Joel E. Roosa
“You’re Father Sean, right?”
Father Sean José Belloch looked up from the computer screen at the waitress in spike-adorned black. She started slightly — his blond buzz-cut topped a hard face set with piercing grey eyes. His nose had been broken several times but never set right. A scar gouged into his right cheek left his lip twisted in an unsettling grin.
“Don’t worry. This face probably helps in my line of work.”
“Delivering fiery sermons?”
“I’m not really the sermon-giving type. I work more in the field.”
She put a slice of dark chocolate cake atop the table’s imprinted ouji board and next to it a black coffee cup, adorned with skull and crossbones and a logo reading ‘Keep Calm and Kill Zombies’.
She gestured at the cup. “Killing zombies?”
“More in the saving field actually — exorcisms and the like.”
He noticed her nametag. In silver letters on black it said ‘Belladonna Ravenwing’.
“Is your name really Belladonna Ravenwing young lady?”
She sighed and ground her teeth. “”Yeah, in the alternate reality where my parents know a good name when they hear it. April Smith sure doesn’t fit in around here!”
Belloch’s eyes swept the cyber-café. The booths were fashioned from upright coffins. The tables were dimly lit with pendant wine bottles lamps suspended from copper piping, and dark artwork featuring ruined castles glowed in the dark of the shadowy walls. Patrons sported faux leather, hoodies, and coachman’s greatcoats.
He smiled. “I do like this place.”
“Is there anything else I can get you, Father?”
He chuckled. “Not unless you can replace my phone battery, young lady. Dispossessed spirits like to drain cell batteries.”
His computer screen beeped and the smile left his face as he read a message from his bishop:
Bad one. Even stranger than usual. Here’s the map. Get there yesterday.
“But your cake and coffee!”
“Sorry,” said Father Belloch, “the mission calls.’
Father Belloch roared up to the old Brooklyn brownstone on his Harley. The wind blew wet and cold, and the dark sky threatened a storm. In leathers, backpack, and helmet, he walked up the crumbling steps and rang the doorbell. An intercom buzzed, and a raspy voice blared out.
“Get outta here ya bum! We got trouble already. We don’t need no bikers!”
Father Belloch removed the helmet and unzipped his jacket to reveal his clerical collar.
“I’m the priest that was called for.”
After a moment of silence the voice crackled again.
“Okay ‘den. C’mon in.” The door groaned open, and he stepped into the bright hall light. A heavy-set woman in a green dress smiled, then stumbled back, the smile dropping faster than an iron butterfly.
He was used to it. First impressions had never been his friends. Keeping his tattoos covered helped a little.
“Ma’am, be at peace. I tangled with a face-ripper demon in my youth. I’m here to help.”
Her breath rattled as she regarded him, little dark eyes staring out of a pale, doughy face. She scratched her frazzled mop of gray hair and clutched one of the crosses hanging about her neck. Her expression slid into neutral.
“None of ‘da udder bums was woith a snort. You don’t look no better.”
He caught a psychic whiff of soil. She’s part mound goblin from way back. If she knew, would it change her attitude?
“He’s ‘dis way.” She turned and waddled off.
He followed her down a hallway to a decrepit door. “In here.” Her hand trembled and went to her crosses again.
The brass-knobbed, solid oak door looked even more old-fashioned than the building. Green slime oozed from underneath it and frost covered its surface. When he reached for the frozen knob the woman started moaning.
She held out her crosses as if they were shields, and shuttled backwards, not taking her eyes off the room.
“Ma’am, it’s not a vampire. Crosses won’t help. What might help is if you can tell me about these possessions.”
The woman rallied and stood a little straighter. “I run a clean buildin’. Nuttin’ I done brought demons here.”
“No, of course not, good lady. It would just help if I knew a bit more.”
“Name’s Ben Wilton. He sprung fer a two-person apartment. Been possessed thoiteen times now. Ain’t that a lot?”
Father Belloch’s eyes widened. “A record, so far as I know. As a rule, exorcism purifies the victim, making another possession impossible, at least for a while.”
“Well, it’s been one day since his last possession.”
“One day?” The bishop wasn’t kidding, this was an unusual case. “What priests performed the rites?”
“No priests only lyin’ people from ‘da exercise place.”
“Lay people from exorcist agencies?”
“Sometimes it takes a priest. A regular possession is no worse than a bad cold. I’ve known people who wrote poetry while possessed. Well, bad poetry. Perhaps you’d better get the other tenants out of the building, good lady.”
“Everyone is out, Fahder. ‘cept me. ‘Dis is my place. Nuttin’s kicking me out. But, I’ll just back off a bit.”
Father Belloch waited while she scuttled backwards further down the hall. He took a breath and twisted the doorknob, but it wouldn’t move. He frowned.
“Sorry, Fahder.” She threw a key at him. “Forgot I locked it.”
He crunched the ice off, unlocked the door, and let it slowly creak open.
