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Saturday, July 29, 1972
The Devil is the Father of Lies.
Not just the big ones, the ones that destroy lives—secret affairs, hidden addictions, past indiscretions. He’s the father of the little white lies, too, the ones you tell because you think you’re sparing someone’s feelings. How many unintended consequences do you think those little lies have? What’s the price? How long before the lies get bigger? How long before the trust erodes?
The Devil’s greatest handiwork, though, might be the lies you tell yourself, the ones you use to justify the things you do.
You’re not a bad person.
You deserve to be happy.
It’s not your fault.
But what if you are a bad person? What if you don’t deserve to be happy? What if it is your fault?
Lloyd opened his eyes, suddenly awake. Maybe the air conditioner kicked on. Or he needed to take a piss. He lay still in the bed for a few seconds, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness, and also trying to figure out where he was. The last thing he remembered clearly was walking up to the bar at the White Horse Saloon and ordering a beer for himself and another for … someone else. As the events of the evening came back to him a piece at a time, he grinned.
Lloyd rolled over. No one occupied the other side of the bed, but the pillow was still warm. He propped himself up on his elbows and glanced around the room. Someone was standing at the foot of the bed.
“Tammy? Tammy, that you?” He patted the mattress. “Come back over here with me.”
He thought her name was Tammy anyway. When he’d met her, his attention was focused on the lacy little red halter top and the pair of denim hot pants she was wearing. They just begged for him to try to get them off her. A few hours and a whole lot of drinks later, the two of them staggered through the door of the motel room and those hot pants came off.
But now she wasn’t answering him.
“Tammy,” he purred, “come back to bed. I’m up for a second round if you are.”
The figure at the foot of the bed still didn’t move.
Lloyd shook his head and let out a chuckle. “Oh, come on, now. You can’t say I didn’t show you a good time.”
Finally, the figure shifted, and even in the dim light, Lloyd could tell it wasn’t Tammy. Too tall. Too broad-shouldered. As his heart pounded, Lloyd fought through the alcohol-induced fog in his head, trying to figure out what to do.
“You’re not Tammy. Who … who are you?”
Still no response.
Lloyd reached across the bed and switched on the lamp on the nightstand. He immediately wished he hadn’t. A man stood by the bed dressed all in black. Despite the summer heat, he wore a coat with a hood that hid his face. Behind him, Tammy, her head lolled to one side, lay across a chair. A giant red gash cut across her throat. Blood trickled from the wound down her naked body and pooled on the floor.
The black figure lifted a knife. “Sure, Lloyd, I’m up for a second round.”
The man’s gravelly voice compelled Lloyd to reduce his screams to quiet whimpers. The man pulled back the hood to reveal his face. Lloyd’s eyes grew wide with recognition.
The man laughed. “Come on now, show me a good time.”
He leaned over and turned off the lamp.
As soon as Penelope knocked on the door to Zed’s apartment, she knew she should have called first. From inside came the sound of footsteps, then stumbling and cursing and a loud bang followed by more cursing before Zed, at last, groggily opened the door.
When he saw her, he raised an eyebrow. “Penelope? To what do I owe the pleasure this morning?”
“I need to talk with you.” She surveyed his old sweatpants and tee shirt, his messy hair, his slumped shoulders, and heavy eyelids. “Sorry to bother you so early.”
“Don’t worry about it. What time is it anyway?” He leaned on the door, apparently for support.
“It was about eight o’clock when I left the house.”
He shrugged. “Well, I guess two hours of sleep is better than none.”
Of course. How could she be such an idiot? “You were deejaying last night, weren’t you?”
“This morning, technically, but yes.” He stifled a yawn.
Three nights a week, Zed worked as the night deejay at a local station. Penelope often wondered how he’d landed that gig, but Zed always played coy whenever someone asked him that question.
She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I can come back later.”
Zed waved her inside. “No, that’s okay. I’m already awake. Wasn’t doing much today anyway. So, what do you need to talk about?”
