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Wyrm Cast – Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Gentleman Callers

For perhaps the hundredth time that day, Danny surreptitiously twitched the closed living room curtains aside and stole a quick glance into the street.  Everything was pretty much as it was every other time he had done this so far – the street may have been a bit busier due to the curious locals making their way too and from the media circus that was developing a short distance away, and there was the occasional policeman or reporter type passing by, but there were no hideous, blood-eyed fiends slashing throats or gouging eyes. Everything outside his house was relatively normal, yet he could not escape what had happened in the early hours of that morning.  Ever since he had got into the house he shared with his waste-of-space mother he had been watching the horrible details of the story unfold courtesy of the rolling coverage provided by one of the 24-hour satellite news channels. Details such as how the four bodies had been found at around 4 AM by a local milkman beginning his rounds, and how the police were still working to ascertain the identity of the bloody ruins, which had been rendered unrecognisable by their terrible wounds. It was now a full twelve hours later and Danny had watched and listened as more and more horrific nuggets of information emerged, some verified in police press conferences and some unconfirmed from a journalist’s anonymous sources.  Talk of indescribable mutilation and missing internal organs, speculation regarding gang warfare and satanic rituals – the various media talking heads had a great deal of horror to pick over with ever so slightly too much relish.  All this washed over Danny as he slumped on the sofa, trying to make sense of what had happened.  He had fled the scene with the sound of Mr Trap and Mr Gig laughing over the corpses of Mick and the other lads, and as far as he could tell they were actually joking about eating bits of them. And judging by the increasingly graphic descriptions delivered by the grim-faced news reader, they may well have done that and much more besides.  It was… well… inhuman, thought Danny.  And that was the problem. Those things could not have been human, could they?  Those teeth, like something that belonged on an angler fish or some other deep-sea thing… and those red, red, eyes that Danny couldn’t help but see every time he closed his own.  Danny slumped forward with his head in his hands and tried to go over the options again, such as they were. Vampires?  Demons?  Something else that wasn’t meant to fucking exist?  Again he heard the TV say that the police were calling – well, practically pleading – for any witnesses to come forward.  As far as he could tell no-one could possibly know he’d been there and there was no way in hell he could come forward. What would he tell some murder squad detective?  When he’d got away from the bloody scene he’d ran and ran for about three miles before the adrenaline faded and let him collapse into an exhausted, wheezing heap in a kid’s play-park. His house was less than half a mile from the site of the killing and it had taken him until about half ten that morning to pluck up the courage to approach that area, his route chosen carefully to not take him past that particular shop doorway.  He’d found the front door of the terraced bungalow he called home unlocked, but no-one was home. Evidently his mother had been and gone, forgetting to lock the door this time.  Why the hell could she have not done that last night, thought Danny angrily. Then he could have been tucked up warm in bed rather than being stuck in a scene from a fucking horror film. Given the proximity of his house to the crime scene Danny reckoned it was only a matter of time before the police were knocking on the door as part of their routine enquires. What the hell could he tell them?  Could they find out he’d been there by CCTV or DNA or some other police trick? All of these questions plagued Danny’s thoughts, but one worry above all twisted his guts into knots of pure, ice-cold fear – what if Mr Trap and Mr Gig came looking for him?

Danny was jolted from his introspection by a loud knocking at the front door. Shit, he thought. The police, just as he had been expecting. His first instinct was to ignore it and hope they go away, but the knocking continued. They’d probably heard the TV through the cheap single glazed windows and knew someone was in. Still, no problem – he could just tell them he’d seen nothing and been asleep in bed at the time. It sounded perfectly reasonable as as far as he knew they’d have no reason to doubt him. It would just be routine enquires after all. Taking a few deep breaths to settle his nerves, Danny went out into the hall and opened the front door on the chain, just in case it was something a whole lot scarier than the police demanding entrance to his home. Glancing round the side of the door he saw what he assumed was a pair of plain-clothes policemen standing on the step, both dressed in shirts and ties but no jackets –  seemingly unconcerned about the winter chill. The one at the front who had been banging on the door was shorter than the other, and a pretty rough looking man in Danny’s opinion, with his wonky nose and roughed up ears. His bald partner wasn’t even paying any attention to what was going on at the door – he was looking up and down the street, even though it seemed pretty quiet at that moment. Danny couldn’t even see his face properly but thought he could see the guys jaw moving slightly, as if he was talking to himself. Danny unhooked the chain.

