The school day was uneventful for Virgil. No creepy psychiatrist trying to fill him with demonic drugs. No ex-friends trying to lure him into a park full of demons. Andy Mowry was still as timid as a mouse after what Rona had done to him. Oh yeah, Rona. Virgil felt better knowing that she was out hunting down the demons. He suddenly felt unsure about jumping the gun and asking for a new guardian already. There had been a lot of adrenaline surging through him when he’d said what he’d said and now with his head clear, he felt he’d been a little out of line with some of it. Sure Rona was rude, arrogant, obnoxious, and kind of a dick, but she had saved his life on more than one occasion. He found that he really didn’t care about that she’d lied to him. In fact, he would probably have done the same thing in her shoes. She was doing the best she could. Maybe he owed her an apology.
“Are you alright?” asked Vanessa, sitting down next to him at the lunch table.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” said Virgil. “Just thinking, that’s all.”
“Thinking about me?” said Vanessa, scooting in a bit closer.
“I’m always thinking about you,” said Virgil, turning to face Vanessa. “Just don’t ask for details unless you really want to know.”
Vanessa placed one hand over her heart and gave Virgil a playful expression of shock. “How dare you have dirty thoughts about your lord?” she said in a commanding voice. “I order you to commit Seppuku, this instant!”
“Yes, my liege,” said Virgil, taking one of the plastic butter knives from the table and holding it as if he were going to stab himself with it. He gave Vanessa a sly smile and raised the butter knife as if it were a samurai sword. “Aha! I have only been pretending to be your servant! I am actually a ninja in disguise; here to assassinate you!”
Vanessa gave Virgil a look of mock horror. She grabbed a butter knife from her tray and took up a fighting posture. “I have been on to you from the beginning,” she said, allowing her mouth to move for a couple more seconds as if she had been dubbed. “Prepare to fight!”
Jocelyn stopped and stared for a second as she walked by. She looked at Virgil and Vanessa laughing as they had their play swordfight. She rolled her eyes and kept walking.
“Oh no!” said Virgil, allowing Vanessa to knock the knife from his hand. “You win.”
“I sure did. You’re mine now.”
“Deal,” said Virgil, leaning in for a kiss.
“Ahem,” said the principal, interrupting the kiss before it happened. Virgil and Vanessa jumped apart, each with a small smile on their faces. “You know school policy about public displays of affection.”
“Yes, Mr. Goodman. We’re sorry,” said Vanessa.
“It’s okay. It’s good to see that you two are getting along again. And it’s good to see that you’re staying out of trouble, Mr. McFeeney,” said the principal with a smile.
“I’m doing my best.”
“Well keep up the good work,” said the principal. A slow smile crossed his lips. “Remember, eyes are upon you, young man.”
Virgil’s heart dropped to his knees.
The dream he’d been having for months now invaded his mind, the words ringing over and over. He couldn’t hide his horrified expression as he stared up at the principal. Suddenly the smile that the man was wearing seemed to have something far sinister lurking behind it. Virgil rose to his feet cautiously, never taking his eyes off of Principal Goodman.
“What’s wrong? Was it something I said?” asked the principal, coyly.
“No! No. Um, we just have to go to class,” said Virgil.
“But lunch is not over for another twenty minutes,” said Principal Goodman with a widening smile.
“Come on, Vanessa,” said Virgil, pulling Vanessa by the arm. She looked confused, but she obliged.
“See you later, Mr. Goodman,” said Vanessa as she and Virgil headed for the exit.
“Oh, I’ll definitely be seeing you later. You too, Virgil. Maybe sooner than you think.”
Virgil burst into the hallway, pulling Vanessa behind him.
“Let go of me!” said Vanessa, breaking free of Virgil’s grasp. Virgil barely noticed as he began pacing back and forth in a panic.
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. What am I gonna’ do? What am I gonna’ do?” said Virgil, clasping both hands to his forehead as he paced back and forth.
