Saturday, May 31, 2008

Strict Interpretations

Some people might have the wrong impression that I am a supporter of Barak Obama, based on my defense of him in the context of certain areas, the most obvious example being the Reverend Wright controversy. In truth, I am a supporter of no candidate. I did not vote in the primary, and I am highly unlikely to vote in the general election.

That said, I am trying to view all candidates as objectively and fairly as it is possible for me to do. There is not a lot to defend, unfortunately, as you might expect from one who declares his intention to boycott an election. When I see an opportunity, I jump at it. After all, as someone who wants to encourage others not to vote, I need the street creds.

Therefore, it is only appropriate that I draw attention to those other areas that call out for criticism, and Barak Obama’s recent appraisal of his potential Supreme Court appointees would be one such example.

There’s not a lot to say, except that he is obviously pandering to the voters when he says he will appoint judges who are empathetic to the needs and concerns of first one group or another. He ended with the “elderly”, and seemed quite uncomfortable as he spoke the word, doubtless aware that it is the elderly who have handed him his hat in some of those primary contests he has lost.

Here’s a thought for you, Obama. Try appointing judges who are empathetic to the words of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights-you know, the way they are written in PLAIN FUCKING ENGLISH!!!!

Obama Leaves Church Not A Moment Too Soon-But Is He Too Late?

It has just been announced that Barak Obama has resigned as a member of Trinity Church, which he attended for more than twenty years, and where he was married and he and his children were baptized. The recent statements of visiting Priest Father Pfleger seem to have been the final straw. SOme might say such a move is self-serving, but it is appropriate nonetheless

It’s one thing for a guy like Jeremiah Wright to get up in the pulpit on a Sunday and preach “God Damn America”-pastors of all stripes, liberal and conservative, do that all the time. In Wright’s case, and in all other such cases, it’s vile and sickening-and for that matter, it approaches psychotic.

When a guy like Pfleger stands up in the church and, in the midst of a “sermon”, takes any kind of stand during a political campaign in favor of one candidate over another even in mild terms, he has suddenly brazenly defied the constitution. People whom I would ordinarily consider jack-booted thugs now have every right to march into the middle of the assembly, arrest this perpetrator-in addition to any who might rise to object to his arrest-and padlock the doors of the church. If in the meantime the building ends up burning to the ground, well, that might just be a happy “accident”.

I’ll just come out and say it-at least one church somewhere straddles the line in one way or another every Sunday morning. However, they do so generally in the context of the ills of society and the need for individuals and families to be aware of the sin around them that is or might be part of their lives and how it affects them, as well as how it is encouraged by certain elements of society-including the government at times.

Pfleger, however, did far more than approach the line and dare the other side to cross. He jumped back and forth across the line and motioned his listeners to follow him over it.

What Pfleger’s rant against Hilary Clinton had to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ-in the doctrine of salvation through grace by way of faith in the crucifixion of Christ, in the shedding of his blood, his burial and resurrection, and the concept of forgiveness of sins-seems to be beyond my meager faculties of comprehension.

Nor was there any kind of social critique that made his screed in any way redeemable. It was nothing in fact but a rage against white people, from a white guy, by the way, that looks and sounds like twenty years ago he would probably be jamming to Vanilla Ice or NWA, flashing gang signs, and saying “Yo Dog, dig it,” twenty times a day.

He’s not the only one to do this kind of thing. He’s neither the first nor will he be the last. There are preachers, priests, and rabbis of all political persuasions who do this kind of stuff, to one degree or another. Black churches are among the worse offenders. I have known-and admittedly, this is anecdotal, but I have no reason to doubt it-of some black churches in which political pamphlets shared space on tables with spiritual tracts and church programs.

In some cases, it would seem that the people most inclined to rage to the heavens about separation of church and state just happen to be the worse offenders. Well, they are breaking what is among the most sacrosanct of secular laws, and in my humble opinion, that law needs to smash them like a rock.

Nor should it stop with them. It’s high time the federal government exercised its legitimate powers in enforcing the constitution and the Bill of Rights and put all of its offenders to the rack. There are a handful of mosques, especially in the heavier populated urban areas, that could probably stand a good spring-cleaning as well.

Left too long unattended, garbage begins to pile up, until it mildews and rots, whereupon it stinks and draws maggots and rodents. It’s high time we took out the garbage. In fact, it’s way past time.

Matches Made In Hell-Or Maybe In Workers Paradise?

Is Naomi Campbell a stupid fucking cunt, or what? Here this hot-tempered bitch is, throwing phones at people’s heads, sued for assault by former employees, enduring the humiliation of court-ordered community service, and lately, in trouble yet again for assault, this time directed against police officers at Heathrow Airport, following a flare-up against airline personnel over misplaced luggage. Now, she is putting herself into a potentially explosive position.

Lately she has been in the company of, and presumably dating, Christophe Raccancourt, a man who has lived as a con artist passing himself off to Hollywood elites as a member of European royalty, for which he earned prosecution and a seven-year prison sentence. Incredibly, he was Naomi’s date at the Cannes Film Festival.

If this continues, you don’t have to be Nostradamus to see a sidewalk in this bug’s future, from the perspective of-oh, say about twenty stories.

In the meantime, Campbell, who recently interviewed Venezuelan Prime Minister Hugo Chavez for GQ Magazine, has denied rumos of an affair with the South American strongman, which is actually somewhat unfortunate. She would probably end up ripping out that little shrimp’s throat.

Have You Hugged Your Kid Today?

A long time ago, politicians learned how to farm outrage as a method to grow political power. That is nothing new, and has gone on since long before the days of the US, probably since before the dawn of recorded history. Over the last few decades, they hit on a winning formula-child abuse, especially child sexual abuse. This was the rationale given for the invasion of the Waco religious cult. It is the same rationale given for the taking away from Mormon parents of their children in another Texas community.

Of course, sometimes shit backfires. What happened at Waco was a call to arms for many Americans, but aside from the attack on the federal building at Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh, nobody did much of anything except complain.

Now, a federal appeals court has declared the seizure of Mormon children was unjustified. They will soon return to their parents, who nevertheless face some restrictions as to travel outside a sixty-mile radius, in addition to a requirement to attend “parenting classes”. They are still trying to sort this case out in the meantime.

The whole case is a sham, a political creation based on a sham-the woman who made the call to the authorities is a scam artist with a bone to pick. She pretended to be a teenage sect member in fear for her safety, yet she actually made the call from where she lived in Colorado. This brings up a whole other question. Doesn’t the state and county authorities of Texas have caller ID? Of course, they recorded the call, but apparently not the place of origin, which is also suspicious.

Most of these LDS branch cults actually stay within the law. Contrary to popular belief, most males within these sects have only one wife-only one, that is, recognized by law. All the other “wives” the man might take are, technically, concubines. This in itself is legal. Other sect members, of course, recognize the relationships as spiritual marriages. As such, this binds the husband in the eyes of the sect as much as in a legal marriage. Moreover, the sect views the children of such concubines as every bit the legitimate heirs of the husband and father as they do the children of his first and legal wife.

Of course, this does create an atmosphere in which the sect members find themselves secluded from the outside world, and this can lead to the potential for abuse. This is where the state comes in. Unfortunately, for the state, the abuse in the Texas state, so far as can proven, is the exception and not the rule. That is assuming there is any abuse at all, which is questionable. After all, as far as I know, no arrests have been made, and for the most part this seems to be a matter of guilt by association. Convicted pedophile Warren Jeffs is the “Prophet”, thus leader, of the sect.

They are a strange group, to be sure. The women dress in pioneer type clothing, wear no make-up, and wear their hair in buns, in what seems to be a calculated effort to desexualize their appearance in order to lessen the potential for lust among the men. For the most part, they seem to be happy and content with their lives, love their children to whom they are devoted, and are madder than hell at the authorities, yet understandably though still remarkably restrained in their public utterances.

Now that the State of Texas has stirred this hornet’s nest, here they are trying to herd all of them back to the hive. They are making that attempt now, while pretending to insure to the safety of the children and the fitness of the parents. After the next election, all of this will fade into the ether.

They seem to have jumped the gun when adhering to the words of a handful of disgruntled former members. After all, there are disgruntled members and former members of just about everything. The state of Texas may have made a fatal error in concluding that their word was sacrosanct. It’s too damn bad they rarely if ever pay such heed to the views of disgruntled former voters.

Scott McClelland And The Politics Of Magical Thinking

Why are so many people mad at Scott McClellan? Bob Dole, for just one example, is mad enough to spit nails, and in fact he pretty much did just that. Yet, McClellan is only saying what most people already know, that George W. Bush is a stubborn man who cannot be dissuaded once he makes his mind up as to the correctness of his position, and he has a tendency to believe his own spin-propaganda, in other words. Of course, not only is the Bush Administration and its supporters mad at McClellan, it would seem a good many members of the media are on the defensive as well, due to their roles during the opening days and phases of the Iraq War.

In other words, although they have refined their positions over the course of the following years, at the time in question they acted to a degree, in some cases, more like cheerleaders than objective journalists, even though they should have discerned that the run-up to the war amounted to-

*Selling the American people a bill of goods by and on behalf of influential people within or in some way connected to the Administration.

*Partisan politics.

*Last but not least, what amounts to simply hard-core ideological purposes.

If you hear about Scott McClellan driving off the edge of a cliff or jumping out of a seven story window sometime over the course of the next several months, don’t be real surprised. I have a feeling there are a few people with either high positions or strong connections to the current administration that have a great deal to hide, pertaining to this and quite a few other matters. McClellan sets a bad example, from their perspective. An unfortunately tragic “accident” would send a clear signal-if you don’t have anything nice to say, shut the fuck up.

More than a few within the mainstream media seem to have adopted that attitude early on in the run-up to the Iraq War. Now they have to live with the consequences-as do we all.

McClellan’s book, even if viewed as the perspective of a disgruntled former presidential staff member, does not so much lay bare previously hidden facts as it positively affirms what has been in clear view for at least some three years now.

For the most part, while the Bush Administration was using a complacent media to sell us on the shock and awe, we all fell for the shuck and jive.

The worse part of it is, it was probably unnecessary. At the time, the American public largely would have supported any effort to remove Saddam Hussein. The Democratic Party would have been hard pressed to stand in the way. Instead of using a legitimate pretext-such as the myriads of UN resolutions that Saddam violated again and again, his clear intent on building a WMD complex at some point, his support for Palestinian suicide bombers by way of cash awards to their families, the constant shooting at our jets over the No-Fly Zone, etc.-Bush used Colin Powell to present, with dramatic flair, flawed evidence of the existence of chemical and biological weapons capabilities in addition to actively seeking uranium for purposes of enrichment.

