For They Shall Inherit The Earth
© copyright Graeme Winton 2018
The large Gothic church of St Ignatius stood in its ancient, snow-covered graveyard in the borough of Lambeth. The dark spire pierced the frozen star-lit sky as a chill wind swept around the headstones
Father Kennedy threw his cigarette butt out into the dark and watched the wind create a flurry of sparks, then closed the heavy front door. He shuffled along the central aisle of the dimly-lit church past rows of empty pews. Suddenly he stopped and felt a shiver run down his spine as he spotted a dark figure through the gloom kneeling before the altar.
The figure rose with blazing red eyes and turned toward the priest and said: "Do not be afraid Father they have sent me here to prepare the way.”
“You're a demon! You shouldn’t be in here!” said the trembling, holy man.
“A demon in a church,” said the figure with a chortle.
“Prepare the way! What do you mean?”
The distant sound of a phone ringing distracted the priest and he turned his head toward the sound. When he looked back the figure had gone and the large Bible, which normally lay closed on the altar, was open at The Revelation of St John the Divine.
Meanwhile, in the New York City borough of Queens a boy child was born to single parent Mia Baumann. She named the child Thomas.
City Under Shadow
A full moon shone over a wind-blown Balgay Hill as Dundee absorbed another Halloween. Children screamed and laughed in the distance as they tricked or treated their way around houses decorated with cardboard ghouls and pumpkin lanterns.
In the graveyard the trees and shrubs waved in the wind which caressed the headstones before heading over the sleeping river Tay. Small animals scurried around the foot paths, separating the lines of graves. A lone dog ran across the iron bridge which connected the cemetery with the hill where the pale-domed Mills Observatory sat.
The moonlight illuminated a large, silver granite monolith with an inscription which read: ‘A time which has ended in this world has just begun in another’. The wind made the rusty chain, which ran around the structure, creek.
Clouds passed over the moon as the graveyard quaked. A rumbling noise filled the air around the monolith as a huge hole formed where turf and soil had sunk out of sight.
A cruel, howling wind erupted as a figure rose from the pit and hovered before descending onto the path beside the stone.
Didier Grondin gazed around the cemetery with crimson eyes as the small animals ran back to the safety of their holes. He laughed! It was good to be back in the physical again, he thought. He didn’t need a fucking key to move between worlds he was way too powerful for that! He had gained power in the Dark Realm by destroying the demon Hel and her father Loki, then absorbing their energy. The extra power was enough to allow him to ’bridge’ the worlds so he could begin his campaign.
Grondin walked across the iron bridge, passed the deserted observatory and descended the slopes of the hill. He strolled through the streets of the city among groups of people in fancy dress. Eventually he took refuge from the crowds in the Howff Graveyard where he sat on a wooden bench. I need another name, he thought. He gazed up at an old office block where light blazed out of every window before being permeated by the darkness. "That's it!" he said to himself as he stood up, “Derek Colin Thomson.”
Shadows flowed across the path as he walked past the darkened headstones and left the cemetery.
I need money, he thought, walking through the city streets before coming to a halt in front of a blue illuminated sign high on a wall which read: ‘Discovery Casino’. Perfect, he thought with a grin.
Two heavy muscled men in poor fitting black suits stood on either side of the main casino door as well-dressed people entered the building. Thomson ducked in behind a man and woman in their late forties. The woman wore a dark, violet velvet dress under a black suede coat while the man wore a light, grey suit.
“Evening,” said the man as they approached the security men.
“Evening,” replied one man.
Thomson approached the bouncers as the couple disappeared through the open doors.
“Evening,” he announced.
The men looked him up and down before one asked: “Excuse me sir, but are you a member?”
“No.” Thomson replied.
“Well I'm afraid we can't let you in.”
“Can't I go in for tonight?” Thomson pleaded.
“I'm afraid not. You'll have to fill out a membership form and return it with an ID,” said the doorman as he reached behind one of the open doors and grabbed a form from a shelf.
Suddenly the other doorman screamed and clapped his hands over his eyes.
“What's wrong Tom?” shouted the other bouncer throwing aside the application form.
Blood oozed between the fingers of the stricken man as people in the line behind Thomson screamed and shouted. In the pandemonium Thomson slipped into the club and walked along a dark hallway which had glitter stars stuck to the ceiling and walls. He pulled back into the shadows as two security men ran past on their way to the front door. His trick had worked well, he thought with a laugh.
The main lounge was a mass of busy roulette and poker tables. Slot machines lined two of the four walls. A bar ran the length of another wall and waitresses flowed between it and the tables. Thomson walked up to where a young woman sat behind a barred window with a 10 cm horizontal gap at the bottom.
