Papa Joe's Fantastic World
Raven Lenore, a tough private and psychic investigator, helps an FBI agent solve a brutal murder with paranormal facets to the case. Raven never suspects that she is about to come face to face with the demonic powers!
Raven Lenore, a character from Joe Vadalma's Morgaine Series, is both a psychic and a private investigator. An old friend and FBI agent calls on her to help him solve a murder that involves the occult. When the murderer is shot and killed, the case seems to be over. The murder was committed in order to steal an antique bottle which Raven learns contains an evil presence, one that exerts control over her. It causes her and her boy friend, a stage illusionist, to travel to upstate New York to a mysterious mansion called Riverlook. The evil forces within Riverlook conspire to cause Raven to travel through a time door to the eighteenth century, where she encounters an evil sorcerer and his mad wife. The sorcerer is so powerful that there seems to be no way for to escape his control over her and return to the twenty-first century. This is a novel of dark sensual occult power, madness and sorcery. It is also the first of a series about this intrepid Wiccan, psychic and private eye.
Friday morning, O'Brien returned to Albany. After he entered the rental car, Raven leaned through the window. He said for the tenth time, "Are you sure you'll be all right here all by yourself?"
She smiled at his concern. "I'll be fine. I've got a cell phone and my Glock. What could happen? Don't worry." She kissed him. "See you Monday."
She backed away from the car a couple of steps and waved. He waved back, put the car in gear and drove away. Before Raven returned to the house, she watched until it was out of sight as he maneuvered the Toyota down the snaky driveway.
She went back inside and stood in the middle of the ballroom. For a long time she stared into the cruel eyes of the portrait of Peter Magbertius. They held a strange fascination for her. He certainly was a handsome and manly guy. He would not have been the sort to take any crap from a woman, unlike that wimp O'Brien. Raven shook her head. He probably ruled Cassandra with an iron hand. She wondered what it would be like being dominated by a man like that and shivered. Her thoughts were too close to certain fantasies she had. Although most of the time she was passionate about being her own person and free, every once in a while she fantasized being a sex slave. The more she stared at the portrait, the more these sorts of daydreams came to mind, and the more attractive Peter Magbertius became.
Cut it out, she told herself. This is not the time to indulge is sex fantasies. You've got to find that door. But why? Do I really believe that the doppleganger will return if I don't go through some weird door? Or that the spirit will curse me so that I will die? Isn't bringing it here enough? Her thoughts became confused. She turned around to look at the bottle. Have you or haven't you killed at least four people somehow? Or were all those deaths coincidences as Johnny believes.
She glanced at her watch and shook it. That can't be right. It says quarter to twelve. Could I have been staring at that portrait for two hours? She shuddered again at the presence of evil. Was it only the spirit that nudged her psychic instincts or were other dark paranormal entities haunting the mansion?
Although the day was warm, she felt chilled. She needed to get out of that room. She retreated to the kitchen where she made herself a salami sandwich and opened a cold bottle of beer. While eating lunch, she gathered her thoughts and analyzed what the spirit had said. She had not told O'Brien about any of it. She was sure that he would've dismissed it out of hand as a hallucination. He might even have nagged her to see a psychiatrist.
About the door though, her doppleganger had said it comes and goes. This seemed to indicate that it was some sort of secret door. Either it was in a hidden place or was a secret panel. It was a big house. If she was going to find a hidden doorway this weekend, she needed to get started.
First she looked in obvious places, behind the portrait, which she studiously avoided looking at directly, and in and around the fireplace. She pounded on the walls. They all sounded the same. She went into all the rooms on the first and second floors and found nothing. She explored the rooms on the third floor and in the towers. As Ryan had said, they were either empty or contained old furniture and boxes of discarded items such as clothing from bygone eras. As far as she could determine no secret panels were in the walls or anywhere else in those rooms.
By this time, her hunger had returned, and she went down to the kitchen, where she warmed up a TV dinner in the microwave. While she was eating, she noticed that there was a door to the cellar. After her meal, she obtained a flashlight from her room and carefully made her way down rotten wooden steps to the pitch-black basement. At the bottom, she found a light switch. It turned on single incandescent bulb hanging by its cord whose harsh light cast looming shadows that moved with each stray air current. The cellar was large since it had been dug under the greater part of the house. In one corner was the gas fired furnace that provided heat for the mansion. It was quite modern. The floor was cement and in good condition. Shelves contained odds and ends such as maintenance and cleaning supplies and tools.
