The ESPer



Carl R. Merritt


Part III

Abe's Final Justice



        An hour after the initial battle with Lucifer, Abe and Mike were back in the cave. Both were hurting down to their souls over the deaths of Darlene, Gail and Christine. Mike knew they should get back in the battle, his ESP was telling him that there were still fifteen demons roaming the streets of Moore's Lake. But his heart just wasn't in it. All he could do was sit on a boulder with his face buried in his hands.


        "Explain," Mike replied, his voice weak, defeated.


        Intervention? Sounds like a term that my soulmate would use, Mike thought to himself. Christine! Can you pick up my thoughts? For the first time in seven years, there was no reply. The most powerful mortal on the face of the Earth felt like crying. There has to be another way to get them all back! There's got to be something else other than what I thought of an hour ago!

        "MICHAEL, WE MUST... " The ghoul stopped in mid-sentence when he noticed a sudden change in the ESPer. It wasn't a difference in his body language as much as a change in his aura. With his awesome powers, Abe was able to see Mike's unearthly spirit . . . his very soul. That aura which up until now had looked decrepit and weak, was suddenly becoming stronger, more alive. Right away, Abe knew that Mike had come up with a plan to defeat Lucifer, possibly even a way to retrieve the lost souls of his two soulmates and Gail. However, when the ghoul attempted to read the ESPer's mind, he found a block so strong, he knew there was no way to break through. "YOU HAVE A PLAN. YOU ARE KEEPING IT TO YOURSELF. IS THAT WISE?"

        Rising to his feet, Mike replied, "Lucifer is stronger than I originally thought he would be, Abe. He was picking up on our thought transfers. He knew of our plans and our strengths. That's why he wasn't in Hell when he was supposed to be, that's also why the bastard defeated us so easily. In answer to your question, yes, I have a plan. But this time I'm keeping it to myself." Mike paused a few seconds while he used his ESP. When he had the information he was wanting, Mike asked the ghoul, "Are Sam and Marc the only two in danger?"


        "Then I'll trick the two demons that are after the sergeant and Marc into coming here. When they arrive, let me handle it. I want to try something."

        Abe didn't question the human, the ghoul was fully aware of the abilities this ESPer possessed. Mike's only handicap was that he was unable to see the future, something Abe could do without difficulty.

        It didn't take long for the two demons to appear through an evil looking vortex of swirling black energy. Mike's powerful mind had tricked them into thinking that Sergeant Baker and Marc Lamas were on their way to the tomb, so the two hideous creatures had rushed to set up a trap for them and wait. The instant they materialized inside the cave, however, they knew that it was themselves who had fallen into a trap.

        The two demons each had different ideas about how to deal with the situation. One of them tried to bring back the vortex so he could escape, while the other actually tried to attack Abe. Neither succeeded. The Capstone ring Mike had taken from Christine's lifeless body had them frozen in place within an instant.

        Abe watched with amusement as Mike casually walked over to the demons. He stared at them for a moment, then used the ring again to release them from their frozen state. Immediately, they went into fits of rage and dementia. Both demons fell to the ground in total agony, holding their heads and screaming for mercy.

        But mercy was not in Mike's plans.

        Picking one of the demons up by its throat, Mike hit the creature with his right hand and sent it sprawling across the cavern floor. Whirling on the second demon, Mike savagely kicked it hard in the head and laughed as its skull exploded. Soaked with the beast's cranial matter, Mike then returned to the first demon and repeated the brutal action. The head of this demon also exploded, soaking Mike even further.

        Abe was fascinated by this display. He knew that no mortal should be able to overcome the incredible strength of any creature from the underworld. But Mike seemed to overpower them so easily...

        "YOUR ESP DOESN'T GIVE YOU SUPERHUMAN STRENGTH. HOW DID YOU ACCOMPLISH THIS? THROUGH USE OF THE CAPSTONE RING?" Once again, Abe tried to pry the information out of the ESPer's mind. But it was futile. Mike had put a mental block up that Abe just couldn't break through.

        "I'll tell you after we defeat Lucifer," Mike said, using the ring to cleanse himself of the filthy gore. "Speaking of which . . . when is that bastard gonna have enough strength to return?"

        Abe was doubtful if Mike could defeat Satan as easily as the two demons. The king of darkness was a thousand times more powerful than any of his followers. However, he put his reservations aside for the moment and simply replied, "HE WILL BE RETURNING ALONE TO BATTLE THE TWO OF US IN TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES. THE LAST OF HIS DEMONS WILL BE DESTROYED SIX MINUTES BEFORE THAT BY OFFICER LEWIS AND CAPTAIN LONG."