‘Can I help you?’ he asked.

‘Good morning laddie’ said the man who had been knocking, smiling broadly – and revealing several missing teeth in the process. ‘My name is George, and this is my associate, Percy. We are representatives of your local constabulary, and I was hoping we could pop inside for a little chat.’ Danny was surprised by the man’s voice – he sounded like some kind of public school posh-boy, more like a conservative politician than a plain clothes policeman. And the choice of words had been odd too… introducing himself as “George” rather than DCI whatever… and “Your local constabulary?” Who the hell spoke like that? With a sinking feeling of dread Danny thought of someone who did speak a bit like that. The psychos from last night.

‘Could… have you got any ID?’ asked Danny, his voice quavering.

‘Ah, well now’ said George, his wide smile never faltering. ‘You have rather incisively struck home at the main flaw in our ruse there, I’m afraid’. Danny stared, confused. As it dawned on him that the guy had just outright admitted he wasn’t a policeman, George pounced. Before he could react Danny had been pushed back into the hall, span around and tripped up so he hit the carpet face first with a thud. His left arm was trapped under his body and his right had been pulled painfully up his back by his attacker. The attackers other hand was clamped firmly around Danny’s mouth, and it felt like he was either kneeling or lying across his back to help pin him to the floor. Danny struggled, but Jesus Christ the guy was strong. Danny wasn’t exactly powerfully built but he could not seem to move his arms or neck at all – the fake policeman’s grip held him exactly in place, allowing him to do nothing but futilely kick his legs. He heard the front door close, and could only assume that the other man moved in as well. Struggling feebly Danny suddenly what must have been George’s warm breath against his ear.

“Now you’d better stop struggling laddie, and do exactly as I say.’ whispered George. Great, thought Danny. He’d narrowly escaped being chopped up by razor wielding demons, and now he was probably about to be buggered to death by some public school pervert on steroids.

“We know what you saw last night, laddie.’ Continued George. ‘we know you had a little encounter with two strange chaps who called themselves Trap and Gig.’ Instantly Danny stopped struggling. They knew. These guys knew about the monsters. Maybe they’d tell him what the hell was going on. Maybe they’d just eat bits of him themselves, but there didn’t seem to be a lot he could do about it anyway.

‘Now, if I wanted to kill you, I’d have been able to do it in about twelve different ways with you pinned like this’ continued George in a friendly, conversational tone. ‘So you can take that as a good sign, and safely assume that I have no desire to harm you. Unless of course, I have to. Now, I’m going to let you up and we will all retire to your parlour to have that little chat I mentioned just now. And you are not going to do anything foolish like try to run away or scream for help, as both of those actions would mean I need to become physical again, and no one wants that, do they?’ Danny felt the hand covering his mouth relax ever so slightly, allowing him some small movement of his head. Enough to nod, which he promptly did.  The iron grip relented completely and the weight vanished from Danny’s back allowing him to roll over and face his attacker.

‘On your feet, laddie.’said George pointing into the living room.’Lets go and get comfy, shall we?’ The living room, like the rest of the house, was small – barely ten feet square, though the bay window added a little.  Apart from the TV and it’s stand it contained only an armchair in the bay window alcove, a two seater sofa against the opposite  wall and a god-awful smoked glass coffee table that Danny thought was probably twice his age.   Danny sat himself down on the sofa and watched George enter behind him.  Danny couldn’t help but notice that the man was limping as he sat himself down in the armchair, and wondered if the injury had happened in the brief altercation or if he’d just been comprehensively handled by a guy with a knackered foot, a thought that made him feel even worse about how easily he’d been overpowered. The other man, who George had referred to as Percy, followed them in. Even though he hadn’t yet spoken aloud he was still talking quietly under his breath as he had been on the front step.  He continued to mutter away as he began to search the room.  He looked behind the TV, down the side of the chairs, under the coffee table… absurdly, Danny began to feel somewhat ashamed of the state of the room.  The grimy brown carpet was covered in patches of trodden in cigarette ash from the overflowing ashtrays on the coffee table and the once white walls were stained a dirty yellow from nicotine smoke.  The chair and the sofa were mismatched, having been obtained separately and second-hand, and both had seen much better days with worn coverings and creaky springs.  Danny felt even more like a council estate stereotype when he reflected on how out of place the new flat screen TV looked in comparison to the other much more dilapidated furnishings.  Cheers Mum, he thought.  Not only am I probably going to get murdered I’m going to die embarrassed by our chavvy living room.  Having finished his search Percy ensured the curtains were tightly drawn and, still chuntering away to himself,  took up a position next to George who was making himself comfortable in the armchair.