In the meantime, all such evidence to the contrary was either ignored or buried. Now, it is what it is. We followed the drumbeat that led us to the bandwagon, and we threw ourselves under the wheels. McClelland was, at a pivotal moment in history, the little drummer boy for a delusional and messianic vision of a Middle East where chaos is supposed to pave the way for lasting peace and prosperity.

I don’t go so far as to say this book is an attempt at making amends, and that money is not a primary consideration. That would be every bit as delusional. On the other hand, that makes it no less worthwhile. At some point along the road, Scott McClellan took a good look in the mirror, and saw the face of Baghdad Bob staring back at him.

However self-serving it might be, I for one want to hear what he has to say. He'll be on Meet The Press this Sunday. Russert might want to take notes. Then again, he really doesn't have to.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

It's a picture of some naked kids, two of them apparently restraining another one, one might legitimately assume for the purpose of sexual assault. Ordinarily this would not bother me, except that this is just one of many such works by Australian photographer Bill Henson-whose exposition has recently been banned in Australia-and these children are live models.

I don't know how much money their parents were paid (probably not that much) but where would they draw the line whebn it comes to financial inducements? Being no prude by any stretch of the imagination, I am no fan of censorship. Still, I hold the Aussies made the right call here. At the very least, they had the right, and even the responsibility, to investigate.

This blogger put it best-art is not above the law.

Hat Tip-Sonia Belle

Somebody Better Keep An Eye On Her Fur

Lindsay Lohan is probably a lesbian-she just doesn’t want you to know it. I don’t know why. Check out this picture of her with "good friend" Samantha Ronson. I have no doubt as to who plays the “man” role. Why do I have this strange idea that she just loves seafood?

Lindsay’s father is backtracking on an earlier assertion that the relationship of the two is obvious. Little Lindsay probably threw a fit. Come on, Lindsay-admit it. I mean, it’s not like we guys would no longer want to hit that one time when we catch you out drunk as a skunk.

Besides, we might even want to watch the two of you rolling around all over each other.

Then again, maybe not, but it doesn’t matter what I want or don't want. I predict that before the year is out, either Lindsay or somebody like her will be arrested for engaging in public sex-and of course we’ll all just eat it up.

And with that last statement, I think I just succeeded in making myself sick.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What Will You Do For Carbon Belch Day?

Carbon Belch Day? Shit, I celebrate that all the time. Every day around here is carbon belch day.

The way I look at it, Mother Nature will eventually even things out. She has a way of restoring the balance of nature more effectively than we ever could, which would make it a win-win all the way around. Well, unless you like the idea of being one of eventually twenty billion or more tree dwellers reduced to fishing for termites as a delicacy. Me, not so much.

Why worry? Fire up that barbecue grill before it costs you a month’s wages. Treat yourself while it isn’t illegal.

In the meantime, I nominate Lexington Kentucky for the honorary title of “Carbon Belch Capitol of The World”.

A Little Bit Of Historical Detective Work Pays Off

Obama: "I had an uncle who was one of the -- who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps. And the story in our family was is that when he came home, he just went up into the attic and he didn't leave the house for six months. Right, now, obviously, something had really affected him deeply. But at that time, there just weren't the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain." (Sen. Barack Obama, Remarks On Memorial Day).

I've looked high and low, but I think I might have finally found him.

I'm pretty sure it's the guy on the far left. What y'all think?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Memorial Day Irony

Memorial Day was originally an occasion to celebrate the sacrifice of fallen soldiers, but quickly evolved into an occasion for the remembrance of all those who have passed on. Families visit cemeteries and decorate the graves of their deceased family and relatives, while politicians give the expected speeches lauding the sacrifice of soldiers felled in foreign wars.

To most people, in reality, it is just another holiday, a chance to take off work with pay and visit family, perhaps have a backyard barbeque or picnic, maybe attend a parade-just for something to do.

Most of the dead are just that-dead, and for the most part, forgotten.

I find it ironic in the extreme that, over the course of this holiday, Senator Edward M. Kennedy is being hailed as some kind of great and noble national figure and leader, while the girl whose death he caused now some forty years ago has long been forgotten. Oh, sure, people bring her up and discuss the tragedy of Chappaquiddick, and they usually do so as a means of haranguing Kennedy, which actually was and remains the appropriate thing to do.

This, however, is not doing full justice to the memory of Mary Jo Kopechne. Nothing can approach justice for this tragically fallen woman as long as the true nature of her passing remains shrouded in darkness. Unfortunately, Kennedy will never tell the whole story. If he did, he could be prosecuted, but not for murder-nor, more than likely, even for manslaughter, for that matter.

What I believe happened to Mary Jo Kopechne seems clear to me, even obvious. Unfortunately, political partisanship on both sides has kept the truth, ironically, submerged.

The obvious fact as I believe it to be-when Mary Jo Kopechne went off that bridge into the murky waters of the tidal pond below, she was in that car alone. Senator Edward Kennedy was nowhere in the car, and in fact may have been too far away to hear the car fatefully crash onto the water’s surface.

This next point is an important one to consider-


It would certainly explain the awkward and unlikely response and the unbelievable explanation, which to this day seems like something that somebody made up in a perfunctory manner, with not a lot of thought put into it. Although I could never hope to prove it, what I believe happened was the following-

Kennedy was out with Kopechne, was drunk, and as most would suspect, made a move on the girl. He might possibly have attempted to rape her. He might have actually succeeded in doing so. What I am sure of is, he tried, and became in his drunken state obnoxious and forceful, perhaps even verbally and physically abusive and, I have no doubt, potentially if not actually violent.

At some point, with the car parked, but possibly still running, Kopechne jumped out of the automobile, whereupon Kennedy pursued her. He caught up to her, and they argued, whereupon Kopechne, pushing Kennedy away from her, caused him to fall and hit his head. This explains the one and only visible injury Kennedy received-a slightly swollen bump and cut on the head. While he was yet down on the ground, drunk and disoriented, possibly even at this point semi-unconscious, she jumped into his vehicle and drove away.

The rest is history, albeit shadowy.

This was 1969, of course, and Kennedy knew he could not tell this story and retain any hope of salvaging his political career, to say nothing of his marriage, while simultaneously limiting his criminal liability. Therefore, he tried to establish as good an alibi as he could come up with in the short amount of time that he had. On the face of it, it looks ridiculous, but the people of Massachusetts swallowed it. They wanted to believe it, even if most in truth could not. Kopechne’s own parents, it would seem, falls into this category. They remained a supporter of Kennedy, at least publicly. They never pushed the affair beyond the initial investigatory phase, while the people of Massachusetts were never interested enough to warrant it being an issue in any of Kennedy’s re-election campaigns.

Nowadays, Kennedy talks about sailing and boating, or other such water related references, with no apparent sense of irony. That is because, in his own mind, he did nothing wrong. At least, he did not do what a large portion of the American public honestly believes that he did. Why should he feel guilty about an unwarranted charge of manslaughter? Why should he care about the drowning death of a young girl of which he obviously was not directly to blame? His conscience is clear. He only wanted a piece of that ass, and if she had not overreacted, she would be alive today. I honestly believe this is how he rationalizes it. I have no doubt that, to his way of thinking, she was “sending mixed signals” and “leading him on”, so to speak.

(Correction-I made a common mistake here, though I actually know better. Kopechne did not drown. She died of suffocation when the oxygen in the air pocket, in which she placed herself within the submerged vehicle, finally dissipated. She may have actually lived for several hours).

Of course, Kennedy is now among the most vociferous supporters of the liberal feminist movement, and the entirety of their agenda. It is easy to conclude he does so in so vociferously a manner out of some sense of guilt. For their part, I have the strange idea that at least most of the more radical feminists would secretly like to see Kennedy chemically castrated. Be that as it may, Kennedy goes on about his business, this so-called “Lion of The Senate”. In true Catholic fashion, he purchases his own brand of absolution by way pursuing his legislative agenda. He reaches across the aisle when necessary in order to forge the friendships and alliances he needs, all the time devoting his career to the task at hand, as he makes vain attempts to soothe his damaged psyche, applying his influence and the power of his office as though they were healing balms to his ruptured conscience.

All the while, he stands up for the minorities, the dispossessed, the “little guy”, and all of those who just can’t seem to help themselves, while sticking it to everybody else-especially to people much like himself, it would seem-in a not so nearly magnanimous fashion.

When he harangues a potential court appointee, for example, particularly one whom he feels might pose a threat to his notions of progress made in the arena of women’s rights, the more discerning among us wonder in awe at his capacity for projection-this mouse that roars.

When Robert Byrd stood up on the floor of the Senate and spoke of the illness of his “dear friend Ted”, crying as he did so, it was a form of low comedy, yet another case of projection of the fears of mortality onto one who seems ironically to have neither fear nor shame. Media luminaries laud him. Both Barak Obama and John McCain have expressed their concerns, and their well wishes for his speedy recovery. Even Hillary Clinton, whose own campaign suffered a fatal symbolic dive off a bridge following Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama, in surrealist fashion refers to Kennedy as a friend.

We are all supposed to play along and buy into this media promotion of Edward M. Kennedy as the idealistic ”liberal lion of the Senate”, and take it at face value when pundits promote him as a man of character and integrity, a man who has been a devoted, tireless public servant. They ignore-or more accurately, they neglect to point out-just in what direction his devotion lies, but one might ponder his second and current wife as a symbol of his life and beliefs. She is a pro-gun control attorney, devoted to ensuring a “common sense solution” to the problem of kids and guns-which probably means making sure, by any means necessary, that none of the rest of us have access to them "for the good of the kids", lest they get their hands on them.

That, then, is the legacy of Edward Kennedy, both literally and figuratively married to the concept of the application of strict limits to the freedom of Americans, based on a faulty premise-that we need protection from ourselves. What we really need is protection from the likes of Edward Moore Kennedy, but for now, we will listen politely while media pundits and self-serving politicos sing his praises and wish him a safe and speedy recovery. Many Americans, of course, will join in those expressions, just as many have brought into the Kennedy myth, and the Kennedy lies, for the past forty years.

The rest of us prefer to ponder the lost life of a young, idealistic, hopeful, yet unfortunately naive young girl who wanted to make a better world-a magical, mythical world, much like Camelot-and ended up sucked too deep into the same old lie.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Obama And Kentucky-It's The Liberalism, Stupid!