        "Then that gives me time to see how well you're preserving the bodies of my two soulmates and Gail. Let's go." Without another word, Mike walked off to where his ESP had told him the bodies were temporarily stored.

        Following the powerful mortal, Abe looked into the future to see the outcome of the battle. The ghoul didn't like what he saw.


* * *


        Marcia was beginning to feel comfortable fighting alongside Captain Long as they used their rings to slaughter demon after demon. With the information coming from Charles Peterson down at the station, finding them was turning out to be no problem at all. In fact, the petite policewoman was getting so proficient at using her ring to turn demons into dust, she began humming a cute little tune to herself.

        "Better pay attention to what you're doing, Officer Lewis. You know as well as I do how sneaky these sombitches can be."

        "I don't think there's anything to worry about, Cap. According to Mr. Peterson, there are only two more . . . and they are just around the next corner on Jefferson. Besides, do I look like the type of girl that would let one of these ugly things surprise me?" Marcia shot a glance back toward her boss and added, "Not like some people... "

        "All right. I get the message, loud and clear," Long replied, remembering that Officer Lewis had just saved his life a little more than an hour before. "Just stay on your toes, okay?"

        "Gotcha, Cap."

        Despite her overabundance of confidence, Marcia found herself very surprised when they rounded the corner unto Jefferson Avenue. The captain, too, was shocked, but quickly overcame it and used his ring to contact Charles Peterson.

        "Long to base. Come in!"

        "Peterson here. What 'cha got, Captain? Problems?"

        "Yeah, you could say that! Where you said we'd find two demons, I'm looking at what must be over two hundred citizens mulling around in the street! What's going on here? Who called off the curfew?"

        There was silence for a moment, but Peterson finally replied, "No one called off the curfew, Roscoe! And I'm not showing any humans at all on the streets. Directly ahead of you are the last two demons! That's all I'm picking up! Repeat . . . no humans!"

        "Captain, it's just an illusion! We gotta destroy them all!"

        Considering Marcia's recommendation, Captain Long looked over the group to see if he recognized any faces. With Moore's Lake being such a small town, he figured he should be able to at least pick out a few people he knew if there was any reality in this situation. But he could identify no one at all. These aren't people from town. But where did the demons get the images of these people from? Then he figured it out. This was not an illusion. These were the souls of people from Hell!

        "Peterson!" he yelled into the ring. "Give us an exact location of the two demons! Right down to the square inch, if you can!"

        "The two of them are together, thirteen feet directly south of the fire hydrant! Do I need to clarify more?"

        "Nope! That'll do it." Captain Long and Marcia saw the two demons. They were disguised as two little girls, perhaps seven, or eight years old. It disgusted the two police officers that the fiends would be so cowardly as to masquerade in bodies that they knew would be the last ones any cop would want to shoot at. The captain and Marcia had already heard about how Abe and Mike Cochran had been fooled by deception . . . and the price of that mistake. The two cops were not about to make the same error.

        "Ready?" Marcia asked.

        Getting a nod from her boss, they both used their rings and fired at the same time. The instant the beams of concentrated energy hit the creatures they vaporized completely, leaving nothing to mark their existence but a cloud of smoke. Immediately, the images of the people vanished also, leaving Marcia and Captain Long alone together on the deserted street.

        "Come on. Christine told us that Abe's plan was for the entire assault team to rendezvous back at the station once our jobs were done. Let's go."

        The last of the demons were gone and the two police officers knew they should feel elated. However, they knew the worse was yet to come . . . the final conflict with one of the most powerful entities in existence . . . Satan himself.


* * *


        With Abe floating silently nearby, Mike was on his knees . . . praying to God that his plan would work and he could indeed bring back the souls of Christine, Darlene and Gail. He knew the odds were next to impossible, but as he gazed at Christine, now held in stasis along with the two beautiful vampires, Mike could almost hear her words. Have faith!

        Yeah, Soulmate, I know... Have faith. We've both told people that same thing countless times over the years, but how does a person have faith when the probability of success looks so hopeless? Damn it, Christine! Lucifer has countless ways he can defeat me, regardless if Abe is there helping me, or not! I only have one chance, and it's a long shot at best! Mike sighed and finished up his prayer to God. With any luck, maybe He would listen. Okay, Darlin'. I'll try to have faith. But if I fail in getting you back, I've just asked God to let me go to Hell when I die. That's the only other way I know that we can still be together...


        "Okay, Abe. Let's go give the son-of-a-bitch a taste of his own medicine!"


* * *


        Mike had used the Capstone ring to transport himself to where Lucifer was going to appear. Abe, on the other hand, had used his own powers and had beaten the ESPer by almost a half second.

