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Authors: Dennis Wheatley

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BOOK: The Devil Rides Out
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Unable to stir hand or foot, he watched the abhuman figure grow in breadth and height, its white draperies billowing with a strange silent motion as they rose from the violet mist that obscured the feet, until it overflowed the circles that ringed the pentagram and seemed to fill the lofty chamber like a veritable Dijn. The room reeked with the sickly stench–the abominable affluvium of embodied evil.

Suddenly red rays began to glint from the baleful slanting eyes, and Rex found himself quivering from head to foot. He tried desperately to pray: ‘Our Father which art in Heaven—hallowed—hallowed—hallowed …' but the words which he had not used for so long would not come; the vibrations, surging through his body, as though he were holding the terminals of a powerful electric battery, seemed to cut them off. His left knee began to jerk. His foot lifted. He strove to raise his arms to cover his face, but they remained fixed to his sides as though held by invisible steel bands. He tried to cry out, to throw himself backwards, but, despite every atom of will he could muster, a relentless force was drawing him towards the silent, menacing figure. Almost before he realised it, he had taken a pace forward.

Through that timeless interval of seconds after the violet mist first appeared, De Richleau stood within a foot of Rex, his eyes riveted upon the ground. He would not even allow himself to ascertain in what form the apparition had taken shape. The sudden deathly cold, the flicker of the lights as the room was plunged in darkness, the noisome odour, were enough to tell him that an entity of supreme evil was abroad.

With racing thoughts, he cursed his foolhardiness in ever entering the accursed house without doing all things proper for their protection. It was so many years since he had had any dealings with the occult that his acute anxiety for Simon had caused him to minimise the appalling risk they would run. What folly could have possessed him, he wondered miserably, to allow Rex, whose ignorance and scepticism would make him doubly vulnerable, to accompany him. Despite his advancing age, the Duke would have given five precious years of his life for an assurance that Rex was staring at the parquet floor, momentarily riveted by fear perhaps, yet still free from the malevolent influence which was streaming in pulsing waves from the circle; but Rex was not. Instinctively, De Richleau knew that his eyes were fixed on the Thing, and a ghastly dread caused little beads of icy perspiration to break out on his forehead.

Then he felt, rather than saw, Rex move. Next second he heard his footfall and knew that he was walking towards the pentagram. With trembling lips he began to mutter strange sentences of Persian, Greek and Hebrew, dimly remembered from his studies of the past–calling–calling–urgently– imperatively, upon the Power of Light for guidance and protection. Almost instantly, the memory that he had slipped the jewelled swastika into his waistcoat pocket when Max returned it flashed into his mind, and he knew that his prayer was answered. His fingers closed on the jewel. His arms shot out. It glittered for a second in the violet light, then came to rest in the centre of the circle.

A piercing scream, desperate with anger, fear, and pain, like that of a beast
seared with a white-hot iron, blasted the silence. The lights flickered again so that the wires showed red, came on, went out, and flickered once more, as though two mighty forces were struggling for possession of the current.

The chill wind died so suddenly that it seemed as if a blanket of warm air had descended on their faces, but even while that hideous screech was still ringing through the chamber De Richleau grabbed Rex by the arm and dragged him towards the door. Next second the control of both had snapped and they were plunging down the stairs with an utter recklessness born of sheer terror.

Rex slipped on the lower landing and sprawled down the last flight on his back. The Duke came bounding after, six stairs at a time, and fell beside him. Together they scrambled to their feet, dashed through the library, out of the french windows, and across the lawn.

With the agility of lemurs they swung up the branches of the laburnum, on to the wall, and dropped to the far side. Then they pelted down the lane as fast as their legs could carry them, and on until a full street away they paused, breathless and panting, to face each other under the friendly glow of a street lamp.

De Richleau's breath came in choking gasps. It was years since he had subjected himself to such physical exertion, and his face was grey from the strain which it had put upon him. Rex found his evening collar limp from the sweat which had streamed from him in his terror, but his lungs were easing rapidly, and he was the first to recover.

