The Willie Button Series



Night of the Warlock

 

by

Albert J. Manachino

 

Willie paused inside the monastery courtyard. He was rivited by the sight of a brown-robed man straining against the bar that turned a millstone endlessly in a circle. A very old monk was feeding grain into the hopper.

Brother Paul noticed his attention. "That is Brother Innocent. Not his own name, of course. We don't know that."

 

Willie shuddered and clutched the handle of the battered blue canvas bag more tightly. He recognized the mindless toiler. Once the face had radiated an evil intelligence and the eyes sparkled with a diabolic humor. Now, they were focused on an invisible world and the face rediated … nothing.

 

Brother Paul led him to a rough wooden, table. Another of the brethren placed an earthenware plate containing a single slice of bread and a cup of wine before Willie, for this was the monastery of the Weary Traveler.

 

Brother Paul recited the customary blessing over the simple fare and asked, "Do you recognize Brother Innocent?"

 

"I'm not sure. He looks very much like someone I encountered under circumstances you might deem strange. Only then, the monastery was dedicated to the devil."

 

"How horrible. Did you encounter Satan?"

 

Willie shook his head. "No, just his earthly emissary." His thoughts flew back….

 

 

The rain fell with a terrible ferocity and Willie shivered under a portico facing a door of solid brass. The canvas bag seemed to weigh so much more than usual. He brought a heavy metal knocker, in the shape of a goat's head, down several times. Peals of thunder drowned out the sounds of his knocking.

 

Willie almost jumped; the door had opened so quietly, almost unexpectedly. A flash of lightning revealed a pale white face that appeared suspended in mid air. Then he realized its owner was garbed entirely in black against a black panel created by the now opened door. There were no electric lights in the house. Willie assumed that the storm had knocked out the power.

 

"Come in," the face invited.

 

Apprehensively, Willie entered. The room was enormous and illuminated by candles that cast an eerie blue light visible for only a few feet. Willie thought they were arranged in the order of a pentagram, the center of which formed a raised altar. On the altar reposed the naked form of a very young girl. He drew the correct inference … satanists.

 

An occasional flash of lightning highlighted the scene in its starkest detail. The outer wall was taken up entirely by a huge plate glass window. Outside, trees and shrubs bent in a demonic wind worship. Willie realized that the chances of an accidental witness were remote. The girl appeared to be under the influence of a narcotic.

 

His host spoke. "How fortunate of you to arrive. A tele­phone call from our sheriff informs me that the bridge leading into our little community has been destroyed by lightning. My coven cannot arrive. It is most necessary that tonight's ritual be attended by at least one other person." A lightning bolt revealed the vermilion designs on his robes … a warlock.

 

"I do not participate in Satanic worship," Willie informed him.

 

"Your participation will be purely of a passive nature, that of a witness. Our magister cannot be present."

 

Willie saw, with disgust, his host wore makeup to enhance what would normally be considered diabolic physical attributes. The lips were rouged to accent the cruel thin contours. His eyebrows had been plucked to form a sinister arch. Mustaches were trimmed to highlight the evil cast of the mouth. His hair was carefully combed so that it formed a point in the center of the intellectually high forehead.

 

Willie looked at the naked girl. She had neither stirred nor moaned. Her tiny breasts hinted at very immature years. Less than fifteen, he thought.

 

"My daughter," the warlock enlightened him. "This is the night of her thirteenth birthday when she shall be accepted into my coven as a full-fledged diabolitrix."

 

Willie understood, "Your own child and you're going to..." A wave of disgust prevented him from completing his statement.

 

The evil lips curled in an unholy smile. "Yes, my moral friend, I intend to initiate her personally. It will have to be done this night and in front of a witness who will then sign the register. Willingly or not, fate has selected you to perform this function." A hand previously concealed by the long sleeves of the robe, emerged holding a gun. "Really, you have no choice."

 

"And, afterwards?"

 

"Afterwards, you will be appropriately rewarded."

 

The reply did nothing to sooth a growing fear. Willie prayed aloud, "God help us." His plea included the unconscious girl.

 

"God? Dear me, Mr. ... I'm afraid I don't even know your name." Willie did not offer it to him. "Have you ever seen God?"

 

"Yes, I've seen God ... and spoken to him also."

 

His response was not the expected one. "You are undoubtedly speaking in an allegorical sense as might one who communes with nature and mistakes it for a celestial manifestation. Have you ever seen the Dark Master?"

 

"No, never. But, I have no doubt he exists. I happen to be carrying one of his possessions." Willie indicated the blue canvas bag he was still holding.

 

"Extraordinary." Willie's response captivated the warlock. "I must see this, Sir. We still have a few minutes left till midnight."

 

"Are you certain you wish to see it? Others have and regretted it,"

 

"You speak like a fool. I happen to be a very intelligent man. I am not impressed by the mindless superstitions of the common herd. What are you carrying in that bag?" The gun continued to point at Willie. He would have no opportunity to seize a hypothetical weapon from the bag and turn it on the warlock. "Place it on the altar, Sir. You need have no fear of the pentagram, I will protect you."

 

Willie did as he was instructed. From the bag he took a flat object approximately six inches thick and exactly thirteen by thirteen inches square ... a book.

 

"This is your master's bible," he told the warlock. I m sure you will recognize it as genuine."

 

Lightning momentarily exhibited the poisonous yellow binding and the dreadful dark inscriptions on the cover. Its very presence cast a pall of evil that filled the room with nightmares. The girl moaned.

 

The warlock appeared to be stricken. His gun fell to the floor as both arms reached out to embrace the book.

 

"Yes, yes, it's true," he whispered hoarsley. "The dark bible." He hugged it to his robe. "Do you understand what this means?" He regarded Willie with madness in his eyes.

 

"I know what it means."

 

"It means that I will be the Pope of Satan. I will be worshipped as if I were the Master himself."

 

"It is said," spoke Willie, "that the page it is opened to will reveal your future."

 

The warlock placed it on the altar. Willie made no attempt to retrieve the fallen gun. The bible appeared to open of itself. Lightning provided a brilliant, if momentary, illumination. There was a strangled scream that faded into a strangled silence.

 

Willie found the telephone and dialed. "Operator, this an emergency call. I have a very sick child here. Can you contact the police or a hospital and have them send an ambulance?" He gave the address. The operator promised and he hung up.

 

The warlock screamed again. Then, with a fearful cry, plunged through the plate glass window into the storm. Willie went to the altar and closed the book.

 

 

"We found him huddled against the monastery gates," Brother Paul's voice aroused Willie from his reverie, "On his face was such an expression as might be worn by someone who has looked into Hell."

Willie bit into his slice of bread, "Perhaps he did, perhaps he did."

 

 

- To be continued -

Copyright by
Albert J. Manachino

Illustration
Copyright by
Kevin D. Duncan

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