THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING PENTACLE

Todd Colyer was an idiot, and had been one long before his “Traumatic Brain Injury”, the result of an accident from his past job as a stevedore, that he so often prattled on about. Huge and hulking, he was the offspring of a Dundalk family, and as typically inbred and uneducated as is common among the inhabitants of that particular suburb of Baltimore, Maryland.

“Pastor! Pastor Brian!” bellowed Colyer as he charged into the vestibule of Merritt Southern Baptist Church that night, his face florid with exertion. “Pastor Brian! I got it! I got it!”

“Quiet, you imbecilic buffoon,” answered the aforementioned clergyman as he emerged from his office. Pastor Brian Wrightson was a pallid man of about sixty, with iron-grey hair and moustache. He was clad in  business-wear. “Be quiet or you will awaken the entire neighbourhood.”

“I’m sorry, Pastor,” returned Todd Colyer, abashed. “You know, my TBI. But look, I got it.”

Colyer, his colourless eyes wide with wonder under his low forehead and unkempt bush of straw-hued hair, pulled an object from the front pocket of his filthy overalls and handed it to Pastor Wrightson. It was a silver pendant, about four inches in diameter.

“Yes,” said the Pastor, his mud-brown eyes gleaming evilly. “The Pentacle is now mine. The Pentacle of our Lord of Darkness. We shall soon summon him. The Black Goat. That very Devil…”

“Will he help with my Traumatic Brain Injury?” enquired Todd Colyer plaintively through his thick lips. “Will he help get me a ViewTube show, so I can talk about my TBI? I want to call it TV Dundalk!”

“Yes, yes, of course, you blithering nuisance,” rejoined Wrightson irritably. “That is nothing compared to what he will give in fulfilling my desires. Domination. Power. Supreme rule over this world!” …

My name is Dr. Daniel Rumanos. My extraterrestrial heritage grants me numerous capabilities that appear as “magic” to human beings. It is my mission to defend the people of Earth from alien invasion, mad scientists, and other threats. I am Daemon-Star!! …

She was too cute to be a minute over seventeen, as a connoisseur of the subject once expressed it. The girl was tall for her age, slender and perfectly-proportioned. Her hair was long and blonde, her eyes like sapphires. A true Scandinavian beauty. She wore a powder-blue dress, a white sweater, and small riding boots.

“Doctor Rumanos?” she queried in a sweet voice, as she stood before me in the Starling’s Coffee location at the Roland Mall that afternoon in mid-March. “I’m Jennifer Mesto.”

“Good afternoon,” said I, standing up from behind my cappuccino to greet the young lady. I was wearing my usual silk suit and jungle boots, and my leathern greatcoat and panama hat were slung over a near-by chair. “Please, have a seat and we shall discuss your case in much further detail than we could on the telephone. Anything could offer a clew, so it is of the utmost importance that I hear all particulars of that which you experienced. Please do attempt to relax and to remember all. Would you care for some coffee, and perhaps a blueberry scone? I can particularly recommend them, Miss Mesto.”

“Please, call me Jenny,” she said with a weak smile as we both sat down. “I’m afraid I just haven’t felt much like eating since that experience I told you about. Oh my God, it was so horrible!”

“You say you awakened and noticed an intruder in your bedroom, Jenny?” I asked. “This was last night?”

“Exactly. It was so terrible, with that man creeping at the foot of my bed. I couldn’t see him clearly in the dark, but he was so big. I was so afraid he would…”

The damsel shuddered and her lovely eyes looked downwards in discomfiture. She had been alone in her north Baltimore home (as she had told me in our earlier conversation), her mother being out of town on a business meeting, and her father having died a few years previously.

“But the intruder then just left quickly through the window?” I enquired.

“Yes, Dr. Rumanos. It took me a few minutes before I could get myself to stop shaking enough to even get out of bed, but I then turned on the lights and noticed right away that my jewellery box had been broken into.”

“So tell me again exactly what was missing.”

“It was a silver pendant, one of two treasures from my father’s antique collection that I inherited and kept in the box. It had a five-pointed star -- a pentagram, I think that’s what they call it, carved upon one side of it, and two inset jewels -- rubies or something -- that looked like weird, slanted red eyes.”

“Hmmm.” I pondered. “That does indeed sound like the long-lost Pentacle of…”

My voice then trailed off. I had felt a sudden premonition of something, of something dangerously obscure and elusive, but soon enough regained composure.

“And what of the other object?” I continued. “You say it was untouched?“

“Yes, that is the strangest thing of all, as it is much more valuable than what the burglar stole. Here, I brought it with me.”