‘Well then,’ said George brightly, clapping his hands together.  ‘I think introductions are in order.  We may well have got off on the wrong foot just now, so lets start afresh and make each others acquaintances properly. My name is George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron. You can just call me George however.  And this is my friend and dearest companion, Percy Bysshe Shelly.  So what’s your name, laddie?’

‘D-Danny… Danny Thomas.’ stammered Danny, his confusion only growing. ‘So you two are named after a pair of olden days poets or something?’  George slammed his fist down on the arm of the chair and gave a roar of approval.

‘Ha! I knew we had a bright one here Percy!’ he exclaimed, his already broad smile widening further. ‘First he sees right through our cunning ruse at the door and now he instantly strikes at the most import point concerning our identity!  The truth is laddie, we are not named after a “pair of olden days poets” as you put it but we in fact actually are those two giants of the romantic movement, here before you today.’

‘You’re both raving mad, aren’t you?’ said Danny. ‘We did those guys at school, you prick.  They’ve been dead for two hundred bloody years and you look nothing like them. Jesus Christ, I can’t believe I’m going to be murdered or raped or something by a pair of head-cases who think they’re Percy fucking Shelly and Lord fucking Byron.’

‘We get that reaction quite a lot as it happens’ replied George, his cheery manner undimmed. ‘Just to be exact, I’ve been dead for one hundred and seventy eight years and Percy here shuffled off his mortal coil some one hundred and eighty years ago.  That is assuming of course that our initial intelligence is correct and we do actually find ourselves in the last quarter of the year Two Thousand and Twelve.  And as to your other point regarding our physical appearance, we look so very different from the various portraits and such as our bodies have long since become one with the earth, and so our spirits have taken possession of the bodies of two local office clerks to enable us to function effectively in the mortal world.’

‘Well, when you put it like that it’s all perfectly fucking obvious!’ exclaimed Danny incredulously ‘and what the hell would two office workers possessed by Lord bloody Byron and Percy bloody Shelly want with me? Are we going to discuss the underlying themes of Don Juan or something?’

‘Ah, and now we get to the heart of the matter.’ said George, relaxing back into the chair and propping his right foot on to ugly coffee table.  ‘According to my mumbling friend here, in the wee hours of this morning you were unfortunate enough to witness the vile handiwork of one Mr Trap and one Mr Gig.’  The mention of those two names quickly punctured Danny’s growing indignation at having his home invaded by what were clearly a pair of escaped mental patients. If they could tell him anything about Trap and Gig he could put up with their bizarre claims to be the ghosts of long dead poets, or any manner of other weird claims for that matter. 

‘What do you know about those two… things?’ asked Danny quietly. 

‘All too much, I’m afraid’ replied George, his demeanour suddenly serious. ‘My companion and I have encountered those two fiends and their associates on several occasions and I’m sorry to say that they’ve been responsible for a good many deaths over the years.  They also don’t like to be observed about their business, and so have a few tricks for dealing with inconvenient witnesses like yourself. They tend to arrange, well… a special kind of visit.’ Danny tried to reply but couldn’t make the words come out.  His mind was filled with images of those red eyed and needle toothed killers making their way down his street, looking to silence him and… and well do God knows what to him.  George obviously sensed Danny’s growing fear and tried his best to adopt a comforting tone of voice.

‘The thing is laddie,’ he said ‘Percy and I are here to stop them, and their associates. And we’ll hopefully stop them before they kill again.  But once we realised you’d seen them at work we knew we had to track you down and make sure you were safe before what we call the Obscura found you.’  With an effort, Danny managed to reply.