Obama did everything he could think of to decrease the margin of Hillary Clitnon's expected win in the Kentucky primary last Tuesday, short of donning a fringe leather jacket and a coonskin cap and killing a bear with his trusty musket. He opened three times as many offices in the state, and sent out fliers asserting his belief in Christianity. One such flier depicted him standing with a large cross in the background. It was an effort he probably realized was doomed to failure, which is why he made only one appearance in the state-and which was the real reason he lost by such a large margin.

True, he would have handily lost anyway. I concede that this would have been due, in large measure, to both racism and to perceptions, still widely believed by many, that Barak Obama is a Muslim. Nevertheless, I hold that, while it is obvious that these were factors with a segment of Kentucky Democratic voters, they make up a minority of those who voted against Obama.

Had he addressed these concerns directly, and especially had he appeared more in the state, he might have whittled Hillary's margin down to just a little bit more than ten percent, but certainly not under that amount. It is highly doubtful he would have pulled within twenty percentage points, actually.

The real major reason for this, however, is not racism or concerns about Islam. While these concerns, I repeat, were doubtless factors with a segment of the voting populace, they were not the most important considerations. The major reasons are as follows-

1. Hillary Clinton campaigned extensively in the state, making appearances at such venues as Covington's May Fest, among others, while both Bill and Chelsea also campaigned tirelessly and extensively across the state. Bill even appeared in front of the Madison County Courthouse. They gave the vast majority of the people of Kentucky their first and possibly last chance to see a former President of the United States, or a major candidate.

This is in fact the first time Kentucky has been a factor in a Presidential nominating contest. The Clintons played it for all it was worth, while Obama passed up a golden opportunity-not so much to win this primary, but to pave the way for instilling some good will for the upcoming general election, when these votes will be all the more important.

2. The Clintons are very popular with rank-and-file Kentucky Democrats, at least among those who are dependable and regular voters. Bill Clinton won the state twice and is now fondly remembered by them, for the most part.

3. There is a perception that Barak Obama is the most liberal member of the Senate. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant. The fact is, that is the perception, and perception translates into votes. This in fact might well be the most important consideration of all. Kentuckians, for the most part, are moderate to conservative.

Where Obama is considered a liberal, Hillary Clinton is perceived as more left of center.

It is really unfair to lump all Kentucky Democrats, or Kentuckians in general, as racists based on the fact that Hillary Clinton, the centrist wife of a popular former President, defeated the black candidate-who was all but absent from the state during the campaign while she, her popular husband, and well-liked daughter traversed practically every corner of the state non-stop.

Most of the same Kentucky Democrats who voted against Obama, being as I said politically moderate to conservative, rejected Obama largely on those grounds. By the same token, a great many of them-maybe even most of them-would have had no problem crossing party lines to vote for a J C Watts or an Alan Keyes.

For that matter, even more Kentucky Democrats might well jump at the chance to vote for a Democratic political moderate such as Harold Ford Jr. In all the above cases, it would depend on who their opponent was. It would by and large depend on their stands on the issues, not their race.

If one of those candidates were to run a credible race in Kentucky, with a credible chance of winning (unlike Keyes in his current quixotic bid) and did well, or even won, the same people trashing Kentucky by throwing out the race card now would be screaming "Uncle Tom".

So just who are the racists?

It is easy for CNN to go to the most destitute places in Kentucky with a film crew and portray such a depressed area as one small part of Clay County as typical of the state. Honesty and integrity does not come easily to these purveyors of political pornography, it seems. Their point seems to be that the entire state of Kentucky is a state full of ignorant, uneducated rednecks-how could they not be racist?

The real question to be asked is how could one expect an unbiased and objective analysis of the recent Democratic Kentucky primary from the likes of this bunch? I am, sadly, not surprised in the least.

John McCain, although already the Republican Party presumptive nominee, won his contest with 72% of the vote. In other words, 28% of Kentucky Republican voters took the time and trouble to go to the polls to vote against the man who has already won his party's nomination.

So I guess that means a large percentage of Kentucky Republicans hate the elderly? Or maybe they just despise old military veterans? No, I have the strange idea they merely expressed their disapproval of John McCain because, in fact, John McCain is a known RINO.

Why try to invent an alternate reality when the one we have tells us all you need to know?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Radu-Chapter XXXXVI (A Novel by Patrick Kelley) The Last Chapter

Links to previous installments are at the end of this chapter.
Radu-Chapter XXXXVI (A Novel by Patrick Kelley)
The Last Chapter (24 pages approximate)

Khoska knew the minute that he entered The Crypt that he might well be walking headlong to his death, but he felt he had no other option. This was what he had lived the last forty years of his life for. In fact, this was what he was born for, to face this evil on this very night. The outcome might well decide not just his ultimate fate, but it could well set the stage for years to come. He might well manage to eliminate, wipe completely from the face of the earth, what he considered the most abominable heresy ever to infect the Romanian Church, or for that matter, any church, or any religion. As such, untold numbers of souls, present and future, were at stake. The validity of the Church itself would be in jeopardy were he to fail. The heresy had a way of insinuating itself, of gaining preeminence amongst the truly faithful, of establishing a hold not easily relinquished.

The last time this occurred was during the reign of Vlad the Impaler. He curried favor with the masses as the defender of the Church and the faithful against the Islamic hordes of the Ottoman Empire, which was, ironically enough, supported and promoted by his brother Radu-the very evil entity whom this very night he was obliged to face down in mortal battle.

It was a situation dire in its evil implications. Should Radu destroy him, the monstrous evil would put an end to the centuries of work, which his family had performed in the service of the Church, and the heretics would then gradually grow stronger and more influential-possibly even predominant. No matter how long Radu himself endured, they would eventually hunt him down and destroy him, thereby furthering their hold over the people exponentially. They would see them as the saviors of the world, from an evil they themselves had facilitated while at the same time utilizing his considerable powers to their own ends.

If he destroyed Radu, however, would the evil truly end? No, it would simply go into remission, back into hiding, until it would revive, in another form at some future date. The battle would continue, and claim no telling how many innocent lives, and what was worse, deliver an unconscionable number of immortal souls to the damnation of eternal hell.

Therefore, Khoska refused to delude himself into thinking any victory he might achieve this night would be permanent. Nevertheless, he had no choice. No matter the consequence, he could not allow this filthy abomination to exist within the world, devouring the flesh and blood, and ultimately the souls of the innocent. Though Radu was a pawn, he was yet a satanic force that Khoska must eliminate. Although others might hurt Radu, even possibly destroy him, ostensibly, they could not rid the earth of him forever. Khoska alone had the power to do that. He alone had the faith to do that.

Therefore, Khoska found himself in the unenviable position of himself being the pawn, the champion even, of a deranged heretical sect of renegade Christians. If he lost, they would then proper and grow, free of the interference from the cloistered sect of the Khoska family, of which he was truly the last. Yet, if he won the battle, though their power and influence would be vastly diminished, they would remain in hiding, their ultimate victory perhaps limited for some centuries. He wondered if it was worth the possibly ultimate sacrifice.

On the other hand, if he did not go through with it, his entire life would have been all for naught, a gigantic waste. His father would have been right. He warned him years before that he was throwing his life away by following his grandfather in the life of what amounted to that of a thankless exorcist, one doomed to spend almost all his time in pursuit of nonexistent demons and old wives tales. At times, he had his doubts, his moments of crisis of faith, but for the most part, he could feel the hand of the Archangel Michael guiding him, leading him to continue the family tradition.

Corneliu Codreanu started his own unique heresy, claiming to be an incarnation of his sects’ patron saint, and so deceiving many of them, including his own grandfather, and leading them into ruin. The aftermath left the sect decimated, many of its members killed, many others defrocked, yet others shamed into renouncing their ancient charge. They all fell into disrepute and so paid the price for their folly.

The night that his mother gave birth to him, on the night of the murder of Codreanu and his fascist followers, within the confines of his grandfather’s all-but-deserted church in Ploesti, the old Priest had seen it as a sign that there was one last chance for deliverance. His father was outraged when he learned of Khoska’s eventual attraction to the discredited sect, and there was a grave falling out between the two in-laws. The Church hierarchy never considered the sect an integral part of the overall community, but at least at one time, it was respected, and even feared.

Now, however, they were the butt of jokes at best. At worse, the church considered them as heretical as their purportedly sworn enemies, whose existence now most of them doubted.

“It provided a comforting explanation for the beliefs in such supernatural beings as vampires,” his father explained to him patiently. “Even if such an abominable cult of flesh-eating, blood-drinking, murderous child sacrificing and orgiastic heretics existed one time within the dark and distant past, it was such a long time ago even their history has lost all relevance. There is therefore no need for a rival sect to one that no longer exists, and quite possibly never did.”

Khoska was determined, though, and felt certain God was guiding him, through the Archangel Michael, on the correct path. On the day that he exorcised the vampire spirits of a mother and her children, in Ploesti, he knew that he was right. When the communist officials of the town offered him the opportunity to go to America, he knew it was a further sign. His work for Securitate was an unpleasant necessity in order for him to carry out the more important work of unmasking the heretics. When he first met his half-brother, Martin Krovell, he did not at the time recognize the implications. It would be some time before it would ever occur to him that he might well have lost an opportunity to deliver a mortal wound to the head of the beast. Because of his failure, many of his own family were drawn away from him. First Doris, and then Phillip, right behind his back, and yet in front of his eyes, walked straight into the demons lair.

One by one, they were either corrupted, or murdered. Khoska came to realize that when his grandfather attracted him into the tradition, he might have only succeeded in prolonging the inevitable. Yet, his failure on this night was simply unthinkable. He had to destroy Radu, even if it cost him his own life.

Now, here he was, within The Crypt, as the patrons began filing out as the Gothic nightclub’s hours drew to a close. Khoska’s senses felt assailed by the onslaught of what passed for them as music, but he prayed and sat silently in a corner, as one by one they left, until he was soon all alone in the dark, mirror-less bar, alone save for the bartender, who watched him curiously and who identified himself as Marty Evans. He offered him water from time to time, but Khoska refused the offer, explaining he was there this night simply to meet someone.

Most of the others there ignored him, though some regarded him with bemusement, even some seeming suspicion. One girl asked him to dance, but of course, Khoska declined. The girl looked too young even to be a legitimate patron of the bar, let alone a companion for an ancient, wizened old Priest.