“Virgil, what’s going on? You’re scaring me,” said Vanessa.
“We gotta’ get outta’ here!” said Virgil in an urgent whisper.
“There’s still two more periods left; we can’t just leave,” said Vanessa.
Virgil paused and took a deep breath. “Okay. Do you trust me?”
“No,” said Vanessa.
“I mean, didn’t you think Mr. Goodman was being just a little bit creepy back there?”
“You were both being creepy. Wha–”
“Oh my god, what am I gonna’ do. We gotta’ get outta here. I gotta’ find Rona,” said Virgil.
“Rona? Virgil, what’s going on?” said Vanessa, placing her hands on Virgil’s arms.
“I can’t tell you. You just have to trust me. It’s not safe. We have to get out of here, now,” said Virgil.
“But you can’t tell me why?” said Vanessa retracting her hands from Virgil’s arms.
“I can’t. You wouldn’t believe me if I tried.”
“You see, this is what I’m talking about,” said Vanessa with a bitter laugh. She placed her hand at the bridge of her nose and wiped at her eyes with her fingers. “I can’t take it anymore—the lies and the secrets. You haven’t changed a bit,” she said, her voice cracking on the last word. She turned and walked away. Virgil attempted to follow, but she picked up her pace. She was practically running by the time she passed the cafeteria doors. Mr. Goodman walked out just as Vanessa passed the doors. Virgil froze. The principal took one look at the fleeing Vanessa and one look at Virgil. He gave Virgil a knowing smile before falling back into character.
“Virgil McFeeney! Report to my office at once!” he said.
Virgil turned around and took off running in the opposite direction. He didn’t stop until he was outside of the school. He couldn’t make up his mind what direction to go in. Should he go and try to find Rona? He had no way of knowing where she’d be. She had picked a fine day to go off looking for demons when they were right there at his school!
He really needed a new guardian.
But Mr. Goodman was only one demon. How many more were there?
He took out his phone and called Jay.
“Sup, Bud,” said Jay when he answered.
“Jay, I need you to come and pick me up. I’m in trouble!” said Virgil.
“Whoa, whoa, slow down there, man. What’s going on? Where are you?” asked Jay. Before Virgil could answer, the phone made a beeping noise and went dead. Virgil stopped and stared at the phone in shock for a moment. He looked up and saw the old woman that he had walked home the other day, standing across the street from him. She wasn’t smiling this time. Instead, her features were dead serious. Virgil stood staring at the woman and not moving.
“Run!” she snapped.
The words hit Virgil like a slap in the face. He ran down the street in the direction of home. He dodged alleyways and traffic as he ran, only stopping to take a breather when he absolutely needed to. Even then he kept his eyes peeled for danger. Home never looked so good to him as he leaped over the porch steps, stabbed his key into the lock, twisted, opened, closed then twisted again. He took the steps two at a time as he ran to his room, and slammed the door shut. He thought about hiding under his covers, but that would do him no good. He should be safe in the house, he thought.
He jumped when he heard a loud knock at the door. The banging on the door intensified, but Virgil didn’t budge. He was the only one home, and whoever—or whatever—was knocking was going to have to wait, because he wasn’t going back downstairs. The banging stopped suddenly. He didn’t know whether to be relieved or petrified. He waited, with his back pressed firmly up against his bedroom door. Suddenly, from outside of his window he saw a ruffling in the nearby tree. Rona peeked out from the branches and waved. Virgil had never felt so relieved to see her. He opened the window and she climbed in.
“I think that Principal Goodman is Pitroth,” said Virgil wasting no time.
Rona gave him a look. “How do you know?”
“I just know,” said Virgil. “It was almost like he wanted me to know.”
“Really? How did I not see that?” said Rona, running her hands down the length of her face. “Stupid, stupid, stupid.” She dug the heels of her hands into her forehead for several seconds. She took a deep breath to gather herself. “Okay, that ritual to enthrall the whole city is going down tonight at the construction site. That’s where he’ll be.”
