“Alright,” Mike said as he finished his hash browns, “we need to find a Michoacana.”

“A what?” Trish asked.

“A Michoacana. It’s like… It’s like a Mexican meat market.”

“Why do we need to find that?” I asked.

“Since you asked, Jacob, you noob, I need some cleaning supplies.”

That was how we prepared for our first cleansing as a team. Every time after that Mike would take us through the same “pre game”, as he called it. We would get breakfast/lunch at an IHOP or Waffle House and then find a Michoacana to get Mike’s supplies.

Trish had a few friends in the demonology business. One of them, who apparently preferred to work alone, pointed us towards Juniper.

Juniper Park was located in Hoffman Estates, Illinois – about an hour outside of Chicago. According to him there was a family living near the park that had been experiencing poltergeist activity. He was off somewhere else in the country working on another case and felt like this one needed immediate attention.

“Alright, you guys know the drill,” Mike said unlocking the doors on his black Chevy Cavalier.

“I’m on it.” Trish pulled out her phone and started searching for the nearest Michoacana. I just sat in the back by myself, and tried to slip into a nap.

“You know,” Mike said as he backed out of the IHOP parking lot, “as a psychic shouldn’t you be able to just sense one of these places out?”

“Well as a dick, shouldn’t you be unable to speak?”

Mike just laughed as we made our way to the place. My parents said that when I was a baby they used to drive me around town to get me to sleep. They said it was the only thing that worked. Even though Mike was the worst driver I knew, I still managed to get rocked to sleep by all of the potholes we hit.

Lesson 1

“Lesson 1,” Mike told me as we sat outside of the Bachman family house in 2008, “the client always pays upfront.”

“That’s awfully shitty. What if there’s nothing there?”

“Oh, Jacob.” Mike shook his head. “There is always something there. Spirits wander and linger all the time. Now, whether or not they’re malicious is an entirely different thing. More often than not, when we investigate the spirits are benign. But the simple fact is nobody wants granny or grampy wearing out their welcome. We help the spirits move on. It’s not like we’re going in there waving incense and lighting candles just for fun. We’re working, Jacob. That said, we get paid upfront.”

Trish put a hand over her face and we got out of the car. The Bachman case was fairly simple. The mother had noticed her daughter talking to an imaginary friend she called Nicholas. Over time, as it often does, the imaginary friend thing started to lose it’s charm. A few plates had been known to fall off of counters on their own. The daughter then approached her mother one day and asked her about “Grandpa Cheryl”.

“You see,” Mrs. Bachman had told us during the preliminary interview, “My father was… A drag queen during the 80s.”

“I see. Go on,” Mike said, barely managing a grin.

“Well… My father came out pretty late into his life. My mother obviously wasn’t happy. He moved to Vegas and joined a show there. He died at 68 of a heart attack just after a chorus line performance . His stage name was Cheryl.” Mrs. Bachman started sobbing. Clearly the subject of her father was a sore one.

“And you think this spirit has something to do with his death?”

“No but… I didn’t want my daughter to know, at least not this young. And whatever this thing is, it’s trying to get to me. It’s broken plates, it’s moved things around the house. I just want it gone before it causes any more trouble.”

Mike assured her we would get it done and that night we started our investigation. Before trying to make contact with the spirit, he lit a few Virgin Mary candles from the Michoacana. We each held one and Mike put one in each room of the house. He salted the windows and doors except for the front door.

“It’s important,” he told me, “that we drive it out of the front door. It’s symbolic or something, and the only way to kick it out permanently… I think.”

We walked around with our candles for most of the night. Trish explained that spirits tended to shy away from a new presence. She started calling out for Nicholas.

"Nicholas? Are you here? We're here on the behalf of Cheryl and her daughter."

"Hey Nick! Look over here!" Mike grabbed my sleeve. "I've got some premium man meat over here! Come get a piece!"

"Mike, what the hell?" Trish scowled at him. "Don't antagonize the spirits."

Apparently it worked, though. According to Trish – the only one of us able to see or speak with ghosts – Nick wasn't very happy with Mike. After a few minutes of calling Mike a homophobe, Trish was able to calm Nick down.The spirit was one Nicholas Merchant, a former lover of Grandpa Cheryl. According to the spirit the two of them were supposed to meet in the afterlife. After wandering aimlessly, he ended up at Grandpa Cheryl’s old home. The fact was that he was a benign spirit and after talking the matter out with him, he moved on. The Bachman family was forever grateful and we left with a little bit of cash in our pockets.

Lesson 2

"These are some very old friends of mine," Trish said. "Please, please don't embarrass me. I'm talking to you Michael."

