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First North American rights 9,400 words
The Eris War
Volume II: The Dragon from the Isles
Book 1: Independence Day
Chapter 3: Gangsta Paradise
I had looked to see what had caught Cathy’s attention so hard, and found that the announcer was now saying: “— confirmed early this morning. As of about 8 a.m. this morning, 72 bodies of young children, 36 of them boys and 36 girls, had been discovered and exhumed by members of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and the City of Santa Barbara Police, working in cooperation with each other. The dead children, who ranged in age from about three years old up to eleven, and came from ethnic backgrounds of African-American, Hispanic-American, Orthodox Judaic, Native American, and PolishAmerican descent, had disappeared from homes, clinics, schools, and shopping malls in locations scattered from San Diego to Monterey Bay over a four-year period that began in January of 2017. Until two days ago, no leads had ever developed concerning their disappearance prior to this discovery, and no suspects had been found. “Then, two days ago, this case suddenly broke wide open. Because of this, by means of forensic dating and other techniques, authorities have been able to match all 72 of the bodies that have been found with children reported missing over the last four years. “Thanks to information received last Wednesday from an informant, the bodies of the children were located in the hills above Santa Barbara yesterday by teams of police officers working with tracking dogs . . .” The scene had switched to show an Alsatian on a leash held by a police handler dressed in a heavy leather bomber jacket, camo pants, and heavy boots. Behind the dog and his handler there was a torn-up
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field filled with a swarm of police officers, behind them the sloping hills covered in a riot of wildflowers of all kinds. The dog, busy digging at something in the ground, whined in a tone indicating enormous emotional distress; the animal seemed serious and very sad. His handler, intent on what the dog was doing, showed little expression otherwise, but that may have been because of the dark glasses he wore. The scene had switched again to show grim-faced police officers carrying things in body-bags out of the field, toward a road where a number of ambulances and other vehicles were parked. Again the dog and his handler – or perhaps a different dog-and-man-team, it was impossible to tell at the distance the shots were taken – appeared, this time back near the vehicles by the roadside. Another dog, this one a bloodhound, and his handler had been shown coming toward the road with a number of police. “The bodies of the children were all found within a half-acre or so of ground located less than half a mile away from East Camino Cielo Road, which branches off San Marcos Pass Road several miles north of Santa Barbara, near the famous Chumash Painted Cave area (which, late last year, was ravaged by the disastrous Los Prietos brushfire, the one that destroyed several thousands of acres of the Los Padres National Forest north of Santa Barbara). “Forensics experts say that while it is too soon to know all the details of the fate of the children themselves, certain key facts are already known. Among other things, every one of the children lacked teeth – not from any natural causes or the loss of baby teeth, or even as a result of accident prior to their deaths, but rather because in every case their teeth had been extracted, either right after or just before they died. Furthermore, whoever pulled their teeth did not bother with modern dental equipment or anything reasonably close to it, but rather apparently used instruments such as chisels, screwdrivers, hammers, and similar tools,” the announcer said. The scene then shifted back to the newsroom. The announcer, a balding, middle-aged white man dressed in short-sleeved shirt and slacks (insofar as we could tell from the other side of his desk, anyway), had looked more and more nauseated as he continued to read from his notes. “The information that led to the finding of the bodies was provided by John Anderson Preston, a resident of Santa Barbara who was in police custody after having been arrested in connection with the armed robbery of Jim’s Exxon Gas Station, located at the intersection of Turnpike Road and Hollister Avenue in Goleta, which took place at about 10 p.m. last Saturday evening. Preston, a 30-year old man who had been in and out of various places of detention since the age of thirteen, has been charged as an accessory to the murder of James Levinsohn, owner of Jim’s Exxon Gas Station, which took place during the course of the robbery. The actual perpetrator of the murder, Roland Eaton of Goleta, apparently shot and killed Levinsohn as the result of an altercation in which Levinsohn, who had pulled a pistol from a desk drawer in the station’s office in an attempt to defend himself and drive off the robbers, threatened to shoot the robbers if they did not leave at once. At the moment of the shooting Levinsohn was facing a third robber, Joey McFarland, who, like Preston, is a resident of Santa Barbara; Eaton, standing to one side of Levinsohn, drew a heavy-caliber revolver from a concealed holster and shot Levinsohn before the other man even realized what he was doing.” Again the had scene changed, showing, in succession, clips of Preston, Levinsohn, Eaton, and McFarland. Preston, who hands had been cuffed behind his back, was being marched along by police. Levinsohn, shown in a color snapshot with several other people who might have been his family, was big and red-haired and had an engaging grin; in the photo, likely taken from Levinsohn’s family photo-album, the others were all likewise showing broad smiles. Eaton, a tall, skinny, dark-haired young man of perhaps 25, was, like Preston, being marched along by police; he looked as if he had an attitude that wouldn’t quit and an IQ of maybe 85. McFarland, the last of the three, was a lanky blond who couldn’t have been much older than about 18; in the clip, he was struggling with the officers, who finally subdued him and began herding him along as well. Throughout, the announcer had given a running commentary on the life of the late Levinsohn, who apparently had been a well-liked and well-respected member of the community, with a family who adored him, as well as the histories of the three young men responsible for his death. All three of the latter had been in and out of California Youth Authority camps, jails, and prisons in and out of California on numerous occasions since and even before puberty, becoming involved in ever-more serious crimes as they went along, suspects in many more crimes than they had actually been convicted of. McFarland, the youngest of the three, was a registered sex-offender. During the 19 years of his short life he had been convicted of several counts of child-molestation, two aggravated sexual assaults perpetrated on minors, rape of three grown women, and attempted rape of several other children and adults.
