Chapter Sixteen

Joshua and Theodore turned from the sleeping Lopez and ran out across the patio and onto Trostrick’s private beach. They found the girl they had come to find. She was lying still as a corpse.

Joshua regarded her in the moonlight, then shut his eyes and released his close bonds with his physical being. Theodore stood by, feeling that his most helpful attitude would be one of calm support. In a few minutes, Joshua’s eyes were open again. He picked up the girl’s body, his lean strength making the awkward bundle manageable. “Let’s get out of here. Trostrick may come back any minute.” He started towards the driveway.

“Is she dead?”

“No. She’s left her physical body, but the body isn’t harmed in any way.”

“Can we get her back, like you did the man from space?”

“No.” Joshua let it go at that until they were in the rental car. “You wait here a minute. I want to make some calls.”

He walked back into the house and dialed the phone, looking at the pilots’ card he took from his wallet; they were just beginning to settle for the night, and were immediately available for the trip back to Washington. He called Pablo next, and told him to meet the plane.

“We’ve got her physical body, Pablo,” said Josh. “That’s not what you’d call a complete victory.”

“Well, Josh, it’ll all work out. See you soon.”

“Yeah,” said Josh. He was out to the car and in the driver’s seat at a run, and began the drive back to the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Theodore swallowed his fear at the excessive speed which seemed to be becoming a habit with Joshua, and sat with the girl in the back seat.

“You say we can’t bring her back, Josh?”

“No. It looks like she left the physical of own free will. At least, there was no sign of trauma from the outside. Until we can contact her spirit, there is no way we can hope to retrieve her.”

“Where do you think she is?”

Joshua sighed, as though the events of the last twenty four hours were finally catching up with his energies. “I can guess. In the lower of the astral planes, there are many places of such strong negativity that research on them has been impossible. Trostrick would try to put her in a place from which there could be no escape, any more than our physical bodies could escape from prison. I was not able to contact her.” Starr sat up a little in his seat. “But we’ll keep trying.”

He was slowing down now for the turns into the parking area in front of the flying service which had hangared their plane. Leaving the rental car where they had found it, they walked into the office of the place, and found their red-haired pilot, ready for them this time. “Flight plan’s filed. We’re set to go right now.”

The pilot accepted Joshua’s story about the reason for the condition of the girl much more easily than he had hoped, seeming quite willing to believe that she had been a kidnapping victim who had been drugged. He replied only that he was glad Joshua had rescued her, and that he wished he could have been part of the action.

The conversation dwindled as Joshua finished making the girl comfortable on one of the couches in the airplane’s cabin. He walked back down the air stairs. “I’ll see you in a little while, Ted.”

Theodore watched him go across the ramp and back inside the office, as the air stairs were retracted. His feelings were divided between intense curiosity and desire to be, as the red-haired pilot had said, part of the action, and an overwhelming flood of relief at being out of the storm for a moment, safe with his prize in hand. He was tired, and home sounded good. He was asleep before the jet had climbed far from Miami’s air.

Joshua was tired too, but tired in a deeper sense; his spirit ached in anticipation of the battle it would soon be asked to join. Joshua disliked talking; he knew it was a white magician’s weakest weapon, and that he could only hold his own against Trostrick by means of exercises of will he regretted in advance. He regretted them because he knew that he was almost certainly going to use his strength in vain. And yet, he could not go back to the group at the farm until he had tried everything.

His ribs were sore, but it did not seem that any of them had been broken. Joshua’s breathing was not as painful as it had been, although he was stiff. The energy that had kept him going for nearly twenty-four hours stood him up and made him alert and quick, but the sour malaise that comes from not having attended to the physical needs of food and rest weighed upon him. He stopped the rented car in plain sight in Trostrick’s driveway and was not at all surprised to see Trostrick walk out across the stone patio to greet him. The man’s smooth, quiet voice sounded genuinely pleased. “A pleasure, Mr. Starr,” he said. He extended his hand courteously.

Joshua looked at the hand a split second, and nodded inwardly. His mind was set more grimly. He accepted the hand. “How do you do, Mr. Trostrick.”

“Mr. Lopez has been having some trouble recounting the events of the evening. How unfortunate that there was a misunderstanding! If only I had been expecting you! But tell me, what can I do for you, Mr. Starr?”

Joshua stood in stolid quiet, staring at Trostrick.

“Now then, my dear fellow. Come inside. You do look tired. Do sit down.”

Lopez watched Starr move his fingers together and press against his trouser as he sat, composedly and slowly. “Mr. Starr, I will go now. I have the report to make to my employers.”