“It looks like your friend ain’t coming,” Marty observed as the last of the patrons left. “We’re closing up soon. Who is it anyway? I know most of the people who come here, and I know all the regulars.”

“His name is Marlowe Krovell, or that is what he calls himself,” Khoska answered. “I promise you, he will be here.”

Marty looked at him with resigned dread.

“Marlowe, huh? So, you’re the one after all. I kind of thought so.”

Before Khoska could react to this curious response, however, a previously unseen patron, a female, sat down beside him, her appearance by far the most bizarre of a remarkably strange crowd. Though she had no piercings or tattoos anywhere on her body or face, she was completely nude, and yet covered from head to toe with what seemed to be feathers. She looked at Khoska with piercing green eyes from a young face weathered it seemed by ages beyond her young life. Though an adult, there was something childish, possibly even naive about her. She regarded him knowingly, and with some seemingly caustic humor.

“You had better leave here, old man,” she said. “Marlowe is going to eat you and he is going to share your liver with me. I love liver. Marlowe will prefer to eat your heart.”

“Who in the name of God are you?”

“Cynthia,” the strange woman replied. “Look in my eyes, and you will see why you should leave here now, and forget that you ever heard of Marlowe, or Radu.”

Khoska could not help himself. He could not turn away from those eyes, those eyes that drew closer as the creature craned her neck towards him. He could suddenly smell the overpowering stench of death and decay as he found himself surrounded by a thick gray fog, and could hear the screams and cries of the torment of the damned. He could feel the flames of hell licking all about him, as a familiar voice called out to him.

“Please get me out of here,” he heard the familiar voice say. Looking down into what appeared to be a septic tank, he could make out the filth-covered form of Voroslav Moloku trying desperately to pull himself to safety, yet constantly sliding down into the slippery ooze that covered the walls of his own private hell, a veritable cesspool of feces and urine in which demoniac rats swam while chattering endlessly.

The sight was more than Khoska could bear, and so he extended a large staff down to the spirit of his deceased son-in-law, who regarded it with horror.

“Don’t touch me with that thing,” Voroslav commanded as he cringed. “Get it away from me. I don’t know where the hell that thing’s been.”

Vososlav backed away in horror and in doing so lost his footing, thereby vanishing beneath the tons of vile liquid raw sewage that now engulfed him. Looking around, Khoska saw the maggot-ridden body of his granddaughter Marnie, ripped to sheds though conscious and aware through her agony, while his daughter Doris stumbled along blindly and desperately with what looked to be a bullet wound in her chest. He knew he had to leave here, for if he did not he would certainly lose what little mind he had. As he turned in desperation in search of an exit, he heard yet another familiar voice addressing him.

“Father, what are you doing here?”

He turned to see Jonathon, crying in shame and despair.

“Oh, my God-Jonathon? Why are you here?”

“I never really believed,” Jonathon explained. “It was nothing to me but a career, a way to make a living, to provide for my family. I never took it seriously. Michael used to warn me about my disrespect. I used to joke about it. Please tell him he was right, and to be careful, and that I am sorry. If only I had listened to him.”

Khoska wanted to reach out to his son, to hold him and comfort him, if possible to pull him back to the land of the living with him, but he knew that was impossible. Before he could continue, Michael vanished as the land beneath him collapsed. Khoska then turned towards a scream of terrifying agony-the scream of his youngest son Phillip. However, when he turned, what he saw was not Phillip, but a sight far more terrifying, and far more riveting-and infinitely more heartbreaking.

“Lynette,” he said, as the form of his late granddaughter approached him, smiling seductively and yet maliciously, and then suddenly barring her teeth. Khoska watched as the sounds of Phillip’s screams grew ever louder, drew ever closer, and became more terrifying with each passing second.

“Phillip, where are you?” Khoska shouted while watching Lynette closely as she yet drew closer to him, her smile becoming ever more animalistic and ever more threatening, as her teeth became blood-drenched fangs. Phillip’s screams seemed to be emanating from Lynette’s mouth.

“He is with me, grandfather,” Lynette said. “Here, see”-

Lynette then vomited up a vile concoction of digested matter and hair, hair that Khoska understood belonged to Phillip, whose agonized screams emanated from the vomit at his feet, as Lynette laughed maniacally.

Khoska almost felt his heart explode inside his chest as he suddenly found himself back in the bar. Cynthia was no longer beside him, and in fact seemed to have vanished entirely.

“Hey, old guy, are you all right?” Marty asked from the bar, evidently having never seen the strange creature that had sat beside Khoska.

“I-thought for a minute I was-somewhere else,” Khoska replied in gasps, as Marty looked at him apprehensively.

“Yeah, I think I know where that was too,” he said. “I’ve been there. If it’s any consolation to you, just between you and me, I don’t think it’s real. Well, at least I sure as hell hope it ain’t.”

Khoska looked around, still obviously shaken badly by his experience, and wanting to make sure the phenomenon had ended, yet still half-way expecting to discover he was yet trapped in some odiously deceptive portion of hell, one waiting for just the right minute to unexpectedly hurtle him into a never ending maelstrom of insanity.

“Why are there no mirrors here?” he asked as he tried to ground himself, while Marty produced yet another glass of water, one which Khoska had no more intention of drinking than he had any of the others Marty previously offered him.

“Oh, there’s mirrors here, but the new owner had them all covered,” Marty answered. “I don’t have any idea why he did that. If there’s one thing Goths and Emos like more than anything, it’s looking at themselves, believe me. Anyway, he insisted. It was Marlowe’s grandfather, you know. He and Marlowe’s grandmother died a few nights ago. It looked like a suicide pact. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

“All I know is I didn’t see them just a few minutes ago, which means you are probably right-it was not real,” Khoska answered bitterly.

“Well, this is my last night at this dump, that’s for sure,” Marty said as he looked around surveying the interior of the bar as though something might be missing.

“You heard about Brad Marlowe turning up alive, right? Well, seems like he’s going to be the new owner, which means I’m outta here.”

“Yes, I heard something about that,” Khoska said, obviously disturbed at the implications.

“Not only is he still alive after all, but he’s married, to this chick that’s about like half his age,” Marty continued. “Which, I got to give him some credit-at least this one’s alive. Well, I guess she is.”

“Who is she?” Khoska asked.

“Lynette somebody,” Marty answered. Khoska gasped audibly, but Marty seemed to not notice as he made his way toward the door.

“I know this is going to sound strange, but I got to go,” he said. “You stay here as long as you need to. I was told to tell you that, by the way. When you leave, I guess you can lock the place up, can’t you? Not that I really care, but I’ll leave the keys in the door here, alright?”

“Yes, I’ll be sure to do that,” Khoska replied morosely, fully aware that whoever left this message for him had every intention of Aleksandre Khoska not ever leaving this nightclub alive.

“The tv is up there in that corner-it’s a plasma widescreen,” Marty said as he opened the door.

“Watching television is the last thing I care about right now, young man,” Khoska replied.

“Oh, really?” Marty asked. “I was told by some Japanese dude that something would be coming on sometime tonight that you would want to know about. Whatever, you do what you want. Good luck.”

Khoska watched as Evans walked out, closing the now locked door behind him.

It was unnerving that Marlowe, apparently knowing he would be here at some point to kill him, yet afforded Khoska the use of this nightclub, even leaving him the option of staying, or leaving, of his own volition. He looked at the large plasma screen television that sat in the corner, by where a large stage now sat empty. How many times, he wondered, had Grace Rodescu danced on this very stage, and elsewhere in this bar? How many times had the pitiable Sierra Lawson desperately attempted to express her dubious artistic talents to the delight, or perhaps the dismay, of the strange, lost denizens who habituated this den of insanity?

Marlowe himself had, as a normal young man-normal compared to what he now was, at any rate-frequented this very place. Now, come to find out, Brad Marlowe, the demented mortician, was not only still alive, but was now the current owner of this establishment, and was married, to a younger woman named Lynette.

Could it possibly be his Lynette? His heart sunk deep into despair at the very idea. If it was true-and he was sure that it was-Khoska realized she was beyond not only his help, but beyond any chance of salvation, as surely as was the case with Brad and, for that matter, Marlowe Krovell. She was as damned even as Radu himself was damned. One thing she most certainly was not was alive-at least, not in any sensible, rational understanding of the word. No, she was no more than a corpse, albeit one now possessed and reanimated by God only knew who-or what.

He sat silently for a few minutes, paying little heed to the vague noises that seemed to be emanating from outside the nightclub, now closed for the night. It was four a.m. He might well have a long wait yet, he realized. He knew Marlowe would be here soon. He would have to face him eventually. He might have at one time thought to forestall the eventuality, hoping to wear down Khoska’s reserve of patience, make him wait uselessly for a meeting that would never occur. He was certain by now however, that Marlowe understood this was all Khoska had yet to live for. He could not take the chance that Khoska would one day find his sleeping form and drive the stake through the monstrous heart, ending his existence forever.

Now would it be sufficient for Marlowe Krovell to entrust such an important undertaking to a subordinate. He had to do the job himself, if for no other reason than to tap into the memories and the knowledge that Khoska held, especially the identities of those with whom he might share his knowledge. Not even the demented Cynthia could accomplish such a feat.

Khoska continued staring at the plasma television, wondering what it was he was supposed to see this night, but determined all the same not to give in to the temptation to play along with this madness. It would probably be better that he not know until his grim task was completed, provided he lived long enough to find out.

As he sat there staring at the blank screen, the noises of the voices became gradually louder. They became more distinguishable. It seemed to Khoska as though he were in fact hearing the voices of children. He thought he had to be mistaken. Why would children be out in the downtown area of Baltimore at this time of the early morning, well before sunrise? He put it down to nerves. After everything he had been through over the past year, to say nothing of the things he had seen over just the last few minutes, he was amazed he had any rational thinking ability at all.

Then he heard the sudden sound of girlish giggling. He looked around quickly, turning his head faster than his wrinkled, elderly body could adjust, and suffered a sharp pain in his neck-but he saw the girl quickly darting toward a back room.

The children are here in the nightclub, he thought to himself. Dreading the prospect, and what it might mean, he raised himself up and walked slowly and cautiously toward from where the voices now seemed to emanate.

As he approached, they grew ever louder, and ever more distinct. They seemed mostly to be young girls, though Khoska was certain he heard the voices of at least two young boys as well.