"What? You know Jacob is here too!" He wrapped an arm around my neck and pulled me close. "He's a goddamned troublemaker. Can't trust the quiet ones, as they say."

"You could learn a thing or two from Jacob," she said as we got into the car. "Now, they invited us to this because I told them we wanted to learn. There's always a chance we could run into something like this, and it helps to be prepared. People need to take us seriously."

"Hey that butt-ghost was plenty serious." Mike lit a cigarette and rolled down the window of his crappy Cavalier.

"I don't think it's really appropriate to call him a 'butt-ghost', Mike," I said leaning my head back, trying to get some rest.

"Quiet and politically correct... Are you some subgenre of hipster, Jacob?"

"Are you some subgenre of jackass, Michael?"

"Okay, you and Trish need to stop spending so much time together."

I fell asleep on the long drive to Connecticut. The people we were going to see were first class demonologists. They had degrees in theology and had all but memorized every holy book there was. If I had to guess, I think Trish wanted us to be more like that. While I was all for learning, Mike was fairly stubborn about it. He liked to play the rebel, or something idiotic like that. When we arrived, Trish woke me up with a light shake of my shoulder.

"Jacob, wake up. We're here."

I wiped crusted drool off of my face.

"Bad dream? You were making a face while you slept."

"It's nothing. It was... I dreamt a 'butt-ghost' was after me."

"Hey Jacob, wipe the jizz off your face and let's go!" Mike called.

"Mike, please don't talk like that. Not today."

"Ah, so you’re Michael." The priest held out his hand to Mike. He introduced himself as Father Davidson.

"Sorry, Father." Trish gave a curt bow. "This here is Jacob. He's the newest addition to the crew."

"Jacob: he who wrestles with God." The father smiled and took my hand. "It is a pleasure to meet you, my son. I have heard good things about you. I trust you have all brought the talismans?"

We reached beneath our shirts and pulled out the rosaries.

"Ha, ha. You're really not supposed to wear them, but it will do. Of course, these will only protect you if you have faith in them." Turning to Mike, "Do you have faith, my son?"

"Of course I do." Mike looked sternly into the eyes of the priest. "I subscribe to the faith that's all about money..." He smiled and gave the father a light jab in the shoulder. "I'm Catholic just like you."

"This is serious, Michael. I don't believe I can allow you in the room if this is how you're going to behave. The devil will take your humor as a weakness and use it against you. He has many tricks and will manipulate you in every way. I ask you again, do you have faith?"

"Father, I have faith. It may not be your faith, but have my beliefs." Mike took the rosary off and held it in his hand. He started saying the prayers, starting with the act of contrition.

"Very good. All of you, come. Please do not be taken aback by what you will see. I promise all of this is a necessity and you will find out why soon enough."

With those words we followed Father Davidson. Walking through the church, past all of the empty pews was surreal. I hadn't been in a church for years. I imagined old women praying, taking to their knees out of desperation and devotion. That's the kind of woman my grandmother was.

We walked up to the altar. Following Father Davidson's lead, we each took a knee and did a quick sign of the cross out of respect. Behind the altar was a hallway that lead to the rectory and to rooms for the CCE classes. The rectory was essentially a small office lined with many books. It was dimly lit and on one shelf there was a candle burning with an image of the Virgin Mary printed on the side.

Mike nudged me. "See, told you they were legit."

There was a door in the rectory that led to a descending staircase. The light there was even worse. Only two bulbs lit the way – one at the top and one at the bottom. In between there was about ten feet of pure darkness. And at the bottom was a large metal door that almost looked older than the father. He turned to face us, and I noticed that the air was cold.

"Hold steady to your faith and God will protect you. Do not engage it, do not listen. These men are professionals and they will handle this. Stay back and observe."

As soon as the large door eased open just an inch we heard crying. At the center of the room, secured to the bed with a chain and metal collar was a little girl. Two young men stood on either side of the bed, bibles in hand praying quietly to themselves.

"Please!" she cried out. "Get me out! They're going to touch me again! Please!"

Almost involuntarily I rushed toward the bed. I pictured in my mind all of the things they had been doing to that poor girl. She was chained to a bed. This kind of filth could not go on!

One of the men hit me in the head with his bible and I fell back. I shook off the shock and looked into the face of the man who struck me. He simply nodded toward the girl and continued praying. I looked at her. Her face was angular, like the skin had been stretched tight over her bones. Her green eyes were dilated severely, almost looking black.

"Got your nose!" In her hand she held a human nose, blood and cartilage hanging from it. I put a hand to my face and my fingers slipped into my sinus cavity. The inside of my skull felt like uncooked ground beef.

