The ESPer


  Carl R. Merritt




Part I


High atop a hill overlooking the town of Moore's Lake, the moonlit scene was deathly quiet, almost as if the night itself knew what would soon transpire.  There was not a hint of wind, not a whisper of sound.  All the nocturnal creatures were hidden away in their burrows and nests, afraid to come out even to feed.  Indeed, even Abe's gigantic bats were too terrified to venture out from the relative safety of their cave.  Their primitive minds picked up all too easily the danger that seemed to fill the night skies.  It was like a presence . . . a proximity of evil.

Suddenly, without warning of any kind, an awesome disturbance broke the false serenity of the hill top.  In a blinding flash of light that lit up the entire countryside, two human beings suddenly appeared.  They were holding hands, and there was a look of fierce determination evident on their faces.  Without a word being spoken between them, they looked into each other's eyes and communicated, each knowing the other's thoughts intimately.

The man's name was Michael Cochran, the woman's was Christine McMasters.  They were no ordinary human beings by any definition of the term.  For one thing, they were soulmates, and their whole existence on this Earth was destined for just one purpose - to fight evil using the powers given to them by the Savior of Mankind.

Michael Cochran, a man of high moral values, keen mind and strong will had one of the most powerful gifts God has ever given one of his children - the powers of ESP.  He could not only read and control the minds of others, but manipulate matter, dominate the cosmic forces of the universe, heal the sick and use psychokinetic energy - also known as PK - to hurl objects weighing thousands of pounds far into space if necessary . . . all using the powers of the mind.

His soulmate, more dear to him than life itself, had an even greater gift.  Christine had in her possession a very special item, a ring forged from the capstone of the great pyramid of Atlantis.  To the more knowledgeable of humans, that ring represented power beyond all imagination.  For instance, all Christine had to do was give the ring a mental command and it would fulfill her request . . . any request.  There were very few petitions the ring was incapable of performing, even against the immense powers of their archenemy, Lucifer himself.

Over the years Mike and Christine had been together, they have had more than their fair share of run-ins with the Prince of Darkness.  Once, only a few weeks after receiving their powerful gifts, Mike had even been forced to transport himself to Hell where he defeated Lucifer on his home turf.  Since that time, Mike and Christine had been searching the world over for any signs of Satan's influence.  Upon discovery, they would use their fantastic abilities to right the wrongs . . . undo the terrible disasters that Lucifer somehow always managed to bring about.  Wherever they traveled, it was usually because trouble was not far away.

And now they were just outside the town limits of Moore's Lake.

"Well, what now, Soulmate?" Mike asked verbally, preferring to hear Christine's sweet voice rather than simply reading her mind.  "We've got less than a week before the bottom falls out of this entire community.  Abe already knows we're here, so I think we should spend some time getting to know our new ally.  What do you think?"

"With your ESP, you know more about these things than I do, but I think you're right.  Let's go see Abe.  I've got a feeling we're going to need all the help we can get with this one."  Then, gazing into her soulmate's eyes, Christine mentally asked, Mike, is this all going to work out okay?

Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answers to, came the reply from the powerful ESPer.  I get the feeling that there's going to be a lot of death in this poor town unless we can think of some way to stop Lucifer's rampages.  But there's always a chance, Soulmate, there's always a chance.

Not liking the way that came out at all, Christine shrugged and gave her Capstone ring a small mental command.  With another blinding flash of light, they were gone.


*  *  *


Marc Lamas was on duty guarding Darlene and Vampra from vampire hunters that evening when a voice suddenly popped into his head.  It was a woman's voice and it was, without a doubt, the strangest experience of his life.

Do not be alarmed at what is about to happen.  We're the "good guys!"

Then, without any further warning, the mute police officer became temporarily blinded by a flash of light so intense, he wondered if he would ever be able to see again.

But see he did.  And what he saw startled him despite the warning.  A man and a woman were standing directly in front of him, holding hands and smiling.  The man, lean, hard faced, had eyes that appeared to see right through to your soul.  The woman, a brunette with a figure so perfect it was hard to believe, began to say something, but suddenly looked at her companion and stopped.

Don't be alarmed, Officer Lamas.  Like Christine told you a few seconds ago, we're friends.  We've come to see Abe.

Marc wanted to ask a million questions, but being mute, he didn't know how to even begin.  He was surprised again when he heard the voice reply to a few of his unasked questions.

We can read your thoughts, Marc.  There's no need to speak.  My name is Mike Cochran and this is my soulmate, Christine.  No, we aren't angels, or demons.  We're human beings just like you.  I'm an ESPer and we're here to give you folks a hand with something that is about to happen in Moore's Lake.  If you want, come on with us inside the tomb and listen to our thoughts as we communicate with Abe.  This concerns you as much as everyone else. I'll even relay your thoughts along like I do with Christine so you can be heard as well.

Marc didn't have to be convinced.  However, instead of going inside the tomb, he stayed by the entrance so he would still be near his post while he listened in.