Trostrick’s expression showed moderate traces of embarrassment. “Mr. Lopez! Please remain here a little longer. I am sure that we owe you a few more minutes of comfort. To repay you for your moments of discomfort, which I regret. Here. Another drink.”

Lopez felt compelled to stay, and he sat next to the finely groomed black magician on the sofa, his round, oily face registering the frustration of entrapment.

“Let him go, Trostrick.”

“My dear fellow, he can leave when you do. He has no effect upon our business, does he? Could we not speak of any matter we wished in front of him? He is only the neutral counter of our planet, the man who resembles the powerless men who make up the masses. The powerless masses. Should we who are strong remove ourselves one step for him who is weak? Nonsense! Let him stay. Perhaps he can learn. And you will wish to speak with him before he goes, will you not?”

Joshua realized that Trostrick had arranged the situation so that this exchange of thought could be aired. It gave Trostrick the advantage of attack. He made the only counter-attack left on him. “Trostrick, I have come for the girl that you kidnapped.”

“Kidnapped? Such a criminal act? How could you think it of me?”

“I’ll change the language then. You have control of the spiritual body of our guest. We have her physical body. We want her spirit back.”

“My dear fellow!” Trostrick seemed somewhat disturbed. “You do misunderstand my actions. This girl of whom you speak has made several choices, quite freely. And at this point, her spirit is some way from here, in this illusion we call space and time.”

“I want her back now,” said Starr.

There was silence in the room and the two men looked steadily at each other. When Trostrick spoke, it was without a flicker of his gaze.

“She will return to you whenever she decides to, my dear fellow. There are certain changes she would have to make in order to come back to you just now, and it would seem that, for the time being, she has decided that she prefers to stay where she is.”

Joshua regarded the black magician silently. Trostrick continued.

“Let us say that she is learning a great deal about certain configurations of mind in the mental planes that your program of instruction omitted. Could we allow her education in the ways of this planet to be completed without showing her a full picture? My dear fellow, I sometimes think that you look down on part of our Creator’s universe.”

“Well, Trostrick, I admit I do look down on conjuring up demons and using them against innocent people like Pablo, when your influence caused him to start the mix-up with the syndicate, or like that deputy’s wife, or the Sergeant. You managed to have both of them kill for you. No, I don’t approve of that, or of talking an innocent child into a corner from which she can never return without total loss of-what? Her innocence, at least; probably her identity. I don’t approve of evil, Trostrick, and I don’t approve of you.”

Trostrick’s eyes softened, and a look of regret crossed his face. “I cannot understand why you think that way. My dear fellow, I do admit to experimentation with demonic forces. I have, in fact, always tried never to miss any opportunity to expand my knowledge and abilities. In fact, I have little time for anything else, no time for physical pleasures. You, I notice, seem to have taken a good deal of time out for such pleasures, through the years.”

Implying, thought Joshua, that his power was less because of his lack of total concentration. He had to admit that the black magician was right. His art was not perfect. And Trostrick’s seemed to be approaching perfection.

Trostrick was continuing. “And further, something that you said reminds me of one of my main interests. I cannot see why you insist upon saying that our interests differ. Why cannot we unify, and blend our power together? We both want the same thing, do we not?”


“We both want power, my dear fellow. Power to use for the aid of the masses who are like Mr. Lopez-unwashed, unlearned, undisciplined. We want power to help these people become what they might be, what they have the potential to be. We want power to guide, always remembering that each man must make his own choices. For the Creator made free will a tenet of His universe, and you will find it is the first rule of my magic, as well as it is of yours.”

Joshua knew that by “free will,” Trostrick meant only the will to choose “freely” between carefully pre-set circumstances. It was the use of black force reduced to the most civilized of garb, and the worst of it was that it made the man so very difficult to fight, using the white arts. For the positive portion of the planetary mind could not recognize this as evil until after it was done, and so its indignation could not be used as a unifying factor. It was a cold war, and Trostrick was the acknowledged master of it. “Our magic is opposite, Trostrick. Our power is opposite. You have polarized towards the negative; I have chosen the positive. We are at opposite ends of the creation. We have no affinity. You have chosen to take the power which you have gained and use it to usurp what you can of what I have attempted to do for the good. Don’t call me an ally.”