The apartment’s walls were covered with blood-red heretical writings, curses, evil symbols, and dirty limericks. The green ooze covering the floor added a foul smell to the overall ambience. What he didn’t see was the victim in question.
Father Belloch rummaged through his backpack, humming. He brought out a small umbrella and made to open it, when the woman screeched.
He strained to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. “It’s a consecrated umbrella ma’m, not bad luck to open indoors.” He popped it open and stepped cautiously through the doorway.
A deluge of pea-green vomit fell from above, but the umbrella deflected most of it. He walked to the bed before looking back. Clinging like a spider above the door hung the possessed man. Stark naked, the demon drooled malodorous green bile as it clung upside down.
“Mr. Wilton, may I speak with you?”
The demon stared at him with crimson eyes. His voice burst out high-pitched and giggling. “There is no Wilton here, there is only . . . me!”
“No, there are two tenants in that body. You haven’t been in this man long enough to reach your full power. In the name of the Holy Trinity, let Wilton speak!”
The creature shuddered, and Ben Wilton’s strained voice forced its way out. “Aagh, Father, help! Uurgh! This one’s a l-l-lot worse. N-normally it’s l-like having my cranky uncle in my h-head. This feels like Uncle Cy ate me. Constant agony and… impure thoughts! I don’t wanna be Uncle C-c-c-y! Heeelllp!”
“That’s what I’m here for, my lad.” He reached into his backpack.
“No!” the creature screamed. “I have the power here!” It launched itself off the wall and flew about the room, screaming and belching bolts of bile.
Father Belloch dodged demon-vomit and yanked silver bolos from his backpack. He whipped them around the demon’s legs and it dropped like a stone. He wrapped it with silver chains hung with hundreds of silver weights. It struggled, but couldn’t stand.
“How?” it said thickly. “How do you keep me down?” The head-chains kept its mouth from opening enough to vomit. It banged its head on the floor, and Belloch pulled a sodden pillow from the bed to save Ben’s skull.
“The chains and weights are blessed. The weight of your sin holds you down. Now let’s see about getting you out of there.” He sprinkled holy water around the demon, intoned long and solemn exorcism rites, and prayed in Latin. He finished with, “I adjure you in the name of the living God!” The lights in the room flickered, then shone steady. He loosened the chains around Ben’s head.
The demon’s tongue lashed out and wrapped around Belloch’sleft boot. Stunned, he jerked his foot back, and looked down at his smoking, acid-burned boot.
The demon smiled. “According to the laws of this city:
“Any eviction must include a written notice signed by the owner of the dwelling in question, and must be given to the tenant thirty days in advance of the termination of residence.”
Raucous, high-pitched laughter punctuated his pronouncement.
Father Belloch sighed. He was more used to being assaulted with unholy imprecations than with city codes. Did one have to be a lawyer to deal with demons these days? “Mr. Wilton, Ben, I need to talk to you.”
The demon flashed him a cracked and crazy smile.
“Do I need to douse you with holy water, demon?”
The creature growled. Its eyes became a normal brown.
“Good. I need your business and financial information.”
“It’s not a c-c-c-onvenient mmmmmoment to make a donation!”
“We’ll talk about donations later. I just want to check some records, since your demon friend is playing legal games.”
“In mmy f-f-iiiling c-cabinet.”
Father Belloch searched quickly. “Thank you, Mr. Wilton. I’ll be back.”
The demon hissed. “I grow stronger, priest! These chains will not long hold me!”
“They’ll hold you long enough.” He left the room, and asked the landlady to lead him to her office.
When Father Belloch returned, he was smiling. He pulled a silver box from his pocket, said a prayer, and sprinkled a white powder on the demon.
The demon hissed. “Fool! Sealing powder will only keep me in! Soon, I will break free of these chains, and destroy you and your entire family!”
“My sainted mother is already in heaven, just opposite of where you’ll be going.” He pulled a bottle of holy water from his backpack.
The creature’s grin grew wider, with even sharper teeth. “Your mother serves below, human.”
Father Belloch raised his right eyebrow. “Really?” He sprinkled a few drops of holy water on the creature.
The demon screeched.
“Oh, sorry, that was terribly careless of me, young fellow. My hands shake in the presence of lies. But that burning should stop eventually. We’d hate for that to happen again, wouldn’t we?”
He looked about the room idly. “By the way, young one, it may interest you to know I figured out why your hapless host has been possessed so many times.”
The demon glared at Father Belloch and spoke through clenched teeth. “Oh, you must enlighten me!”
“I found the bills for Mr. Wilton’s exorcisms. As required by law, the bills were itemized. Certain items of purification were listed, like Devil’s Claw Root, but my own assessments make it clear they hadn’t actually been used.”
The demon giggled like a child. “Humans! Cheating, lying, trying to squeeze a few more dollars out of each other!”