When Khoska finally made his way to the door, an explosion of noise permeated the rooms and all but shattered Khoska’s eardrums. The noise of the music from the jukebox was deafening, and Khoska cringed as he felt himself overcome by waves of nausea at the untoward intrusion of what he recognized as one of the songs he heard once before described as Death Metal. He turned toward the jukebox, trying to ready himself for what he might see, but nothing could prepare him for the sight that greeted him.

Standing in front of the jukebox, dressed like a prostitute, in nearly nothing whatsoever, was the young girl Elena. She stood and stared at him. She smiled at him as she approached him. He turned back and forth, looking at the door to the banquet room and then back at Elena as the girl slowly and methodically walked toward him-sauntered toward him. She stood almost up against him as the music continued, until it finally stopped.

“Do you want to dance?” she asked.

“Elena, what are you doing here?” Khoska asked, but the words came out as just barely over a whisper. His ears were yet ringing from the excessive noise, far louder than any played early in the night. Elena had turned up the volume. He looked at her glazed expression, the faraway look in her eyes, and yet she still seemed to pierce through his consciousness.

“We are all here,” she answered. “We are learning how to love the way God intended people to love one another, the way it says in the Bible.”

“Oh, my God,” Khoska whispered, as suddenly the door to the banquet room opened, and the other children walked out and surrounded him, looking up at him quizzically and expectantly, and yet, seemingly trancelike.

The oldest boy Augusto whispered something to one of the other girls, while yet another one asked Khoska with which one he wanted to be.

“We were told to take care of you,” she said. “You can have your choice. You can any of us you want.”

“No, I do not want that,” Khoska assured her, trying not to allow anger and despair to overwhelm him. This was obviously a part of Radu’s game, a method to wear him down, to trample on his faith by using these innocent children as pawns in a malicious and devilish maneuver. Now, the young boy Eitan said something to Elena, who nodded her head and looked back toward Khoska.

“If you prefer boys, you can have one of them,” she suggested.

“You should not be here, Elena,” Khoska said. “None of you should be here. What is the meaning of this? Who brought you here?”

They all just looked at him, as though surprised he would ask such questions.

“Why did you burn Sister Agnes?” one of the other girls asked him.

“She died,” Khoska answered. “I thought it was for the best.”

Then the young girl who Khoska was sure was the one he first saw hiding in the lounge, giggling as she watched him, walked up to him. She was all of eight years old, and yet Khoska was to understand she was here as the others for purposes of prostitution. He found himself repelled, sickened by the thought of such unmitigated evil. Yet, she approached him with no sense of shame, the short, tight undershirt she wore plainly revealing that she wore nothing whatsoever beneath it.

“She could have returned to us if you had not burned her up,” the little girl said with some sadness mixed with her anger. “We miss her. Why did you take her away from us?”

“Because,” Khoska hissed, his patience ending, “what is happening here is evil and I wanted to make sure she was not made a part of it.”

At that moment Khoska felt the strong, thick hands of the oldest boy Augusto push him down to the ground, whereupon the other children pounced on top of him. They hit and gouged at him and they kicked as they screamed vile epithets at him. He was helpless to ward of their attacks, and tired in futile desperation to cover his head with his hands in order to ward off their blows as best as he could. Their attacks grew ever more vicious with each passing second, and Khoska could feel his heart pound in his chest, as his ears rang loudly, though not enough to completely block out the raging sounds of their screams and their taunts. Finally, Elena delivered a sharp, savage kick to his groin. Khoska felt his stomach going through upheavals at the assault, and gagged as he vomited on the floor on which his head now laid. Soon, he blacked out.

“You really should try to overlook children,” Khoska next heard a voice say as he gradually woke up, his body wracked with pain from the extended assault he endured long after his consciousness temporarily left him.

He rose, to see Marlowe Krovell sitting at the bar, across from where he himself now laid stretched out upon a pool table. The large plasma screen television was now playing, and at first, he thought the voice came from there, until he saw Marlowe, who now slid out of the barstool and unto the floor with an exaggerated hop.

“They really don’t know any better than according to how they are taught. Evidently, your daughter Agnes left a lot to be desired when it comes to teaching manners. Perhaps it is good that you took her from me after all. I can hardly fault you for that, seeing as how our mutual enemies have taken so much more from me.”

“The children-where are they?” Khoska asked. “What have you done with them?”

“I have locked them away, for the time being,” Marlowe replied. “Don’t be concerned, they are safe, for now. There is no discernible reason they should not stay safe. That is dependant on my demands.”

“You are wasting your time making demands on me.”

Marlowe looked at him curiously.

“I wasn’t talking about you,” he replied. “I was referring to that gang of so-called Christians who seem to think they can use me to change the world more to their liking. You see, when they and Mircea took first Lynette away from me, and then Grace, they did so through a subterfuge. I did not realize that Martin and Louise Krovell were cult members of some duration. They tricked me, in other words. All the time, they have intended to destroy me, after acquiring what use of me they can for their own devious ends.

“Apparently they thought I was too stupid to catch on. Another thing they failed to take into consideration was my power and control over the children. I can kill them at any moment I choose, and will do so with not the slightest regret or hesitation. That would pretty much put an end to their little movement. See, their plans are dependent on using those children as a conduit. Come to think about it, I guess that’s why I have to die. Through the children-once I am gone-they can attract more and more people, and infect more people every day, until soon they acquire all the power they need to establish what they think of as the ‘Kingdom of God on Earth.’

“Yes, I know, it’s a lot of nonsense, pretty much as are your own beliefs. Yet, I have to admit, if not for the little snag in their plans I’ve laid, it might well have worked.”

Khoska listened to him as long as he could stand, as he tried to raise himself to a sitting position at the edge of the pool table. The pain was unbearable.

“What do you want from me?” he asked.

“I want you to join forces with me,” Marlowe explained. “I want to destroy them. They want to destroy me. They also want to destroy you. In fact, they consider you a far more dangerous enemy than they do me, at least in the long run. They will never stop until they kill you. They seem to think if they can convince me to kill you, your spirit can never reincarnate. Since you seem to be the last in the line of that religious order that has fought them for so long, they believe that your death will herald the end to their long period of exile and the beginning of their ascension to power.”

Khoska stood upon the ground now, still in pain and nauseous, as Marlowe waited for an answer. Khoska walked slowly, hoping to work out the pain, but it seemed useless. He knew he was at the mercy of this creature, and so he considered his options.

“Let me explain something to you,” Marlowe said. “I have no grand scheme for world conquest-far from it. All I desire is to live my life in peace, unmolested, such as it is. Who do you suppose it was who made Dwayne Letcher sabotage their plans to bomb American cities, including Washington? I did that. I also induced Chou to rein in the rampant diseases that would have in time decimated well over half of the world’s population. What good would that do me? All I wanted was a means to be able to feed off whomever I choose with impunity. The cult, the very cult that preserved my remains until the proper time for my resurrection, intended something far different. They never counted on me doing that. Now is the time to destroy them, while they are in disarray, before they can recover. The two of us together can do that.”

Khoska was horrified at the thought of what he now heard. Marlowe, however, seemed serious.

“I can also grant you money beyond your wildest dreams. I have access to hundreds of millions of dollars. I can make do with a few million. I will gladly give you the rest. Think of the good you can accomplish with that much money.”

Khoska now temporarily forgot the pain, and looked Marlowe squarely in the eyes.

“Get thee behind me, Satan,” he said.

“What?” Marlowe said, but Khoska made no reply, just focused his gaze sternly upon him. Marlowe was utterly dumbfounded by this reaction.


With that, Marlowe turned toward the widescreen television. Walking toward it, he pushed a button on the bar and the screen went blank, but then it came back on.

“Something happened that you need to know about,” he said angrily. “I intended to spare you, but I see now that you leave me no choice.”

When the screen resumed play, Khoska realized he now viewed a previously recorded program from earlier in the evening. Flames erupted from a large skyscraper apartment building in what a reporter identified, to Khoska’s immediate horror, as New York City.

Then, he saw his only surviving child, his son Michael, obviously distraught and in a state of shock, as he expressed dismay at the fate of the entirety of his children, in-laws, and grandchildren- all dead, murdered in what was reported as arson. The fire, started and quickly spread with an accelerant, blocked all exits from the apartment building where the family had all gathered, engulfing them all while they slept in an inferno of destruction before any help had any hope of arriving in time to save them. Michael alone managed to escape, though he was unable to save any of the others. His wife was away visiting relatives, and had just received word right before the local news released the victim’s names. All of them had arrived to join Michael in a surprise party for their mother and father. It was their thirtieth wedding anniversary.

“Oh my God,” Khoska gasped in a hushed tone as he made the sign of the cross and shouted a desperate prayer for the souls of all of his family, struggling at the same time not to curse God for allowing this despicable crime to unfold unabated. Yet, he could neither hide nor deny his anger. It was beyond rage. It was disgust approaching outright rebellion.

“Don’t feel bad,” Marlowe said. “I’ve cursed God numerous times. Of course, some might not consider that much of a recommendation.”

Khoska broke down in angry sobs and cried loudly.

“I had nothing to do with any of that, by the way” Marlowe assured him. “That was all the doings of that group of religious lunatics. Nor will they stop, until they have finished with all of you. Someone is, I would imagine, in a hell of a lot of trouble right now due to your son and daughter-in-law’s survival. She was undoubtedly late in her return home. From what I understand, Michael was on his way to the airport to pick her up, and she still had not returned by the time he went back home, to see the home engulfed in flames.

“Unfortunately, for whoever was responsible, these people do not look kindly upon failure. From what I understand, their punishment will be profoundly more intense than saying a hundred extra rosaries and cutting down on their dinner portions for a week or two. They look upon any failure as a sign of God’s displeasure, though never of course as his displeasure at the so-called church in general and certainly not its deacons and elders. No, they look upon failure as a lack of faith at best, at worse a potential betrayal. More often than not, they see such events as a sign the devil has infiltrated their ranks.

“You see, I know all of this, because my brothers were both involved with them, up to their eyeballs. Both Vlad, the one you know best as the Impaler, or Dracula, who is responsible for my curse, and our younger brother, Mircea, who as a monk sought to eventually rise in their ranks to position of patriarch of their insane little branch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. He leads them now. Yes, he has revived as well, and walks the earth in the body of Brad Marlowe, and taken as his wife the woman I was married to, who now exists within the body of your beloved niece Lynette.

