Ruler of Demons by Scott A. Lerner - Read Online
Ruler of Demons
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Summary

Only eleven shopping days till Christmas. And less than a week to save the world. Three nuns—in Chicago, Paris, and Jerusalem—have been killed in a religious ritual. The choice of victims and the macabre details of their deaths indicate that someone is following a recipe provided on an ancient text—a recipe to unleash the forces of hell on earth. The final sacrifice must occur on the Winter Solstice. Samuel Roberts, a small-town attorney in Urbana, Illinois, knows a bit about the supernatural, having triumphed at least once over the forces of evil. Thanks to a friend who is aware of Sam’s little known previous efforts on behalf of mankind, Sam is hired by a big Chicago law firm to take on a sensitive case. His mission? Nothing less than halting the impending apocalypse. Sam and his good buddy Bob travel first to Jerusalem then Paris in a desperate race to save mankind. Ruler of Demons is the sequel to Cocaine Zombies, which won a Bronze medal in the 2012 IPPY Awards.

Published: Camel Press on
ISBN: 9781603819060
List price: $4.95
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Ruler of Demons - Scott A. Lerner

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out.

Chapter 1

When I am not saving the world from the forces of evil, I have a law practice representing clients in criminal and family law. I work alone except for Susan, my former secretary from the Public Defender’s Office, who occasionally comes to help with filing and typing. She is also my girlfriend.

I was thinking about asking Susan to move in, yet a part of me hesitated, even though most people would wonder what a slim, redheaded beauty like Susan would see in a guy like me—middle-aged, average height, average looking, and graying around the temples. Perhaps average looking is a bit of an understatement. I’m no movie star but I have been told by members of the fairer sex that I am quite handsome. Of course, it helps if the person providing the compliment has consumed a few shots of bourbon.

It was not that I didn’t love Susan or want her living with me. It was not because I didn’t want to give up sole custody of the remote control or my spot on the couch. Okay, maybe partially the whole remote thing. In short, I am afraid I might be a magnet for the forces of darkness.

I understand that sounds kind of paranoid. One confrontation with a voodoo spirit did not make me catnip for the forces of evil. It was more a feeling than anything rational. I’ve read on the Internet about people being struck by lightning multiple times. Apparently Roy Sullivan was struck seven times. People have won the lottery more than once. If there was a one in a thousand chance I could put Susan’s life in danger, could I risk inviting her to move in? I had learned not to ignore my instincts when it came to such matters, and I had a bad feeling as to what the future might bring.

That said, I couldn’t hide under my bed. I had to get on with my life.

My office and home are located in Urbana, a small city in Central Illinois known primarily for the University of Illinois. Urbana is a quiet town and the lack of excitement has always been a source of comfort, not distress, for me.

I would like to say that I do my job to help others and money is not a motivating factor. However, I was given a briefcase full of cash last year and since then it has been hard to show up at the office before noon. The briefcase had a lot of money in it, but not enough for me to retire. As a result I was not taking on as many new cases, but I still had to show up for work.

Maybe it is my experience saving the world that makes fighting over Christmas visitation or who gets the pet seems petty. You see, about a year back my good friend Bob and I were able to stop an evil plot to enslave mankind. I know this makes me sound like some kind of madman or secret agent, but I prefer a quiet life with a boring job. If I had stopped the evil plans of an organized crime family or a villain like Lex Luther, it wouldn’t haunt me as much as my past involvement with the supernatural.

It’s not as though I enjoy fighting supernatural forces. But I have learned that sometimes you don’t have to look for trouble for it to find you. Now that we had stopped the evil plot and the world was safe, or at least as safe as it was before, things were getting back to normal.

Only, lately normal didn’t feel right. It was as though after living my whole life on a desert island, I was magically transported to New York City. Could I return to coconuts and hammocks after discovering that there was a whole other world out there? It might not be a world I wanted to live in, but I couldn’t ignore its existence. Although I had stood in the way of that particular evil plan, evil and the source of that evil still existed.

The world is much bigger and darker than any of us realize. Magic is real, and terrible things are all around us. Sometimes I can isolate myself from the awful truth, but at other times I am too haunted by memories to ignore it.

I was trying to shake off these uncomfortable feelings and concentrate on typing out a Marital Settlement Agreement that included every other weekend visitation for a schnauzer when the telephone rang.

Law Office, I sang into the receiver.

Sam, it’s Fred, a familiar voice responded.