The thing on the bed laughed as Trish and Mike stood me up. I kept shouting and slapping at my face, trying to find my nose in vain. Mike picked up the rosary I had dropped and put it back in my hand. He then grabbed my nose hard between his fingers.

"You're fine! It's still here! You're fine!"

I calmed down and looked at the thing on the bed. Smiling wide with a mouth full of dirty, yellow teeth it began to purr like a large feline.

“They influence your mind,” Father Davidson told us over coffee later that night. The demon was still screaming at the top of its lungs in the other room. “Almost nothing you see or feel in their presence is real. That bit with your nose, for example.”

“Yeah,” I said, feeling embarrassed. “That must be where the phrase ‘throw the book at you’ came from.”

“That’s pretty clever, Jacob.”

“Why did you guys chain her up that way?” Mike asked.

“That’s the way we found her. When her father reached out to us, he was in a very fragile state. The demon had been tormenting him through his daughter for a week. It finally attacked him, biting at his throat and injuring him severely. He was able to bandage himself and bound her with chains. He was then able to improvise the collar you saw, engraving crosses around it to keep the beast at bay. The poor man was afraid.”

“That name that it gave,” Trish asked, “what did that mean?”

“Ah. It was a corruption of the name: Hey Chet Shin. That’s one of the seventy-two names of God in Hebrew. Each one is like a different aspect of God’s power.”

“What power is Hey Chet Shin?”

“The removal of guilt.”

Juniper: Preliminaries

The house was quaint. Every time we pulled up to a home I compared it in my mind to the Amityville House. This one was much smaller. It had a second floor but didn’t seem to reach much higher than necessary. The paint needed some attention, as it had started to chip in places. The maroon color had also begun to fade. Grass was starting to breach parts of the sidewalk and the overcast skies didn't help the aesthetic.

Mrs. Landon met us at the door and led us to the living room. The smell was something like Pinesol and potpourri. On a large brown sofa sat Mr. Landon. He was a typical man in his late forties. His brown hair was combed back, barely hiding how thin it was getting or the greys growing here and there. His wife sat next to him, her brunette curls bobbing lightly. They both had the same haggard looks. Their eyes were desperate for sleep. Whenever they would blink it would last a little too long.

"Mr. And Mrs. Landon," Mike began, "please give us a history of the activity. We're like doctors that way. We need the symptoms to identify the problem."

The couple exchanged glances. Mr. Landon sighed and gave a small nod.

"It started almost a year ago," Mrs. Landon said.

"A whole year?" I asked.

"See that's just it," Mr. Landon chimed in, "we didn't notice it then."

"It could go back even further than that." Mrs. Landon took a breath and the two told their story.

Last year our daughter turned thirteen. She had hit puberty and everything. She started getting interested in boys. She finally hit that age where kids are really embarrassed by their parents. So we got her to box up all of the stuffed animals and things she had been piling in her closet. My husband and I took the boxes to the basement. We knew one day when she was older she might want them and even if not, they would always be nostalgic to us.

One thing she did hold on to was a stuffed rabbit. The rabbit had a friend, a bear, named Ruffles. The bear went down into the basement with the rest of the toys. The rabbit stayed in its place on our daughter's dresser.

"They're best friends," she told us once, "Ruffles and Pringles!"

Well every so often our daughter, Sara, would storm out of her room holding Ruffles and screaming about how she wasn't a kid anymore. She'd throw us the bear and we’d put it back in the basement. We talked about it and neither one of us had moved the bear. So we decided Sara must have done it. She had probably taken the bear back and then felt childish about it, hence the childlike temper tantrum.

Eventually that stopped all together, with Ruffles staying put in Sara's room. But after a few months of nothing the bear started to move again. It showed up in our shower, on our nightstand, in our laundry. But the strangest part was that every time we would return it to Sara she would look at it vacantly, and thank us in a monotone voice.

Lately the bear has been active again. Only now it doesn't just move, it shows up where something happens. My husband's work has been very stressful lately and we've gotten into more than a few arguments. And every time there's a quiet shuffling noise and then the bear is there. He'll be sitting on a table or our bed just watching us. And last week a picture of the family here in the living room shattered while we were watching TV. It didn’t fall, the glass just broke. And there was that damn bear, sitting on the floor under it. And lately we’ve been hearing things in the walls. We called an exterminator but he couldn’t find anything.

What bothers me most is we haven’t seen the bear in three days. Sara hasn’t seen it anywhere, and she doesn’t seem to care much. At this point I’d rather have it moving room to room than not knowing where it is.

“Alright,” Mike finished taking notes and sat back. “We’ll be more than happy to take your case. It’d be best to get your family out of the house while we investigate. Depending on the strength and intent of the entity it could last anywhere from a day to a week. Find a hotel and we’ll start tonight.”