‘Who… I mean, what the hell’s an…Obscura?’ he asked.  But as he asked he realised with a growing sense of unease that George was no longer looking directly at him, but instead looking past him over his right shoulder.  Percy was looking in the same direction too, and his constant mumbling had suddenly become much faster, much more urgent.

That, my young friend,’ said George pointing towards whatever he was looking at over Danny’s shoulder ‘That is a fine example of an Obscura.’

* * * * *

For the third time in the last twenty minutes Detective Constable Marcus Quinn looked through the the set of twelve polaroid photos that were laid out in a line across his desk.  He picked each one up in turn, holding it delicately by the corners in his massive, hairy paw of a right hand and studied the picture for a few seconds before returning it to it’s place and moving on to the next one. The images in the photographs were predominantly red, with only the occasional black and yellow evidence marker placed by the forensic team providing a spot of alternative colour.  Quinn placed the last picture back into it’s spot at the end of the line and leant back, ignoring the creaking and grinding protests of his cheap office chair.  Quinn was a huge man – six feet seven inches tall and a solid built eighteen and a half stone.  Despite being in his mid forties his large build made him quite the intimidating figure, an image only enhanced by his permanently scowling, heavy-set features, unkempt mane of dark brown hair and a thick beard that a Viking warrior would have been proud of. In fact Marcus Quinn resembled a Norse raider or similar ancient barbarian that had been forced to wear a cheap grey suit much more than he resembled a long serving representative of Northumbria Police’s CID.  Again he ran his gaze over the the polaroids, each of which detailed a different gory aspect of the terrible crime carried out in the early hours of that morning, less than four miles from the very police station in which he now sat. Together they made quite the grisly tableaux, and the more he stared at them the more DC Quinn became convinced he was looking at a crime that fell under his unique jurisdiction.

DC Quinn didn’t actually have a defined assignment within the Northumbria Police force.  He had worked for a time with the murder squad in his younger days but for the last twenty years he had managed to arrange matters so that he only investigated crimes in which he believed his somewhat unusual skills could be put to the most use.  DC Marcus Quinn was, in his own words, an Arcanist. A weaver of magic ritual, a scholar of forgotten lore, and the only apprentice of the now deceased Master Arcanist Declan Quinn – his father.  Quinn investigated the strange, the occult and the supernatural wherever he found in within the Metropolitan Bourgh of Tyne and Wear.  There were other terms that people may have used to describe what he did, but Quinn wasn’t especially keen on any of them.  ‘Wizard’ brought with it images of Merlin or Gandalf running around in dresses and pointy hats.  An ‘Occultist’ sounded more like a pasty asocial weirdo sitting in his basement trying to summon creatures he’d read about in an HP Lovecraft story.  And as for ‘Magician’… well that should be reserved for men doing stage illusions with the assistance of a young girl in a sparkly swimming costume. No, Arcanist was altogether a much more mature and appropriate sounding description.  Not that it was a description Quinn’s colleagues would ever use as he kept his occult investigations utterly confidential.  There was no officially sanctioned supernatural task force operating for this or indeed for any other police authority in England and Wales as far Quinn knew. Therefore he’d had to take some elaborate steps to allow himself the freedom to operate in the way that he required.