        "Pretty quick, aren't you?" Mike commented drily, gazing up in the sky at the heavy, evil looking black clouds that had been created by Lucifer just prior to his initial arrival. The ESPer knew that if he and Abe were successful in sending Lucifer back to Hell, the ominous looking overcast would soon be gone also. "Do you think you can use some of that speed if we need it?"

        The ghoul didn't answer. Instead, knowing that they had less than a minute before Lucifer arrived, he used his immortal powers to create another Michael Cochran, and another, and another. He made sure all the duplicates had the same ESP abilities, the same powerful Capstone ring, the same ideals and morals, and most of all . . . the same faith in God. Only after he had created ten replicas of Mike did he ask, "WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE OF THE FUTURE, HOW DID YOU KNOW I WAS GOING TO DO THIS? BACK IN MY CAVE, YOU SAID, 'A TASTE OF HIS OWN MEDICINE'... "

        Mike took a look at all his duplicates, all standing motionless . . . unanimated . . . awaiting the arrival of Lucifer and answered, "You're forgetting that Christine and I have been keeping an eye on Moore's Lake ever since you took the life of Timmy Gray and made that fat man lose all that weight. What was his name? Jesse? Abe, I've been watching you for so long, I know your routine by now. Besides, I was considering using Christine's ring and doing the same thing myself." Then Mike thought of something else that needed saying. "By the way . . . uh, the method in which you handled those situations, a lot of people think you're evil. Don't you want the people of Moore's Lake to know the truth? That if that Gray kid had survived, he would have grown up to be another Timothy McVeigh and would have blown up the United Nations building in the future? Started the third world war... Don't you want everyone to know that you actually gave that fat guy another few months of life? That he would have died of a heart attack almost right away if he hadn't come to you?"


        Mike shrugged and simply replied, "I read your mind back then. Sue me."


        Abe stopped when he and Mike felt a trembling of the Earth. It quickly grew to near earthquake scale and suddenly a bubble began to rise in the middle of the street. Street lights dimmed, and this was all accompanied by a howling of the wind that sounded too much like the moans and cries of all the tormented souls down in Hell.

        Lucifer had arrived.

        As Mike and Abe watched the earthen mound grow in size, the ESPer said, "He likes showing off, doesn't he?"

        Once more, the powerful ghoul refused to answer. He merely waved one bony hand in the direction of the duplicates and made them all come to life. The duplicates were taking notice of their surrounding when the small mountain of earth burst open and Lucifer appeared.

        To Mike, Lucifer looked even more evil, more omnipotent than he did in their last meeting. His looks were the same, he still had the powerful muscles in his torso and abdomen, the same transparent skin and horns, and the same lack of ears, but this time he somehow seemed to be more sure of himself . . . if that was possible.

        Even as the ten replicas of Mike opened up on Lucifer with PK, their Capstone rings and cosmic ray discharges from their minds, Lucifer just stood there laughing, most of the energy withering away as it slammed into his mortal form. "FOOLS! A THOUSAND MICHAEL COCHRANS CANNOT DEFEAT ME! WHY DO YOU WASTE MY TIME?" With a wave of his arm, Lucifer made all the duplicates vanish.

        "Yep, I see you're a little bit more powerful this time," Mike said, knowing Satan probably couldn't hear him. If there was one thing Mike was sure of, it was the fact that Lucifer was weakened by the sound of God's name and that was the reason for him not having ears. The ESPer was still hoping, however, that Lucifer had somehow picked up on what he was saying. "To be this strong, you must have had your Wheaties this morning, you ugly bastard." Mike let loose a burst from the Capstone Ring at the same time Abe hit Lucifer with an incredible amount of cosmic energy. The ruler of Hell merely deflected the beams back at the human and ghoul.

        Mike's mind was just able to put up a PK barrier before all that energy hit. He sent a mental thought to the ghoul. Lucifer's acting like all this isn't affecting him, but I can tell he's already weakened. Maybe five, or ten percent. Those duplicates were a good idea, Abe.


        Using powers only he was capable of, Abe make a solid block of concrete appear directly over Lucifer and let it drop. It was the size of a small car, but it still had no affect on Satan as it hit. It simply shattered against Lucifer's thick skull and grotesque horns. However, Abe was only using this as a distraction. While Lucifer's attention was diverted, the ghoul used his energies in an attempt to split Lucifer's body in half. This was while Mike used more CRD to try and punch through his defenses. All this was weakening Lucifer bit by bit.

        But then, the master of all that was evil retaliated.

        With a flick of his hand, Abe suddenly vanished. There was no flash of light and no sound at all. Abe was simply gone...

        ...and back within an instant.