She took the treasure from her purse and handed it to me. It was an oblong pendant apparently made of solid gold. On it was a carven representation of a stylised fish with an accompanying incantation in an archaic Greek script.

“Good heavens,” I exclaimed. “It is an amulet, and I could swear this looks like… ”

My words were then cut short by what felt like a sudden earthquake, a rumbling tremor that I could tell immediately was of decidedly unnatural origin. It was accompanied by a strange oncoming darkness as if a dim fog had abruptly descended upon the café.

Jenny screamed and we both stood up hastily. I could no longer see the other Starling’s customers. It was as if we had been separated from them in some eldritch fashion. Then I looked up and beheld an horror, indeed an unspeakable terror beyond all sane imagining.

For hovering in the air before us was the otherworldly appearance of a demoniacal monstrosity from out of the darkest of legendary nightmares. It was as the head of an enormous black goat, immensely horned and sharply bearded, and its horrid eyes aglow with an hideous crimson effulgence.

“The Sabbatic Goat,” I stated in astonishment. “The Devil of Eternal Disorder… Baphomet!!”

I lifted up the fish amulet that I was still holding, raising it in full view of the hideous goat-head apparition. There was a flash of light, and the horrid monstrosity vanished. 

I looked around the café. All was as usual. The late afternoon sunlight was again streaming through the plate-glass doorway, and the other patrons did not even seem to have noticed the disturbance. Jenny Mesto had noticed it, however, and the poor lass had sunken down into her seat, trembling with fright.

“Dr. Rumanos,” she sobbed. “That thing… What… ? Is it gone?”

“We are safe for now, Jenny, “ I assured her. “At least, for the moment.”

I hastily ordered a triple espresso from the coffee-bar, adding several teaspoonfuls of sugar to it before offering it to the girl.

“Here,” I said. “This will revive you. Finish it quickly.”

Jenny drank the espresso as I sat back down. She was still shaken and pale with fright, but had recovered enough to talk coherently.

“So, what was that thing?” she queried. “How did you make it go away?”

“That, Jenny, was a mere illusory projection of what we are facing,” I informed her. “Baphomet. The ghastly Devil worshipped in the most decadent period of Ancient Egypt as the Goat of Mendes. Its cult was revived in mediaeval times by the Knights Templar, who found some archaic relics of it in their plunder of the Middle East. The Pentacle that was stolen from you was one of these, hidden somewhere when the Templars were suppressed by the Church. It is the Pentacle of Baphomet, used in heathen invocations of the Horned One. I fear that is the reason it was stolen: some modern devotee of that demoniacal horror is planning to bring it into full manifestation!” 

“Are such things real, then?” asked Jenny Mesto incredulously. “Devils and demons? We learned at school that the Catholic Church now teaches that they are all just symbolic.”

“You are correct that there are no actual ‘devils and demons’, in the common sense of what humans call ‘supernatural’ or ‘paranormal’. Notwithstanding, the truth is something far worse.

“This being;” I continued,  “this Baphomet, the Sabbatic Goat, the Horned Beast, is in reality an extraterrestrial force. It is a conscious power that filtered down to planet Earth countless ages ago from its original home in the vastly distant 708-51 Stellar Cascade. It continues its existence only by going into long periods of hibernation, then from time to time sending out mental emanations, raising up followers who feed its needs by violence and unfettered sexual abandon. It is thus known as the Spirit of Lust and also the Lord of Desolation -- due to the unholy and mindless decadence its depraved worship, indeed one of the most powerfully perverted of that ungodly evil that is termed Satanism, would bring upon the world!”

“But you stopped it with the fish pendant, didn’t you? What is that?”

“It is an Ichthys Amulet, and indeed a particularly powerful one. The Ichthys is an early Christian symbol, and this golden pendant indeed contains a reserve of what is known as Divine Virtue. It worked against that mental emanation, but I fear that even it will not be enough if whatever cultist has the Pentacle succeeds in raising the full conscious power of Baphomet!”

I hated having to thus frighten the lass further, but evil thrives on ignorance, and I felt it best to inform her of the facts. 

“Nevertheless, we may be in time to prevent that!” I stated. “Jenny, you must think if you have any other evidence that could lead to the identity of the burglar. Anything at all.”

“I did find a scrap of paper on my bedroom floor later,” answered the girl. “But it’s so silly. I thought maybe it was something I had overlooked from the mail. I didn’t think it could have anything to do with this. But maybe the intruder dropped it while he climbed out the window. Here it is.”