He’d come up with the plan many years ago while working as a junior detective constable.  Already a skilled Arcanist with some fifteen years of his fathers tuition under his belt, Quinn had stumbled across details of a particularly interesting ritual in some ancient Greek scrolls labelled collectively as the Oneiroi Codex.  This ritual allowed a suitably skilled practitioner of the arcane arts to view a sleeping persons dreams, and potentially extract information about that person from the various images contained therein. Divining useful data was not easy due to the surreal and abstract and nature of dreams, but with perseverance – say casting the ritual every night for a month – it could be done.  And this is what exactly what Quinn had done to his departments Detective Chief Inspector.  The information gleaned from the magic wrought in the ritual circle set up in his cellar gave Quinn all the clues he needed to be at all the right places at the right times to gather photographic evidence of certain bad habits possessed by his superior (after all, he had always been taught  by the more experienced officers that physical evidence was a detective’s best friend). Luckily the DCI had been quite spectacularly corrupt, and Quinn was able to gather quite a portfolio detailing bribes, excessive force and some quite licentious goings on with a young lady that was most certainly not the man’s wife.  When Quinn carried out his blackmail he didn’t demand promotion or money – simply to be left free of supervision and to not have his comings and goings questioned.  Once he had carried out the same procedure on a whole raft of senior officers he the freedom to pick and choose the incidents he investigated without anyone asking awkward questions.  It did mean that he had to go through the same rigmarole every time a new chief constable or similar was appointed, but it was a rare person that Quinn couldn’t find some leverage on with his mystical methods.  It occurred to him that all the police officials he was blackmailing probably thought he was simply corrupt, and was deflecting unwanted attention so he could carry on some kind of dastardly criminal enterprise.  Quinn, however, didn’t give two hoots what they thought. He knew his was an essential duty that only he was suited to discharge.  Could normal police officers have broken up the Y’nologi Cult that flourished in Hexham in 1996?  Or identified the ritual woundings that lead to the capture of the Satanist serial killer Arthur Hopworth in 1999? Or caught the highly intelligent giant albino rat that had devastated the pet cat and dog population of Newcastle in 2004?  Of course not.  Quinn felt his efforts had done enough good to justify the ugly blackmail that was necessary to allow him to operate.

And now Quinn was about to determine if the terrible murders committed earlier that day, that had so shocked the country, were something that warranted his special attention as he suspected.  Having locked the door of his office (a very nice office which along with no one telling him to have a shave or get a haircut was one of the minor perks of his information gathering campaign) Quinn placed a note pad and pen next to the pictures on his desk and ran over the incantation for the ritual he was about to perform in his head.  He’d cast this particular ritual more times than he cared to remember in order to decide whether or not to look into an incident further, but it never hurt to ensure one new exactly what one was doing when dealing with magic.  The ritual was of Quinn’s own personal design and was actually a heavily adapted version of the dream invasion he had used so extensively.  He would use it to magically examine the photos of the crime scene and try and divine images, sounds and sensations related to what had taken place.  It would be vague, often open to widely varying interpretations but quite often if there had been a supernatural aspect to the crime it would stand out quite clearly. He would hold the pen over the note pad while casting the ritual and let his hand move of it’s own will – sometimes this automatic writing would capture valuable information his subconscious had noted that had escaped his conscious mind.  With the photos and pad in place Quinn took a deep breath, closed his eyes and began to quietly recite the ritual incantation.

Forty-eight minutes later, Marcus Quinn pulled himself up off the floor of his office.  His vision was blurred, his head pounding and he was slightly concerned he could vomit at any moment.  The ritual was sometimes taxing, but this time it had been especially tough. Sweating heavily and breathing hard, Quinn quickly began to try and focus in order to make sense of what he had seen before the elusive images slipped away from him.  That this was a crime he needed to investigate was beyond doubt.  He was certain he had seen the killers – there had been two of them, and they were definitely not human. Possibly actual physical incarnations of Those Below, which would make them a rare and dangerous foe indeed.  He hadn’t seen any details of them apart from terrible, glowing red eyes and fang-filled mouths.  There had been… fear? The sound of a heart beating extremely fast?  Someone running, perhaps?  Could there have been a witness that had escaped the scene?  If so he needed to find them as soon as possible, somehow.  All the other sensations… the scent of roses, the sound of breaking glass, the memory of a song the tune of which he could not recall and a whole host more… all too vague to interpret at this point. Quinn turned his attention to the notepad to see if the automatic writing had borne any fruit.  The whole page had been covered by just one word written probably a hundred times in Quinn’s own obsessively neat handwriting.  Blackthorne.  Blackthorne, Blackthorne, Blackthorne, over and over again. Leaning against the wall for support, Quinn scratched his beard and tried to make sense of it all.  He had no idea what ‘Blackthorne’ meant but it was plainly evident that finding out was going to be very important indeed.

