VOLUME INDEX



Chapter X: Morning At Vex's
Chapter XI: Enochian
Chapter XII: Photographs

 
 
 




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Vex checked her mental map while reading off the street signs in her head. Wilson was somewhere between Priest and Mill: Beck Ave, McKenny Street, Roosevelt Street…and finally Wilson. She lit her signal, slowed up by letting off on the gas, and turned right onto Wilson. Blue skies crested over dully painted houses on either side of the street, the black asphalt of the road continued ahead, and terminated at a white house with a slightly browned yard. A large river-rock and cement wall blocked the very front of the house from view. As Vex drove into the curved driveway, she noticed that the wall seemed to be some sort of planter, just without any plants.

Patrick exited the cab at the same moment as Vex; she locked both doors behind him. In tandem they closed their sides and approached the house.

“So, who lives here again?” he asked as they passed into the shade near the front door.

“A friend,” Vex said.

The door opened before she even knocked. A very pale stick of young man, half-wearing a white button-down shirt, stood just beyond the threshold. His brown hair shagged down to his shoulders and a few strands stuck to his forehead, just above his glasses. Cold air breathed out of the house in a gust, displacing the sweltering heat of the day for a blissful moment. He nodded and smiled when he recognized Vex.

“I had expected you earlier,” he said, “do come in out of the sun.”

Patrick shook his hand and introduced himself as he walked inside. The young man introduced himself as Brent.

A large table dominated one side of the room and shelves upon shelves of books decked the walls. The carpet looked worse for wear, but the furniture and books were in immaculate condition. In a room set like an alcove to the side two computer monitors glimmered, one with code and text, the other displayed a shifting starscape with tiny spaceships flying past, firing lasers, and exploding in bursts of light. The place had all the smells of an old house, plus the chemical smells of detergent and acrylic paint.

Patrick’s attention caught on the table the moment he walked through the door. It was covered with a large plastic map dotted with small silver and painted figurines of bipedal machines. While a great number of the books set in the shelves were books on magic and other esoteric subjects, Patrick noticed peppered among them were also a good number of role playing game books.

“A-yup,” Brent said. “I was just trying out some rule change ideas that I had for Battletech.”

Patrick found a supplement book lying on the couch, he picked it up. “I haven’t seen this before. May I look at this? I used to play. I promise that I won’t damage the book.”

“Sure, sure,” Brent said then turned to Vex. “What can I do for you?”

Vex removed the Tarot card with the silver runic writing and handed it to Brent.

Patrick had become fully immersed in the Battletech manual. Vex had seen him do the same thing at a bookstore before; at least he wouldn’t be getting in the way as long as he was distracted.

“It’s Enochian,” Brent said. “But I think we already know that. I’ve never seen this strange configuration before; the spiral is new, but interesting. Give me just a moment to clean up.”

Cleaning up turned out to be arm raking all the figurines into the center of the table like a pile of leaves, lifting the plastic map by its corners, and carrying it gingerly out of the room. A minute later, Brent returned with an armful of books that he unloaded onto the table. He then darted between the shelves for a few more minutes and selected three more books, also adding them to the growing mound. Soon a pad of yellow ruled paper joined the books as well as four mechanical pencils.

“Let’s see what we have shall we? I am thinking maybe Golden Dawn, very likely Dee,” he said and went to work.

Two of the books displayed tables of text and letters, and one of them in particular had a strange colored table with four major squares surrounding a small white central one. He referred back to that one repeatedly while writing notes down onto the yellow pad. After almost five minutes of writing and consulting the books Brent beckoned Vex.

“These angels that you noticed are Edlprnaa, Adoeoct, Aaetpio and finally, in the center here is Zedekiel. This construction is unheard of, and all of those angels, except the last, are from the Great Watchtower of the South: the tablet that governs fire. Zedekiel is air, and is connected to Jupiter.

“There are one…two…three other angels at these angles, and—” Brent ran his fingers over the diagram, tracing and following symbols on the reddish table of letters in the lower-right. “—they are all on the fire tablet.”

Vex nodded. “Okay, so there’s a lot of fire and one Jupiter on the whole thing, can you give me an idea as to what hell that means?”

“Well, fire is a powerful sign of activity or action or destruction. No telling. The presence of the King of the fire tablet—Edlprnaa—means that it has strong effects on all the rest, but Zedekiel, I think is a balancer. Probably the patron of the person who wrote this.” Brent paused and shook his head. He stabbed his finger at the card on the table meaningfully. “I don’t think the angels are the important part of this; I think they’re to prove to someone that the message is authentic.”

Vex shrugged her shoulders. “Okay, so what does the message say?”

“Four chalices are poured into one. The city on fire—no…the city of fire—builds a new Babel: a tower of bones. Stars fall from the sky counting three and four. The seal at the Mountain Un shatters. The old formulas are undone… Then there’s some gibberish and—odd.”

