The Laws of Magic

by Joe Vadalma


Albert Keptopolos was a genius. At least that was what he claimed. Lillith, who he lived with and everybody assumed was his daughter, agreed. When reporters asked, she would reply, “If he wasn’t a genius, do you think I’d put up with his craziness and absentmindedness?” He had doctorates in Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy, Mathematics, Philosophy and Mysticism. Every shelf in his house overflowed with obscure books. In his twenties, he had received a Nobel prize for solving a mathematical problem pronounced by the gurus of higher mathematics to be unsolvable. Afterwards, he abandoned mathematics to delve into atomic physics, cosmology and the occult.


He even looked like a genius. His seldom cut white hair rose around his head like a halo. If he shaved his beard, he would’ve had a striking resemblance to Einstein. Also, like Einstein, he had a reputation for absentmindedness. If Lillith didn’t keep an eye on him, he’d leave the house pantless.


Many of his colleagues, however, were of a different opinion. “Sure, he’s got several degrees, and they awarded him that prize, but what of it? The man is a nut case,” said one. Others were not so charitable. Some called him a charlatan or delusional because of his insistence that magic and the occult were legitimate scientific disciplines. A professor who’d known him for years said, “I realize that he’s obsessed with this occult business, but who knows, maybe he’s onto something. After all, Newton was mad too.”


His greatest ambition was to postulate a unified theory to integrate all current theories of physics and the occult. He explained his obsession in the following manner, “Look, the ancients had many good ideas. The four elements of the alchemists correspond to the four states of matter, earth equates to solid, water to liquid, air to gas, fire to plasma. We know that the uncertainty principle applies to quantum mechanics. What about its application in the macroscopic world? Theoretical physicists know that other dimensions exist. Couldn’t one of these dimensions be the spirit world? What about the graviton? If it doesn’t exist, how does the mass of an object attract another object at a distance? There are many unsolved mysteries in the universe. What are dark matter and dark energy? What causes the poltergeist phenomenon? Can life be created in the lab? Is time travel possible? What is thinking? Does man have a soul? What are angels and devils? I believe that there’s a unifying principle that underlies all these phenomena. You might call it the theory of everything. I choose to call it the laws of magic. I intend to find out what they are. That’s what I’ve dedicated my life to.”


For over twenty years he labored in his basement laboratory, which contained extremely unusual equipment. He spent a lot of money on equipment and books and would not allow Lillith into his laboratory. “It’s for your own safety,” he claimed without elaborating. She wasn’t even allowed to clean down there. She was sure that it must be a filthy mess. Her nose had detected peculiar stenches emanating from it.


When Keptopolos was not in his laboratory or study, he was browsing antique shops and used book stores that specialized in the occult. One day he returned from one of these expeditions humming to himself and smiling like a Cheshire cat. He waved an ancient tattered volume in front of Lillith’s face. “I’ve finally found it, My Dear.”


“Really? What’s that?”


“Doctor Dee’s Latin translation of the Necronomicon.”


“How interesting,” she said in a bored tone.


He made no reply but headed directly to his study to spend the rest of the day. 


* * *


At eight in the evening Lillith muttered, “That man. He’d starve if I didn’t remind him to eat.” She microwaved a plate of leftovers and carried it to his study. There was no answer to her knock. She opened the door and gazed around. The ancient book was open on his desk, his journal next to it. Although she had not heard the study door open or close, Keptopolos was not in the room. She put the tray down. “He must’ve gone to the lab.”


Although Keptopolos did not like to be disturbed when he was working on his latest project, Lillith dared to unlock the steel door and cautiously tiptoe down the stone steps. At the bottom, she glared around. As she had thought, there were cobwebs in all the corners and a quarter inch of dust on everything. In addition, there was a peculiar musty acrid stench that she did not recognize. “Albert, are you all right?” she called.


When she entered the basement and looked around, the only thing she found was a cadaver and body parts going bad in the walk-in freezer. She left the lab and searched the house. Keptopolos was nowhere to be found. Something was amiss. He never left the house without telling her. She thought that perhaps in his absentmindedness, he had forgotten to tell her that he was leaving. She worried that something awful had happened to him. The hours passed slowly with no word. At the stroke of midnight she called the police.


* * *


Detective Martin Kopinski had been on the Chicago Police Department for twenty years. During his tenure, he’d seen it all. He’d worked burglary, homicide and narcotics. Although he was tough and cynical, he was outgoing and got along well with people. Near forty and a bit flabby, his current assignment was in missing persons. Discovering what happened to a person who had vanished was like solving a puzzle, a skill that Kopinski was good at. The disappearance of a well-known, but eccentric scientist was right up his alley.


On his way to the Keptopolos home, he stopped at the Chicago Public Library to research the missing man’s background. He found a detailed biography, a book on cosmology the scientist had authored and several papers on particle physics and the occult by the missing scientist. Thus, it was late afternoon when he pulled up to Keptopolos’s house. The weather had turned nasty. One of those terrible Chicago spring storms had materialized, with blowing rain and lightning strikes every couple of minutes, followed by loud crashes of thunder that echoed off the downtown skyscrapers.


The Keptopolos house was an ancient Victorian mansion on the Near North Side, going to pot. In the flash given off by a lightning strike, it loomed up in front of him like a movie haunted house. He mounted its rickety, broken steps and knocked. After several minutes, the door opened a crack. A lyrical voice asked, “Who’s there?”


“Detective Martin Kopinski. I’ve been assigned to investigate the disappearance of Doctor Keptopolos. Are you his housekeeper?”


“Sort of. I do keep house for him. I’m the one who called the police. Come in, Detective.” An attractive woman in her early thirties examined his credentials and ushered him into the hallway. She was dressed all in black with a low-cut front that showed deep cleavage.


Kopinski hung up his raincoat and broad brimmed hat on a coat rack. “Nasty weather.”


“Yes. I hate thunderstorms. I’m afraid that lightning will strike the house. Would you like coffee?”


“That would be nice.”


“Have a seat in the parlor. I have something brewing.”


The parlor made Kopinski feel as though he had gone back in time to the early twentieth century. A leather love seat was covered with crocheted doilies. Next to it was an antique windup victrola with a large horn. Potted plants stood in the corners. .

When Lillith returned with coffee and doughnuts, Kopinski took out his notebook. “Now, Ms. ...?"


She smiled flirtatiously at Kopinski. “You may call me Lillith, Martin. No sense in being formal."


Kopinski smiled back. "Lillith, it is then. Two evenings ago a few minutes after midnight you reported your father missing?”


"Yes. The person I talked told me that I needed to wait forty-eight hours before they could do anything. He implied that Daddy may have simply left on his own accord. But I know my father. He’s a creature of habit. He wouldn’t do that.”


“I see. Can you describe the events leading up to your father’s disappearance? In as much detail as possible.”


She told him how he returned from one of his usual book hunting expeditions ecstatic because he found a book called the Necronomicon. "It was very expensive." .


Kopinski interrupted her. “The name of the book was the Necronomicon, you say?”


“That was what he told me.”


“As far as I know, no such book exists. It was the invention of a writer of horror stories by the name of Lovecraft.”


“Then someone sold my husband a fake. Albert is gullible enough to fall for any chicanery.”


“I understand that he was interested in the occult.”


Lillith made a face. “Obsessed by it, and probably dealing with the devil for all I know.” She told Kopinski how she searched the house including the cellar.