‘God, we're mighty lucky to be out of that!'

The Duke nodded, still unable to speak.

‘I take back every word I said,' Rex went on hurriedly. ‘I don't think I've ever been real scared of anything in my life before, but that was hellish!'

‘I panicked too, towards the end, couldn't help it, but I should never have taken you into that place, never,' De Richleau muttered repentantly as they set off down the street.

‘Since we've got out safe it's all to the good. I've a real idea what we're up against now.'

The Duke drew Rex's arm through his own with a friendly gesture. Far from desiring to say ‘I told you so!' he was regretting that he had been so impatient with Rex's previous unbelief. Most people he knew regarded devil worship and the cultivation of mystic powers as sheer superstitions due to the ignorance of the Middle Ages. It had been too much to expect Rex to accept his contention that their sane and sober friend Simon was mixed up in such practices, but now he had actually witnessed a true instance of Saiitii, De Richleau felt that his co-operation would be ten times as valuable as before.

In the St John's Wood Road they picked up a belated taxi, and on the way back to Curzon Street he questioned Rex carefully as to the form the Thing had taken. When he had heard the description he nodded. ‘It was Mocata's black servant, undoubtedly.'

‘What did you say he was?'

‘A Malagasy. Half Negro and half Polynesian. A great migration took place many centuries ago from the South Seas to the East African Coast by way of the Malay Peninsula and Ceylon. Incredible though it may seem, they covered fifteen thousand miles of open ocean in their canoes, and most of them settled in Madagascar, where they
intermarried with the aborigines and produced the Malagasy, which are said to have inherited the worst characteristics of both races.'

‘And Madagascar is the home of Voodoo, isn't it?'

‘Yes. Perhaps he is a Witch doctor himself… and yet I wonder …' The Duke broke off as the taxi drew up before Errol House.

As they entered the big library Rex glanced at the clock and saw that it was a little after three. Not a particularly late hour for him, since he often danced until the night clubs emptied, nor for De Richleau, who believed that the one time when men opened their minds and conversation became really interesting was in the quiet hours before the dawn. Yet both were so exhausted by their ordeal that they felt as though a month had passed since they sat down to dinner.

Rex remade the remnants of the fire while the Duke mixed the drinks and uncovered the sandwiches which Max always left for him. Then they both sank into armchairs and renewed the discussion, for despite their weariness, neither had any thought of bed. The peril in which Simon stood was far too urgent.

‘You were postulating that he might be a Madagascar Witch doctor,' Rex began. ‘But I've a hunch I've read some place that such fellows have no power over whites, and surely that is so, else how could settlers in Africa and places keep the blacks under?'

‘Broadly speaking, you are right, and the explanation is simple. What we call Magic–Black or White–is
the Science and Art of Causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.
Any required Change may be effected by the application of the proper kind and degree of Force in the proper manner and through the proper medium. Naturally for causing any Change it is requisite to have the practical ability to set the necessary Forces in right motion, but it is even more important to have a thorough qualitative and quantitative understanding of the conditions. It is infinitely harder for the wills of either race to work on the other.

‘Another factor which adds to the difficulty of a Negro or Mongolian Sorcerer working his spells upon a European is the question of vibrations. Their variation in human beings is governed largely by the part of the earth's surface in which birth took place. To use a simple analogy, some races have long wave lengths and others short, and the greater the variation the more difficult it is for a malignant will to influence that of an intended victim. Were it otherwise, you may be certain that the white races, who have neglected spiritual growth for material achievement, would never have come to dominate the world as they do today.'

‘Yet that devil of Mocata's got me down all right. Ugh!' Rex shuddered slightly at the recollection.

‘True, but I was only speaking generally. There are exceptions, and in the highest grades–the Ipsissimus, the Magus and the Magister Templi–those who have passed the Abyss, colour and race no longer remain a bar, so such Masters can work their will upon any lesser human unless he is protected by a power of equal strength. This associate of Mocata's may be one of the great Adepts of the Left Hand Path. However, what I was really wondering was, is he a human being at all?'

