Friday, August 29, 2008

Jayne & the Satanists --Chapter 32


Next morning, I was up early, nursing a post celebratory hangover.  I hadn’t celebrated with anybody but Lex, who had joined in with three dishes of beer before falling into a noisy snoring sleep.  I was downing coffee and aspirin when the phone rang.  It was Pat Kennedy.  He was on the boil.

“Of all the irresponsible journalism you’ve ever foisted on your reading public, this has got to be the worst,” he barked.

“I didn’t know you read The Inquistor,” I said, cheerfully.

“Well, a copy ended up on my desk this morning and I couldn’t believe the puke I was reading.  How dare you speculate on all these loose connections.”

“I’m betting there’s more than a grain of truth to what I wrote,” I said.

“Betting is for the horsetrack, not for speculation on unsolved felonies.  You’ve set our investigations back weeks, not to mention abusing the public trust.”

“The public trust is something that should not exist.  Everyone should question what they read.  And I have no doubt that if you follow up on what I’ve theorized in my piece that your investigation will accelerate toward confirming what I’ve speculated.”

“You seem awfully sure of yourself.”

“Maybe I’m not publishing such unfounded speculation after all.”

There was a dead silence.  Then, “Who’s the movie producer?”

“I’ll have to get back to you on that,” I said.  “I’ve got to see what kind of death threats I get today, then maybe I’ll slip that to you.”  I hung up.


*  *  *  * 


The phone was still warm when it rang again.

“Good day, Mr. Holcomb.  I read with interest your story in today’s Inquisitor…”

     “Who’s calling please?”

     “My name is Ste. Germaine.”

A wave of hangover nausea swept through me and I sprang sweat all over my body.  “How may I help you Mr. Ste Germaine.”

“I would like to meet with you to discuss some matters that might interest you.”

“I’m sorry Mr. Ste. Germaine, but I make it a policy never to meet with readers.  It’s just a matter of personal security.”

“Put Lex on the phone.”

My sweats notched up a few pints per second and my knees threatened to give out.  “How do you know about Lex?”

“Lex and I have known each other for years, Mr. Holcomb.”

“What?  You want me to put a cat on the phone to you?”

“That’s correct.  His conversation is more intelligent than most humans I have met.  Plus, I think he is one of the few character references you would believe.”

I felt  as if I had just swigged a bottle of bourbon and it was rolling into my head.

Lex was staring at me.  Hell, why not?  I put the receiver to his ear.  I could hear muttering over the line then that gutteral snore that was Lex’s purr rolled through the room.  He languidly closed his eyes and his paws started to make the milking motion in air that cats make when they are luxuriant.

I pulled the earpiece back to my own head.  “You seem to have a friend.”

“And, I’m proud to say, I have had for a number of years.  We must get together and you must bring Lex.”

“It’s easier if you come over here, Lex can’t really sit in a café.  Or we could come to wherever you live.

“When you have lived as long as I have, you find that you need no residence, no fixed address.  Why don’t we meet in Griffith Park?”

“Uhm, well, because last time I was to meet somebody there, they ended up dead and I was attacked by coyotes.”

“I can assure you, Mr. Holcomb, that when you are with me, no one will be in danger.  Still, I can understand your caution.  There is a pull-off about 17 miles south of Venice Beach.  There is a path down the cliff to some rocks known as Devil’s Dive.  Meet me there at eleven tonight and bring Lex.”

The phone clicked off before I could whine about the inconvenience.  I let out a sigh and grabbed the bottle.

“Lex, you better be a good judge of character, otherwise your Dinty Moore gravy train could come to an end.”

Lex turned his rear end and flipped his tail at me, then went to his dish to prepare for his morning nap.


*  *  *  * 


He sat hunched on a rock.  The wind rippled a dark scarf and longish white hair.  As I got nearer, I saw a gaunt face leathered by too much life.  He turned to me and smiled.  He was smoking a small cigar and smoke plumed from his nostrils.  His eyes had huge bags under them  Great parentheses carved around his mouth.  His nose was rough, pitted, pebbled, his forehead crosshatched.  In the wind, his hair whipped around this face of faces.  When he spoke, there was more whiskey and smoke in those pipes than in the roughest Mississippi Delta blues singer.