        "Abe! What... "

        Then Mike was gone...


* * *


        It was like trying to move through thick tar. Mike found himself transported to a realm where he could barely move. He still had feeling in his limbs, still had the senses of hearing, smell and sight, but all this was hampered by the fact that it took every bit of his mental capabilities to simply ball his hands into fists. To make things worse, every square inch of his skin itched terribly and he knew there was no way in the world he would be able to scratch. He figured that just moving his hand up to his face would take the better part of an hour.

        Oh, yeah! This is just great! Okay, Abe got out of here, now how can I? Mike knew the first step was to get some sort of an idea of his surroundings. Without being able to move his eyes, he could only focus on what was directly ahead. All he could see was a blurred fog in near total darkness. ESP told Mike that the solution to his problem was behind him, more than likely an exit from this realm of eternal darkness and immobility. Mike hoped that was the case. He didn't know how long he could tolerate the insufferable itching.

        But how in the hell am I going to get there? It'll take me the better part of a day to just turn around! Mike tried to use the Capstone ring to transport himself back to Abe's side, but found it wouldn't work. After nearly a minute of giving it commands, all it did was begin to glow slightly. It feels like it's trying to work, but why is it reacting so damned slowly to my commands?

        Mike was trying to understand how Lucifer could have disabled the ring like this when his ESP informed him of another presence in the area . . . an evil presence. The ESPer couldn't see it, but his abilities allowed him to know that it was another demon, a big one. Yep, just when things are looking the gloomiest, something good always comes your way!

        Mike had an idea how to escape this trap, he'd just give the demon a mental suggestion to carry him to the opening and out of this dark realm.. However, before the ESPer could carry out his plan, things suddenly got much worse. Lucifer appeared directly in front of him, or rather his specter. Satan looked like something that crawled out of Mike's worse nightmare. Clearly, Lucifer's body held no mass . . . for the most part, Mike could see right through him. Instead of taking the shape of a humanoid, Lucifer now had a huge body covered with probably as many as a hundred slimy looking tentacles with sharp claws on the end of each. The devil's head was the shape of a very large spider . . . pincers included. They were dripping with venom.

        The ESPer knew all this expenditure of energy would soon be wearing Lucifer down. Mike also knew that the trick was to defeat this gruesome looking phantom as quick as possible, escape, and then use Lucifer's weakened condition as an advantage. Mike was afraid if he didn't defeat Lucifer soon, he might find himself as a permanent guest in Hell.

        While he tried to think of a way out of this mess, Mike decided to taunt the devil a little, maybe even forcing him to act irrationally.

        How can you afford to waste all your energy like this? Mike shot out with his mind. Do you really think I can be intimidated by your looks? Hell, if that were the case, I would have given up the first time I ever laid eyes on you. Trust me, Lucifer, you were always one ugly looking son-of-a-bitch.

        Mike didn't know if it was irrational behavior or not, but Lucifer rushed towards him with tentacles extended. Still being able to barely move and still itching like he had poison oak, the ESPer defended himself with the only power Lucifer could not completely control . . . the human mind.

        A PK barrier sprang up halfway between the mortal and the devil. When Lucifer hit it, showers of sparks lit up the darkness enough so Mike could see where he was at.

        I'm still in Moore's Lake! There's Abe over there, still fighting with the real Lucifer! And they both look like they're frozen!

        While Lucifer struggled to get through the ESP barrier, Mike's mind raced to make some sort of sense to all of this. Then the answer came to him. That bastard has me trapped in some sort of temporal dimension, he thought. That's why I'm moving so damned slow and that's probably why the ring doesn't respond to my mental commands. I'm telling it what to do faster than it can carry my wishes out. And every time I change commands, it disregards the last!

        Mike gave up on his original idea to use the demon to help him escape and gave the Capstone ring a command to transport him out of this realm of time distortion. All he had to do now was survive long enough so the ring would have time to carry out his command.

        Lucifer's specter, having wasted entirely too much energy, finally broke through the PK shield and rushed forward. Tentacles immediately wrapped around Mike with their claws tearing into his back and legs. Intense pain shot up through Mike's spine to his brain. With all his concentration now focused on overcoming the agony caused by the razor-sharp claws, Mike knew his ESP was going to be severely hampered.

        The spider head of Lucifer closed to within inches of Mike's face, its breath rancid. Just as the pincers were about close, the Capstone ring finally activated.

        Mike vanished from Lucifer's grasp...


* * *


        ...and reappeared beside Abe within an instant of his initial departure. Hardly any time had elapsed at all while he was trapped in the other realm. The moment Mike had his bearings, he began using his mental powers to heal all his injuries. It only took a moment before he was completely restored once more to perfect health.