“I would like five thousand pounds worth of chips,” he said with red eyes.
The cashier gasped and absent-mindedly selected various chips and
pushed them through the gap taking no money.
Thomson sat at a roulette table with two others: a middle-aged Chinese man and a younger man with cropped red hair. The croupier, a woman in her late twenties, was dressed in a dark, grey skirt with a matching waistcoat over a white blouse.
Thomson placed all his chips on red as the croupier announced: “Place your bets please.”
She spun the wheel after other bets were made and, as it slowed, the ball bounced a few times before landing on 21 red.
“Twenty-one red,”said the woman in a casual tone while pushing chips toward Thomson, who again put them all on red. They spun the wheel, and again the ball landed on red. The Chinese man let out a sigh as they shoved Thomson's winnings toward him.
After moving from table to table Thomson decided it was time to leave the casino as his winning was attracting the attention of not only the punters, but the management. He cashed in the chips and strolled along the hallway with the twinkling stars.
Outside, Thomson took a deep breath and patted the pocket where he had placed the cheque for £220,000; he had asked for the remaining £5000 in cash. He strolled along the street past two drunks who were more interested in fish and chips than him.
Back in the hotel Thomson lay back on the double bed in his Executive\Club room and switched on the television. The late news filled the screen; another body had been found in a field to the west of the city, announced the newscaster; that made three in the last four weeks all with the same markings. It now looked as if Dundee had a serial killer on the loose, the woman continued.
Thomson raised his head and stared at the images of police in and around a field. “Mm... interesting” he said to himself.
Matthew Wilson could only gaze at the vision of a huge vampire bat with crimson eyes as it hovered over him; the large, black wings flapping furiously. He tried to move, but it was as if his whole body was paralysed. Then, the creature turned into Didier Grondin and he woke up and jumped out of bed. He anxiously looked around the bedroom, but only the darkness stared back.
After showering and dressing Matthew yawned strolling into the kitchen. He opened the window blinds and watched the wind shake small shrubs in his back-garden through the early morning light. The shrill ring of the telephone brought him out of the reverie.
“Yeah, hullo?” he grunted into the receiver.
“Mattie, it's David de Longford.”
“Jeez! How are you doing?”
“I'm fine. Look, I’m sorry for phoning so early, but did you have a weird dream?”
“What, the one with the bat that turned into Grondin?”
“Yeah, listen I don't know how he's done it, but I think he's slipped back into the physical world!”
“Do you still have the Key?”
“It’s safe; I checked on it yesterday.”
“Well, check again and be careful. I don't think he's after it though. I don't know where he is, or what he's up to, but it won't be for the good of the planet that's for sure.”
After finishing his breakfast Matthew strolled into the lounge and sat on the settee. His mind went back to the cave where he and David psychically pushed Grondin and the demon Hel back into the Dark Realm. How could Grondin have freed himself without the Key and if he has managed it what was the point in protecting the Key from him, he thought?
He left the house into a bright day with a cold wind which made him pull the zip of his jacket up to its fullest extent. Then, scurrying along the street Matthew glanced at the old abbey which brought back memories of the battle for the Key. He thought: Grondin was desperate to attain the Key; so what has changed?
He arrived at his work, Arbroath Library, and discovering no-one around he at once took the key for the basement from beside the computer on the main desk.
A musty smell greeted him as he pushed open the heavy, brown wooden door and switched on the light. He entered the old vaulted store room and searched along the lower shelf on one side of the room. After finding what he was looking for, Matthew stuck his hand behind an old book with a worn, brown cover and pulled out a grey cash box.
The lock resisted his small key at first, but relented when he applied more pressure. He gazed at the bronze key with its green patina as it sat peacefully in the packing. The inscription on the handle which could transport a person or something from one world to another, seemed to bewitch Matthew; so he slammed the lid shut. If Grondin was back, it wouldn't be safe in here; or maybe it would be if he’s not interested in it, he thought, as he locked the box and hid it back behind the book.
Matthew felt a heavy gloom settle over him as he climbed the stairs. Not back to this demon shit again, he thought, as memories of his girlfriend, Janey, flooded his mind, who turned out to be the demon Hel.
“All this is supposed to be over,” he said to himself, shaking his head.
“What's supposed to be over Wilson?" Kelly, one of his colleagues, asked a the top of the stairs.
Matthew looked up in surprise, and said: “Nothing just singing, that’s all!”
“I think you’d better learn to whistle then, mate!” she teased.
As he reached the top of the stair Matthew watched as she slipped behind the main desk. She had on a long, blue sweater over black legging. Matthew had been working up courage to ask her out on a date for weeks, and he had decided he would do it that day, or maybe… the next!