Penelope stepped into the apartment. Zed had once told her he found all his furniture and artwork at flea markets and yard sales. She had no reason to disbelieve him. In the living area, a brown leather couch and an orange recliner lined one wall. Above the couch hung an oil painting of a desert landscape he’d bought because he “liked the colors.”
On the opposite wall, a television rested inside a dark wood console next to a bright green bookcase. Old movie posters for Dracula with Bela Lugosi and The Wolfman with Lon Chaney Jr. hung in frames on the wall over the television. In the corner sat a thriving giant potted fern. Penelope had never managed to keep a houseplant alive.
“I’d offer you coffee or something,” Zed continued, “but I don’t really have anything.”
“That’s okay. I’ll make it quick.”
Penelope went to the bookcase and reached behind the row of books on the second shelf. As with many parts of Zed’s life, she’d learned not to try to make sense of the hodgepodge of philosophy books, histories, and pulp paperbacks. She retrieved a yellowed notebook hidden there. She’d found the old journal in her grandmother’s attic. Her father’s journal. The entries in it dated back to his college years, but they weren’t the typical thoughts of a college student, and the drawings in the margins weren’t just random doodles. The notebook was full of magic. Penelope had asked Zed if she could keep it at his apartment because she didn’t want her father finding it at her place.
Her father’s ghost generally respected Penelope’s privacy. He preferred to stay in the office of the detective agency that had once been his, rather than in the upstairs apartment where she lived alone now. But he could go anywhere in the old converted house, and in the past, he had found things even she didn’t know were there.
She didn’t like keeping things from him, and she knew she couldn’t put off confronting her father about the notebook forever, but she didn’t want him to find it, not until she was ready. Every scenario she ran through her head just ended in a fight. They’d never fought, even when her father was alive. Only once had they ever come close—the time she told him she wanted to be a police detective, just like him.
He told her no.
She was crushed. She thought he’d be happy, proud of his little girl for wanting to follow in his footsteps, for wanting to help people.
She’d never get the chance to help people, he said, because she’d never be anything but a meter maid. There was no way they’d ever let a woman be a detective. She responded that she’d be the first. He crossed his arms and told her that she was being naïve. At that point, she left the room before any words escaped her mouth she couldn’t stuff back in.
Of course, he was right. He wasn’t trying to be mean. He knew she’d be the Chief of Police someday if anyone ever gave her half a chance, but he also knew the world didn’t work that way. Out of a total of one hundred fifty, the Greenville Police Department had exactly five female police officers, all meter maids. The most any of them got to do was pat down a woman who happened to be arrested.
She never bothered applying for the job.
The discussion about her father’s college journal, though, was going to be even more difficult than that, which is why Penelope found herself at Zed’s apartment early on a Saturday morning.
“Any closer to figuring out how a pentagram your dad drew in a notebook thirty-five years ago made it onto the floor of the warehouse at the Brown Tractor & Farm Supply Co.?” Zed asked.
He tactfully avoided the part about the same pentagram being associated with the death of a warehouse worker named Bobby Parker, a demon-possessed tractor, and ultimately, the explosion that destroyed the warehouse.
“Not exactly.” Penelope opened the notebook to the sketch of the pentagram. An intricate array of symbols and words wove around the five points of the star. “I think maybe I made a mistake translating some of this. My high school Latin is a little rusty. I guess we’re lucky it’s a real language, though, not like these other symbols here.”
Zed stiffened. “That’s Enochian. It’s a real language.”
“I meant one spoken by people.”
“It’s spoken by people. A few anyway.”
She shot him a sideways glance. “Where?”
“Other planes,” he said. “Beyond the Veil.”
“How do you know that?”
“Charles told me.”
She returned her attention to the notebook. “Well, until you can find me an Enochian-to-English dictionary, I’ll be sticking to what I remember of Mrs. Farr’s conjugation drills.”