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Author’s Note: As the title suggests, this story picks up from A Date With The Devil. It also includes a degree of male/female sex and unholy acts, which some people may find disturbing.
(Saturday 5th June 2010)
Mary Rose had sailed through her Friday evening function with great aplomb. Well, visibly she had. None of the other attendees could possibly have guessed that her attention was elsewhere.
No, none of them could have ever imagined what was on her mind. Politely dispatching a plate of hors d’oeuvres and half a dozen flutes of fizzy champagne, perpetually smiling and exchanging platitudes, her presence had been constant while her real focus had been miles away.
Secretly her real focus had been fixed on a missing heiress, recently found dead in the river.
Secretly she had been focused on a girl she thought she knew.
Or did she?
After the over-the-top glitzy get-together and a sleepless night (very much alone), Mary Rose spent most of Saturday on the net, hunting news updates, finding dozens of “exclusives”, all rehashes of the original bulletin in the Standard.
How useless was that! Billions of hard copy newspapers, nowadays replaced by a squillion electronic copies, all quoting each other, none of them adding anything fresh.
So much for the information superhighway!
By mid-afternoon she took tally of what little she had. The heiress was named as Julia Parker-Ward. She was twenty-seven and stood to inherit her father’s dotcom business, currently valued at several hundreds of millions. It seemed that, despite the immense wealth ahead of her, Julia was an ordinary, everyday girl. Qualified as a teacher, she worked in a primary school and was adored by all the kids.
Her death was, consensus had it, unexpected and inexplicable. She’d been quiet but popular; nobody even mildly disliked her. It had to have been an awful, tragic accident. Parallels with Princess Dianna had been made.
An incredibly popular woman, snatched away for no reason at all.
Signs were that Julia had been in the water for “up to a week”. The authorities weren’t admitting much but did indicate they were unsure of exactly what had happened to her.
More information would follow when “express test results” had been received.
Convinced as she was of Julia’s starring role in Friday night’s orgy, Mary Rose had to wonder. A week in the water would suggest something had happened to her soon after the festivities.
Or maybe it had happened during the festivities.
That was disturbing enough to give Mary Rose’s memory loss a completely new dimension.
Julia had been three sheets to the wind from early on. Her eyes had been just as much drug-crazed as lust-crazed, maybe alcohol-crazed into the bargain. Had she been allowed to go home unescorted, only to fall intoxicated into the river?
Or had she overdosed in Apollyon’s chapel? Had someone then wantonly ditched her corpse?
If only she could remember!
The weight of guilt was crushing. Mary Rose would never do anything to hurt anyone, not physically, and especially not a fellow female. And neglect was just as bad. As far as she was concerned, if Julia had been allowed to toddle off alone, drugged-up to the eyeballs, then everyone who’d been present shared the blame.
Guilt by association was as culpable as guilt by deed. At least it was in her book.
If she was guilty then she’d have to confess.
And that unusual black spot in her memory caused other fears, too.
What if something bad had happened while she was out of it?
What if Julia hadn’t merely overdosed?
What if Hev was right about . . . about sacrifices?
Meanwhile, some five miles away across town, Lindsey was cautiously congratulating herself as she applied a touch of lipstick. Not much, just a little and hardly any makeup at all. It was important to get her appearance right tonight and, besides, she didn’t need a lot of help. She was naturally a youthful-looking person, slender and petite with fetching brown hair. Most new acquaintances took her to be in her late teens.
Young, sweet and innocent; that was the look she wanted.
In reality she was thirty-three and a freelance reporter. Graduating from LSE she had first found work with a provincial rag, covering everything from village fetes to crystal meth factories, only ever wanting to get her foot in the door. But her timing had been untypically crap. In common with all rags the world over, back then the wheels had been coming off in a big way. Suddenly everybody wanted to read on line. Walking down the street to buy a newspaper made out of pulped wood was so yesterday.
Lindsey had jumped before she was pushed. While she worked for the local rag she’d sold stories to other publishers, taking great care to avoid conflicts of interest whilst taking care of her bank balance. Moving back from the sticks to London she’d had “freelance” business cards printed and gone for it.
But hitting the heights had evaded her. canlı bahis Okay, so she kept the wolf from the door, but she struggled on a daily basis and her name was still unknown. What she needed was a major score.
What she needed was an exposé on scandalous behaviour.