“You found a corpse in his lab?”


“He bought cadavers. I have no idea why.”


“Does your father have enemies? Perhaps someone who was jealous of his accomplishments.”


Lillith smiled sadly. “I doubt it. His scientist acquaintances regarded him as a mildly eccentric dupe.”


“Okay. I’ll need the name of the bookstores and antique shops he frequents, and the place where he purchases the cadavers.”


After Kopinski wrote down this information, he had Lillith show him the cellar. It was lit by a single bare bulb, although there were several candelabras scattered around. There was a sharp odor of decayed meat and another stronger stench, musty and acrid that he couldn’t place. One section was a surgery, with glistening scalpels and other surgical instruments. The metal operating table was covered with dark blotches. Several lab coats were spotted with blood. Another section contained electronic equipment. A third, chemical apparatus.


When Kopinski finished checking the cellar, Lillith brought him to the study. Besides containing more books than some public libraries, it held paraphernalia associated with psychics and the occult, such as crystal balls and astrology charts. The Necronomicon lay open on the desk. Kopinski thumbed through it, but it was in Latin which he could not read. “May I borrow this?” he asked.


“Why not. Maybe you can find out whether it’s really worth five hundred bucks.”


As Kopinski picked up the book, a sharp crack of simultaneous thunder and lightning made him jump. Lillith grabbed his arm and clung to him. She was trembling. “I hate thunderstorms.”


Kopinski had a strange sensation, as though the presence of horrendous evil was nearby. Although he was a skeptic about the paranormal, he couldn’t shake that strange dread which was like nothing he’d ever felt before. In addition, the acrid odor had seeped up from the laboratory.


Lillith asked whether she could be excused. “I have a headache. I’m going to lie down.” Before she left, she said, “Martin, could you contact someone about removing those corpses and body parts? I think the stink is making the whole house smell.”


“No trouble.”


After she left, Kopinski examined the notebook. It was written in a tiny indecipherable scrawl. Much of it consisted of mathematical formulae, strange drawings and descriptions of occult phenomenon, with commentary. On the last page, there was a heading at the top: The Laws of Magic. Underneath it was a list. The first item read, Magic circles. Next to it was a notation, Stonehenge is a magic circle. The second item was, Effect of magic on the practitioner A note was clipped to the page. The note said, Talk to Adrienne about this.


He found nothing else that could be a clue to Keptopolos’s disappearance. He called the coroner about the cadaver and body parts and went in search of Lillith. Her bedroom door was wide open. She was lying on the bed in her slip not wearing a bra, her large dark nipples showing clearly through the thin cloth. Nonetheless, she invited him in, not in the least embarrassed about her state of undress. As she rose, she stretched languidly, puffing out her chest.


“I had to lie down,” she apologized. “Anxiety over Albert had given me a headache. Have you found anything that might help you find him?”


“Not much. Only a note. Do you know who Adrienne is?”


“Oh her. She’s a psychic he consults sometime. She's a witch.”


“Maybe she knows something that might help us. What do you mean when you say that she’s a witch? Did you quarrel with her?”


“Oh no. I only met her once. I meant that she’s one of those new age people who worship pagan gods and think they can do spells.  They call themselves Wiccans.”


“Is she involved with your father’s occult investigations?”


Lillith shrugged, causing one strap of her slip to slide off her shoulder. “Possibly. I have her number. Shall I call her?”


“Yes, please. I’d also like to speak to his colleagues and the outfit where he buys those corpses.”


After Lillith gave Kopinski the names of various people that Keptopolos had dealings with, Kopinski returned to the study. While he waited for the coroner to pick up the corpse and body parts in the cellar, he made a more thorough search of the room. 


After Adrienne, the psychic, heard that Keptopolos was missing, she insisted that they come as soon as possible. She told Lillith that she had important information for the detective.


Lillith invited Kopinski to dinner. After the coroner left, he went into the kitchen to see what she was preparing. She was wildly attacking a large chunk of meat sitting with a meat cleaver. Her eyes had an insane look to them.


* * *


On the way to Adrienne’s house in the suburbs, he dropped the Necronomicon at Professor Johnson’s. Johnson was an expert in Medieval Latin. Kopinski asked him to translate a few pages at random and give him the book’s approximate age.


The storm had worsened. The wind and rain made driving hazardous. As Kopinski drove, Lillith snuggled up to his arm, which he didn’t mind since he was between girl friends. He wondered, however, why such an attractive woman had no boyfriend or husband. When he asked her about that, she replied, “When I was younger, I was naive and afraid of men. My parents were quite strict. The few men I dated dumped me as soon as they saw how tied I was to my family. After they died, I went to work for Albert. He’s so absentminded and helpless I have no time for dating. I guess I’m fated to be an old maid.” She looked away, as though she was holding back tears. Kopinski changed the subject.


The resentment in her voice made Kopinski him wonder whether Lillith had done away with the old man, that her concern was a way of keeping suspicion away from her. He made a mental note to check on the amount of insurance Keptopolos had and who he left his money to. He felt he should examine the cellar lab more thoroughly for indications that a body might be buried.


* * *


As Adrienne opened her front door, a crash of lightning made Kopinski start. Again Lillith clung to his arm, shivering, her ample breast pressed against his arm. When Lillith had told him that Adrienne was a psychic, he’d expected an old crone in gypsy duds. He was pleasantly surprised. She was a well-endowed attractive young woman in her middle twenties with olive skin, jet black hair tied into an elaborate hairdo. Peaking from her halter top was a tattoo of a five-pointed star inside a circle. He noticed her strange eyes, one was green and the other blue. “Come in. Come in. What an awful night. You must be soaked.” Her accent was Indian or Mideastern.


She led them to overstuffed chairs in a small sitting room. “Wait. I’ll bring herbal tea.”


As rain pounded unceasingly on the roof and the wind rattled the house, Kopinski found the crackling fireplace comforting.


After Adrienne returned with tea and cookies, she asked, “How long has Albert been missing?”


“Three days now,” said Lillith with venom in her tone, eyeing the other woman suspiciously. “You and he have been seeing quite a bit of each other lately, haven't you?”


“We got together often. He wanted me to teach him all I knew about witchcraft and the occult. He wanted to discover how spells worked. He had formulated some theory about the laws of magic. I told him that he was chasing a chimera. That the gods, goddesses and demons worked in mysterious ways and would never give up their secrets.”


Kopinski said, “When Lillith called you, you implied that you had information that might help us find out what happened to her father.”


“Yes.” She lowered voice, as though someone might overhear their conversation, which was highly unlikely. If there had been, they wouldn’t hear anything with the continuous thunder, howling of the wind and creaking of her ancient house. As she leaned forward, most of her tattoo became visible. “Two days before the day you say Albert disappeared, he and I met to discuss witchcraft. I told him that most magic was done using magic circles. Apparently he considered this important, because he noted it down. When I told him that alchemist symbols were important to witchcraft, he cried, ‘I knew it.’ He was surprised, however, to learn that an attribute of spelling was that the results toward which the will is directed is returned to the sender threefold.”


Lillith smiled smugly. Kopinski could tell that she was thinking that Adrienne’s words were nonsense. He said, “How does this relate to his disappearance?”


“He said that he intended to travel to Kommseti in order to learn the secrets of the alchemists.”


“Where’s that?”


“I don’t know.”