An unpainted wooden wall divided the basement into two sections. She opened the door to the other section and shined her light around. It seemed to be an ancient laboratory, possibly an alchemist's or sorcerer's workshop. When she examined work tables with alchemy and occult items on them, she became sure that it had been used for magical operations. Embedded in the floor was a large iron ring with a pentagram within it. This could be used in a demon summoning ceremony. A deteriorated human skull lay on a workbench. I hope that's not Magbertius' head, she thought. She doubted it. It was more likely something he used for his necromancy. She did not dare touch it lest it crumble to bone meal. Everything was covered with layers of dust, which indicated to Raven that the room had not been used in decades, perhaps longer. Centuries? She decided that this room had been where Peter Magbertius performed his sorcery.
Rave inspected every inch of the wall and found no hidden doorways or loose stones. She went back upstairs. By this time, the sun had set and twilight was fast turning into night. She scratched her head. What do I do now? She recalled that the spirit had said that she would receive guidance. I need to speak to Peter Magbertius, she thought. Ryan had said the his torso was buried in the graveyard they passed on the way to the main house.
She left the mansion and walked down the driveway. About a hundred yards downhill was the cemetery. A full moon cast silver light on ghostly angels, crosses and monoliths that marked the graves. This is a good night to talk to dead, she thought. Hecate is at her most powerful aspect. She went into the oldest section of the cemetery. The markers there were dark, faded and overgrown with weeds. The soft, muddy ground sucked at her feet. As she stepped on a grave, her foot sunk into the mud, and she tripped, almost falling. Although she was fearless in the face of the paranormal, there was something daunting about graveyards at night.
Raven headed for the largest marker, a six-foot by three-foot pyramidal monolith capped by a pentacle. Using her flashlight, she read the names carved into the granite. First was Peter Magbertius Died 1727. No birth date was given, so she had no idea how old he had been when he had been executed. Beneath Peter's name was written Cassandra Magbertius Born 1692 Died 1738 . Beneath this it read, "Let he who does the devil's work suffer the torments of the damned. The body of one such lies here forever yearning for its upper part." The stone was worn and eroded so that the names and words were almost obliterated.
Raven laid down her flashlight and sat facing the stone with her ankles crossed. Just as she had when she had invoked the spirit in the bottle, she prepared herself and called to the dead. "One whose bones lie in the ground beneath, hear my call. Speak to me if you will." She repeated this several times.
After a while there came a low moan, and a woman's voice said, "Who disturbs my rest?"
"I am called Raven Lenore. Who are you?"
"I know you. You brought his spirit. I am Cassandra."
"Cassandra, wife of Peter Magbertius, I seek knowledge. How do you know me?"
"You came through the door. You are in terrible danger."
Raven shivered. "What danger?"
"From Peter. He will enslave you."
"How do I find the door?"
The phantom laughed crazily. "No need. It will find you."
"What do you mean? What about the spirit in the bottle?"
There was no reply. The wind picked up, which caused the tree leaves to rustle. A raven cawed and flew into the sky. Raven tried again to contact Peter Magbertius. This time she called him by name. If his spirit was present, he did not answer. Raven felt no presence from beyond the grave. She rose to her feet. There would be no more speaking to the dead tonight.
She returned to the house. She had learned nothing. The ghost of Cassandra had spoken as though her delivery of the bottle that contained the spirit was a forgone conclusion. She had warned of danger from her husband. But, how could he be a danger? He had been dead three centuries. Apparently, even his spirit could not be contacted, at least not in the area around his grave. Was that because his head was somewhere else? Perhaps that is what she should be looking for, Magbertius' head.
She returned to the ballroom and looked from the portrait to the bottle. "I wish one of you would clear up this mystery for me. Where in hell is this mysterious door? And what am I supposed to do with the bottle?"
The house was quiet. Apparently she was not going to receive an answer that night. She looked at her watch. It was past midnight. She went to the kitchen and poured a glass of wine, which she sipped for a while until she began to yawn. She rinsed the glass in the sink and went upstairs to bed.