“Holy crap. What are we gonna’ do?”
“We? ‘We’ is too many people. You’re going to stay here and sit tight. I’m going to stop him.”
“I’ll let you know when it’s all over,” said Rona with a sigh. “I’m headed to the construction site now. Stay in your room. Don’t open the door for anyone. And do not go outside.”
“Okay,” said Virgil, nodding in agreement. “Don’t answer the door and don’t go outside. Got it.”
“What do I do if something happens to you?”
Rona thought for a moment. “I’ll be back.”
“Okay. Good luck.”
“Yeah,” said Rona as she climbed back out of the window.
Rona walked over to where the Templars stood waiting. She looked up at the sky and calculated in her head.
“It looks like we’ve got…about an hour and…forty-five minutes until sunset. I say we head down to the construction site and formulate a plan. But I need a favor. I need one of you guys to stay here and watch Virgil’s house for me.”
“I told you already, that’s not our concern,” said Terrance, his temper visible.
“I heard you,” said Rona. “So which one of you is it gonna’ be?”
“You’re the boy’s guardian; why don’t you stay with him?” said Donny.
“Because you morons don’t stand a chance without me. Besides, it’s better that I be offensive and try to get the drop on Pitroth than to stay here and wait for him to try to get the drop on me. I mean—right? I don’t have a plan—I don’t know what I’m doing,” said Rona, sliding both hands down her face in frustration.
“Alright, calm down little lady,” said Donny. “Isaac, would you mind staying and keeping an eye on the boy for a while and then meeting up with us later?”
There was no change in Isaac’s expression or body language.
“He’ll do it,” said Donny.
“Will he now?” said Rona, arching an eyebrow. “Thank you, Isaac. Let us know if there is any trouble.”
Once again Isaac exhibited no visible indication of understanding.
“Okay, I’ll take that as a ‘will do.’ Let’s go boys,” said Rona.
The three of them sped downtown, stopping for gas on the way before parking a couple of blocks from the construction site. Terrance and Donny walked around to the back of the car and popped the trunk. Rona followed. Her eyes widened when she saw the different array of weapons neatly organized over every inch of the trunk.
“Great! I see you guys brought the whoop-ass,” said Rona with a smile.
“Yeah,” said Terrance. “The ironic thing is that we brought all of this stuff to use on you, not help you.”
“Oh, Terrance, you always say all the right things,” said Rona.
Donny gave her a smile as he pulled a long, still sheathed sword from the trunk and slung it over his back. Terrence pulled out a similar one and did the same. They both concealed an assortment of pistols and ammunition under their jackets. Donny offered Rona a pistol, but she dismissed it with a wave of her hand.
“No thank you, terrified of ‘em,” said Rona.
Donny gave her an inquisitive look before shrugging and going back to arming himself. Terrence tucked a couple of assault rifles into a duffle bag and then slung it over his shoulder, before closing the trunk.
From where they stood there was a good view of the newly constructed, but unfinished building off in the distance. It stood higher than any of the surrounding buildings, looming and terrible. Rona fixed her sight on it and placed her hands on her hips.
“So what’s the plan? Do we go in through the roof?” asked Donny.
Rona shook her head without taking her eyes off of the building. “I don’t want to flush them out. We’ll need to go in through the front; keep them all on site; and eliminate them all, one by one.”
“A full frontal assault. I think you’re starting to grow on me, Rona,” said Terrance.
Rona gave him the thumbs up, once again without taking her eyes off of the towering building.
“For now we just sit tight and wait until nightfall.”
It wasn’t too long after Rona left that Virgil’s mother and sister arrived home. Apparently his mother had had some curious issues with her phone as well. It was happening all over the city. Some sort of power surge, she told Virgil. But Virgil knew better. It had something to do with Pitroth and his maniacal plan for world domination. Hopefully Rona was going to be able to stop him.
