The concept of a demon seeking out its next victim is simple. It will not look to be invited in, and will not go where it is not welcomed. A demon will wiggle its way in and go where it knows its possession will survive…a solemn place where unrest, hurt, and heartache have already begun to boil over.
The demon looks for a kindred soul, someone dabbling in dark teachings just for fun, or someone already sick inside, tortured by smaller, less disturbing omens. It doesn’t matter to a demon; it will smell the person out and go after any one in whom it smells victory. The demon also shows up with little effort from the victim. Sometimes it’s invited in and the victim doesn’t even know it. However, to get rid of a demon is much more complicated.
To get rid of a demon, you have to name the demon first. You have to know where it came from and what it wants with you. Then the hard part comes; pray quickly and early that the demon is not already attached. Pray very hard, for if the demon gets attached, it will hide out, make things seem right and normal. And then, when it is ready, it will show its ugly, possessive side with total force. It will strike fast, and there is little, practically nothing, anyone can do once possession has started…funny thing is you’ll never know it was there until it’s too late.
Jules knew the rules of engagement and was eager to warn Ted Schwen once again of the unintended consequences. Don’t invite things into your world, Ted, especially where stuff is already unsettled. Jules knew enough to know the Schwen household was unsettled. It was dark and sad, and had already invited in one spirit.
. . . .
Jules decided to make a second call to Ted alone, this time to let him know Latvian authorities had found Toby’s murderer. She wanted him to know the surrounding circumstances and that this one was talking. It was late Saturday evening her time; mid-afternoon his. She was sure he’d not pick up–with the same promise…please leave a message; I promise to call back–but he picked up the phone after the first ring.
After a few pleasantries, Jules opened the serious part of the conversation by asking Ted an uncharacteristic question. “Do you know the story of the Latvian Christmas Tree?” Jules was sure he wondered what she was getting at.
“Yes, I do. I believe it was included in my ambassadorial training. During the old days, on the eve of winter’s solstice, a tree was burned in Riga’s old square. It was a pagan ritual at first, but eventually the Christians took it, and the Christmas tree tradition started shortly afterward. Is there something else you’re looking for?”
“Do you know where the original tree came from?”
“Not exactly,” Ted answered, his tone showing some impatience.
Jules continued. “Cut evergreen trees were used in solstice celebrations in the Baltic region of Northern Europe for almost as long as history is documented. But it is believed that in 1510, the Blackhead Fraternity used an evergreen tree, a linden tree, I believe, in front of their building in Riga during a New Year’s solstice ceremony. The tree was burned later that night as part of a ritual.”
“Do you know where the tree supposedly came from?”
“Yes,” Ted answered. “It was a fir, and historians claim it came from the forest near the beach, not far from my old house.”
“The historians are correct. It came from the Kemoru Forest to be exact,” Jules added.
“I know you didn’t call to tell me the history of the world’s first Christmas tree, Jules. So what’s wrong?” Ted asked. “What are you trying to say?”
“We talked about that tree out at Sukulov’s home that day, so you know how much….” Jules found it hard to discuss such seemingly trivial matters when it all had become so complicated.
“How much what?” he asked.
“We found the man who murdered Toby. He admitted killing your son and probably others. Some of the missing boys were trafficked out of Latvia, but others died. We don’t know how many, but he identified Toby as one of them.”
“What else did he say?”
“We know that Toby was not killed at the Sukulov house. He was probably taken to a ritual site located in the Kemoru Forest. That’s probably where he was murdered, and then he was taken back to the house and hidden…based on this man’s written statement. And….”
“I also met one of the three mothers. She also told me the remains inside the walls were hidden there. She seemed to be sure that’s not where Toby died, and she tied it all to the storm.”
“And…” Ted prodded Jules again. “What are you saying?”
Jules paused before making the last point. “Ted, I think your son Toby was a trophy kill. We confirmed Kudrin’s role in all this. He knew what was going on with the trafficking, and he did molest some of the boys. But we don’t believe he or Seri Sukulov was involved in any murder. These are ritual kills and it sounds like this man was the only one involved.”
“Where did they find him? How?”
“He was Sukulov’s private driver during the day and a taxi driver at night. He was able to move the boys to and from the house, and he found his victims by taxiing their mothers around town. And, again…except for the three who were rescued, we don’t know how many were trafficked and how many were killed.”
“And you’re sure he killed Toby?”
“Yes. He remembers your son. He claims Toby was the first. He claims it started with Toby.”
“How can that be?” Ted asked.
“I don’t know, but we know Toby was a trophy kill. That’s why his remains were kept inside that house.”
When Jules heard nothing but silence, she continued. “Ted, is there something else I should know?”
“What are you getting at?” Ted replied defensively.
“We know the man frequented an old pagan ritual site on the edges of the Kemoru Forest. He went there a lot and worshipped with a group of others…self-described witches and others who wanted to be witches, I guess. He said Toby was picked for a reason.”
“Toby was picked by a sick pedophile,” Ted replied quickly, his tone sharp. “He was picked because his brother wasn’t watching him and–”
“Toby wasn’t picked by Sukulov,” Jules replied. “It was this man, this taxi driver, who picked him. He watched and followed your son for a long time, and maybe Sukulov knew about it, but Sukulov didn’t kill Toby. There was a strong connection between Toby and this other man.”