Lillith said, “If he was going to travel to a foreign country, he would’ve had to make arrangements, get a passport, pack suitcases, call a travel agent. When he disappeared, he had nothing with him except the clothes on his back.”


Adrienne shrugged. “I suppose you’re right. I hate to suggest it, but he may have met with foul play.”


Kopinski said, “We’re considering that possibility. Do you know anyone who had a grudge or something to gain by his death?”


Adrienne thought for a while, glanced at Lillith, but said finally, “No, I don’t.”


“Did he mention going with someone to this Kommseti?”


“No. But something occurred to me, if he had been ... I hate to say it ... murdered, perhaps we could hold a seance and contact him.”


Lillith leaped up. “You awful bitch! You take advantage of my father’s disappearance to lure us over here so that you can work some kind of con. C’mon Martin, let’s leave.”


“I take it you do not believe in channeling, Lillith. Very well, I wouldn’t want to force you to do something against your principles.  I was simply trying to help.”


Kopinski said, “Wait Lillith. What would it hurt to try to contact the spirit world? Right now, we don’t have one lead.”


Lillith eyed him suspiciously. “I thought you didn’t believe in the occult, Martin.”


He took Lillith into the hallway and whispered, “I don’t, but if this Adrienne is involved in your father’s disappearance, she may give herself away.”


They returned to the parlor. “Lillith has changed her mind. Although she does not believe Doctor Keptopolos is dead, she’s willing to try anything that may help us.”


Adrienne smiled. “I understand. If he’s alive, perhaps another spirit may aid us.” She cleared a small round table of everything except a single candle and arranged three chairs around it. She lit the candle, turned off the lights and bid them to be seated. Outdoors the storm worsened. There were numerous crashes of thunder, and the wind howled around the house, rattling the windows in their casing.


Adrienne took the hand of each of them and told them to hold hands too. “Do not let go unless I tell you to. The circle must not be broken. Now concentrate on Albert’s aura with all the mental energy that you can muster.” She put her head back and began to call to the spirit world. “Spirits of the dead, hear my voice. We wish to contact the aura of one called Albert Keptopolos. Please give us a sign.” She repeated this formula several times, her voice becoming flatter and more chant-like each time. Her eyes rolled up in her head.


The howling of the wind grew stronger, the room became chilly as though the cold of the grave had entered it, the overhead chandelier began to sway and the candled flickered, causing looming shadows to dance on the walls.


Adrienne seemed to be in a trance. She began to speak in man’s voice. Lillith gasped and whispered, “That’s Albert.”


The voice coming from Adriane’s lips said, “I hear you. Where are you? I can’t see you.”


Lillith cried, “Oh Albert, it’s Lillith. Have you passed to the other side?”


Lillith. Where are you? I can’t find my way back.”


“Are you in heaven ... or the other place? Are you dead?”


“No child. I’m alive as you are. I’m somewhere else ... in another ... oh, how can I explain ...”


The voice from Adrienne became weak and finally faded altogether. The storm outside also weakened. Only the rat-tat-tat of the rain on the roof could be heard. Adrienne moaned and awakened from her trance. The candle flickered one last time and went out, leaving them in total darkness. Lillith screamed and grabbed Kopinski around the neck. “S-something cold and clammy touched me.”


A few moments later, Adrienne switched on the overhead light. Kopinski rubbed Lillith’s back to soothe her. He noticed a minute spot of green slime on her arm. Adrienne asked, “In my trance state, I have no knowledge of what the spirits say. Were we able to contact Albert? Did you find out what happened to him?”


Lillith returned to her chair. “Someone spoke to us who claimed to be Albert. But, if it was, he couldn’t tell us where he was, only that he was alive.”


“That’s comforting.”


“The rest of what he said was nonsense.”


On the way back to Kopinski’s car, Lillith said, “I don’t trust that Adrienne. She could’ve been imitating Albert's voice. Apparently she knew him well enough.”


“You may be right. She might be trying to throw us off the track.”


* * *


At the front entrance to the Keptopolos house, Lillith asked Kopinski in for a nightcap. 


“I don’t think so. It’s late. I’ll drop by tomorrow or the next day.”


“Oh Martin, I’m so grateful for all you’re doing to help find Albert.”


“Just doing my job, Lillith.”


“Nevertheless, I wish I could reward you some way.” She put her hand to his cheek. “You’ve been so kind and understanding ...” Suddenly she wrapped her hands around his neck and gave him a passionate kiss.


He kissed her back, but gently removed her arms. “That was nice, Lillith, but it’s late. I’ve got a lot to do tomorrow.”


“I understand.” She turned and went into the house.


On the way home, Kopinski mulled over Lillith’s inviting kiss. Although she had been coming on to him from the time they had met, and he was attracted to her, he felt to become involved at this juncture would be extremely unprofessional. Besides, if it turned out that she had done away the scientist, wouldn’t he be a fool to have a murderess as a lover. It bothered him too that she had been living with Keptopolos. Who was to say what their relationship had been. She certainly seemed concerned about him. Would a housekeeper be that concerned? Of course, since he was childless, maybe he treated her as a daughter.


* * *


As Kopinski had told Lillith, he had an extremely busy day. First he discovered that Keptopolos had obtained the cadavers illegally from a crooked mortician. He had to fill out a report on that aspect so that the mortician could be arrested. That took up most of his morning. In the afternoon, he went to the library and looked up Kommseti. He could find no city, country or any other place by that name in the entire world. Either it was too small and obscure to appear on any map, or Adrienne was trying to send him on wild goose chase for reasons of her own.


At the department's downtown offices, he spoke to forensics. They told him that they would send someone to the Keptopolos house the following day to check Keptopolos’s basement.


Late in the afternoon he drove to the university to see how Professor Johnson was coming along on the translation of the Necronomicon.  When he pulled up to the building where Johnson’s office was located, he was surprised to see patrol cars, with their lights flashing. Crime scene tape blocked the door to Johnson’s office on the second floor. Kopinski knew the uniform guarding the entrance. He asked him what was going on.


“The professor is dead. Homicide is trying to decide whether it was suicide or murder. What’re you doing here? Did someone report him missing?”


“He was doing a translation for me. I came to check how it was coming along.”


Geez. Sorry for your loss.”


When one of the investigating detectives came to the door, Kopinski asked, “Have you determined what happened, O’Brien?”


O’Brien shook his head. “Damnedest thing I ever saw. He took his own life. But the way he did it ... bizarre. He carved a hole in his chest and pulled out his own heart.”


“That’s impossible.”


“If I hadn’t seen what I’d saw, I’d say that too. But he had his heart clenched in one hand and the knife in the other. We could hardly pry the fingers apart. Forensics are looking into the matter, but I don’t see how a murderer could’ve faked that.”


“I suppose the book that he was translating for me is evidence.”


“Depends. What’s it called?”


“The Necronomicon.”


“Sorry Kopinski, but he had that book open when he took his own life, splattered blood all over it. It’s been bagged and sent to CSI. Oh, there was another weird thing about this case. There’s some greenish slime in the room. Forensics had no idea what it is.”


Kopinski noticed the same strange odor that permeated Keptopolos’s laboratory. 


* * *


Kopinski ate at a diner before driving to the Keptopolos home. Lillith answered the door in dirt smeared jeans and blouse and had a kerchief tied around her head. She had obviously been doing sweaty labor. “Oh Martin. I must look awful. I didn’t think you were coming.”


