“I’m really am so glad that you were able to see me today, Doctor,” said young Miss Elizabeth Ryder, her voice trembling as she sat across the desk from me, and her pretty blue eyes moistening slightly with the tears she was attempting to hold back.

“I promise I shall do all that is within my power to assist with the problem you contacted me about, Miss Ryder,” I replied in my most reassuring voice.

“Oh please,” she said as she brushed her beautiful blonde hair back with one slender white hand, “call me Bess.”

“All right, Bess,” said I. “Would you care for some coffee?”

“Yes, please,” she answered, relaxing somewhat.

I poured a cup of strong, hot coffee for her from the pot on the small table next to my desk.

“Cream and sugar?” I enquired.

“Just a little cream, please,” the young lady replied. Her voice, despite her youth, bespoke of good breeding and refinement in its tone. I handed her the coffee.

“Thank you,” she said. “It’s so good to know that you are here to help with things like… what has happened to me. So few people really even seem to understand them.”

My name is RUMANOS -- DR. DANIEL RUMANOS, Intergalactic Man of Mystery and founder of Gargoyle’s Occult Investigations, the office of which (located as it is within the large, Gothic-styled edifice in which I reside, perched atop a lofty escarpment in the precise middle of the Roland Park neighbourhood north of the hideously-debased city of Baltimore, Maryland) is the location of the very scene that I have here begun to describe.

Now, it should be noted that even though I have the appearance of a tall, strikingly-handsome human gentleman -- with dark hair and noble Anglo-Mediterranean/Semitic features -- I am, in reality much more than this. For I do carry within my blood the genes of the powerful and enigmatic Watchers of the Daemon-Star Algol, located ninety-three light years distant in the Constellation Perseus. This extraterrestrial heritage grants me numerous abilities and powers that appear as “magic” to the people of planet Earth.

Whilst most Algolites merely observe the goings-on of the Universe around them, rarely using their great power, I have instead made it my ongoing mission to help and assist the helpless from any and all who would harm, harass, or exploit them. Such villainous creatures include the various entities often termed “devils” and “demons”. These horrific entities are in actuality the disembodied life-essences of certain races of cruel, warlike peoples (most numerously the dreaded Cacodemons of the Andromeda Galaxy) whose physical bodies were destroyed en masse countless ages ago by the Watchers of Algol. Some of this occurred before the current official policy of non-interference was inaugurated, whilst others were annihilated covertly by the Algolitish secret service organisation known as the Daemonian CID (Cosmic Intervention Department, an organisation also known by numerous other code-names), with which I have myself worked on numerous cases in the past. (We have even at times had to deal with criminal elements among our own august kind. Such an event had most recently occurred involving the ancient Algolitish political criminal known as Nephal, who was finally captured and sentenced to total annihilation, his consciousness reduced to countless unredeemable fragments and scattered to the vast spaces of the farthest corners of the Universe.)

“Now please,” I told the girl, “do give me the details of your case.”

“I’ll try,” said Bess Ryder, the shudder re-entering her voice as she spoke between sips of coffee. “It has been such a frightening experience, Dr. Rumanos, and I don’t know where to begin.”

“You say it had something to do with some artefacts; some antiques that you had inherited?”

“Yes, Dr. Rumanos. They are two old pieces of jewellery my father left me when he passed away last year. He had travelled a lot in the Middle East many years ago, and had acquired them there. My mother has always refused to talk about these things, and didn’t really care for Father’s stories of his adventures in Arabia. It all seemed to scare her somehow.”

“And where is your mother, now?” I queried.

“She went to visit some family in England. I had to stay at home since my next semester at school begins before she will return.”

“So, tell me, how would you describe these antiquities?”

“One is a silver star with five points,” she answered. “A pentagram or pentacle, I suppose they call it. The other is made of gold and is in the shape of a fish!”

I made no reply, not wanting to upset the young girl any further than she was already. However, what she had just told me was terrifying information indeed, for I recognised by their reputation the objects of which she spoke. They were undeniably relics of an obscene supernatural horror beyond imagining -- indeed beyond all sane conjecture!

‘I say,” said I in sudden realisation, “was your father Professor Henry Ryder, the renowned archaeologist?”

“Yes, he was” young Bess replied. “I grew up at Wexton Manor, his home here in North Baltimore, and still live there.”

“Good Heavens! I am a great admirer of his books about the years he spent in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. So tell me, what about these antiquities? You said in your original message to me that one of them had been stolen?”