        "DID YOU ENJOY YOURSELF?" Abe asked, barely able to deflect one of Lucifer's wild energy balls. Immediately, Abe retaliated and sent a wave of time distortion back his way. It took some doing, but Lucifer managed to block most of the energy. Still, the king of Hell was starting to stagger. The continuous onslaught from the ghoul and the mortal was slowly wearing Lucifer down.

        "Yeah," the ESPer replied as he used the combined powers of PK and the Capstone ring to pick the devil off the ground and slam him back onto the hard concrete. "Nothing like a little vacation to get away from it all."


        Mike didn't have the chance to answer. Right after Abe had asked the question, he got hit by an exploding fireball and went down. His robes caught on fire and his skeleton scattered all over the pavement. However, it only took him a moment to reform himself and resume the fight. Mike could see the ghoul was severely weakened. After making sure his friend was all right, the ESPer replied, "I had the Capstone ring transport me back. Hey, Lucifer just about wore himself completely out by attempting to trap us in that other realm. Have you noticed he's much weaker now? This might be our chance!"

        Abe understood the significance of that statement and wasn't surprised to see Mike's face distort slightly while he concentrated on Lucifer. Abe didn't understand what it was Mike was doing, only that it was the same thing the ESPer had done to the two demons back in the cave.

        At first, there seemed to be no difference in Lucifer's appearance except that he seemed to know something was upsetting him greatly. Satan was still managing to defend himself against Abe's awesome powers. But then something strange happened. Just before Abe fired a burst of massive time distortion, Lucifer suddenly put both hands to the sides of his head and fell to his knees in obvious pain. Abe's temporal energy was then able to hit him full force and the effect was amazing.

        The ruler of all that was evil turned into a chaotic display of time wrenching movements. His arms took the position they were in just seconds before, while his torso, head and legs fell back into different times to where they were minutes before. In essence, Lucifer's entire body was being ripped apart.


        Mike couldn't answer. All his will power, all his inner strength were being devoted to sending a mental projection of mammoth proportions into the mind of Lucifer. Waves of mental energy could now be seen coming from the mortal's head and arms . . . all of which were aimed directly at Lucifer's oval-shaped head.

        Curious, Abe focused on the energy and was amazed to discover it was all of a religious nature. The ESPer was projecting thoughts of God into Lucifer's mind. Images of Lucifer on his knees and praying to The Almighty, Lucifer in church receiving Holy Communion . . . it was all there. On and on it went, the mortal exhausting himself even as he made the immortal entity weaker and weaker with each passing second. Unless Mike passed out from the mental strain, Abe saw no need for further attacks on Lucifer and ceased the time distortions. Satan was on the verge of defeat and Abe was much too weak to continue much longer anyway. The ghoul's powers were all but depleted. He needed time to restore all his spectral energy.

        Suddenly Mike stopped. This surprised Abe and he asked, "HE'S NOT VULNERABLE TO THE POINT HE CAN BE SENT BACK TO HELL. WHY DID YOU STOP?"

        Gasping for breath, silently praying for physical and spiritual strength, Mike went over to Lucifer. Reeling as he walked, the ESPer replied in a low voice, "He's got something I want."

        The human picked the fallen form of Lucifer up by the horns and delivered him a round-house blow to the jaw. Still holding on, Mike hit him again, this time in the mouth. Repugnant looking black blood spewed from the gaping hole. "Bring them . . . back!" Mike gasped. It was not a request.

        "NO! THEY ARE MINE!"

        Mike drove a knee into Lucifer's abdomen, then gave him an uppercut to the throat. Lucifer was so weak, he had no choice but to take it. Satan knew the little bit of his energy that remained had to be used in retreating back to his domain. But Mike would not give him the chance to bring forth the vortex. In addition to the physical abuse, Mike was once again sending out intense waves of mental images. This time, with the devil being much weaker, Mike didn't have to concentrate nearly as hard as before. He could now torture Lucifer with only the slightest of thoughts.

        Lucifer's hideous face was quickly mutating into something that resembled hamburger on the store shelves. Mike was beating him to a pulp. "Bring them back . . . now! I want Gail back!" Mike hit Lucifer in the mouth again. "I want Darlene!" ...a knee to the stomach... "I want Christine back!" uppercut to the head... "I want them all back!" The mortal continued delivering blow after blow to the body of Lucifer. He was so tired, Mike knew his punches were becoming less and less effective, but he didn't let that fact detour him. He wouldn't stop until Lucifer submitted. If Mike ever wanted to see the three ladies again, he knew he couldn't stop.