He paused for a moment then and squinted. “That’s not an Enochian symbol, at least not one that I’ve ever seen. It is very similar to… Perhaps it’s something from the Ge’ez alphabet…”

More pages fluttered under his swift fingertips. Several books had been laid open across the table, and the card seemed to have been forgotten for the moment. He mumbled to himself while running his fingers down various tables, diagrams, and paragraphs. All of the books had numerous notes in various colors of ink in the margins; he consulted those more often than he did the actual text.

He mumbled strange verses and phrases in between No’s and Ah’s.

Idly, Vex slid the Tarot card from the table and looked at it.

“Where is the strange symbol?” she asked.

“Near the center. Five characters out,” replied Brent, absently thumbing through another book full of notes and symbols.

Vex’s eyes followed the characters out from the center in their spiral pattern. When she found the symbol she didn’t need to recount to know it was the one that he had gotten stuck on.

“You won’t find this one in your books,” she said. “It’s not Enochian. I know what it is.”

“What?” he said, looking at her over his spectacles.

“It’s an at-sign.”

“Ridiculous,” Brent said, snatching the card away from her. “How can that—no, it is an at-sign… How weird. But, if that’s an at-sign then this must be an e-mail address: bxxtr at asu.”

“A student at the University? I don’t get it,” Vex said, trying her best not to sound incredulous.

“Well, there is only one way to find out,” was Brent’s reply. He walked over to a computer with the yellow pad, and opened up an e-mail program.

I found your e-mail address on a Tarot card written in the language of Enoch. I think the message is for you, Brent typed in. He added the e-mail address and hit send.

Vex waited. She didn’t use computers very often, and e-mail even less, even though she had an account with Hotmail and had learned how to sync her digital camera with a computer to get the pictures out. So when Brent patiently watched the computer and it did nothing after he had sent his e-mail, Vex kept a hushed silence too.

“Well, at least it didn’t bounce,” he said. “It could take hours for this person to check their e-mail and get back to us.”

Presently the computer beeped. An e-mail had been received from the address on the Tarot card. It contained five words: Who gave you the card?

“What should we say?” Brent wondered aloud.

“Zedikiel,” Vex said.

He typed that into the reply and hit send.

The reply returned in less than a minute: Meet me tomorrow, Sunday, at 10 a.m. in the center of the Social Sciences building. Bring the message with you. Don’t be late.

“Do you know where that is?” Brent asked. “Looks like you have an appointment.”

“Yes,” Vex said. “It’s that strange building north of the library entrance that has a big, square courtyard and a tarp for shade.”

“Well that’s settled,” he said, leaning back in his chair. “Is there anything else that I can do for you? This has been truly illuminating.”

“There is another place that I’ve seen Enochian recently. If I were to bring you a photograph of it would you be able to translate it for me? The kids who drew it had mixed it with olde witch’s script. I can translate what was in the witch’s script, but I can’t translate Enochian.”

Brent nodded. “Yes, yes, of course. Though, I’ll have you know that witch’s script, Theban, is actually one of the Enochian Angelic Alphabets. It’s one of Agrippa’s ciphers that he published in the Libri Tres de Occulta Philosophia.” Brent gestured to one of the larger, dustier tomes opened on the table. “Chances are the entire incantation written was following Enochian rules.”

Vex frowned and rubbed her finger on the table. “I did not know that,” she said slowly. “I’ve been assuming that the kids who wrote the sigils had no idea what they were doing—you know how it is. A group of kids get it into their heads that they want to do magick, they pick up some trash book on Wicca or Enochain for Dummies and off they go.

“Draw a few circles, chant a few words, dance a little dance and viola…nothing happens. At least, most of the time.” She glanced over at Patrick to see if he was paying attention. With his nose buried in the game manual she guessed that he was probably oblivious, but the quirk of a smile on his lips belied his silence. She could tell that he was staying out of the discussion for her benefit. That probably wouldn’t last long.

She continued anyway, “But now… Now this seems a bit more sinister. I had a feeling that one of them knew what she was doing, our culprit, the one who is trying to steal the others’ souls. And, I’ll bet that she inscribed the runes and sigils using both alphabets to hide the incantation. Maybe I underestimated her and she’s been one step ahead of me the entire time.”

Patrick looked up from the Battletech manual. “She? Is it female intuition that you’re automatically guessing that the bad guy is a girl? Weren’t two of the kids at that ceremony guys? Doesn’t that make it a fifty-fifty chance?”

“That’s not it,” Vex said. “I’m sorry to tell you this, buck-o, but girls are just naturally more apt to use magic as a weapon to commit murder, gain power, and subvert nature. Most of the mages that I’ve actually run into that knew and meant what they were doing were women, equally so for the bad ones.”

“I don’t get it. Men and women have an equal talent for evil. I don’t think that it’s fair to assume a gender.”