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He had also been arrested in connection with several burglaries in and around Goleta, where he had been born and lived throughout most of his life (when he wasn’t doing time). A suspect in numerous other rapes, burglaries, and such lovely things as blood sacrifices of pets he had snatched from the yards of their owners, he had himself been the victim of an unknown number of sexual assaults perpetrated by older brothers, uncles, and possibly his own father and even his father’s father. Growing up in an extended family all of whose male members and many of whose female members had extensive police records, and in which chronic child- and wife-abuse of the most brutal kind had been the norm, McFarland had not been able to get much in the way of what passed for an education these days. When he wasn’t playing the truant, he had been kept home from school by his father to “help around the house” – a euphemism for helping his father commit various crimes in and around the city ranging from burglary to auto-theft – or was genuinely ill with one ailment or another. Which was a pity – he had an IQ well above normal, and under other circumstances might have made something of his life. But he would have no chance now to do that: for some months he had known he was ill with AIDS-5, a new strain of the often-deadly virus that tended to kill very quickly and for which, so far, there was no vaccine and no treatment other than palliative remedies, and would in all likelihood have little time left to him, whether or not the death penalty was sought for his participation in the crime. Eaton, the one who had actually shot Levinsohn, though lacking in the IQ department, had come from a background similar to McFarland’s. Warrants for his arrest on charges ranging from drug-dealing to assault and battery against a store-clerk in Solvang had been out for over a year. Somehow Eaton, who had lived a good part of his 20-odd years between civilization’s cracks, had managed to evade arrest until last Saturday night (it’s always Saturday night, isn’t it?), when the robbery at the gas station went down bad, ending up with Levinsohn dead of a gunshot wound and the three robbers in custody after people living nearby the gas-station, hearing the commotion, called the police. Preston, who had dirty-blond hair and dull gray eyes and was somewhat overweight, had, unlike the other two, come from a relatively good home. His parents (cut to a shot of his father and mother standing nearby as Preston was being led away by the police, mother sobbing brokenly, father looking bewildered), Charles Lane Preston and Elizabeth Norton-Preston of Santa Barbara, were upper-middle class, welleducated, and well-liked in their communities. Charles Preston was a professor of economics out at UC Santa Barbara; Elizabeth, his wife, was Assistant Administrator of Nursing at Goleta Hospital. They gave to charities, donated large amounts of their time to various causes, including helping in the administration of a Family Violence Project women’s shelter in Goleta, and all in all seemed to be the salt of the earth (as Cathy put it, “Yatta-yatta-yatta-etcetera-blah”). Preston himself had not only completed high school, matriculating at Santa Barbara High over on Santa Barbara’s East Side, but had completed two years at Santa Barbara City College, majoring in Business Administration, and another year at UCSB, working toward a Bachelor’s in that field. His parents, good Presbyterians, had been stunned to learn that their darling son had, for the last several years, been secretly involved with a neo-Nazi group based in Ventura, California. In addition, he had also been “dabbling” in various occult activities, apparently culminating in a midnight desecration of the Evening Star Baptist Church on East Bishop Street in Goleta on Halloween of 2019, almost three years ago. The latter operation included a Black Mass performed inside the church involving, among other things, the rape of a ten-year-old girl and the blood sacrifice of the girl’s pet cat – both the girl and the cat having been kidnapped from the girl’s bedroom in her Goleta home about two hours before, her parents never having been the wiser – both taking place upon the church’s altar, along with the smearing of the altar with feces, urine, semen, and fluids from inside the abdominal cavity and skull of the cat. This operation was carried out by Preston and several associates, all of whom lived in or near Santa Barbara. Afterward, the little girl, who had not had a chance to see the faces of her abductors/rapists because they’d all worn cowled robes and ski-masks, was anesthetized with chloroform – not quite enough to kill her, but more than enough to make sure she didn’t wake up for several hours – and returned to her room via the same window through which she’d been taken out of it. At first, when the girl tried to report what had happened to her parents, they didn’t believe her. Thinking she was having a nervous breakdown, they had taken her to a psychiatrist in Santa Barbara several days later to see what had “gotten into her.” The psychiatrist, fortunately, was a young man who was a passionate foe of child-abuse, as well as a medical doctor, and he urged the parents to have their daughter given a complete gynecological check-up before coming to any conclusions. Further, he asked them if they had seen their cat lately – the one the girl had claimed had been sacrificed. No, they reported,
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they had not seen Sylvester for many days now. The psychiatrist immediately called one of his colleagues, an OB-GYN man whose office wasn’t far away, and set up an appointment for the girl that same afternoon. When the findings were in – the little girl’s vagina was badly lacerated and torn, her thighs bruised so badly that in places they were almost black (the girl and her parents were Caucasian), and her body was covered with welts and scratches from neck to knees – the psychiatrist called the local branch of the Humane Society and asked whether there had been any reports of pets missing in the area. Indeed there had been – some 25 cases over the last few months in an area 14 blocks long by about ten blocks wide which just happened to include the residence where the little girl and her family lived. At that point, the horrified parents called the Santa Barbara County Sheriffs’ Department as well as Santa Barbara City Police and told them that they believed their daughter had been abducted and raped and her pet cat murdered by unknown perpetrators, citing evidence obtained by the gynecologist as well as Humane Society data. The psychiatrist added his own testimony; as he told the police, after an hour of talking over with the girl what she claimed had happened to her, he believed completely that she was neither prevaricating nor hallucinating. Since neighbors of the family had already reported “strange goings-on” on the property where the little girl and her parents lived to police on the night in question, and people living near the Evening Star Baptist Church had filed complaints about “strange noises and mysterious smells” coming from the church that same night, the police took it all quite seriously. The Special Investigations divisions of both city and