“Thank you,” Mrs. Landon teared up and Mr. Landon put an arm around her.

“We appreciate this,” Mr. Landon said. “This… I just want to protect my family. And I feel like there’s nothing I can do.”

“You definitely made the right call, reaching out to us. Now,” Mike said, “There’s the matter of the money.”

Once the family was packed up and shipped off we set up our equipment. We had come a long way since the Bachman case. With a lot of the money we had earned from our work we were able to afford motion detectors, small cameras, and emf readers. Mike still lit his candles and placed one in each room. We also developed the habit of each carrying a rosary when we worked.

The first night was uneventful. Using our phones as voice recorders we tried asking questions in each room. “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?” Nothing we tried got any sort of response. Mike tried antagonizing the spirit but nothing came of it. With nothing else to do Trish walked around the house with her incense and spoke to the spirit pleading it to move on. Mike wanted to tell the family the house was clean.

“I mean, nothing happened. We can tell them it’s gone and if it does come back, we can get a second bite at the apple.”

The Possession Complex

“Mike, you’re a terrible human being,” Trish said.

He smirked and headed for the bar to get another drink.

“How did you two meet, anyway?” I asked. “It seems like you two don’t particularly like each other.”

“We’ve actually been friends for long time.” Trish smiled.

She didn’t smile often, which was sad given how cute she was. Trish was actually a few years older than me, but looked much younger. Her hair was black like mine, but so much darker. And her eyes almost seemed to match her hair most of the time. They were brown, to be clear, but were just so dark. I had seen them change on the job when she was in touch with a spirit. Those eyes could go from a chestnut with excitement to black with melancholy. And her skin was pale, but in a pleasant ivory sort of way. I told her as much once, when I was too drunk to know better. Trish told me that no matter how hard she tried to tan, she only burned.

“Mike and I were childhood friends, actually. We had a thing, I guess you could say.”

“He’s a lucky guy.”

“He was a lucky guy. Now though… I almost feel sorry for dragging him into all this. Around junior year of high school my abilities intensified and started to interfere with my day-to-day. But Mike always hung around. Even after we broke up, he wouldn’t leave. After graduation, he started learning everything he could about demonology. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, Mike has a problem with rules. So he started to piece together his own way of doing things.”

“Like the candles?”

“Ha, ha. Exactly. He used to do this thing when he was a kid. I think he considered it some sort of game? But he would drag me out into this field behind our neighborhood and we’d catch grasshoppers. I hated bugs, so I guess he was either teasing me or trying to toughen me up. Mike would bring these film canisters from home to catch them with. He would sneak up on them and then pounce like a cat. He’d always yell: ‘I’m a ninja’, whenever he caught one.”

“I’m so using that against him someday.”

“Feel free,” she laughed. “You know, I think that catching grasshoppers might have actually made my fear of bugs worse. Every now and then I have nightmares about bugs swarming me. And every time it sounds like bugs beating on the inside of plastic.” Trish shivered. “That sound is the worst thing ever.”

“I’d have to disagree. The worst sound in the world is the sound of silverware on someone’s teeth.”

“Jacob, you know how we leave the front door of a home unsalted? The real reason we do that is to give the spirit an out. If you back something into a corner and there’s no way out, it’ll do its damnedest to go through you. Remember that.”

“Get a room you two.” Mike sat down, chugged a beer, and lit a cigarette in less than thirty seconds.

“We were actually talking about work,” I said, sipping at my vodka and cranberry.

“Well in that case,” Mike took a long drag of his cigarette, “I was thinking about something.”

“We all know how dangerous that can be.” Trish rolled her eyes.

“No listen, what if people that are possessed aren’t really… you know, possessed?

“Did we not witness an exorcism? We all know these things exist, so please, tell me how it’s not real.”

“Trish, I’m serious. What if these people aren’t really being controlled by a demon? I think I remember something about how the devil can only whisper in your ear, not work you like a puppet. So what if that’s all it is, just some really convincing whisper? What if everything a ‘possessed’ person does is just the manifestation of all of their inner evil? Like, what if the demon just says the word and these people reveal their true self? All it takes is a whisper.”

“I still have to agree with Trish. That’s just not possible.”

“Right…” Mike looked lost in thought for a minute. Then he laughed. “I really should not have gotten high after we left that house.”

Trish gave him a light shove and he went flailing off of the bench.

“You’re just too beautiful,” I told her. Trish smiled and shot me a wink.