His mother ordered food shortly after she came home. His father was stuck at work, partially because of the power hiccups. Jay stopped by once he was off duty. He had come by just to check on Virgil, and Pam had insisted that he stay for dinner. Virgil assured Jay that he would explain what that panicked call had been about after dinner. The four of them sat together at the dinner table enjoying some freshly ordered Chinese food. Virgil tried not to focus on the fact that it was getting dark outside and what Rona might be facing at this very moment. He didn’t want to be reminded about just how much was riding on his Guardian Angel at the moment. Instead, he just tried to enjoy the impromptu family gathering for what it was. They were halfway done eating when the doorbell rang, and Pam went to answer it.
Panic overtook Virgil as he heard the voice of the visitor.
Pam walked back into the dining room with Principal Goodman at her side.
Virgil almost fell out of his seat.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you detention,” said Mr. Goodman with a laugh. Pam joined in.
“Did you invite him in?” asked Virgil, trying to hide his terror.
Pam gave him a dubious look. “Um, yes.”
“I’m not going to be staying long. I’m just dropping by to tell your mother how well you’ve been doing at school. Is that Chinese I smell?” said Mr. Goodman.
“Yes,” said Pam. “Have some. There’s plenty.”
“Don’t mind if I do,” said Mr. Goodman, taking a seat between Virgil and Celeste.
“Who are you?” asked Celeste in an unfriendly tone that prompted a stern look from Pam.
“I’m Mr. Goodman. I’m your brother’s principal,” said Mr. Goodman.
“That’s not your name. You’re Mr. Bad-man,” said Celeste, casting an accusing look at Mr. Goodman.
“Celeste! That’s enough,” said Pam. “You’re going to end up going to bed early if you don’t stop being rude to our guest.”
“Oh, don’t worry I’m not planning on staying too long,” said Mr. Goodman. “I was just hoping that maybe I could have a word with Virgil. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind if he took a ride with me.”
“Not at all,” said Pam.
“No,” said Virgil, the word coming out little more panicked than he wanted. His mother gave him a look of surprise, tinged with a little bit of alarm. Jay gave Virgil a look too as if to ask if everything was okay, but Virgil tried to avoid both of their gazes. He saw what was happening. Pitroth was giving him the option to leave with him voluntarily. Virgil knew that if he’d wanted to, Pitroth could easily yank him from the table and drag him out to the car and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him. Even Jay, who was bigger than Pitroth and looked stronger, would be no match for what lied beneath the façade that was Mr. Goodman. Jay had come right from work and still wore his police uniform, gun on one hip, taser on the other, but those weapons would likely be ineffective against Pitroth. Virgil knew that he had to go in order to spare his family, but he was afraid. And he was angry at the coward he was being.
“Come on, Virgil, I’d really hate to wear out my welcome, here” said Pitroth.
“Oh, not at all,” said Pam. “Go on, Virgil, we’ll save you some Fortune Cookies.”
“If he doesn’t want to go, Pam, don’t make him,” said Jay, apparently treading carefully.
“You’re not his mom,” said Pam, fixing Jay with a glance. “Mr. Goodman is not gonna’ hurt him.
“Of course not,” said Pitroth. “I wouldn’t hurt anyone—unless I had to!” he said with a laugh.
Pam forced a smile.
“You know, some people can’t take a hint and then people get hurt, ya’ know? So come on, Virgil take a ride with me.”
Virgil was silent and didn’t make eye contact with anyone. He wanted to cry, he was so afraid.
“Are you a religious family?” asked Pitroth.
“No,” said Pam, scooping some food from one of the containers.
“Oh, that’s too bad. I wanted to say a prayer for you guys. You’re such a nice family and I wanted to pray for your wellbeing. With all of the bad things that people do, I would just hate to see harm come to this family, is all. Such a wonderful family,” he said, as he turned to Virgil with an intense look. “I shudder to think what kind of harm could befall you.”
