To Kill A Demon
I woke to the pounding of a drum and the surf lapping breathily upon the shore. Head resting on my forearms, I was face down in the sand. I looked up. A cool breeze chilled my sunburned face. I could just hear drumming and the melodies of the brass band that had played outside Chuck A. Luck’s eating house last night. Yet the “drumming” was a throbbing inside my head. I sat up and spit out sandy saliva. There was no band. There was no music. The hot sun was directly overhead. How long had I slept…
Just off the beach was a thicket of trees and not a single building was in sight, nor was there any sign of a pier or a dock along the stretch of beach. A small number of fully clothed people walked near the water, some also stood, gazing about. There was a hazy vanishing point of water and sand to my extreme left. On my right, the beach ran for less than one-half mile, then came an expanse of water and then there rose the hilly shores of Staten Island. New Jersey was about five miles directly across the water from me, and the mighty Atlantic opened out on my left. I was fairly certain that I was on the ocean side of the Coney Island peninsula.
Last night I had been rum-faced even before I drank the poisoned grog. I remembered staggering about 100 yards away from the crowd outside Chuck’s eating house, who were enjoying the brass band. And I fell to my knees, retching and writhing in the sand, but I didn’t pass out, which was an amazing feat given my state. Just as amazing was how the Irish brothers saved me in the nick of time from Chuck, who had revealed his demon self.
The brothers were carpenters, who, thank the good Lord, also just happened to be demon hunters. I had never given much thought that there might be others like Gabe the gorilla and me. Possibly, the brothers also worked for Jack Jefferies. But who did Jack work for? Was it the Masons? If so, who or what guided their secret society? Where did the money come from? I had pockets full of cash and coin, and Jack kept giving me more. Maybe I should find the whore who had delivered me into this life and see if I could ease her misfortunes. But did I owe her anything? Did I owe anyone anything?
There was so much I had to learn… The Irish brothers could teach me something crucial: How to kill a demon.
Last night, there had been a hellborn look upon Chuck A. Luck’s face as he dragged me off by the hand, surely to perform an abominable act upon my body and soul. Utterly fixed on me, the demon was caught completely unaware by the brothers, who surged out from the dark and walloped him.
One brother rammed the demon with the stave, plowing the razored brand into his forehead. The Irishman moved with the grace and ease of an expert swordsman. Not a half-second later came the other brother. He battered Chuck upon the head and neck with a spiked bludgeon. While the demon’s blood rained down on us, a cart jounced and rocked its way over the sand. A pair of coaching lamps swung on either side of the driver’s head, lighting the way for the two dray horses who gleamed with sweat. The driver pulled up close and jumped off the box seat with a bag of tools smothered in his arms.
The three of them work feverishly with saws, knives, and hatchets, cutting and hacking up Chuck A. Luck. I realized they were speaking in Latin, and it reminded me of a church sermon. I understood only a word here and there.
Each body part went into its own cloth bag, that went for each individual finger and toe. They finished in less than ten minutes. They carefully put all the bags in the cart, then climbed up onto the cart. One brother kneeled down in the back. “Unus, duo, tres, quattuor…” he said in a brogue as he counted the bags. They pulled away.
Soon after, in the exact direction they travelled, I saw a fire. It was on the beach by Gravesend Bay. The flames reflected on the rippling tide. I climbed to my feet and trudged toward the fire, watching it grow to a conflagration. When I arrived, the man who had driven the wagon, handed me a flask. I took a long swig. Only after I swallowed did I try and spit some out. It was the poisoned grog! A moment later everything went black…
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Forty-One
Skin (Late April 1854 – Coney Island)
(“Loved His Step-Mother” – From the Police Gazette/1850s)