“Don’t worry about it. You look lovely. What were you doing?”


She put on a mock shy face. “You flatterer. I was cleaning the basement. I need to get that stench out of the house.”


Kopinski frowned. “You shouldn’t have done that. I’ve got a forensic guy coming tomorrow. I’d better check it out.”


He and Lillith went to the cellar. Kopinski was amazed at the change. Everything gleamed. All the dust and cobwebs were gone. The floor shone. The odor of bad meat had been replaced by a strong smell of ammonia. Nonetheless, the other stench, the strange one, lingered.


“I’d better call CSI  and tell them not to bother. You really shouldn’t have cleaned up like that, Lillith.”


Lillith looked contrite. She put her hands out as though she expected him to handcuff her. “I’m sorry.” Her smile became flirtatious. “Am I to be punished. Perhaps I deserve a spanking.”


Kopinski laughed. “I might just do that.”


“Seriously though, I came across something after I cleaned the floor. Let me know what you think.”


She brought him over to an odd corner of the cellar. Imbedded in the floor was six foot diameter iron ring. The edge of the ring was inscribed with alchemy symbols. Within the ring, and also imbedded in the floor, was a five-pointed star. Each point of the star was molded into the shape of a candleholder. Nearby was a stack of black candles.


“I told you that Albert was trying to raise demons. This is where he where he must’ve been practicing black magic.”


“So, what are you saying? That a demon took him?”


“Don’t be ridiculous. I think that this proves that Albert was into some kind of witchcraft thing with Adrienne. Maybe they were into Satan worship, and they performed some ritual that harmed Albert, and ...” Lillith burst into tears.


Kopinski put his arms around her and held her against his chest. “Please Lillith, you’re jumping to unwarranted assumptions. We have no reason to believe that Albert isn’t alive and well.”


After Lillith stopped crying, Kopinski dried her tears. “Are you all right?”


“I’ll be okay. Thanks for the shoulder.”


Kopinski glanced down and spotted something on the floor. He kneeled. It was a drop of the same green substance that he’d seen before Lillith had cleaned up. He sniffed it. “Ugh,” he cried. It had the horrible odor that he had smelled every time he came into that house. He examined the floor nearby. There was a trail of the drops, starting at the center of the ring. He followed it to a narrow window near the ceiling. Boxes were stacked up as though someone had used them to climb up to it. The window was open and the last drop of green was on the sill. He scratched his head. He concluded that someone had climbed out that window carrying a vial of whatever that stuff was.


When Lillith saw what he was doing, she said, “Those drops are new. I scrubbed the floor this morning. I’m sure that window was shut.”


“Did you hear anyone enter the house today?”


“No. But I was out for a while grocery shopping for a couple of hours.”


“I have a theory. Somebody wanted whatever that substance is and broke in here and stole it, spilling drops of it on the way out.” He glanced at his watch. “I’d better go now. I’ve got another busy day tomorrow. And don’t do any more cleaning until forensics have a chance to examine the cellar.”


“I won’t. Martin ...” She took his hand and gazed pitifully into his eyes. “Could you stay the night?”


He returned her gaze. “Lillith. I like you a lot. But I couldn’t do anything like that while I’m working on your father’s case. I’d lose all objectivity.”


“I didn’t mean you’d have to sleep with me. Just stay in the house. This break-in has me frightened.”


“That’s not a bad idea. If the burglar returns, I might catch him. I was planning on coming here in the morning anyway. Forensics are supposed to be here early.”


Lillith made up the sofa and kissed him goodnight. Kopinski was grateful that she didn’t make a play for him. He’d have hated to have to give her the brush a second time. After she went upstairs, he undressed, slipped his revolver under the pillow and put a flashlight on the coffee table which he used as a night stand. He fell asleep quickly.


* * * 


Kopinski was a light sleeper. Sometime in the early morning hours, something awakened him. He slid his revolver from under the pillow and grabbed the flashlight but did not turn it on. He listened carefully. Someone was moving around stealthily in the room. Two possibilities occurred to him. Either Lillith had come downstairs, or the burglar had returned. Slowly and quietly he got to his feet and turned on the light in the direction where he’d heard movement. Two eyes stared back at him, one green and one blue. They were in the head of black cat.


“Where in hell did you come from?” he said. He did not recall seeing any pets in the house previously. A voice in his head seemed to say, Exactly.  He shook his head and thought, Didn’t get enough sleep. I’m thinking I’m talking to a telepathic cat.


You are. I came to warn you. Don’t trust Lillith. And destroy the Necronomicon. 


“Jesus Christ, I’m going nuts,” he cried, putting the hand with the flashlight up to his head.


At that moment, the cat scampered away. He tried to catch it in the light from the flashlight but couldn’t locate it again. Lillith called down from the head of the stairs, “Martin, what’s wrong?”


Kopinski turned on a table lamp and looked around. The cat was nowhere in sight. By that time, Lillith had come downstairs. “What’s going on?”


“Have you got a cat?”


“Hell no. I’m allergic. Why do you ask?”


“There was a cat down here.” He wasn’t about to tell her that it was sending him telepathic messages.


“How could it get in? We locked the windows and doors.”


They spent a while searching for the cat. Finally, Kopinski said, “It must’ve left the same way that it entered.”


Lillith snuggled up to him. “Martin, come up to bed with me. You know you want to.” She took his hand and placed it on her breast. She snaked her other hand around his neck and pulled his face down to kiss him. Kopinski did not resist. They made love on the parlor floor. Afterwards, they slept together in her bed.


* * *


Kopinski heard the cat again. Without waking Lillith, he tiptoed downstairs. The cat beckoned him with its paw to go down to the cellar. He trailed the animal into the laboratory, where a gray mist rose from the floor. He followed the cat to the area by the iron ring. Black candles were in the candleholders and lit. That was the only light, yet somehow Kopinski saw everything clearly. To his surprise, he was holding the Necronomicon.


The cat said aloud, “Read from it, and see what happens.”


Although Kopinski was shocked to hear a cat talk, he opened the book. The words were printed in English. “Oh mighty Cthulhu, appear from the unholy depths.” He repeated this several times.


A green vapor appeared from the center of the iron ring. It grew and grew, until it reached the ceiling. An unimaginable creature of horror slithered out of the vapor. Its hundreds of psuedopods reached out to grab Kopinski to stuff him into its slimy craw. Kopinski tried to turn and run, but was frozen in place. The several shots he fired at the loathsome monster had no effect on the unspeakable thing.


Kopinski screamed as a psuedopod took him by arm and began to shake him.


Lillith’s voice said, “Martin, wake up. You’re having a nightmare.” It was her hand on Kopinski’s shoulder.


He sat up groggily. “I dreamt about the Cthulhu. It was awful.”


“What in hell is the ... whatever you said?”


He chuckled. “A fictional monster. I guess you’ve never read Lovecraft.”


“I’m not into horror stuff. Romance novels are more my speed.”


Kopinski glanced at her clock radio. “It’s almost six. May as well get up.” As he swung his feet to the floor, Lillith put her arms around him and nibbled on his ear lobe.


“Don’t get up yet, Sweety. How about another round of fun and games?”


He grinned. “Sure. Why not.” He turned to her, and they made love again.


   * * *


The forensic expert showed up at nine o’clock. While he gathered samples of the green ichor in the basement, Kopinski examined the floor and walls inch-by-inch to see whether any part of it looked as though it been newly disturbed. He wanted to make sure that Koptopolos’s corpse was not buried or hidden behind the walls. He found nothing suspicious.


