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Easter01's Father Michael's Saga

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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Mon Feb 20, 2017 4:20 pm









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Starts on Page 2 of album





Starts on Page 5 of album





forthcoming





forthcoming





Last edited by Easter01 on Sat Jun 24, 2017 7:03 pm; edited 17 times in total




Easter01's The Father Michael's Saga can be found: Here

Easter01's Short Stories can be found: Here

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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Mon Feb 20, 2017 4:23 pm



A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter
(c) 2016



Pleasantview attorneys were sorting out the complicated legal situation concerning the reclusive old man who had been found dead in his home last year by Officer Mark Traveler of the Pleasantview Police. At the time, Traveler, who had responded to a call by worried neighbors, had remarked to the Medical Examiner that it looked to him as though Charles Gray had been scared to death, which, unfortunately, had been overheard by a reporter.  It had been a slow news day, anyway, and when the ambitious young reporter from the Pleasantview News took a look at the dilapidated old house, she was inspired to play it for sensation.  The resulting story of a mysterious death in a “haunted house” in Pleasantview was picked up by the national wire services and suddenly, hordes of the curious descended upon the formerly quiet community.

Every ghosthunter in the country had encamped in Pleasantview, from true believers and paranormal researchers seeking that one big scientific breakthrough proving life after death to bored thrill-seekers gravitating to the latest stimulus to psychics, mediums, pickpockets and other predators tucking into this buffet of potential marks. In a matter of days, every hotel, motel and boarding house in the community had been booked, the campgrounds and parks were at capacity, and even the Wal-Mart parking lot had been filled with motor homes. Local business and restaurant owners had been delighted by the surge of customers, but the tiny Pleasantview police department had been forced to work double shifts simply to cope with the chaos. Several of the major newspaper chains and cable networks had sent news teams, more to cover the developing circus than any supernatural aspect. Within a week, however, the initial excitement died away and the crowds disappeared when nothing of interest developed. It was, after all, just a dingy old house, and the coroner’s investigation had ruled death from natural causes.

Old man Gray had died intestate; no family was known, and no heirs came forward to make any claim upon the estate. After a year had passed and the city attorneys had carried out due diligence to locate any possible heirs, the property was at last reluctantly condemned and the house became city property. The city council viewed this windfall with displeasure, loudly expressed in their meetings. The abandoned house was an ugly, decaying monument of a long-ago, possessing an architectural design that no longer fit with the vision of city planners in modern-day Pleasantview.

Just as the council members were about to vote on a proposal to tear down the old eye-sore, Father Michael of Saint Joseph’s Church presented an alternative solution which appealed to the majority. It took three more hours of discussion before the revised motion to instead renovate the property finally came to a vote, contingent upon Father Michael heading a committee to oversee the project.


Father Michael looked at the jungle of overgrown shrubbery and the rotting wooden porch and siding of the house, gray and nearly devoid of paint, and wondered if his idea would ever be possible.  The landscape could be recovered with a few strong young volunteers wielding axes and chain saws and pruning hooks. Okay, maybe a lot of strong volunteers. The house, however, appeared to have some serious damage, inside and out, and would require the work of professionals: carpenters, plumbers, roofers, and foundation experts.  

He had already contacted the architectural firm of Lillard & Lillard for a redesign of the original building to meet a new use. The complete cost of the renovation had been estimated and approved by the city council, based partly on a grant provided by the Goth Family Foundation with matching funds from the city of Pleasantview.  

Father Michael wanted his plans to work. He entered the house through the main door, which was actually on the right side of the house because the street side was occupied by very large windows.  He tread slowly and carefully not from fear of any ghosts but because the plaster overhead was peeling away from the ceiling and might drop on his head. The city engineer, after inspecting the house, had given the go-ahead to the renovation; despite its decrepit appearance, the structure was basically sound. Aside from new wiring and plumbing, most of what needed to be done was cosmetic. The exterior needed to be sanded down and repainted and the windows, gutters and roof shingles replaced. Inside, after tearing out the old floorboards and replacing the plaster with sheetrock, some paint and varnish would make the place shine. The old crown molding would be absolutely magnificent once it had been refinished.


He loved the old two-story Victorian house because of its character and for its possibilities. Those huge windows in the front could easily be altered without destroying the charm of the architectural design. He had a picture in mind which he hoped to accomplish with a few simple modifications, to transform the old Gray house into an architectural gem similar to the famous “Painted Lady” row houses of San Francisco.


Father Michael walked from room to room looking at the piles of clutter and debris beneath which the floors were almost entirely concealed. Charles Gray had been something of a hoarder, and the first task for his volunteers would be to cart virtually everything in the house out to a large curbside dumpster. Animal Control would be needed to remove the feral cats that had taken up residence, coming and going through broken windows. Oh, yes, those windows would have to be boarded, at least temporarily, until they could be repaired. The next step would be to call in an exterminator, for although there had been no sign of termite damage, almost surely there would be rats and cockroaches and various other unwelcome inhabitants of the old house.




He envisioned where old walls might come down to rearrange the space in the house; of course the engineers would have to be consulted to determine which were load-bearing walls and which could be safely removed. Details, so many details, but these were all just things that could be managed with time and sweat. The house would be just perfect! he thought, and felt re-energized and bouyed by enthusiasm for his project. Already he had thought of several new ideas to transform the house into what was needed.




Father Michael was just about to leave the house when he was struck by an odd feeling. He stopped. There was not a sound in the house, but the hair on the back of neck was prickling.

He was being watched.

He turned his head to scan the room. Nothing.

It was not a new feeling, but disturbing all the same. He had this same sense once before, when he was studying at the Vatican in Rome, several years ago, and had paid a visit to the historic Catacombs beneath the city. It was a feeling of death and decay far deeper, far more ancient, than the decrepitude of this old house and the solitary death of an old man. There was a presence here, a foul presence.




He knew exactly what it was.  

He had a lot of calls to make in the next few days.  But, first he would make a call to a very important friend.

02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story

continues with Part 2
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Last edited by Easter01 on Mon Feb 20, 2017 7:35 pm; edited 1 time in total




Easter01's The Father Michael's Saga can be found: Here

Easter01's Short Stories can be found: Here

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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Mon Feb 20, 2017 6:03 pm

This is a new story, Easter?

(or a prequel?)

(it has been awhile, lol).

I like it!



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Mon Feb 20, 2017 6:28 pm

Suzanne,

It's an older story. I divided my stories into two separate albums. The first album will be  'Father Michael's Saga' which will have five separate stories.

My short stories will be combined in the second album.

Thank you so much for your comment. I'm so happy you enjoyed the story.  I'll be posting part 2 in a little bit.

Easter01

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Easter01's The Father Michael's Saga can be found: Here

Easter01's Short Stories can be found: Here

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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Mon Feb 20, 2017 6:47 pm

Thank you for clarifying for me, Easter...

...I relish your stories <3



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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Mon Feb 20, 2017 7:34 pm


02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016


Part 2



On the afternoon of the next day, Father Michael Mendez sat at a table on the back wall of the main reading room in the Pleasantview Public Library, slowly scrolling through images of newspaper pages on a microfilm viewer. He paused for a moment to wipe his eyes with both hands; he had been peering at the computer screen for more than four hours, ever since mid-morning, and his vision was starting to blur. He sighed and scrolled down the page a bit further, and stopped, gazing intently at the small news item at the bottom corner. He used the mouse arrow to center the item and magnify the view, refocused, and then pressed the “Print” button. The laser printer next to the viewer whirred and in a few seconds a copy was deposited in the tray on top of the machine. He picked it up and glanced at it briefly before placing it inside his brown leather briefcase, which lay open on the other side of the microfilm viewer and showed a small stack of similar pages inside.

“Father Mike,” came a soft male voice from behind him. He reached out quickly to close the lid of his briefcase before turning around, but he was fairly sure he knew the identity of the speaker from the sound of his voice. Sure enough, when he swiveled his chair around he saw a pair of hazel eyes in a very familiar face looking down at him. It was a hard but handsome face, sporting several day’s growth of stubble and framed by shaggy near shoulder-length chestnut hair. Father Michael rose from his seat and extended a hand. “Marcel. I’m so glad you could come,” he said warmly. “I am surprised you could make it here from France so quickly. And who is your lovely companion?”

Marcel clasped the offered hand firmly between both of his. “How could I not, ami? You call, I come, n’est-ce pas? I went immediately to my superior at the Directorate, and they made a Dassault Falcon available to me. It was only seven hours’ flight time from Lyon to New York. We rented a car at the airport, and when we came to Pleasantview your housekeeper at the rectory told us where to find you.” He turned now to the woman standing beside him, a short, delicate-featured blonde with a pixie haircut and long bangs and striking pale blue eyes. “This is my partner, Simone Bataille. Simone, allow me to present to you an old friend, Father Michael Mendez. We go back a ways.”


Simone took the hand that Michael now offered to her. “Father Michael, I ‘ave heard a great deal about you on the flight over. It will be quite an honneur to work with a man such as you.” There was a surprising amount of strength in her grasp.

"Enchanté, mademoiselle," Michael replied. He looked at Marcel and raised an eyebrow in an unspoken query.

Marcel smiled; he knew what the Father was asking. “Simone and I have worked together for the last two years; she is my assigned partner at Directorate 14. I would trust her with my life…in fact, she has saved it a number of times.” He gave her a fond look. “I have no secrets from Simone; she knows what this is all about.”

Directorate 14, as Michael well knew, was the branch of Interpol’s Bureau of Special Investigations responsible for investigating crimes committed by non-humans, either apprehending the supernatural felons where practical or exterminating those deemed too dangerous to take into custody.

“I will have to hear more about this very special lady, when we have time,” Michael said, reassured. “Right now, I suggest we take our conversation someplace where we will not be overheard. Americans are very material-minded. Most of them do not believe in supernatural beings, not really, and at this time I do not wish to draw unwelcome attention to the situation I believe exists here in Pleasantview.” He reached over and secured the latches on his briefcase and took it in hand. “I did not give you much information on the telephone, but there is a park, not far from here, where we can find a quiet location and I can tell you more.”  

They left the library, and after a short walk of a few blocks came to Woodland Park, a tree-filled oasis just to the east of the business district. Following one of the pathways, they crossed a wooden footbridge over a small stream and soon came to a very large willow tree, whose branches overhung the central pond of the park. Beneath the tree were some benches, and here they stopped to sit and discuss the situation. Father Michael opened his briefcase and took out a slim sheath of documents, stapled at the corner, and passed them over to the young couple.

“This is the Medical Examiner’s report on Charles Gray,” he said. “Not ordinarily available to the general public, but I have sufficient goodwill and connections with the police department here to obtain a copy.” He paused for a moment as Marcel skimmed through the pages, Simone reading over his shoulder. “Let me summarize what you have in your hands. The M.E. concluded that Gray died from a heart attack. I did not see anything in his report to contradict that finding, so we may assume that is correct. But there are some additional details that are of considerable interest.”