Trostrick shook his head. “Please do not be angry. I think you exaggerate, warp things. I really do, my dear fellow. You say we have no affinity, but how can two things in the same creation be separate? We are simply two sides of a sheet of paper; different, yes, for we face opposite ways. But close, too, for we touch each other at all points, and are made of the same material. Negativity and positivity. Yes, we have chosen these different poles. But what makes one better than the other? They are both provided for in our Creator’s universe. The Creator gave us the will to choose one pole or the other. As far as I can see, and I’ve been an earnest student, my dear fellow, the problem basically is that all of this planet’s people haven’t really quite chosen between them yet. The consensus leans rather heavily towards negativity. You’ll grant me that. But it hasn’t identified with it completely. And so it is denied the power that it could receive if only it could completely make the choice. I see it as our job to help the masses find the purity and the power of total polarization. And, really Mr. Starr, isn’t it more reasonable to move the short way to the negative pole than to try wrenching the collective consciousness of the planet all the way back to neutral and then all the way over to positivity? That’s quite a lot of wasted effort, isn’t it? We can guide these poor souls, Mr. Starr, we can help them find the security and stability of total identification with wisdom.”

Starr had nothing to say. The man was the culmination of the black magical arts. And he was winning this battle.

“Mr. Starr? Do you not agree? Would you perhaps be willing to help me educate the people of this planet? We could do so much for them. We could give them material security, leave their minds and bodies free from physical trouble, so that they might live out a comfortable life, spending all their time, if they wished, in spiritual seeking. This planet’s network of security is constantly growing, and one day we shall have a total and complete system of security for all people. We shall direct the wise hands of the government, which shall in turn remove each problem for each citizen, so that he may lead a life quite free from any worry.”

Joshua stood up. “I do not want power over people, Mr. Trostrick. You have a girl trapped outside her physical body. You have the power to bring her back to it. I ask you to do so. I am willing to repay you by taking her place. My mind for hers.”

“My dear fellow! What would I do with your mind? It is a good one. A pity, I think, that you have let it wander for the past few years, for it has fallen into error, and chosen the wrong path, the wrong pole, on a planet that has to all intents already chosen the other one. But I have no wish for your subjugation to me. The Creator has willed that each of his creatures shall be free. I assure you, the girl you seek is free. Free to choose.”

Starr did not reply; there was nothing to say. He went over to Lopez and put a hand behind his shoulder. “Come on. I’ll take you back to your car.”

Lopez jumped uncontrollably at the touch, and pulled himself up from the deep cushions.

“Come back again,” said Trostrick. “And stay longer next time. There are so many interesting experiences and thoughts we could discuss, if we had the time.”

“Thank you,” said Starr equably. “Perhaps we’ll be in touch again.”

“Soon, I hope.” Trostrick stood by the glass door, holding the portieres back with a courteous hand.

“I hope so too.”

Joshua took Lopez to his car and told him to follow him to the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. When Lopez had nursed the old vehicle to a stop outside the terminal, Joshua leaned into his car window on his elbows. “Listen, Lopez. You have to turn in some kind of report for your other client, don’t you? And one for the case I hired you for as well, for the agency’s records?”

“Yes, si, Senor. But I am not crazy. If I told them the truth, they would fire me. I will make up something. This much I know. I am glad to be done with the thing!”

“Listen, Go ahead and report things exactly the way you saw them. They won’t fire you. Forget the part about being hypnotized. What were your orders for the other case?”

Lopez thought it over. He could see no breach of ethics in telling the man that. “To tail you while you were in the area.”

Starr nodded, chin propped on the elbows. “Well, I’m on the next plane back to Washington, either out of here or Miami. You tailed me as far as the airport. OK?”

“Thank you. Yes. That will be fine.” It would look good on the report. And he could give a very full report, except for the corpse that he had seen. The blonde corpse, that had disappeared. But that was for Mr. Starr’s case anyway, not the other one. He would not have to report that. This Senor Starr was a very helpful person.

“And, listen, Lopez. You probably won’t get much for your work tonight. And there’s the chance that you may be in for trouble because of it. Take this.” He handed the man some bills from his wallet. “And if anything goes wrong at home, or you have bad luck on the job-just anything-you call me collect at this number.” He gave Lopez his card. “OK?”

“Why are you worried about me? You don’t know me.”

“I just am. You call me, all right?”

“Sure. Any problems, I call you.”

Starr was satisfied, and walked back to the main terminal building. It was a strange man, thought Lopez as he watched the shaggy-haired, poorly dressed man with the fat wallet. He left to go home and show the $500 the man had given him to his wife. Perhaps this was enough money to go somewhere where a person like him could get a better job. He could look for advertisements. Maybe, somewhere out west, someone would need a policeman. He carefully put the money away.