Fred Green was a friend of mine from law school. We both attended the U of I College of Law and have kept in touch over the years. He lives in Chicago and works for a fancy downtown law firm. He also risked his life to help me overcome my earlier supernatural entanglement.

Fred, it’s good to hear from you. What’s up? I tried to sound cheery.

I would like to say I have tickets to the Bears game, but I’m afraid it is work related.

That’s okay. They always choke when the games mean something.

It’s not like the Illini do any better.

Anyway, what work-related problem could you possibly need me for?

We have a case that we might want to bring you in for.

I don’t practice corporate law.

This deals with your specialty, not ours.

Criminal or divorce?

Some criminal and some supernatural.

You’re kidding me?

Look, I was told I can’t discuss the specifics over the phone. The firm is going to pay you double your hourly rate, including travel time. We are having a meeting Friday at three at our office.

I’m not really interested—

It’s a favor to me and you owe me one, Fred interrupted.

Fine … you win. I will be there with bells on. Whatever that means.

Thanks.

I hung up and added the date to an empty calendar. It was odd that he had called me. Fred’s firm caters to the rich and dull and the court system in Chicago is easier to navigate if you practice in the city. Not to mention that I live three hours south of the city and that doubling my hourly rate for six hours of travel would be a huge waste of their client’s money.

Even stranger was the reference to the supernatural. One otherworldly foray didn’t make me an expert. I wondered if I should open a psychic investigations office and close down the law firm. Also, it’s not like me to use an idiom. What the hell does with bells on even mean? I Googled it. Something to do with the British Navy wearing bell-bottoms. I returned to my Marital Settlement Agreement.

My client would become the primary custodian of the cat and hamster. The husband would get the turtle and goldfish. The dog would be held in joint custody with no designation of a primary custodian. I considered the lifespan of a pet hamster and whether the document would be approved by the court before Nibbler traveled to that great cheese wheel in the sky.

This brought back a rush of childhood memories. When I was eight my cat died. My mom informed me that Mr. Fluffypants went to cat heaven where the mice are slow and the trees grow kibble. This vision of cat heaven was a great source of comfort over the years. That comfort quickly dissipated when my pet mouse died. I had a mental picture of Mousy in cat heaven being particularly slow as fast cats with angel wings devoured him. This gave me nightmares. In today’s world of over parenting, my folks would have put me in counseling to address these issues. At the time, however, my father simply suggested that I should suck it up. He would buy me a new mouse if I would agree to stop complaining about it.

I finished the agreement and was about to leave when the telephone rang.

Law Office, I answered.

Is Sam Roberts there? a woman asked.

This is he, I responded.

It says on your website that you give free consultations. Can I set up an appointment? Her voice was trembling. I need to talk to you about my husband.

What times are good for you?

Can we meet tomorrow? she pleaded.

Sure, I said.

You won’t tell my husband? He can’t know.

Of course not. How about one-thirty?

Thank you, that’s perfect.

Oh, I need your name and number—

It was too late. She had already hung up. I always asked for a name to avoid a potential conflict. I did not want to meet with her if I had already spoken to her husband. I checked the caller ID but the number was blocked.

After I finished the agreement and mailed it off to the other party’s attorney, I decided to close shop. It was early December but surprisingly warm. I left the car and headed home. As I walked I could not help but think about my upcoming meeting in Chicago. Fred had never asked me to get involved in a case. His firm had multiple contacts with lawyers in fields it did not specialize in.

My thoughts were interrupted by the cawing of a large black crow that was staring at me from the branch of a leafless birch tree. The idea of a bird being an omen or bad luck is silly. I knew there was some association with the crow being a harbinger of death. I was also told a crow could be good luck in some Native American and Celtic traditions. This one in particular had that whole harbinger of death look. An involuntary shiver ran down my spine.

I had an uncle from Georgia who would say that if you shivered for no reason it meant a goose ran over your grave. He is dead now. His death was unrelated to any crow sightings.

My uncle dedicated his life to the pursuit of the perfect chicken fried steak with gravy. It was a noble quest. His wife, Brenda, still cries at the sight of fried meat. My friend Bob has always enjoyed a chicken fried steak but is not the fanatic my uncle was. Bob is not only a good friend, but he has also saved my life more than once. What Bob lacks in heart-healthy habits he more than makes up for in loyalty. Although, I am getting off track.