“Normally,” he continued, “the M.E. would not have conducted a full autopsy on an old man found dead in his house, beyond the preliminary finding of heart failure. That is, after all, a leading cause of death among the elderly. In this case, however, because Charles Gray was discovered with a look of great fear frozen on his face, the police department authorized a more thorough investigation. Turn to the second page,” he said, and after Marcel flipped back to the beginning of the report, he leaned over and laid a finger on the human body diagram shown on the page. “Note these marks indicated here, here and here. In his discussion, the examiner identified these as various slashes and puncture wounds, some obviously older and nearly healed up, some fresh. He speculated that these were rat bites, not an unreasonable assumption given the cluttered and unsanitary condition of the house.

“If you will next turn to the fifth page, which provides the results of the blood chemistry analyses which were carried out. According to this, Gray was anemic, far more so than could be accounted for by rat bites. There were no signs of any illness or chronic condition that could have produced the anemia. The examiner was, quite frankly, puzzled by this and could not offer an explanation.”

He looked up at them, catching their eyes. “What does this suggest to you?”

“Vampire,” Marcel said, flatly, his eyes expressionless. “Do you think it could be him?”

Michael reached out and took the report back. “I do. As I said to you on the phone, I could definitely feel a presence in the house, something old and foul.

“I would not have called upon you to cross the Atlantic on a mere suspicion, or to deal with an ordinary vampire.” He paused for dramatic effect. “There was a strong scent of vanilla throughout the house.”

There was a sharp intake of breath from Simone. "La vache! He is here? The monstre Alaric?” She whipped her head around and glared at Marcel. “You did not tell me this!”

Marcel shrugged, as eloquently as only a Frenchman can manage. “Pére Mendez could not give me enough information over the phone to be sure. It was not a secure line.”

She hit him on the leg with her fist. “But you knew! This is why you had me pack a full kit, you imbécile!"

"Bien sûr," Marcel said, and added, “Ouch.”

As this exchange was taking place, Father Michael dug into his briefcase again, and came out with a handful of loose pages. “This is what I was doing when you came into the library. These are photocopies of reports from local newspapers of a number of deaths that have taken place during the last year here and also Veronaville.” He handed them over. “The one thing that they all have in common is blood loss and the presence of ‘rat bites’ or other marks on the victims. There are no suspects in any of these cases.”

Marcel handed the pages over to Simone, who scanned through them quickly. "Oui, I see what you mean. But why would this creature be here?” She looked back at Marcel. “You told me Alaric had been destroyed.”

“So I believed, chérie," he replied. “We thought that we had destroyed him in Rome, the Father and I, three years ago.” He now looked to Michael. “There can be only one reason why he would come here to America.”

His eyes were sad. “He is after you, Father Michael. He will see you dead or turned into an unholy creature like himself.”


02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story

continues with Part 3
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Last edited by Easter01 on Fri Mar 31, 2017 2:16 pm; edited 2 times in total




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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Mon Feb 20, 2017 7:50 pm

OOOOOoooo!!!!

This is getting off to a great start! <3



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poppy100
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Postpoppy100 on Mon Feb 20, 2017 8:12 pm

Broomieeeee Broomieeeee!! were are you!!!  runcircle
you cone love this 
Easter01 is come wiht here anoter GOOD story part 2 
i hope you have many popcorn in your room..... lol   music1 


                              Easter01 i love the story

                

                  sorry!!'' easter01 that i have no easterbook pic
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PostBroomhilda61 on Mon Feb 20, 2017 9:28 pm

I can't wait to read it..right now am doing laundry and cleaning house so as soon as I can get a bit of time to read the whole thing at one setting I will be here in a heart beat..thank you so much Easter..I know I will love it..

I'm your biggest fan summerB9 happybounce winner



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~hugs and smiles my dear, dear BFF's~
I am so proud of all of you..
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Easter01
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PostEaster01 on Mon Feb 20, 2017 10:39 pm


02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016


Part 3



Alaric
(Alareiks, King of the Visigoths)

Alareiks, the King of the Visigoths, was dead. For weeks, as his army marched through southern Italy, he had been beset by a strange wasting illness that left him pale and weak, the furs of his bedding soaked in blood. The healers and chirurgeons were mystified as, day after day, the strength of the great king dwindled, until finally his last breath was released in a long sigh and the King was no more. His people cut their hair and slashed their arms with knives in their grief, the powerful reiks who had led them to victory over mighty Rome only weeks before had now been taken from them in his prime. Alareiks and his people had served the Emperor Theodosius as foederati under Roman command many years before, well and faithfully in many battles, but when the Emperor’s successors disparaged their Germanic allies, the Visigoths proclaimed Alareiks their king and swore to make their own kingdoms rather than remain in servitude to others.

His time in Roman service had revealed the weaknesses of the ailing and decadent Empire. Beginning in the year the Christians called the 408th of the Lord, three times he invaded Italy and laid siege to Rome, seeking not to destroy the Empire but to be recognized for his worth and his people granted lands within its boundaries. Twice he had brought the haughty Romans to their knees, bribed with gold, silver, spices, and the freedom of Gothic slaves held in captivity to turn away from the gates of the great city. At last, in the year 410, Alareiks had lost patience with the weak and timid Emperor Honorius, and set about in earnest to conquer the city of Rome. On the 24th day of August, aided by treachery from within, Alareiks and his Visigoths burst through the Porta Sallia on the northeastern wall of the city, and the city was theirs. For the first time in more than eight hundred years, mighty Rome had fallen to foreign invaders. Yet the Visigoth King was merciful, sparing the churches and the population from harm and causing no great destruction of the city.

Now the leader who had accomplished what had long been thought impossible, the conquest of Rome, was dead in Cosenza, near the southern tip of Italy, having led his army southward with the goal of invading Africa and taking control of the Roman breadbasket. For two days and two nights his people by the thousands filed past his body, laid in state on a bier decorated with gold leaf and jewels liberated from the conquered city. At last, it was time to lay the king to his final rest.

At sunrise on the third day Ataulf, brother-in-law to the deceased king and one of his closest advisors, came to the chamber in the private mansion where the king’s body lay. There was much to be done today. For the last two days a thousand of the strongest Gothic warriors had been hard at work, damming up the course of the river Busento. The great king would be interred in the exposed riverbed with many of his treasures, and then the river released to flow over his grave, protecting it for eternity. The final preparation of the body must now be done. He took three steps across the polished marble floor and stopped in shock at the sight of Thidrek, his aide, kneeling before an empty platform where the king had rested.

“What is this!” he hissed. “Where is the king? What have you done?”

“Please, my lord, I do not know!” Thidrek stammered. “He was gone when I came in.”

Ataulf thought quickly. “Who else knows of this? Has anyone else been in here this morning?”

Thidrek quickly assured him, “No one else, my lord. I opened the chamber doors myself at the cockcrow.”

Ataulf gestured impatiently. “Get up, man. We have much to do. Go, bring a slave…only one, mind you, and be quick about it.” His eyes narrowed as he said, threateningly, “Tell no one of this, do you hear me, or it will go ill for you!”

Thidrek scrambled to his feet and rushed out of the chamber. Ataulf walked over to the doors of the chamber and, stepping just outside, quietly pulled them shut. He would stand guard and allow no one else to enter until Thidrek returned.

In only moments, the man returned, walking very quickly with a Greek slave trotting closely behind him. Ataulf opened the doors to admit the two and followed them in, closing the doors and barring them against any possible intruders. He directed the soldier and the slave to bring the ornate gilded casket from its place against the far wall of the chamber and set it just below the empty bier.

“Open it,” he said, and the slave hustled to do his bidding while Thidrek awaited further orders. The heavy lid swung open and leaned back against the edge of the platform. The interior was lined with silk and sable. The slave knelt beside the casket, his head bowed.

Ataulf walked over to the casket and stood beside the kneeling slave, inspecting the interior. Then he reached into his waistband and pulled out a dagger, and before the man could react, thrust it into the throat of the slave. The man choked, spewing blood into the coffin, and collapsed over its edge. His feet kicked once, twice, and then he was still. Ataulf stared down at the dead man for a moment and then turned his attention to his horrified aide.

“Put him inside the casket,” he said, and after Thidrek had arranged the bloody corpse inside, reached over and swung the lid down. It closed with a bang, hiding the contents beneath its heavy lid. “Go now,” Ataulf ordered. “Bring me a goldsmith. I want this lid soldered shut, immediately. Do not speak of what you have seen,” he warned, “and I will reward you beyond your imagination! Go! Run!”

Thidrek did as he was bid by his general, and ran quickly out the door to find the necessary artisan. A little time passed, and Ataulf waited patiently beside the closed casket, contemplating the situation. At last his aide returned, carrying a heavy satchel of tools in one hand and with the other propelling an elderly man in a singed leather apron before him. Ataulf issued orders, and the old man extracted a blowpipe and some small ingots of lead from the leather bag, and soon had the casket lid sealed tightly.

Ataulf nodded in satisfaction, and, extracting some silver coins from his purse, paid the man and sent him on his way. He bade Thidrek to take hold of one end of the casket, and grasping the other, with considerable effort they were able to set it upon the low platform.

The commander wiped sweat from his brow, and gestured for Thidrek to follow him. He led him up the stairs to the fourth floor, and out to the balcony where the two men stood looking out over the central plaza of the Roman city of Cosenza. “It is a strange thing,” Ataulf said, “that the body of our king should so disappear. But we can let no one find out. Our people need to be able to grieve properly, and to learn that his body has vanished mysteriously would greatly dishearten them.” He put his hand companionably on his aide’s shoulder as the man nodded his agreement.

“It must have been sorcery,” Thidrek said.

“Even so,” Ataulf said. “Even so.” He turned his head to look straight at Thidrek, locking his gaze into the other man’s eyes. “I am to be the next reiks of our people. No one can know the reason why, but I will see that you are greatly honored for the assistance you have given me this day.”

Thidrek nodded. “Thank you, my lord. It is a terrible thing, but we must look to the future.”

Ataulf gazed sadly back at him, and then moved his hand to the center of Thidrek’s back and gave him a powerful shove. Thidrek cried out in alarm and toppled over the low railing of the balcony, hitting the ground nearly sixty feet below with an audible thump. There were shouts from below, and Ataulf looked over the edge to see a crowd gathering around the broken body.

He would keep his word. When he was king of the Visigoths, he would see that the memory of Thidrek was greatly honored among his people. By nightfall the slave’s body in the casket would be safely concealed beneath the waters of the river, and no one would ever know.

Simone closed the file folder she had been reading in her lap, and leaned back in the overstuffed chair in the sitting room of Father Michael’s rectory. Much of the story of King Alaric was written in published histories, but there were certain details – such as the disappearance of the king’s body - that were only available in the secret archives of Directorate 14, from where this folder had been obtained by Marcel before they left France. She had read it before, soon after being recruited by Marcel for the Directorate; Alaric was Enemy #1 on the hit list and all members of the group were expected to be intimately familiar with his history and profile. This is how she had known that his characteristic odor was that of vanilla. Vampires exuded aromas that made them more attractive to their human prey, but Alaric was the only one that smelled of vanilla spice.