“So you see, Father Khoska, they have betrayed me as well. They seek to destroy me, and in the meantime have taken everything away from me that ever I cared about. My own daughter used my remains to conduct curses on her own people, and the tradition has led up into this day. I was but a means to an end to her, and to all her descendants, a way to destroy their enemies and gain power.

“Yes, when I was killed, and once Vlad was finished with his abhorrent life of constant warfare and strife, the cult was relegated to simply a few families of gypsies, into whom my daughter was forcibly married. That was Vlad’s plan all along. He told the courtiers who betrayed me that the life of a gypsy vagabond would be the perfect punishment for the daughter of Radu Dracula. They never realized those gypsies were in fact long ago married into the so-called one true Way of The Church of Christ. Vlad died at the hands of my former Turkish overlords, thankfully, before he could continue his plans or benefit in any way from them.”

He stopped and gave Khoska a few minutes to ponder what he said. Khoska, however, said nothing, too grief stricken over the fate of the remainder of his family to respond.

“If we join forces, we can destroy them” Marlowe continued. “Since I have the children in whom they place so much stock safely locked away inside this very building, we have the upper hand, but we have to move fast. We must move swiftly, and brutally. Once we have destroyed them, we can go our separate ways. You will have the money I promised you, and I will have Grace. They have her guarded now in such a way that I cannot get to her. Once she is once more with me, I don’t care about any of this. I will eventually die, of course, but I still have a good two or three hundred years left-give or take a few decades. Killing you and absorbing your blood would increase my lifespan by maybe another two or three centuries, but oh well-I’ll just have to live without it. By the time my normal lifespan has run its course, I will have probably had enough of it anyway.”

Khoska looked at him in amazement.

“Well, what do you say? We don’t have that much more time, you know. Someone will be here soon, and when they arrive, we have to be ready.”

Khoska looked at him with an intensity that cut deeply into him, a sensation he had not felt in recent memory.

“I will not join forces with evil to fight evil,” Khoska replied. “I will destroy you, or you will destroy me, or we will destroy each other. If I survive, I will fight them after I have finished with you. If not, someone will eventually take my place and when God decides on the time, he will at that time cast all of them into the hell where they surely belong. I do not know how he will do it or when, but it is not for me to question God’s power to do so. He will not allow such an abomination to wreak ungodliness and decay into his holy assembly or upon the world at large for very long. Neither would he look kindly on me were I to allow you to leave here alive, without at least trying my utmost to destroy you.”

Marlowe looked strangely at the pool table by where Khoska stood, seemingly in shock at the priest’s pronouncement. He strode casually up to the table, seemingly ignoring Khoska.

“Are you aware that they intend to use these children as prostitutes? Do you realize that they have many people in positions of power that will protect them? Do you understand they intend to continue growing in numbers and influence, and spreading throughout the country and the world?

“Bear in mind these children are more, much more, than mere child prostitutes. They have my power coursing within their veins. They will in fact form a bridge between the world of the living and the dead. They will in effect have my power, with none of my limitations. Can you imagine what destruction they can wreak? Their potential is almost unlimited. Yet, this Christian cult, the one you claim to despise so much, made up of what you insist are heretics, will control their every move, their every thought.

“Well, that is what cults do, of course. They brainwash the weak minded. They control the gullible. The overpower innocence and corrupt it, like they have these children, and like they will through them corrupt untold numbers more. The recent spate of epidemics that swept through Baltimore and almost spread throughout the country is minor in it’s implications compared to what they might accomplish through these children, and through Grace. If it were not for James Berry, they might have continued deceiving me up until now. Thanks to him, my eyes are now open. Now, I can take steps to not only protect myself, but destroy them-forever.”

He stood by the pool table, not looking at Khoska, who merely stared past Marlowe, hearing every word, and yet, at the same time, seeing through them.

“You all must die,” Khoska said. “If the children die in the meantime, they are better off. Either you will feed off them, and eventually turn them into something as hideous as yourself, or they will turn them into a mockery of everything that is sacred. Your offer is completely out of the question.”

Marlowe made no response to this, at first. It was almost as though he knew-there was no hope of ever coming to an accord with this man whose faith forbade any thought of compromise. Khoska was no stranger to compromise, far from it. He was all too familiar with the feeling of self-loathing he had to hide from himself. Far too many times had he compromised his principles with the agents of Securitate. He found a way in his younger years to justify his actions on behalf of the common good. Now, he was older, and wiser, and though he lived for years with the regret, he now finally was at peace with himself. He would never make the same mistake, even if it cost him his life. He stood silently, and firmly. No further words were necessary.

“I have this strange, overwhelming desire to play a game of eight ball,” Marlowe said. “I hope you don’t mind.”

Suddenly, Khoska felt an intense weight bearing down upon him, and try as he did he could not resist the overpowering force that pushed him to his knees.

“Did you really think that on the night I had Raven Randall sent to your church that was a mere subterfuge, a way of getting at your daughter Agnes unmolested?” Marlowe asked. “Well, that was a big part of it, true enough. While I was there, however, I took the time to, let us say, enhance your wine. I am now an essential part of you. I still cannot control your free will, as your faith is much too strong for that. However, I can wreak havoc upon those old bones, as I’m sure you have gathered by now.

“Moreover, I can now feed upon you with no fear of the effects of those old dried up bones I understand you have consumed. The bones of Corneliu Codreanu I have now therefore rendered useless in their effects on me, assuming that was ever any more than just another old wive’s tale to begin with. You see, Khoska, Codreanu was a part of their plan as well. You never thought of that, did you? They tricked him into thinking he was an incarnation of your beloved Archangel Michael, and in so doing, drew off a large segment of your fellow sect members. Thanks to him, the heretics were able to decimate their ranks. Even the idea of grinding up a portion of his bones into powder they based on the old prophecy written down centuries ago by some long forgotten monk. You are the victim of group self-deception and subterfuge.

“Yet, by God, you trudge onward, determined to hold strong to the faith of your grandfather and ancestors. In a way, I admire that spirit, that determination. The more I think about it, however, the more I realize that you are just another deluded fool. Your death will not come quickly enough, but I am determined to see you suffer for your folly to the extent I am able. You should never have refused my offer, old man.”

With that, Marlowe rigidly braced himself as though drawing upon reserves of some previously untapped, though unseen force, and expelled it with a single breath in Khoska’s direction. The pain was unbearable, and yet Khoska could utter not one word, nor even one groan of agony in protest. He soon found himself pinned flat onto the hardwood floor of The Crypt. He felt as though whatever force had control of him sought to push him all the way through the floor to the basement beneath it. He was helpless to resist in any way, and in fact felt as though his insides were at any moment liable to undergo compression out of his frail elderly form all in one final, gruesome squeeze, as though to Radu he was little more than a wrinkled old tube of toothpaste.

At one point, he heard a whirring buzz that gradually ascended to a higher pitch and, when the pain became so unbearable he thought that he would die at any second, the pain suddenly ceased. There was a light all around him, a soft blue light. He found he now could raise his head. As he did so, he saw the sight of Marlowe Krovell, maniacally involved in a game of billiards-apparently with his own self. As if things were not already bad enough, there were now indeed two of them-only one of them was not Marlowe, but an older man, a much bigger man, with long blonde hair and a beard, who seemed desperately determined to win, as did Marlowe. Yet, they seemed strangely unaware of each other’s presence, and seemed equally ignorant of the light that now filled the nightclub, as Khoska himself became aware of yet another presence, one of which the two unknowing adversaries seemed likewise unaware.

Khoska could see the approach of gigantic sandaled feet, and he raised his head slowly. The figure was gigantic, and held a huge sword in his arm, as the blue light both permeated him and exuded from him.

“You must rise,” the figure told him. “You have not yet completed your task. There is one thing yet you must do, and yet one thing more you must face. Remember your vows to me. Hold strong to your faith and your promise to our Lord. I am still with you. Be not afraid, Aleksandre Khoska.”

With that, Aleksandre Khoska rose, his pain not only gone, but now a distant memory. He never felt better. He looked around, and there was Marlowe, seated at a table off to the side, eating some substance Khoska could not identify. Yet, as he crammed the powdery substance inside his mouth, he caught sight of the hideous Cynthia perched on a bar across from him.

“Your friend he has woke up,” she said with a shrill cackle of delight.

Marlowe looked toward Khoska in surprise.

“Yes, it seems that he has,” he observed.

“Let us eat him. I want to eat his soul. I want to eat his old dick and testacles first, though-yummy yummy! I don’t want to eat your old bones. All the good stuff is gone.”

“Shut up, damn you,” Khoska shouted. “You might eat any part of my body you wish to eat, but you will never devour my soul.”

When he said this, Cynthia just cackled in glee, but Marlowe looked profoundly disturbed.

“Cynthia, why don’t you go on out and keep watch?” Marlowe said.

“Very well, but save me some of that old man,” she said.

“I will,” Marlowe promised.

She left so quickly Khoska did not see her mode of exit, as Marlowe regarded him with pronounced curiosity.

“You could understand her?” he asked.

“Of course I could understand her,” Khoska replied. “Why would I not?”

Marlowe looked more alarmed by the minute.

“Well-because she’s a fucking bird?” he suggested.

“A bird?”

“Yes-I called out for help the night I almost destroyed myself in devouring the blood of April Sandusky. It was Cynthia who came to me, who guided me on my torturous journey back to the funeral home. She came to me again on the night I escaped from the hospital. She fed me and nourished me those during those initial days of weakness, of helplessness. My strength was finally restored in time, thanks to her.

I have that kind of power over animals. I can see through to the reality that is their deeper souls. They do have one, you know. Cynthia is quite advanced, as are all black vultures, both socially and in their level of intelligence. Of course, my own power accounts for my ability to commune with her. It doesn’t quite explain your seeming ability to do the same. I must be more a part of you than I ever imagined.

“I am almost all the sorrier now that I am going to have to destroy you. I thought of leaving you to Lynette. That would be a kind of poetic justice, after all. I see now that I cannot afford to take that chance. Besides, I am going to have to destroy both her and Brad Marlowe anyway, after I am finished with you, as well as the children. That will decimate that cult that you are so obsessed with, and which is as obsessed with me as you are. Ruining their plans will be all I need to”-

“You think that thing is just another bird?” Khoska demanded, trying to avoid thinking any further of Lynette, though he found it impossible.

“That is no more an ordinary vulture than Lynette’s true soul inhabits her now reanimated corpse.”

The minute those words left his mouth, Khoska once more heard the earlier high pitched tone as the blue light once again permeated the room, though seemingly without the knowledge of Marlowe, who now resumed his eating.