county police had thereupon launched an investigation of the alleged incident. Until now, nothing had come of it. But now Preston, wildly panicking at the thought that he might be up for a murder rap and hoping to plea-bargain his way out of it, had broken down and told the police all about his odder activities, informing on all his various associates and partners-in-crime in such activities with a blithe abandon that would have made a roller canary stoned out of its mind on hemp-seeds seem silent as a rock in comparison. He claimed that he himself had been present at this and other, related activities solely as a spectator. The police had already ordered semen and blood samples to be taken from Preston, so that a DNA-match test could be used to compare them with semen swabs and samples of dried blood taken from victims of various sexual assaults in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and neighboring counties over the previous months. Unfortunately, by the time the unbelievably stupid parents of the little girl who had been raped in Evening Star Baptist Church had gotten her in to see the gynecologist, it was several days after her ordeal, and no useful samples of semen or other secretions could be obtained from her. Preston, meanwhile, was denying that he had directly perpetrated any bodily assaults upon anyone, apparently hoping for clemency on the grounds both of his having turned states’ evidence and lack of physical evidence to implicate him in actual assaults or murders. But on top of everything else, when Preston was arrested along with Eaton and McFarland for the robbery of Jim’s 76 Station and the murder of Jim Levinsohn, when found by arresting officers, Preston was wearing a grisly necklace of human teeth. One of the officers, whose father had fought in Vietnam and had told his son a good many stories about trophies some of them men in his platoon had brought back to the States with them, such as necklaces made of human ears, noses, and teeth, asked Preston where he had gotten the necklace. Preston, already terrified of what might happen to him now, began babbling about a “friend” who had given the gruesome thing to him. When asked who the friend was, he poured out a story of involvement with other occultists, in particular one named Gordon Caine Mossler, a native and resident of Santa Barbara, the one who had given him the necklace. When asked where Mossler got the necklace, Preston, breaking down completely, told one of the weirdest stories that the Santa Barbara City police had ever heard – which was going some, considering the area’s history. Mossler, born about 1938, was the son of Martin Mossler and Alice Caine Mossler of Santa Barbara. The Mosslers were well-liked and highly respected members of the local community, and owners of City Market, located on the corner of Beleza and Mission Streets, a venerable local institution patronized and well-loved by most of the people in Santa Barbara and surrounding regions because of its fine selection of meats, cheeses, and other staple goods. (Like all too many other well-loved local businesses, in late 1978, a few months after the elder Mosslers’ deaths, which occurred within a month of each other, Gordon Mossler sold City Market, which had been left to him by his parents, to Bagler, McKinnon & Ferris, Inc., a development company based in Los Angeles. About a month after the sale went through, the development company promptly tore down the old market building and ran up a condo, one of the ugliest buildings in Santa Barbara, on the property.) Gordon Mossler, who had spent most of his life up until his parents’ deaths acting out one way and another, in varying degrees of destructiveness and sheer viciousness, in
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retaliation against their strict religious beliefs and practices, inherited a rather considerable fortune from his parents, who had been hard-working middle-class people who believed devoutly in the Puritan ethic of hard work, thrift, and devotion to God. Why they left their fortune to their son, who had treated them with rage, contempt, and spite from the time he was old enough to begin walking, rather than leaving it to their church or others who had reciprocated their devotion, was a complete mystery. They had apparently genuinely loved their son, in spite of everything – but the same certainly couldn’t be said of Mossler’s feelings about them. As a family friend of the Mosslers, a forensic psychiatrist who had been working for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department since before Mossler was born, said of Gordon Mossler, if anyone had ever been perfectly cut from the mold of the born psychopath, it was Mossler, who fit some of the most frightening profiles ever worked up by the forensics division of the FBI to a T. By the time his parents died, Mossler was employed by the research department of Santa Barbara’s Cottage Hospital as Assistant Director of Oncological Research. Mossler had matriculated from UCSB with a Bachelor’s degree in the biological sciences and a minor in general psychology in the late 1960s, then had gone on to post-graduate work at UC Berkeley in oncology and related disciplines. After completing a Masters’ degree in biomedical science from UCB in 1975, he was hired the same year by Cottage Hospital as a research associate in the field of oncological research – though, truth be told, Cottage Hospital had hired him more on the basis of his parents’ ties to the community and their pleading on his behalf than on the strength of his academic achievements or his own community standing. Not only had Mossler’s grade-point average at the various UC campuses been nothing to brag about, but he was all too well known in the community for his strange, erratic behavior, such as his “homosexual rebellion” against his parents’ Old Testament God and consequent egregiously promiscuous homosexual activities. He had a hideous driving record, which included numerous DUI citations, a great many wrecks that would have killed anyone else and which had in fact been responsible for the injury of several innocent bystanders but from which Mossler himself had walked away without a scratch on him, and countless tickets and fines for sassing the exasperated traffic cops and traffic-court judges who had to deal with him over the years. He exercised his penchant for loud, virulently obscene rants against anything and everything even remotely connected with his parents and their religious beliefs wherever it would be likely to embarrass and enrage as many people as possible. And there were numerous incidents in which he viciously attacked people, some of them total strangers, for reasons that made absolutely no sense, sometimes verbally, occasionally with his fists, once with his car (fortunately for the woman he had decided to run down that day, he missed). As the old saying went, it had to be love – he sure as hell wasn’t hired at Cottage Hospital as a research oncologist because of his track-record! Mossler was well-known for his proud claims of having “politicized” his sexuality, i.e., using sexual behavior and discussions about sex to provoke as many people as possible into trying to deck him or even kill him outright. One of the expressions of this “politicization” took the form of