrified of what might happen. He slowly bent his head and kissed her like he'd never kissed her before. His lips told her everything that he'd always been too afraid to say out loud…that she meant the world to him, and if one of them would perish without the other, it would be him.
She was the one to break the kiss. When he opened his eyes and looked down at her once again, he realized that she'd done it with sheer force of will, and that there wasn't anything she'd rather do than to stand there kissing him. However, his argument had had its effect on her, and now she just wanted to see him safely home again in one piece.
"The sooner you get this over with, the better off I'll be Nick. Let's go back to the house and figure out who's going to do what…and with whom."
She giggled at the look he threw her. "I know! I'm not going anywhere! You know it's not fair Nick. I should be able to at least take some risks in this battle of good versus evil! Okay…" she said, when she saw he was going to expound on the evils of getting involved with the Legacy, "…I know what you're gonna say, and this time I will stay home, but there'll come a time Nick Boyle, when I'm not gonna be so complacent!"
When the two young people walked back into the house, they went in search of the others. They found everyone except Rachel, who had been forced to leave due to the lateness of the hour, in the Library, engaged in a low voiced discussion of the situation. Philip was the first to notice the pair standing in the doorway.
"Ahem." He said, giving his companions a meaningful look.
At the sight of the subjects of their conversation, everyone abruptly stopped talking and a short uncomfortable silence ensued. Sydney was embarrassed to think that they had all been witness to her emotional outburst, and turned bright pink. Nick, on the other hand, was exasperated because he realized that they were actually trying to figure out how to handle the situation without using him.
"Oh no you don't guys! I'm in!" he said with determination. "Philip, let's get this over with."
Derek was the one to speak, however. "Nick, you really don't have to do this. We'll think of something else. Randy has even volunteered to go in. We all tend to think of you as indestructible, and sometimes it has to be brought to our attention that you're not. I really don't…"
"You two…" he said, indicating Philip and Derek, "…your office, NOW!" Nick said in a deep angry voice then strode out in that direction, stopping Sydney when she started to follow.
He looked back to make sure Philip and Derek were on his heels and continued on his way up the stairs. As soon as they were in the room, he rounded on the other two men, his voice low and deadly.
"NOW! Hear me and hear me good! There is no way in Hell that I'm gonna be left out of this. Sydney and I have discussed it, and she understands…this is something I have to do. Besides, if we started only assigning missions to those of us who have nothing to lose, then we'd never get anything done!!!! I'm not going to let you coddle me simply because I'm finally with someone who worries that I might get hurt or killed. We all have those feelings! So…I'm doing this and that, as they say, is that!"
He watched his colleagues closely, trying to gauge their reactions. Philip looked wryly amused and Derek appeared very pensive, but neither one contradicted him.
Finally Derek nodded.
"You're absolutely right Nick. We can't afford not to send you in on this. I'm convinced that you can handle it. I wasn't sure until now, but you've obviously thought about this before, haven't you?"
The ex-SEAL smiled grimly. "Every time a new situation arises, Derek. I knew when I first started seeing Syd that it was a choice I'd eventually be forced to make. I've made it…drawn the line in the sand, and she's handling it. I don't expect it to be easy, but I think we can work it out. Now…"
"Now…now, we go." Philip finished for the other young man, smiling.
"Uh…one more thing you two. I'd like to send Randy along with you for backup anyway…just in case. Somebody needs to wait outside to call in the reserves if this thing blows up in our faces. Philip, you need to be with Nick, so that leaves Randy. Any arguments?"
Both young men shook their heads, and the three headed back down to the
Taking On the House
After a strained leave taking at the house the three men drove back to the Windwood house. The street was lined with brightly lit and cozy homes, and the lack of lights at their destination made it seem even more sinister.
Derek had taken Randy aside and described the role he wished the young man to play on this particular mission, and the young southerner had taken it in stride. He was thrilled to be able to perform even such a menial task as backup for this infamous team. Everyone in the Legacy knew of Philip and Nick's victory over the ancient Warden, and he'd long dreamed of such an adventure. Now it appeared he was going to get what he wished for.
Nick's nerves were strung taut, and looking at Philip he expected to see the same anxiousness echoed in his friend's face. However, the priest seemed unnaturally calm. What the ex-SEAL had no way of knowing was that somewhere deep in his mind and soul, Philip knew that Briony wouldn't allow anything to happen to them. With a nod to their companion, the two men walked up the path to the front door.