Pam eyed Mr. Goodman, suspiciously. She looked back and forth between him and Virgil. “Mr. Goodman, I hate to be rude, but maybe you should leave. You’re being a bit disruptive.”
“Oh, I apologize,” said Pitroth in the most sincere-sounding voice. “I can be…the guest from Hell sometimes.”
“I’m inclined to agree with you there,” said Pam with a nod.
“Would you mind if Virgil were to take a ride with me?” asked Pitroth, again in a sincere voice.
“I’m thinking that tonight may not be a good night,” said Pam.
“Okay, I was trying to keep it under wraps, but Virgil did get in trouble today and there were some things I wanted to discuss with him,” said Pitroth diplomatically, but Virgil could tell he was beginning to lose patience. Virgil’s heart pounded. He didn’t know what to do.
“Okay, thank you for letting me know,” said Pam. “I’ll talk to him. Have a good night, Mr. Goodman.”
“Get out of my house!” said Pam, rising to her feet. Jay stood up as well.
Mr. Goodman through his hands up in surrender. He patted Virgil on the shoulder, and walked towards the front door, followed closely by Jay.
He paused suddenly. He turned to Virgil and a grin formed on his face. His eyes glowed just like the ones Virgil had seen outside of his window. Virgil gasped in horror.
Then the lights went out.
Cursing and crashing erupted from the doorway. Virgil grabbed Celeste and carried the frightened, screaming girl toward the back door. He could barely see as he bumped into nearly everything on his way. Before he could get there, a huge man burst through the door. Virgil whirled around and headed toward the staircase as the big man raced past him in the dark. More crashing and screaming ripped through the air as the big man threw himself into the dining room fray. There was a large thump, followed by a crash. Virgil heard Jay cry out.
“Jimmie!” Virgil heard his mother yell as he fumbled his way to the staircase. Seemingly out of nowhere a blow struck Virgil sending him into the banister of the staircase. He shook it off only to see Pitroth holding Celeste in his grasp and it looked like he was about to strike her.
“No!” cried Virgil. “Please, stop! I’ll go with you! I’ll go with you!”
Pitroth stopped and looked at Virgil with glowing eyes. He dashed forward and snatched Virgil up. He half dragged Virgil passed the action happening between the living room and the dining room. Virgil caught a brief glimpse of his mother on the back of the big man as he wrestled with Jay. He attempted to cry out but he couldn’t find his voice. Pitroth kicked the front door off of its hinges and dragged Virgil through. He threw Virgil into the back seat and slammed the door shut, before hopping in, himself. The child locks must have been on because Virgil couldn’t unlock the door despite how hard he struggled with it. Pitroth gave an amused chuckle before peeling off into the night.
The lights in the house snapped back on and Jay found himself staring at a familiar face.
“What are you doing here?” yelled Jay, placing the barrel of his pistol under Isaac’s chin and hoisting him by his collar. Isaac said nothing, nor did he struggle to break Jay’s grip.
“Where’s Virgil?” asked Pam frantically.
“He took him!” cried Celeste, running and burying herself in her mother’s arms.
“Oh my god, what is going on?” asked Pam in a shocked voice.
“I’ll bet he knows,” said Jay, forcing Isaac onto his stomach and cuffing him. “I’ll find Virgil, okay. Call 911. Call Brian.”
Pam was already dialing as Jay pulled Isaac out of the house. He forced the big man into the back of his cruiser, then hopped in the driver’s seat. He flipped the siren and pulled off.
“All you had to do was agree to come with me and we could’ve avoided that whole mess back there,” said Pitroth. No longer was his voice the kind and professional voice of Mr. Goodman. Now his voice sounded every bit as sinister as he was.
“You were just going to grab me anyway,” said Virgil.
“On the contrary, the plan was always to get you to volunteer to come with me,” said Pitroth.