‘But you said you saw him yourself when you paid a call on Simon weeks back.'

‘I
thought
I saw him, so at first I assumed that the Thing you saw tonight was his Astral body, sent by Mocata to prevent our removing his collection of Devil's baubles; but perhaps what we both saw was a disembodied entity, an actual Satanic power which is not governed by Mocata, but has gained entry to our world from the other side through his evil practices.'

‘Oh Lord!' Rex groaned. ‘All this stuff is so new, so fantastic, so utterly impossible to me, I just can't grasp it; though don't think I'm doubting now. Whether it was an Astral body or what you say, I saw it all right, and it wasn't a case of any stupid parlour tricks, I'll swear to that. It was so evil that my bones just turned to water on me in sheer blue funk, and there's poor Simon all mixed up in this. Say, now, what the hell are we to do?'

De Richleau sat forward suddenly. ‘I wish to God I knew what was at the bottom of this business. I am certain that it is something pretty foul for them to have gone to the lengths of getting hold of a normal man like Simon but, if it is the last thing we ever do, we've got to find him and get him away from these people.'

‘But how?' Rex flung wide his arms. ‘Where can we even start in on the hope of picking up the trail? Simon's a lone wolf, always has been. He's got no father; his mother lives abroad; and he hasn't even got a heap of relatives who we can dig out and question.'

‘Yes, that is the trouble. Of course he is almost certain to be with Mocata, but I don't see how we are to set about finding somebody who knows Mocata either. If only we had the address of any of those people who were there this evening we might …'

‘I've got it!' cried Rex, leaping to his feet. ‘We'll trace him through Tanith.'

7
De Richleau Plans a Campaign

‘Tanith,' the Duke repeated; ‘but you don't know where she is, do you?'

‘Sure.' Rex laughed, for the first time in several hours. ‘Having got acquainted with her after all this while, I wouldn't be such a fool as to quit that party without nailing her address.'

‘I must confess that I'm surprised she gave it to you.'

‘She hadn't fallen to it that I wasn't one of their bunch then! She's staying at Claridges.'

‘Do you think you can get hold of her?'

‘Don't you worry, I meant to, anyhow.'

‘You must be careful, Rex. This woman is very lovely, I know, but she's probably damnably dangerous.'

‘I've never been scared of a female yet, and surely these people can't do me much harm in broad daylight?'

‘No, except for ordinary human trickery they are almost powerless between sunrise and sunset.'

‘Fine. Then I'll go right round to Claridges as soon as she is likely to be
awake tomorrow… today, rather.'

‘You don't know her real name though, do you?'

‘I shouldn't worry. There aren't two girls like her staying at Claridges–there aren't two like her in all London.'

De Richleau stood up and began to pace the floor like some huge cat. ‘What do you intend to say to her?' he asked at length.

‘Why, that we're just worried stiff about Simon, and that its absolutely imperative that she should help us out. I'll give her a frank undertaking not to do anything against Mocata or any of her pals if she'll come clean with me, though Heaven knows I can't think she's got any real friends in a crowd like that.'

‘Rex, Rex.' The Duke smiled affectionately down into the honest face of the young giant stretched in the armchair. ‘And what, may I ask, do you intend to do should this lovely lady refuse to tell you anything?'

‘I can threaten to call in the cops, I suppose, though I'd just hate to do anything like that on her.'

De Richleau gave his eloquent expressive shrug. ‘My dear fellow, unless we can get some actual evidence of ordinary criminal activities against Mocata and his friends, the police are absolutely ruled out of this affair, and she would know it.'

‘I don't see why,' Rex protested stubbornly. ‘These people have kidnapped Simon, that's what it boils down to, and that's as much a crime as running a dope joint'

‘Perhaps, and if they had hit him on the head our problem would be easy. The difficulty is that to all outward appearances he has joined them willingly and in his right mind. Only
we
know that he is acting under some powerful and evil influence which has been brought to bear on him, and how in the world are you going to charge anyone with raising the devil, or its equivalent, in a modern police court?'

BOOK: The Devil Rides Out
13.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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