        It was then Satan had an idea that might save his immortal soul. Raising a hand to stop the punishment, he said in a very weak voice, "YES... YOU SHALL HAVE THEM."

        Mike, overwhelmed with emotion and amazed that it could have been this easy, had to help Lucifer to his feet and even aid him in raising his arm to conjure up the vortex. "Don't try to escape, Lucifer. If you somehow manage to go through that vortex, I swear I'll go right with you to Hell and torment your damned soul for all eternity! Just bring them all back!"

        But Lucifer didn't have the strength left to bring up the maelstrom that constituted the gateway to Hell. Seeing this, Abe used the last of his power to assist Satan. Working together, the vortex appeared.

        Ghostly images appeared deep inside the dreadful looking orifice that bridged the gap between the dimensions of Heaven, Hell and Earth. Closer and closer they came until, with a gust of foul air in their wake, souls and bodies burst through the opening.


        Understanding the reason right away, the ESPer used the ring to make the inert bodies of Christine, Darlene and Gail appear a few feet away. The bodies of Susan Moore, Dave Broderick and the ten year old girl, Betty Fleagle came through the opening along with their souls. But the souls of the two vampires and Christine needed bodies to return to.

        They had them.

        Slowly, all six of Lucifer's victims rose to their feet. Christine, seeing her soulmate standing there waiting to see if she was all right, fell into his waiting arms right away. They were together again . . . and to Mike and Christine, it was almost like being in Heaven.

        While Mike was distracted with his soulmate, while Abe was still trying to restore his powers, Lucifer used the opportunity to gather a little strength from the vortex. He knew he could never hope to defeat the ghoul and Michael Cochran in this battle, but it was his goal to gather enough energy from the souls in Hell to deliver the group one fatal blow before he escaped. Still in a prone position, he silently gathered strength as he watched the lone immortal, the two undead and the two mortals talk. When he noticed Abe and Mike discussing something between themselves, and the three women huddled in a group . . . Lucifer made his move.

        Jumping to his feet, Satan raised both hands and prepared to use every last bit of energy he could muster to fire a cosmic discharge. His target . . . the three women.

        Abe saw Lucifer's sudden movement and knew there was only one thing he could do. The exhausted ghoul hurled himself at Lucifer and collided with him at the same instant Satan fired. Abe's momentum carried them both into the vortex, but not before the ghoul was blown completely in half by the cosmic force.

        Watching the vortex as it slowly shrank in size, Mike and the three ladies were stunned. Abe had just sacrificed himself to save the lives of three of his friends.

        "Can he get back?" Darlene asked, full of grief.

        "I don't see how," replied Mike, as he looked over to Christine and saw her nodding in agreement. "He was awfully weak when he left here and you've got to remember that he can't gather strength from all the souls in Hell like Lucifer can. He may be stuck there forev... "

        "Mike! We've got to make sure Lucifer can't get back either! Give me back my ring! Maybe we can use it to... "

        The ESPer cut her off by raising his hand and said, "We don't even have to do that. Abe and I were just discussing how we could trap Lucifer in Hell. He told me all I would have to do is set it up whereas the barrier that surrounds Hell has same religious overtones as the thought projections I defeated him with. But I've got to do it before the vortex completely disappears, or else... "

        "Then do it! Now! Don't let Abe's soul be wasted for nothing! Hurry!"

        The meaning behind Darlene's words were not lost on Mike. He knew how she felt. And she's right, he thought to himself. It's all our faults that Abe had to sacrifice himself that way. If only we had all been paying more attention... With a sigh, Mike began sending thought projections into the vortex. The energies emanating from his head and arms were so strong, they actually rippled the air and distorted light itself as they travelled through the opening. Mike didn't stop until the vortex was completely closed almost two minutes later. He then fell to his knees in total exhaustion.

        However, Mike knew his physical and mental conditions weren't important. It hurt to think about Abe's demise and where he would spend eternity, but everyone knew that the crucial goal had been accomplished . . . Lucifer was back in Hell and would remain there for a very long time.

        "Christine, there's one last thing to do," Mike said, motioning towards the two beautiful vampires. "Now that Lucifer is gone, the overcast sky won't last for long. Use your ring and transport Gail and Darlene back to their cavern before the sun comes out and they're burnt to a crisp."

        As she followed the advice, Mike could see the tears forming in her eyes. In her heart, she knew Abe was destined for an eternity of damnation.


* * *


        That evening, Mike and Christine were preparing to leave. Everyone was in the caves going over their plans for the future and saying their farewells.

        Darlene and Gail were the first ones to state their intentions. "Captain, since Abe is gone and can't offer us the safety of his tomb any longer, there's no sense in Gail and me staying. Anyway, Gail is okay now and the protection everyone gave us is no longer necessary. We've decided when Bret returns from California next month, we're going to be on our way."

