Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Deepest Darkest Thoughts"

This is a tale of Chicago's Arcane Threat Division (the ATD). If you haven't read the other Officer Spurgeon tales, you might want to read those first.

"Spurgeon and the Rookie"

"Ugh. Tell me why we're down here, again?"

Ryan Segal, rookie and newest member of the Arcane Threat Division of Chicago's Finest, tried to pull the cobwebs he had just stepped through from his hair. He only partially succeeded.

"We're tracking down a lead on Il Monsignor," Detective Carter said, ducking to avoid another set of cobwebs.

"And who is this Ill-Mon-Seenyor character exactly?" Segal asked.

Carter turned to look at him. Light from Segal's flashlight cast strange shadows over the detective's face. "Don't you ever read briefs?"

"Uhm...I must have missed that one?"

Carter snorted. "Sure." He started back down the passage, his pace faster this time. Segal had to jog a bit to catch up.

"Il Monsignor is the ATD's largest pain in the arse. Most of the calls we get are either fakes or the result of some nut job who stumbles across some minor mojo. Most of those either can't control what they find, or the mojo is of such minor significance that we can shut it down pretty easily. Il Monsignor is different. He's the real deal - a true sorcerer. Sources claim he has his hands in most of the illicit activities involving magic in the Chicago area. I think he's probably responsible for the nut jobs, too. He makes sure the wackos find the magic and they cause enough trouble to keep us out of his hair."

"Mini magical distractions?"


"So why haven't we brought this guy in yet?"

"Il Monsignor is smart. He knows that the use of magic isn't in and of itself illegal. So he uses magical means to get others to do his dirty work. There's no physical trace, nothing we can put into evidence. And the worst thing? We don't even know who he really is. All we have is a code name and a long list of ills."

Carter paused as the brick tunnel ended at a T. He flashed his light down both passages, and then chose the one on the right. Segal followed, still picking cobwebs from his hair.

"So what's all this got to do with an old prohibition era tunnel?" Segal asked.

"Spurgeon and Doyle arrested a deranged witch this morning. She'd been passing out candy tainted by dark magic to the neighborhood children. Totally out of character for this lady; she's usually the one offering to help people with their problems, not add to them. Neighbors say she starting acting strange yesterday afternoon. Spurgeon and Doyle traced her activities back to the building we came in by. Spurgeon found the tunnels and called us in."

Spurgeon. Just the mention of the guy's name ticked Segal off. As a result of a recent "partner exchange" with Spurgeon, Segal had spent a week under investigation by internal affairs for shooting a guy on Navy Pier. The shooting was legit. Everything should have been routine, but Spurgeon had mentioned the lack of a weapon on the part of the perp. ATD routinely covered for each other when it came to such situations - how did you explain the need to protect yourself from fireballs and lightning bolts when magic was not accepted as a realistic threat? But Spurgeon was the department's "Official Doubter." He didn't believe in magic and hadn't covered for Segal where anyone else in the department would have. Even after a few weeks it still made Segal's blood boil. Spurgeon might have saved Segal's neck a couple of times, but the guy was a Class-A jerk.

"So? Why didn't they check this out? Didn't want to get their clothes dirty?" Segal flicked his fingers to get rid of another cobweb.

"You're not thinking this through," Carter replied. "This incident practically reeks of Il Monsignor. The guy is smart; there won't be any physical evidence. Our best shot is to hope that there are traces of magic left from whatever he did to the witch, something we can use to track him down. If Spurgeon walked the area...."

"The traces would disappear."

"Exactly. Wouldn't be the first time Spurgeon inadvertently destroyed evidence. Protocol requires him and Doyle to call things like this in just in case."

So the mighty Spurgeon wasn't always the knight in shining armor. He messed things up as often as he helped out. The thought brought a smile to Segal's face. It wasn't the noblest of thoughts, but Segal felt better, nonetheless. Until the radio squawked.

"*Yous guys find anything yet? 'Cause we's gettin' hungry up here.*"

Segal grumbled. Carter pulled out his radio. "Not yet, Spurgeon. Give us another ten and we're out of here."

"*Ten? My gramma can move faster than you two. Tell the rookie to pick up the pace, Carter. You're killin' me, here.*"

"Maybe he should have called his grandma, then," Segal said. He pulled more cobwebs from his clothes. "Would've saved me the hassle of listening to him complain."