Juniper: Imploring and Imperative Formulae

The second night at the Landon home was more eventful. We did our usual routine, salting the windows and lighting candles. Almost finished with the prep Trish called down to us from upstairs. Mike and I ran up and when we got there Trish was at the window, salt in hand.

“Look at this.” She began pouring a line of salt and a breeze seemed to blow it away before it could be completed.

“Get the door,” Mike said as he hurried to light a candle.

I salted the door just fine and turned to find Mike struggling with his lighter. He asked for mine and I handed it to him. Try as he might, he could not get the lighter to catch. I turned the light on in the room and heard shuffling behind us. All three of us spun around, facing the door. On the other side of the salt line was a teddy bear.

“It can’t get in,” Mike said, “try to salt the window again.”

Trish was able to get the window sealed with no problems.

“Jacob, keep your eyes on the bear. Don’t let it out of your sight. Trish, try talking to it.” He got out his phone to record for possible EVPs.

“What is your name? Why are you here?”

I checked the EMF and the thermometer. The temperature had dropped ten degrees and the EMF peaked before plummeting again.

“Goddamn it!” Mike bolted for the door. He looked desperately around the hallway. “I told you to keep your eyes on the bear!” Mike ran for the stairs and Trish and I went after him.

“Mike! Get back here!” Trish called. “I just blinked and it was gone,” she said.

When we got downstairs, we found Mike checking the cupboards in the kitchen.

“That was awesome,” he said it with a huge smile on his face. “Let’s check the cameras.”

The footage showed the bear appearing at the door. The hallway was dark and the only thing that was visible was the bear sidestepping into the doorway. And when it disappeared it took a single, slow step and was gone.

“This is the best piece of evidence we’ve gotten. We have to find that bear. It could be the next Robert or Annabelle!” Mike was too excited. He went from room to room looking for the bear but came back with nothing. The only place he hadn’t checked was the basement. As a group we decided to head down together. We grabbed some extra salt, candles, and put on our “Holy Holsters”. Mike liked the idea of having holy water on his hip like a spirit gun. To me it felt like I was wearing a fanny pack. At least the ridiculousness kept me from being afraid.

The basement was dark and the lights didn’t do much to fix that. It smelled like a storage unit would: stale and humid. We found the boxes with Sara’s things easily. They were sitting in a corner near a paved wall. The water heater was across the basement on its own, so at least there was no chance at a fire. There wasn’t much else down there. Mr. Landon had a spot with tools and a workbench. Other than that, Sara’s things, and a section of holiday decorations, the basement was sparse. We split up to cover every nook and cranny but nothing turned up. With nothing left to do we decided to head back up. Our “lock-in” was almost up. Daylight would hit sometime soon. Mike led us up the stairs and stopped at the top.

“Guys,” he whispered, “look.”

Sitting a few feet outside the doorway was the bear. Mike ran at it and Trish tried to grab him. The door slammed and Mike hit it face first. He fell backwards and I tried to catch him before he hit the bottom of the steps. The two of us rolled down the steps together and Mike landed on top of me. But his head hit the cement floor with a loud, wet crack. After a good five minutes, Mike finally came to. He told us about having some sort of delusion while he was out. But the first thing he said when he came around was, “Fuck you, Ruffles.”

"Basically, when I passed out I had a really weird dream." Mike took a sip of coffee. The first order of business after investigating was getting breakfast. "Except it wasn't really a dream, you know? It was this memory from middle school. You know how kids get all lovey dovey before they really know what it means? Well there was this girl back then, I can’t remember her name, and we had a thing. We were always going on about how we loved each other.

"Well it didn't last long, obviously. It was a summer thing and when winter came it all fell apart. I remember my dad being a real dick about it. I was all broken up and he just kept calling me a pussy and telling me to 'man up'. I don't remember much else.

"But in this, I don't know... delusion? I saw that girl clear as day standing in front of a big tree. There was snow everywhere and she was telling me about how she loved some douche named Tyler. Anyway, I was crying, she was crying. It was a whole thing. Now I hadn't remembered all of this in a long time. But one thing I know for a fact is she didn't say what she said in that delusion. She told me: 'You're going to die alone. Sad, alone, and screaming.'"

"That is pretty bleak," I said. "But like you said, it was some sort of hallucination."

"You did hit your head pretty hard."

"That means I'm not supposed to sleep for a while right? Men! Rally some Redbull! It's going to be a long one!"

We went back to the hotel and looked over the footage. The only thing there was the bear footage. Nothing else happened on camera. Watching it again, it almost seemed like the toy had been swallowed by the shadows of the hallway. Its legs barely moved at all. If one wasn't aware that the bear had been known to move, it probably would have just looked like it disappeared. We called the Landon family and told them what we had found. After a while, we decided to rest up for the next investigation.