Jenny handed me a small piece of paper she had in her purse. It was an homemade business card, badly-printed from a cheap computer programme. It read:

“Todd Colyer
Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor
Dundalk”

This was followed by social media and email addresses. Jenny Mesto quickly did some internet research via her mobile phone, finding out that this Todd Colyer individual was the doorkeeper at Merritt Southern Baptist Church in Dundalk, that sickening suburb in southeast Baltimore County, known for its crime, its polluted air, and its disgustingly incestuous, strangely-bred population. Indeed, I knew that it was just the type of place in which the unhallowed Sabbatic Goat of lore would feel welcomed!

 Jenny insisted upon accompanying me on my expedition to Dundalk. She was indeed too frightened to be left alone, and I agreed that activity, however perilous, would be better than her just waiting for another mental appearance of the Black Goat to come and blast her sanity away forever. I accordingly drove us (in my canary-yellow Edwardian roadster) to the aforementioned Merritt Southern Baptist Church.

It was just after dark when we alighted from the car. A thin crescent moon hung low on the horizon, and what seemed to be the chirping of insects was well-nigh cacophonous in this pseudo-rural setting.

“That sound is unnatural,” I said. “It is too early in the season for cricket-song.”

“What is it then?” queried the girl.

“Certain ancient books say that the sound of nocturnal insects denotes the presence of ‘evil spirits’. Aye, it is likely that the Satanic invocation is already underway.”

As Jenny and I approached the church building, I suddenly noticed a large shadow looming up behind us. Nonetheless, before I could turn to face my assailant, I was pummelled from the rear by two huge hands and sent to the ground. I managed to roll over and peer upwards but could barely perceive my attacker in the darkness. I did hear his voice, however. It was an uncultured plebeian voice, higher than one would expect from such a large man.

“I’m Todd Colyer, “ it said. “I have a Traumatic Brain Injury, and I’m gonna get me a ViewTube show, and you can’t stop me!”

However, the big idiot’s boasting was then cut off when Jennifer Mesto sprayed him in the face from the tiny tin of Mace that she carried in her purse.

“No! Nooooo!” bellowed Colyer. “My TBI! I mean… my eyes! My eyes!”

I quickly stood up and gave Todd Colyer a stout clip to the jaw with my fist, sending him sprawling on the ground.

“Good girl, Jenny!” I  praised her. “Let’s go!”

I took the maiden’s hand and we hurried to the church door. It was locked but that in no way stopped us. Utilising the skills I had learned as a carnival sideshow escape artist, I managed to houdinise the lock in a very few seconds.

We entered the church vestibule and heard the sound of a low human voice chanting from afar off, drifting down from the stairway that led to the main worship sanctuary.

“Strewth! This church has been spiritually desecrated,” I shuddered. “Devoted by its renegade ‘minister’ to the worship of the forces of darkness.”

As we passed the open doorway marked “Pastor’s Office”, I peered in and beheld the proudly-framed “Lifetime Achievement Award” certificate that Brian Wrightson had recently received from some local Dundalk-area community organisation. I thought then of the revolting hypocrisy of this supposed man of God, this well-respected proclaimed “Minister of the Lord”, this so-called “pillar of the community” -- this evil, perverse filth who had sold his very soul to the powers of infernal wickedness in his ungodly quest for perverted luxuries.

“Satanists,” I whispered in disgust. “I bloody well hate Satanists.”

We continued up the stairway and stepped through the doorway of the now-unsanctified sanctuary into a world of terror. The Cross over the altar had been inverted, and before it, in the centre of the room stood the corrupt Pastor Brian Wrightson, wearing the silver Pentacle on a cord around his neck, with his hands raised in the Satanic High Sign, as he concluded the blasphemous rite of invocation:

“Glory be to the Devil, and to the Great Whore, and to the Antichrist; as it ever was, so shall it ever be -- Lust Without End! Hail Baphomet! Hail SATAN!!”

The buzzing sound was even louder here, a crescendo of infernal clamour. Over the unholy altar was a perversely-spinning, swirling cyclone of ebony-black occult power, a force of demoniacal darkness as of the deepest level of Perdition. None the less, this was not the worst of what I beheld that night, there in the desecrated sanctuary of Merritt Southern Baptist Church in that revoltingly-debased suburb known to infamy as Dundalk, Maryland.

“Close your eyes, Jenny!” I urgently warned the lass. “Close and cover them with your hands! Do not look at that thing!!”