countless affairs and onenight stands with non-white males, usually black Americans, but occasionally Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, which he claimed had begun as a protest against his parents’ racial biases. For this reason, Mossler was well-known among the gay and black communities of Southern California and New York State – but not with any real love. Most members of those communities interviewed by KTSR and other media organs in the last few days remembered Mossler as a repellant and even dangerous individual, who had apparently tried to insinuate himself into their midst so that he could then attempt to incite them to open or covert warfare against the straight world and/or the white community, given to threatening or even physically attacking anyone who resisted going with the program even though, according to Mossler, that person was an “obligatory homosexual” or otherwise supposedly tailor-made for whatever course of action Mossler wanted him to take. Interviewees generally felt that nothing would have made Mossler happier than to have helped start World War III, nukes and all, not along nationalistic lines, but rather those of race, religion, or sexual preference. Nor had Mossler ignored the ladies, either. In fact he had been kicked out of more than one Women’s Center, both in California and in New York State, for trying to foment open gender warfare, complete with automatic weapons and a lot of other interesting items he had somehow managed to procure from unknown sources, some of which were still classified. He always claimed to be “on the side” of women – but attempted to incite them to do things that would have helped no woman and harmed them all. He apparently believed intensely in his parents’ God, in the sense of being certain that that God existed, but dedicated his life to doing everything he could to “battling” that God. Since so many of those battles took forms that ended up hurting only him, and alienating everyone around him from him and his
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beliefs, it was never quite clear what he thought he was trying to do, or why, in his endless personal war with that God. His bizarre behavior and endless loud, vicious crusades against the “Establishment/JayHoh-Vah God” had convinced more than a few people that he was a dangerous lunatic. In fact, he had been ordered by various courts numerous times to attend counseling for “anger management” or even to undergo psychiatric observation and psychotherapy. But those doctors and psychologists who had dealt with him in the past who had been interviewed in the last few days by the media were at wide variance as to their diagnoses concerning Mossler’s psychology, ranging from “paranoid schizophrenia with delusions of grandeur and malignant narcissistic tendencies” to “multiple-personality syndrome” to “dangerous sociopath” (most of those who had known Mossler for any length of time were inclined to settle on that last description). One of Mossler’s favorite sayings – or battle-cries, as the case may be – was, “Man is an interferedwith species!” While he usually stated that he believed that the interferer in question was his parents’ God, sometimes he was a little more open-minded, willing to pin the blame variously on space-aliens, demons, or even less probable causes. What he meant by it wasn’t at all clear, but apparently he believed that not only all of human history, but indeed that of life on Earth since its inception on this world, billions of years ago, had been directed from behind the scenes by some mysterious agency, which may or may not have been divine – and that everything that had gone wrong in his own life was due to the meddling of that agency. Certainly he did use that idea as an excuse to interfere in the lives of everyone around him, any way he could. But beyond that he used it as an excuse to extend his hatred of the Old Testament God to everything which, presumably, that God had created, including the beauty of sunsets and flowers, the pleasure of eating good food, and everything else that life – all of life, not just human life – embraced. Why he didn’t include sex in that list isn’t known – or maybe he did, and all his sexual acting-out was his way of trying to desecrate that, as well (the fact that “to interfere with” was once a common euphemism for sexual molestation or rape supports the idea that Mossler himself may have been raped as a child by a trusted family member, perhaps his maternal grandfather, a monster if there ever had been one, and that his paranoid delusions may have originated as projections of that early trauma upon the universe at large). Be that as it may, the older Mossler got, the more egregious became his attempts to get revenge against God and the Establishment, in whatever form he conceived these to be, for whatever he believed their crimes against him might have been. Eventually these escapades became so outrageous that those who knew him began to seriously discuss the possibility of having him involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, not so much for his own safety as for that of the general community. Eventually, because of such incidents and activities, Mossler was asked to take “early retirement” from Santa Barbara’s Cottage Hospital. Thanks to the fortune he had inherited from his parents together with such savings as he had accumulated from his own earnings, he was independently wealthy. So, with unexpectedly mild protests, he “retired” from his position at Cottage Hospital. This occurred around 2011 or 2012. Now, having all the time in the world as well as the resources available to him to do virtually anything he wanted, he had decided to return to a hobby of his he had begun back in the late ’60s, while living in Berkeley: research into the occult – more specifically, black Magick. Mossler had originally become involved with black Magick as a sort of lark, and a way of acting out his hatred for his parents’ religious beliefs and their God. Admittedly Mossler’s parents, with the best of intentions, had in fact been highly incompetent at the job of child-rearing, having had their one child relatively late in their lives, and little or no understanding of age-appropriate behavior patterns in children. Further, Mossler’s maternal grandfather, Lawrence Richardson Caine, a hellfire-and-damnation missionary who, early in the 20th century, had raised eight boys and one daughter in a missionary compound in preRevolutionary China, had by all accounts been a tyrant and worse when it came to his daughter and Gordon, her only child. An apparent religious fanatic as far as the public was concerned, in private the old man indulged bizarre tastes that ran from sitting in on Chinese executions (at a time when China did not even pay lip-service to the Western ideal of avoidance of cruel and unusual punishments) to (so rumor had it) raping his own daughter, beginning when she had not yet entered her teens. The old man, not content to let his only daughter, once grown, lead her life and raise her child as she saw fit, decided to take a hand in Gordon Mossler’s “education,” beginning when the boy was barely five years old. He would collect the boy early in the afternoon on Friday, driving away with him in his ancient Packard, and not return with him until late Sunday night. Where they went and what they did together was never made clear; the boy couldn’t say much – or was too frightened to – and his grandfather refused to say anything. Because the