Father Michael was in his study searching for something, and Marcel had gone out to gas up the car and then bring in their equipment when he returned. The housekeeper had been dismissed for the rest of the week. The hunt for Alaric the vampire would soon begin. She opened the folder again and began to review Alaric’s vampire characteristics, knowledge which was based on a very few survivor accounts gathered over the centuries and from the more recent encounter by Michael and Marcel in the Catacombs of Rome which had, until today, thought to have been the end of him. Alaric had been a plague on the world for sixteen centuries, the oldest known vampire.

Marcel came back into the house toting two large black duffel bags, struggling a bit since they were obviously very heavy, and set them down together on the floor with a thump. He walked over to the sofa and plopped down next to his partner. He nodded toward the folder in her lap. “Some light reading, eh, chérie?” She poked him in the side with an elbow.

“There is nothing lightweight about this monster,” she said quite seriously, speaking in French. “I read the report on the battle in the Catacombs. How did he escape? You and the Father reported him as destroyed, and from the account, he should have been.”

“He is nearly indestructible,” Father Michael said in English as he came into the room, carrying a long, narrow wooden box, ornately carved, which he set on the coffee table in front of the two young people on the sofa. “An ancient vampire like Alaric can only be destroyed by two means, either by fire or decapitation.”

Oui,” Marcel agreed. “His strength is now such that he can come and go as he pleases. Sunlight does not bother him, night or day is all the same to Alaric. Crosses, holy water, are deterrents to young vampires, certainement, but only an irritation to him, begging your pardon, Father.”

Michael made a face. “No, it is true, I am afraid. Alaric is so powerfully steeped in evil that sacred objects have little effect. The agent of his destruction must be physical, but I am sure that the wielder must be righteous in the light of our Lord to be successful by any means.”

“We were certain that we had destroyed him in Rome. We burned him,” Marcel addressed Simone. “Our assignment was to rout out a nest of vampires that had infested the Catacombs for centuries, perhaps ever since Alaric was first turned.”

“I ‘ave visited the Catacombs, when I was a girl,” Simone recalled. “My parents took me with them on a passer le vacances - holiday? - to Italy. These catacombs, they are very confusing, all those tunnels cut into the rock volcanique and so many exits, that he escaped, pas étonnant!”

“Yes, indeed, no wonder,” Michael observed dryly. “But he should not have. We knew that there might be dozens, perhaps hundreds of vampires in the maze, and so we took flamethrowers down inside with us. We trapped them in a cul-de-sac, and they burned like so many moths in a candle flame. Alaric was with them, and we burned him, too!”

Marcel’s eyes were glittering with the memory. “I saw him burn. I saw him!”

Father Michael reached over and placed a hand on the young man’s arm. “I saw him burn, too. But obviously it did not destroy him altogether.” He sighed. “I expect that whatever was left from the fire survived, and for such an ancient and powerful vampire, that would suffice. He would have been greatly weakened, but given enough time, could regenerate to once again achieve his full strength.”

Simone’s fists were knotted. “And so now this démon has come to America, to Pleasantview, to hunt you!”

Michael’s eyes were sad. “So it would seem. He must have holed up in the Gray house, using it as his lair, feeding upon the old man at intervals as he continued to strengthen, and selecting victims from across the countryside.”  He took a deep breath, and let it out. “I think he will find that I am not such easy prey.”

Marcel now stood up and walked around the coffee table to the two duffle bags on the floor. “C’est formidable, he may be, but we have brought weapons to deal with him.” He reached down to one of the bags and drew the zipper back. “Plastique, we have, thermite grenades, and many guns.” He rummaged around for a moment and pulled out a sawed-off shotgun. “My personal favorite, ami – with silver buckshot!” He jacked a round into the chamber and a predatory smile stretched his lips. “Would you like to take your pick, Father?”

Father Michael smiled, and shook his head. “Merci, Marcel, but no. I think I will stay with tradition.” He knelt down before the coffee table and unfastened the clasps on the polished wooden box. Slowly he swung back the lid, and reverently took in his right hand that which lay inside. He stood up and raised the glittering blade of the ancient sword to the ceiling.

“Tizona!” he proclaimed. “The legendary sword of El Cid, long hidden among the treasures of the Vatican, and entrusted to me now for many years to combat the evil that lurks among men.”  



Tizona


02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story

continues with Part 4
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PostEaster01 on Tue Feb 21, 2017 8:34 pm


02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016

Part 4



Father Michael slowly lowered the sword, looking slightly embarrassed. “Sorry,” he said, “I just couldn’t resist a little touch of the dramatic.” He grounded the point on the floor of the sitting room.

C’est magnifique!” Simone exclaimed. “May I hold it, s'il vous plaît?”

Michael laid the blade flat on his left palm and offered her the hilt of the sword. “Be careful. It is razor sharp!”

Simone took the hilt carefully in her right hand and held it horizontally at eye level, tilting it back and forth to catch the light. She gingerly touched the edge with her thumb, and then, frowning, stuck it in her mouth.

“Had to test it, didn’t you, ma petite chatte!” Marcel smirked. She glared at him and then lowered the sword to her lap. Tracing the letters engraved on the blade, she addressed Michael. “Ça dit quoi…what does it say, here?”

“That is medieval Castillian: ‘Io soi Tisona fue fecha en la era de mil e quarenta,’ which translates to ‘I am Tizona, made in the year 1040. If you will flip it over, you will see a different message.” Simone obligingly rotated the blade. On this side, the archaic lettering spelled out “Ave Maria – Gratia Plena – Dominus Tecum.”

“I know this!” she exclaimed. “It is the Latin for ‘Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you.’ She crossed herself, quickly. “It is the prayer to the Virgin.”

“Yes,” Father Michael smiled. “This was the greeting of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary when he came to inform her that she had been chosen to bear the Messiah.”

Still holding the sword, she tilted her head slightly. “Does it have, propriétés spéciales, how do you say it…?”

“You mean, is it a magic sword?” She nodded. “No, Simone. It is not like Harry Potter’s wand; there are no holy relics embedded in the hilt, no splinter of the True Cross or tooth from Saint Peter, at least as far as I know. It was forged in Cordoba of Damascus steel by the finest swordsmith of the day.” He paused for a moment, lost in thought. “But this was the favorite sword of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, the great hero who helped to drive the Moors from Spain in the eleventh century, better known as El Cid. I suppose then, that you could say that this blade has been used in the defense of the Christian faith, and that gives it a power none could deny.”

Simone handed the sword back to Michael, who took it and, extracting a cloth from the wooden case, carefully wiped the blade. “The Cid was my ancestor,” he said, “and I am proud to bear this noble blade against the enemies of God.”

He replaced the noble sword in its container, stood up and dusted his hands. “I know you had a long flight from Lyon, and a long drive to Pleasantview. Even if you ate on the way, I am sure you must be quite hungry! We can go into the kitchen and make sandwiches, or there are some restaurants not too far away, if you would prefer…?”

Marcel laughed scornfully. “Michael, mon ami, you want us to make sandwiches? Are we not French?” He grabbed Simone by the hand and jumped up from the couch, dragging her along. “Come, cherie, let us show this Spanish philistine with the pedestrian tastes what a couple of French citizens can do in the kitchen! Allez! Allez!” he exclaimed, and propelled her laughing toward the kitchen door while pointing a finger at the easy chair situated at an angle to the sofa. “You, monsieur, be seated and await the culinary masterpiece which we shall prepare from what I am certain is a disgrace of a kitchen.”

Bemused, Michael sat as ordered as Marcel disappeared through the door, only to pop back into view a moment later to ask, “Eh, Michael, you have wine, no?”

Michael chuckled and said, “Of course, my friend, of course.”

Some time later, they leaned back from their chairs in the kitchen and contemplated the remains of what had been a truly excellent meal. The main course had been a Filet de Porc Sauce Normande, or pork tenderloin sauteed with apples in a brandy cream sauce, complimented by potatoes and steamed green beans and a green salad with vinaigrette dressing. There was plenty of bread and cheese, of course, although Marcel was heard to mutter disparagingly about the inferiority of American sliced white bread. A simple desert of strawberries and vanilla ice cream provided just the right finishing touch. Father Michael topped off their glasses from a bottle of Rioja red wine and then raised his glass in salute. “Simone, Marcel, that was a truly memorable feast. You have done your nation proud.”

Marcel shrugged as his partner beamed her pleasure at the compliment. “Ce n'est rien, it is nothing…we have standards to uphold, after all. Just because you are here in America does not mean you must eat like a barbarian!”  

“We have a difficult day ahead of us tomorrow, mes très bons amis,” Father Michael said. “I suggest that we turn in for the night and get some sleep. Tomorrow we will confront the beast in its lair and ensure its permanent destruction!”

Simone raised her glass for a toast. “To the destruction of le monstre!” They all drank to this pronouncement and pushed their chairs back and stood up. The three warriors busied themselves for a time in straightening the kitchen, and then adjourned to their respective sleeping arrangements. Father Michael tucked the wooden box containing Tizona under his arm and retired to his bedroom, while Simone occupied the overstuffed and comfortable couch. Marcel spread a blanket over her that the priest had provided, and sat down in the easy chair, shotgun across his lap. He was a light sleeper and used to sleeping in all manner of harsh environments, and this soft chair was certainly no hardship. In very little time, all three had crossed over into slumber.

It was an hour past midnight, and the moon was full and bright in the night sky. Father Michael Mendez, warrior priest and heir to the fabled Cid, tossed and turned fitfully in his bed, tormented by nightmare visions. He swam in a crimson ocean of blood, and the taste was salt and copper in his mouth. The screams of his victims rang in his ears, and he took only pleasure in their pain. In the adjacent room, Marcel stirred unhappily in his sleep, his chin tucked down on his chest, and Simone moaned and shifted on the couch, her legs moving as if she tried to flee some horrific phantom.

Michael suddenly sat upright in bed, his night shirt and bedding soaked with sweat, an overwhelming sense of danger bringing every sense to full alert. Outside the window, a pale face peered into the room, dimly lit and deeply shadowed in the moonlight, the body hidden in darkness.

I see you, priest. The voice was a whisper inside his head.

Instinctively, Father Michael reached quickly to his bedtable and snatched up the chain of rosary beads that lay atop his Bible, and closed his hand around the silver cross at the end.

Your religious trinkets cannot protect you, priest, nor your two friends who lie sleeping. I know that they are not what they seem to be, but they cannot help you.

“Spawn of Satan, your days are numbered,” Michael said, softly. “No longer will you pollute the earth with your presence.”

There was a harsh chuckle, as brittle as dry leaves crushed in the hand. I have lived for a hundred generations of men, and when you are but dust and long forgotten, I will still be here.

At this last, the pale face at the window vanished from view, and the foul presence in his mind was gone. Then, it came again, once more, faintly as if from a great distance: The little French girl. She looks…delicious. Again came the mocking laughter, and then he heard no more.

Moments later, Marcel and Simone burst into the room, both armed with shotguns, to find Father Michael on his knees on the floor, facing the crucifix hanging on the wall opposite his bed, head bowed and deep in prayer.