"Abe, we need you to appear," Christine said aloud as she and Mike entered the tomb.


"You know damned well Christine and I have no choice other than to be here, Abe," Mike said.  "But yeah . . . it'll be good to have you on our side."

I don't understand! Marc almost shouted with his mind.  What's going to happen?

"Didn't you read Sergeant Baker's report two days ago?  Oh, okay.  I see in your mind that the sergeant didn't have all the facts."  Mike gave the ghoul a look of bewilderment and then went on to explain further.  "Lucifer is coming in person to Moore's Lake next week and he's bringing with him an army of demons.  And if we can't stop him, he'll be returning to the underworld with every soul in Moore's Lake."

You know, if there was one thing I really didn't need to hear, it was that.

"Well, this way, you can't say you weren't warned," Christine replied with a knowing smile.


*  *  *


The following evening, Mike and Christine were enjoying the night life in Moore's Lake at a small tavern in the business district.  They wanted to get the feel of the town, get to know the people they were going to fight so hard for in the days to come.

The powerful ESPer, more or less just one of the boys at heart, was drinking a beer, while Christine on the other hand, being much more sophisticated, was enjoying a glass of red wine while listening to the 80's music playing on the old style juke box.

They were not surprised in the least when a voice called out from behind them, in fact, they were expecting it.

"Want some company?" Darlene asked before taking a seat uninvited.

"You're the reason we came to this club," Christine answered as a reply.  "We knew you visited this place when you don't go to that gothic bar, and took a chance you might be here tonight."

"Yeah, I figured that.  Abe already told me all about both of you. . . how Mike can read minds, make the sick better and stuff like that.  So I take it you wanted to see me.  What about?  And since I can read minds also, do you want to do this mentally, or verbally?"

"You won't be able to read our minds, Darlene.  But if you want to do this mentally, I can always transfer our thoughts to you," Mike stated rather flatly.  "Hmmm, I see you wouldn't like that, so I suggest we do this verbally."

Not really believing any mortal could hide their thoughts from a vampire as well as this ESPer claimed, Darlene tried to read first his thoughts, then Christine's.  What Mike said was true enough, she discovered.  She found that these two could somehow block out all thought emissions from others.  Darlene could almost understand how the ESPer could accomplish this, but how could the woman?  She wasn't supposed to have any ESP capabilities according to what Abe had told her.

She's been around me too long, little girl.  She's learned that anyone can perform fantastic feats with their mind if they know how.  You don't have to have ESP to block your thoughts, just a strong will and the right attitude, and a great faith in God,  Mike informed the beautiful vampress.

"Oh!  This is great.  So you can read my mind, but I can't read yours.  This isn't fair!"

"Life isn't fair," Christine commented with a knowing smile.

"Okay, I give up.  What's so important?  I can only assume it has something to do with the devil coming next week.  Am I right?"

"Yeah . . . unfortunately, you're correct," Mike said.  "To put it bluntly, Christine and I are very concerned that when Lucifer gets here, he'll try to use you and Gail to his advantage.  With you both being already of the undead, he'll have a power over you just as he does with all other out of body souls."

Darlene thought about this for a few moments and had to concede the point, at least partially.  "Okay, we have a problem, but only with Gail, not me.  Gail is mentally unstable and Lucifer could easily control her.  With me, it's another story entirely.  I hate that son-of-a-bitch and wouldn't let him control my mind even if it meant somehow destroying myself to prevent it."

Christine shook her head and said, "You're wrong, Darlene.  Mike and I have met Lucifer on three other occasions and believe me . . . he can control you if your faith in God isn't strong enough.  In case Abe didn't tell you, Mike here has been to Hell already and he's seen first hand what that "son-of-a-bitch" as you call him is capable of.  Mike also read your mind when we first arrived and relayed your thoughts to me.  Darlene, Lucifer can . . . and will . . . take control of you if you don't get your head straight within the next week.  I think the best thing would be for you and Gail to leave Moore's Lake until this is all over.  Hmmm, Mike is telling me right now that Bret's in California.  Maybe you and Gail could... "

"You're wrong!  I'm a good girl and I have a lot of faith in God!  I never do wrong!  Lucifer cannot control me!"

Mike knew there was no use trying to convince this lovely vampress without a small example.  So using his awesome abilities of ESP, Mike mentally summoned two people to enact a little scene so Darlene would be forced to react.  After a few seconds, he finished and he replied, "You never do wrong?  You really think that, huh?  Tell you what . . . if you can still say that an hour from now, Christine and I will leave you alone and never bother you again.  Right now, we've got about twenty minutes to kill before a couple of people I've summoned get here.  Anyone care to dance?"

Go ahead and dance with Darlene, Soulmate.  I want to take some time to think how I'm going to convince this willful girl after the show is over.  Besides, out of all the things you've done in your life, I can't ever remember you dancing with a vampire.  This will be a first for you!