“The silver pentacle was stolen from my room during that thunderstorm last night,” replied the girl with a look of fear on her beautiful face. “Oh, it was terrible! I woke up with a flash of lightning and saw the shape of a man in a black, hooded robe just climbing out of the window near the foot of my bed. I had hoped it was just a dream or something, and so I huddled under the covers, crying. But when I got up today, I noticed that my jewellery box had been broken into and that the pentacle was missing!”

“Yet the prowler left the golden fish behind?” I enquired.

“Yes,” she said, reaching into her small purse, “here it is.”

She handed me the object, which still glistened with pure, barely-tarnished gold despite its great age. It was indeed what I had suspected -- the Ichthys Amulet of the old Greco-Egyptian Priesthood, a very early form of Mystical Christianity. The missing one would then certainly be the Silver Pentacle Talisman of Azazel, that abhorrent and archaic goat deity of the Near East, which this Second Century Church had believed they could conjure by right of the pentagram, and then control by the holy power of the amulet, itself an ancient symbol of the divinity of Christ. The horrid Azazel would then be forced to take the manifold sins of the people upon itself, before being banished back to that inter-dimensional prison known as the very Abyss of Hell.

Therefore, if as I had already suspected, and Bess’s story had apparently confirmed, the Silver Pentacle Talisman had been stolen by some cult intent upon using it, they must be execrably satanic indeed; even to the point of being unable to utilise the Golden Fish Amulet due to its holiness. If this diabolical sect intended to call forth Azazel himself, this would be an awesomely dangerous undertaking, for they would have no true control over the demoniacal creature; and this Azazel was without any doubt an entity of immense and unmentionably evil power -- being in fact being one of the aforementioned Cacodemons of Andromeda!

Azazel, the “Scapegoat” -- demonic deity of desolation and of unnatural sexual practices. I wondered… Through one of my numerous connections in the occult underground network, I had heard rumour of a satanic group planning a ritual or ceremony to be held secretly in Guilford Park. Why they would choose this location had been unknown to me up until now. Upon hearing Miss Elizabeth Ryder’s account of the burglary from her home it soon occurred to me that Wexton Manor is very near this same park, and so the cult could take advantage of the psychical currents caused by the talisman having been at that location for so many years.

In addition, to my horror I realised that indeed that very night was the thirtieth day of April -- Beltane or Walpurgisnacht, the most important festival on the unholy calendar of the perverse worshipper of the forces of eldritch darkness!

“Bess,” I said to the girl, “I do not wish to frighten you, but I must inform you that from what you have told me, it appears that we may all be in an horrible state of danger.”

“I thought that might be so,” she replied shakily. “Somehow, I just knew it. What should I do, Dr. Rumanos? What should I do?”

“I promise I will do all within my power to help,” I reassured the young woman. “However, you must trust me and obey me in all things. You shall have to remain under a certain magical protection, whilst I go to apprehend the occult criminal who stole the talisman!”

“I trust you,” she responded. “I swear I will do whatever you tell me.”

I kept the utmost calmness of my manner in order to comfort the girl and to bolster her courage as much as possible. Nevertheless, I felt a certain sense of bizarre trepidation myself. Azazel had been one of the most malicious and inscrutably wicked of the Cacodemons during the great cosmic wars between his race and my people, the Watchers of Algol. Whilst now a disembodied spirit, he had been furthered empowered over the millennia of human existence by the psychic force of the sinful desires and inclinations he represented as the “Scapegoat” in so many ritual observances. And now, with this diabolical sect attempting to call him forth for their own grotesquely impious and blasphemous reasons, the consequences for the unleashing of absolute obscene chaos were well-nigh limitless. This is what I had to face; this is what I and I alone had to stand against! …

Guilford Park sets upon seven acres of posh North Baltimore land, adjoining the aforementioned Wexton Manor estates. The park is known primarily for its well-manicured orchid garden, and is frequently made use of for picnics and related charity events by the local elite. The latter, of course, seem to be partial to nothing more-so than gathering to sip mint juleps whilst chatting about how wonderful it is for one to be able to financially assist those less fortunate than oneself -- so long as one does not have to look at them, of course.

However, on this night was Guilford Park being utilised for a far different purpose. For this was Walpurgis Night, the night of demoniacal evil and unspeakable horrors conjured from the darkest depths of unholy Perdition. On this night, as the clouds gathered betokening the brewing storms round and about the Mid-Atlantic area, the nauseating members of the local Cult of Azazel where also gathered -- all three of them -- to call forth their diabolical master. They had already managed to erect a barrier of magical glamour around the park itself, so that they wouldst not find themselves interrupted in their ungodly worship by the local police or any other common authorities.