After the forensic expert left, he received a call on his cell phone from Detective O’Brien. “Say Kopinski, are you still working on that case of the missing scientist?”


“Yes. What have you found out about Johnson’s death? There may be a tie-in.”


“I doubt it. I called to tell you that we’ve definitely ruled it a suicide.”


“Really? Did you find a note?”


“Not all suicides leave notes. In fact, most don’t. Well anyway, we don’t need that book as evidence anymore. You can have it back.”


“Great. It may hold a clue to Doctor Keptopolos’s disappearance. I’ll drop by this afternoon to pick it up.”


Kopinski kissed Lillith and said, “I have to leave now. I’ll be back tonight. Will you be all right until then?”


“Yes. I’m not afraid during the day. I’ll miss you though.”


* * *


Kopinski’s first stop was the bookseller where Koptopolos had bought the Necronomicon. The shop was small and dusty and smelled musty from old books.


Kopinski said, “A few days ago, Doctor Koptopolos purchased a used book from you for five hundred dollars.”


“Yeah. What of it?”


“That’s a pretty steep price for a preowned book.”


“It was a one of a kind antique. Does he want his money back? Sorry, all sales are final.”


“Even on books that aren’t supposed to exist. You know damn well that the Necronomicon was an invention of H. P. Lovecraft.”


“Hey, I never told him that it was authentic anything. He took one look at the title, flipped through a few pages and offered me five big ones for it. Who am I to tell a customer that he’s a stupid fool.”


“I guess you didn’t do anything illegal, but it was a pretty shady deal anyway. Tell me one thing. Where did you get the book?”


The proprietor shrugged. “It must’ve been here since I bought the store. I wouldn’t have purchased anything like that.”


Kopinski left. Talking to the bookseller seemed a waste of time. After he picked up the Necronomicon from Detective O’Brien, he stopped at a computer store and bought Latin into English translation software.


* * *


Before he arrived at Adrienne’s, it began to rain again, another thunderstorm. The summer had been like that, either sweltering or duck weather. Kopinski wanted to clear a few things up with the witch. He was sure she knew more than she had told him previously. He felt that if Lillith was not present, she might open up more.


By the time he arrived at the witch’s door, the rain was coming down in buckets, and there was more thunder and lightning. As he raised his fist to knock, the door opened, and Adrienne hustled him in. “Detective, you should either wear a raincoat or carry an umbrella. You’re going to get sick running around in the rain.”


He wondered how she knew he was out there. Had she been peeking out the window waiting for him? “It wasn’t raining when I left,” he said lamely.


“I hope you’re following my advice,” she said as they went into the parlor.


“What advise is that?”


“You know. About not trusting Lillith and destroying that evil book.”


He stared at her eyes, one of which was blue, the other green, in utter stupificaction. He thought, Is she really a witch and can turn herself into a cat, or am I going mad? How could she know what the cat, which he had convinced himself that he only imagined, had telepathed to him. He had told no one, not even Lillith.


After a few moments of stunned silence, he said, “Why? What do you know about Lillith and the Necronomicon?”


She gave him a sly grin. “Nothing really. My sixth sense tells me that there’s something evil about them.”


“I see. And I should heed your sixth sense because you’re a psychic ... and a witch.”


“You’re skeptical. Well, I guess that’s your business. Just be careful. I have a feeling that you’re dealing with powerful occult forces. You could be in grave danger. What happened to Professor Johnson?”


“How did you know about that?”


“I’m telepathic. As soon as we started talking about the Necronomicon, you sent out a strong vibration that something awful and strange had happened to your friend.”


“Since you have such great psychic powers, perhaps you can tell me what happened to Doctor Keptopolos.”


“I’ve received vibrations that Alfred is lost somewhere and cannot return from wherever he went. That could be the spirit dimension ... or somewhere else. That’s all I can tell you.” She raised her hands palms up in a gesture of not knowing. 


“Do you believe he went to this place under his own volition?”


“Not sure.” She placed a finger on his lips, stopping him from asking another question. “We should consult the Tarot. The cards might tell us something useful.”


She took a pack of Tarot cards from a drawer in the highboy, had Kopinski shuffle them and laid them out face down in the form of a five-pointed star. Starting at the top point and moving clockwise, she turned them over, commenting on their significance as she went along. After the cards were all face up, she looked them over for a several minutes and sighed. “That evil book has something to do with Alfred’s disappearance. He’s somewhere that cannot be reached by ordinary means. You must begin under the earth. The way is difficult and fraught with danger.” She raised her head and gazed into Kopinski’s eyes. “That’s all I can tell you.”


“Start by going under the earth? Does that mean the subway?”


She shrugged. “Is the subway out of the ordinary? Perhaps for Alfred it would’ve been.”


“And that’s all the help you can give me? What about the magic stuff you and Keptopolos were working on together?”


“I told you all about that yesterday. Wait, there’s one other thing. He kept telling me that according to string theory, there are eleven dimensions and multiple universes. It had something to do with some new theory of everything that modern physicists have.” She grinned. “These modern physicists are spouting weirder stuff than us psychics. Sometimes I wonder whether they sit around smoking pot when they come up with these theories that no one can understand.”


Before Kopinski left, Adrienne admonished him again to be careful of Lillith and the Necronomicon. She insisted, since he would probably not heed her warnings, that he must wear a talisman to ward off evil spirits. She placed a medallion on a silver chain about his neck so that the object lay on his chest. Since she was short and facing him, she had to get on her tiptoes and lean her body into him to reach the back of his neck where the clasp was. It was an enjoyable moment for Kopinski. She said, “If you need help, take out the charm and think of me.”


Once he was in his car, he examined the medallion. It was a five-pointed star inside a circle with mystic symbols impressed around the edge. At least I won’t have to worry about an attack of werewolves, he thought, smiling to himself at the silly superstitions of new age people. 


* * *


Night had fallen, and the storm became worse. Although Kopinski had promised Lillith to return before dark, he stopped at his own apartment to get his laptop and a raincoat.


“Where have you been?” Lillith asked angrily. “It’s nine o’clock.”


“I’m sorry Lillith. I had a lot of chasing around to do concerned with my investigation into Doctor Keptopolos's disappearance.”


“Oh. Of course. How awful of me to be so selfish. Since Albert’s been gone, after dark I get frightened and lonely in this big house.” Her kiss showed him that she was no longer angry.


There was a tremendous crash of lightning, and all the lights went out. Lillith screamed, and Kopinski took her in his arms. When the lights came on again, Lillith sobbed, “I hope the house wasn’t struck.”


“Don’t think so. A tree branch probably was blown on the electrical wires, shorting them out momentarily. Uh, Lillith, I’ve got work to do on my laptop. Be a good girl and get me coffee and leave me alone for a while.”


“Of course. Do you want to use Albert’s study?”


“Good idea.”


Kopinski took the laptop and the Necronomicon into the study. He skimmed through the pages of the book trying to decide which one to try to translate. About the middle of the book, he came across a word that looked like Kommseti. Also, the Latin word next to it might be Latin for mountain. He typed in the Latin sentences on the page. Halfway through, Lillith came in with his coffee and a slice of banana bread.


“How are you doing?”


“Okay. I hope that this Latin translation software works.”


