“I never asked you before: how much did it cost you to fix the dent?” Thurston asked Surian as they got in her car with the Yamas, who brought with them a small gong, a jingle bell (to be shaken on a handle), and incense sticks.
“It cost far too much,” Surian said with a frown, then she put her key in the ignition.
“What caused the damage to your car?” Raymond asked.
“Not what, who,” Surian answered, starting the car.
“Was it Kluh?” Vanessa asked.
“Yes,” Thurston said. “She jumped high in the air and came down on the roof.”
“Don’t remind me,” Surian said, remembering also the bear attack from her teen years as she got the car on the road.
“What else can you tell us about Kluh?” Thurston asked.
“What else do you want to know, specifically?” Vanessa asked.
“Like, what motivates her to kill sometimes, and other times, just to lure you in for sex?” Surian asked.
“Well, there are many motives for her to kill,” Raymond said. “Revenge on, or protection from, a rapist. Also, any threat to her growing power–“
“Which means, my husband and I are putting ourselves in danger,” Vanessa said.
“Since you know the danger, are you sure you want to go through with this?” Surian asked.
“Yes, we must do this. Only we can stop Kluh,” Raymond said.
“And if she kills you?” Thurston asked.
“You’re all screwed, not just you two, but everyone,” Raymond said. “Vanessa and I are your best hope to send Kluh back to the spirit world. Of all the people in the Polynesian community in the Toronto area, we are the most knowledgeable in how to perform the kind of exorcism that can defeat this demon.”
“If you two fail, and she kills you,” Surian said, “Andy and I will be standing by to shoot her if necessary.”
“No!” Vanessa shouted. “You drop us off at Callie’s apartment, tell us her room number and the floor she lives on, and Raymond and I will do the rest. You must drive far away when we begin the ritual.”
“Why can’t we be with you?” Thurston asked.
“Because you’ll distract us,” Vanessa said.
“We’ll be quiet and stay out of your way,” Surian said.
“No!” Vanessa said. “Your very presence, your psychic energy, your mana, will contaminate the ritual. With any luck, no one else in the halls outside her room will interfere, psychically or physically. I’m hoping anyone she may have made love with in the apartment will not be anywhere near there.”
I’ll have to make sure ‘Super-stud’ isn’t at home, Surian thought, assuming what the Yamas is saying isn’t total bullshit.
“You see, she is acquainted with both of you,” Raymond said. “Certainly with Andy, in an intimate way. The more intimate you’ve been with her, the more you’ll contaminate the sacred space.”
I guess I’ll have to stay far away, too, Surian thought, remembering her encounter with Callie.
“Kluh can exploit the mana she’s absorbed from you, to thwart us in our attempt to exorcise her from Callie’s body,” Vanessa said.
“From Sandra Brahms’s body, as I told you before,” Surian said, then handed Vanessa a photo of Sandra. “This, I believe, is how ‘Callie’ originally looked.”
Vanessa looked at the chubby teenage girl in the photo, then showed it to Raymond before giving it back to Surian. “If our exorcism is successful, we can expect to see Callie’s body change into this Sandra girl’s,” Vanessa said. “But as I said before, you two mustn’t be present. We also fear Kluh will try to kill you if she kills us.”
“OK, we’ll stay away from your exorcism, if you insist,” Surian said. “We’ll wait for a phone call from either of you, and if we don’t hear anything by tomorrow, we’ll go to your dry-cleaning place, and if you’re not there, we’ll assume Kluh has killed you.”
“OK,” Raymond said.
“But what else can you tell us about Kluh?” Surian asked. “Why d0es she have sex with some people, and lets them live?”
“Well, sometimes she does it for pleasure, of course,” Vanessa said. “But always to take some of her lovers’ mana, and now that Kluh seems to have a permanent female body–that is, she isn’t moving from one girl’s body to another’s with every sexual encounter–we can assume this Sandra, or Callie, is her ideal female, her female mate, so now she’ll be looking for an ideal male as a mate, to make herself complete.”
“So, she’s looking for Mr. Right?” Surian asked.
“That’s a good way to put it,” Raymond said. “Remember that she builds power by merging opposites.”
“And the fusion of male and female is one of the most powerful kinds of a merging of opposites,” Vanessa said. “I’ll bet that psychiatrist she got naked for in the video is her chosen male mate. He doesn’t seem to be a lover she wants to have only one time.”
“Oh, yeah,” Thurston said, remembering the night of his encounter with Callie. “I saw her say goodbye to Dr. Visner in The Gold Star.”
“She’s getting regular psychotherapy sessions with Visner, too,” Surian said. “What will happen if the two of them…mate?”
“Kluh will be almost unstoppable,” Raymond said.
“Oh, come on!” Thurston said. “Can’t we kill her by filling her chest with bullets?”
“Only a hit dead-centre in her heart, or right in the middle of her brain, will send Kluh back into the spirit world,” Raymond said.
They arrived at the front of Callie’s apartment building, Surian parking at the curb of the sidewalk there. The Yamas got out of her car with their things for the exorcism ritual.
“Are you sure you don’t want us in there with you, in case Callie turns into that thing, claws you to death, then goes rampaging through the night?” Thurston asked, looking up at the setting sun.
“We’re absolutely sure,” Vanessa said with urgency in her face. “Drive far away, and don’t phone us until tomorrow morning, if you hear nothing from us tonight. Or, you can try to contact us at our shop tomorrow.”