The leader of this cult was a short, morbidly obese individual by the name of Dick Hartley (“Dick” being indeed his actual first name. It was not short for Richard. Just Dick), himself a resident of the horrid Curtis Bay neighbourhood of the city’s most southern portion. Curtis Bay is a notorious “white-trash” area bordering the African-American ghetto of Cherry Hill, proving that the varying ethnicities of the human race can indeed achieve equality -- even in their mutual degradation.

“Come forth!” shouted Dick Hartley through his scruffy, unkempt beard whilst his diseased spittle dribbled down upon the black ceremonial robe he wore. “Come forth, our master Azazel, lord of freedom and spirit of lust! Hail Azazel!”

Hail Azazel!” echoed back Hartley’s two robed coreligionists, one of whom was his wife, Trish, a grossly unattractive woman as disgustingly corpulent as he was himself. She also had a face like a pig. By this should not solely be understood a reference to her weight. If the nauseating woman had lost enough poundage, she would have then just resembled a skinny pig. Indeed, her ancestors had been swine farmers for many generations, and one wonders what unmentionable activities had at some time taken place to cause the rise of such atavistic animalism in the countenance of the revoltingly vile Mrs. Hartley.

The remaining cultist was a thin, middle-aged man named Jay Lester, who worked in an auto parts shop in the flying-cockroach and worthless-redneck infested State of Florida, having travelled here to take part in the ceremony along with his friend Dick Hartley, to whom he had an homosexual attraction that he would never dare to admit. Nevertheless, Lester considered his desires to be morally admissible. After all, Hartley was fat and flabby enough so that his breasts somewhat resembled those of a woman.

Now, this Dick Hartley had once only been the leader of something ridiculously entitled the Paranormal Society of Greater Maryland; yes, yet another one of those mentally-benumbed “ghost-hunting” groups. He was still known to his buddies as “Ghostman Hartley“, having inherited the group from his cousin Bill when the latter had dropped dead of a stroke some years previous to these events. The hillbilly cousins had first become enamoured of the “paranormal” when they had watched the short-lived cable television series Spirits of Sheepstown together, oft masturbating to the programme’s “hot psychic chick” character (actually an actress named Victoria Saintly). Notwithstanding this, the concept of gaining supernatural powers had appealed to them as a more distinct possibility than that of ever being ever to actually date attractive girls.

Dick Hartley had expanded the PSGM into the Cult of Azazel in his dreadfully immoral search for occult power. He had sent Jay Lester to steal the Silver Pentacle of Azazel -- the same silver talisman that Hartley now wore on a chain around his own flabby neck as he continued to intone the hideous words of satanic conjuration!

“Come forth and grant us our darkest desires, O mighty Azazel!” he chanted. “O Azazel, god of this world and ruler of all, open wide the gates of Hell and come forth to greet us, your servants who curse the just and favour the rotten! By the names of Judas and of Barabbas and of our king Lucifer-Astaroth, come forth O Scapegoat! Our Lord Azazel, come forth!!”

Do you recognise the unnameable eldritch horror of this situation, dear reader? For with these words, as flashes of lightning began to play about the lowering clouds and a sound started to grow as of the howling of a thousand infernal curs, an huge, black form began to coalesce before the assembled Satanists. It was a shape of unimaginable and ungodly terror, an horror beyond all rational imagining; the appearance as of a gigantic, horned goat with balefully-glowing crimson eyes -- the obscene, phallic form of the evil spirit of that ancient and grotesquely-powerful Cacodemon known to infamy indeed as the Horned Beast AZAZEL!

“Inbred hillbilly ‘ghost-hunters’ turned Satanists,” said I, stepping out from behind a large tree in the shelter of which I had thus far observed these hideous proceedings. “How bloody cliché.”

(It is indeed the case that I had hoped to see an abatement of devil-worshipping activity upon Earth following the recent death of my self-proclaimed archenemy, the false prelate known as “Bishop” James Short. He had died in prison of a heart attack after having made Confession and receiving Absolution from an actual Catholic Priest. Short’s accomplice, Joseph Pierce, had similarly repented and been released, and now worked as a harmless tour-guide at a supposedly-historical location in Louisville, Kentucky. Ironically enough, it was a disused building that had at one time housed the state penitentiary, and which was now falsely-rumoured to be “haunted“. I then, subsequent to this, eventually succeeded in tracking down and justly-killing the fake bishop’s dark and demonic daughter, that satanic slut known as Marceline “Fuzzie” Short. Despite all this, the mad schemes of certain dreadfully-depraved human beings to obtain powers by making pacts with the forces of supernatural darkness continues…)

Dick Hartley turned around and looked at me, a sneer of utter hatred and indignation creasing his already-unsightly visage.