Virgil was speechless.
“You see, contrary to popular opinion, we demons prefer to allow humans to act of their own volition. We rarely force anyone to do anything. The goal was always to get you to come to us willingly.”
Virgil thought back. Pitroth was right, each and every time he had run into demons, he had more or less chosen to go to that specific area at that specific time.
“Oh don’t get me wrong, we do coax, and threaten, and bribe, and trick humans into doing what we want but in the end, it is always your own choices that are your undoing,” said Pitroth. “We would have preferred that you had come with us a little earlier, but we weren’t counting on your little Blue-haired friend interfering. No matter. She will be dealt with shortly. And you and I still have plenty of time for tonight’s…party, so to speak.”
“You’re going to enthrall the entire city and turn everyone into Infernal. How is that they’re choice?” asked Virgil, as he searched for a way out.
“Ah, the spell that I am casting only calls for human representatives. I have gathered a group of human representatives—you included—and together with the power of the Blood Gage you will make that choice for them,” said Pitroth smirking at Virgil from the rearview mirror.
“And if we don’t?” asked Virgil, regretting the words as soon as they’d left his lips.
A leer formed on Pitroth’s evil face. The pitch of his voice dropped several octaves: “You will.”
Virgil pressed himself back against his seat.
“How are you so evil?” asked Virgil, fighting the tears of helplessness and rage forming in his eyes.
“Evil?” asked Pitroth, looking thoroughly offended. “There is no such thing as good and evil. Only power! Those who have it—and those who crave it. It’s a constant struggle amongst you humans. Those without power are subject to the will of those with it. So you’ll do anything to possess it. Your—Mr. Good Man—has been dead for forty years.”
Virgil’s eyes widened. He turned his eyes away from the rearview mirror—and caught a glimpse of something interesting.
The back seat folded forward.
Pitroth continued. “Oh yes! You see, Principal Goodman was an adulterer. And a…connoisseur, so to speak, of teenage girls. Did I mention that he was a middle school principal? Anyway, Mr. Goodman craved power. The power to commit his indecent acts without being caught. The power to continue to succeed despite his many misdeeds. We granted him that power, and he worked for us. And he’s still working for us—at least his body is,” he held up one of his hands and twisted it as if to show it off. “You’ve yet to see my true form!”
Virgil grabbed the lever of the seat next to him and ripped it down. He dove into the small space and felt the car swerve back and forth as Pitroth attempted to reach for him, but just missed. The car took a hard right, knocking Virgil a little off balance as he attempted to crawl into the trunk. Luckily for him, the trunk was mostly empty. He searched frantically for the trunk release lever, his hand finally resting on the glowing shape of it. He yanked the lever down and the trunk popped open, just as the car came to a screeching halt. Virgil leaped out of the trunk, almost tripping as he did so. He recovered his balance and ran as fast as he could. Adrenaline had his heart racing as he darted down an alleyway.
Terror shot through him as the sound of chanting surrounded him. He kept running, dipping left down another alleyway. He chanced a glance behind him and saw that a group of three Infernal had picked up the chase. And they were gaining! The alley came to an end and Virgil had to veer right in order to dodge the grasp of a reaching Infernal. Parkour skills that he didn’t realize he possessed manifested themselves, made flawless by the focus of his adrenaline. He leaped over the hood of a car, and hopped a fence with ease, just as one of the Infernal attempted to nab him. He continued running as another Infernal popped up in front of him. Virgil grabbed a hold of a light pole, allowing momentum to carry him around the pole, and dodging just out of reach of another Infernal. He sprinted, and slid under the carriage of an SUV as one Infernal crashed his head into the SUV and an attempt to get a hold of Virgil. Virgil emerged on the other side, rounded a corner and ran straight into Lee’s fist. The world got fuzzy as Lee, laughing manically, and a group of Infernal surrounded him.
Then everything faded to black.