Excerpt from WIP: The Gates to Faerie

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didn't have long to wait. Cindy had always looked unnaturally young, for as long as I'd known her anyway - like a young doctor fresh out of residency, if not a first year med school student, when Cindy had been a practicing doctor for at least thirty years, and now I knew why. She exited her office; I hit record on the cell phone peeking out of my pocket and walked around the corner, "Good afternoon, Cindy. I've got some questions you're going to answer."

She went white as a sheet, and looked around for the stairs, then started back towards her office, but I got between her and the office door. "Now is that any way to react to seeing an old friend, especially the husband of a woman you 'helped'?"

"I can't tell you anything! I don't know anything!"

"Oh, I think you know quite a lot. Here you are looking like you could be seventeen, not fifty-seven. I think you're right in the middle of what happened to Diane, and one phone call from me - or me not coming back - will be all that it takes to have the police crawling over you and your practice like flies on a fresh piece of shit."

"I don't know anything!"

"Oh, you know plenty and I can prove it. Like what the cult does, and where to find the bigger fish in it. Otherwise, you'd have been useless to them and they would have made you do the same thing they made Diane do - leave her old life completely behind. So the question becomes 'are you going to tell me now, willingly, or are you going to tell the police tomorrow morning?"

"I can't tell you anything! They'll kill me!"

"Oh, I agree they'll kill you if you become a liability to them. Like if there's an official investigation and the police start investigating all of your patients and former patients. But if you tell me now, the cult doesn't have anything to connect me to you. It wasn't pretty, what happened to Diane. I don't know how to describe it, or the agony she must have gone through. But I know it hit every cell in her body, all of those nerve endings firing pain into her brain. Maybe the whole thing even scared her to death, literally. The autopsy hasn't come back yet."

I stopped for a beat, and looked right in her panicked eyes, "Hell of a thing to do to a friend. So I won't have a qualm in the world if it happens to you. And these people you're recruiting for, you know they'll do it, too." Yes, it was a bluff. I'd slept through whatever happened to Diane. But Cindy didn't know that.

Cindy's eyes were wild with fear. She knew this cult would do whatever happened to Diane. "You have a choice, Cindy. Tell me now, and tell me the truth. This is the only chance you'll get. If the information goes to the police, you know what will happen - don't you? You're about as innocent as the guards herding the prisoners into the gas chambers at Auschwitz, and all I need to do is tell the police what I know you know - or make certain they find out, and I've already done that. Your only hope is if I get what I want, in which case the police won't find out from me." I had her backed against the stairwell door by now. "What's it going to be, Cindy? I'm going to count to five, then walk away and let the police deal with you. One."

Cindy was not the stuff of heroes. She crumpled. "Steldan. Jennifer Steldan. Sometimes she goes by 'Isis'. She's the person I send the new prospects to."

"And where can I find this Jennifer Steldan?" She gave me a phone number and an address.
"Are you sure, Cindy? Anything else you haven't told me? Anyone else I need to know about? This is your one and only chance with me. If anything happens, it will be the police you deal with next."

"Be careful, Mark. Jennifer and Osiris, they can do things. Things I can't explain."

"Osiris?"

"Our priest. He performs our rituals."

What the elves had called the leader, and they thought he was a sorcerer. So yeah, I expect he could do 'things'. But since I had no experience with 'magic' I had no idea what they might be. "This Osiris - do you know his name or how to find him? What does he look like?"

"That's the thing, Mark. I've never seen him looking the same twice. He's been white, black, Asian, maybe American Indian, maybe Hispanic. Tall, skinny, athletic, fat. Always a big guy, but he looks different almost every ritual - and I only see him at the rituals."

"How long have you been with these people?"

"Forty-six years. I'm almost eighty. Are you sure you wouldn't want to be a part of that? You'll be young and healthy forever!"

"I doubt that. It seems obvious to me that your leaders have ways of dealing with those they aren't happy with. And the look in Diane's eyes when she told me what she could - I'd rather be dipped in honey and staked out on an anthill, thank you very much." And true to my word, I turned and walked away, leaving her there to wonder if what she'd told me would get back to the cult leaders.

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