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old man was both wealthy and well-connected in the community, there was little Gordon’s mother and father could do about it. These weekend excursions continued almost every week until Gordon was nearly ten years old, at which time the old man, now in deteriorating health, ceased to come to visit at all. Not long after that, much to the relief of his daughter and son-in-law, the old bastard died. But by now Gordon’s hatred of anything even remotely connected with his parents’ religion was entrenched so deeply that it seemed to be part of his very soul. Furthermore, Gordon Mossler had developed a passionate detestation of his parents, which he acted out at every possible opportunity – a trait that had not been evident at all until his grandfather had first taken a hand in his “education.” The boy had gone from being a somewhat withdrawn though highly intelligent child to something of a genius at vicious mischief of every sort, all of it aimed at his parents, their religion, their other values, their life in general, and their community. His mother swore the boy was possessed. His father, who was somewhat less religious than his wife but more experienced in the ways of the world, suspected that the grandfather had “done things” to the boy, but since neither Gordon nor his grandfather ever talked about what those “things” might have been, the issue was never explored. Understandably, then, upon introduction to the world of the occult while a student at Berkeley, Mossler at once plunged into it – after all, didn’t his mother’s church consider anything and everything even remotely connected to “the occult” as being of the Devil? And wasn’t the Devil the ultimate rebel against his parents’ grim and cruel God? So, in the spirit of rebellion as well as one of curiosity, Mossler began studying Magick and all its corollaries, taking part in rituals conducted by others and trying out a few obtained from various grimoires on his own. What might have been harmless or even beneficial had he joined, say, Anson Relay’s First Church of NheeGhee and had his rage directed into psychodrama geared to releasing all the pent-up rage and grief stored up in him from a genuinely bleak and psychodynamically disastrous childhood, developed along far darker lines in the absence of any moderating influences – not to mention the presence of numerous other “researchers” into the occult living in Berkeley and the Haight during the Psychedelic Era who, far from being moderating influences, if anything accelerated Mossler’s progress in necromancy and sortilege. However, Mossler did nothing in those years drastic enough to call the attention of the authorities to his activities, and eventually he graduated and left the area, leaving behind his erstwhile cronies and apparently, or so his friends and relatives noted with a sigh of relief, his investigations into the occult. However, now that he no longer worked for a living, and had a not-so-small fortune to draw on for his expenses, he decided to return to his occult researches. In doing so, he decided to pick up where he had left off before, exploring avenues of Magickal research that he had not been able – or had not dared – to attempt back in Berkeley. One of those avenues involved the darker aspects of the Qaballah, that ancient Jewish metaphysical system whose proponents included so many shining lights of the Jewish people, such as Akiva of Blessèd Memory. Mossler, however, began to delve into aspects of the Qaballah that few had ever attempted, and for which Akiva and his followers would have damned Mossler six ways from Saturday as an abomination without parallel. According to Preston, whom Mossler had befriended and apprenticed several years before as the result of their meeting at a neo-Nazi get-together in Ventura, Mossler had decided to “reproduce the Shemhamforash in flesh” as part of a the “Rite of the Opening of the Tunnels of Set.” And to that end, as he told Preston about six months before, over the last several years he had abducted and sacrificed seventytwo children, half of them boys and half girls, each one corresponding with one word in the 72-word Shemhamforash. The Shemhamforash is formed by setting out the first 72 Hebrew letters of the Book of Genesis in a line, and, under it, the following seventy-two letters in reverse order, and below that second line, the next 72 letters in their original order. In this way, 72 three-letter “words,” written vertically, are created. Each of these 72 “words” correspond to one decanate – 10 degrees – of the Zodiac, as taken along the Ecliptic, 36 decanates north of the Ecliptic, and 36 of them south of it. The 36 northern decanates are associated with the legend of the 36 Just Men whose presence in the world at any given time ensures that the world will not be destroyed; the 36 southern decanates are associated with the wives of these legendary and possibly apocryphal men. It was Mossler’s intention to use black Magick to either corrupt as many of those Just Men as possible, assuming they really existed in the world, or destroy them, or prevent them from coming into existence, or all three, as a way of hitting back at the Old Testament God of his parents, whom he equated with the God of the Jews. And so he set about to create a blasphemous, horrifying weapon against the Just and their
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Wives by murdering 72 innocent children, using the teeth of each one of them to make a necklace representing the Zodiac. Accordingly, over the years Mossler had, one way and another, abducted, ritually tortured, and murdered seventy-two children, half boys and half girls, in order to make his 72 necklaces. The children had come from all over the state of California, but he had buried all their remains in that field up behind East Camino Cielo, which he had, at one point, dedicated to “Satan, the enemy of Jay-Hoh-Vah Gawd,” as he had told Preston. Each time, he had taken the teeth he had extracted from the child’s jaws – sometimes after the child was mercifully dead, sometimes before; in the latter cases, invariably without such niceties as anesthetics of any kind or modern dental equipment – and had made a necklace from them, stringing them on steel wire and painting them with symbols representing the planets and constellations. As a reward for helping him in some venture or another, Mossler had given Preston one of those necklaces. Preston had worn it ever since, usually concealed under a shirt. And it was that necklace that the police had discovered around Preston’s neck. Strangely enough, at the time Mossler himself was already in custody – of a sort. A month before he had apparently had a psychomotor seizure while dining at a restaurant in Goleta, and had begun hurling food, tableware, and verbal abuse at all and sundry. The alarmed restaurant staff, who were unable to restrain Mossler themselves, had called the police. However, before the police arrived, Mossler collapsed on the floor, unconscious, writhing spastically and fouling himself. When the police arrived and found Mossler passed out on