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Authors: Dennis Wheatley

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‘Well, what do you suggest?'

‘Listen.' The Duke perched himself on the arm of Rex's chair. ‘Even if this girl is an innocent party like Simon, she will not tell you anything willingly, she will be too frightened. As a matter of fact, now that she knows you are not a member of their infernal circle it is doubtful if she will even see you, but if she does, well, you've got to get hold of her somehow.'

‘I'll certainly have a try, but it's not all that easy to kidnap people in a city like London.'

‘I don't mean that exactly, but rather that you should induce her, by fair means or foul, to accompany you to some place where I can talk to her at my leisure. If she is only a neophyte I know enough of this dangerous business to frighten her out of her wits. If she is something more there will be a mental tussle, and I may learn something from the cards which she is forced to throw on the table.'

‘O.K. I'll pull every gun I know to persuade her into coming here with me for a cocktail.'

De Richleau shook his head. ‘No, I'm afraid that won't do. Immediately she realised the reason she had been brought here she would insist on leaving, and we couldn't stop her. If we tried she would break a window and yell Murder! We have got to get her to a place where she will see at once the futility of trying to call for outside help. I have it! Do you think you could get
her down to Pangbourne?'

‘What? To that river place of yours?'

‘Yes; I haven't been down there yet this year, but I can send Max down first thing in the morning to open it up and give it an airing.'

‘You talk as though I were falling off a log to get a girl to come boating on the Thames at what's practically a first meeting. Can't you weigh in and lend a hand yourself?'

‘No. I shall be at the British Museum most of the day. It is so many years since I studied the occult that there are a thousand things I have forgotten. It is absolutely imperative that I should immerse myself in some of the old key works for a few hours and rub up my knowledge of protective measures. I must leave you to handle the girl, Rex, and remember, Simon's safety will depend almost wholly on your success. Get her there somehow, and I'll join you in the late afternoon, say about six.'

Rex grinned. ‘It's about as stiff a proposition as sending me in your place to study the Cabbala, but I'll do my best.'

‘Of course you will.' The Duke began to pace hurriedly up and down again. ‘But go gently with her, I beg you. Avoid any questions about this horrible business as you would the plague. Play the lover. Be just the nice young man who has fallen in love with a beautiful girl. If she asks you about our having abducted Simon from the party, say you were completely in the dark about it. That you have known me for years, and that I sprung some story on you about his having fallen into the hands of a gang of blackmailers, so you just blindly followed my lead without a second thought. Not a word to her about the supernatural–you know nothing of that. You must be as incredulous as you were with me when I first talked to you of it. And, above all, if you can get her to Pangbourne, don't let her know that I am coming down.'

‘Surely–I get the line you want me to play all right.'

‘Good. You see, if I can only squeeze some information out of her which will enable us to find out where Mocata is living, we will go down and keep the place under observation for a day or two. He is almost certain to have Simon with him. We will note the times that Mocata leaves the house and plan our raid accordingly. If we can get Simon into our hands again I swear Mocata shan't get him back a second time.'

‘That's certainly the idea.'

‘There is only one thing I am really frightened of.'

‘What's that?'

De Richleau paused opposite Rex's chair. ‘What I heard this evening of Simon's approaching change of name, to Abraham, you remember. That, of course, would be after Abraham the Jew, a very famous and learned mystic of the early centuries. He wrote a book which is said to be the most informative ever compiled concerning the Great Work. It was lost sight of for several hundred years, but early in the fifteenth century came into the possession of a Parisian bookseller named Nicolas Flamel who, by its aid, performed many curious rites. Flamel was buried in some magnificence, and a few years later certain persons who were anxious to obtain his secrets opened his grave to find the book which was supposed to have been buried with him. Neither Flamel nor the book was there, and there is even some evidence to show that he was still living a hundred years later in Turkey, which is by no means unbelievable to those who have any real knowledge of
the strange powers acquired by the true initiate such as those in the higher orders of the Yoga sects. That is the last we know of the Book of Abraham the Jew, but it seems that Simon is about to take his name in the service of the Invisible.'