“Do you know what this is?” Marlowe asked. “This is what remains of the old corpse of Radu Dracula. It seems fitting that I should take all its remaining power unto myself. You see, it will enable me to be truly at my peak when I destroy you. Killing you would be far too easy. The difficulty is in making certain your spirit no longer remains to threaten me, either from some theoretical great beyond, or in a reincarnated form. Your ability to see Cynthia, and to understand her words, tells me I am very lucky indeed that you did not take me up on my previous offer of an alliance. The two of us could never be allies for any more than a brief moment of convenience. Even Cynthia knew better. She told me so, in fact. Animals, of course, are profound in their simplicity. They are far more aligned with the reality of nature than we humans, even those such as I, could ever be.”

“Your Cynthia is lower demon, an Impussae-a daughter of the demon Hecate-one that just manifested in the form of a vulture, which it deemed natural and appropriate for its purpose,” Khoska declared.

“That is nonsense,” Marlowe replied.

“You would think so because it is to your advantage to hide from the truth, which you have been doing throughout the past five hundred years of your existence.”

“What are you talking about?” Marlowe sneered as he rose from the table and approached the old priest, who now stood his ground, suddenly unafraid, as the blue light permeated once more the entire room.

“You are not Radu Dracula,” Khoska replied. “You never were Radu Dracula, any more than you were ever Marlowe Krovell. When you took possession of Krovell, you took possession of not only his body, but his mind, his emotions, all of his memories, both those easily remembered and those long forgotten. Even his addictions and pleasures, his likes and dislikes, became your own.

“So it was when the curse of Vlad Dracula enabled you to take possession of the body of his brother Radu Dracula. You took possession of his body, his mind, his spirit, his emotions, his likes and dislikes, his beliefs, his hopes and fears.”

Marlowe looked savagely at Khoska, and raged silently though noticeably, but said nothing. Yet, he trembled with rage.

“When your demoniac essence was transferred from the mummified remains of Radu Dracula into the person of Marlowe Krovell, you brought with you all of Radu’s pilfered memories and emotions, everything about him which you stole from him.”

“NO!” Marlowe shouted, but he turned away, assailed by the sudden shock of realization.

“Cynthia showed me a glimpse of hell earlier tonight,” Khoska continued. “Quite a neat trick for a mere vulture, wouldn’t you say? She got that from you, my friend. You have an open door to the domains of the netherworld, to that very same hell, because it is your true home. You may indeed dwell for four centuries upon the earth, or even longer, perhaps thousands of years. It is all as but a second compared to the eternity you will eventually face. Once you return to where you belong, there will be no further means of hiding from that reality. You will not be able to deny it then, you filthy demon.”

Radu now trembled visibly, and turned with a look of desperate fear in his eyes.

“YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP OLD MAN!” he screamed maniacally.

“Well, if you do not believe me, then look now upon the tears of the virgin,” Khoska replied as he reached down inside to the inner pocket of his robe.

“This is what my daughter Agnes saw the nights that you came to her,” he said. “You came to her continually in your vain attempts to wear down her spirit, which you could never hope to do, because her faith was far too strong for the likes of you. She saw you for what you were, as I now do likewise. Look upon yourself, and tremble, demon.”

Khoska produced from within his robe the hand mirror held by his late daughter, and held the reflective surface in front of the face of Marlowe Krovell. He could plainly see the hideous evil manifested in the reflected light of the nightclub, and turned in horror away from it.

“Get that thing away from me old man or I will tear you limb from limb, piece by agonizing piece,” Marlowe warned, but Khoska took note of the desperate quality inherent within the demon’s tone, as he strode quickly to the swinging door that led behind the bar. Once there, he jerked back the black cloth that covered the huge mirror, as he flipped on all the lights.

“Here you are, demon,” he said. “Take a good long look at yourself.”

Marlowe turned and saw the face of sheer horror staring at him, what looked to be a gargoyle, greenish gray, with hollowed eye sockets that shone forth two green orbs of dumb malice and lust, now shining with the awareness of discovery and exuding the terror of defeat and of the ultimate fate that Khoska now promised him. He saw the hideous warts that oozed pus in mortal bodily reaction to the intrusion of his demoniac spirit and all the vile and filthy diseases the creature brought with him.

Marlowe screamed in a rage as Khoska prayed loudly and fervently for the deliverance of the Holy Spirit, and called for the strength and guidance of Michael the Archangel. He then produced the sacred blade he had long ago ritually blessed for the purpose now before him, and he advanced quickly, determined to deliver the fatal blow.

However, he approached too quickly, too injudiciously. Marlowe wailed in angry horror as he reached out, gouged at the priests stomach, and pulled him over towards him. He flung Khoska to the ground and, before the old priest had time to react, Marlowe was on top of him, sinking his now hideously protruding fangs deep within his jugular vein. He then began swinging his head angrily like an enraged dog killing a rat, as Khoska’s blood gushed into his hungrily waiting mouth.

Just as suddenly as it seemed to happen, however, Marlowe stopped and recoiled in horror, and in seeming agony. He screamed in desperation for surcease from the pain that afflicted him, as Khoska lay on the floor, barely conscious, in unspeakable pain, as he struggled to control his breathing.

Long forgotten was the true meaning of the phrase “bones of the saint”. The powdered bones of Cornelius Codreanu had, it turned out, been as false as the assertion that the spirit of Michael the Archangel incarnated within the body of the old fascist.

The true meaning of the prophecy, written down centuries before the life of the man whose apostasy all but destroyed the cloistered sect into which his grandfather brought him, lay lost for centuries. Only Agnes, dear sweet Agnes with her truly devout and yet humble faith, had the presence of mind and the God-given grace to understand the true meaning.

Before he came this night to The Crypt, he made a special visit to Doctor Chou, now released on his own recognizance and agreeing to give states evidence of what he knew about the criminal conspiracy most people would never understand, or even be able to conceive.

“Why do you want garlic pills?” he asked. “Why do you want them in such large and strong amounts? Garlic is good for you as a food additive but it is useless in inordinate amounts. You will pass them in your urine.”

“Then I won’t make any urine,” Khoska replied. “Believe me, Doctor Chou, I know what I am doing.”

“It is not good for an elderly person to dehydrate,” Chou objected. “You can do immeasurable damage to your kidneys and bladder, and everything else in the bargain.”

Chou relented in time, without Khoska having to go into any detail as to how dried and powdered garlic was, in his cloistered sect of the Romanian Orthodox Church, once referred to as the “bones of the saint.”

It took considerably more patience to convince Chou to give him the other item he needed, but in time, he prevailed.

“I will trust you to exercise enough discretion to keep this matter confidential,” Chou insisted.

“You have my word as a man of God,” Khoska said, “if that means anything to you.”

Chou grimly handed Khoska the item, which Khoska now held in his hands as he approached the agonized form of Marlowe Krovell.

“Please-help me,” the desperate creature pleaded. “The pain is unbearable.”

“It is not my intention for you or any other creature to suffer unnecessarily,” Khoska replied, with some sincerity. “Not even a demon such as yourself. This should ease your pain. You should have sufficient quantities of my blood to enable it to course through your system appropriately, but you had best hurry.”

The creature downed all four of the pills Khoska handed him, so desperate for relief from his torment he did not take the time to consider the prospect that Khoska might well be tricking him into taking something that might cause him even greater distress.

Yet, as soon as he swallowed the pills, he seemed to calm somewhat. The pain lessened considerably, and as Radu rose slowly to his feet, Khoska fell to his knees, the loss of blood and the pain of the injuries inflicted to his neck and body finally overwhelming him. He sunk down to his knees and prayed, as Marlowe rose with a malicious laugh.

“You crazy old fool,” he said. “Do you realize what you have done? You are dying. You will not last out the remainder of the night. You are as a dead man, and by my hands and with my power. Your blood courses through me, and instead of finishing me off, you showed me mercy. The pain is gone. It is over.”

Marlowe sat down upon a stool as he regarded the prayerful form of Aleksandre Khoska, who continued with his prayers, even as he knew and understood the end of his life was quickly approaching and would soon be upon him.

“Oh, Aleksandre,” Marlowe said. “Do you know who is coming here? Grace will be here shortly. That is right-they are bringing her here. Of course, they do not realize that when they come, I will be alive and well, if somewhat the worse for wear. I will certainly be able to take care of all of them though, thanks to you and your oh so gracious assistance.”

Marlowe now began laughing and snickering like a madman as he shook in uncontrollable glee.

“So, you thought you could beat me by turning me into a heroin addict again,” he said. “What was that, Oxycontin? Oooooohhh. I must remember to pay a call on Doctor Chou. That was so thoughtful and helpful of him. Of course, it will be of no consequence for me to overcome the addiction once more. After all, I did it once. The second time certainly should not be any more difficult. By the time the synthetic heroin wears off, the garlic should as well. Too bad it didn’t destroy me like it would have at one time. It looks like everything is going my way, old priest. See, you and I make good allies after all.”

Khoska collapsed onto the floor, fighting desperately to regain his consciousness. The minutes passed by as he faded in and out, his awareness heightened with each temporary revival, which brought him all the same ever greater weakness. He could not give into it. He had to fight it. There was not that much time left. He tried to rise, but then he collapsed as Marlowe, sliding glasses down the bar to apparently imaginary bar patrons, snickered and giggled as he shook with mirth. It was almost impossible for Khoska to move, let alone raise himself up.

“What time is it?” Khoska finally asked.

“What?” Marlowe replied.

“I left a note-at the church-that I would be here,” he said weakly. “I think-Michael-might be here-soon,” he said. “I left him a message-earlier last night.”

“Marlowe just snickered and shook uncontrollably, as though witness to the most insanely funny expression uttered throughout the ages.

“I heard someone outside just now,” Khoska continued. “Someone is coming.”

“Ohhh, bullllshiiiit, oooold maaaan,” Marlowe drawled as he approached the curtain enclosed window. He pulled it back suddenly, and was immediately overwhelmed by the sudden flood of light.

“It looks like daylight out here, but it don’t hurt that much,” Marlowe said, and cackled, as he sunk to the floor. “Whoops. What’s going on here?”

Khoska, with a supreme effort, finally pulled himself up to his knees, and crawled on all fours to where Marlowe lay quivering.

“It must be even later-than I thought it was,” Khoska said.