After Michael had related his account of the unwelcome visitation, they sat for a while in silence, and then went back to bed, more determined than ever to make an end of the ancient evil. But sleep would not come again. Uneasy, Marcel and Simone sat together on the sofa, cradling their shotguns and listening to the sounds of the night, and Father Michael lay awake in his bed, holding Tizona across his chest.

An hour after sunrise, when they were beginning to stir, there was a hesitant knock at the door. Father Michael bade his guests to remain out of sight and went to the door, holding the Damascus sword out of sight as he unlatched the door and opened it a crack. On the step was an officer of the Pleasantville police department, holding his hat tucked beneath his arm and about to knock again on the door.

Michael quietly leaned Tizona against the wall just to the right of the door frame, and opened the door a little wider. “Officer Kelly, good morning. What is it that brings you to my house so early in the morning?”

Kelly cleared his throat, clearly uncomfortable. “It’s the Perez family, Father. Across the street.”

“Yes, I know them well,” Michael said. “They are members of my parish. Is something wrong?” Over Kelly's shoulder, he could see a half-dozen police cars and the coroner's wagon in front of the Perez house. He had a sick feeling in his gut.

“Yes sir, there is something very wrong. The lieutenant sent me to fetch you. We have need of your services.” He swallowed hard, and then continued. “They’re dead, father. All of them. The lieutenant thought that, since they’re your parishioners, you would want to give last rites, now that the M.E. is finished with them.”

Michael felt dizzy, and reached out to take hold of the door frame to steady himself. “Dead? Are you sure? The children too? What has happened?”

“They were murdered in their beds, Father. Their necks were snapped, every one.”

Michael swayed on the doorstep, and would have fallen had not Kelly reached out quickly to hold onto his shirt front. He took a deep breath, and then said, “I’ll be there in a moment.”




02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story

continues with Part 5
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PostBroomhilda61 on Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:36 pm

I remember this story.. f had to read it again..it's worth reading over and over watermelon watermelon

Now I am a bit confused on where everything is at..ok off to find your stories.. dogwalk



Thank you so much Crissi, it's beautiful
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Postcroiduire on Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:45 pm

*gulp* O.O
Excellent story! I can't wait for the next chapter!



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PostEaster01 on Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:52 pm

Sam,

I divided my stories into two separate albums. The first album will be 'The Father Michael's Saga' which will have five separate stories with the Directorate 14 team.  

My short stories will be combined in the second album. YAY!

Easter01

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PostBroomhilda61 on Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:55 pm

Ok..cool..I can't wait till you put up a new part for this story..I really love, love this story.. summerB7



Thank you so much Crissi, it's beautiful
~hugs and smiles my dear, dear BFF's~
I am so proud of all of you..
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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Wed Feb 22, 2017 2:02 am

OOOOoooo!!!! And, more OOOOOoooo!!!

glasses

(where did the eating popcorn emoti/giffie go?)



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3
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PostBroomhilda61 on Wed Feb 22, 2017 8:17 am

my hips don't need the popcorn lol..I took up watermelon instead lol..and you know I just realized that as well..where did the popcorn go..



Thank you so much Crissi, it's beautiful
~hugs and smiles my dear, dear BFF's~
I am so proud of all of you..
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Postszanne7000 on Wed Feb 22, 2017 9:55 am

I have no idea - Tilly must have made room for the newer emoti/giffie thingies (what DO you call them?).

Oh, well... watermelon it is! watermelon watermelon watermelon



Thank you, Crissi, for my beautiful signature <3
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PostEaster01 on Wed Feb 22, 2017 3:02 pm


02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016

Part 5



Marcel and Simone were in the sitting room watching the news coverage of the Perez massacre on the tiny television in the corner when Father Michael returned. The media did not have any facts yet and so, as usual, were filling air time with mostly inaccurate speculation while they waited. In just the short time that Michael had been gone, the crowd before the house had swelled with curious bystanders and members of the press. The network cameraman zoomed in on the front of the house to show a body draped with a white sheet being wheeled out to the Medical Examiner’s van. Simone was biting her knuckles, her eyes wide as she watched. “Oh mon Dieu,” she breathed, “So small…c’est terrible!” Marcel was grim-faced, his jaw clenched in anger.

Father Michael opened the front door and walked slowly into the sitting room and just stood there, his eyes closed. He heaved a great sigh and turned to the two young people on the couch. “A police detective will be coming by shortly to take our statements. I would have preferred to avoid official notice of your presence here, but there is no help for it now. They will be questioning everyone on the block. I told the lieutenant that you are friends from Europe who are visiting me for a while.” He rubbed the back of his head, wearily. “It should not take very long. We saw and heard nothing, and so that is what we shall say.”

He turned and walked into his bedroom and shut the door. Standing in front of the antique maple dresser, Michael opened the top drawer and then carefully removed and folded his purple stole. He took the crucifix from around his neck, kissed it reverently, and placed it in the drawer on top of the stole. Pushing the drawer closed, he stood for a moment, swaying slightly, and then sank to his knees, clutching the top of the dresser with both hands. Lord, he thought, give me the strength that I need, so that no more need die at the hands of this foul creature. A moment passed, and then another, and he rose to his feet and went back out into the sitting room.

The television was off, and Simone rose from her seat on the sofa to hand him a cup of steaming coffee from the low table. “Take this, Père Michael, and sit down.”

“Tell us what has happened,” Marcel added. “Was it the work of le monstre?”

He accepted the cup gratefully and sank into the easy chair beside the sofa. “How could it not be? Dios mio, the children….” He stared down into the cup cradled in his two hands. “They were good people, Diego and Antonia Perez, strong in their faith. They had three children, Mateo, Maria and Sara. Just last year I baptized little Sara….” His voice trailed off, and the room was silent. A wave of despair washed over him. He was but a mortal man; how could he hope to prevail against an all-but-immortal monster so depraved, so evil, that it could take the life of an infant without remorse?

As if sensing his thoughts, Simone got up off the sofa and came to kneel before him, placing her hands around his on the cup. He raised his head, and she locked eyes with him, as she said, softly, “The battle against evil is eternal, Père, but God has not left his children without power in this fight. If we do not confront this démon diabolique, who is there that can?

Michael stared down into those deep blue pools of warmth, amazed. Such wisdom in one so young. He closed his eyes again for a moment, and then opened them again, filled with a new resolve. The fit of despondency that had overtaken him was gone; now his heart, and his eyes, were filled with anger. He set the coffee on the table, untasted, and stood up. “We have work to do, mes amies, a monster to destroy.”

It was the middle of the afternoon before the crowd had dispersed and they were able to leave the house to seek out Alaric. The police detective, a chubby but sharp-eyed man in a rumpled brown suit whom Michael had not met before, had perched himself in the easy chair with a notebook in his lap and questioned them for the better part of an hour before he was satisfied that they had seen nothing of note. “Of course, nobody thinks you had anything to do with this terrible crime, Father,” he had said, “but we are interviewing everyone in the neighborhood.” He had closed his notebook with a snap. “I just can’t imagine what sort of monster would do such a thing as this.”

For their part, no imagination was necessary; they knew full well what was responsible. Once the detective had taken his leave, Simone kept watch on the street while Marcel and Michael made preparations to challenge Alaric in his lair. Marcel pulled out two empty backpacks from the duffel bags he had carried into the rectory on the previous day and set about filling them with a selection of weapons and other items from the bags. By three o’clock, Simone judged that the neighborhood was clear enough to depart without drawing much attention; all but one of the official vehicles were now gone, and the sidewalks empty of onlookers.

They left by the side door, where the church van was parked in the driveway beside the rectory. All three were wearing long coats, not only because the weather was cool but for concealment of what they wore beneath. Father Michael took the seat behind the wheel, while Marcel climbed into the passenger side and Simone took the spot directly behind the driver, the backpacks on the seat beside her. The drive to Starling Lane, at the edge of town, was brief, and Michael parked the van just down the street from the house. The sky was overcast, threatening rain, and the street deserted. They sat in the van for a little while, silently observing the weather-beaten old house. To Michael’s eyes, it looked the same as always, showing no external sign that it harbored a fiend.

“This is the place, ami?” Marcel asked. Michael did not reply, but only nodded as he continued to study the structure, then quietly asked, “Are we ready?” Hearing affirmatives from both, he opened the door and stepped out. Marcel and Simone did likewise, and once outside, each donned one of the backpacks. Marcel reached back into the van and brought out Tizona, which he handed to Michael. The Father tucked the long naked blade beneath his coat, and the three started up the sidewalk toward No. 2 Starling Lane, Michael leading the way.

They paused at the broken gate before the house. It was time. Alaric’s visitation during the night had unsettled them all, and they did not know if they could survive a confrontation with such a powerful vampire. Michael pushed open the gate, and they walked down the weedy but well-trodden path to the side door, the only way into the house. Here, on the small wooden porch, Marcel and Simone turned their backs on one another and unzipped each other’s backpack, taking out shotguns loaded with silver buckshot. They unbuttoned their coats to reveal, slung crosswise across their chest, bandoliers of extra shells, as Father Michael brought the great Spanish sword out from beneath his coat. Each now also held a powerful flashlight, since there was no electric in the house.

“We stay together, is that clear?” he said. “Alaric is far too powerful for any one of us to challenge alone.” They had covered this before, while making plans earlier in the day, but with all three of them now riding an adrenalin peak, a reminder could not hurt. As his companions nodded their agreement, he crossed himself with studied formality, as did Marcel and Simone. Michael reached out and turned the doorknob; a gentle push and the weather-beaten door swung slowly open with creaking hinges and came to rest. They had all studied the floor plan of the house, and all knew what to do. They were used to working as part of a team, although not all three together. Michael and Marcel had worked together, many times, in operations against the enemies of human kind, although not since the action in Rome against Alaric three years before. Since then, Marcel had been partnered with Simone.  

The door opened onto a small foyer; directly ahead were stairs leading up to bedrooms on the second floor, and to the left a narrow hallway that went down the center of the house, with rooms on left and right and, at the end, opened into the living room. The determined priest stepped forward quickly into the foyer, sword held upright in a two-handed grip, and looked quickly to the left and then up the stairs. On his signal, Marcel and Simone slipped in behind him, shotguns held ready, and went left into the hallway while the priest continued to watch the staircase. Here they paused while their vision adjusted to the dim light coming in from the door and the dirty window next to the bottom of the stairs. Michael backed toward, them, keeping the stairs in his sight, and silently pointed to the first door on the right, a small bathroom. Marcel nudged the door open with his foot, shotgun held level, while Simone shone her flashlight inside, over his shoulder. Marcel shook his head.

One by one, they cleared the two remaining rooms, kitchen and dining area, and came together into the living room at the end, the largest space in the house. This room was well-lighted from the dim sunshine streaming in the huge, floor-to-ceiling bay window. Like all the rooms, the living room was draped with cobwebs and a fine layer of dust lay over the heavy Victorian furniture. The floor was cluttered with large stacks of magazines, newspapers and old books, and piles of assorted junk hoarded over a lifetime by the previous human occupant. They could hear the scuttle of rats, moving unseen through the debris, but there was no evidence of the vampire on the lower floor. Time to move upstairs.