‘Well–what'll happen then?'

‘That he will be given over entirely to the Power of Evil, because he will renounce his early teaching and receive his re-baptism at the hands of a high adept of the Left Hand Path. Until that is done we can still save him, because all the invisible powers of Good will be fighting on our side, but after–they will withdraw, and what we call the Soul of Simon Aron will be dragged down into the Pit.'

‘Are you sure of that? Baptism into the Christian Faith doesn't ensure one going to Heaven, why should this other sprinkling be a guarantee of anyone going to Hell?'

‘It's such a big question, Rex, but briefly it is like this. Heaven and Hell are only symbolical of growth to Light or disintegration to Darkness. By Christian, or any other
true
religious baptism, we renounce the Devil and all his Works, thereby erecting a barrier which it is difficult for Evil forces to surmount, but anyone who accepts Satanic baptism does exactly the reverse. They wilfully destroy the barrier of Astral Light which is our natural protection and offer themselves as a medium through which the powers of Darkness may operate on mankind.

‘They are tempted to it, of course, by the belief that it will give them supernatural powers over their fellow-men, but few of them realise the appalling danger. There is no such person as the Devil, but there are vast numbers of Earthbound spirits, Elementals, and Evil Intelligences of the Outer Circle floating in our midst. Nobody who has even the most elementary knowledge of the occult can doubt that. They are blind and ignorant, and except for the last, under comparatively rare circumstances, not in the least dangerous to any normal man or woman who leads a reasonably upright life, but they never cease to search in a fumbling way for some gateway back into existence as we know it. The surrender of one's own volition gives it to them, and, if you need an example, you only have to think of the many terrible crimes which are perpetrated when reason and will are entirely absent owing to excess of alcohol. An Elemental seizes upon the unresisting intelligence of the human and forces them to some appalling deed which is utterly against their natural instincts.

‘That, then, is the danger. While apparently only passing through an ancient barbarous and disgusting ritual, the Satanist, by accepting baptism, surrenders his will to the domination of powers which he believes he will be able to to use for his own ends, but in actual fact he becomes the spiritual slave of an Elemental, and for ever after is nothing but the instrument of its evil purposes.'

‘When do you figure they'll try to do this thing?'

‘Not for a week or so, I trust. It is essential that it should take place at a real Sabbat, when at least one Coven of thirteen is present, and after our having broken up their gathering tonight I hardly think they will risk meeting again for some little time, unless there is some extraordinary reason why they should.'

‘That gives us a breathing space then; but what's worrying me is that it's so early in the year to ask a young woman to go picnicking on the river.'

‘Why? The sunshine for the last few days has been magnificent.'

‘Still, it's only April 29th, the 30th, I mean.'

‘What!' De Richleau stood there with a new and terrible anxiety burning in his eyes. ‘Good God! I never realised!'

‘What's the trouble?'

‘Why, that was only one Coven we saw tonight, and there are probably a dozen scattered over England. The whole pack are probably on their way by now to the great annual gathering. It's a certainty they will take Simon with them. They'd never miss the chance of giving him his Devil's Christening at the Grand Sabbat of the year.'

‘What in the world are you talking about?' Rex hoisted himself swiftly out of his chair.

‘Don't you understand, man?' De Richleau gripped him by the shoulder. ‘On the last night of April every peasant in Europe still double-locks his doors. Every latent force for Evil in the world is abroad. We've got to get hold of Simon in the next twenty hours. This coming night, April 30th, is Saint Walburga's Eve.'

8
Rex Van Ryn Opens The Attack

Six hours later, Rex, still drowsy with sleep, lowered himself into the Duke's sunken bath. It was a very handsome bathroom; black glass, crystal mirrors, and chromium-plated fittings made up the scheme of decoration.

Some people might have considered it a little too striking to be in perfect taste, but De Richleau did not subscribe to the canon which has branded ostentation as vulgarity in the last few generations, and robbed nobility of any glamour which it may have possessed in more spacious days.