I held Lex in the chest of my windbreaker.  As cats will do, he poked his head out and back like a furry cobra,  sniffing the salt air, peering at the apparition before us.

“Mr. Ste Germaine....”

He glanced at me.  “Lex how are you, old friend?”

Lex squirmed in my jacket and leapt out to the jagged rocks at my feet.  He ambled over to Ste. Germaine and sat, the perfect image of those Egyptian cats, Baal or Bastet or something. Ste Germaine made no move to pet him, nor Lex to brush against him.

He stared at Lex, their gazes locking.  He ignored me.  Every few seconds, one of their heads would nod.  There was a communication going on there that I would never be able to unscramble.  After about five minutes of this, Lex’s tail lifted and he scampered up the rocks and faded into the twilight.

“Lex, come here,” I shouted.

Ste. Germaine looked at me and waved his hand in dismissal.  “Do not concern yourself, Mr. Holcomb.  Lex can take care of himself while you and I converse.”

“Mr. ....”

“Actually, it’s Comte.  But just call me Ste. Germaine,” he said, pronouncing it Sinjermin.  C’mere Lex.”

Lex stayed where he was, but his head bobbed forward and back and he closed his eyes sniffing the winds.  “That’s right, Lex.  I smell old.  It happens.”


“Ste. Germaine,” he said, with that strange pronunciation.  “Like when they name a kid St. John and they pronounce it Sinjin.  It’s easy.  Sinjermin.

“Cigar?” He held one out.  It seemed to materialize in his hand.

“What the fu...,” I said.  I took it, put it in my mouth and it was lit.  I puffed on it.  I was’t much of a smoker.  But, I was getting used to the top of my head flying into the stratosphere.  So might as well shoot the moon.

“How may I help you,” I asked.

“Holcomb, I believe I knew your great-great-great-grandfather.  He was a moderately successful pig farmer in Essex in the 1700s.”

I was impressed.  “That’s correct.  We can trace my family back seven generations.”

“Share a glass?”  He held out a snifter of brandy.

“You’re good,” I said.

“Not really,” he said and pulled back the heft of his coat to reveal a heavy bottle half full and another glass resting on a flat piece of rock.

I tugged on the snifter.  “Well...”

“I read the papers the other day after I heard some conversation in a restaurant.  I never read the papers because I consider them all too impossibly stupid and biased.”

“You must love my career...”

“Some of your work is amusing.”

“Gee, thanks.  What’s the upshot?”

“The point I wish to make is that I am tired, Holcomb.  That I wish to do some good before I give up this game.”

“Good? I’ve heard you are evil incarnate.”

“Yes, I’ve done more evil than probably any man on this planet, but that was a long time ago and the difference between good and evil is that good has less consequences to answer for.  I’ll defend every child I killed in its crib, every family I left fatherless, every man whose mind I left destroyed.  Yes, I can conjure daemons.  Yes, as Crowley bragged, I have passed to the other side.  But Crowley was not around long enough to gain true understanding.”  He flipped his hand, banishing the matter.

Lex wandered back and stood sniffing the tidal scents beside where I sat.  “So if I were to believe what I’ve heard of you, I take it you’re two millennia old.”

“And not in bad shape for my age,” he said, baring teeth the color of mahogany.

“I suppose the question to ask someone of your age is if you believe in a God.”

“Yeah, that’s always a popular question.”  He sat and smoked as the silence wound out like silken kite cord.


“Of course there is a God, Mr. Holcomb.  It was his Son who cursed me with this life.  I was a Jewish doorkeeper in the judgement halls of Pontius Pilate. I witnessed the trial of Christ.  My name was Caraphilus.  I went out to see the spectacle when Jesus carried his cross to Calvary.  When the poor man stopped to rest I stepped up to him and told him to hurry on to his punishment, mocking him as King of the Jews with his crown of thorns. 