Gotcha!  "Darlene?  Care to Dance?"

"But you two are soulmates!  Shouldn't you two be the ones out there?  I mean... "

"Trust me, Christine won't get jealous.  Let's go!"

Mike led Darlene to the dance floor and was soon surprised at how well she could perform.  The exquisite creature of the night could have melted the paint off the walls with an erotic display that had every head in the club turned her way.  She was that hot of a dancer.  Mike wasn't a bad dancer himself, but compared to Darlene, he felt like he had two left feet.  It was everything he could do just to keep up with her.  Using his ESP, Mike discovered that the next song up was "Black Velvet," a tune that would soon have Darlene moving like an erotic vixen for sure.  With a small amount of mental suggestion and PK, the ESPer quickly changed the selection to a popular song by Hall and Oates, "Sara Smile."  It was made for slow dancing.

When the next song began, Darlene shook her head in bewilderment as she allowed Mike to lead her around the dance floor.  She said, "I don't understand this.  This place just plays fast dance music and a few rather . . .  amorous . . . selections.  I've never heard this song before, at least not in here."

"Strange things can happen at the most unexpected times when you're with someone like me.  Believe it or not . . . I'm like no one you've ever met before, Darlene."

"I'm beginning to see that," the beautiful vampress admitted, already getting to like this powerful human.  "Mike, let me ask you a question.  Why weren't you and Christine surprised when I admitted that I believed in God a few minutes ago?  I mean, you've got to admit that sounds pretty strange coming from a vampire."

"Being of the undead has no bearing on your beliefs.  You believed in God before you were bitten by Vince, you hold the same convictions now.  What's so hard to understand about that?  Besides, the way I look at it, you being a vampire just proves God's existence.  If the stories are correct, that the original vampire was a result of Lucifer's work, then you have to believe in the devil.  If you believe in the devil, then you have to believe in God.  It's only logical."

"Mr. Spock, you fascinate me!"

Darlene began to relax in Mike's strong arms as they danced.  She felt comfortable, almost sedated with her head resting on his broad shoulders.  Darlene began to wish this dance would last forever . . . it felt so right.

"You're really enjoying this, aren't you?  Do you want me to...  "  Mike suddenly stopped.  He stopped dancing and stopped talking.  He just stood there holding Darlene in his arms, staring at her in disbelief.

"What's wrong?  I'm not used to slow dancing.  I didn't step on your foot or anything, did I?"

"N-no.  It's just . . . aww, forget it.  Probably nothing."  Mike shook his head to clear it and took the girl in his arms once again and continued dancing.  When the song was over, the ESPer led the way back to their table and quickly ordered another round of drinks.  Right away, Christine knew something was bothering him.

Soulmate, what's wrong?

I don't know for sure, Christine.  This girl, she . . . maybe . . . I don't know, maybe I'm wrong.  Let me work this out in my head and I'll tell you about it later.

By the time their drinks were finished, Matt and one of his buddies from town arrived.  By the looks on their faces, it was clear that neither of them had any idea exactly why they were there.

Invite them to join us, Darlene. 

Fine, Mr. Mind-reader!  How do you do these things?

If you're a good little girl, maybe I'll teach you sometime.  Unfortunately, Mike meant it.

Chairs were scooted over and more drinks were ordered.  Before long, thanks to Mike's mental prompting, Matt's friend soon began talking about the place where he worked.

"...and my boss says, if I want a better job, or even keep the one I have, I'd better keep my mouth shut about what I see going on," he said, referring to the automobile parts plant located in Moore's Lake.

"What was your boss referring to?" Mike asked innocently enough.

"Well, I'm not sure I should be saying anything, but . . . er, they're hiring a lot of people without green cards, if you know what I mean.  They're hiring illegal aliens and paying them way less than minimum wage.  I don't want to say anything because I need the money too bad and they pay good at the plant, but I don't like what they're doing either.  It's about as illegal as you can get.  Anybody got any ideas what I should do?"

"I'd shut up and forget about it," Matt said quickly.  "That's what I'd do.  Good jobs are too hard to come by in Moore's Lake, certainly none that pay as well as the parts plant."

"What do you say, Darlene?  What would you do in this young man's situation?"  Once again, Mike was trying to sound as innocent as possible.  However, even as he was putting on this little act, he was reading her mind and already knew exactly how this carefree and very thoughtful vampress would react in the same situation.

"I'd do as Matt suggested.  I'd keep my mouth shut, and the money rolling in," she replied.

That was all Mike and Christine needed to hear.  With another mental prompt, the ESPer sent Matt and his companion away, both totally confused.

"I thought you said you never do wrong, Darlene.  You just told a lie.  You would have gone to the authorities no matter if it would have cost you your job or not," Christine stated as fact.  "And that lie proves you don't have as much faith in God as you believe you have.  You are going to be susceptible to Lucifer's bidding next week, face it."

"There's a little evil in you that Lucifer will take advantage of, not much, but enough," Mike added, nodding his head in agreement with his soulmate.