His forbears had ridden with thirty-two footmen before them, and it caused him considerable regret that modern conditions made it impossible for him to drive in his Hispano with no more than one seated beside his chauffeur on the box. Fortunately his resources were considerable and his brain sufficiently astute to make good, in most years, the inroads which the tax gatherers made upon them. ‘After him,' of course ‘the Deluge' as he very fully recognised, but with reasonable good fortune he considered that private ownership would last out his time, at least in England where he had made his home; and so he continued to do all things on a scale suitable to a De Richleau, with the additional lavishness of one who had had a Russian mother, as far as the restrictions of twentieth-century democracy would allow.

Rex, however, had used the Duke's bathroom a number of times before, and his only concern at the moment was to wonder vaguely what he was doing there on this occasion and why he had such an appalling hangover. Never, since he had been given two glasses of bad liquor in the old days when his country laboured under prohibition, had he felt so desperately ill.

A giant sponge placed on the top of his curly head brought him temporary relief and full consciousness of the events which had taken place the night
before. Of course it was that ghastly experience he had been through in Simon's empty house that had sapped him of his vitality and left him in this wretched state. He remembered that he had kept up all right until they got back to Curzon Street, and even after, during a long conversation with the Duke; then, he supposed, he must have petered out from sheer nervous exhaustion.

He lay back in the warm, faintly scented water, and gave himself a mental shaking. The thought that he must have fainted shocked him profoundly. He had driven racing cars at 200 miles an hour, had his colours for the Cresta run, had flown a plane 1,500 miles, right out of the Forbidden Territory down to Kiev in one hop. He had shot men and been shot at in return both in Russia and in Cuba, where he had found himself mixed up with the Revolution, but never before had he been in a real funk about anything, much less collapsed like a spineless fool.

He recalled with sickening vividness that loathsome, striking manifestation of embodied evil that had come upon them, and his thoughts flew to Simon. How could their shy, nervous, charming friend have got himself mixed up in all this devilry? For Rex had no doubts now that, incredible as it might seem, the Duke was right, and Satan worship was still a living force in modern cities, just as the infernal Voodoo cult was still secretly practised by the Negroes in the Southern States of his own country. He thought again of their first visit to Simon's house as unwelcome guests at that strange party. Of the Albino, the old Countess D'Urfé, the sinister Chinaman, and then of Tanith, except for Simon the only normal person present, and felt convinced that, but for the intervention of De Richleau, some abominable ceremony would certainly have taken place, although he had laughed at the suggestion at the time.

Sitting up, he began to soap himself vigorously while he restated the situation briefly in his mind. One: Mocata was an adept of what De Richleau called the Left Hand Path, and for some reason unknown he had gained control over Simon. Two: owing to their intervention the Satanists had abandoned Simon's house, taking him with them. Three: Simon was shortly to be baptised into the Black Brotherhood, after which, according to the Duke, he would be past all help. Four: today was May Day Eve when, according to the Duke, the Grand Sabbat of the year took place. Five: following from four, it was almost a certainty that Mocata would seize this opportunity of the Walpurgis Nacht celebrations to have Simon re-christened. Six: in the next twelve hours therefore, Mocata had to be traced and Simon taken from him. Seven: the only possibility of getting on Mocata's trail lay in obtaining information by prayers, cajolery, or threats from Tanith.

Rex stopped soaping and groaned aloud at the thought that the one woman he had been wanting to meet for years should be mixed up in this revolting business. He loathed deception in any form and resented intensely the necessity for practising it on her, but De Richleau's last instructions to him were still clear in his mind, and the one thing which stood out above all others, was the fact of his old and dear friend being in some intangible but terrible peril.

Feeling slightly better by the time he had shaved and dressed, he noted from the windows of the flat that at least they had been blessed with a glorious day. Summer was in the air and there seemed a promise of that
lovely fortnight which sometimes graces England in early May.

BOOK: The Devil Rides Out
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