Starr’s body was pulling at his consciousness with the bruises he had sustained in the one-sided fight, but his mind was filled with such a greater pain, as he waited for the trip to be over, that he was not even aware of the hurt ribs. His spirit ached with the traveler’s cramp of the defeated; he had had to endure in silence rude injury that he would have liked to avenge by the most extravagant action. By schooling himself to silence and seeming acquiescence he had saved himself to fight another day, for had he fought with the better equipped Trostrick on Trostrick’s home ground, he wouldn’t have been in one piece, spiritually, for long. He knew he had been shrewd to garner his forces, but there is no medicine for the acid ache of losing. The weight of the whole episode felt its heaviest to him, for he had assumed its onus, and in his own mind he was responsible for the present danger to the girl from space. As he drove the Miura down the narrow road to Pablo’s farm, dejection settled into the lines of his face like grime.

Esmerelda’s response to the look of hopelessness was a cup of coffee; Pablo’s was commiseration. “Well, Josh, at least her body’s upstairs, safe and sound. But we can’t keep her indefinitely. Church keeps calling, wanting to know the outcome. He says the Sergeant that was with him at the deputy’s house has made things a bit hot, calling up people and telling them about men from space. All very difficult. No one believes him, but the Colonel says he doesn’t think he can keep it quiet much longer. We’re all going to be subpoenaed for the Captain Crouse inquest. How did your business come out? Did you see Trostrick?”

Joshua nodded his head from behind the mug of coffee. “Yes. I talked with him. Trostrick’s got her, and he’s put her where we thought he would. He admitted it by inference.”

“The lower astral?” asked Esmerelda.

Joshua nodded. At Theodore’s look of enquiry, he went on. “The lowest of the mental planes are completely negative. I didn’t have the time or the inclination to tell you earlier, Ted. But remember I said there were places of maximum negativity? In order for the space girl voluntarily to leave the place she is now, she probably would have to become one with the vibrations of that plane, which would mean that she would release all of her positivity, all of her intelligence, all of her personality, and become as dark as the abyss. Trostrick is waiting for her to do that-of her own free will, of course-and then he will have all the power that her spirit held released into his use.”

“How in the world did he do it? I mean, the whole thing?” Theodore was dumbfounded.

Joshua gritted his teeth slightly, and shook his head. “He has been underestimated. For years, apparently, he’s had the power to accompany our rituals, and he knew about everything. At least, that’s what he inferred. And the fact that he was able to get the girl from space to Miami without our being able to find her would suggest to me that he’s not just boasting about being able to mask astral presence. So he just conjured up a slew of minor demons and set them to work, assigning one to Pablo, several years ago and having the others hover around, waiting for targets of opportunity like the deputy’s wife and Sgt. Armstrong. He used you, Pablo, instead of the rest of us because we’re alien to this planet’s mental planes, and far less likely to be affected by one of the demons than a person whose spirit is of this planet. Although, perhaps the whole idea was inspired by the demons!”

“Hush, Josh,” said Esmerelda. That’s just not so. Demons are too stupid to do more than one thing at a time. So you say he knew all about us, and has been watching us ever since the ritual. Why didn’t he come and get the girl himself, instead of going through all the twists and turns? Sheer love of complication?”

“No. From what he said, I gathered that the way he’s been working lately, he likes to get people into situations where they can, quote, freely, end quote, choose to do negative things. Apparently this free choice bit is why it’s so difficult for us to fight him. He doesn’t disturb the positively polarized astral community. Meanwhile, he keeps trapping people by his manipulations, and they do things like betting on horses and shooting people. Anyway, I think the way he got the space girl was by encouraging chaotic situations to develop. He also probably used his act of rescuing the space girl from her kidnappers to influence positive astral thought. Astrals have no more intellect than we do here on Earth, and are certainly as easily fooled by metaphysical politicians. And this Trostrick is a master politician. So Trostrick got her, and then, before he could be recognized as a negative Karcist, he put a shield around her, and she was beyond reach of any of us.”

“So Trostrick’s just a vote-getter in heaven?” Theodore was frowning at the thought.

Joshua shrugged, with a hint of his usual carelessness. “Sure. All magicians are, for that matter. The heaven world, and the other mental planes, are all peopled to a large extent by human entities that have at one time or another been incarnate on the physical planes of this planet. Many of them will eventually incarnate again. They come in all types and polarities, and together they make up the collective mind of the planet. Some of the entities are positively oriented. Some are negative. I might point out that there is much more negative than positive power. That’s obvious. What Trostrick did was trick the positive segment into ignoring him until it was too late to shield the space girl from evil.”

