Authors: Alexandra Sokoloff
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Mystery fiction, #Horror, #Murder, #Police Procedural, #Murder - Investigation, #Massachusetts, #Ghost, #Police, #Crime, #Investigation, #Boston, #Police - Massachusetts - Boston, #Occult crime
The dorm entry was startlingly opulent, with a three-story-high recessed archway over sweeping front stairs and a marble porch. The partners’ footsteps echoed under the archway as they climbed the steps. A sleepy hall coordinator in a flannel robe answered the buzzer. Garrett’s badge opened his eyes.
Jason Moncrief’s room was on the fourth floor, and according to the nervous, round-faced H.C., he had a private. The carpeted stairs smelled strongly of beer, as did the darkened fourth-floor hallway. Garrett and Landauer walked past closed doors, caught a whiff of pot from one room. Landauer rolled his eyes and feigned taking a monster toke, then pulled out his badge, lifted a meaty leg, and mimed the start of a kick to break down the door.
Garrett shook his head, but he understood that his partner was blowing off steam. There was a lot riding on the next few minutes.
They slowed as they approached the closed door of 410, Moncrief’s room.
He was up.
There was music coming from beneath the bedroom door. It was dark and screeching with unearthly violins and harmonica, and someone was playing live guitar along with the track. Garrett was startled to recognize the same music that had been playing when they’d left Cauldron. Immediately he dismissed the thought; the music was similar, that was all. But the eerie feeling of continuation remained.
Landauer leaned forward and rapped on the door. “Boston PD,” he called loudly. The partners listened as the guitar stopped mid-phrase. There was a quick soft scuffling in the room before the door was pulled open.
The young man facing them was musician-slim, with longish dyed black hair and an indolent and slightly androgynous sensuality—a languor that was possibly drug-related. He looked the partners over with an insolence that stiffened Garrett’s spine, but he forced down the reaction; the kid’s arrogance might well work in their favor.
“Boston PD. I’m Detective Garrett, this is Detective Landauer. Homicide Unit.”
Moncrief didn’t have any visible reaction to the “Homicide Unit” identification, but then again, his eyes were black basketballs. High on something, for sure. And that was useful, too.
“We’d like to ask you a few questions,” Garrett continued. Moncrief shrugged and pushed open the door.
Garrett and Landauer immediately stepped into the darkened room, unable to believe their luck. It was a small, typical dorm room, with a bed that was larger than usual for a student room; Garrett guessed it was two single beds pushed together; plus dresser, bookcase, institutional desk and chair. The only light came from thick candles burning on the desk and windowsill; Garrett noted with a start that they were made of black wax. He saw from the careful stillness on his partner’s face that Landauer had noticed, too.
They were at a dangerous crossroads. They were not at this point legally required to read Moncrief his Miranda rights. He had not been taken into custody, the door was open, he could walk out at any time. And technically they were only interviewing him as a witness. But he was becoming more of a suspect by the second. If they Mirandized him, most likely he would snap shut like a clam, and they would be no farther along than they had been before. On the other hand, if they let him keep talking, un-Mirandized, he might well say something crucial that would then be inadmissible in court.
Moncrief slumped down on the bed beside his guitar. The bedspread was black, as were the curtains at the windows.
Garrett decided to walk the tightrope for another minute or two, if only to get a better look at the room. He glanced at the sound system. “Mind turning down the music?”
Moncrief shrugged, made no move from the bed. Garrett stepped to the shelf that held the sound system and pushed the volume off, then turned back to Moncrief. “We’re here about Erin Carmody. Do you know her?”
Moncrief looked at them as if they were imbeciles. “She lives here. Second floor. Killer ass,” he added slyly.
Garrett’s eyes subtly raced over the sparse contents of the room. A poster that was a larger version of the flyer from the club was prominent on one wall. The ceiling shone with glow-in-the-dark stick-on stars, not randomly applied, either; Garrett could see Orion, Cassiopeia’s Chair, and an odd, uneven pattern that he recognized as Scorpio. Astronomy had been one of the classes that had made him stick with college, that rough freshman year.