“The Messiah, the most powerful man to ever live and I, in my ignorance, mocked him on his way to his unjustified execution.”  Ste. Germaine shook his head.  “I had never seen eyes like those, full of pain, disappointment and, yes, Christ knew vengeance.  His eyes flared and in them I could see the fires of Hell and he snarled at me.  “I will go now, but thou shalt wait until I return.”  He shouldered his bloody cross and the centurions shoved me back in the crowd.

“I watched the crucifixion for an hour or so, but got bored and wandered away to my wife and son.  Christ took six hours to die.  And the skies darkened in midday.  And we all knew that justice had been miscarried that day and that there would be Hell to pay.  I feared most of all for myself because of my stupid arrogance and cruelty.

“I was 45 years old then.  I watched my good wife grow old and die.  I watched my son grow from 10 to 80 and die.  And I remained for all visible purposes 45 years old.  Time had stopped for me and me only.  Christ’s vengeance was that I should walk the Earth until his Second Coming.  With those I loved gone and eternity staring blankly at me, I leapt from a tall building and dusted myself off, suffering no injury.  I waded into the Sea of Galilee and washed ashore two days later, alive and well.  So, leaving all that I had, I began to walk and became known as the legendary Wandering Jew.  I found that I did not have to eat and, as the years went by, that I was accumulating vast knowledge.  Having no question of Christ’s demonstrable power and hence little doubt of his Father’s existence, I spent years in monasteries, llamasteries, ashrams and the like.

Inevitably, I ventured into the occult knowledge of the ages and to accumulate power and wealth I became fully committed to the Dark Arts.  Like accomplishing anything in life, the Dark Arts require sacrifice, though perhaps more extreme than less, shall we say, rewarding pursuits.  I killed, I slaughtered with Vlad the Impaler.  I plotted and betrayed.  I destroyed lives with schemes.  I grew wealthy and I kept all of my wealth in gems.  In the court of Louis IV, I was well known.  I was arrested for spying in London by Horace Walpole during the Jacobite revolution.  I taught Mesmer the simple art of hypnotism....” His voice drifted off into the wind. “.... Yeah, yeah, I’m such a big deal, despised of Christ.  And as to your earlier question, I am entirely convinced of the truth of God and the reality of eternal damnation.

“You see, Holcomb, God is order and everywhere this order is evident from a mother giving birth, to the eagle catching the salmon, to the baleen whale sifting kril through its ?  Evil is disorder.  Cancer cells multiplying too fast.  An adult male who wants to force sex on a child.  A mercenary killing for money....  Yeah, there’s a God and there’s a God damned.”

“And you’re him.”

“When you see, in reality, how tightly and inflexibly the string is drawn between what is good and what is damnable, you’ll know I’m far from alone.  Although I’m sad to say I’m probably in the Top 40.”

“Which is why you want to help me...?”

Ste. Germain raised his eyebrows.  “Come now, Holcomb.  Do you really think I’m that altruistic.  I’m not trying to save my soul.  That was a lost cause long ago.  I’m after vengeance and property.”


*  *  *  * 


Ste. Germaine had ugly eyes.  He locked them into mine or looked away with equal power. One look was intimidation, the other, dismissal.  Both modes gave me a low-grade nausea as if the pupils of those eyes might skin back and give me a glimpse into the fires of Hell.  I felt soiled to be in this being’s presence.  From behind me, I heard a rustling and Lex—big, healthy, good Lex—bobbed his head under my hand.  It seemed entirely incongruous, as I was consorting with this paradigm of evil, that my cat wanted to be petted.  And then I knew.  Lex was my cat, always had been and always would be.  And with him on my side, I need not fear the paractitioners of dark arts.  I scratched behind his ears and he rubbed his head into my palm.  I lifted my eyes to Ste. Germaine’s.  That lizardskin face pulled into a semblance of a smirk.  “I’m jealous, Holcomb.  Lex is a wonderful friend to have and his obvious affection and stewardship for you reinforce my hunch that you are the one I need to partner with in order to retrieve my purloined property.”