At lunchtime, in the common room, he read the local daily newspaper while eating a cheese and pickle sandwich. An article which attracted his attention was entitled: 'Mysterious Hole Found in Balgay Cemetery Dundee’. Workmen had found a large hole in the upper part of the cemetery next to a large monolith. Police suspected vandals, but were at a loss as to why someone would dig a large hole then apparently walk away. They found no other damage.
Matthew recalled that demons occasionally appeared out of holes in the ground because of the way they relate the physical world and other dimensions in space, and a shiver ran up his spine. Was Grondin close-by?
The next day, his day off, Matthew watched rain sweep across the rooftops from his bedroom window and then, stepping over the newspaper from the previous day, which was lying on the floor by his bed, he headed downstairs and made coffee and toast.
The mail delivery had brought nothing of great interest to read so he switched on the radio, and the kitchen filled with the voice of a newsreader discussing the upcoming General Election. Matthew abruptly turned it off and consumed his breakfast in silence. He then shaved and showered; deciding to go to Dundee... to Balgay Cemetery.
Raindrops chased one another sideways on the bus window as it sped along the dual carriageway toward Dundee. Should I be doing this? Matthew thought as he gazed at the wet countryside speeding by. Maybe he should leave it well alone or phone David, but he couldn’t go running to David all the time; or could he after all it was David who had phoned, and Grondin was his nemesis–the two demons had been feuding for eons!
Eventually the bus pulled into Dundee Bus Station and Matthew climbed down the steps past the driver. He then strolled along the streets of the city after leaving the bus station as the rain clouds decided it was time to stop persecuting the citizens.
He entered Balgay Park where workmen swept up wet leaves. A foreboding coldness passed through his body as if something was telling him to stop. He followed the path in between the two parts of the hill connected by the blue painted iron bridge. Walking below it he wondered if Grondin had re-entered the world in the area.
Matthew entered the graveyard by the side of an overgrown, open mausoleum which had the words: ‘This House is Appointed for All the Living’ etched into the lintel, and he climbed up the hillside passing the ancient headstones of former Dundee citizens.
Beside the approach to the iron bridge a huge granite pillar reached for the leaden sky. Wrapped around it and three wooden stakes, was a yellow and black police tape, which surrounded a large hole with soil and turf splayed out around the perimeter.
There was no one around so Matthew peered over the tape. The hole extended down two metres he reckoned, but it was difficult to judge, because it looked like a lot of the sides had collapsed and filled in the bottom. He raised his head and gazed through the trees toward the placid river Tay. The hole was the right size for a human-sized figure to have risen out.
A dark shadow appeared behind him and he sensed evil. He turned around quickly, but there was nothing there. Time to go, he thought. Then, as he crossed the bridge, he pulled out his mobile; it looked as if he would need to phone David de Longford after all.
“David, there’s been a development.
“You told me, or somebody did, that demons can rise out of the ground leaving a hole-right?”
“Yes, I’ve done that in the past.”
“Well, I’ve seen a large hole in a graveyard in Dundee, where there’s no obvious explanation.”
“Was it conical and roughly human-sized?”
“It could be where our friend re-entered the world, and he's come through in Dundee for a reason, other than to be close to where the Key is. We'll just need to keep an open mind on this one.”
“Another thing: I thought someone or something evil was watching me while I was there!”
“Listen Matthew, I think you’d better take time off your work and come over to Amsterdam.”
“Okay, if you think I’d be safer?”
“I don’t know what he’s planning, but come over anyway, we need to talk.”
Matthew walked past the Mills Observatory as a class of excited schoolchildren were being marched inside by a stern looking teacher. He had to find out what Grondin was up to and try, along with David, to stop him using his demon powers. For their sake, he thought watching the last of the kids disappear through the doorway–for everyone’s sake!
The winter sun began to set as Thomson stood in the arched doorway of a disused building which had been a jute mill in another age.He looked over the busy Marketgait on to the main front door of the Dundee police headquarters of Police Scotland a glass and steel building from the 1960s.
He watched as uniformed and plain clothed officers came and went until a thick set man in a grey overcoat, made him pay closer attention. The man had receding brown hair and a thick moustache which sat under a stubby nose.
Thomson crossed the road and followed the man along Bell Street past the pillared front of the courthouse where people stood on the steps blowing blue cigarette smoke into the air. He then followed the policeman along Constitution Road where he watched him stub out a cigarette and enter the Bread Bar.
The pub was filled with late afternoon drinkers, mainly students from the university next door. Thomson stepped up to the bar and ordered a pint of ale. A shout went up from a group sitting at a table in the far corner as a stalky youth balanced an empty glass upside-down on his head.
Thomson took a sip from his drink and turned to Detectiv