“I’ll leave you to your work” She gave him a sultry look.. “I’ll be upstairs in my bedroom.”


Kopinski nodded and returned his attention to the laptop. After he typed the entire page into a word processor, he filed it and started the translation software. In less than a minute, the translation was done, and he printed it out. It was directions for performing a ritual. The purpose of the ritual seemed obscure, except that it had something to do with the Mountains of Kommseti.


He brought the page up to Lillith, who was posing on her bed wearing a sheer nightgown. “Look at this. What do you make of it?”


Lillith read the paper over. “You know, this could be performed in Albert’s laboratory. I’m sure I saw the required equipment down there.”


Kopinski smiled. “Even a human skull.”


“I believe so. Your coroner friend didn’t take any bones, just body parts with flesh still on them.”


“You want to try the ritual now?”


“At midnight. That’s what it says.”


“You mean, you really want to go through with this silly demon summoning or whatever it is?”


“Of course it’s nonsense, Darling. But if it was something that Albert had done, maybe we could learn something by doing the same. What’ve we got to lose? Wait, I’ll get dressed.” Lillith let her nightgown slip to the floor and rummaged through her closet.


Kopinski had to smile at her lack of shyness at being nude in front of him. Somehow it didn’t jive with what she had told him about being this shy, family-controlled woman. 


* * *


The clock’s hands neared the witching hour. From the den Lillith retrieved a dark robe and a wand inscribed with mystic symbols. As she and Kopinski crept down the narrow cellar stairs, like a warning against their terrible experiment, a great crack of simultaneous thunder and lightning shook the house. Lillith shuddered with fear and snuggled up close to Kopinski.


Fifteen minutes before midnight, Lillith stood within the iron circle in the basement. The terrible stench that would not dissipate seemed stronger than ever. Kopinski turned off the overhead, lit the black candles at each point of the pentagram and joined Lillith within the pentagram. The flickering light sent ominous shadows of phantoms and monsters looming as it fell on bottles, retorts and other alchemy paraphernalia.


Lillith took a deep breath and performed  a calming meditation. Although the chamber was cold, perspiration dripped from her forehead and the back of the robe was damp with sweat..


Kopinski held the paper that had been copied from the Necronomicon for Lillith to read. She raised her arms until her fingers grazed the low ceiling. In one hand she held Albert's wand. "Yn ge tu y ge sy.  San min tu cthu," she intoned several times in a loud voice. A strange thing happened. The floor beneath their feet glowed with a weird phosphorescence. The stench became almost unbearable.


Lillith shouted, "Oh Great Cthulhu, God King of the  Ethos; see me standing amidst the ring where the dimensions meet. Allow me to pass through to the Mountains of Kommseti." She repeated this three times, each time louder with more emphasis.


A great thunder clap like the roar of a volcanic eruption blasted Kopinski's ears. Suddenly, he and Lillith were somewhere else. They were on a high rocky cliff near a strange pillared building. Next to it was a cemetery blocked by a locked iron gate. Black roiling clouds darkened the sky.


“What in Hell?” cried Kopinski. “Where in blazes are we?”


Lillith chuckled. “In the Mountains of Kommseti apparently. The ritual has caused us to travel to another dimension. No wonder we couldn’t find Albert. Apparently he came here and was unable to return. I hope you brought along the Necronomicon, or we may be stuck here too.”


“Yes. It’s in my jacket. But what good does it do us? Neither you nor I can read Latin.”


“But Albert does. But we must find him first.”


Since they were surrounded by cliffs and steep mountains, they had little choice but to approach the building. At the side of the main entrance was an alcove where three skulls were carved in the stone. To one side of this was an open door which led to a mausoleum where there was a lighted candle in an urn. To the right of this was a crypt. Kopinski touched the urn and a wraith appeared, a semitransparent image of a young woman, and immediately vanished. “Did you see that?” he cried.


“Yes. It may have been a spirit. But this is another dimension. We cannot be sure that anything we see is what we think it is.”


“You’re right. It may have been an illusion to discourage visitors.”


Kopinski slid off the top of the sarcophagus. Inside was an ancient corpse. Laying on its breast was a note that read: I will wait at the gate. 


“That’s Albert’s handwriting. He left it here for someone to find.”


“But who? Who did he expect to rescue him? And why did he put it inside a sarcophagus? We might've easily overlooked it.”


Kopinski noticed that the brass decorations at the main entrance moved. He placed the moon so that it covered the sun, and the door opened. Within was a ruined hallway. A door on the right led to a library where he found a journal. He showed it to Lillith. "Is this in Albert's handwriting too?


“Yes. I recognize this journal. He often wrote in it.”


Kopinski read the entries on the last page:


July 3. (That was the day after he disappeared, thought Kopinski.)  I’m trapped in this temple without a way to return to my own dimension. While I’m here I may as well learn as much as possible from its previous occupants. Perhaps they knew a way to open the gate.


July 4. I have discovered the four basic elements of the alchemists in their secret laboratory and hidden them in this unholy temple until I find a way back.  My discoveries here are momentous.  I sincerely hope I am able to return home to present my findings. This is a strange building. For example, in the gallery where the paintings are, time does not flow normally.


July 5. I’ve made a little progress. The answer may lie underground. I’ve learned much about alchemy theory that I can apply to my investigations into the laws of magic. For example, the  attraction of one material body for another takes place within the divine order from Alpha to Omega, from the beginning of the universe to the end of time. What the alchemists believed is true; to accomplish miracles that what is below is like what is above, and what is above is like what is below.


July 6. As I surmised, a second gate is hidden underground. The keys are the symbols for the planets and the elements.


That was the last entry. Kopinski pocketed the journal and picked up a book about creating the Philosopher’s Stone. In the margins were notes written in Keptopolos’s crabbed handwriting. He had underlined certain passages.


Since the other books told Kopinski nothing, he and Lillith left the library to explore the rest of the building. They found an alchemy laboratory. An ancient scroll on one workbench had some alchemy gobbledygook. Kopinski said, “Well, all this seems like it would be of great interest to your father in his quest for the laws of magic, but not much help in locating him or a way to return to our own dimension


They continued their exploration of the partially ruined building. It had a mysterious aura of ancient evil about it that Kopinski found disturbing. There were strange laboratories containing  machinery whose purpose he could not fathom. There were secret rooms which could only be reached by solving their means of entry. When Kopinski and Lillith entered the gallery mentioned in Keptopolos’s notes, Kopinski had a weird feeling as though something was very odd. He glanced at his watch. The second hand was moving counterclockwise. “Let get out of here,” he cried and pulled Lillith back out of the strange chamber.


In another room that they had missed on their first exploration of the building, they found what at first glance seemed like a mirror, but showed no reflection, simple a mystical haze. Kopinski was about to leave, when Lillith said, “This has some purpose. Maybe it’s a communication device.” She stared into glass. “Albert, can you hear me?”


To Kopinski’s utter amazement, Keptopolos’s image appeared. The scientist seemed as surprised to see them as they were to see him. His mouth opened and closed as though he was shouting words, but no sound came through the barrier of the glass. Kopinski tried to read his lips. He seemed to be calling Lillith’s name and asking where she was.


Lillith said, “Albert. We’re at the alchemist’s temple in the Mountains of Kommseti. How can we get to where you are?” She said the words slowly and exaggerated her mouth movements to allow him to read her lips.