* * *
She was standing in front of the portrait of Peter Magbertius wearing an eighteenth century nightgown that covered her from neck to ankle She held a candle as she gazed at the portrait. It seemed much brighter and less faded than she recalled, as though it had been freshly painted. As she stared at it, it seemed three dimensional and real, as though Magbertius stood there in the flesh. His image moved. It smiled at her and stepped out of the painting. The next moment, the impressive man stood not two feet in front of her, so close he only need to stretch out his arm to touch her.
"Good evening, Raven," he said in his deep, resonant voice with a trace of East European accent.
"Good evening, Peter." She smiled at him and thought that he was even more handsome in person than in the portrait.
"I understand that you brought a present for me besides your lovely self."
She felt flustered at the flirtatious remark. "It's locked in that bottle on the mantle."
He stepped closer and placed his hands on her arms. "But you must hand it to me in person."
"But how am I to do that?"
"Tomorrow, the door will appear. Enter it, but do not forget the bottle."
"How will I know whether it's the right door?" She was enchanted by his eyes and wondered whether he would kiss her.
"You will know." He took her into his arms and pressed his lips against hers. She knew that she would be his, would do anything he asked. His warm body against hers stirred something deep inside. She had never felt like this toward a man before, not even O'Brien or Michael. She could worship this Peter.
The next morning she lingered in bed savoring her dream. Cassandra's warning had been warranted. Peter Magbertius was a danger to her. She had become obsessed with a man she knew nothing about and who had died three centuries previously. Perhaps O'Brien was right; she was insane. She thought, If the dream was a message from the spirit of Magbertius, I've got nothing to worry about. He said the door will come to me. I wonder what that means.
She dressed and walked towards the main stairway when she noticed a closed door between her bedroom and the next room down the hall. She swore that it had not been there the day before.
* * *
O'Brien sang along with the radio as he drove south. It was another fine late summer day. He was free for four days. He really looked forward to the time he would be spending with Raven. He had to admit it to himself. He was a man in love. Although they argued often, there was something about her that set him on fire. Perhaps it was true that opposites attract. For they were certainly opposites. She was tough; he was gentle. She believed in all sorts of paranormal nonsense; he believed only in science. Yet, all in all they got along well enough and were compatible as far as sense of humor, sexual appetite and optimistic outlook on life.
When he parked in front of the mansion's porch, he was disappointed that she was not out there waiting for him. He went through the front door and shouted, "Raven. It's O'Brien."
He was greeted only by silence. He went through the ballroom to the kitchen. Everything was cleaned up so he could not tell whether she ate breakfast yet or not. He want upstairs. She was not in her bedroom or any of the other rooms up there. He noticed that her pistol and shoulder holster were hung on the bedpost in their usual place. Her cell phone and purse lay on the bed, so it was no use trying to call her.
"She must've gone out for a stroll or jog."
He went outside. As he walked around the building, he peered around. If Raven was out there, she was not anywhere in sight. He went back inside and made breakfast. When, after two hours, she did not return, he became worried. He searched the house, top to bottom, including the cellar. All her clothes were in place as far as he could tell.
Four hours had passed since his arrival. He did not think she would be gone that long knowing that he was coming that day. He worried that she might have gotten hurt somehow, twisted an ankle, fallen over a cliff, or had some other type of accident. He should search for her, but where? The property was enormous. She could have gone in any direction. He paced up and down in the ballroom trying to decide what to do. For some reason he glanced at the mantle. The clay bottle was gone.
Raven must have taken it somewhere, he thought. But where? It occurred to him that she kept talking about giving it to Peter Magbertius. Perhaps she had the crazy idea of leaving it by his grave.
He hiked to the graveyard and looked around until he found Magbertius' grave marker. He noticed fresh footprints in the soft soil. They were small and made by sneakers such as Raven usually wore. She had been there. Nonetheless, the bottle was not.
It was mid afternoon by this time. He decided to drive into Rhinebeck and report her disappearance to the police. He was sure that she was on the property somewhere, but hurt. After he returned, he would search for her as well. She would not have gone far without her purse.