the floor, they called an ambulance, who first took Mossler to Santa Barbara General Hospital out on Hollister Avenue, about halfway between Santa Barbara and Goleta. But upon checking Mossler’s ID and discovering his identity, the doctors there realized who he was. As a result, they contacted colleagues at Cottage Hospital who had worked with Mossler some years before, who arranged to have Mossler transferred to the psychiatric ward at Cottage. Mossler was duly taken over to Cottage by ambulance. At Cottage it was determined, via CAT and MRI scans, that Mossler was almost certainly in the terminal stages of syphilis paresis, or something very like it. Huge portions of his mid-brain were eroded and scarred in ways characteristic of late-stage syphilis, and the damage extended into both his cerebrum and cerebellum. And in fact a blood test confirmed that Mossler did indeed have syphilis, and had probably had it for many years. In addition, he tested positive for numerous other venereal diseases ranging from gonorrhea to herpes – though, oddly, not for AIDS. But there was something else there, too: in his spinal fluid there were traces of proteins characteristic of certain viruses, notably Ebola, Marburg, and other filoviruses. Now intrigued, the physicians working on Mossler’s case began investigating further. They found not viruses associated with hemorrhagic fevers such as Marburg or Ebola, but instead brand-new ones, like nothing ever found before. Similar in molecular structure to filoviruses, these nevertheless did not produce symptoms anything like Ebola, such as catastrophic bleed-out and rotting of internal organs. Instead, when tested on monkeys, rats, and other subjects, these viruses headed straight for the brain, where they proceeded to settle down in the hypothalamus and certain other portions of the limbic brain. Once in the test-animal’s brain, they apparently induced utterly bizarre behavior in their hosts that ranged from extreme hypersexuality, in which the animal would try to copulate with anything and everything nearby, to a penchant for attacking any nearby animals with ingenious viciousness so great it was almost unbelievable even when observed. Yet the infected animals would rarely, if ever, so much as run a degree of fever or show any of the other usual signs of viral illness, such as diarrhea or respiratory illness. The researchers, utterly enthralled by their new pets, planned to do numerous experiments with them in the future, trying to determine where they had come from and how they might have evolved. In the meantime, there was Mossler, who was already being called “the greatest serial-killer of the 21 st Century,” lying comatose in a bed in the psychiatric ward of Cottage Hospital, so much of his brain destroyed by “normal” venereal disease that it was a miracle he was still breathing, and the likelihood of his return to consciousness, let alone anything like normal function, being “vanishingly small.” The doctors working on his case were astonished that he had not succumbed years ago, and that he was still alive now, however reduced in function. Some of them believed that it was possible that somehow the presence of the weird virus they had found in his system had offset the results of the damage done to him by the various, more familiar STDs prowling through his body. Beyond that, no one really had any idea how he had managed to function all these years in spite of his condition. Clearly he must have been in the terminal stages of neurosyphilis since some time in the early 1980s, given the damage that had been done to his
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nervous system from the disease. As for his ever being able to stand trial for his crimes, that was out of the question. But at least the mystery of the disappearances of those children over the years had been cleared up – not to mention a great many other mysteries. According to Preston, Mossler had also indulged a number of other hobbies over the years, such as recreational arson – Mossler had, Preston claimed, become an accomplished firebug in his time, and had been responsible for disastrous forest- and brush-fires all over the state of California, as well as arsons committed in such widely dispersed places as Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the South Bronx in New York, and Taos, New Mexico. He had also, according to Preston, been responsible for numerous rapes of victims of all sexes and ages, hit-and-run vehicular assaults on pedestrians, and untold other violent crimes. How he had managed to avoid getting caught all this time was a complete mystery – as Preston had told the police, smiling smugly, “Satan looks out for his own.” (But, as one of the revolted arresting officers retorted to the handcuffed Preston as they hustled him off to jail, “So why hasn’t he looked out for you?”) Police had now cordoned off Mossler’s Santa Barbara home at 2412 Beleza Street, which he had inherited from his parents, and had begun exploring it from top to bottom to see what they might uncover. So far, in a windowless back room sealed off from the rest of the house by a heavy door, they had found numerous jars full of bones, eyes, scalps, livers, hearts, skin, and other tissues and organs taken from human bodies – whether or not from the children murdered by Mossler wasn’t at this time known. They had also found a vast library of volumes on every aspect of the occult, as well as on subjects ranging from biology to history to theology, and shelves crammed with literature and fiction spanning the last three centuries. They also discovered a treasure-trove of occult paraphernalia, including everything from authentic athamès trimmed in silver and jewels and wrapped in black silk, for which both anthropologists and practitioners of Wicca would have sold their souls, to a crystal ball made from a single giant, perfect crystal, ancient skulls that had probably been stolen from UCSB’s anthropology department or some similar source, and a grimoire bound in genuine human skin with a string of numbers tattooed on it, which book, according to Preston, had once belonged to Hermann Goering himself. They also found several worm-eaten volumes of indeterminate age that had apparently been stolen from the library of Miskatonic University of Arkham, Massachusetts. These included, among others, von Junzt’s Unaussprechlichen Kulten, Remigius’ Daemonolaetria, and the 17th-century Olaus Wormius Latin translation of Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon. (Mossler once spent a summer in Arkham with a cousin on his mother’s side, Job Whately, of the Innsmouth Whatelys, a man given to tastes that either complimented or were identical to Mossler’s. At the time, Whately was attending Miskatonic U., majoring in esoteric exobiology, and thus would have had ready access even to the library’s highly restricted Stack D, which contained the most valuable and rarest of the school’s extensive library collection. The volumes found by police in Mossler’s home in Santa Barbara, all prominently stamped with the legend “Property of Miskatonic University – inappropriate treatment or theft will be summarily dealt with by means of the Curse of the Frumious Yuggothian Extraction,” would be returned to Miskatonic University as soon as they were no longer needed