"Are you calling me 'evil' just because I told a little lie to save a young man's job?" Darlene asked, bewildered by the powerful ESPer's attitude towards something as commonplace as a little untruthfulness.  "You've read my mind down to the core.  I know, I've felt you prying.  You know how I feel about evil and you also know I have great faith in God.  Okay, it's true that I might go along with something that I know is wrong on occasion simply because I believe it's not worth the hassle of saying anything . . . maybe losing a friend, or to help someone out, but that doesn't mean I'm evil!  How can you say that, Mr. ESP?"

Mike!  Darlene's really a good person!  You know that!  Don't make it sound like you're calling her a bitch!

Trust me on this one, Soulmate.  This gal may have a carefree and free-spirited attitude towards life, but she is very strong willed.  There's also something about her I haven't told you yet.  If we screw this up, there may very well be some severe consequences in the future.  When your turn to talk comes in a few seconds, tell her what you were originally going to say, but just be a little firmer.  This gal is tough, but fair.  She'll listen if she knows she's hearing the truth.

Okay, I can feel that you're pretty sure of yourself.  All right, let's make her day!

"There are no degrees of evil, Darlene, only intensities.  No sin is greater, or less in God's eyes than any other.  And one more thing I want you to always remember . . . to allow evil to happen, is to condone it."

"I think that needs a little bit of explanation, Mr. Cochran.  Surely you can't believe a little lie is as bad as killing someone.  Especially when that lie may help somebody.  Besides, you two will have to agree that telling lies are pretty far down on the list of Commandments."  Darlene was intrigued by Mike's convictions, but she was indeed very strong willed and she had her own views about right and wrong.

Mike looked over at Christine for no more than an instant, but that half second was enough to tell the woman that it was now her turn to try and convince the beautiful vampress.

"Mike's right, Darlene.  There are no degrees of evil.  Take for example those Ten Commandments you were referring to.  No where does it say that number five, Thou Shalt Not Kill, is worse than number eight, Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness.  The higher the number doesn't make a difference.  If that were the case, breaking commandment number two, saying 'God Damn' would be worse than killing someone.  No, Darlene, there are no 'degrees' where evil is concerned.  And when it comes to allowing evil . . . any evil . . . to flourish, you couldn't be making a bigger mistake.  Mike's telling me now that you want an example.  Fine.  Here's one. Let's take your friend there, uh, Matt, for an example.  He's a good man, Mike and I can tell that, but what he told the young boy was wrong.  He just told his friend to suck up to his evil boss in hopes of a better job.  Matt advised him that way because he knew the kid was afraid of losing his income.  Now, let's use the same scenario and go more extreme, or 'intense' as Mike would put it.  Darlene, if Lucifer were standing right in front of you at this very moment, would you kiss up to him in hopes of him allowing you an air conditioner if you were to go to Hell when you completely die?  Or would you slap him in the face and probably go to Heaven for doing so?  Hmm, Mike's telling me right now that you'd kick him in the nuts!"  Christine had to stop for a moment while everyone laughed. "But the point is," she continued, "most people would be afraid of Lucifer and want to 'play it safe.'  They would show fear and reverence in his presence and then probably go to church the following Sunday and ask the Lord for forgiveness.  You see?  It's basically the same thing.  In both instances, a person is kissing up to evil on account of fear.  Both are wrong.  And that little lie you told was wrong also, no matter how much good was intended."

"There are always alternatives to doing wrong, Darlene," Mike added.  "You've got to remember that.  You've just got to have faith in God and trust Him enough whereas the ideas and abilities to fight evil will pop into your head as they are needed.  Doing wrong to correct a wrong is never the answer." 

As he spoke to her, the ESPer's gaze was piercing Darlene down to her very soul and she had the feeling there was something more to Mike Cochran than he was telling her.  Whatever it was, she found herself hoping that by having faith, she would soon find out.  However, at the moment, all she knew was that this man was affecting her like no mortal should be able to do.  It felt so good to be touching him during that slow dance, so natural.  Darlene didn't understand what was happening at all and she discovered herself being more and more curious and intrigued with this powerful man with each passing moment.

"But what if those ideas and abilities don't come to you, at least not in time?"

"With time and practice, they will.  But if they don't at first, then you just don't have enough faith."

"Instead of 'practice,' you meant to say 'patience,' didn't you?"

"Nope.  I'm not a very patient man...  "

That's the truth!

...and I don't even believe in it," Mike replied, giving Christine a little smile.  "I think patience is for those who are looking for excuses.  Myself, if something needs to happen and doesn't, I blame Michael Cochran, no one else.  I believe too many people are waiting for God to help them when they could help themselves.  They say they must have patience.  I say they must have faith that God has already given them the abilities to handle the situation on their own.  God doesn't give us obstacles we can't overcome."