There was a spiral staircase in one corner of the living room. From his previous visits, Michael knew that this led up to an interior balcony that overlooked the lower room, which had been used as a library and appeared, if possible, to be even more cluttered. The entire width of the balcony was visible from below, and obviously empty.

“I cannot smell ‘eem,” Simone whispered. “There is no vanilla!”

Marcel tilted his head back and sampled the air. “There is blood, though…” he said, barely audible.

Michael signaled a return to the staircase at the other end of the house. Without relaxing their caution, they moved carefully down the hall, Michael in the lead, to the bottom of the stairs. They paused at the bottom, listening intently for any sound. While ascending, they would be especially vulnerable to attack from above. Marcel now moved into the lead position, followed by Simone, since Michael would be unable to use the sword effectively in the narrow space but a shotgun blast would be quite devastating. Halfway up, the young Frenchman halted, holding up a hand for silence. They listened, but heard only the muted sound of wind sighing in the trees and the normal creaking of an old wooden house.

As he came up to the top of the stairs, Marcel could see into the room above through the bottom of the bannister. The room was nearly devoid of furniture save for a single bed with a small table and a wardrobe on the opposite side. He could also see through the open door of the small bathroom at the top of the stairs. Nothing suspicious in sight. Marcel moved quickly up into the room and motioned for the others to follow.

The only possible hiding place remaining was the wardrobe. Marcel and Simone aimed their shotguns at the front of the wardrobe as Father Michael quietly grasped the door handle. Marcel nodded, and the Father flung the door open quickly to reveal the interior. The French vampire hunter nearly discharged his weapon inadvertently as a rat leaped out and raced across the floor to disappear down the stairwell. Michael stepped forward and prodded with his sword point among the moldy clothing hanging inside the wardrobe, but there was nothing else there. He stepped back and let the sword droop toward the floor.

They exchanged glances. Marcel shrugged and tilted the barrel of his shotgun over his shoulder. “He is not here, ami,” he said.  

Michael shook his head. “He was here, I know it! I could feel his presence strongly the last time I was here, and the scent of vanilla was unmistakable. He was feeding on the old man Gray; of that there can be no doubt. I cannot believe we have found no sign of him.” He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. “We are missing something, somehow.”

Simone was studying the wall that divided the upper floor in half. “There is another floor, above this, est-il pas?” She rapped on the lathe-and-plaster wall. “How does one get there?”

Michael considered, and then exclaimed, “You are right! There is a third story, with a dormer that sticks out from the roof. I never made the connection…it never really occurred to me that something was missing.” He scratched his head and looked around the room. “There should be another stairway, somewhere.”

Marcel and Simone looked at each other and said, simultaneously, “Secret passage!”

“Yes, but where?” Michael said. “I have been all over this place in the last few months and saw no indication.” He walked over to stand beside Simone and began running his hands over the wall. The dingy wallpaper was hanging in shreds, but there did not seem to be any sort of door outline apparent.

Ami, it has to be the other side,” Marcel said. “Those bookcases could easily conceal some sort of hidden door.”

Oui!” Simone hissed. “And that is where we will find le vampire!”

They retraced their steps, down to the ground floor and back to the living room. In the corner was the spiral stairway leading up to the balcony. Marcel went up first, shotgun at the ready, followed by Father Michael, whose sword would be all but useless within the spiral. Simone remained below for the time it took them to reach the balcony, covering them with her own shotgun, then came up quickly once they had reached the top. Marcel moved to the far end of the balcony and Simone stayed close to the stairway, while Michael began pushing and pulling at the bookcases. “Father,” Marcel said quietly, “if anything comes out of there, you drop to the floor, comprenez-vous? I would not like to hit you in a cross-fire.”

Bien sûr,” the priest murmured, intent on figuring out the puzzle. He reached the central part of the balcony and tugged on the bookcase there, and it swung silently open. “As easy as that,” Michael said, wonderingly, and pushed it all the way open, the edge barely clearing the reading table at the edge of the balcony. Beyond the opening, the space was nearly lightless. He motioned for Marcel and Simone to join him. “We’ll need our flashlights here,” he said.

Marcel glanced quickly into the opening. “*&%$@,” he muttered. “This is as bad as the Catacombs.” He glanced at Michael. “Sorry, Father,” he apologized.

“You are right…this would be a bad place for an ambush.” Michael shone his light into the doorway. The opposite wall was only about three feet away. “Marcel, après vous…”

Marcel sighed and worked his muscular shoulders briefly, then stepped inside the hidden passage. Simone, close behind, shined her light over his shoulder, illuminating the end of the passage. Dust motes drifted in the beam from her flashlight. At the far end, Marcel could see a pale square of light in the ceiling. He swore again, quietly but with great feeling. “There is an opening in the ceiling, and a ladder leading upward,” he informed his companions in a low whisper. “Looks like a great place to get killed.”

Fais voir,” Simone whispered. Be careful.

No help for it, he thought, in French. Somebody has to go up that ladder, and it looks like I’m elected. Sure could use a flash-bang grenade right about now.

Softly, slowly, he walked toward the ladder. Michael and Simone remained outside the bookcase entrance, weapons ready. If Marcel needed to get out in a hurry they would only block the way if they were in the passage, making everyone more vulnerable. The Frenchman peered up at the hole, his shotgun pointed vertically, and then placed one foot on the first step of the ladder. He hated this; he would need one hand to climb the ladder, leaving the sawed-off shotgun to be held in the other hand. He would not know what he was about to climb into until his eyes came above the floor level, and then it might be too late.

One step at a time, he ascended the ladder, listening carefully. As he approached the top, Marcel hunched down, just a little, and then, when his shoulders had reached the level of the ceiling, he popped his head up for a quick one-second scan, and down again. Reassured that there was no fiend immediately above, ready to pounce, he went quickly up the remaining steps. In the gray light filtering through the filthy dormer window he could see that the room was empty of any other occupant…except for one very disturbing item. Marcel stood up and looked down at the bed, and clucked his tongue, then turned back to the hole in the floor. He went to his knees and called out to his companions to join him. “The vampire is not here,” he said, his voice angry. “But he has left us a gift. C'est mauvais. It is very, very bad.”

In a very short time, all three were standing in the little dormer room, looking down at the bed. Resting against the pillow was a human head, mouth open in a frozen expression of horror. Blood was everywhere, drenching the blanket covering the bed, splashed across the walls in great gouts like the efforts of an insane artist. There was no sign of a body anywhere in the room.

Father Michael stood like a statue, his face ashen. Tizona fell from his fingers and clattered on the floor.

Marcel placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder, while Simone came in close and leaned her head against the priest, her arm around his waist.

“It is your housekeeper, n’est-ce pas?” Marcel said in a low voice, remembering the smiling Hispanic woman who had, yesterday, directed them to the library to find the Father.

Still Father Michael could not speak.

They waited in silence for the priest to regain his composure. At last, Michael shook himself slightly, and walked slowly over to the bed. He reached out his hand and gently touched the cheek of the dead woman. “Her name was Rosa,” he said. “She was one of the most kind-hearted souls I have ever known.”

He slowly lowered himself to his knees beside the bed. “Please, my friends. Let us say a prayer for Rosa.” Marcel and Simone knelt, and joined Michael in a prayer for the slain housekeeper. They crossed themselves at the end, and rose to their feet.

Marcel looked straight at Michael and cleared his throat. “You know, Father, you cannot tell the police about this. Not yet.”

Michael was startled. “Why not?”

“This morning, a family across the street from you was killed in their beds. Now, here is another victim, one that is closely connected to you. Do you see what I mean?”

Reluctantly, Michael nodded his head. “I do. The police would focus their investigation on me, and upon the two of you as my guests. We cannot afford the spotlight, because we would then be unable to pursue Alaric.”

“And more people would die,” Simone said.

“And more would die,” Michael agreed. “But what shall we do,” he gestured at the blood-soaked room, “about all this? I cannot bear to leave her like this!”

Marcel shook his head. “Father, we must. Do you not see this? Anything we might do would only make you look guilty when this crime comes to the attention of your police. I suggest we simply leave everything as we have found it, and wait for her to be discovered by someone else, perhaps the men who will be working on the renovation? You will report her missing, on Monday, when she does not return.”

Father Michael looked as though he had bitten into something very sour. “I suppose you are right.”

Simone now spoke up. “Père Michael, ‘e is playing with you, le monstre.”

He regarded her gravely. “I know. He wants to torment me. I greatly fear that more of the people I care about may die before we can stop him.” He looked back at the bed, with its grisly occupant. “I shudder to think what he may have done with her body.”

Marcel looked at him squarely, then shrugged. “Michael, it is entirely possible that, when we return to your home, we will find the poor woman’s body in your bed, or in your chair. We know what he is capable of.”

Michael shivered involuntarily. “Que Dios se apiade! I certainly hope not.”

“Indeed,” Marcel said. “May God have mercy.”

The sun was lowering in the sky when they finally returned to the rectory, in a very subdued mood. They made a quick search of the premises and were very relieved to find no more unpleasant surprises.

Marcel and Simone were seated again on the sofa, the Father in his chair, as they discussed what to do next.

“He was not at the Gray house, and we have no way to know when or if he might return,” Father Michael summarized. “We must find him, and quickly. I am afraid, my friends, that I must place this burden upon you.”

Marcel glanced out the window. The sun had disappeared beneath the horizon, and the darkness was gathering rapidly. “Leave it to us, Father. Now that it is night, we will be able to move freely through the town without causing excitement, and will have full use of all of our senses. We will find this foul démon, no matter where he hides!”

Michael nodded, once. “I will be here when you return. Fais voir, my friends, be careful! He is fast and smart, and the night is his element.” He walked into the kitchen and stood by the back door and waited for his two French friends.

He flung the door open wide as two jet-black panthers stalked into the room, tails lashing. Massively muscled, one just slightly larger than the other, both over two hundred pounds of pure feline ferocity. He threw them a salute. “Vaya con Dios,” he said, as they raced out into the night.




02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story

continues with Part 6
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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Wed Feb 22, 2017 4:08 pm

That vanilla-smelling vampire is NOT nice...

Poor Rosa!



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PostBroomhilda61 on Wed Feb 22, 2017 4:55 pm

So far Easter's Father Michael's stories are my favorite..and hope she never gives up on them...lol..



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PostEaster01 on Wed Feb 22, 2017 8:37 pm


02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016

Part 6




Father Michael was seated in his favorite easy chair in the sitting room, reading yet again through the Directorate 14 file on Alaric as he awaited the return of Marcel and Simone from their scouting mission. He was not particularly concerned about the safety of his friends, for although a very old vampire like Alaric was incredibly strong and frighteningly fast, so were they in their panther forms, and they had each other for support. Michael had also made it clear that the mission parameters were simply to locate the vampire, not engage, and he trusted Marcel’s good sense.