My uncle actually had a heart attack in a diner while waiting for the Sunday Special—chicken fried steak with gravy. It was said his final words were, Does that come with white or brown gravy? I don’t believe that part of the story. Southerners love a good joke even at their own expense. I do, however, believe the whole chicken fried steak thing. I met him only a couple times but he did find more than an average joy in eating.

Chapter 2

I live in a small ranch-style home on a quiet side street in Urbana. The trees are large and the neighborhood still has brick streets.

Two squirrels ran past me, engaged in some type of game. It seemed cold for squirrels to hang out and I wondered if this was mere play or some kind of love connection.

I don’t trust squirrels any more than I do bunnies. Anything that cute must have an ulterior motive. A bunny once ate all the lettuce from my garden, his brown fur and floppy ears a subterfuge for acts of pure wickedness—or at least malicious mischief.

I grabbed the mail and headed into the house. Two bills from the telephone company, a movie from Netflix, and an early Christmas card from a friend in Seattle. I opened the Netflix envelope and was disappointed to read the title. I had forgotten that I had ordered The Crow, a movie from the early nineties that cost Brandon Lee his life. Oddly, I had never seen it. It was at times like this that I wished I enjoyed It’s a Wonderful Life or A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I found some leftover Thai food in the refrigerator and a Diet Coke. I gave up regular Coke and Mountain Dew in an attempt to lose weight. I grabbed a frozen Snickers bar from the freezer as well.

I’m a bit leery of refrigerators. I caught a severe case of fridg-o-phobia last year when I discovered the heart and severed head of a client on the shelf above the crisper bin. I swore off all forms of organ meat as a result. Actually I never ate organ meat, even before the whole severed head incident. If God meant for it to be eaten he wouldn’t have made organ meat so damn unattractive.

I heated up the Pad Thai, sat in front of the television, and turned on the movie, wondering again why I had ordered it. After dinner I put the dishes in the sink and stretched out on the couch to finish the film.

I closed my eyes for a moment and when I looked up I found myself in Paris in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. As I stared at the stained glass of the Western Façade, a small man with a hunchback came up to me.

Shouldn’t you be in a movie? I asked.

"Maybe you should have rented The Hunchback of Notre Dame and not watched The Crow," he responded.

Disney or live action?

Do I look like a cartoon?

What are you doing here?

I don’t know. It’s your dream. Although, I did want to remind you that in the book, Esmeralda and I both die horrible heart-wrenching deaths.

I never read it.

You should give it a try.

You know, it is a bit disconcerting to look at a beautiful gothic church and have you interrupt my sleep with tales of horrible deaths.

I felt movement by my feet and looked down to observe a lobster pinching my leg. He was dark green and orange and standing on his back two legs. He wore a stove top hat and held a tiny ivory-topped walking stick in his smaller claw. When he looked up at me he growled like a feral cat.

I was instantly afraid. I awoke not knowing if it was my rapid heartbeat or the noise that was responsible. The strange growl had followed me from my dreams and was coming from the front of the house.

I grabbed an old wooden baseball bat I kept in an umbrella stand by my front door and tentatively opened the door, expecting some strange malevolent creature. It turned out to be my neighbor’s cat, with its latest kill in its mouth. The cat is a big orange tabby that looked like Garfield on steroids. He didn’t seem to understand that he did not own the neighborhood and shouldn’t growl at my door. I was about to explain it to him when he dropped a large dead bird on my front door mat and ran off. This cat and I have a history.

The doormat had Go Away! written on it, but I guess cats can’t read. Even if they could, this particular cat wouldn’t care. I fetched some tongs from the kitchen, picked up the deceased grackle, and threw it into the large covered garbage can at the end of the driveway. What was it with me and blackbirds?

I walked into my kitchen and grabbed a beer. My hands were shaking uncontrollably and I spilled some beer on the table. Puddles of Leinenkugel formed tiny designs. It was not the fridg-o-phobia that caused my reaction, or even the cat—it was the dream. Not the contents of the dream either, but memories of past dreams.

It all started with dreams. That was how the ancient voodoo spirit would appear to me. That was how she forced me to witness torture and inhumanity. That was the beginning of my fight against evil. I was able to stop the bad guys that time but relied heavily on my friends and lot of luck.

The death toll from my adventure was high. One of my clients was decapitated and another died an equally gruesome death. That was only a sampling of the overall carnage. Not only did I survive, but I walked out with an Italian sports car and a briefcase full of cash. Of course I feel guilty. I also wonder if someone or something is going to come back to even the score. I remember looking up the meaning of the word nightmare. The mare part of the word has nothing to do with a