The sun was eating away at Marlowe’s skin to such a point he was almost unrecognizable. He didn’t have much time, but Khoska wanted to take no chances. He had to kill him quickly, lest he somehow come to his senses enough to pull himself to safety. If he did that, he would recover in time, and Khoska’s final strategy would be all for nothing. He pulled the blade out of his robe, preparing to plunge it into Marlowe’s chest. As he did so, however, Marlowe gasped.

“Please-help me,” he moaned pitifully. “What am I doing here? Who are you? What’s happened to me?”

It was Marlowe, the real Marlowe, the demon spirit having departed under the combined onslaught of the garlic, the opiate pill, and the onrushing light of the morning sun. Yet, he understood now that Marlowe was beyond help. Even in the extremely unlikely event Khoska or for that matter anyone could save his life, he would exist yet with the curse with which he had been afflicted as surely as had been the body of Radu. He would be in time under the sway of the same monstrous evil. He could not allow that to happen.

“You are going to die, son,” Khoska said. “I am sorry, there is nothing I can do for you, except offer you absolution.”

“I remember you. You’re that priest, the one I went to see, the day Rhino attacked me in your church. What happened?”

“What else do you remember?” Khoska asked.

“I remember now-I killed Raven. I killed my mother and father. Then I found some old trunk and-oh my God, that thing kept ripping into me, trying to make me do things, getting inside of me, until he finally did it, and then I couldn’t do anything about it. Oh God”-

“I can offer you absolution for your sins, but you must have faith,” Khoska said. “You must confess your sins and ask for God’s mercy.”

Marlowe agreed, whereupon Khoska prayed fervently for God to see to the welfare of the poor tortured soul who would soon be coming his way. Marlowe repeated the prayers Khoska prayed, as best he could, despite the pain, as Khoska, with yet another pained effort, pulled himself up to the table on which still sat a glass of the water earlier proffered him by Marty Evans. He weakly grasped the glass of water and lowered himself down to the ground. He doused Marlowe with the water, whereupon he pronounced his salvation by the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Marlowe looked up at Khoska, and though he grimaced with pain, his eyes were clear. He was at peace for the first time in his life, it seemed.

“Thank you,” Marlowe said. “I think-I’ll be all right now.”

As he said this, he went limp, and then closed his eyes. Khoska kept a tight grip upon his hand, and Marlowe let out one last, deep breath. His eyes went back in his head as his eyelids shut, and his last breath-the first one Khoska saw him take this night-exited from his body in a loud whoosh of expelled air.

Khoska tottered on the brink of collapse, and tried to pull himself away from Marlowe, whose dead right hand yet held a tight grip on Khoska’s. Suddenly, Marlowe shot up and, grabbing hold of Khoska, pulled him down toward him as he bared his fangs. Desperately Khoska retrieved the blade from within his robe and, ignoring the pain, thrust it into Marlowe’s chest with a superhuman strength born of a manic desperation. He plunged it in deeply, and Marlowe went back on his back onto the floor, his eyes finally staring out into nothing, as Khoska finally gave out, his last bit of strength completely spent. He went over on the floor on his back.

He died in that one-second interval, and saw the peaceful, light-bluish light engulf him, urging him on toward the center, where he could sense the presence of all his loved ones, all of his family. Marta was there, and she stood in front of the rest of them, giving him a good humouredly chiding look as she wagged her finger.

“It’s about time,” she said. “Remember, I told you about the garlic. After all this time, you listen finally. You’re almost ready.”

“Marta, I am ready,” he said. “I have never been as ready for anything in my life.”

“Now, Aleksandre, you know what you always said about unfinished business.”

“What unfinished business?” Khoska asked her.

“How would I know?” Marta answered with a shrug. “We don’t think about those things here. I just know there is one more thing you have to do, one more thing you have to know, as it were. Do you really think I am going to be able to put up with you wondering about these things and asking me questions that I have no way of answering? Go, Khoska, see to them.”

Suddenly, he was back on the floor of the bar, but he was not alone. Michael was there, leaning over him, crying.

“Father, it will be all right. I got your message. I got here as soon as I could. I will get you to a hospital as soon as I can.”

“Have you-called-an ambulance yet?”

“Father, don’t worry about that now. You did well. You killed that creature. I am very proud of you.”

Khoska finally opened his eyes. He tried to raise himself but Michael tried to restrain him. He was fading fast. Aleksandre Khoska would not last longer than a few minutes at the most. He had to let Michael know.

“It was you the entire time, wasn’t it, Michael?”

Michael winced at this.

“Try not to talk, poppa.”

“You were in on it with them,” Aleksandre said. “You brought that abominable creature to the church, and purposely left Agnes to Marlowe. It was you who helped Marlowe infect the sacramental wine to give him power over me. You were involved with Martin and Louise Krovell in everything they did. You knew they were responsible for Jonathon’s murder. You even murdered your own children and grandchildren.”

“How-did you find out?” Michael asked, seemingly relieved the deception was at last revealed. He breathed a deep sigh.

“You realize a lot of things in your last minutes,” Khoska replied. I think-I knew it all the time. I just-didn’t want-to see it. I could not bear-“

“The world is changing father,” Michael said sternly. “God’s will on earth must soon manifest, and the first thing the world sees will be his holy wrath. The whole world must be born again, as it says in the Holy Bible, the Word of God. ‘Yea, verily, I say unto thee, before a man may enter the kingdom of heaven, he must be born again.’ Grace will show us all the way father. She is the sacred vessel of God.”

“Grace Rodescu-is as evil and deluded as the rest of you. Michael, how could you align yourself with these heretics? How could you believe their lies? What have they done to you?”

Michael now cried, as he reached his hand out to his father, but Khoska rejected the proffered hand.

“The world is rife with strife and bloodshed, with sin and avarice,” Michael declared. “They have the way to make things right. They are the one true Church, the Way of The Church of Jesus Christ. You judge them by the deceptive criterion adapted from the standards of the Roman Empire, from the day the Romans drove them underground, on through to today. Yet, they thrive, they prosper, and they offer a new way, a way of peace and love and universal harmony. It is over, father. The false antichrist, the Roman Empire as expressed through the current false churches of this world, is through. Soon that deceit and corruption will no longer be with us. I have seen a miracle, father. Soon, you will see one as well. Grace is due to arrive here any minute now, and you will see what I mean. In fact, I think she is here.”

Khoska could barely make out the sound of the automobile as it pulled up to the front of The Crypt. However, he could feel the presence of the person who walked into the door, almost running and bounding into the bar. He raised his head, in awe of the sight of the young girl in the Baltimore Orioles baseball cap, a young girl who looked identical to the teenage child he had seen more than fifteen years previously, as a young girl of thirteen.

“Grace?” Khoska whispered hoarsely. “Is that really you?”

“Are you all right, mister?” the girl asked. She then looked in the direction of Michael, who smiled at her.

“Welcome home, Grace,” he said.

“Mikhail!” the girl shouted excitedly, and then rushed into his arms and hugged him tightly as Michael’s wife entered the bar.

“I’m sorry if I upset you,” Grace said.

“It was all a big misunderstanding Grace. Everything will be different from now on. We have some new children, and you will teach them everything you know. Nadia and I will make sure you have everything you need. You will want for nothing, nor will you ever have anything to fear again.”

“Nadia,” Khoska said as he looked at the woman, his son’s wife, in sad realization. “You two are the Mikhail and Nadia whom Grozhny warned me about? Oh, my God-sweet Jesus and Mary!”

“We are all very sorry that it had to come down to this, Aleksandre,” Nadia said. “Michael tried to warn you, but you wouldn’t listen. You could not be dissuaded.”

“Hey, I remember this old guy now-he’s the one that tired to help me when Grozhny had me in his cabin. What happened to him?”

“I’m afraid I have some bad news for you, Grace,” Nadia said. “Radu is dead, and I am afraid our dear Aleksandre here is responsible. Of course, Radu had to die, just as Christ had to die, to atone for all our sins. That hardly makes Pontius Pilate a hero though, does it?”

The young girl lowered herself down to the ground as she hovered over the body of Marlowe Krovell, his skin dissolved by the light of the morning sun as though it were acid.

“Ra-du,” she croaked sadly. “Radu.”

“It will be all right, little one,” Michael said as he shot Nadia a warning look, and then looked over toward his father, who had now lost the capacity for all speech. He no longer cared. He would soon be joining his beloved Marta, and would once more see Agnes, as well as his mother, father, and grandfather, all of their rivalries completely and happily forgotten, as he hoped to forget all his own pain. He wondered if Lynette-the real Lynette-would be there, and told himself that, yes, surely she would be.

“Do you know what I want now, more than anything?” Grace now asked as she rose from Radu’s body and looked mischievously and longingly toward Michael.

“Whatever it is, it’s yours,” he replied.

“I want a big bottle of coca-cola with peanuts inside it, like you used to get us all the time before we would go out on the town,” she answered eagerly, yet demurely.

“You got it, Grace,” Michael answered, as Khoska felt waves of release drifting over him. With the release, came an odd form of relief. He heard the young girl bounding cheerfully out of the room.

“You are ready now, Aleksandre,” he heard the voice of his wife say now.

“I am sorry, Marta, for the time I betrayed you, and all those times that I disappointed you,” Aleksandre said.

“It is all right, my dear husband,” Marta said. “I know about what you done, yet strangely I do not remember it. We do not dwell on such things here. It is an entirely different place, and a completely different life. We are all waiting for you. You will see what I mean when you get here.”

Aleksandre did already in fact have an idea what she meant. He knew that he should be sad, but could not be. He knew he had done things in life he had long been sorry for, but strangely enough found it harder with every passing second to recall them. How had he betrayed his wife? He started to understand now that such things bore no true relevance. There was no pain, and there was no sorrow. There was no regret, for the memory of all hardships and difficulties were gone. He felt blissful. He was happy, for the first time in a long time.

Even though he knew her somehow, he yet could not recall the name of the young girl in the baseball cap who now stood over him, glaring at him angrily, nor did he even remember in what manner he had known her. He would be with Marta soon, so felt no dread as the young girl-he seemed to recall her name might be Grace-raised the baseball bat far above her head. She shouted but he could not hear her, as she brought the bat down with all her might upon his head.

He felt a sharp pain, but it only lasted an instant, before the healing blue light engulfed it as well.

Links to Previous Chapters
Part One
Prologue and Chapters I-X
Part Two
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
Chapter XXXVI
Chapter XXXVII
Chapter XXXIX
Chapter XXXX
Chapter XXXXI
Chapter XXXXII
Chapter XXXXIV
Chapter XXXXV