* * * * * * *

James Rafferty did not like being in the main hall, not one bit. The windows were boarded and covered by canvas to keep out all daylight, and the room was lit by only a single candle placed on an old saucer in it’s very center  meaning there was only a very small circle of light and rest of the room was inky black. James could on occasion here people moving around in the darkness at the edges, well at least he hoped they were people. James had entered the hall and found Wentworth sitting in a simple folding chair placed very carefully on the at edge of the candle’s reach, so that he was only partially visible. James had only ever seen him in this manner and so was only able to get the vaguest sense of the… well, for want of a better word the man’s appearance. He could tell he was on the tall side, a touch over six feet but painfully thin with it. He seemed to be dressed in a black suit with a notably old-fashioned cut. Apart from that all was shadow. What he could see put James in the mind of a somewhat anachronistic undertaker, a thought that could have been almost amusing if not for the bowel-churning terror he felt in his presence.

‘You wanted to see me, Wentworth?’ asked James, fighting to keep his voice level. Part of the shadow shifted slightly in what was probably a brief nod and Wentworth answered in his dry, whispering voice.

‘Indeed. We have need to amend the original plan somewhat, Mr Rafferty. I’m afraid that two of our associates have been rather indiscreet. This may have attracted unwanted attention to our operations. James swallows hard. He already knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Wentworth was referring to the four murders he had heard about on the news earlier that day. Four may deaths to weigh heavy on his conscience, the blood of four youths on his hands.

‘Mr Blackthorne has concluded that any investigation by forces opposed to our goals would most likely initially focus on one of two areas’ continued Wentworth. ‘Penshaw Hill or Worm Hill are, in view of certain points of local history, obvious starting points for any agents of The Above. Therefore Mr Blackthorne has dispatched Ruxtable and Young Master Happenstance to these locations, to deal with any unwanted persons appropriately.’

‘And what does Mr Blackthorne want me to do?’

‘You will gather the rest of the coven and recover the remains. You shall be accompanied in this endeavor by the same two individuals that prompted this change of course. Mr Blackthorne hopes that your presence will serve to keep them out of any further mischief.’

‘Mischief he says!’ came a cheerful voice from the dark periphery of the room, make James start. After the hushed whispers of Wentworth the jovial exclamation seemed uncomfortably loud, echoing around the old hall. The speaker stepped out of the shadows into the weak corona of candlelight, and James was surprised to see a short, plump, friendly looking middle-aged man. Like most of Blackthorne’s followers his appearance was Victorian in style complete with top hat and large sideburns.

‘Oh, it does wound us so – wound us I say,’ continued the newcomer, ‘to be branded mischievous and even indiscreet by such an old friend as yourself, Wentworth. Why, we are the very soul of discretion when required, would you agree Mr Gig?’

‘Indubitably, Mr Trap, said another new arrival stepping from the shadows.

‘Irrefutably, Mr Gig,’ said Mr Trap. James was struck by the resemblance between the two newcomers – if not for the colour of their sideburns they could well have been the same person. But then of all the things he had seen over the last seven days surely a pair of twins in top hats would even make his top ten of strange sights.

Then his attention was drawn back to Wentworth by the shadowy figure sighing deeply.

‘Mr Rafferty, Mr Trap and Mr Gig will accompany you in the retrieval of remains. Mr Blackthorne has given you his authority in this matter, so if Mr Trap and Mr Gig know what’s good for them they will follow your instructions without question. Please ensure that they refrain from causing any further unnecessary bloodshed, and that any necessary bloodshed is carried out as neatly and efficiently as possible.’ James swallowed hard. Looking at the two jolly gentlemen before him he would be hard pressed to believe they were responsible for the terrible crimes committed, if he had not seen enough over the last week to no longer place so much stock in physical appearances.

‘Oh bother and blast Wentworth, said Mr Gig mildly. ‘I was rather hoping that Mr Trap and I could have a little stroll out to find that poor urchin that we overlooked last night. Can’t have him blabbing to all and sundry now, can we?’ Wentworth shook his head in the shadows.

‘No. The remains are much more important than your desire to make sport with some terrified child. We shall allow the Obscura to take care of that particular loose end.’

‘As you wish, Wentworth,’ conceded Mr Trap, ‘though I do think that the Obscura are not the best way to go about this kind of thing. We are great believers in the personal touch, aren’t we Mr Gig?’

‘Indubitably, Mr Trap’ confirmed Mr Gig.

‘Irrefutably, Mr Gig’ agreed Mr Trap.


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