        "You know you can stay if you want to. My team would be happy to remain as your guards, at least during the daylight hours when you're asleep."

        "We know that, Captain. All of you are like our family, but it's asking too much without Abe here to back you up if needed. No, if Abe were still around, it would be a different story, but Gail and I have discussed this at some length and it's too dangerous for everyone if we stay. We both agree that it would be best for everyone if we just go. This town has been through enough... " Darlene stopped short when she looked over at Matt. She could see in his mind that he was heartbroken and went over to give him some comfort. Everyone understood and left them alone.

        Gail took that opportunity to go over to the person who had given her back her sanity and said, "I owe you more than I can ever repay, Michael Cochran. In essence, you've given me back my life. I realize this isn't much in the way of an offer, but if there's ever anything I can do for you, just tell me."

        Automatically, Mike glanced over towards Darlene and for an instant, thought about the future that might have been. He quickly looked away from the beautiful vampress though when his ESP told him Gail was picking up on his thoughts.

        "Darlene loves you, you know. She'll never tell you because she doesn't want to destroy the relationship you and Christine share . . . but she does. You'll always be a part of her, Mike. Never forget that. Maybe some day... "

        Yeah, Gail, I know. Abe already told me a little about that...

        While Gail and Mike were occupied, Christine was busy collecting all the copies of her Capstone ring. There was no way in the world she could let this much power be distributed to those who didn't know how to use it properly. The assault team members all sympathized with Christine's concerns and gave them up willingly . . . gladly. After she had transferred their power back into her own ring, she returned them to everyone to keep as mementos of their most exciting adventure. "Captain, I suppose this means that the people of Moore's Lake are free now to leave town if they wish. Without Abe... " Christine let her voice trail off. She wasn't sure if this was the right subject to talk about this soon after the ghoul's demise.

        But the captain fully understood. "I doubt if anyone will be leaving. After all, life under Abe's restrictions wasn't all that bad. So what if anyone born here couldn't leave town? This is the place everyone chose to live out their lives before Abe ever made his presence known. It didn't change too much under his rule. Moore's Lake is a good little town. I'm sure people will realize that."

        After retrieving their rings once again, Marcia, Sergeant Baker and Charles Peterson went off in a corner to discuss some matter in private. When they were unable to come to an agreement, they went over to the main group. Marcia was the one who spoke up first. "Hey, everyone! Listen up for a second. Sarge, Mr. Peterson and I were just talking about what we should do with Abe's bones. Sergeant Baker and I think we should have a funeral for Abe and have them buried with honors in the cemetery. Mr. Peterson thinks they should be buried in a secret location to stop "trophy" hunters from digging them up. Does anyone else want to share their opinion?"

        At first, everyone looked at Mike to see if he had anything to say. He simply shook his head and said, "I think it should be Captain Long who makes the decision. Not only is he in charge here, but he's also a town official."

        "Captain? What do you think is best?" Marcia prodded.

        Captain Roscoe Long was getting tired of making all the decisions for the town and hoped that some day Moore's Lake had a mayor with a little backbone. He began to think in terms of retirement as he replied, "Tell you what . . . why don't we leave Abe's bones in his tomb, and simply seal the cave after Darlene and Gail are gone? We can place some extended-life sensors in here that will pick up body heat and alert us if the cave is broken into. Until then, I suggest we simply close the door to the tomb. It will still be guarded for the next couple of weeks until Bret returns to pick up our two lovely vampires. Anyone have any problems with that?"

        No one did.

        The conversations continued for a little while longer until there just didn't seem to be anything more to say except good-bye.

        Mike worked his way over to Christine and took her hand. Only then did he use another one of his talents to give them all a little gift. The gift of health. The powerful ESPer knew they would never know about their little reward for being such good people, but then again, Mike really didn't want them to know. With his mind, he took away every impurity in their bodies, every germ, every bacteria . . . and when he was through, even Charles Peterson, who was in the first stages of cancer from smoking too much . . . was now in perfect health. Barring accidents and the like, each of them would live for a long, long time.

        Take care, everyone, he shot out to each of their minds. Then, with another quick glance in Darlene's direction, he gave Christine's hand a little squeeze. With just a hint of mental suggestion, she ordered the ring to transport them away. In a flash of light, they were gone.

        As soon as Mike and Christine had vanished, Darlene ran back to her motor home and began crying. Every fiber of her being was telling her that she had just made the biggest mistake of her life.


* * *


        It was only a week after the battle with Lucifer when Chris Derksen and Cindy Guye decided to go to the tomb. They were the first visitors the tomb had seen except for Darlene, Gail and, of course, the assault team members who were still temporarily guarding the two vampires.