We got to the house around eight that night. We checked the salt seals around the house. Everything was still set up so we got the candles going and went dark. Mike grabbed the thermal imager and we started our first lap of the house. Our eyes were peeled for the bear, but aside from a few groans from the house, nothing eerie happened those first few hours. We would take breaks to check the cameras or snack.

During the investigation, I let my mind wander. When I was a child, my family lived in a ruddy apartment complex. I loved living there. I made my first best friend there, a girl named Christina. We had a small community center with a small children’s library. I read all manner of books from there. It was my favorite thing about that neighborhood. One day I was outside, reading on the stairs. A bunch of older boys came by and started picking on me about something. This teenage girl from upstairs, who I had talked with and played with a few times happened to come out while this was happening. She told the boys to shut up. But kids are evil and they kept on. So she leaned over to me and kissed me on the lips. That was my first kiss and it was from an extremely attractive older girl. Needless to say, that shut them up. I had completely forgotten about that.

Mike and Trish were looking at the cameras, running through some footage on a separate screen. I told them I was heading to the bathroom and I went. The bathroom had a nice homey feel to it. The shower curtain was a light purple with lotus flowers. The soap dispenser was a matching glass color. Clearly Mrs. Landon had decorated this one. I looked around while I took a piss and smiled at the comforting touches. The back of my neck itched, so I scratched it. When I was done I sighed with relief. It felt like I’d been holding it for a week.

“Aaaaaah,” I sighed.


I spun at the whisper in my ear. There was nothing but darkness in front of me. I remembered. It was late and I’d been at work all day. More than likely my sister, Lindsey was still out showing off baby Danielle to her grandparents. I flipped on the light in the living room and dropped my keys on the table. In the light I realized my zipper was down. God, I’m so stupid. I bet they saw this at work and didn’t tell me. Those assholes. I zipped it up and went for the stairs.

It was hot as hell in there. My sister was always getting cold and would flip the heater on. Even if the heater was on, she’d still turn the heat up. She really needs to get her own place. She had been living with me for a long time. My sister and I were pretty much best friends, as sad as that sounds. Her and her boyfriend – soon to be fiance – David were looking for a place. But he had to travel all the time for work. So needless to say it was taking a while for them to get out. But I loved my sister and the baby was actually pretty well-behaved. She didn’t wake me up very often, though the same couldn’t be said for Lin.

I checked the thermostat by the stairs. Sure enough it was set to 85.

“Jake?” I heard Lindsey call while I changed the temperature. “That you down there?”

“Yeah.” I had been caught in the act. “Jesus, Lin,” I said walking to the stairs, “you really have to quit it with the heater.”

She was at the landing on the stairs. But the light was off so I flipped it on. There she was, holding little baby Danielle. She smiled that same smile she always had. One time, she stuffed her face with a bag of Cheetos Puffs and her face was painted orange while she grinned. Her hair was wet, like she had just gotten out of the shower. And her arms were slit open, dripping into a pool at her bare feet.

“Fuck!” I ran to her and she drew a knife to her throat.

“Don’t come any closer, Jacob.” Her eyes were so wide; she must have been on drugs.

“Look, just put the knife down, okay. Come down here and let me bandage you up. I understand things are stressful right now but–”

“No. You don’t get it, Jake. Look at her,” she ran a hand along the baby’s cheek, smearing crimson on her face, “She’s… she’s just too beautiful.”

She raised the knife over the child and I charged at her. I grabbed at her wrist, trying not to harm the child in the clash. She bit at my neck and got me good, but I was able to wrestle the knife away from her. After that she just collapsed. I got the baby before it could fall. Lindsey lay there, convulsing for few seconds before falling still. I tried talking to her, getting her to wake up but she just stayed motionless. I called 911 and knelt by Lindsey’s side until they came. I cried, holding the baby. And as the sirens neared, Danielle started crying too.

I opened my tear filled eyes and I was in the Landon bathroom, cradling a teddy bear. Looking down into its black inanimate eyes I immediately felt cold. Ruffles slowly writhed in my arms. Involuntarily, I dropped the damn thing and slid myself across the tile. Then I realized it might get away. Quickly I grabbed a bath towel and slammed it over the bear. At that it started flailing around like a cat in a bag. I wrapped it up like a bindle and held it at arm's length. With my head clearing, I finally heard Trish screaming downstairs. And I heard something in the walls. Only it didn’t sound like one something. It sounded like thousands.

When I got down there, I found Mike trying to snap Trish out of her fit. He slapped her twice but that didn’t even phase her.