“How do you know Erin?” he said aloud, in what he hoped was a conversational tone.
“Class. Astronomy,” Moncrief said, his eyes slanting sideways at Garrett. “My favorite,” he added with exaggerated enthusiasm. Garrett felt a jolt of surprise, then narrowed his eyes.
What fucking game is this?
He shifted slightly toward the desk to get a view of the bookcase. It was crammed with textbooks and what looked like required reading for class. But one entire shelf was quality hardcovers—what looked like expensive editions, some of them leather-bound and obviously old. Garrett scanned the titles and was electrified to see names and titles he recognized from his hasty Google search. Aleister Crowley was the author of several:
The Book of the Law . . . The Vision and the Voice . . . Magick in Theory and Practice . . .
A CD case lay on the shelf as well, and Garrett froze as he took in the title:
. The cover photo had a design of three fiery triangles with points touching, on a black background.
Garrett made a quick, instinctive decision and fixed his stare on the kid. “Jason, I’d like to keep talking. But before we go any further I’m going to advise you of your rights.” Garrett reached into his suit coat pocket and withdrew his micro-recorder, to which Moncrief had no reaction. Garrett turned on the recorder and began: “ ‘You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law . . .’ ”
Neither Moncrief’s posture nor his expression changed during Garrett’s recitation. He looked about to nod off.
“Do you understand these rights as I’ve explained them to you?” Garrett finished.
“Suuure . . .” Moncrief drawled.
Garrett glanced at the CD case again and made sure Landauer saw where he was looking. Land’s eyes registered the title and triangle image.
“Jason, what’s Current 333?”
The kid was staring at the green-glowing stars on the ceiling. A secretive smile spread across his face. “Choronzon.”
The partners looked at each other. The word was familiar to
Garrett; he was pretty sure it had come up in his online searching. He eased out a notepad and wrote it down, guessing at the spelling.
? You mean, ‘heart’?”
“Hardly,” the boy scoffed. “Choronzon,” he repeated, with maddening articulation.
“I don’t know what that means,” Garrett said. “Can you explain it?”
“The Lord of Hallucinations,” Moncrief said, his voice dreamy. Garrett and Landauer exchanged another glance. It was possible Moncrief was simply high as a kite.
“Really. You mean, a drug?” Garrett asked pleasantly.
“I mean the Master of the Abyss,” Moncrief shot back, his lip curling in disdain.
“I see. The Abyss,” Garrett repeated, writing it down. “You know, I think it would help if you started from the beginning—”
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” the kid intoned.
Garrett decided to try another tack. “Jason, where is Erin?”
The kid suddenly lunged up from the bed and spat. His eyes had gone totally black, his face feral and twisted. “Zazas Zazas Nasatanada Zazas!” he snarled.
Out of the corner of his eye Garrett saw Landauer flinch back in surprise. Garrett stood his ground, staring at Moncrief. The boy’s skin was stretched tight over his skull, his lips were drawn back from his teeth like an animal’s, and a strange, foul smell rolled from his mouth. Garrett could feel every hair on his scalp and arms lift, a feeling of primal terror.
His mouth was dry as dust as he croaked out: “Where is Erin?”
Horribly, incredibly, that stretched-taut face smiled . . . a smile so tight to the skull Garrett thought wildly that Moncrief’s lips would split open.
“In hell,” the thing in front of them hissed, and then it lunged at Landauer like a coiled cobra striking. Fast as that snake he had sunk his teeth into Landauer’s bare forearm. Landauer let out a window-rattling yell.
Garrett catapulted forward and grabbed Moncrief’s arms, jerking
them behind his back. He felt an unbelievable surge of power in the struggling young body and for a moment doubted he could hold him. He twisted Moncrief’s arms higher and grabbed at his belt for his handcuffs with his right hand, wrestled them onto the boy’s wrists. In their struggle they crashed against the bookcase holding the sound system and the music suddenly blasted. Landauer was shouting, swearing a blue streak; Moncrief’s jaw was still clamped around his arm. Blood seeped from between the boy’s teeth. With his left hand Landauer snatched the Taser from Garrett’s belt and shoved it into Moncrief’s neck.