“I believe they were after repeat business. I’ll deal with Exor-Xperts Inc. tomorrow.”
The former Ben Wilton coughed up a frog. “Stronger I grow, the longer I stay. Soon, you cannot hold me! Why do you bore me with all this?”
“Oh, I don’t know, to pass the time I suppose. I hate waiting.” He tossed the bottle of holy water from hand to hand, and gave a casual glance around the room. He saw a dark spot on the wall gradually grow into a writhing, man-like shadow, cast by nobody.
The shadow moved from the wall and flickered across the swampy floor toward the possessed man.
“What are you waiting for, miserable priest?” The demon struggled again within his bonds. His eyes flamed as the shadow entered Ben Wilton’s body.
“That,” Father Belloch said. The demonic Mr. Wilton writhed and swelled so that the silver chains sank into the cracking surface of his skin. The creature screamed in two voices as unholy light blazed from its eyes. The powder the father had sprinkled began to glow, like little volcanic craters on its skin.
The demon’s skin became a sickly yellow on its right side, and a nauseating green on its left. Its right eye glowed red, the left one purple. The mouth widened across the face, each side speaking in a different voice.
“One at a time, young fellows,” said the father. “Yellow, you first.”
With a hiss and gurgle, Yellow spoke. “What are you doing, idiot? You can’t come back in!”
Green said, “‘Idiot’? You’re rather rude! The exorcism was undone. You know the rules; I had to return.”
“Get out! The occupancy laws only allow for two tenants in an apartment this size!”
“I’ve tried. Sealing powder is keeping me in!”
Father Belloch screwed a spray nozzle from his backpack onto the holy water, whispered a prayer and gave it a test squirt.
Ben Wilton’s body undulated as if from multiple serpents beneath his skin. The colors shifted as the snakes crisscrossed. His eyes bulged and crossed. His mouth screamed in two voices.
Belloch put in his earplugs as the screams grew in volume and shrillness. He nodded his head and moved further back as the convulsions worsened. With a final shriek, noxious yellow-green gas erupted from Ben’s mouth, and Belloch sprayed holy water at it for all he was worth. Soon Ben Wilton lay still, and the green ectoplasmic ooze slowly began to fade away.
Father Belloch put the earplugs back in his jacket, and then prayed while he sprayed holy water all over Ben Wilton, who bled slightly from cracked skin. He removed the blackened silver chains and weights.
“I guess I’m going to have to get those cleaned and re-sanctified. Mr. Wilton, are you there, my lad?”
Ben Wilton’s eyes fluttered. His cracked lips emitted a low croak. Father Belloch took a bottle of regular water from his backpack and gently poured some on Ben’s face, then his lips. Ben coughed, and spoke in a cracked, dry voice.
“Thank you, Father. But I really hurt. A lot. Am I going to get another visitor in a few days?” He shuddered.
Father Belloch helped him into a sitting position. He got a bathrobe and wrapped him in it.
“No, you should be safe. At least as safe as anyone on God’s Earth. I’ll still perform a Rite of Purification on you and this domicile, as a precaution. Now, let’s see about getting you to a doctor.”
Back at the café, Father Belloch had his cake and a fresh coffee while telling Belladonna about the exorcism.
“But what made them leave?”
“Ben paid for his last exorcism with a check. I called his bank, pretended to be him, and stopped payment. Then I called Exor-Xperts Inc. and let them know. At that point Ben had officially denied payment for services, and the previous demon had no choice but to return.”
“The demons were playing legal games, young lady. When you don’t pay your exorcist bill you get re-possessed.”
“Ow! That’s an old joke, Father.”
“But true! My rituals and prayers protected his soul. Since they couldn’t force him out, they tried to force each other out. And destroyed each other in the process.”
He finished his cake. “And that’s about it for today.”
“Not quite, Father,” Belladonna said. “I talked to some of the regulars here. You’ve helped more than one of them. So we chipped in to get you this.” She thunked a coffin-shaped box the size of her hand down on the table.
“A lead-lined coffin. No demons sucking cell juice through that. Filled with fresh cell phone batteries. The coffin’s from Raznor Gaghosian. You may know him as Homer Page?”
“Oh yes, Homer. That was the exorcism of the spiky-headed demon. Well, bless you all and thank you! This is just what I needed.”
As he left he put a new battery in his cell phone and made a quick call.
“Mr. Wilton, Ben, doctor cleared you? Excellent, glad to hear it.” Father Belloch smiled. “Now, lad, about that donation…”
“Repo Priest” © Joel E. Roosa
Joel E. Roosa has secretly been a writer for many decades, but got tired of hiding the fact through not being published. He writes sci-fi, fantasy, bad horror, and great grocery lists. He is on the young side of his sixties, loves collectible card games, role-playing adventure games, and is an active Critters member. His wife puts up with him for long periods when he appears to be ignoring her while attempting to make words into stories. If pressed, his kids don’t know what to say about him.