Sunday, March 16, 2008

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 19

“I think it’s Serena,” Betty whispered. “But she’s so out of it and Scream wouldn’t let me alone anywhere near her to ask. They’ve shaved her bald and, dig this, they’ve dyed her blue.”


“From head-to-toe, Daddy-O. Blue as a vein.”


“And what she’s whacked on, who knows, but she ain’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

“Will we be able to get her out of here?”

“If you can get at her, it’s just a matter of hefting her over your shoulder. She has no idea of where she is, or even that anything is wrong. And she’s bald and has blue skin, mind you. You won’t get any cooperation from her, she’s so zoned that Scream had to take a leak, told her to open her mouth and he used her like a urinal. I’m in the degradation business and that was the weirdest, I’ve seen.”

“So what about the snatch?”

“How fucked up are you? It’s shaved, too.”

I rolled my eyes. “No, you nitwit, getting her out. Can we do it before or during?”

“Before will take some doing. During, I could say we need more drugs or she’s going to barf, actually that wouldn’t stop anything. They’d probably like that. But it might work.”

“Where’s Scream now?”

“He’s gone back to the main house to get dressed.”

“Then take me back.”

“Can we risk it?”

“I’ll take some electrical cable with me, and some tools, and you be ready to drop the bathrobe if anyone sees us.”


“Distraction. I suppose you know this, but you look so gorgeous I’d crawl over broken glass to lick your kneecaps.” Which gave me an idea.

* * *

The walls were simple gray concrete and there was no use slithering along them. If I was caught here, we would have to tapdance fast with the excuses. Betty took off the robe and I was mesmerized by her tiny waist cinched into the sleek leather corset, her hard butt bobbing along with only a whisp of panty making it a panty at all. Her legs were long and beautifully muscled shining in black silk stockings. Her heels clicked abominably loud in the hallway. She looked over her shoulder at me and laughed as she caught me ogling her butt. I quickly held a finger to my lips. She was persona grata here. I was the one who was where I shouldn’t be.

As we walked along she suddenly stopped dead, reaching back with black satin-gloved hands. I immediately saw what was happening. A light was growing larger at the intersection of our corridor and the next. “Stay!” I whispered in her ear and hunching low I shuffled back as quickly as possible. My knees creaking and my running shoes squeaking like hungry gulls. I didn’t think I’d make it, but I got back to the previous intersection and whipped around the corner. Then I sank to my knees and peered around.

Betty was leaning against the wall, one stockinged ankle lifted, inspecting the buckle on one of her shoes. Then the light flashed down the corridor and I pulled back behind the corner. A deep voice rumbled out, “Ah Miss Payne, having a problem. Perhaps I can be of assistance.”

Then Betty’s voice, “Not unless you can design more comfortable high heels. I’m fine, you’re just getting a behind the scenes shot of the glamour. The star getting a blister.”

“Can I get you a small bandage.”

“I have some in my dressing room, thank you. I’m just taking a load off for a second. Please, carry on.”

“As you wish. I’m very much looking forward to tonight’s performance.”

“Thanks, I’ll try to give it my all.”

The light faded from the hallway and I waited a few seconds and peaked around. Betty was waving come on.

I hurried back to her. “That guy, whoever he was, will probably be coming back shortly, let’s get to the dressing room.” She peaked around the corner to make sure he was gone and we shuffled back up the way he had come. Finally, we got to a closed door and Betty opened it. I was pulled in to a room about sixteen feet square. It had a plain dressing table with mirrors against one wall, a couple of chairs and a couch and carpets on the floor. A small icebox stood in one corner and a door led to a toilet cubicle. Betty bolted the door behind us and turned to grin at me. “So far so good,” she said. “Time for a little lash.”

“Don’t joke, Betty. I don’t want to be whipped right now.”

“I like the emphasis on ‘right now,’” she said, with an evil cock of her eyebrow. “But what I meant, was the white lady.” She lifted the lid off a butter dish and there, layed out, were a dozen little rows of white powder about the size of small drinking straws. She produced a short glass tube and put it in one nostril and closing the other nostril with a finger, she snuffed up one of the rows into her nose, then she moved the tube to another nostril and inhaled another row. “Your turn...” She held out the glass tube.

White lady, cocaine, but I was no dope fiend, so I waved it away. “We don’t have time.”

“How long did that take, ten seconds? Do it,” she said, “It’ll make your senses sharper, give you more energy.”