Suddenly a question popped into Darlene's mind and there was no way she was going to continue without asking.  It was rude, impolite and a downright invasion of privacy . . . but she just had to ask, if for no other reason than to add credibility to everything Mike and Christine were trying to say.  The thing was though, it was just too hard to ask and Darlene found herself somewhat at a loss for words.

Mike, smiling, looked over to Christine who soon joined him with a smile of her own.

"There's no need to ask, Darlene.  We know what's on your mind.  Yes, Mike is married to Sally, the loveliest woman in the world, and I am his soulmate.  You're wondering, since we are soulmates, if Mike and I had ever made love and broken the sixth commandment.  The answer is no, we haven't.  I realize that judging by the way we carry on and how we react to each other's presence, that may be hard to believe, but we haven't.  That would be evil, something Mike and I just can't let happen.  Oh, sure . . . we want to, we've dreamt and fantasized about it until we're about to burst, but we haven't.  You see, being soulmates, we've achieved a level of awareness for each other that is far better than just plain sex.  The pleasures of sex would last only for a short while, but what Mike and I share gives us pleasure 24/7 and is worth far too much for us to be taking any chances at losing."  Placing a hand over her heart, Christine continued.  "I feel Mike . . . right here . . . all the time.  If you want to check our pulses, you'll discover they are the same at this moment.  They always will be whenever we are both calm and within proximity of each other.  Even when we are separated, Mike is still with me, in my heart, I can always feel him.  When he is having problems, I know it.  Whether I'm in a bad or a good mood, he knows it.  And that's not because Mike has ESP either, it's because we're soulmates.  His very soul is intermixed with mine and the sensation that it brings is too hard to explain.  It goes beyond sex, goes beyond love as much as the sun outshines a match.  To do any immoral act would mean that we would lose everything, and we would both rather die first."

"You guys mentioned that having faith in God is the key.  I'd love to hear a lot more about that."

"Example time again, hope you don't mind.  Darlene, when I was working my way through college in a factory, I didn't know Mike . . . and didn't even know anyone in the world had ESP.  However, I was still able to 'know' things as a result of my faith in the Lord.  One summer, while working in that factory, I had to turn aside the advances of one of my supervisors who kept hitting on me.  He got angry and very vindictive.  I guess he wasn't used to being turned down.  Anyway, a few days later, I got cut by a razor blade that was intentionally put inside my box of parts.  I figured it was my boss who did it to get even with me and at first, I was very angry.  But after I had calmed down, I thought about some of my old theology classes and what I had learned about having faith.  So in the days to come, I just told myself over and over that God would tell me if any more razor blades were hidden in my parts and trusted Him not to let me get cut if I would do my part and remember to look.  Now remember what I just said, I had to do my part.  I had to remember to look in order for God to help me...  Anyway, over the next week, I found a lot more razor blades, sometimes just seconds before I would put my hands where I would get cut.  As the days passed, I became more and more sure that God would tell me in advance and sure enough He did.  I found them in places I never would have thought to look!  Eventually, I had so much faith in God, I would know . . . yes, know that a razor blade was hidden inside a part before I even opened the container!  And when I looked, sure enough, there it was!  Darlene, I couldn't even see those parts, how could I know that a razor blade was hidden inside one of them?  That's what I mean by having faith.  You see, God helps those who helps themselves and has faith in Him.  That had nothing to do with ESP.  Faith, Darlene.  Faith.  And Mike and I have used that faith along with our abilities and our soulmate relationship to do all sorts of good things for the world.  We've stopped wars that have been going on for hundreds of years, thought of ways to feed the hungry in parts of the world that have had people starving for generations and much more.  But none of that could have happened without that faith."

"Well, to be honest, being soulmates had a lot more to do with it than Christine is letting on, Darlene.  Christine just reasons things out differently than I do.  We have different views on a lot of issues.  And being soulmates and knowing each other so well, we've used that diversity in thinking to solve problems that otherwise would have gone unsolved."

Darlene knew the truth when she heard it and began to develop a deeper understanding of things.  There was one more thing she was curious about though, something Christine failed to mention.  "Whatever happened to your boss back at that factory?  Did you call the authorities on him?"

The beautiful vampress was surprised when Christine and Mike both broke out laughing.  She didn't know why, but Darlene soon found herself laughing also.  It wasn't because she wanted to go along with the others, or just be a part of the crowd, it was sort of like a bonding between friends . . . but somehow more.  There was just something about those two, especially Mike.  That bold, intelligent and ever so curious Michael Cochran...

When Christine was finally able to control her laughter, she answered Darlene's question with a couple of her own.  "Remember what you would have done to Lucifer in that one example with him offering to give you an air conditioner in Hell?  Well, would you believe me if I told you that I kicked my boss in the nuts?"