Leonard Graves was her chosen route. He had a mansion worth zillions and bundles and bundles of money out of seemingly nowhere. Her investigations put him as of Polish origin, from Gdansk, his dad being one of Lech Walesa’s right-hand men from the old shipyard days. At some stage (mysteriously unrecorded), “Leonard” had arrived in the UK and Anglicized his name.
And then he’d become incredibly rich.
Satanism wasn’t something Lindsey had ever taken remotely seriously. But word had it that Leonard held regular “sabbats” attended by people from the top of the tree. In other words, he attracted wealth and somehow some of it stuck to him.
The more she researched, the more convinced Lindsey became. Dismissing “white magic” along with “witchcraft” as pagan and mostly benign, she quickly realized that Satanism was something else. Yes, Satanism was altogether a different can of worms.
Researching ever-deeper, she decided there were three types of Satanic gatherings. The first, and far and away the most popular, was an excuse for licentiousness . . . or orgies, in other words. Charging membership, perhaps, regular assemblies were held for the most fundamental reason of all.
Second in frequency and popularity, gatherings were held for folk who thought they were defying all common sensitivities, folk who saw themselves as adventurous and maybe even wicked. These were, she decided, the punk rockers of witchery: loud, proud and insincere as heck.
The final groupings were either the most potent or the most utterly deluded. They consisted of people who actually believed.
Personally, Lindsey reckoned Satanism was a crock of crap. She could see the attraction of wild sex orgies but couldn’t accept anyone in his or her right mind would put faith in the rituals. Except . . .
Except she was aware there were nutters out there; lots and lots of nutters. And being up at the top of the tree didn’t guarantee sanity, did it?
Like heck it did!
Lindsey’s jury was out on the existence of God. Fair enough, someone must have started everything with a big bang ten billion years ago, but He hadn’t been very noticeable over the last millennium or so, had He? If anyone ever had been caught asleep on the job . . .
Evil was something else altogether. Evil was relentless and evil was everywhere, from serial killers to mass murderers; from terrorists to rogue governments. And governments didn’t have to be rogue, did they? The very idea of mustard gas, sarin and Agent Orange ought to offend humanity, full stop.
Not to mention massive stockpiles of frigging nuclear warheads, courtesy of the taxpayer.
Wasn’t all that madness supposed to be over?
Yes, the world may be smaller than ever, but the presence of evil was only getting larger.
Then again, evil sold papers, be they material or beamed out over the ether.
And, if she could convincingly tag a few famous names to Leonard’s sabbats . . . Well, she’d have it made. Never mind hacking the odd celeb’s phone, she would rock The Establishment.
If only the so-and-sos didn’t wear masks.
There was, naturally, a cost of infiltrating Leonard Graves’ little sideline. Ever intrepid, she’d prepared herself to pay it. But, surprisingly, as yet she had come through unscathed.
Last night, the occasion of her first sabbat, she’d been permitted to attend unmolested, in a white robe that stood out from the regular blacks. Witnessing all sorts of bizarre couplings and treblings had only whetted her appetite.
Not in a sexual way. No, her interest had been exclusively in those unknown identities. Anyone could see that the attendees were out of the top drawer. But who were they all? She wanted names and she wanted them bad.
And she wanted them tonight.
Tonight when, by skilful, intrepid persistence, she’d got a private date with the man himself.
Bruno arrived at Mary Rose’s at seven o’clock. By then she had debated long and hard about bringing up the subject of Holy Virgins.
And not least because she’d volunteered in the sudden absence of one.
Maybe scaredy-cat Heather was right after all.
Maybe rape and murder were possibilities, if not certainties.
Bearing chocolates, vino and a dozen red roses, Bruno’s arrival was far from understated. ‘Beautiful as ever,’ he gushed. ‘I’m blessed beyond all reason.’
He theatrically uncorked the wine while she fetched glasses. Still uncertain about how best to mention the missing heiress, Mary Rose hedged.
‘Are you hungry?’ she asked. ‘I have a hot Indian waiting in the wings.’
Bruno responded by producing a small box; one covered in something purple and satiny.
Mary Rose gulped. The box only too obviously contained a ring. And a ring was the last thing that bahis siteleri she wanted. She wasn’t the engaging kind, never mind the marrying kind. Come to that, she never would be the engaging or marrying kind. Okay, so Hev maybe, in a decade or two, but not a bloke.
And definitely not Bruno . . . Not now, not in twenty years’ time . . . No, not ever.
Given a list of possibilities he wouldn’t have made her top ten.
Uncharacteristically, she froze.