for evidence in the case. Miskatonic’s Dean of Eldritch Studies would be flying out to Santa Barbara within a few weeks to reclaim the school’s property, with profound thanks to the city and county of Santa Barbara for help in recovering them. As for some of the stranger artifacts found in Mossler’s home – well, investigation concerning the original owners was in progress, and results would be announced soon.) Throughout this grisly narrative, film-clips and photographs of Mossler at many different stages of his life were presented. Mossler, about six feet tall with dark hair – at least before it had begun turning white – was strangely repellant in appearance. Why, I couldn’t really tell; there was just something about his face and bearing that somehow put me in mind of a weirdly warped, unnaturally wicked, superannuated little boy. Of course, films of him lying in his hospital bed at Cottage showed nothing of that – he was now just a comatose old man, his dark hair having stark white roots that betrayed the dye he had been using to try to keep something of a youthful appearance, his face drawn and heavily lined now that the beard he had worn for so many years had been shaved off at the hospital. But as photos taken of him up to a few months ago showed, until now he hadn’t looked at all his true age; his appearance, even in his early 60s, had been that of a man of no more than 40 or so. Nor was that entirely due to hair-dye and similar stratagems. There was an almost unholy energy to the man, at least as he appeared in those photos – “like a very healthy disease” flashed across my mind, and I remembered a poem I’d run across some years before in an anthology of horror stories and poetry I’d found UCSB library:
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By Soror Agon Old man sitting at a patio table Of a sidewalk café In the cool blue Manhattan evening, Savoring his drink, Savoring his memories – Tall glass full of ice and Coca-Cola in his hand, Gleaming rainbowed shards of ice Floating in brown syrup, Gives a better kick than coffee (Though not as good as Jolt, But they don’t serve Jolt here), Leg doing a rapid shimmy under the table, Remember, remember, Fond memories – The boy was so beautiful, he was, All morning-fair skin, soft down, red lips, Young innocent erection Like a one-fingered benediction from Eros – The way his neck cracked under the crushing pressure Of lasciviously murderous hands Felt like teeth crunching into chilled celery Or the ice floating in this glass of Coke, So nice, so nice, Heart tasted so good, Ripped it, still beating and warm, From his heaving chest, Delicate taste of blood and clean meat, So good, so good, Orgasm shimmering rainbowed light When he died, still trying to beg for life, Joyous psychedelic skyburst wonder Like the acid I never took when it was good, When Leary and all the others Sang endless praise-songs to the great God Ellessdee – Buried him there, Back there in the sheltering, concealing brush, Under the voluptuously molten azure August sky, There in the hills behind Santa Barbara, No witnesses, soil shallow, Dug the grave with hands alone, Fondling the sandy stuff Like a lover’s balls. He was just 8, so good, so good – Veal for an old man’s educated palate – The paté de foie gras, now, well, That was no gras, Instead it was un jeun garçon, Found him in that parking lot, No one was looking, no one nearby, Beautiful boy, skin like burnt-umber silk,
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Short, tightly-curled locks of hair Gilded and made molten by sunlight – Enticed him into the car, Don’t remember now (remember now!) How, drove him home, Got him into that spare back room, Knocked him out, Nailed his feet and hands to boards, For days stuffed him with wild rice, white wine, Mushrooms, red wine, Herbs and savories, cornmeal, greens, Used a stick to ram it down his throat When he tried to keep from swallowing it, Wouldn’t let him vomit, mock-strangled him Every time he began to retch, Conditioned him into cooperating, Kept him there for ten days, Bent over the wooden rail, Feet nailed to boards on the floor on one side, Hands to upright struts on the other, Buggered him so many times, Lost count, lost count in the psychedelic fog, The bliss, the ecstasy of moans and pleas, Kept him there, naked, for ten days, Cleaned him, washed him down, Whenever he pissed or shat, Kept him there until all the toxic residues Of life in the big city, an all-American diet, Had been pushed out of his sweet young body By the meal, the herbs, the wine – On the 11th day, we rested, Cut his throat like a born shoschet, Drank his claret blood, Rarest of vintages! Wine of youth, Then cleaned and dressed him out, Roasted him whole, So good, so good . . . So nice, he was 6 years old, so good . . . And for a change of pace (Remember! Remember – Before the Great Darkness Closes in for good And your mother’s hateful God Condemns you to an eternity Of never-explained torture!) There was the time we procured The services of a couple of fine lads To bring us a young lady – Sweet, ripe, skin like milk, Hair like April sunlight, Eyes like Northern skies – A young lady, a change of pace For our jaded palate – First one they tried, Came up beside her
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Where she was parked by the curb, Couldn’t get out, One of my boys – the one on the passenger side – Opened the door of their Tempest, Started to get out, to pull her out of her van, Take her with them to me – And the bitch had this gun! Suddenly had it up, stuck in his face, He managed to jump back in the Tempest Just as his partner gunned the engine To pull out of there. So they cruised around a while, Finally found a chick Sitting in her car by the side of the road, Dreaming her life away (!), Listening to some moon-June-spoon-loon tune About all the things the Good Ol’ Boys push In order to keep themselves fat & happy – Got up beside her, asked her questions, Lulled her suspicions long enough For each of my boys to get out And come around, one to each side Of her two-door cheapjack tinjap car – They brought her to me in a sack, Naked and bound tight with barbed wire, Cringing, whimpering, Bruises covering her Moon-colored body Like ink dropped onto snow, Jizz covering her thighs and belly And throat and mouth and chest and head – Oh, she kept me busy, there beneath the house (The one in Santa Barbara, of course, I stay here ‘cause I don’t shit in my own back yard!), Down there in the rumpus room, heh!, Kept me busy for three delicious days, Used the whip, the club, the gag-and-bit, The bone-saws, the prods, the blowtorch, the acid, The awl and screwdriver and all the other delightful toys, And when I was done, paid the boys to take what was left And drop it in the ocean, Put it in a Hefty bag weighted down With about a hundred pounds worth of Qwik-Set, Guess they did a good job, Never got back to me – And there was Junior, paid him to rape and kill A whole series of chicks, old, young, Fat, thin, tall, short, Come back to us and give us the details – Oh, so good, so good . . . But the little boys are best, are best, are best, Mommy, do you ever look up from hell And see just what you set in motion? Does Grandpa rape you there again and again Like he did when you were little, Like he did me when I was a boy?