“Where the fuck were you?!” he yelled at me as he scrambled around in one of our bags. “I’ve been calling you for the past ten minutes! That must have been one hell of a piss!”

I had never seen Mike angry. The happy-go-lucky guy I had seen was gone. Furiously, he tossed the bag aside and started on another one. Finally, he found what he was looking for. He pulled out two thick books, one of them the Bible. He draped his rosary around Trish’s neck and hit her in the back of the head with the Bible. She flew forward and lay still on the ground for a second.

“Was that really fucking necessary?”

Mike helped her to her feet and threw his arms around her. “Yes. Yes it was. You had me scared, damn it.” He let her go and looked her over. “Are you okay?”

“Aside from the pounding headache, yeah. I’m fine.”

“What was it? Did you see…” he trailed off and Trish nodded.

“See what?” I asked.

“No offense, Jacob, but it’s none of your business. What’s with the towel sack?”

I handed it to him and explained about the bear. Mike shouted in excitement and pulled a small lockbox from under our workstation. Going on and on about how this was going to change everything for us, he opened the box and dumped the bear inside. Then he stopped. He just stared into the box and didn’t move.

“What?” Trish asked, looking just as wary as I felt.

Mike called us over and we looked down. The bear had landed on its face. Its body was expanding and contracting. It was breathing. Every time it exhaled vertebrae could be seen in its back, ribs in its sides. Mike slapped at it, trying to flip it over. Finally, it turned. Its face was twitching. The spot where its mouth should have been started to open. It started to tear open, fluff popping out. An autopsy incision started to form on its front. The sound of tearing fabric finally stopped. Dirty fingers started to creep out of the bear.

“Fuck that!” I yelled as Mike slammed the lid down and locked it.

“That was intense.” He looked up at us with his idiotic smile. “We’re going to be so rich.”


We slowly turned to look behind us. Sara was standing in the living room, rubbing her eyes.

“What are you guys talking about?” she asked with a yawn.

“Um… Honey, what are you doing here?” Trish asked, as calmly as possible.

“My dad dropped me off. He said you guys wouldn’t be here ‘til late. What time is it?”

“It’s almost midnight.”

“Oh! I was supposed to call him to come get me! I must have fallen asleep. He’s going to be so pissed.”

Trish went over with her phone so the girl could call her parents. What kind of parent would let their kid roam around in a haunted house all day? They must be really busy to not…

I just want to protect my family, Mr. Landon’s frustrated voice echoed in my ear.

“Mike!” Trish yelled. Sara had her arm wrapped around Trish’s throat. Mike rushed toward them, hand on his hip.

“Let her go, asshole.” He slipped the holy water out of its holster and showed it to the girl. “I will fry your ass.”

“That’s funny,” it laughed, “have you ever been to hell?” It dug its nails into Trish’s throat. “It gets pretty hot.” A small stream of smoke was rising from its arm. The rosary Trish was wearing was burning it. Trish threw her head back, trying for a headbutt. It didn’t connect but it gave her a chance to get a hold of her holy water and spray the demon girl in the face. It screamed and let go.

Trish ran over to us and asked Mike for “the book”. He handed her the one that wasn’t the Bible. I glimpsed the title: Rituale Romanum.

“Lord have mercy,” Trish started.

“Lord have mercy,” Mike repeated.

“Christ have mercy.”

“Christ have mercy,” I chimed in.

The thing just laughed. “You’re no priests. You have no faith. You… are all… Broken!”

The walls shook and pictures fell. Mike was fed up, and ran at the demon. All it did was spread its arms and growl.

“Come to me, my child,” it said.

With an open palm to its face, Mike slammed the demon down to the ground, head first. He stood, unwrapping the rosary from his hand. The girl was still and unconscious.

“Get her down to the basement,” Mike said out of breath. “Bring salt, holy water, and candles.”

We did as he said. When we had everything down there, we found him blessing chains from Mr. Landon’s workstation. He wrapped them around the girl, binding her in the center of the room. The chains sizzled against the girl’s skin. Trish proceeded to draw a circle of salt around her at Mike’s direction. We then placed five candles around the circle for extra security. When Trish started to begin the reading again, Mike stopped her.

“No. We just tried that and it laughed at us. We’re doing this my way.” She tried to object but he stopped her. “I know how this works. There’s a formula to this. That’s all that matters.” Mike wrapped a rosary around each of his hands and stepped in front of the girl. He said an "Our Father" and tossed holy water at her. That’s when she woke up.

“Ha, ha, ha,” it laughed. The voice coming from the girl was low, guttural. It sounded like old wood creaking from strain. “What are you doing, Michael?”

“God!” Mike continued. “In this time of desperation, we call for your help!”