        With the departure of Abe, the two kids finally reasoned it was safe to at last put some type of closure to the sudden loss of Timmy Gray. They would never know their friend's death had been necessary. They would never know how treacherous their friend would have grown up to be if Abe had not taken away his life. The two kids would always remain in the dark that Timmy's death had saved the lives of over two hundred government workers and foreign nationals who would be working in the United Nations building twenty-three years in the future.

        All they knew was that it had taken almost a year for them to work up the courage to visit the tomb. Even with Abe gone, they still felt fear as they made their way through the cave. It was silly to be afraid, they both knew. According to the newspapers, there was even a cop still guarding the place somewhere up ahead They had no idea what it was that was making them so terrified.

        "How much further do you think it is?" Cindy asked, shining her flashlight around the ceiling in search of bats.

        "According to the articles in the paper, the tunnel is only supposed to be about a hundred yards in length. I'd say we've already gone over fifty, maybe sixty... "

        It was then they spotted a light up ahead. They suspected it to be the lantern the guards used when they were on duty.

        "Hello!" Chris called out, not wanting to be mistook for a grave robber and possibly winding up being shot. "Anyone up there?"

        A few moments later, Marcia Lewis came into view with a flashlight of her own. She had one hand on the butt of her weapon and the flashlight trained on their faces as she asked, "Why are you here? It was plainly reported in the newspapers that Darlene and Gail are not accepting visitors."

        "We're not here to see the vampires. We wanted to see the tomb before it's sealed." Cindy could tell by Marcia's expression that they were about to be turned away, so she quickly added, "We were friends of Timothy Gray, the kid Abe killed last year. We're not here to do anything wrong, we just wanted to see the tomb where Timmy made his wish. That's all."

        "That's bull. You're here because your friend is dead and you're looking for revenge. What did you plan to do, scatter Abe's bones all over the place and run home like scared little rabbits?"

        "No! We... "

        There was a noise behind Marcia. Spinning, she drew her weapon and took in a breath when she saw who it was.

        "Darlene! Gail! I thought you two were back in your cavern! My God! You scared the hell outta me!"

        "Sorry about that," Gail said. "We were back there packing a few things when our minds picked up the fear of these two youngsters. We thought we would come out to help them."

        "Let them pass, Marcia," suggested Darlene. "Reading their minds, we see that they aren't intending to do any harm. More than anything else, they're here to try and experience the fear that their friend went through when he came to see Abe. They just want to try and understand his death a little more, that's all."

        Outnumbered, Marcia agreed. "All right. Let's all take a last look at the tomb together."

        The heavy tombstone that passed for a door to Abe's crypt was too heavy for the kids to move. Darlene, using her immortal strength, opened it with one hand. The adults stayed outside and watched closely as the two teenagers stepped over the mortal remains of Abraham Wilkes and entered the tomb. Cindy had her hands clenched tightly and couldn't peel her eyes away from the skeleton. Both of the kids were beginning to understand how terrified Timmy must have been when he entered the cave on his own so long ago.

        Suddenly there was a slight noise from the corner of the tomb.

        Scared out of their minds, Chris and Cindy spun around to see Abe floating a foot off the ground directly behind them. There was a swirling array of stars that surrounded his skeletal body. The brown robe that covered his bones looked to be made of heavy burlap and the material had holes and smears of dirt all over.

        Chris let out a loud gasp that was drowned out by his friend's scream.


        Chris and Cindy took off like scared little rabbits. A second later they were past the three ladies, running towards the cave's exit.

        Marcia and Gail just stared at the now twice-resurrected Abe, too astounded to speak.  The expressions on their faces were a mixture of joy and overwhelming amazement.

        Darlene took in the surprising development with a little more composure.  She simply smiled at the ghoul, shook her head in wonder and started walking back to her motor home.  "I'll see you guys later.  I've got some unpacking to do... "

        As the beautiful vampress walked through the tunnel that led to her cavern, she was thinking about Chris and Cindy and how scared they had been at the sight of Abe's sudden reappearance.  That's when she heard a deep, rumbling laughter.  Darlene knew it could only have come from one entity.  Welcome back, Abe! she thought, knowing the ghoul would pick it up.  Did you kick 'ole Lucifer in the butt once or twice for me too?  Appropriately enough, the next laugh had an sinister ring to it, as though it had originated straight from the depths of Hell.  It was loud, echoing off the cavern walls and probably heard outside the cave and into the woods as well.  Smiling, Darlene knew those two teenagers now had to be running away from Abe's tomb a little faster.




The End



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