He closed the file and tossed it onto the coffee table, and then leaned back in his chair, letting his thoughts drift back to the first time he had seen Marcel. It had been Barcelona, in 2010…no, it had been in the summer of ’11, when he was only twenty-six, fresh out of the Seminario Mayor de Barcelona and a newly ordained priest. Unlike most priests, however, he was not destined for a quiet life in some parish tending to souls in need of God’s guidance. His mentor at seminary, frail old Father Raphael, had seen something special in him, a fire and passion to combat evil more directly, and so he had become an arm of the Lord, a warrior priest.

Centuries ago, the Church had established an order of warrior priests to battle supernatural beings, wherever they might be found, on the assumption that all such were intrinsically evil by nature. This earnest but misguided approach had led to the slaughter of innocents, both human and non-human. Cases in point were the witch hunts that began with the founding of the order in the mid-fifteenth century and persisted for more than three hundred years, and the widespread killing of cats and other animals assumed to be demonic conduits and associates of witches.

In modern times, the Church had become aware that not all non-humans were malignant, shape-shifters for example, and had altered its mission to the pursuit of those who engaged in high crimes against humanity, actual rather than perceived. At about the same time there was a dawning awareness among law-enforcement agencies that some of the crimes in their jurisdictions were being committed by those who were, perhaps, not exactly human. This knowledge could never be admitted to the public, of course, but in due time the secular agencies found common ground in a partnership with the Church. And so it came about, that the Church’s warrior order was absorbed by a new branch of Interpol, Directorate 14, created for the purpose of investigating supernatural crimes.

Father Raphael had called him into his study on his last day at the seminary and, from behind his desk with Michael seated opposite, carefully explained these weighty matters. At first astonished, Michael soon listened with growing enthusiasm as the Father elaborated in Spanish upon the new and important role in which he would serve Mother Church.

“As yet you have no experience in combat,” the old man had said, “but you will receive training from those who have fought these evil creatures, many times.” Raphael stood up, carefully, for age had taken a heavy toll upon him and he was not as agile as he once was, and walked slowly to an ornate cabinet standing against the wall. Opening the door, he removed a wooden box, long and narrow and covered with a delicate inlaid gold filigree, and handed it to Michael. “The Church has a gift for you, to aid you in this quest. Please, open it.”

Michael took the box gently from the frail priest, and set it on the edge of Raphael’s desk. There were two latches on the front, and he carefully released each one and then swung the lid open. Nestled inside on a bed of red velvet cloth was a magnificent sword. As Michael removed the sword with wonder and reverence, Father Raphael said, “Behold, my son, the great Tizona, the weapon of choice of Our Cid!”  

Michael was shocked beyond measure, and could not speak. He had long been secretly proud to carry the blood of El Cid, but to actually hold in his two hands the actual sword that once was wielded by the greatest hero in Spanish history?

Father Raphael remained standing. “There is a ‘Tizona’ on display at the Museo de Armeria de Alava in the city of Vitoria. It is a fake,” he said, dryly. “The real Tizona has been hidden away in the vaults of the Vatican for eight hundred years. The Church knows of your lineage, and when it became clear to us that your calling lay among the warriors of God, the decision was made to allow you to bear this blade in pursuit of this holy work.”

Michael swallowed, and then bowed his head. “Father, I am honored far beyond any words I could imagine. I will not fail the trust the Church has placed in me.” He admired the bright silvery sheen of the blade, gleaming in the sunlight streaming through the tall windows of the study, and, rather reluctantly, returned it to its nest of velvet, closed the lid, and fastened it securely.

“Now, I would like to introduce you to someone who will take you from this place and begin your warrior training.” Raphael walked over to the tall, ornately carved doors of his study, opened one, and beckoned to a young man who had been patiently waiting in the corridor. The man rose from his seat and walked inside, where he and Michael looked each over carefully, each taking the measure of the other. The newcomer saw a young man in a priest’s collar and a lightweight black cassock who was thin, but wiry in an athletic manner, with a look of intelligence in his eyes. Michael saw a well-muscled young man in street clothes with a shaggy mane of chestnut hair who radiated a calm confidence. They smiled, both liking what they saw in the other.

Father Raphael also smiled. “Michael, this is Marcel Guillon,” he gestured, “of Interpol’s Directorate 14. He is an able warrior and can teach you many things about how to battle the enemies of humanity, and most importantly, how to survive to continue serving God.” He patted Marcel on the shoulder. “Marcel, here, has some very special abilities, but I think I will allow him to inform you of the nature of these, in his own time.” He now waved a blue-veined hand toward Michael. “This is the young priest of whom I spoke. I would like you to meet Michael Mendez, one of the most promising students we have had here in many years. His heart is devoted to God, and filled with a desire to protect the weak from the depredations of evil minds.”

The two men shook hands, and thus began a friendship that would sustain them in many dark and dangerous places over the years ahead.

Father Michael, reminiscing in his comfortable chair in his Pleasantview home, glanced down at the coffee table where Tizona lay bare, ready to hand in case of sudden need. He had left the kitchen door slightly ajar, so that when his friends returned from their nocturnal expedition they would be able to slip quickly inside without having to wait for him to open the door. Being able to change into their panther forms gave them many advantages, but lacking hands they were unable to deal with things like doors. Still, there was a risk of being surprised by an intruder, so he kept the sword close by. As he reflected upon the beauty of the historic blade, he was momentarily startled when a furry body leaped into his lap, a long-haired, affectionate calico cat named Molly, returned from one of her nightly excursions in search of small prey. She immediately started kneading his legs with her sharp claws, prickles that he was easily able to ignore, accompanied by a loud rumbling purr. Turning around twice, she finally settled down for a nap, and he was able to return to his musings.

His first mission took place six months after leaving the seminary in the company of his new mentor. Marcel had taken him to Interpol headquarters in Lyon, and there he had been added to the roster of Directorate 14 and received the necessary training for fieldwork. A significant part of his training had been in swordplay, since this would be his primary weapon and he had no previous experience. As in seminary, Michael had distinguished himself in his studies in this new environment; he was no genius, but he worked hard and rapidly absorbed not only combat skills but also the lore, both legendary and factual, concerning the non-humans that he might encounter on missions. He was still a “newbie,” as newcomers were often called in many organizations, but his instructors were quite pleased with his progress and confident that he would be able to handle himself in the field with minimum risk to himself or to his companions.

As was protocol for trainees, his first assignment was intended to be a “breaking-in” that was not particular hazardous but still considered necessary for public safety. Michael and Marcel boarded an Interpol jet for Romania to seek out and destroy a young vampire who was causing great alarm among the rural population. Although the prime directive of the Directorate was to only apply lethal force to those non-humans who were a “clear and present danger” to humans, seeking less permanent remedies where possible, vampires were always the exception to this policy. There simply was no such thing as a harmless vampire. Humans were their natural prey, and vampire numbers were capable of increasing swiftly. So the nosferatu and their like were relentlessly hunted and destroyed wherever they could be found.  

The irony of hunting a vampire in south-central Romania, a land so closely associated with popularizing the vampire legend in the public mind, did not escape Father Michael, but this creature certainly was no Dracula. It was a relatively simple exercise: locate, exterminate, and move on. It was here that Michael learned about the “very special” abilities that Father Raphael had so mysteriously alluded to when he first met Marcel in the old man’s study. He had a feeling that this was a deliberate oversight on Marcel’s part, designed to see just how he would react in the field to being confronted with something new and very surprising. They were on a dirt track some fifteen kilometers south of Brasov, in a rented 1998 four-wheel drive ARO-10, driving along in a dense beech forest with darkly vegetated and towering mountains on either side. Marcel suddenly stopped the car. “I smell the vampire,” he said in French.

Michael was incredulous. “You smell him? How can you smell a vampire?”

Marcel only smiled. “We will find him quickly now,” he said, and stepped out of the car. Michael shook his head and likewise opened his door and emerged, only to discover that Marcel was taking off his clothing, folding them neatly and laying them in the back seat of the ARO. “When I return, we shall go and slay the thing, together.” As he stripped completely, Michael leaned back against the car and began wondering if perhaps his mentor had lost his mind. In the next moment, he had cause to doubt his own sanity as Marcel stretched, fingers locked together, and then dropped to all fours on the ground…and his body rippled and deformed swiftly, until at last Michael was staring, his mouth open, at the form of a huge, black panther. The panther turned his head to the priest, giving him a large feline grin that showed some very sharp teeth, and then loped off into the forest.

“Special abilities, indeed,” Michael muttered. He reached into the back of the vehicle and took Tizona out of her case, and, rolling his eyes, propped it over his shoulder as he awaited the return of his friend.

The elimination of the vampire was simple after that, although not quite in the manner Marcel had indicated. Instead, Marcel dragged the squalling creature by one leg back out of the forest to the road as it flailed about and struck at him to no avail. The panther deposited the vampire directly in front of Michael and then sat back on its haunches, much as if to say, “Okay, your turn.” The priest snorted, then stepped forward as it struggled to rise and took off its head with a single stroke of the sword.  

Marcel resumed his human form, and as he dressed, said, “Not so difficult, the young ones.”

There were many missions after that, taking them to distant locations across the European continent: Antwerp, Paris, Warsaw, Valencia, Berlin, and many different types of non-human criminals, not always vampires. At last, in 2013, came the assignment to Rome where a large nest of vampires had been reported inhabiting the Catacombs beneath the city, led by a vampire of unusual strength and cunning. There had always been vampires in the maze of tunnels beneath the city, ever since the days of the Caesars, but this group had become particularly energetic of late and irritating to the civil authorities of Rome, due in no small part to an annoying habit of leaving blood-drained bodies where they could be discovered by tourists. The outcome of that mission had been…less than satisfactory. Although they had made a significant dent in the vampire population, the leader had, somehow, escaped the trap they thought they had made.

That was the first time that Marcel had ever encountered the vampire Alaric, but there was little doubt as to his identity. There had been many reports, over the centuries, of an especially powerful and vicious vampire in Europe, that had been collected by first, the Vatican, and later shared with the Directorate. Most of the sightings had been in Rome, which was apparently the monster’s favorite haunt; those few who survived close encounters all reported an unusually strong and enticing scent of vanilla spice, the signature of this particular vampire. The evidence had been gradually pieced together; this was the ancient vampire Alaric, the erstwhile conqueror of Rome, sixteen centuries before. Search as they might, the two vampire hunters had been unable to pick up his trail.

Not long after the Rome assignment, Michael had received new orders from Directorate 14 that promoted him and sent him to the New World. The Directorate needed stronger representation in the Americas, especially in the Old South and in Central America, which were hotspots for non-human criminal activity. Unfortunately, law enforcement officials in the United States, especially the FBI, tended to be more skeptical of the supernatural and less cooperative with Interpol on such matters, which they usually dismissed with scorn. So, Michael had been sent undercover to serve as the parish priest at St. Joseph’s Church in Pleasantview, a role which he took equally as seriously as that of warrior for God. His mission was multi-faceted. He was to keep an eye out for supernatural criminal activity and deal with any minor crises that were within his capabilities; to serve as a facilitator for Directorate personnel who had been assigned missions in his section of the States; and to recruit from among the local population those who might assist him with his work.