She took an exasperated sigh. “Yes. Men and women have an equal talent for evil, Patrick. I’m not saying that women are more evil than men. I’m just saying that women are more likely than men to use magic to do evil… Look, just trust me on this one. Or just assume that I’m assuming that my culprit here is a woman because I myself am a woman and it comforts me to think that I know the mind of my prey.”

Patrick only shrugged in reply.

“Brent,” Vex said. “Thank you for your time. Would you like a copy of the script on the Tarot card? I think that I may need it for my meeting tomorrow.”

Yuh?” said Brent. His head snapped up from the book that he was poring over. “Oh, of course—hmm—let me scan it. Just a moment.” He flicked the card up from the table and walked it over to his computer. A few keystrokes later, the whirr of the scanner filled the room, and bright light shimmered across the ceiling. A perfectly rendered image of the card and its lettering appeared on the screen. “Done.”

“Thanks,” Vex said, taking the Tarot card back from Brent.

“It was nice meeting you, sir,” Patrick said and shook Brent’s hand briskly. “Thank you for letting me look through that Battletech supplement. Maybe we can play together someday.”

“Anytime,” Brent said. “Yeah, that’d be neat.”

“How do I get those pictures of the sigils to you?” Vex asked.

“E-mail them to me,” replied Brent, passing her a piece of paper with an e-mail address on it. She stuffed it into a hidden pocket.

“Can do,” she said. “Thanks again.”

The midday sun and heat broiled like an open oven when Vex stepped out of the house’s air conditioned interior and into the grip of the desert. She could feel the sunlight on her back, searing into her back through the black material as she quickly made her way to the cab. She pulled open the door, slid inside, and unlocked the passenger side door while turning the ignition.

Even though the cab had only been under the Arizona sun for less than half-an-hour, already the interior was hotter than outside. Fortunately, the compressor in the A/C hadn’t yet given up the ghost and Vex luxuriated in the sudden billow of chilly air that gusted out of the vents. She could almost imagine that the air from the vents had a foggy frost compared with the stagnant heat of the day.

“So, what does the card have to do with those kids?” Patrick asked as he clicked his seatbelt on.

“They’re not related,” Vex said, pulling the cabby into reverse.

“Oh,” he said. “Then why did we come here?”

“Because I was asked to set something in motion by the person who wrote the message on the Tarot card.”

“But why?” he pressed. “Why are you doing all of this? It’s something that I’ve been meaning to ask. What favor do you owe to those kids who were playing with magic?”

“It’s the same favor that I owed you.”

“Huh?”

“It’s my job.”

“You drive a taxi,” he countered. “I know, that’s how I met you the first time. That’s your job. Not this running around trying to make sense of magical incantations, voodoo, and meeting strange guys in their houses to look at Tarot cards.”

Vex smiled. Patrick was so cute when he was confused. She knew the day would come she would have to explain everything to him, and she worried that he wouldn’t understand. Actually, she mused, it was really a miracle that he had stuck around as long as he had. She said: “It was no coincidence that I was at your door the night that your ex-girlfriend tried to kill you.”

“You were there because I called a cab.”

“I suppose that you didn’t notice that the first swing she took with that knife cut the phone cord?” Vex replied. She turned the cab down 13th street headed toward ASU. “Dispatch had received half of your pick-up address and it was cut off.”

She could recall the incident like it happened yesterday.

When the squawk had come in from dispatch Vex already knew what was going on. Gary was pinging her radio to alert her that she might have a fare in her general vicinity at the same moment that She was hairpinning a turn from a major thoroughfare onto a frontage road. Dust and gravel flew, the radio squawked, brakes shrieked, and the taxi came to a violent stop in front of Patrick’s soon-to-be-ex’s house. She jumped out of the cab before the engine had finished stalling and rushed into the cloud of dust cut by the bright taxi headlights.

The door unlocked with a simple incantation, she stormed into the house like a summer haboob, followed closely by a choking cloud of dust and dead grass. Patrick’s ex nearly had him down on the bed, he was struggling, the knife was raised. Vex recalled yelling something witty like, “Hey bitch!” and knocking her cold with a solid punch to the side of her head. Perhaps a little too solid. Vex also recalled her hand smarting for the rest of the night.

“I remember,” Patrick said, hanging his head. “You said: did someone here call for a cab? I was too shocked by what you’d just done to say no when you dragged me out of the house. I never thought Denny’s food could ever taste so good. But, if the dispatch hadn’t gotten the entire address how did you know where—”

“Remember that snark you made about women’s intuition earlier?” Vex said. “Well, I’ve got buttloads of it.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed,” he said. “I apologize for that comment, it was short of me.”

“I forgive you and don’t stop snarking; I need a skeptic to keep my on my toes.”

Patrick grinned at that. Vex glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and enjoyed the view, she wished that he would smile more often.

“So, where are we headed?” he asked, pressing a hand against the dash as she turned off of Apache onto a smaller road on ASU campus.

“The Hayden Library Stacks,” Vex said. “I need to get pictures of that ceremonial sigil.”

 
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