Carter chuckled, then paused. "What's that?" He trained his flashlight on a bundle sitting in the middle of the passage ahead.

"Looks like a basket covered with a cloth of some kind," Segal said.

"Yes. Odd place for a basket. And look, there's no dust on the cloth."

"Meaning it hasn't been here very long."

Carter nodded. "Very good." There was a note of approval in his tone. Segal smiled in spite of himself.

"This could be what we're looking for. Stand back a bit, I want to check for

Segal stepped back as Carter made a few complicated gestures while muttering strange words under his breath. The hairs on Segal's arms rose a bit, something he had learned to expect when in the presence of active magic. Carter said that sensitivity had been one of the reasons ATD had requested Segal be assigned to the division. Carter ended the spell, his hands spread out before him. There was a moment of silence, and then the cloth began to glow with a soft blue light.

"Yes!" Carter said. "We've got something...."

There was an explosion of absolute darkness. Sounds ranging across octaves struck Segal's ears with the force of a thousand mini sledgehammers. The sensation lasted but an instant, then became something more, transcending the physical to drive talons of agony directly into his soul. The pain was so exquisite Segal lost touch with his senses. The blackness consumed him.

He was floating in a sea of despair, tossed about on waves of terror. Images flitted through his view, horrors not seen by the eye, but conjured directly by the mind. Abominations of unimaginable evil committed heinous acts, abhorrent to his Segal's very essence. Works of vilest sorcery ripped and tore at him, laying waste to the innocence of his soul.

"And you are powerless to stop it," a familiar voice whispered through the darkness. "If only you were worth the badge on your chest."

Spurgeon's face, distorted into a demonic caricature of the man, yet eminently recognizable, blossomed into his view above it all. It threw back its head and laughed.

No! Not Spurgeon. I will not be laughed at by the likes of you!

The laughter rose in volume.


The psychic scream lanced through the image, rending it to shreds. It reverberated in Segal's mind, gaining force as it rebounded through his psyche. The darkness roiled, it pulsed....

It burst.

Segal came to on the floor of the passage. His head was pounding, but he struggled to sit up. He grabbed at his flashlight. Where was Carter?

Carter lay on the floor a few feet away. His eyes were rolled up in his head and he shook from what looked like a seizure. The spell - and Segal was sure that's what it was - still had his partner in its grasp. Somehow he had been able to get free.

Segal scooted over to Carter and tried to wake him to no avail. Carter was shaking more violently now. He wouldn't be able to manage the strain much longer. There was only one way out, and Segal hated himself for having to use it.

"Officer down, I repeat, officer down. Spurgeon, we need you here on the double!"


Five minutes later the situation was over. Spurgeon's arrival had done the trick - the spell had been unable to survive in his doubting presence. While Spurgeon and Doyle took the basket, which had been filled with some kind of psychotropic mushroom, back to the cars Segal sat with Carter, making sure he was all right.

"What happened, Carter? What was that?"

"That was a mindtrap spell, and a nasty one at that." Segal raised an eyebrow and Carter continued. "Mindtrap spells are designed to cut the recipient off from the physical world and trap them in the confines of their own psyche. This particular spell had a rider, a glamor that dug up the deepest, darkest thoughts from the mind and used them to overwhelm the victim's soul."

"You were having a seizure."

Carter nodded. "The human mind is not designed to handle such things. The body goes into shock, then eventually shuts down completely. A very tidy little spell."

"We're lucky Spurgeon was here to save the day, again."

Carter placed a hand on Segal's shoulder. "Spurgeon does a job in the unit, and he does it well. But today it was you who saved the day, Segal."

"But it was Spurgeon who stopped the spell."

"Spurgeon would never have gotten here in time if you hadn't found a way out of it first. You're the hero today, Segal. I owe you my life."

Segal felt himself blushing. Dammit.

"Now then," Carter said, getting to his feet, "Let's check out that basket. The spells will be gone, but there may be a physical clue we can use to help us get to Il Monsignor."

"You still think it was him behind this?"

"A mindtrap spell that complex? Anchored to a basket left here for no other reason than to attract the ATD? Set to go off when other magic was activated? This has Il Monsignor written all over it."

There was more discussion as they headed back to the cars, but Segal would be hard-pressed to remember much of it later. His mind was too full of pride to fit much of anything else.

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