Apparently he understood, because he stopped shouting and mouthed words as Lillith had done. He pointed down. Kopinski understood the words, “underground,” “symbols for elements,” “planets,” “beware” something. 


Lillith nodded and nodded. Apparently she was better at lip reading than Kopinski.


Before the conversation was complete, the image of Keptopolos faded away to be replaced by fog.


“Could you tell what he was saying?”


“There’s another gate in an underground chamber, similar to the one that brought us here. Then he said some gobbledygook about the symbols for the planets in their natural order and the symbols for the four elements earth, water, air, fire. I don’t know what he meant by that. He also said to beware the Yog-Sothoth.”


“The Keeper of the Gate, according to Lovecraftian lore.”


Lillith shrugged. “Perhaps we’re in a dimension where everything Lovecraftian is real.”


“Or someone is playing an elaborate hoax on us. I’m wondering whether all this is a dream or a hallucination. I have a bad feeling about that tea that Adrienne gave me.”


She turned to him and planted a lip-smacking, tongue-in-the mouth kiss on him. Afterwards she asked, “Do you still believe that I’m an illusion or hallucination?”


“You seem real enough, but this place and the way we got here ... well, it goes against all logic and common sense.”


“So do most modern physicist’s theories.”


“Well, let’s look for that gate.”


“What about the Yog-Sothoth?”


“I’ve got my gun. C’mon.” 


After wandered around a while, they found a door that led to an underground chamber. A narrow spiral stone staircase with mold encrusted walls dripping with a filthy liquid led them deep into the mountain. At the bottom was a barred and padlocked steel door.


Kopinski said, “I wonder whether this is to keep people out or something else in.” He put his ear to the metal. Behind it, something was moving around that sounded like an enormous serpent slithering around on its belly. He wondered whether it was the Yog-Sothoth. He examined his nine-millimeter. The cartridge was full. “Do you think that this has enough firepower to stop such a beast as your father described?”


“I know nothing of guns or mythical creatures. Perhaps we’d better not go in there.”


“Perhaps. On the other hand, this seems to be the only way out of this place. And it’s definitely where Keptopolos said he is. I didn’t see anything to eat in the temple.” He pointed upwards. “I’d rather get eaten than starve to death.”


“I agree. But what about the lock?”


In reply Kopinski fired a shot at the ancient rusty lock. It fell apart. The noise aroused the creature inside. It roared and banged loudly against the door, which rang like a church bell. It kept this up for a while. Kopinski said, “Stand next to me. I’ll slide the bolt back.”


After he and Lillith were positioned so that they would be behind the door when it opened, he slide the bolt back. A creature came crashing through the door. Kopinski only got a quick glimpse of it as it tore up the stairs. It seemed to be a combination of an octopus, a dragon, and a human being. It’s pulpy, tentacled head was atop a scaly body with rudimentary wings. In shape it resembled an ape or human with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers. It had a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings.


Kopinski pulled Lillith through the open door and slammed it shut. He hoped that the thing was too busy making its own escape to come back for them.


“You fool,” cried Lillith. “What made you so sure that it was the only one?”


Kopinski laughed. “There couldn’t possibly two such awful creatures.” He turned on his flashlight and took stock of their surroundings. They were in a small dank chamber, whose only exit was the one they had entered it from. It had no furnishings and stone walls. On the floor was an iron circle and star like the one in Keptopolos’s laboratory. “This must be the gate.” Stubs of candles were in their holders. He lit them. “Do you have the wand?”


“Yes. But Martin, do you think this is a good idea?”


“We have no choice. We can’t return to the temple with that thing rampaging about up there. Start the ceremony.” He pulled out the sheet with the translation.


“We won’t need that. I’ve memorized it.” Lillith took several deep breaths and went through the ritual. Nothing happened. She slumped. “This is not the way to open this portal.”


Kopinski snapped his fingers. “You’re father has told us the method. Look down at the iron ring. See those symbols every six inches or so?”


“Yeah. What of it?”


“Use the wand to press the ones I point to.” He had her place the wand on the astrological symbols for the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto in that order. Then he had her touch the alchemy symbols for earth, water, air and fire. The moment the fire symbol was pressed, they were again somewhere else. It seemed to be an ancient catacombs. In a niche on the left wall was a mold covered skeleton. The wall in front of them was constructed of blocks of stone. The other two walls contained archways.


Kopinski scratched his head. “Which way Lillith? Or should I toss a coin?”


Lillith look thoughtful. “In that seance at Adriane’s, Albert said he was lost. This catacomb may be a kind of labyrinth. I’ll call out his name. If he answers, we may be able to tell in which direction to look for him.”


“That sounds like a good idea, except that if there are other things here, like that Yog-Sothoth or Cthulhu, we may be attracting them to us.”


“And if we simply wander around aimlessly, we could come upon one unexpectedly.”


“You win. Call out.”


“Albert. ALBERT. Can you hear me?” she shouted.


Her words echoed in the stone chamber. After the echoes died away, they heard a soft almost inaudible reply off in the distance.


“That way, I think.” Kopinski pointed toward one of the archways.


“I agree. Let me call out to tell him not move, to stay put.” Kopinski nodded. “Albert Wherever you’re at, stay put. We’ll try to find you. Keep shouting, and we’ll follow the sound of your voice.”


Before they left the chamber, Kopinski took out a marking pen and placed a large X on the door frame. If I see that X again, he figured, I’ll know that we’re walking in circles.” Every time they passed through an archway, he made another X on the left side of the door frame.


* * *


They walked for what seemed like miles. Each chamber was pretty much the same. Some had niches with skeletons in them, some did not. Some had two exits, some three, a few had only one. When they reached one of the latter, they had to backtrack. Eventually, the sound of Keptopolos’s voice became loud of enough to lead them to him.


When they found him, he was leaning against a wall, barely able to stand. His clothes were torn and dirty. Lillith rushed toward him and hugged the old man. Tears ran down both their faces. “Oh Albert, we finally found you.”


“Oh my dear child, you shouldn’t have come here. We’re going to die. There’s no way out.”


Kopinski said, “Don’t give up, Doctor. There must be an exit somewhere in this maze.”


“Who are you?”


Lillith replied for the detective. “He’s from the police. When you disappeared, I called them. He’s their missing persons’ investigator. His name is Martin Kopinski.”


Kopinski shook hands with the scientist. “What about that magic mirror we saw you in? Where’s that?”


“Right behind you.”


Kopinski turned. On the wall was another mirror filled with mist. Feeling like a fool, Kopinski said, “Magic mirror, show us how to get out of here.”


To his horror, it showed the awful creature they had encountered in the stairwell. It was standing on the pentagram inside the iron circle, pressing the symbols to activate the gate.


Lillith cried, “It’s coming after us.”


Kopinski reached for his pistol. It was not in his holster. Somehow he had lost it.


When Keptopolos saw him reach inside his jacket, he said, “If that’s a gun you’re reaching for, it'll do you no good. The Yog-Sothoth  is undead and cannot be stopped by bullets. How did you two get here?”


Lillith said, “We came through the gate in your lab.”


“You would need the Necronomicon to do that. What did you do with it?”


“I have it right here,” Kopinski replied. He took the book out of his coat pocket.


Keptopolos got a wild look in his eyes. Moving more swiftly in his weakened condition than Kopinski would’ve thought possible, he snatched it from the detective’s hand. He thumbed through to a particular page and began to mumble to himself. Suddenly, all three of them were back in the alchemist’s temple, in an area that held a stone altar.