When Ted stayed quiet and listened, Jules added more. “You said it yourself, Ted. You said it when we first met. You knew Toby’s disappearance had something to do with your family.”
“I said it had something to do with us being Jewish. But that was it. Toby was taken because he was a Jew.”
“No. Toby was taken because he was a first-born son of a witch.”
. . . .
This was the pivotal point; either Ted was going to make her continue this guessing game, or he was going to start talking. Instantly, she felt it over the phone. It was going to take more time.
“A first-born son of a witch? What are you talking about? Jules, this is insane.”
“Was Toby your first child?”
“I don’t see how that is relevant. Jules, these people are sick pedophiles. They will say anything.”
“Again, Ted, I need to know the truth if we’re going to get these bastards. Was Toby your first?”
After a few seconds of hesitation, Ted finally answered. “Yes. At first, Mary wasn’t able to get pregnant. We adopted Jeremy and then a couple of years later, she got pregnant with Toby. Why does this matter?”
“What about Toby’s mother, your wife? Was she involved in the craft?”
“I met Mary when I was posted in Tirana. She was Albanian, from old and rural blood, but she came from a good Christian family.”
“You didn’t know she was a witch?” Jules asked. “Nothing threw you off…her behavior, things she said, or didn’t say?”
“No,” Ted answered. “What does all this mean?”
“I’m not sure,” Jules replied quickly. “The drawings on the walls showed the boys playing a game. There were always five players and another boy who watched over the game. One of the players was sacrificed.”
“Are you certain?” Ted asked.
“Yes. There are pagan symbols and script all over the game. I haven’t had it deciphered yet and probably never will. It’s very old.”
“You got all this from the drawings? Those drawings were done by small children, weren’t they?”
“We don’t know who did those drawings. It’s an old pagan game, the same one they used at the pagan site. The man who was arrested used witches and drew power from their first-born sons.”
“So what they found on that wallpaper was copied by this crazy taxi driver in the forest and brought back to that house? I must be missing something.”
“That could be the case…or the other way around.” Before Ted had a chance to reply, Jules added, “There’s more, Ted. Toby wasn’t alone behind those walls. That’s what this man claims and on the back of Toby’s neck are bruises, markings…signs of demonic control.”
“Well then, who was with him?”
“The man said Toby played better than any of them. He said after Toby played the game, she wanted to keep him.”
“The game…who is she?” Ted asked. “This game…it’s something my child knew how to play?”
She could tell Ted’s head was spinning. It is one thing to know your son was killed during a pagan ritual; it’s something else, much worse, to find out he was somehow part of it…destined, like something cruel and tainted was in his blood. She paused to let him think it all through.
“What is the significance of the number five? Why did there have to be five playing the game?” Ted finally asked.
“There are five points on the demonic star that shines over all pagan sacrifices. What else do I need to say? Early Christians adopted the number ten for design of their sacrifices and offerings. In the old days, the tenth child was given to the church; we are supposed to tithe 10 percent for oblation, etcetera, and etcetera. On the other hand, demonic numbers have similar meaning and the number five is thought most significant.”
. . . .
With no response from Ted, Jules decided to gamble on the next move. She asked the next question as seriously as possible. “When Josef Gozza told his story about what happened in Cracow during the German Crusades, were other children involved?”
“What do you mean?” Ted replied. “What does all this in Latvia have to do with the Crusades and what happened in Cracow?”
“You told me about what happened to your family in Kazimierz and its Jewish Quarter. You told me about the violence in the mid-1400s and how Josef Gozza was one of few to survive. The streets were bloodied from Jewish corpses, and Josef’s mother and father ran from house to house looking for a place to hide their three children. No one would take them in and the synagogue was burning, so they kept running toward the nearest church about ten blocks east of the Jewish Quarter.”
“I remember telling you the story, but I said it happened to Toby. It didn’t happen to my family; it was my wife’s. And it was her family that always felt someone, something else, was with them. My wife’s ancestors felt it was a young woman–the ghost of a dead anchorite…Rebecca, young Josef called her–that always followed, haunted them. I never believed her, but now…I don’t know what to believe.”
“So what happened to Josef? Was he alone with Rebecca? Do you know?”
“There was no mention of other children hidden inside with him,” Ted answered.
Jules tried to see all it in her mind and let it play out in slow motion. The little boy could hear nothing but screaming and blood-curdling moans. Then he heard the soft childlike voice welcoming him inside. “Come in here. You will be safe here. But I have only room for you.” She sounded like an angel, but up close she was a horrid-looking creature, dirty and foul, and it must have scared him terribly when she took his hand and pushed his body into the tiny box-shaped room. Then he saw the shadows of his family disappear down the long hallway toward the brick wall, and all the time that monstrous looking thing in front of him sang old liturgical songs that could be heard coming from inside the walls. And Josef Gozza and five other children were left to play the game. It had to have happened this way.
“That’s why it took only Josef and left the two girls to death.” Jules spoke out loud to Ted. “It already had four children hidden away. It needed only one more.”
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