*  *  *


As the days passed and the time for Lucifer's arrival quickly drew near, Darlene found herself more and more intrigued by Mike.  As she sat alone inside her motor home, Darlene continued to think about the ESPer.  There was just something about that man she couldn't understand at all.  Initially, she thought she may have been in love with him, but after much soul searching, Darlene finally decided she probably wasn't.  Maybe I'm simply fascinated by his ESP abilities, she thought.  Or maybe I'm just amazed that there's a man out there with such a perfect character, such high morals.  He doesn't lie, doesn't do harm to others . . . at least not the good people.  He's brave, strong, kind, caring, generous . . . and very married.  According to Abe, he's been married to some blonde back in Columbus, Ohio for almost fifteen years.  Damn!

"Cochran, where were you when I was still mortal and could have really loved someone?"  Darlene knew her emotions were in an uproar where Mike Cochran was concerned and for the life of her, she couldn't understand why.  She just couldn't get this marvelous man out of her head.  "I see a man I'd like to spent the rest of my life with and as it turns out, he's married and I'm dead!  Oh, yeah . . . this is fair!"

"THERE'S MORE TO THIS THAN YOU KNOW," said a voice from somewhere beyond the grave.

"Abe!  What's going on with me?  Why is it I'm always thinking about that man, and even to some degree Christine?"  Darlene knew the ghoul was someplace far away, perhaps even in another dimension, that realm of darkness Abe calls home.  However, she also knew that wouldn't stop the two of them from having a conversation.  "I'm not in love with him, am I?  And am I jealous of Christine, or what?"


"Abe?  Are you still here?" Darlene asked, already knowing that he wasn't.  Damn!  I want answers and all I get are more riddles!  "I think I'm going nuts!"


*  *  *


Mike sat in his plush hotel room, staring out the window at the lake, thinking.  He thought about Lucifer and what was to come within two more days.  He thought about what would happen to the people of Moore's Lake if he failed.  He thought about his life, how he had accomplished so much, and wondered if that would mean anything at all if he fell to Lucifer during the battle.  He thought about Sally, his lovely wife who was sitting patiently at home, anxiously awaiting his return, worrying if he and Christine would survive this next encounter with the devil.  He thought about his soulmate, Christine, the woman who has helped him time after time and has given him spiritual advice when it was needed the most.  And then he thought once again of Darlene, the beautiful vampress and friend. . . and very likely so much more.

Mike sighed and wished he could be certain of Darlene's future.  But like so many other times in his life, his ESP usually failed him when it came to precognition.  It was obvious to Mike that the guy upstairs just didn't want him knowing about certain things until the time was right.

The powerful ESPer swiveled in his seat and turned towards the door of his hotel room seconds before he heard someone knock.  He let his ESP do its thing and smiled when he discovered who it was.  He had been expecting this visitor for some time now.

Soulmate, are you busy?  If you're not in the shower or anything, come on over to my room in two minutes.  Use your ring instead of walking.  There's someone here who is going to need a little encouragement.

Sure thing, Mike.  Mark it . . . two minutes from . . . now!

Glancing at his watch to verify the time, Mike remained in his seat and called out, "Come on in, Captain.  It's open."

Captain Long entered Mike's room and looked around a few seconds before saying, "I would have thought a rich guy like you would have had your own furnishings brought in.  Instead, I find you lounging in an old hotel recliner that must be ten years old.  You surprise me."

"I'm full of surprises, Captain.  You ought to try me sometime."

"I'll just bet you are... "

"You're worried, aren't you, Roscoe?  You're worried that Lucifer is coming here and all you see Christine and me doing in preparation is going out and partying every night.  Abe isn't telling you a thing and you came here hoping to make some type of battle plan.  How's that for surprising you?"

"Humph!  You get an 'A' for that one!  But why aren't you and Abe doing anything to get ready?  The devil is still coming, isn't he?  Or is it already over?"

Mike sighed again, realizing that he had been doing a lot of that lately.  Smiling to himself, he said, "No, Captain, in two days all hell is going to break loose in Moore's Lake.  A few demons will appear before that, a sort of a scouting party for Satan, but I don't know how many and I don't know exactly when."

"Then why aren't we doing something to get ready?!  Why won't Abe tell me anything?  And why are you waiting until now to tell me all this when you've been in town nearly a week?!"

"First of all, Captain, there's nothing the average mortal can do to prepare for a Satanic onslaught other than pray.  And I see you've been doing a lot of that already.  Second, whatever is in the mind of one who can not shield their thoughts, Satan can get it.  So if I told you what Abe, Christine and I have planned, Lucifer will pick up on it and take safeguards against our plans.  Any more questions?"

"Just one.  Is Moore's Lake going to survive this onslaught?  I mean, can you guys handle it?  Do you have the power to take on the damned devil?"

Smiling, Mike glanced at his watch and commented, "Just wait about ten more seconds and you'll have your answer, Captain Long."

"What are you talking about?  What the hell kind of games are you... "

Just then Christine appeared in that blinding light.  Knowing she was to put on a little demonstration for someone, she also added a little thunder and a small shock wave for good measure.  It had quite an affect on the captain, who recovered quickly enough but still stood there staring at Christine as though she were some sort of goddess.  Never had he seen such immense power short of watching a nuclear explosion on the television.