“Daniel friggin’ Rumanos!” he bellowed with rage, his trailer-park dialect coming to the forefront now that he was not reciting the pre-rehearsed invocation. “The friggin’ paranormal busybody and galactic ladies’ man! You make me sick.”

“I assume this is the junction at which I am supposed to retort that you are just envious of me, or something of that sort?” was my rejoinder.

The sound of the manifesting devil had dropped to a low murmur, though the horrid, phantasmagorical form of the Cacodemon itself continued to hover near by.

“You wanna play handball?” Dick Hartley shouted. “I’ll friggin’ expose you, you spy for the Daemon-Star Secret Service! You come here to stick your big nose in where it don‘t belong! Ha! And I drop the mic.”

“No, Hartley,” I responded to his mindless idiocy, “I do not want to ‘play handball’, whatever that may mean to your clay-eating rubbish ilk.”

“I am a real ghost-hunter, Rumanos!” he continued on. “I have real evidence of hauntings!”

“’Ghost-hunter‘, eh?” I mocked. “So, how many trophy ghost-heads do you have on your wall?”

Suddenly, Hartley’s disgusting wife waddled out in front of both him and the silent, rather shivery character of Mr. Lester.

“You leave my husband alone, you bastard!” she screeched.

“I assure you that I am nothing of the kind, madam” I politely replied. “My mother was married to my father.”

“You are friggin’ insane!” the disgustingly swinish woman went on. “My husband is a productive member of society! We own a row-house, and now we can go to The Cheesecake Hole every day! That the best place for dessert! Also, you should see what’s in his pants!”

“Ummm, no thank you,” I answered, utilising my utmost ability to achieve the task of controlling my vomit-reflex as I noticed Jay Lester’s hand move towards his crotch at the thought of what existed in the repulsively-portly Mr. Hartley’s trousers.

“Anyways,” continued the repellent Mrs. Trish Hartley, with her sloping, low-browed forehead barely keeping the hood of her ritual robe from falling over her porcine facial countenance, “you’re too late! Now no power you got can keep Azazel from comin‘! Look!”

Indeed, the grotesquely-wicked individual known as Dick ”Ghostman” Hartley had now turned back towards the manifesting shape of the demoniacal beast remembered in infamy as Azazel -- the Desolate One, the Scapegoat, the Lord of Ungodly Lusts. As the lightning and thunder of the storm again boomed overhead, I turned and beheld that diabolical form growing stringer and still more potently corporeal, as the stench of unhallowed filth grew and another sound of unmentionable horror began to rise in unbearable intensity. It was the sound as of the bleating of a goat!!

Whilst the hideously monstrous form of the diabolical Azazel continued to manifest, a tremendous burst of thunder was heard above the sound of demoniacal howling. With it, a mighty shaft of lightning suddenly leapt down from the darkling sky and hit the large tree behind me, splitting it in twain.

From behind this tree now came into view the lithe figure of a beautiful young girl clad in white, wearing the Golden Fish Amulet on a chain about her alabaster throat. Her long, flaxen hair blew slightly in the breeze as her lovely blue eyes gleamed forth the purity and innocence of her very soul. It was Bess Ryder.

I heard the sickening white-trash Satanist Dick Hartley and his two equally blue-collar cohorts scream in terror as the pure white light flowing from the aristocratic girl hit them soundly. They immediately blinked out of existence as if they had never even been, their execrable working-class idiocy being overcome by the inborn strength of the noble-blooded maiden named Miss Elizabeth Ryder, she of the highest heritage of the British people, with the power of the blood of royalty -- of knights and squires and lords and ladies -- flowing proudly within her veins, and from thence strengthened into a shimmering radiance of most-potent occult power by the curious qualities of the ancient Ichthys Amulet!

Then, with its worshippers no longer present -- indeed, no longer existing -- the horrid, gigantic form of the demonically phantasmal Azazel faded away and disappeared. All was silent as the clouds then parted, and it was suddenly as bright as day when the moon shone with glorious splendour above us. My plan had achieved its goal; the horrendously wicked plot of the Satanists to bring the powers of the Cacodemons back into this world to serve their sinfully carnal purposes had now failed, and the human race was once again safe.

There is little more to tell, as thus was the denouement of this case of the purloined pentacle. Bess returned to her home at Wexton Manor and is now doing quite well, having given both the Silver Pentagram Talisman and the Golden Fish Amulet to me for safekeeping in my now-considerable archive of supernatural and occult artefacts.

Of course, the area of Guilford Park shall likely have something of a blight upon it for some decades to come, due to that hideous ceremony of devil-worship having been enacted there. I dare say, nevertheless, that the neighbourhood will still be much nicer than most of Baltimore.