“What did you lose?”

“Have you ever heard of the Mandylion?”


“It is also known by the Greek name Achieropoietos.”

“You lost a dinosaur?”

Ste. Germaine smiled, weakly.  “No.  The Mandylion is the oldest known portrait of Jesus Christ.  It means the little handkerchief.  Achieropoietos means not made by human hands.  There was a king of Edessa, now Urfa in Turkey, who was a leper.  Hearing of the Christ’s miraculous healings, he sent a servant to Galilee to persuade Jesus to come to Edessa to heal him.  King Abgar knew that his man, Hannan, might not be successful, so he asked the man to paint a portrait of Jesus, if that were all he could bring back.  Being in awe of the great man, who was busy preaching to a large group, Hannan could not paint accurately.  When he noticed the man’s distress, Jesus asked for water and washed his face and wiped it with linen that perfectly preserved his image.  Hannan returned, Abgar was cured and the Mandylion was the city’s most precious treasure.  When Edessa was under Moslem rule, the Byzantines stole the relic and took it to Constantinople.

“In 1204, an army of Crusaders plundered the city.  One of that number was me.  I had visited the city previously and went straight for the room where the Mandlylion was kept.  Sometimes framed, sometimes rolled, it traveled with me for centuries—in saddlebags and steamer trunks.  It decorated secret shrines in various of my residences.  It gave me power.  Power just in possessing it.  Obviously, if a ritual required desecration, this icon would make it the most powerful spell ever.  I respected it.  I never abused it or used it in ceremony.  It was for me alone to stare at the face of the God who was man who had set me on my bizarre and endless journey.  That familiar face that had haunted my dreams for centuries.

“Then, in 1953, I was living in Buenos Aires, getting away from a conflagration in which I had taken part —you know the one.  I was the subject of a manhunt and international persecution.  I had gone for a brief pilgrimage to Macchu Picchu for restoration and meditation.  When I returned to my castle-like mansion, I went to the shrine and the Mandylion was gone.  I felt violated, raped and ruined.  I had not left the relic unguarded and I knew that it could only have been taken by a master sorcerer.  Psychic defenses had been contravened, guardian spirits circumvented.  There was a pall of evil left in my house.  My servants had been slaughtered, my beloved dogs eviscerated.  I vowed vengeance, however my anger was tempered by pure fear, for whoever had the image would likely not respect it the way I had, but might use it for a spell so powerful it could crack the globe.  To who knows what ends.  I was terrified.

“When I had gathered my senses, I began to call in my resources, which over the years have grown to be considerable.  I had, of course, heard of other immortals, but, call it ego, I had never sought any out.  The few I had accidentally met were crazed vampires, or outsiders, little people and discombobulated spirits.  All, incidentally, crazy as shithouse rats, not a rational man among them.  I had heard inklings from the early part of the 18th century of a brotherhood of illuminati who were trying to create what would now be called a database of the characteristics, powers, life histories and locations of these beings.  In 1954, figuring I would be persona grata there, I contacted the organization, The Brotherhood of Thoth.  They, quite kindly, though undoubtedly out of self interest, set one of their men on the trail of my Mandylion.  Through a combination of his efforts and later through friends such as Crowley and the Golden Dawn, I heard by 1956 of a mad shaman and powerful sorcerer known as Hoxhok.  Though, despite much investigation, he remained merely a rumor, a number of circumstances point to him as the most likely thief of my property.  When you enquired of LaVey, saying that you had observed Hoxhok in an actual rite, I was notified.  And now, Holcomb, how is it that you with your notepad and pen have located him and I with considerably more invested in scouring the earth for him, have not?  Well, luckily, it does not matter, for I have located you and because of that brand on your shoulder and the protection it has offered you, I believe you owe me.”  The corners of his mouth twitched up into his cheeks for a second, then fell back into his flat emotionless expression, the attempted smile’s purpose of demonstrating friendliness done.

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