“I don’t want to get woozy,” I insisted.

“It doesn’t work that way. Just do it. You won’t regret it.”

I didn’t have time to waste in an argument, so I did like she showed me. No big deal, but then I felt a gagging sensation at the back of my throat. Maybe I’d ODed. I asked her about it and she said that was normal.

“Okay, I’ve indulged you,” I said. “Now where’s Serena?”

“She’s down a couple more intersections. But how are you gonna get in?”

I held up my lockpick, which had come in handy over my career. “I hope this will work.”

* * *

She wasn’t there.

“Did Scream say anything about moving her?”

“Not to me.”

“Then where the fuck is she?”

Right then though we heard some voices coming down the hall. I pulled the door shut and we hustled back to the first intersection and ducked into the shadows. “Quick,” whispered Betty, get down on your knees.

“What?” but she shoved me down and pulled me to her crotch, grinding into my face. Just then a light flashed on us. “Ah Miss Payne,” then the light traveled down to illuminate me as I got the idea and labored on.

“Get the fucking light off me,” shouted Betty and then moaned, “I’m gonna come, so leave us alone.” She bucked and quivered and let out a a series of moans. Then her woice rang out again, “I told you to get fucking lost. Now do it, you fucking pinhead!” Through slitted eyes, I saw the light move away. “Sorry, Miss Payne.”

“That’s Mistress Payne to you, you peeping-tom piece of shit, now run!” And I heard hustling footsteps receding.

She gave me a final grind in the face and pulled me up. “Quick thinking,” I said.

“Yeah, as a domina you learn to be a bit of a drill sergeant. Nobody fucks with me. Especially when I’m having sex.”

“Who was it?”

“It was that muscley thug. Anyhow, I think we better get you back to the show. They know someone is down here with me and that can’t be good.”

I could hear the blood rushing in my ears and I was torn between my sudden arousal, the dope in my blood and fear of being caught. “Let’s get back to your dressing room.”

Inside the room, Betty grinned, “You’re going to have to redo your lipstick.” I looked in the mirror and saw that my red mouth was smeared all over my upper lip and chin.

“I’ll scout around, try and get in the main house” and report back to you.”

Betty walked me back to the stage and I saw Muscles giving me the eye and then shaking his head in congratulation, as much as disbelief, at what he’d just seen. Betty glared at him imperiously then winked and broke out laughing as she turned her back and disappeared into the catacombs.

* * *

My senses seemed unusually sharp as I pressed myself against the wall and sidled toward the sound. The music was from those pan flutes that I had seen in National Geographic. Eerie stuff with strange shrilling harmonics that oscillated against each other. Easy listening music for vampires, I mused. The surroundings seemed a bit familiar and it struck me that the room I was approaching was the one where I’d been with Ariana before when Scream had left us to go have his way with Jayne.

A purple light filtered into the darkened hall from under the door. The noise of the flutes covered any sounds I might make and I turned the knob and cracked the door slightly. The whole room was lit in an unearthly violet. Inching the door open, I felt like I had been hit with a mallet. Standing in profile in front of a metal stand holding a smoking incense burner was Ariana. My heart had stopped because every inch of her from her white floor-length gown to the lengths of her hair had a slightly green irradiance. Her arms floated delicately through the incense smoke and, although I could not hear it over the pipes, she seemed to be chanting. She was staring at a goat skull that was glowing with the same unearthly light and seemed to be floating in mid air about three paces in front of her.

A ghost? I’d never seen anything like it. I wondered if that white lady that I had snuffed up my nose was making me hallucinate. I watched her sway and gesticulate. What the hell was this?

I’m not much of a believer in ghosts, but since I’d associated with LaVey, my convictions about matters supernatural were being eroded. Whatever the apparition was, it was not helping me with my quest. I skittered out the door and shut it as best I could. My nerves were jangling like I’d bitten into an electrical cable.

I slithered along the walls wishing I had a vampire’s powers and could crawl along the ceiling. When I came to another door, I cracked it and, checking that it was vacant, I slipped in. Here again was another desk and although the room was much smaller than Ariana’s lair, it had a more businesslike air. Filing cabinets were along one wall. No occult knickknacks. This was probably where Scream did business. The doors to the other rooms could be shut and this would be where guests from the straight world would be met. I hurriedly closed the door behind me and flipped the deadbolt.