“Call all you want! He can’t hear you!”

“We call on you, Lord!”

“Sorry, God’s not in right now. Can I take a message? Ha, ha, ha!”

“Dear God in heaven! We ask you to please save this girl!”

“No!” it yelled, the voice reverberating through the room. “No! He’s not saving anyone! Your God has abandoned you! Your God is dead!” It giggled. “What am I saying? You have no God, do you, Michael?” It stared deeply at Mike. “Mike,” it said in a little girl’s voice, “I’m sorry. I can’t do this anymore.”

“Shut up!” Mike flicked holy water and the demon flinched.

“I’m so sorry… You’re going to die alone. Sad, alone, and screaming!” It’s voice returned. “And you, Jacob.” It grinned at me. “She’s… she’s just too beautiful.” I shook my head, trying to stop seeing my sister covered in blood. “Look at her,” it nodded at Trish, “Isn’t she just gorgeous?” Once again its voiced changed. This time it was a breathy male voice. “Those legs… those breasts… Just… so sweet!” Trish stifled a cry. Dark drool was flowing through the demon’s teeth and down its jaw.

“Lord have mercy!” Mike yelled. He tossed holy water as he spoke. “Christ have mercy! We plead with you! Save this girl!” The demon flinched, being barraged with Mike’s attack.

After a few more minutes of this, Mike moved forward. “What is your name?” he asked calmly.

“My name? Satan!”

Mike splashed more holy water. “What is your name?”

“My name is Jesus Christ!”

“What is your name?

“Jesus of Nazareth!”

What is your name?!

“Yah Mah Vet!!!”

Mike rushed over and put both hands on the demon’s face. The rosaries on his hands made the demon yell. Mike whispered rapidly into the demon’s face.

“Lord, giver of life and hope, I ask you to free this girl – cage this beast and send him down to hell, Lord God. Take this girl’s soul into your hands, breath your light into this body, in your name we plead Lord, Jesus, Amen.” With that the demon’s head went limp. It stopped moving.

“Trish, Jacob, wrap your hands like mine and get over here.” We did as he said. We all lay hands on the girl and started to pray. The three of us each said a different prayer and the demon started to convulse under our touch. It screamed and screamed. Finally, it went still once more. The color of the girl’s skin started to return. Mike checked her eyes and her pupils were starting to contract to normal. The demon had left.

“Trish,” I asked while we waited for the Landon’s to come get their daughter, “do you know what that name meant?”

She flipped open the Rituale Romanum to the back. Father Davidson had written the seventy-two names of God there. She thought it over. “Hm… Yah Mah Vet… Yud Mach Tet... It was really warped, but the closest thing I can find to it is Samech Yud Tet.”

“What does it mean?”

“Miracle making.”

After that horrible experience, we needed to blow off some steam. We needed to take time to get out of our heads. We didn’t even bother to clean our stuff out of the house. As soon as the Landon’s left with their daughter, we went to a bar. It was hands down our worst case. I didn’t ask about Trish’s delusion and they didn’t ask about mine. Although Trish did make a slight reference to it.

“So you have a crush on me, do you Jacob?”

“And if I do?”

“Then she’ll give you a handy under the table.” Mike winked.

“Mike, you’re a terrible human being,” Trish said.

He smirked and headed for the bar to get another drink.

The two of us talked about nothing for a while. It was nice enjoying someone’s company like that. Trish had a nice soft side to her, just like I had found out Mike had his other sides too.

I wonder… Could we have something here? Trish smiled while she talked. It’s a shame she doesn’t smile like that more often. It’s really cute.

Mike came back and immediately started talking like a nutcase. “What if people that are possessed aren’t really… you know, possessed?”

I thought about my sister. There was definitely no way in hell that Mike was right. Not to mention what we had just done. But the whole time he talked I couldn’t stop thinking about my sister. It was the saddest moment of my life. I knew my sister, and that wasn’t her. I wish I had noticed in time. There are always signs. But the fact was I hadn’t noticed. I worked all of the time, I was never home. I could wish I had been there for the rest of my life and it wouldn’t change anything. That’s why I started working with Mike and Trish.

Why do you want to do this? Trish asked back then.

I want to help people, living or dead. It doesn’t matter.

Oh, so you have a Superman Complex? You know you can’t save them all, kid.

No. I can save some, though.

“Right…” Mike looked lost in thought for a minute. Then he laughed. “I really should not have gotten high after we left that house.”

Trish gave him a light shove and he went flailing off of the bench.

I looked her over. My eyes moved up and down her body. She was really attractive. The alcohol gave me some false confidence. And something in me stirred. “You’re just too beautiful,” I told her.

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