"You were about to ask something, Captain?"

"Yeah, I suppose I was.  But that was when I was young and stupid.  Mr. Cochran, Ms. McMasters . . . I'm going to leave before I lose my mind.  But there's just one thing I'm going to ask of you before I go.  When the time comes, I want you to let the police force help defend the town.  That's all I ask.  Let us help."  Then, without another word, Captain Long left.

"I take it you weren't exactly being polite to the captain.  Mind if I ask why?"

"Not at all, Soulmate.  If I would have told him the answers he wanted to hear, Lucifer would know our plans.  If I'd been evasive with my answers, the poor captain would have been more worried than he is now.  I didn't like treating him that way, but I couldn't see any other way to get him to leave quickly."

Christine knew that if Mike wanted the captain to leave, there must be a good reason.  She thought she knew what that reason was.  "It's started already, hasn't it?" she asked, fingering her ring.

"Only the first . . . oh, 'scouting party' I'll call it.  There are two demons in town.  They're going to test Abe's powers and try to take over Vampra."

"Mike, her name is Gail, not Vampra.  I found out today that Darlene prefers we call her by her chosen name.  And speaking of the two demons, are we going to do anything about them, or are we just going to stand here shooting the bull?"

"I don't know if we should do anything, Christine.  Lucifer sent them here to see how strong we're going to be.  I think we should go watch, of course, but we should stay out of it and see how well Abe and Darlene handle things.  If they need help, then we'll jump in.  Abe is agreeing with me right now, as a matter of fact.  But what do you think?"

I think I have a wonderful soulmate!

Then, with nothing more than a mental prompt, Christine used the Capstone ring to transport them both to Abe's tomb.


*  *  *


Abe wasn't about to take any crap from the demon that entered his tomb.  He materialized to see the grotesque creature sifting through his old bones, scattering them around the tomb.  The ghoul was furious.  He sent a wave of cosmic energy into the demon's chest and sent him straight back to Hell, his little butt on fire.

By the time Mike and Christine arrived, just an instant after leaving Mike's hotel room, it was already over.  All they saw was Abe hovering a few feet off the ground shaking his skeletal head in sadness at the mess the demon had made of his mortal remains.

This is only the beginning, Mike said to the ghoul using telepathy.


"How's Darlene making out?" Christine asked, her ring glowing with power, ready for instant use if needed.

"THAT DEMON HASN'T MADE ITS PRESENCE KNOWN TO HER YET.  BUT I'M AFRAID SHE WILL HAVE A TOUGHER TIME DEALING WITH IT THAN I DID WITH MINE," Abe replied, using some unknown force to rearrange his skeleton once again.  When he finished, the bones were laid out the way they were over a hundred years before when Abe, known back then as Captain Abraham Wilkes, had died.  "YOU WERE RIGHT IN NOT INTERFERING MICHAEL.  YOU CANNOT GIVE AID TO DARLENE EITHER.  YOU WILL WANT TO, BUT YOU CANNOT.  DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHY?  AND DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE RELATIONSHIP TO YOU THAT SHE REPRESENTS?"

"I think so, but I'm not sure.  But I don't want you to tell me.  If the relationship I suspect is indeed a fact, then there's only one way it can work out, and that's if Darlene figures it out by herself and she comes to me first.  If she doesn't reason it out, or if she is afraid, then it wasn't meant to be."


"Well, I don't understand!" Christine said.  "Is someone going to tell me?"

There's a small chance, Christine, that Darlene may be a soulmate of ours...

"Oh, Lord!  One soulmate is enough of a headache!  Two will put me in a padded room for sure!"


*  *  *


Darlene was still trying to sort out her thoughts when she heard Gail scream.  Jumping to her feet, the vampress burst out the door of her motor home and ran as fast as she could to the cage where Vampra was incarcerated.  What she saw terrified her.

Gail's face had changed to that of an evil mask . . . it was the hideous face of a demon.  The creature now inhabiting Vampra's body had transformed her from a young beautiful woman into an evil, ugly monster.  

However, as Darlene watched the creature rattle away at the bars in an attempt to escape the confines of the cell, she realized the demon had made a terrible mistake.  It had taken over Gail's body while still confined.  Evidently, the creature had lost some of its abilities after inhabiting Gail.  It couldn't escape the reinforced steel mesh cell.

"Get out of my cousin, you sick piece of garbage!  Leave her alone and try and take me on!  Come on!  What's the matter?  Afraid?  You're nothing but a stupid moron!  Only a follower of Satan would be dumb enough to take over a body that was trapped inside a steel cage!"  Verbally abusing and insulting the demon was the only way Darlene could think of to get it to leave Gail's body.  She could only hope it worked.


*  *  *


Mike, if that demon leaves Gail's body, won't it try to take over Darlene?