“Then what we have to do is get more votes than he has?”

“That’s right, Theodore. But I don’t think we can. The place that he has taken her has almost never been penetrated by the forces of light. The negativity is simply too strong there. One thing that might comfort you a little, Ted. The girl will not be able to see the ugliness of what she faces. It will look like sheer blackness to her, for she does not, at this time anyway, have a spiritual body that can see such dense matter. So she will be spared viewing the citizens of that plane.”

“I’m comforted,” said Theodore.

Esmerelda was sitting back into her seat. “Well I’m not. Even though she can’t see what is outside her prison, she will know that it is a prison. And that will be terrible for her.”

Joshua lowered his head into cupped hands, placing the empty mug on the floor by him. “I know, I know. That man’s aura stank like a sewer.” He raised his head. “Where’s the man from space?”

Esmerelda pointed upstairs. “We left him with his sister’s physical body. He and our teacher have been searching for her spirit all night. No luck.”

Theodore was doggedly pursuing his train of thought. “Well, then, what do we have to beat? What percentage of the astral consciousness can our most powerful ritual command?”

“I don’t know. A very small percent,” said Joshua. “Of course, thought’s powerful stuff. You don’t need much.”

“Well, how much can Trostrick command?”

“It’s hard to say. He might have as much as ten times what we have focused on this placement of the space girl. The reason for the difference isn’t that his magic is stronger, per se. Black magic just takes the white rituals and debases them. It’s just that it’s more popular. There are just more negatively oriented souls in the voting population than there are positive.”

“But we would have to beat his tally?”

“That’s right. But the positive population on this planet has been so fragmented by different religions, and sects within the religions, and bad blood between all of them, that there aren’t many rituals that are general enough to command that many eyes.”

Theodore pushed his lips together, put both palms on his knees, in a gesture of collapse. “So there’s nothing we can do?”

Joshua was heavily silent, his mind turning over the events that had brought them from the birth of their hopeful plans to this moment.

Pablo felt that the situation was his fault, just as Joshua felt that it was his. His instinct was towards a sort of helpless belligerence.

“What does Trostrick want, Josh? The end of the world?”

Josh rocked his head from side to side, deathly weary now. “Oh, no. He’s very, very fond of things just the way they are. After all, his side is winning. He wants power. Total subjugation of all people here in the physical plane, with their wills dependent completely upon the wills of those he calls their leaders and protectors. He looks for uniformity, control. The ordered society.”

Pablo considered. “He’s got things working out very nicely for him then, doesn’t he? The regimentation is enough to gag you now! You can hardly sneeze without filling out a form! Give the man some time and he should do very well for himself.”

Josh nodded. “Yeah. Beautiful little planet, isn’t it?” Esmerelda had been silent for a long time, and seemed calmer than any of them as she sat, her head turned out towards the front yard, her forehead furrowed with thought. Pablo noticed her withdrawn look. “Do you have an idea, Esmerelda?”

Esmerelda turned her gaze towards Joshua and contemplated him. After a time, she nodded. “I might, What do you think, Josh, of trying some of the experimental maneuvers that we’ve discussed before? Summoning a higher power than Trostrick on the negative side?”

Josh raised his head from his hands and narrowed his eyes, thinking about the idea. “Well, I don’t know. At least it’s a thought.”

“What’s she talking about?” asked Pablo.

“Black magicians often summon demons and make bargains with them. There are many formulas for calling various demons which we’ve come across and recorded in our research, and we could make use of one of them, and summon one.”

“What could you possibly gain by that?”

“It depends upon the bargain we can strike with him, and the protection we have during the ritual. You see, it’s a black magical technique, and white magicians using it are in great jeopardy.”

“What bargain could you strike? You don’t have anything that’s worth more than the girl, do you?”

“Probably not. But it’s better to try this than just to sit around and do nothing. Besides, maybe we could just make a bargain to contact the girl, and then we would at least know where she is, for sure. We’d be in a better position to rescue her then.”

“That sounds weak.” Pablo was beginning to worry about their safety. “Why endanger yourselves when it might not even do any good?”

Joshua’s mouth twisted a little in exasperation. “There’s nothing else that’s even possible. And we can’t just do nothing. Doing anything is better than doing nothing! Besides, Pablo, we’ll use the best protection we can devise. It won’t be too dangerous.”