“Okay Doctor, you’ve got us back here. Can you return us to our own dimension?”


Lillith said, “We won’t be going back there.” She was pointing Kopinski’s own pistol at him.


“What’re you doing, Lillith? Have you gone mad?”


“Haven't you ever wondered why I've never told you my last name. It's because I have none. Actually I'm what you would call a demon; I prefer fallen angel. Alfred summoned me from the void. I’m a special species of fallen angels called a succubus. That’s how I was able to seduce you so easily. Now I have your seed. All I need is your blood. Right Alfred?”


“Right, my child,” the old man said, his eyes gleaming insanely. “Then our experiment will be complete. Using the Laws of Magic that I’ve discovered, we’ll control the world.”


“What? This is crazy. Don’t tell me that you’ve been working in cahoots all along.”


Lillith said, “We needed a strong healthy man. You fit the bill. I also needed someone to help me take the Necronomicon to Alfred when in his absentmindedness, he forgot to bring it into this world. Now, remove your clothing and lay down on that altar.”


“You’re kidding. What are going to do?”


Lillith waved the pistol at him. “I could just shoot you through the heart. But I like you, Martin. I'll let you live if you cooperate.”


Kopinski slowly removed his garments, starting with his raincoat. When he was down to his T-shirt, Jockey shorts and socks, he felt the medallion that Adrienne had given him. He placed his hand on it and tried to communicate telepathically with the witch. It was an act of desperation on his part. He didn’t really believe it would work. Nonetheless, he concentrated with all his soul.


Nothing happened. What a fool I am, he thought. What did I think would happen? That Adrienne would suddenly appear and bewitch these two.


“All your clothes, Martin. Don’t be shy.”


Kopinski stripped until he was naked except for the thin chain and ornament attached to it, which was almost invisible on his manly hairy chest,.


“Okay, lie on your back on the altar. Daddy, manacle his wrists and ankles.”


Keptopolos snapped manacles attached to chains linked to the altar onto Kopinski’s wrists and ankles, rendering him helpless. Lillith handed him the pistol and removed the long robe. To Kopinski’s horror, enormous bat-like wings spouted from her back, her bicuspids grew into fangs and her hand and feet became pointed talons. In all other respects, her body and features remained that of a beautiful woman. She crawled on top of Kopinski and leaned down to put her fangs into his throat. One breast touched the talesman that Adrienne had given him. She pulled back howling. A burn spot appeared were the ornament had touched her.


“What's this?” she cried. “Take it off.”


“I can’t. My wrists are manacled.”


“Albert, remove this piece of junk jewelry.”


Before Keptopolos could make a move, a cat with one green eye and one blue appeared from somewhere and leaped into his face, scratching at his eyeballs and cheeks. Keptopolos dropped the pistol to tear the scratching, biting ball of fur from his face. The cat leaped down before he could grab her. She turned into a nude Adrienne, snatched up the pistol and said, “Okay, I’ve got the gun now. Release Detective Kopinski.”


Lillith leaped off of the altar and went for Adrienne. Adrienne got off five shots, which had no affect on the demon, before she was bowled over by the attack. The two naked females wrestled on the floor, scratching, biting and pulling each other’s hair and breasts. The pistol went flying toward the archway that led out of the chamber. Keptopolos went to retrieve it. Standing in the shadows was the Yog-Sothoth. It grabbed the scientist, twisted his head until it was facing backwards, dropped the corpse to the floor and took the Necronomicon from the dead scientist. Satisfied with its prize, it turned and disappeared from sight.


Kopinski watched helplessly as the two females fought. Adrienne seemed to be getting the worst of the conflict, since Lillith had talons and fangs to fight with. But, suddenly the tide turned when Adrienne made a mystic sign on Lillith’s back and mumbled a spell of exorcism. Lillith screeched and threw up her hands. Smoke poured out of her body, and she cried out, as though in great pain, words of damnation and blasphemy. She rose to her feet and staggered to the exit, with her skin peeling and flaking off her. Before she reached it, she crumbled to ashes.


Although Adrienne was bleeding from various cuts and abrasions, she slowly got to her feet, retrieved the key to the manacles and released Kopinski. Once free and on his feet, he asked, “Are you all right, Adrienne?”


“Yes. These wounds are superficial.”


“I should’ve listened to your advice. Those two were evil. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming to my rescue. Do you have a way back to our own world.”


“The altar is the return gate.” She hopped up on it. “Get back on it with me.”


Kopinski sat on the altar with his feet dangling.


“No,” Adrienne said. “Our full bodies must be on the stone. Stretch out next to me.” She laid down on her side.


Kopinski lay next to her. Since the altar was narrow, they were quite close, their nude bodies pressed against each other. To steady himself, he put one arm around her waist. She made mystic symbols in the air with her hands and chanted another ritual.


Suddenly, they were in a bed in an ordinary bedroom.


“Where are we now?” asked Kopinski.


Adrienne turned her naked body toward him. She had a sly grin on her face. “In my bedroom.” She reached over and touched him. “You owe me a great debt, y’know. I wish to start collecting right now.”


Kopinski knew what she wanted and was happy to give it to her. Afterwards, they showered together. When they were done, Adrienne found clothes left from an ex-boyfriend for Kopinski to wear home. She also lent him money for a taxi.


She asked, “What will you tell your boss about your investigation?”


“I’ll write in my report that I located Doctor Keptopolos and that his housekeeper joined him at his new location in a foreign country.”


“Won’t people get suspicious when they find all their belongings still in that house?”


“They may. But that won’t be for a while. They’ll probably assign another detective to investigate what happened to them.” He shrugged. “But what could he find. It’s as though they vanished into thin air. But what I don’t get is your part in all this. Did you know that Lillith was a demon?”


“Yes. But if I had told you that, you wouldn’t have believed me.”


“You must’ve also known about the Necronomicon, the gates to another dimension,  the Yog-Sothoth, the Mountains of Kommseti and lots more. How?”


“A psychic vision. I had it after the first time you came here with Lillith. I knew I couldn’t stand by and allow them to sacrifice you for their evil purposes.”


“One more thing. How did you do that trick of turning yourself into a cat?”


She touched his cheek with her hand. “That’s my little secret.”


* * *


At the stroke of midnight, Adrienne recited the prayer to Cthulhu. The Yog-Sothoth appeared. The awful creature bowed to her. “Here is the sacred book, Mistress.” It handed her the Necronomicon and disappeared. Adrienne grinned. “Now, Doctor Keptopolos, wherever in the nether regions you now reside, I have the Necronomicon. It is I who will control the world. I’m sure that nice Detective Kopinski will come calling again.”






© 2005 by Joe Vadalma.  I'm a former technical writer retired from a major computer manufacturer. I've loved science fiction and fantasy from the time I learned to read. I've had short stories published in E-zines including yours. I've also sold a series of dark fantasy novels to Renaissance E-Books, The series is called The Morgaine Chronicles. Renaissance has also published a collection of my short stories, The Sands of Time. Delingers Publishing,, had published my science fiction novel, The Isaac Project. My science fiction novel, Star Tower, is available from The Book of Retslu, a humorous fantasy, has been accepted by Mundania,, but has not been published yet. My web site, The Fantastic World of Papa Joe,, contains SF, fantasy and horror stories, serials and art.