It sure will.  I'm reading Darlene's mind right now to see if she remembers anything we said about having faith.  So far, those thoughts aren't coming to her.


Damn!  That's right, Abe!  Christine and I forgot to tell her about that the other night!  Maybe I should...



*  *  *


Tormenting the creature with words had the desired affect.  Within a minute after Darlene began insulting the demon, it departed Gail's body and walked right through the steel mesh and bars as easily as if they were nothing but air.  Darlene was just thankful the steel mesh was still intact.  Otherwise Gail could escape and everyone would have even bigger problems on their hands.

While Darlene watched the demon approach her, her stomach began to churn as she slowly backed away.  To say the creature from Hell was ugly would have been a gross understatement.  For one thing, its red skin was transparent in places and Darlene could see what looked to be small insects crawling around through the muscles and fatty tissue.  The demon was short, no more than four feet tall at most, but very powerfully built.  What passed for a face was also hideous.  It looked like a cross between a hairless cat and some type of monkey with horns.  Its long, bony fingers, now poised to strike, had inch long nails that dripped some thick, greenish fluid.  Darlene couldn't even begin to guess if the substance was poisonous, or not.

Not knowing what else to do, Darlene prepared herself to fight the demon, hoping beyond hope that her inhumanly strong vampire strength would be enough to ward the creature off.

Suddenly, the creature from Hell attacked.


*  *  *


She's not remembering anything we said!  We've got to help her!


You can't stop me!  I can...

Abe's right, Soulmate!  You yourself said we should let Darlene handle this on her own!  Let her try . . . please!!

Deep inside, Mike knew they were both right.  But that still didn't stop him from wanting to help Darlene.  As he stood invisible a hundred feet away from the beautiful vampress and the ugly demon, all he could think about was going to the aid of someone who was in all probability . . . another soulmate.  However, Christine's plea also had an affect on him.  Mike knew that she was thinking more clearly than he was at the moment and he forced himself to relax.  Still, he found it difficult to stand by and do nothing.  Come on, Darlene! he thought to himself.  Remember to have some faith, damn it!


*  *  *


Darlene nearly gagged as the demon landed on top of her.  Its strength was incredible, but worse was its breath and body odor.  The stench was more severe than vomit and feces put together.  Using all the energy she could muster, Darlene tried to push the thing off her, but found that its strength was much greater than her own.  It was that instant when Darlene knew she was going to lose this battle.  Her only means of defense had been her powerful immortal muscles, but now that she knew they were no match for the demon's strength...

Come on, Darlene! she heard a voice inside her head say.  Remember to have some faith, damn it!

"Mike?" she gasped, unsure of how or why the voice had entered her mind.  It wasn't telepathy, that much she was sure of.  It felt like something more . . . much more.  Have faith, the voice had said.  Have faith.  Isn't that what Mike and Christine had been trying to tell me the other night?  To have faith in God?

"God will give me the strength to beat you, you ugly bastard!  God will help me!" Darlene screamed at the grotesque being atop her.  "You hear what I'm telling you, you dumb shit?  God will help me!"  And Darlene began to believe it.  Even as she was yelling at the beast, she noticed that something was having an affect on it.  Using all her strength, all her willpower, using all her love for God, all her love for humanity and whatever it was she held in her heart for Michael Cochran, she shoved at the creature . . . and watched in amazement as it flew twenty feet into the air to impale itself on a stalactite hanging from the ceiling of her cavern.  It instantly vanished as it returned to the depths of Hell.


*  *  *

      Mike!  She did it!  She remembered and beat the demon!


Mike, still not quite himself, couldn't believe the battle was really over even as he witnessed the demon's departure back to Hell.  Part of him still wanted to go over and protect Darlene if the demon should return.  Part of him wanted to go over and give Darlene a big, warm hug, reassure the vampress that he would always be around to help her from this point on.  Mike also desperately wanted to tell her that they were soulmates.  But he knew he couldn't do that.  If only...

Abe, sensing the thoughts of his new ally and friend, thought it best to put some distance between Mike and Darlene.  With that in mind, he waved his invisible arm to send Michael a hundred years back into the past.  At first, nothing happened, Mike's ESP powers were that strong, but with more effort the ghoul managed to accomplish what he considered to be a smart move. 

Michael Cochran, the world's most powerful ESPer and the soulmate of a woman with more power on her ring finger than that of the universe itself . . . simply vanished.



Having said that, Abe made himself and Christine visible to Darlene.  Seconds later, he departed to regain his strength.  Abe was happy that Michael Cochran was a friend.  As an enemy, he would be nearly unbeatable.  And that was something the ghoul didn't want to think about at the moment.  For he knew in less than two more days Lucifer himself would be arriving with hundreds of demons just like the two that just came.  And with Lucifer having powers that equaled a thousand demons . . . well, Abe was just happy it would be Mike and Christine that would be fighting Satan along side of him.  He could think of no better allies to have.



End of Part I

(Part II coming within two weeks)








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