Michael’s first challenge came only a few weeks after he had settled in at the rectory, when he received a cryptic phone call from Marcel. Using a code that would sound harmless to anyone eavesdropping, Marcel told him of a fugitive from Marseilles who had committed some small crimes and fled to the United States to avoid being arrested by agents of the Directorate. The fugitive was thought to be in the region near Pleasantview, trying to blend in with the local population. His mission was to apprehend, not terminate, the non-human felon, since he was neither a vicious or hard-core offender, and hold him long enough for the Directorate to arrange for extraction.

When he hung up the phone, Michael stood by it for a moment, considering his approach. A loups-garou, he thought. That’s a new one for me. He walked into his bedroom and opened the cabinet in which he kept his private library, running his fingers over the spines of the volumes until he came to the one he thought would contain the information he needed. He brought the well-fingered text back to the sitting room and eased down into his favorite chair, flipped through a few pages, and started reading.

The loups-garou, he recalled, was one of the many different categories of shape shifters, but he remembered little else about their characteristics. He now read that most people considered the loups-garou and the werewolf to be the same thing, but there were actually many important differences. The werewolf could not control its change into the shape of a wolf; this was dictated by the moon, and in this form, was more animal than human and often prone to violence. The werewolf population across the world was numerous, but pack leaders endeavored to keep the violent urges of their members in check so as not to draw the attention of either civil authorities or the Directorate. They were mostly law-abiding, although there were certainly werewolf outlaws from time to time.

An altogether different proposition, the loups-garou were not under the domination of the moon and could change into wolf form and back any time they pleased, and as wolves retained full human consciousness and intelligence. This meant that these shape-shifters were potentially far more dangerous than werewolves, but as a general rule, loups-garou were peaceable sorts despite an undeserved reputation for malicious behavior.

This particular loups-garou was but a teen-ager who had responded rather foolishly to bullying at his school by changing into wolf form one night and assaulting his worst tormentor. The other boy had been badly injured, but survived the attack and was expected to fully recover; although no doubt would be plagued with vivid nightmares for years to come. Nevertheless, the young loups-garou had been frightened by what he had allowed himself to do, and fearful of the consequences, and so had pilfered a credit card from his parents and fled to the United States. The goal here was to return the lupine offender to Europe intact, to face not only disciplinary justice at the hands of the Directorate, but also the wrath of his parents and his pack.

It had been quite a challenge to locate this youthful loups-garou by himself, without the aid of Marcel, but Father Michael had finally managed to track him down and confront him. In the end, the youth had been quite contrite and, feeling lonely and isolated in a strange country, had been more than willing to allow himself to be bundled off to the airport with a Directorate agent as escort, who had flown in from Lyon at Michael’s request. His skillful handling of the assignment confirmed the Directorate’s faith in his abilities, and also convinced them that more personnel were definitely needed on the far side of the Atlantic.

There was a small sound from the kitchen and Michael leaned over and placed his fingertips on the hilt of the sword, then relaxed as two jet-black forms silently glided into the room. On his lap, Molly roused and took one look at the intruders and bristled up to twice her normal size, and then dived under the sofa and was seen no more that night. The two panthers twined about in the small space, rubbing affectionately against one another, and then sat back expectantly, yellow eyes bright. Michael nodded a greeting and, rising, walked into the kitchen to secure the outside door and to allow them privacy in order to change back into their human forms and don their clothing. He had just put a kettle on to boil water for tea and set out cups on the table when they walked back into the kitchen as Marcel and petite Simone.

“We ‘ave found ‘eem!” Simone blurted out, before he could ask. “Le monstre has sought refuge in…une caverne? outside of your town.”

Marcel nodded his agreement, and added, “We did not see him, but the scent was very strong.” Michael knew that, when in panther form, the vampire did not smell pleasantly of vanilla but to them smelled instead revoltingly of death and decay.

“I know the cave you mean,” Michael said. “The local people here call it Wind Cave. It is said to be very extensive” At that moment the kettle began to whistle, and he bade them to sit down at the table and brought the kettle over from the stove and poured hot water in on the tea bags. As they steeped, he sat down and tented his fingers. “Tell me about the cave. I have never been there and so know very little about it.” He paused, thinking. “It is called Wind Cave…tell me, which way does the wind blow, in or out?”
Marcel looked thoughtful for a moment, drumming his fingers on the tabletop, and then replied, “The wind, it blows out of the mouth of the cave. Why does it matter?”

“Ah, it blows out. That is good.” Michael smiled. “I have an idea. Let us plan how we will destroy this creature.”


02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story

continues with Part 7
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Last edited by Easter01 on Fri Feb 24, 2017 6:13 pm; edited 1 time in total




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Broomhilda61
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PostBroomhilda61 on Thu Feb 23, 2017 2:55 am

Girl..I think no, I know I will always love the "Father Michael's Saga"..and can't wait to read the rest..I hope it continues for a very long time.. happyH9

Your faithful number one fan winner



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szanne7000
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Postszanne7000 on Fri Feb 24, 2017 8:21 am

bravo

feeldaluv

watermelon
watermelon
watermelon

I enjoy your stories, Easter :D



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PostEaster01 on Fri Feb 24, 2017 6:11 pm


02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story
by Joanne and Richard Easter (c) 2016

Part 7


It was just after noon on the following day when Father Michael pulled the church van into the rectory driveway and came to a halt beside the kitchen door. He stepped out of the van and came about to the cargo door on the passenger side. Sliding it open, he reached inside and took out a cardboard box about a foot square, which he balanced carefully under one arm as he tugged the door shut. Propping the box against the edge of the outside door jamb, Michael raised his hand to rap lightly on the door when it was opened for him by the ever-vigilant Simone.

Eh, Père Michael, viens, viens!” she said, waving him in. Michael smiled his gratitude and entered the kitchen as the petite blonde shut the door behind him. He walked to the center of the room and set the box gently down on the kitchen table, where Marcel was engaged in wrapping duct tape around a curved steel plate covered with a slab of an off-white doughy-looking substance, into the surface of which was embedded dozens of roofing nails. A pair of slim wires, red and white, poked out of the base, not yet attached to anything.

Without looking up, Marcel said, “I take it your shopping expédition was successful, no?”

Michael picked up a utility knife from the table and cut the packaging tape across the top and sides of the box, opened it up, and took out a brown glass bottle, one of the half-dozen one-liter containers inside. “Yes, indeed. It was a forty-mile drive to the chemical supply house in the city, but it was four-lane highway there and back so I was able to make good time.” He replaced the bottle in the box. “Very expensive, this stuff, more than $500 per bottle. I had to use all that was left on my credit card. How are you coming on your end?”

Marcel finished wrapping the improvised Claymore mine and passed it to Simone, who had taken a seat next to him. She attached a small radio receiver to the device, and then passed it back to her companion, who took a few more turns of tape around the mine to snug it into place, and then reached down to put it inside the backpack on the floor. “I made two, as you suggested. That was the last one.” He snagged the pack by its straps and brought it up to the table top. “I took the liberty of investigating the contents of your garage, and found a box or two of nails.”

The heavy black duffel bags that Marcel and Simone had brought with them from the airport on the previous day had been stuffed with a wide variety of ordnance, since they did not know exactly what would be needed. As credentialed law-enforcement officials, they had simply been waved through U.S. Customs; otherwise, the inspectors would have been aghast at the contents of the bags. As it turned out, among the items that Marcel had thought might be “useful” were several blocks of PE4, a plastic explosive originally developed by the British and still in common use among many NATO forces.

“We also made up several of the objets spéciaux you requested,” Simone added, and reached across the table to the other backpack, unzipped it, and took out a plain brick of PE4 that had a radio-controlled detonator inserted, and showed it to him.

“Perfect,” Father Michael said. “Between the fragmentation mines and the explosive blocks, we should be able to vaporize the vampire. The problem will of course be getting him in the right position.”

“It is a good plan,” Marcel said.

“Yes, but like all military plans, things tend to fall apart on the battlefield with the first bullet. So to speak.” Michael sighed. “It’s too complicated, and it all depends upon him reacting the way we want him to. And, any time you make a plan that depends upon an enemy doing exactly what you want, you are just being naïve. We need a Plan B to fall back on if things go south.”

Marcel grinned. “Ah, mon ami, that’s why you have us! We are your Plan B: two fierce (and quite dashing!) panthers, not to mention a magic sword!”

Crossly, Michael said, “It’s not a magic sword.”

Undaunted, the Frenchman replied, “Is it not Tizona the fabled blade of the mighty Cid? Does not legend hold that the wielder of this sword is able to strike terror into the hearts of opponents?  Are you not a champion of God, with the heart of a lion?”

“Are we not all warriors of God?” said Simone quietly.

Michael bowed his head in defeat. “Mes cher amies, I stand corrected. Our opponent is truly a fearsome monster, but he cannot prevail against us.”

Marcel leaned back in his chair and laughed. “You mean, we will kick his butt!”

Now Father Michael laughed also. “Yes, that is exactly what I mean!” He turned serious again. “We must take the battle to him before he can strike again. Let us be on our way.”

Slightly less than an hour later, they were standing at the end of a shady glen in the hills outside Pleasantview, the dark mouth of a cavern yawning open before them. It had been a long walk up a rocky trail from the road where they had left the van. The cave exhaled a cold breeze in their faces, touched with a hint of vanilla spice, that caused the ferns growing before the opening to dance and shiver. All three were wearing packs, and Marcel and Simone cradled shotguns in their arms; in addition, Father Michael wore Tizona across his back, the hilt protruding just above his shoulders.

“Tell me again what you saw, inside the cave,” Father Michael said softly.

In a low voice, Marcel described the setting. “We did not go very far inside, perhaps fifty meters. The passage was of ample size, and led to a larger room where it divided into two separate passages. The foul stench of le vampire issued from the passage on the left side.”

“Very good,” Michael said. “It is in that room we will set our trap, as planned. I will count on you to bring him into it.” He reached up and drew the great sword from behind his back, and holding it before him, switched on the large flashlight in his left hand and led the way into the cave.

The passage through which they traveled was about ten feet wide and floored with bare rock, washed clean by the stream that sometimes roared out of the hill and had carved the valley below. They walked carefully, trying not to disturb the numerous slabs of rock that lay scattered about, too heavy for floodwaters to move. There was only the sound of their light footsteps and breathing, and in the distance, the sound of water dripping. Here and there were pools of water trapped in shallow basins in the bedrock; the weather had been dry for some time in the region and there was at present no water flowing across the floor, a circumstance that figured critically in Father Michael’s plan when described to him. They spoke not at all and listened intently for any signal of the presence of their enemy.

In no time at all, so it seemed, they came to the large room formed by the upstream branching of the cave. The ceiling soared upwards, so high that even the beams of their powerful lights could not quite illuminate its upper reaches. There was a large mound of fallen rock in the center, formed by the progressive upward collapse of the ceiling that had created the dome of the room. In the rear of the chamber were two gaping black holes that led deeper into the hill.