Bruno laughed. ‘Never fear, it’s not how it looks. Open up and see.’
Less than reassured, more than a trifle reluctant, Mary Rose opened up.
Then she laughed out loud.
The box contained two halves of a gold wedding band.
Looking at Bruno’s third finger she saw a pale circle where that band had once been.
‘I finally got it sawn off,’ he said proudly. ‘But not in a bid to get hitched again. I did it because of you, not for you.’
‘You did it because of me?’ Mary Rose grinned. ‘I’m not sure I understand.’
‘I thought you wanted it gone’
Mary Rose’s grin broadened. She wasn’t about to admit anything but feeling another woman’s ring wriggling and worming inside her had been a definite turn-on.
Or maybe she was just debauched.
‘Forget the hot Indian,’ she said. ‘Let’s go get horizontal.’
Lindsey had found out about Leonard Graves through a friend from Australia. That is to say she had an Australian friend who’d gone “home” from LSE but kept in touch. Make that a journalist friend who had exposed a relatively small Satanic circle in Sydney.
Cover still intact, her friend had given her certain “international names and numbers” in London.
And Lindsey had played them like the most patient angler playing a trout.
Thank the stars for the global village.
Leonard had been easy to contact and even easier to talk to. Portraying herself as an undergraduate with an interest in “alternative religions”, she’d called him direct. And he’d been the first big fish to bite. Yes, he’d told her on an open phone line, I am an expert in that particular field. And yes, I’d be glad to meet and discuss.
They had met over lunch half a dozen times in half a dozen different places, with Leonard insisting on picking up the tab every time.
And they’d discussed.
Leonard was, in Lindsey’s opinion, highly intelligent but big-headed. From their very first get-together he had wanted to impress her. Speaking for as long as twenty minutes at a time without ever pausing for breath, he’d filled her in about daemons from every corner of the earth. When it came to daemons he’d known everything apart from their email addresses.
As the meetings progressed Lindsey had slyly adjusted her slant. Still seemingly no more than a mere slip of an undergrad, she’d expressed increasing interest in the ritual aspect of a “black Sabbath”.
‘I’m outrageous,’ she’d told him during lunch number six. ‘But I’m a coward too. I’d love to watch, just once, just so I know they really happen.’
‘Ah yes,” he’d replied, “aren’t we all inquisitive.’
‘I’m more than merely inquisitive,’ she’d countered. ‘I might even be prepared to participate at a later date. And a little bird told me you were than man to assist.’
‘Does this little bird have a name?’
‘No, but she only ever speaks of you in glowing terms.’
And that was all it needed. Big-headed Leonard had grandly said yes.
Hence last night’s attendance as an observer . . . and, of course, hence tonight’s invite to be involved in something “far more significant”.
Talk about temptation! Friday’s cavorting had been enthralling but Lindsey hadn’t recognized a soul. And the masks had made even her stronger suspicions dodgy. How could she confront some alleged weirdo without being a hundred percent certain? How without being sued to Hell and back?
The statuesque blonde woman had been that famous Labour MP (the one who always tied Cameron up in knots every Question Time); she was ninety-nine percent certain.
Yet ninety-nine wasn’t quite good enough, was it?
Lindsey’s first inclination had been to bring equipped support along next Friday. A skilled photo-freak positioned across the way could snap picture after picture of arrivals and departures. Armed with that sort of material, she could then “persuade” a friend to abuse his access to the latest facial recognition systems . . .
But that would involve a degree of risk. The unexpected invite to a smaller, more intimate gathering had to be a better in. Leonard had said there would only be seven present tonight, including her.
Assuming she was up for it.
And up for it she was. Surely the reduced attendance would increase intimacy?
Surely she’d recognize somebody.
Would they even bother with the masks?
Fuelled with hope, Lindsey arrived at Leonard’s impressive mansion at eight in the evening. A tall and very spooky butler answered her knock at the door. Without any trace of a smile, he led her through a maze of bahis şirketleri corridors and into a study.
Or was it an old-fashioned smoking room?
It was hard to say. Leonard was behind the world’s most impressive desk, smoking something hand-rolled which actually smelt nice. And that was coming from a non-smoker. Maybe Leonard’s blue silk blazer was affecting her judgment.
‘So you braved it out,’ he said in greeting.
Reverting to character, Lindsey grinned at him. ‘I can brave out anything,’ she said. ‘And I’m nothing if not inquisitive.’