For at that moment, forming from the energies of the swirling forces of demonic terror, was a shape made to drive human beings into total and irrevocable madness. It was an unearthly form of obscene terror beyond that seen in any nightmare, a form of ebon evil in which could be dimly perceived every perversion known and unknown to man; and, at the very centre of this horrendous horror were two enormous eyes. Eyes at once those of a monstrous insect and of a lustful goat and of myriad beings not of any sane world. Eyes that glowed a baleful blood-red at the centre of this shape of ungodly iniquity and unmitigated evil.

For the phantasmal shape that I beheld was that of a being of legendary and ancient malevolence, of immorality and decadence, of debauchery and sin beyond the imaginings of any rational mind. The Great Wild Beast, the Goat of Mendes, the Sabbatic Idol, that false pagan “god” that had corrupted the Knights Templar…

It was the manifestation of Baphomet!!!

“He comes! Our Lord Baphomet comes!” shouted Brian Wrightson in sickening ecstasy as the demonic shape continued to strengthen in its unholy manifestation. “He comes to grant me, his rightful servant, all my desires! I will have power! Total world domination! Wealth! Sex!”

“Pastor Brian! Pastor Brian!” suddenly interrupted Todd Colyer, bursting through the door, still half-blinded by the pepper-spray and streaming blood from his thick lower lip as the result his late meeting with my fist. “They hit me! They hit me in my TBI!”

“Quiet, you idiotic clodhopper!” answered Wrightson. “The mighty Baphomet is risen, and he shall give me power and fulfil all my desires! Lust! Lust!! Women… Girls… Little girls…”

“But, Pastor Brian… You said he would help my TBI! My Traumatic Brian Injury, Pastor! Won’t he do that, and get me a show called TV Dundalk?”

“I said for you to be quiet, you moronic blunderer! No one cares about your stupid complaints!”

“But…” stammered Colyer as he was overcome with sudden rage. “My TBI! Pastor, you promised! My TBI!”

With this, Todd Colyer grasped his huge hands around the throat of Pastor Brian Wrightson and began to throttle him.

“Colyer! Colyer, you retarded nincompoop!” gasped Wrightson. “Unhand me, you… you… Aaaauuugghh!!”

Pastor Brian Wrightson’s insults were then cut short as the enormous thumbs of Todd Colyer crushed his windpipe. Colyer then stepped back and clutched his own head in pain. It had all been too much for him.

“My TBI! Oh no, my Traumatic Brain Injury!” he blubbered in pain before then dropping lifelessly to the floor.

Whilst this was occurring, I noticed the phantasmagorical form of Baphomet had ceased to continue its strengthening in power. Without the concentration of its worshipper, the demonic force would take a longer time to complete its manifestation. Seeing this as my opportunity, I took the golden Ichthys Amulet from the pocket of my coat and, with a brief whispered prayer, threw it directly at that obscene horror over the unhallowed altar.

There was a tremendous flash of light, a light bright orange and blue in colour, a light indeed not of this world. With a sound as of the clap of a thousand thousand thunders, the phantasmal form of that very Devil, Baphomet, the Great Beast, vanished away as if it had never been.

Fire quickly broke out in the ungodly sanctuary, caused by the effects of the flash upon the old electrical wiring of the building. Jennifer Mesto and I hastily left, and I drove us away from Merritt Southern Baptist Church. We were soon observing the conflagration from a safe location several furlongs distant, the topmost hill of Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery.

Most of the church building was gone by the time the fire-fighters arrived. The charred remains of Pastor Wrightson and his doorkeeper would be found. They would be reported as having perished in an ordinary and accidental electrical fire. Just a local tragedy, soon enough forgotten.

No trace of the silver Pentacle of Baphomet, or of the golden Ichthys Amulet, were ever found.

“You will be safe now, Jenny,” I assured her as we watched the last of the blaze burn itself out. “The Cult of Baphomet is at an end.”

“But what about you, Dr. Rumanos?” enquired the damsel. “I’m so grateful for your help, but what about you?”

“I continue the work for which I exist. Sooth to say, there are things of unspeakable horror, grotesquely evil things bred in the darkest parts of the Cosmos. Arcane creatures and forces of unnameable wickedness and obscenity. Some of these demoniacal monstrosities have found their way to planet Earth, and have, through promises of power and obscene indulgence, convinced certain debased and unworthy members of the human race to worship them. This is what I must fight. Such is my mission, my calling, indeed my crusade. Justice must prevail, and Satanism must be destroyed!!”

Daniel Rumanos shall return.