The screaming violins filled the room as Moncrief’s eyes rolled up into his head and he crumpled to the bed, jerking horribly for an interminable moment . . . and then was still.
The partners stood above him, Garrett still feeling the slithering power of that slight body, Landauer dripping with his own blood.
The Taser had only stunned the boy, Moncrief was conscious, but groggy and docile as the partners led him, one gripping each arm, down the hall, down the beer-soaked stairs, out the grand entrance to the car, jostling past wide-eyed half-dressed students who’d been awakened by the shouting. Garrett saw several cell phones pointed in their direction and, not for the first time, cursed whatever moron had invented the camera phone.
Landauer insisted that they drive straight back to Boston rather than stop at the campus infirmary, and Garrett was secretly relieved; the sooner they got Moncrief into a cell, the better, as far as he was concerned.
Once shut inside the back of the car, Moncrief dropped instantly into a deep sleep. Landauer turned from the passenger seat to look at their collar. “Look at that,” he said with disgust. “Guilty as they come.” Garrett got what he meant. Any seasoned cop knew that an innocent man falsely accused will not be able to sleep a wink in custody, while a guilty one has not the slightest problem dozing off.
The ride was uneasy, the partners feinting around the real questions while Landauer treated his arm with hydrogen peroxide and
Neosporin from the car’s first-aid kit. “Think all that will count as a confession?” he asked, low.
Garrett glanced warily in the rearview mirror, but there was no mistaking the authenticity of the adenoidal snoring coming from their suspect. “I don’t know about confession,” he said, sotto. “But we’ve got probable cause nailed.”
“Lunatic, right?” Landauer said. “Complete fruitcake.” His voice was uneven. Garrett didn’t speak. They were both thinking of what they had seen in that room.
Crazy was the only sane word.
Landauer had managed to reach Dr. Frazer, the BPD’s regular forensic psychiatric consultant, on the drive back, and the pasty, balding doctor was there to meet them in the predawn at the Suffolk County jail intake for an emergency evaluation. The detectives filled out arrest reports while Frazer examined Jason Moncrief.
Moncrief had by then regained at least some consciousness or savvy—or the physical fact of being in jail had snapped him back into reality. As the detectives led him from the car into intake he’d asked for a phone call and an attorney and refused to say anything more. All Dr. Frazer could do was expedite the normal psychological tests, and do the physical exam.
And when that was done, as the guard led their suspect off, Jason Moncrief suddenly turned and looked at Garrett, dark hair and dark eyes and translucent face under the stark glare of the fluorescents. And Garrett felt his heart stop for a fraction of a second.
He was looking at a teenager. A slight, scared, shaking teenage boy.
And then the guard yanked him forward and Jason stumbled on.
With Moncrief safely locked away in a single cell on suicide watch, the detectives and the psychiatrist reconvened around the big table in the conference room back at Schroeder Plaza, joined by Lieutenant Malloy and Carolyn, at 6:00
looking so fresh and polished that it hurt Garrett’s eyes to look at her. He himself had gone beyond five o’clock shadow to predawn beard and felt his skin
would have to be scraped and sterilized even before he could shower and crawl into bed, if that was ever going to happen this century.
The big news was, Moncrief wasn’t crazy.
“No history of psychiatric problems, no dissociative symptoms, response to preliminary testing was normal,” Dr. Frazer reported, his eyes gleaming behind wire-framed glasses that were just a touch too big for his pale, diminutive face. Garrett found the psychiatrist annoying, fastidious to a fault, and prissily condescending—shrink was far too apt a word—but he was the department’s favorite forensic consultant, with a résumé as long as Garrett’s arm. Garrett reached for his coffee mug to avoid looking at the good doctor as Frazer continued his report. “But urine and blood tests showed the presence of atropine in his system.”
Garrett and Landauer looked up from their coffees, which by now were not optional.