“We could use that old barn for the summoning, Uncle Pablo,” said Esmerelda. “We wouldn’t want to use the temple for this sort of thing; it would lower the positivity too much. We need a place that’s not been used for a while, a neutral ground. The barn would be perfect. We never use it.”

That was true. The building had originally been a cattle barn, but its stalls had been removed by the movie company when they had been filming on the property. They had housed their equipment there. It now stood, sound enough, though weathered, filled with a glut of big old things that had been deposited there through the years when they overflowed the house. It was a quarter of a mile past the house along the access road, and cut off from sight by a hill between.

Pablo conceded defeat in his objection-making. “All right. All right. Use the barn. We’ll burn it down afterwards. What else do you need?”

“Some wooden crosses, for us to wear for protection.” Josh was feeling much more fit now that there was a problem at hand to deal with.

“Yes, that would be the logical thing to do,” said Esmerelda. “What else do you suggest?”

“Well, we’ll draw the circles and inscriptions very carefully, and be rested before the ceremony. We can clean and disinfect the barn. We’ll have the crosses to wear, and I have some other materials at my place.”

Esmerelda looked a bit tense. “I was thinking about those crosses, and I remembered something we could use, perhaps, if you think it’s a good idea. You know that old hitching post back behind where the old kitchen used to be? I never had it removed, but we certainly never use it, and it’s sound enough wood. We could use that wood to make a really large cross, maybe ten feet tall or so, and put it in the center of the barn. Wouldn’t that give us more protection?”

“Excellent suggestion,” said Joshua. “You don’t mind losing the wood? It’s probably valuable as an antique.”

Esmerelda made a face at him. “I think Pablo and I can live without it.”

Theodore was working on the implications of the plan, and asked, “Can you really use black magic without losing your own positivity?”

Joshua tried to explain. “Summoning spirits is not either positive or negative, per se. It’s just that most of the spirits that can do you any good are negative. The negativity comes in there. It’s usually black magicians who want something done for them on the lower planes. White magicians usually don’t have any interests there. But in this case, since we can’t penetrate those lower planes alone, we need help. Esmerelda and I have talked about this theory before, and we feel that it’s quite possible that, if we summon the spirit for a purpose that is not negative, then we will not be negative by requesting it. Of course, since the spirit itself will be negative, we’ll have to go to all these elaborate precautions to protect ourselves against it. As I told you at Trostrick’s house, the dangers are far worse than physical death. In fact, it might be better if you and Pablo didn’t take part in this.”

Looks from both Pablo and Theodore informed Joshua that he wouldn’t be able to talk them into that.

“All right,” said Esmerelda. “We need Mathpart, don’t we, to help with the heavy work. I’ll call him.”

Josh got up. “I’ll go into the city and get enough Lysol to wash down the place after we’ve gotten all the junk out of it.”

They all worked steadily through the afternoon, and by suppertime it was clear that they would need a whole day more to complete their preparations. Accordingly, the next morning they were all down at the barn. Even the girl from space had been brought there, as well as her brother, since Joshua wanted to take no chances by leaving them unguarded a quarter mile away.

Mathpart, Theodore and Joshua completed the Lysol washing of the empty barn’s walls by lunchtime, and after feeding Mathpart, they sent him home, leaving him to wonder why they wanted the old building cleaned out so thoroughly. After the meal, Josh and Theodore set to work erecting the big cross. The heavy wooden rail had made an imposing cross almost eight feet high, with a crossbeam of commanding width. Then Joshua pulled out a loose-leaf notebook for reference, and he and Esmerelda spent the rest of the afternoon constructing the circles, a large one and four smaller ones, and drawing the intricate symbols for summoning the demon with whom they had decided to bargain.

When Joshua had put the last detail into the symbols, and Esmerelda had checked his work, evening was upon them. They were all very tired.

“What do you say we set the ritual for tomorrow night, instead of tonight,” suggested Esmerelda. “We all need the rest, and this summoning might take most of the night.”

Josh reluctantly decided she was right, although he wanted very much to get the thing done with. They didn’t want to fail just because they were too tired to do it right. They would need all their strength against the demon they were going to call among them. Even with all their forces firmed against the summoned spirit, Joshua could not see how they would be able fully to control it. But at least it was something to try. In the face of his increasing torment of mind, action was the only release from the gnawing doubt and self-recrimination, and he didn’t want to stop moving.

And so he prepared himself for the night’s sleep, trusting it to heal his physical energies, even if it could not touch his troubled mind.

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