‘Last night didn’t put you off, then? Now you’ve had time to dwell on it, I mean.’
‘No. Last night only encouraged me.’
There was a large carafe of red wine on the desk. Leonard poured two large glasses and pushed one towards her. Then, seeing her hesitance, he laughed.
‘It’s a Pétrus,’ he said, ‘sixteen years old and very fine. Do I sense some indecision?’
Before she could reply he had a decent-sized sip from his glass then, deftly switching it with her glass, he took another.
‘Poison-free,’ he announced, ‘and dope-free too.’
Lindsey’s cheeks were on fire. ‘I never suspected anything less,’ she mumbled.
‘Tonight,’ he resumed, smiling like a benevolent uncle,’ ‘are you sure you’re capable?’
Recalling those couplings and treblings, Lindsey nodded.
‘Does that include anything fate may throw at you?’
Last night’s images were stark. Leonard had vigorously taken men and women alike, not with violence but certainly not gently.
And he’d always been giving without taking. That minor fact wasn’t lost on her.
‘I’m cool,’ she said, thinking about her exclusive. ‘Fate’s usually kind to me.’
‘Good,’ Leonard went on, as smooth as his jacket. ‘Tonight’s format is rather . . . different. Yesterday we played up to the audience. In fact we hammed it up: lots of theatre to begin with, then on with the festivities. Tonight’s order will be reversed. We shall start with festivities and end with a more serious ritual. That’s what you want, isn’t it; a more serious ritual?’
Suddenly . . . but vaguely . . . Lindsey realized her eyes were held by Leonard’s. Black holes couldn’t have half the gravity of his gaze.
Oh my, he’s hypnotizing me!
And he was. Over their several lunches she’d noticed the powerful charm and character of the man.
But not like now. His previous efforts had been nothing compared to now.
‘Tonight there will be just seven of us,’ he told her, repeating himself. ‘That’s including you, naturally. Seven is a mystic number, only amplified by the presence of a virgin.’
‘I’m no virgin,’ she said, struggling to form the words, struggling to say anything less than positive.
‘You are a virgin in our ways,’ he replied. ‘And, tonight, that is all that matters.’
The pull of his eyes was stronger than ever.
‘Anything,’ Lindsey’s mouth said, unbidden. ‘I will do anything for you.’
(Sunday 6th June 2010)
Bruno was becoming predictable in every way. After cheerfully letting him fuck her for an hour or so, Mary Rose put him on his back and helped herself. Surprise, surprise, he lay there and let her.
Not that helping herself was any hardship. Yum, yum, as Hev would have undoubtedly said.
Now, somewhere shortly after midnight, they were lying embraced. And not currently doing anything was more his decision than hers. Whenever he got up for it again, she’d be ready.
Cuddling him from behind, for once keeping her hands away from erogenous areas, Mary Rose felt a little . . . maternal. As it was her second such recent feeling she was slightly concerned. No woman on earth should feel like that where Bruno was concerned, ring or no ring.
What the heck was happening to her!
Picking up the vibes, he laughed and asked what was on her “pretty little mind”.
Shit, it was time to admit it; Julia Parker-Ward was on her mind . . . again.
Clumsily, she asked Bruno if he’d seen Saturday’s papers.
He said he’d read the sport’s sections, particularly the bits about the racing at Epsom Downs.
Pressed, he conceded he had seen headlines about a missing heiress.
‘It’s her,’ said Mary Rose, ‘it’s last Friday’s Holy Virgin.’
‘Bollocks,’ said Bruno.
‘But it is,’ she protested.
Bruno rolled over and faced her in the dimly-lit bedroom. ‘I didn’t even notice a likeness,’ he said. ‘And the girl’s called Sally, not Julia.’
Mary Rose scowled. ‘I thought names were verboten at Apollyon’s.’
‘Yeah, well I’ve been attending a while. I know a few. And I know Sally’s not an heir to anything.’
He oozed sincerity. Not trusting him an inch, Mary Rose asked how long Bruno had been attending Apollyon’s weekly gatherings.’
‘It must be four years by now.’
‘Didn’t you say your wife only left three years ago?’
‘Yes, she did. And the two events aren’t entirely unrelated.’ Bruno laughed heartily. ‘Look, Mary Rose, I know more names than most attendees. But I only know a fraction of them. The only one who knows everybody is Leo. And it’s his house, after all. His house is stuffed with valuable relics and antiques. It stands to reason he has to know everything about all of his guests, doesn’t it?’
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