Using hand signals, Father Michael stopped them at the entrance to the room, and bade them to begin planting the explosive charges they had brought. As they worked their way around the perimeter of the room, setting out eight blocks of PE4 against the wall and concealing them with a few loose rocks, he knelt down and opened his own backpack, taking out the six bottles he had obtained earlier in the day, each wrapped carefully with a soft towel to protect them from breakage during transport. He scanned the floor of the chamber, and selected a flat spot of relatively bare rock a little distance in front of the mound of debris, cleared by water that had rushed through from deeper within the cave, diverted briefly around the rockfall. One at a time, he poured the contents of the one-liter bottles out on the rock, careful not to come into contact with any of the substance, until he had created a shallow pool some six feet in diameter. The chemical reek was strong, but the air movement from within the cave carried the scent rapidly away toward the entrance.

Still no sign of the vampire.

Marcel and Simone now returned to him, having finished up their work planting the explosive charges. They set their packs, now nearly empty, down to the side and Marcel, shining his light upon the chemical pool that the priest had just made, said, “It looks just like water, n’est-ce pas?  

Michael nodded. “It’s supposed to. I only hope it will fool Alaric, long enough to work.”

Marcel shrugged. “If not, we still have these.” He regarded the shotgun in his hand affectionately. “Simone, the mines, si vous s'il vous plaît?”

She laid her shotgun down and reached into her backpack, taking out the two improvised Claymore mines that Marcel had put together earlier that day. Moving carefully so as to not step in the glistening liquid, Simone placed the two fragmentation charges facing each other on opposite sides of the pool, smeared the front surfaces with mud and laid a few loose rocks over them for concealment. She stood back up and announced, “C'est fait!”

“We are as ready as we can be,” Michael said. “Prepare yourselves.”

As Michael studied the silent depths of the cave, Marcel and Simone picked up the now empty backpacks and walked back toward the entrance. They left their flashlights behind to provide more light for Michael, since there was just enough faint light streaming in from the entrance to see their way through.  Just inside the dark zone, they stopped and laid down their shotguns and began to take off their clothing, stuffing the garments inside the packs for later retrieval. He gazed fondly at his companion, whose blue eyes shone with anticipation. “Ready, chérie?” Simone placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “Be careful, mon amour,” she said earnestly.

The big Frenchman laughed and slapped her playfully on the rump. “Always, my darling, always!” They dropped to all fours on the cavern floor.

Father Michael sensed, rather than saw, the two feline forms come out of the passage to stand on either side of him. He felt in his coat pocket and found the radio transmitter ready for use. “Shall we announce our presence, mes amis?”

Michael raised his sword over his head and called out in a ringing voice, “Alaric, show yourself!”

The two panthers raised their voices in a great mingled roar, a savage primal challenge that boomed and echoed through the chamber and resonated down the passageways. A cloud of bats, startled by the noise, detached from the ceiling and wheeled frantically about the room before disappearing into the dark depths of the cave. A moment passed. Then another.

There was a low, wicked laugh from above. They looked up, and there, atop the mound of rubble in the center of the chamber, stood the vampire. “Did you think I would not hear you, scuttling around in the dark?” he said, and began descending. He came down slowly over the broken, jagged rocks without a glance as to where he placed his feet, ramrod straight, so that he appeared more to glide downward than to step. “Little mice, come to challenge the cat!” He fixed his gaze on the panthers. “Kittens, prancing and mewing, who fancy they are the equal of a predator more powerful and savage than they can imagine.” At the priest’s side, Marcel snarled.

He came down to the base of the mound and stopped, glaring scornfully at the trio who stood before him, some thirty feet distant, and they tensed, all senses alert. Like themselves, Alaric was dressed all in black, but his apparel was all of leather. His hair was bound in a ponytail that hung down between his shoulders. Ancient eyes, cold and malevolent and tinged with red, glared at them from a face that was starkly handsome, all planes and angles. Alaric stood with his feet close together and raised his hands up to shoulder level, palm upward, in a parody of crucifixion.

“Father, forgive me, for I have sinned!” he proclaimed in a loud and derisive voice.

Michael gripped his sword more tightly.

The vampire stared straight at him. “Priest, would you hear my confession?” He paused, as if for dramatic effect, and lowered his hands to his side. “I think not,” he said, in a quieter voice. “The telling would shrivel your soul, you weak and pitiful mortal. I have walked the earth for centuries, and the rivers of blood I have spilled would fill oceans. Kings and queens, shepherds and fishermen, merchants and millers, harlots and…housekeepers.” He laughed. “Even priests. I have fed on them all.”  

“God will strike you down,” Michael said quietly, as the panthers stirred restlessly at his side.

The vampire threw his head back and laughed. “What care I for your God? Where was this God while I slew his children with impunity? For nigh on two thousand years, the Earth has been my larder, the cities my hunting grounds. I think your God must sleep, if He cares at all.”

It was more than Marcel could bear. With a snarl, he sprang forward and leaped at the vampire, as Michael shouted, “No!” Quick as lightning, Alaric simply leaned out of the way and, with one hand, contemptuously batted the great cat out of the air, sending him rolling across the room to smash headlong into the rock wall. With a tremendous effort the panther tried to rise again, and then, with a faint moan, collapsed. The unconsciousness form shimmered and within moments, the nude body of a badly battered man lay upon the rocks.

Simone screamed with rage and raced across the room toward the vampire, two hundred pounds of concentrated feline ferocity. Alaric smiled broadly and opened his arms wide, as if to embrace the onrushing cat. “Come to me, little kitten,” he shouted with delight, and the shock of the collision threw him backward. Across the floor they rolled, a writhing ball of sound and fury, the screams of the panther echoing loudly through the chamber, the mocking laughter of the vampire a shocking counterpoint. It lasted only seconds; there was a loud snap and a shriek of pain from the cat that terminated abruptly, and then there was only a frozen tableau of the vampire, down on one knee, cradling the unconscious form of a girl, her head lolling backwards, his teeth sunk deeply into her neck. Her left arm dangled brokenly.

Alaric raised his head from his feast, his lips stained with crimson, and wiped his mouth with his hand, licking his fingers. He looked at Michael, and winked. “I was right…she was delicious!”

Michael was appalled. Everything was falling apart so quickly. The panthers were supposed to have lured the beast into the chemical pool, but the vampire’s taunts had destroyed all their self-control. He was on the far side of the pool from the vampire, and could not advance across it; even if he did, with his companions down he had no chance to defeat such a powerful creature by himself.

Across the room, Marcel, now awake but groggy, struggled to his feet. “Monsieur!” he implored the vampire. “Please! Do not harm her, I beg you!” He took a couple of staggering steps toward Alaric.

The vampire rose to his feet, holding Simone’s still form in his arms. A trickle of blood ran down from the puncture wounds in her neck. There was genuine amusement in the vampire’s voice now. “Ah, you wish to have your little kitten back?” He smiled wickedly. “Very well. I am done, I have had the best of her. She is yours.” Effortlessly, he pitched the girl’s body at Marcel, a distance of ten or fifteen feet. As she flew through the air, Marcel rushed to catch her, and, although slammed backwards to the floor by the impact managed to cushion her landing. He rose to his knees, with Simone in his lap, and quickly felt for a pulse. With a great sigh of relief, he painfully stood and picked her up, as Michael watched with concern and the vampire observed with undisguised enjoyment.

Father Michael had kept his eyes fixed on the vampire, watching Marcel and Simone from the corner of his eye. “Marcel!” he called. “Is she alive?” There was deep pain in the Frenchman’s voice as he replied. “She breathes…but Father, she is so badly hurt!”

“Take her out of here,” Michael said steadily, watching the vampire. “Take her back to the van. Get her to the hospital.” He took a deep breath and raised his sword defiantly. “You have done all that you can. This is my fight, now.”

With a look of profound sorrow, Marcel nodded and started toward the entrance, holding Simone cradled gently in his arms. “May God protect you, mon ami. We will meet again.”

As Marcel moved past him, Michael slipped his hand into his coat pocket and turned the key that armed the transmitter, then stealthily took it from his coat pocket and held it cupped in his hand, out of view. His only hope to defeat the vampire was for the plan to work, despite the shambles made of it in the last few minutes.

The vampire, who had been watching Marcel depart carrying Simone without making any effort to intercept him, now turned his full attention to the priest, a slight small on his lips. “So, priest. Your companions desert you. You are alone, now. Shall we play?”

Michael stood his ground, mentally willing the beast to come forward, to step into the pool…

Alaric took a step, and another, and came forward until only the short breadth of the pool separated him from the priest. He stopped, and focused his piercing gaze upon Michael. “I have seldom made children of my own, not in all these centuries. I have never really cared very much for the company of my own kind,” he said, almost absently. “But I think I would like to have a priest as a play-thing.” He took another step forward, and stopped again, his eyes unwaveringly fixed on his new prey. Michael could feel the malevolent force of the vampire’s personality probing at him. The scent of vanilla was overpowering. Perspiration began to bead on his forehead, despite the cool air of the cave. The sound of Alaric’s voice began to resound, not only within the cavern, but also within his head.

Do you think God would turn his face from you, if you were one such as I? the voice said. Would He listen to your prayers?

He dared not even think of what he wanted the vampire to do, lest somehow it be communicated from mind to mind.

The vampire took another step forward, and then pitched over on his elbows as his foot refused to leave the floor. Now his elbows and the palms of his hands were trapped by the sticky substance, and as he thrashed and howled, his face also became stuck fast to the rock floor by the cyanoacrylate that coated it.

As Michael had told his partners last night, gathered at the kitchen table to plan today’s assault, “There is only one thing that is stronger than an ancient vampire. Superglue.”

He turned and ran for the entrance, heedless of any semblance of dignity, the vampire’s furious screams echoing down the passage after him. Michael held the transmitter out in front of him as he fled, and just as he neared the entrance, he pressed the button on the little box.

The mountain spoke.

The two mines, with the vampire pinned between them like some pest trapped on flypaper, detonated and sprayed him with nails, and around the perimeter of the chamber, the eight one-kilo blocks of PE4 exploded, shattering the walls and bringing down the ceiling in a roar of broken stone. The blast wave picked Father Michael up as he ran and flung him out of the cave entrance, to land among the ferns and mosses. He lay on his back, his ears ringing, staring up through the canopy of tree branches at the sun. A great exhalation of dust blew out from the cave, and the ground continued to rumble for several minutes as more and more rock collapsed over that which had buried the vampire.

Michael was grinning madly, clutching the sword to his chest. I’m alive! he thought, marveling at the idea. For a while he just continued to lay there, beneath the trees, enjoying the sunshine and listening to the birds, who, after a brief time of startled silence, had resumed their songs. At last, he rose to his feet and brushed the dust off of his coat, and started limping down the trail.


02 Starling Lane
Pleasantview
A Father Michael Story

continues with Part 8
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Last edited by Easter01 on Sat Feb 25, 2017 4:13 am; edited 1 time in total




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