“OK,” Surian said, looking around the area. “I have to make sure ‘Super-stud’ isn’t in his apartment…oh, wait. There he is; he’s leaving.” She spotted the first-floor neighbour who’d had Callie; he was walking away from the apartment in a uniform, about to do the night shift, apparently. “That’s convenient.”
“OK, we’ll contact you tomorrow if you haven’t said anything by then.” Thurston said. “She’s on the seventh floor, Room 717. Goodbye.”
“Bye,” the Yamas said together, then watched the detectives drive away. Once Surian’s car was far enough away to have disappeared from sight, Vanessa and Raymond felt comfortable to begin the ritual. They heaved a huge sigh together. They then each lit an incense stick for themselves, to carry with the gong and jingle bell stick.
They went through the front doors of the apartment building, and as soon as they were inside, Raymond began hitting the gong with a mallet, getting a gentle, ringing bass tone from it, and Vanessa began shaking the bells. They were playing a triple-time rhythm of one gong beat for every three shakes of the bells.
Vanessa pressed the button to bring the elevator down to the first floor. They got in the elevator. As soon as it began going up to the seventh floor, they, always playing their 3/4 rhythm, began whispering a mystic chant in their native Tahaiwi language.
“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” (Kluh, go back! [to the spirit world]) The whispering grew louder as the elevator rose up the floors.
By the time they reached the seventh floor, the door opened, and they stepped out of the elevator, the whispering had grown to a loud, vocalized chant.
“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!”
They smelled the powerful pheromones, but their incense protected them from its hypnotic properties.
Vanessa began a twirling, hopping dance as she and Raymond went down the hall towards Callie’s apartment. They hadn’t needed to know the number: both the growing smell of the pheromones and their ability to sense the presence of Kluh led them to the right apartment–Room 717.
Vanessa continued twirling and hopping in front of Callie’s door. The Yamas were shouting the chant now: “Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!”
No one else in the apartment opened his doors to find out where the shouting was coming from. Everyone sensed the effectiveness of the ritual intuitively, even without a conscious understanding of the nature of Callie’s power. There was a collective feeling of hope that their apartment was soon to be freed of a vaguely evil presence.
Callie, nude from head to toe as usual, opened her door to receive the Yamas, as if she were being compelled to. She reacted to them almost like an automaton.
“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” They entered the room.
Raymond had to use all of his strength to resist the temptation to enjoy looking at her shapely, buxom body, to focus on the ritual, to remember that he loved his wife. Callie, having closed the door and turned around to face the exorcists, flitted back over to him, and danced around in front of him to entice him with her body.
Still, he and Vanessa carried on with the ritual, not allowing themselves to be distracted by Callie.
“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” they shouted to the 3/4 rhythm, over and over again, him hitting the gong, and Vanessa shaking the bells and doing her twirling, hopping dance.
“Don’t you want me, Raymond?” Callie purred at him, gyrating her hips and jiggling her tits before his eyes. “That wife of yours looks like a little elephant-lady, she’s so chubby. Don’t you think I’d be more fun in bed?”
“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” the Yamas repeated, as if Callie hadn’t said anything.
Callie frowned. “She’s mine!” she shouted. “Sandra Brahms is mine. You’re not taking her from me. Make love with me, Raymond, and I’ll let you live.”
“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!”
Callie began faltering in her counter-exorcist, erotic dance. Now scowling, she said in the Yamas’ native Tahaiwi tongue, “Sandra is my mate. I searched a long time, all over the Earth, for centuries, to find the ideal female body to control, and Sandra Brahms is she! She’s perfect. A pretty face with a chubby body: beauty merged with plainness. She would have been modest, avoiding sex, but her stepfather made her into his whore: chastity and unchastity combined. She’s suffered, but I’ve made her happy: joy and sorrow united. She’s the perfect merging of opposites, to give me enough mana to make me more powerful than anyone could ever know. She’s my mate, she’s mine! I have her male mate in my sights, too, and he’ll be mine soon!”
“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!”
Callie fell to the floor in front of the living room sofa, on which a white blanket lay. She began shaking all over, as if having an epileptic seizure.
“Please,” she said in the whining, pleading voice of a frightened teen, “Get this demon out of me. I just want to be Sandra again. Please, help me!”
“Kluh, sa-bang! Kluh, sa-bang!” The Yamas drew closer to her as they continued chanting.
Callie’s body started changing. She became shorter. Her pubic hair grew back. She lost her shapely curves, her body growing rotund, like Vanessa’s.
Nude Sandra looked up at the two chanting exorcists, who were staring at her with ritual intensity. Blushing, she pulled the blanket over herself.
“Thank you,” she said in a tremulous voice, her eyes avoiding theirs as they continued their chanting, shaking the bells, banging the gong, and dancing up close to her.
The chanting of “Kluh, sa-bang, Kluh, sa-bang” grew softer and softer until becoming the whisper it had been in the elevator. The Yamas, even closer to Sandra now, bent down to get a good look at her to make sure she really had Kluh exorcised from her.
Raymond was still hitting the gong, though softer, and Vanessa was still shaking the bells…softer and softer. They looked into Sandra’s eyes.
They never noticed the hairs snaking out of her arm follicles.
“Unh!” they grunted together when they felt her stabbing claws dig into their guts.
The tall, curvaceous, hairy beast grinned, looking down at the two bloody bodies lying on the floor.
Late that night, Surian and Thurston were sitting together in a café with their cellphones lying next to their half-drunk coffees.
“Come on, Vanessa,” Surian said. “Call me!”