Nick, armed with his .38 Smith and Wesson, led the way into the dark house. Philip followed close on his heels carrying a full spectrum flashlight. Once inside, the priest flipped the switch and the interior of the hall was illuminated with bright yellow-white light. Nothing moved…not even the dust on the floor. It was an eerie scene, but for the moment at least, a peaceful one.
"So…what now pal?" Nick asked with slight amusement tingeing his voice.
"Um…I dunno. We wait a bit, I guess.
The two men wandered aimlessly around the house, investigating rooms and listening for the slightest indication that they weren't alone. However, after about half an hour of roaming through rooms and seeing no evidence of any activity, even Philip was beginning to get irritated.
"Really Nick, the last two times I've been here, this place has been full of…I dunno how t'describe it…negative vibes is th'closest thin' I can think of. But so far, I don't sense anythin' like that."
"Uh huh." was all the reply that he received from his companion.
Philip prepared to defend his 'feelings' when he realized that Nick hadn't replied as much in disbelief as in vagueness.
"What is it, Nick?"
The ex-SEAL held a finger to his lips and shushed his friend. "I think I heard something up there. C'mon."
They climbed the stairs, Nick checking from right to left as their heads topped the second floor. They saw nothing, but both began to 'hear' whispers. The voices were indistinguishable, but they were definitely voices. Lots of them.
Suddenly Philip saw her. Briony. She seemed to glow with an inner light and she was pointing toward the floor above them. Her face was somber, but she smiled at her former love briefly before disappearing.
"Third floor, Nick."
"What? How do you know? Can you make out what they're saying? I can't."
"No. It's Brie. I saw her, and she pointed towards that room. The one that Frank found. I think it's there."
"Good. Let's go!"
Nick moved to go up the stairs ahead of his friend, but Philip grabbed his arm. The ex-SEAL looked askance at the other young man, and was touched by the worry evident on the priest's face.
"Nick, just remember…no matter what happens, whatever form it takes…it's evil. Pure and simple. Kill it! Don't hesitate. Okay?"
The young man realized that the same thought that had disturbed his girlfriend earlier had just occurred to Philip. He could almost sense his friend's thoughts.
"What if it's Julia?" he asked softly, and the priest nodded.
"Don't worry buddy. I know where Julia is, and she's not playing hide and seek in this dilapidated old ruin of a house. I can handle this…however, I'm glad you're here Philip. In fact, I'm really glad you're back…just in case you didn't know."
The young Irishman smiled and said, "Me too Nick. Okay, let's take care of business so we can get home and have a beer."
Nick moved up the stairs stealthily, and Philip motioned which room to check. As they entered the room the young priest was astonished to see a man sitting in a chair at the dressing table. Upon their entrance he rose. He was handsome, in a careless sort of way, of medium height and build, dark hair shot through with gray.
"Hello Nick." it said, and Philip was surprised that he too could hear the voice.
"No! Not you!" the ex-SEAL said in shock.
"Of course it's me. I couldn't stay away when I saw you were here. I had to talk to you…to try to explain…apologize! My God, you're all grown up! I've missed you, son. Missed you so much it hurts."
Nick was horrified. He'd been prepared to see many people, but his father wasn't one of them. The one person, he hadn't expected to see, as a matter of fact. He thought he remembered Philip telling them that one could only see "loved" ones in this house. He was dumbfounded, and so the man continued to speak.
"Nicky, I know you'll have trouble believing this, but I never meant to hurt you or your mom! I LOVED you, son! And I'm so proud of the way you've turned out! We both are." He said and gestured toward a slowly gathering form seated at the table next to him.
"Mom? Is it you?"
"Hello Nicky. Your father is right. We are proud of you. And I want you to forgive him, son. For my sake?"
He could see the fear in her eyes as she looked at her 'husband' and Nick knew without the shadow of a doubt that she was under his thumb as much now as she had been when they lived. The idea that her eternity was being spent in such terror and pain goaded him beyond all reason.
"Oh my God! You're still at it, aren't you, you bastard!? Well, it's over. I'm not going to let you torture her anymore. You understand?" he screamed and moved closer to them as the man reached out to grasp the woman's shoulder in a painful grip.
Philip was shocked by the scene being played out before him. Both of Nick's parents appeared to be solid, human forms.
"Two? Could there possibly be two of them now?" he whispered to himself, and was surprised to hear an answer inside his head…Briony's voice.
[[No my love, there's only one. He's usin' his power t'separate himself into two halves t'confuse and goad Nick. You must act now…while he's at his weakest.]]
"Nick! Shoot them! Shoot them both!" he yelled to his friend.