I opened the desk drawer first. Standard stationery supplies. Then I went to the file cabinets. Manila folders were neatly labeled and as I thumbed through them I recognized the names of prominent businessmen, city council members, even cops. This was the motherlode. Cracking a file open I saw that there were ledger sheets and photos of a particular councilman in a dark robe engaged in some witchcraft ceremony. There were also handwritten notes. A cursory scan of these indicated that this councilman favored drag queens as dates and poppers as his drug of choice. There were files on Al Sterling, Jayne, the mayor, LaVey and myself. I grabbed what I thought would be a concealable number of files and shoved them into my cape’s pockets. You hear about detectives rummaging through someone’s files until they find something that will solve a case. Well, I had found something, I did not know what, but I did not have the guts or nerves to stay in the room. Any minute someone could come in and find me and then where would I be? I shut the cabinet and took the egress.

Feeling the files flap heavily against my body, I lurched for the way back to the dressing rooms.

When I knocked, Betty opened the door and I could see she was on her way to Slursville. Unfortunately, that merely made her more attractive. Her eyes glittered mischievously, their lids slightly heavy. Her face was flushed, her lips seemingly poutier. She giggled at my undead appearance.

I shoved the door shut and swung my cape off. Then I pulled out the files and started going through them. “Betty, we have something here. I dunno what, but it’s something.” I told her about the various honchos mentioned in the files. I handed her a file with her name on it. Meanwhile, I checked my own dossier. I was referred to as “a muckraker, hatchet man and career assassin.” My esteemed publication was denominated “the city’s top asswipe.”

Betty hissed at references to her as twenty-buck whore and has-been never-was with a remarkable resemblance to a former celebrity. She read to me that it also claimed she would be easily manipulated through supplied drugs. I shrugged and looked meaningfully at the mirror of white powder on her dressing table. She curled her lip at me.

I opened a six-by-eight envelope and the world dropped out from under me. I refused to look at more than the first couple of photos. My lost evening had been graphically documented and what I saw was enough to build my rage to a level where I wanted to burn this fucking house down to the ground. But I could not process that right then.

With hands that I hoped Betty would not see trembling, I shoved the envelope back into the folder and tried to concentrate on the next file. It was not hard when I saw the name Merlin Chambers, a top attorney known for his ability to get celebrities off their legal troubles. I think he’d been the first choice for defending Mitchum on his gage bust, but someone else was chosen and Bob went to the crowbar hotel, albeit briefly. I called Chambers’s office regularly for details on stories. At first, I was put through to the man himself and his response was always the same: “Fuck off.” These days, I got no further than his secretary and she had picked up the same refrain.

I found it hard to hold a contiguous train of thought. My concentration kept flickering with images of what was in my personal file. But I kept on with Chambers’s file when I saw the notation, “Magik name: Yog Saltar. Third ring of daemons. Grand master. Familiar: Golem. Vices: gin and erotic asphyxia.”

Betty tossed her folder over to me. “What’d it say about you?” she asked.

“That I was a loathesome hack who enjoyed destroying careers. But, more interestingly, Scream seems to have some fairly powerful associates involved in his little coven. He’s also taken the time to list all their naughty little secrets. So these will be very helpful. Trouble is, they don’t do us much good right now. By the way, I saw Ariana’s ghost.”

“What?” Betty shrieked incredulously.

I told her what I’d seen and asked her if the drug might have caused me to hallucinate. “Not unless you’d been awake for four days doing tons of it,” she assured me.

What the hell had I seen?

A knock came on Betty’s door. “Entrance in 30 minutes, Miss Pain.” said a voice. Betty yelled that she would be ready.

“I’d better be getting back then,” I said, secreting the files back into my cape. I still don’t know what we’re going to do. I certainly don’t want you doing what Scream wants to Serena.”

“That makes two of us. Think fast.”

I nodded and headed out the door.

* * *

The room had filled substantially. Probably three hundred masked revelers thronged the area. No one in our crew would be construed as even remotely out of place. There were vampires and Vampiras, daemons and dominas, sorceresses and mages. The predominant motif was black. The favored jewelry the inverted cross so favored by Satanists. LaVey told me that he thought the symbol was stupid since it had been a Christian symbol, the cross of St. Peter who had requested to be crucified upside down in order to appear lower than his Lord. LaVey disdained sham.

Ed was running things expertly. I could not get over how, when he put on women’s clothes, he immediately ceased being quite such a screw-up.

