Holmes bowed his head slightly to Caine, "Thank you most kindly for accepting my invitation for tea. I find that of all those in this team, I can relate best with you. I also find that you are the only one with an appreciation for the finer things in life."
Kwai-Chang Caine smiled quietly, "Thank you. You seemed confident that I would come."
"I saw your exchange with this Asmodeus and thought it possible you would hear my statement to your son. I am surprised that your son did not see him. Or see you for that matter."
"You are a very observant man."
Holmes nodded silently, "Once, when I was in Tibet, I encountered a monk whom the translator named 'He who sees.' I thought that it was some religious mumbo-jumbo until I interviewed him and noted that he saw deeper into the millstone than even I. I am beginning to wonder how much of his vision has worn onto us. But for all our vision, I find myself clouded in things beyond my everyday experience."
They sat in silence for many moments, deliberating their thoughts. Finally, Holmes broke the silence. "After examining all of the evidence available to me, the picture becomes clearer, but the most essential places are still obscure, and I find myself most mystified by a particular vacuum."
"Which vacuum would this be?"
"There is an official reason why everyone is in this investigation, except for you. Of course, you are not officially on this case either, as I was not officially a part of many police investigations in my own line of work. Nevertheless, you play such a major role in this affair that I am most curious as to how you were drawn into this."
"I am a priest," he said simply. "Matters of life and death call for a priest."
"Perhaps in the matters of last rites and marriage, but in murder investigations?" he raised his eyebrow.
"I am Shaolin."
"Yes," he nodded. "Shaolin continue to play a larger role than their Christian counterparts in my own land. However, there must have been a single cause that drew you into this affair."
"Ah," Caine paused in thought. "A friend came to me in need of help. Kermit. He was researching the runes and discovered something that disturbed him."
Holmes showed an uncharacteristic display of irritation, "That is the crucial datum that had eluded me! Come, Caine! We must find this Kermit and question him!"
"There is no need for haste, Mr. Holmes. The man in question is resting in my home across the street, and he will remain in that state until we return."
Just as instantly, Holmes regained his poise and sat once more. "Of course. Please forgive my excitement."
"Quite understandable." Caine sipped his tea. "I find it curious that you would find that a crucial piece of the case."
"It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important. So far, we have assembled the means of murder, a connection between the murder victims, and a message left by one of them. We have a murderer, but we do not know what motivated him. Without the complete picture, the case is not solved."
"That is true, but I believe you will find that there is more to this case than even the data reveals. What do you know about an Angel named Asmodeus?"
"I leave religion alone as it leaves me alone."
"Perhaps you should acquaint yourself for this case. This night, the man you saw me talk to claimed to be Asmodeus."
"An Angel? I believe we have names for people such as that."
"We do, but I know they would not adequately categorize this man. His message was certainly relevant to the case."
"Yes, please. This tastes similar to tea I had once in Peking . . . "
* * *
Kermit was in no condition to talk.
"Should he not see a doctor?"
"A hospital would not be able to help someone with a spiritual sickness, but perhaps his wallet might speak for us."
"Money talks?" Holmes smiled. Some expressions of this era were quite humorous to him.
"No, but sometimes hand-written notes might." There was a note in Kermit's wallet. An address for an apartment in a run-down part of town.
"A priest rifling through a man's personal belongings. I shall have to remember this. Usually, they wait until the man is dead and buried, masquerading as family."
* * *
The apartment was there, as the note had promised it would be. Obtaining the entry warrant was more difficult than opening the door, which had no lock. The room was immaculate, if a bit dusty. Nobody had been in here since its occupant had died. Nobody had even bothered removed the man's belongings.
Holmes nodded to Peter, "The best way to gauge a man is to look at his personal library. This would certainly qualify for a Gnostic library, would you not say?"
Peter was almost speechless as the nodded, scanning the titles. "This guy was definitely spiritual, I wouldn't argue with that, but I have no idea what a Gnostic library is."