The reaction of the demon was immediate. The man simply looked at the priest and Philip screamed, doubling over in pain as it sent bolts of energy radiating through his body. He felt as if every nerve ending was on fire, and his insides were being superheated.
Nick turned just in time to see the priest collapse onto the floor writhing in agony. His already considerable anger was fueled to a white-hot fury by the sight of his best friend being ravaged by the evil thing.
"You thought you could trick me into getting close enough for you to kill me, didn't you? Well, think again. I'm not the naïve kid, I was when my dad was still alive. I've got other ideas for you…you son of a bitch! Don't call us, we'll call you!"
The sound of Philip whimpering in agony behind him gave Nick all the concentration he required. Killing the thing while it maintained the aspect of his mother's form wouldn't be easy, but he realized that it wasn't actually her, and that gave him strength. He still felt like he was performing an act of betrayal, and so apologized…just in case she was watching.
"I'm sorry, Mom. I love you." he whispered and fired one shot straight through the heart of the woman still seated at the table.
The difficult part of his task over, he sighed and looked at the thing shaped like the man who used to be his father. Nick smiled without humor.
"One down…one to go. Gee 'Dad', we've got to stop meeting like this! I mean we've really got to stop."
Before the demon could react to the 'death' of the part of himself which had formed the woman, Nick fired again, this time putting a bullet directly between his 'father's' eyes.
"See ya! Man, I've wanted to do that for years!"
The demon wailed as it was drawn in a fiery curtain back to hell. As soon as it was gone, figures appeared from the walls, ceiling and floor. Nick was astonished at the number of spirits that crowded into the smallish room with them. He turned to see what Philip thought, and noticed that his friend was still doubled up on the floor.
"Philip? Buddy, you alright?"
"Uh…I don't think so Nick. I'm not sure, but I…" and his eyes glazed over before closing.
"PHILIP!? GOD NO!"
Just as the young ex-SEAL was starting to panic, an ethereal being appeared from behind him, accompanied by Briony. She smiled at him and the other woman nodded, then knelt beside the very still priest. She laid her hand on his abdomen, and it radiated white for a moment. Then the woman turned and addressed Nick directly. Who she was, he didn't know.
"Philip has been very grievously injured Nick. The effect o'my ministrations will only be apparent for a short time. You must get him t'those who can cure him. You've both been verra brave, and the residents of this place thank you."
She rose, and moved away. As he watched in fascination she began to disappear, and he realized that the others were already gone. Before the woman had completely vanished, she smiled.
After she was gone he heard her voice say, "By th'way Nicholas, your Mum is verra proud o'the way you turned out. Well done my lad."
Philip's weakened voice intruded on his thoughts, and brought him back to the present situation with a jolt.
"Yeah buddy, I'm here. We're gonna get you to the hospital, so they can check you out. Okay? Just hang in there pal. Let me get Randy to help move you."
"No, tha's okay. I think I can get down t'the car, if you'll just help me get up off this floor."
Philip smiled weakly as the ex-SEAL helped him into a standing position.
"Yeah, I'm sure."
As they began to descend the stairs the young priest asked, "So, what happened? I think I must've lost my wits there for a bit. I actually dreamed that Saint Bridget was here, and that she made th'pain go away. Strange tricks th'mind can play on ya, huh?"
Nick looked at his friend in shock. "Saint Bridget? Is she one of your Irish saints, Philip?"
"Yeah. Wow, I'm weaker than I thought. Oh well, we're almost there."
This illumination of the identity of the woman who had ministered to the man with his arm wrapped around him made perfect sense to Nick. Who else but a saint…and Irish saint at that…would be so concerned about the well-being of his friend. The ex-SEAL smiled to himself.
As they neared the front door, the spirits revealed themselves once again. Both Nick and Philip gazed around them in awe. It was obvious that the residents of Windwood house believed themselves indebted to them, and the two young men felt that they'd performed a great service that evening.
Once outside, Randy moved to help get Philip into the car. The priest had obviously begun to bleed internally once again, and they rushed to the hospital emergency room. After the orderlies had wheeled Philip's gurney down off toward an operating room, Nick called the house and told a worried Derek about what had transpired.
The ex-SEAL assured him that the doctor believed Philip's injuries to be 'fixable', but that he did require surgery. Nick told the precept that he'd wait to see how the operation went before coming home. Derek reluctantly agreed, and said that they'd wait up. When he returned to the waiting area, Randy handed him a cup of steaming black coffee.
"Thanks. Any word yet?"