He pulled me over into a corner and asked, “What’s the play, Shakespeare?”

I felt horrible; I did not know.

There were torches everywhere and I briefly thought I should just set the place on fire, but that seemed too broad a stroke. Making off with Selena somehow was the only way. I went over to one of the klieg lights and untaped it. I put the .32 in the back of my waistband.

The music was some weird recording of a Japanese drum ensemble, very hypnotic and complex. It was also giving me a throbber of a headache.

A nubile nymph, the fairy kind, in a diaphonous body suit came up to the stage holding a tray of drinks. Some were shotglasses of mushroom tea, but I avoided those. I helped myself to two glasses of rose champagne. The nymph pointed to the little crusted sugar skulls and dropped one into my champagne. It fizzed and she made a motion to drink it right down. It was quite delightful. Ed made his way over and tried the champagne with a skull. He too found it pleasing and gobbled two more glasses in short order. Then a fey young man dressed in a winged helmet and a loin cloth, and holding a caduceus came by with a tray of hors d’oeuvres. The crew descended and the tray was picked clean in short order. With a raised eyebrow, Hermes skepped back through the service entrance.

Though I had not seen it, there must be a kitchen back there somewhere.

Suddenly, the drumming ceased and there was a peel of trumpets. Spotlights flashed the main stage and the twin beams crossed to cause a brilliant X on the wide altar-like podium at the center of the stage. I checked the ceiling and saw on either side, projection booths set in the upper walls.

I was expecting a theatrical entrance and I was not disappointed. With a concussive boom, the altar exploded in an arc of golden sparks. From our vantage point, we could see what the audience could not. Scream raced out from a concealed doorway at the back of the stage. When the flares abated, he stood there glorying in his cheap trick, his arms raised. He wore his daemon mask as always and a pleated gold lamé robe that, with his arms outstretched, looked like an inverted Japanese fan.

The crowd erupted into applause and hoorahs at the sight of him. “Flashpots,” said Ed, beside me. “They’re rigged on the floor behind the altar. Gunpowder and smoke compound, set off electrically. I’ve used them in a couple of films.”

I nodded. My vision still bore the blue arcs imprinted on my eyes by the flashes. I was glad I had not had any mushroom tea or my brains would be melting out my ears.

Scream’s amplified voice cut through the cheering. “Welcome disciples of darkness. Tonight, we gather in celebration of Samhain, the feast of the elder gods. Tonight, we pay obeisance to Lord Satan and thank him for the success and wealth he has given those of us who have been faithful and devout in our worship.

Amid cheering, he continued. “We who worship him know that some of life’s greatest pleasures are those that conventional society is too weak to grasp. Tonight, we will celebrate our Lord with revenge. There are those who claim to be our brethren, yet who actually oppose us and hinder our cause. Tonight, they will feel our wrath. Bring out the infidel!”

Two muscled goons brought a naked Serena onstage. She was not resisting. Her eyes were almost rolled up into her head and her steps were faltering. Betty came up beside me. “Well, what’s the plan? I don’t think we can hesitate any longer.”

The audience gasped at Serena’s bald and blue appearance.

Then Scream said, “And to oversee the penance for those who oppose us, I conjure up one from the nether realms. The lights went out for a second and the flashpots flared again causing some of the more timid princes of darkness to let out feeble shrieks. And through the darkness onstage a greenish white blur appeared. As it moved toward the front of the stage and became gradually distinguishable the audience gasped as one. There stood Ariana, regal and haughty. And glowing like a lightbulb. As the lights came up, she seemed to solidify and gain a more corporeal form.

A chant began. “She is risen; she is risen....” I heard Ed’s voice beside me. “Phosphorescent skin paint. I’ve used it in a couple of my films. Pretty impressive. They’ve impregnated her clothes and her hair, the whole ball of wax. But, uhm, who’d they pull out of that car wreck?”

“Beats me,” I whispered. “But it was obviously a plant. Which means that murder can definitely be connected to Scream.”

“Not materially,” said Ed.

“No, not yet.”

“And now, the high priestess of pain, Miss Betty Payne. Betty slunk onto the stage to applause and gasps. She looked spectacular in her shimmering leather, her hair glistening, her eyes made up wildly in shades of red and purple. In one hand, she carried a bullwhip that she cracked over the heads of the audience. Still, she kept glancing furtively over at me, wondering what to do.

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