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Does Daddy know what I do, I do, What we do here, me, myself, I, And Jesus and all the Boys, And the Boss, the Master, And all of Satan’s Crew? – Coke is finished, don’t smoke any more, Nothing left to do but pay the tip and leave . . . So let’s go for a stroll down Manhattan streets Through the lovely twilight Before going back to the car, Before driving back to Chas Addams Lawn Guyland quietude, Back to California-style pad underneath my business partner’s house, Back to bedroom like a time-capsule, Berkeley in the ‘60s, Walls covered with John and Ringo and Paul, Morrison, Jagger, and The Mamas & the Papas – With gorgeous California blond 16-year-old surf bums Forever riding the curl, forever cock-teasing, Lovely sons of bitches who never wanted me, God damn their beautiful, untouchable hides! – Let’s stay here on mean streets for a while, Go over to 42nd Street, Stroll past the porno theaters That used to be cinematic palaces, Proves how shitty civilization is, Just what Grandpa told me, Jesus comes, He’ll burn all this out, Gut it, teach all those soft, decadent, Working-class, middle-class, rich-bitch assholes They can’t get away with this! No, can’t get away, can’t get away, Can’t get away from Grandpa, Run to the rock, the Black rock, The Black Grandpa hated, Run to the rock, but there’s no hidin’ place down here, Harlem won’t have me and Manhattan’s too full, The stupid niggers think I love ‘em, Yeah, sure I do, About as much as I do the bitches, the cows, the sluts, Moony Egyptian sluts, About as much as the cats I used to catch and – “All right, mo’fuck.” Voice from the shadows Behind him. Arm like a mahogany-colored steel vise Suddenly encircling his chest, Cutting off wind, almost can’t breathe, Tries to struggle as he is dragged farther into the shadows, Kicking weakly as air-hunger fills him like nueé ardent From Pelean eruption of unpredicted, improbability, Erisian disruption – Into open door of van, slammed onto floor, 200 pounds of primo-condition 20-year old male Kneeling on his torso, clamping his wrists tight behind his back, He can breathe now – sort of, with all that weight on top of him – But hurts too much to move. Hands patting him down – “What do we gots here?” Gleeful, As wallet is pulled from trouser-pocket.
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“Get the honky’s wallet, we’ll put him And everything else into the river.” From the front seat of the van. “Look, Les’, I – wait a minute.” “What’choo want?” “I got a better idea.” “Whaffuck?” “This is the guy Marvin said Was the last one seen wit’ My little brother when Joey disappeared. Remember? – Don’ move, asshole!” Knee on the back of his neck, now. No chance to escape, not now. Point of knife pricks a rhetorical question Into his armpit. “Say what, mo’fuck? Here? Right now? You want me to Do you right here?” asks the knife. “No.” “Aw . . .” “Say, I also heard this guy been seen wit’ A buncha people disappeared, Like kids, even one old man, Never seen again. What do you think?” “You right. I heard t’at, too – Yeah, t’is stuff in his wallet checks, Says he lives out t’ere on the Island. – Whaffuck? He also gotta place Out t’ere in California! Lookee here, gots it right here On his driver’s license!” “Shee-it! Reg’lar worl’ traveler, Ain’t he? Well, Mistah Worl’ travelin’ honky asshole, I think I got an idee about what to do wit’ you . . .” – Firemen found him about three days later, Stripped naked, crucified upside down Against an inside wall Of one of those old, abandoned warehouses Down there in the South Bronx, When they went in to make sure The place wasn’t burning from the trash-fires Some kids had lit nearby. Acrid, greasy smoke from mattress-fires Filling the air, a pall fit for the devil himself, Overcast skies mourning the end of innocence. He’d been staple-gunned to the wooden wall in there, Rather cleverly, none of the staples Went through any major blood-vessels: Ankles, wrists, elbows, knees. Naked – but covered in a sultry, heaving Velvet blanket of fat flies, Buzzing like the retinue of Beelzebub. Whoever had skinned him, neck to knees, Had been real good at it – Forensics determined he’d lived for quite a while After whoever’d done it was through. – Maybe it was shock from the blow-torch
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Played over his genital area some time later That finished him off . . . Unfortunately, however, Mossler had managed to get himself busted and put in a nice, safe jail-cell before such natural justice could catch up with him, and the world was far the worse off for that. Until tonight, three or four weeks after that astonishing broadcast, I had thought that that, the story of Mossler’s murders of all those innocent children and the almost as ghastly crimes of his young accomplices, was the worst thing I’d ever heard in my entire life. I still had no idea what was to come next.
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