The other young man shook his head sadly. "No, the doctor said it could be a couple of hours, depending on how much sewing up it took. He told me to tell you he'd let us know as soon as he could."
After about 45 minutes, the two men were surprised to see Alex, Sydney and Derek walking toward them. Upon catching sight of Nick, the shorter of the two women began to run, and launched herself into his waiting arms from a distance of about 10 feet. He caught his girlfriend neatly and hugged her hard, burying his face in her fragrant dark hair. She kissed the side of his face, and pulled out of his embrace. He felt her fingers intertwine with his and he squeezed them, then turned to greet their other two friends.
"Hey you guys! I thought you were gonna wait at home."
Derek grimaced. "Are you joking? There was no way I could keep these two still for two seconds when they found out that Philip had been hurt. How is he? Any word?"
The other two men just shook their heads, and they all sat down to wait together. Sydney had just dropped off to sleep against Nick's shoulder when the doctor finally walked out to inform them of the success of their priestly friend's surgery.
After introducing himself to the newcomers as the lead surgeon on the case, Doctor Andrew Fenton launched into a brief description of the procedure he had just completed on Philip.
"The damage was extensive, but we believe we have the bleeding under control. Whatever happened to him, there wasn't a scratch on the surface. What did happen to him, anyway?"
Nick smiled grimly. "Uh Doc, I don't think you'd believe me if I told you. Let's just say he ran into one very ugly customer."
The surgeon looked at him and raised one eyebrow. "Well, I have to tell you that as much blood as the young man was losing when you brought him in, it's a miracle he survived long enough for you to even get him here. He's one lucky priest."
"Oh, you have no idea just how lucky Doc…no idea at all."
Everyone looked questioningly at the ex-SEAL, but he didn't say another
word. After telling them the it would be quite a while before Philip could
have visitors, and that they should go home and get some rest, then come
back in the morning, Doctor Fenton walked off down the hall shaking his
The next morning when they were all together in a recovering Philip's room, Alex asked Nick what he'd meant the night before about how lucky their priestly friend had actually been.
Philip looked askance at the ex-SEAL and Nick relented.
"It seems our Philip here," he put his hand on the priest's shoulder and smiled at him, "actually does have a guardian angel."
"What? Wha'dya mean, Nick? What Guardian Angel?"
Nick smiled impishly. "Saint Bridget."
The young Irishman bolted upright in bed with enormous eyes, and then gasped in pain. Derek put his hand on the priest's other shoulder and forced him to lay back down again.
"Whoa Philip. You want to be careful of opening up those wounds again. Nick, please explain."
The ex-Navy SEAL looked down at his friend in the bed and said softly, "I think Philip knows what I'm talking about."
"You mean she was real? But I was…Nick, how can it be? You actually saw her?"
"Uh huh. Just after you passed out. She put her hand on your gut and it glowed. Then she told me we had to get you to a doctor because her…ministrations, I think she called 'em…would be short lived. I think she could only buy us some time, but she kept you alive long enough for Randy and I to get you here. I swear I thought you were dead for a second before she came."
Everyone in the room was shocked and Sydney even had tears in her eyes.
"Wow! Philip, you're truly blessed."
The priest was still trying to come to terms with what Nick had told him, however, and didn't hear his assistant.
"So I wasn't just dreaming? Brie was there too, wasn't she?"
Nick nodded, and Philip sighed. "I knew she wouldn't let anything happen to us. At least, not if she could help it. That's why I wasn't nervous, Nick."
At a surprised look from his friend, Philip chuckled and then gasped again. "Ooooh, I guess I'd better not do that. I knew you were wondering about my…um…calm state of mind before we entered the house. That's why. I just knew she would protect us. I guess even I underestimated her 'pull', though."
Derek suddenly sat down in the chair at Philip's bedside. Alex and Randy moved quickly to his side.
"Derek? What's wrong? Is it your head?"
He looked up into their worried faces and grinned. "Yes, but not the way you think. I just realized that my headache was completely gone. I can 'feel' again, Alex. Thank Got!"
Randy grinned and said in a cheery voice, "Well, 'all's well that ends well'. Isn't that what William Shakespeare says?"
Everyone laughed and agreed, but then Derek said, "Perhaps, given the
circumstances, an entirely different quote would be just as appropriate…"
and he continued on in a melodic voice,
Think but this -- and all is mended --
That you have but slumbered here,
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream.'"
Philip looked at Derek in astonishment. "Dream? Some dream! If so, I sure hope I can refrain from dreamin' like this again!"
The others laughed until their sides ached at the look on the poor injured priest's face.