Holy Smoke by Cam Jace Storykiller

Chapter 1

Copyright©by Cameron Jace 2019

Christ Church, Oxford University, London, 1987,

Time: 11:11 PM Mood: Demonic

The sign outside the church said no smoking. Funny it never said no demons

Father Mathews, the anointed priest, flashed a golden cross at the demon clutched upside-down to the church’s ceiling. His recitation of holy text while tiptoeing with anxiety and sweating profusely reminded me of my darkest hours in the restroom. This was supposed to be an act exorcism, not constipation.

“A bigger cross, maybe?” I said, playing Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on he church's organ behind him. The famous Halloween melody known by everyone comically dramatized the intense atmosphere.

“In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!” Father Mathews' voice shriveled at the demon above. Too much horror movies, I thought. It was the 80s after all.

“I’d ask nicely, if I were you,” I said over my shoulder, biting on a cuban cigar and strumming away.

“Why be nice to an entity from hell?” He roared with resentment.

“I thought demons had feelings, too.”

“What?”

“Oh, I forgot, humans are superior above all else,” I rolled my eyes, watching him stretching his arm as far as his limiting human limbs allowed him. “Did you know that it’s scientifically proven that proximity of the cross has no effect on the demon? It’s not a magnifying glass, you know.”

“But longevity should!” Father Mathews sank to his knees, arm still up with the cross. The only longevity he should have worried about now was his mortal lifespan.

“The higher the jump, the harder the fall.” I murmured.

“What do you want, evil spirit?” Father Mathews collapsed in tears as the demon girl flipped her neck backwards and drooled mucus onto the church’s shiny marble floor.

“Why so dramatic?” I squinted at both of them.

“Dramatic?” The demon girl sneered at me. “Here’s funny!” she growled in a voice darker than the lowest note on the organ’s keyboard.

And then she surprisingly, fantastically, and ever so seductivly flashed her boobies at the poor priest.

I guess that’s what they called ‘a scene to behold.’ Her boobies offered a different perception of her femininity. To boobies to not to boobies, that was the question. Wasn’t that always the case with us men?

“Help me, Lord!” Father Mathews cupped his eyes with both hands, dropping the cross on the floor.

“Sex always wins, I guess.” I chuckled.

“Stop mocking me,” he whined. “Help me exorcise this demon,” the old man was a few syllables away from a heart attack.

“Only if the church pays my taxes for a year.” I said.

He nodded in sweating agreement.

“And if you stop asking me if you can pray for me every time you see me.”

Father Mathews hesitated. I was literally denying him the pleasure of superiority by calling everyone else a sinner.

“Tell him to stop praying for me, demon girl.” I winked at her.

Nothing amused her more than scaring Father Mathews. She huffed and puffed some sort of black smoke at him. The man clambered back on all fours. I liked this feisty girl.

Father Mathews begged me again, “I promise I may never ask to pray for you, goddamn it!”

“Tsk, tsk, no cussing, Father,” I pointed upward while I still strummed the organ with the other hand.

“Just get the bloody demon out of my church.”

“Well,” I let both my hands clutch down on the organ’s keyboard, producing a cacophony of shrills and noises. “If God can’t do it.” I sighed.

Standing up, I ruffled my buttoned vest and pulled up my collars. I shook my boots, stretched my back and arms, and picked up my magnificent cane. Two steps down the hall, I flipped it twice in the air —  courtesy of Charlie Chaplin — and talked to the demon girl, “What’s your name, darling?”

“Karma,” the demon prided herself as if her name were Hercules.

“So what happened with ‘girls just wanna have fun,’ Karma?”

“But I am,” she snickered. “Stay out of this, Pillar, you and your Moses staff.”

I grinned, pointing at my cane. “I know it looks like one, but this, darling, is not just a cane,” I tapped the side twice with my middle finger, watching it swirl like a snake into a hookah’s hose.

The demon was taken aback. Our eyes locked.

“You know what this hose can do, don’t you?” I said.

She lowered her head in submission for a moment, but then resisted her sudden weakness to my weapon and turned back to Father Mathews, “This isn’t between me and you, Pillar. It’s between me and him.”

“Me?” Father Mathews wailed, now a few vowels away from his heart attack. “What do you want from me?”

“I want the Singing Bone!” She growled and windows shattered all over the place.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t lie to me,” Karma said. “I know about your sins!”

Father Mathews pulled at my jeans. “I’m begging you, professor. Get her out of my church—”

“Man up, Father. Such a damsel in distress.” I was about to say when Karma huffed out another round of theatrical terror. Black smoke arose everywhere. Windows shattered and splintered in a spray of shards. Screws unbolt themselves from doors and the organ’s keys elevated upward in the air.

I wish I could do this stuff.

This time, however, Father Mathews almost passed out. I knelt down and checked his slow pulse then whispered in his ears, “Tell me the truth, Father. What do you know about that Singing Bone?”

Looking at the damaged church, he realized that death has crashed through the windows. Surprisingly, prayer and holy text offered little solution at the moment. Only the truth did, and he finally confessed with a feeble nod from his head and whispered, “I’d rather die and not tell the demon. You have no idea of what kind of power the Signing Bone  bestows.”

“She is a strong demon,” I explained. “We have to give her at least something, and then I can send her back from the hookah she came from.”

Father Mathews stared at me as I've betrayed him, but he had little choice anyways. The demon had drained out his energy and faith already.

“She is a powerful demon,” I insisted. “Just tell her anything, Father Mathews.”

Words slowly formed in his mouth, and I tolerated a whiff of Kebab and onions invading my nostrils. Though he spoke, I couldn’t hear him. I guess he held too much to his secret he couldn’t utter it loud enough the first time.

I leaned closer, my ears against his bad breath and listened to him say, “Bookmark.“

“Boomark?”

He barely moved his head.

“Where is this bookmark?” I leaned back to look in his eyes, but the man had lost conscious.

I sighed with disappointment and slipped my hands under his cassock. He wore a fanny pack—again, those were the 80s. I zipped it open, brushed past small-sized condoms, and snatched out a handful of pounds. The man was loaded.

As I was about to zip it back, I glimpsed a bookmark with the Oxford University’s logo. I flipped it around and the handwriting on the back caught my attention:

Tom Bodley and Tom Tower,

Get inside, right on the hour,

One-hundred-and-one strikes,

Are the limits of their power.

I despised puzzles. I mean the time needed to make one up could save us time reading so many books and watching movies. Also people fought over unsolved puzzles for years. Puzzles we liked to call Holy Books.

But it was all I had for now, so I tucked the bookmark in my back pocket.

Turning back, I realized I had forgotten about Karma. I walked over to her with intent. We locked eyes for a moment.

Her eyes slit like a cat’s, and mine dilated.

She drooled, I spat on the floor.

She growled, I clenched my fist.

Her face reddened, so did mine.

Then…

Then…

We both erupted with laughter.

“You really didn’t have to damage the property.” I said, pointing at the shattered glass.

“Try clawing  backwards on the ceiling, Pillar. I needed some amusement,” she said in a perfectly human voice,  landing like a ballerina onto her nimble feet. “Did he tell you where it is?” She stretched out an open palm.

“Not exactly,“ I tucked her share of money into her palm. “But we have a puzzle to solve.”

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