"Books expressing a belief that the material world is evil and the spiritual world is good."
"That sounds familiar."
"They also believed that the God of the Old Testament was evil and that Jesus was good. In the Third Century after Christ, they were persecuted for their beliefs."
Searching through the stacks of books and papers was quite a chore, even though everything was organized very well. Although it could be used to provide a psychological profile of the victim, it wasn't exactly evidence that could point them in one way or another.
"This guy's worse than Ned Flanders!" swore Peter. "If I'd met him in life, he'd probably wish me a 'Happily-dappily day!'"
Holmes raised his eyebrows, "Poetic? That would fit the profile very well. How astute of you."
Peter had no idea whether this man was making fun at him, or if the man even understood his allusion to "The Simpsons".
Suddenly, Holmes found what he had been looking for, something that would bring them closer to finding the end of the case. A diary. He opened it.
March 14, 1985 -- I have found it. The door to the path. Pain is
the door. The pain that we as Christians feel is the pain, and not
the pain that the Pagans feel. Our guilt leads us to seek after questions
that most do not ask, and drives us on the way to Heaven. Those
who don't feel the pain have no understanding that they are in Hell.
April 17, 1989 -- The door has a lock, and only knowledge
could unlock it. It took many years of study, and I had to
learn several languages known only to the secret societies.
Without even the need to hide who I am, I learned these
languages, and learned how to open the door. The knowledge
in itself is nothing, as these spiritualists have the knowledge
but cannot open the door because they do not feel the Christian
pain. I feel a growing hope.
May 10, 1994 -- I am in fear. The door has opened, but I
found not Jesus, but rather a host of Angels. These Angels
are fearful, and I am afraid that they come from Hell and not
Heaven. What am I to do?
December 25, 1995 -- Not even on the birthday of Jesus am I
safe from these hounds of Hell. The Angels pose no physical
threat, but rather a spiritual threat. They say such horrible
things that I do not know the difference between nightmare
and reality. How can I tell the falseness of an illusion if the
things I see are so real to my heart and senses?
Holmes shook his head. He had encountered the spiritualists, but never one as tormented as this one seemed to be. These were random selections, but he had no doubt that the complete diary would provide any interested doctor the data from the inside of a sane man descending into madness. What seemed particularly interesting was that even at the end, the language of this man was clear and coherent, until it cut off. Even though the final moment could not be accurately told, it could be extrapolated.
"Detective Caine? This is what we were looking for. The statement from the dead man himself. Perhaps this might explain why Kermit was so disturbed, but I'm afraid that as he won't reveal his true pains, we won't know what the runes reveal."
* * *
Holmes sat in meditation, sipping the coffee that the locals apparently considered to be lower-class material. It was better than anything he could have ever obtained at home.
With the aid of a court-generated paper obtained by Detective Caine, Holmes had been able to bring several key documents with him to the station, where he'd examined them word by word.
For some reason, his mind went back to the conversation he'd had with Watson before Sadric came to his door. What was the conversation about? Yes, tetanus and the bacterium that caused it. A bacterium found in filth. The medicine to cure it, found decades before the present day, was what doctors called an antibiotic, something that killed the disease, but might also have other unpleasant side-effects.
That raised a particular thought. If one compared the spiritual world to the physical one, these murder victims apparently had spiritual filth in common; they were wounded in their own minds and had felt an infection growing. Any sick man will seek the aid of the physician. The victims were most certainly seeking something. "Detective Caine?"
"Yes, Holmes?" it was early that morning, and Peter was still ridding himself of the sluggishness in his head. He'd dreamed about spiders, and he hated them with a passion.
"What do Christians have in common?"
"They have a preacher. If these victims are of the same denomination and clustered in a small area of town, would it not make sense that they should have the same preacher?"
"A common link? That's worth checking out. Have you looked into it yet?"
"Yes. A Gnostic church."
"Then let's go."
* * * *
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