Disclaimers: I would like to thank Medora MacD, Barbara Davies and Karen Speers for the help with placing the commas in the right places and the terrific ideas. Also my pals MH and AC for the assistance, encouragement and friendship. You guys rock!

This is the first posted story I've done, so useful comments would be appreciated.

copyright© 2001 anais

Green gold eyes surveyed the decrepit building. The wooden structure stood in the middle of a field. The white paint that at one time covered it was peeling and now closer to a shade of gray.

"Now tell me again, why did we agree to this?" Andi looked up at the dark haired woman walking beside her.

Jessica rolled her eyes. The action was hidden behind dark lenses. "I've told you three times now. We got a tip that this group was doing weird stuff. Something about live sacrifices."

Andi's eyes grew wide. "You mean like that group doing in those poor furry little squirrels last year?". "I don't think I'll ever forget the sight of those sad squirrels squiggling around in that pit." She trembled at the thought and her green eyes became misty.

"The guy wouldn't tell me what. We're gonna check it out, that's all. You know how most of these informants are, buncha flakes." Jess' eyes darted around in an uncharacteristically nervous fashion. Fortunately, they were still unseen by her partner.

"OK, so we are just going in to check it out and leave? This place gives me goose bumps just looking at it." Andi rubbed her arms, accentuating her statement.

"Yes…just going to check it out and leave. My informant told me that today is a special service and 'some big ass shit' is going to happen. I just wanted to see what he meant by that."

"OK, but you are so going to owe me after this." Andi elbowed Jess in the side.

Jess took a deep breath. "Are you ready?"

"I think I'm as ready as I'll ever be. I kinda feel like my stomach is up in my throat though. It's kinda weird, wonder why, it's just a church."

"Uh," Jess visibly swallowed, "did I mention what kind of church it was?"

Andi stopped dead in her tracks. "Nooooooo, you didn't."

"Oh don't worry about it, it's nothing. Not a big deal at all." Jess started to move closer to the front door. "Really," she said innocently with a smile to match her voice.

Jess pulled at the heavy mahogany doors. The brass door handles were worn by the weather, but it was obvious that underneath the tarnish they were beautifully intricate.

As the door creaked open, Jess put her hand on Andi's back and almost pushed her inside. Andi stumbled forward a bit at the shove, glaring behind her at her tall friend. She took a seat in one of the back pews, patting the space beside her for Jess to sit.

"Oh Father, we gather here today to praise your name," boomed the voice from the altar. Both women jumped at the intensity and volume coming from the speakers.

The man, outfitted in a black flowing robe, looked in their direction and smiled. He turned his head and almost imperceptibly nodded to another person dressed identically.

"Father, in your name, we pray. We know you make all things possible." The others in the congregation paid rapt attention to each word. In fact, even Andi and Jess were enchanted by the baritone voice.

"OK," Andi whispered, "what kind of church has a minister who dresses up like this guy? This looks like Rosemary's Baby or something." She nodded her head towards the front. "Check out that altar." There was an assortment of things on a massive wooden table at the front of the room. What appeared to be a silver chalice was there along with a sword.

"Shhhhh," Jess hissed, her finger over Andi's lips.

Clang, clang clang

Andi and Jess looked at each other, startled, as the priest rang a bell that seemed to appear out of nowhere. He turned ... slowly and mechanically counter clockwise as he continued to ring the bell.

Clang, clang, clang

In unison, the congregation sang in what sounded like another language as the priest concluded ringing the bell with the ninth chime.

The priest's voice rose again. "We have those amongst us who are non-believers. Forgive them, Father, they know not."

Andi was trying very hard not to fidget in her seat. "This is the last time I am going to come with you on an assignment, especially on Halloween," she said under her breath to Jess.

"QUIET!" The priest bellowed, "for you are the one we have prayed for."

Andi tried to become one with the pew as the rector looked in her and Jess' direction.

"You who have uttered in the dark of night that they would sell their soul for the right amount of power," the man hesitated, then purposefully looked directly at Andi, "... or money." He stalled, as if he were savoring each word he spoke.

"We are tonight going to give you the opportunity. We are offering the gratification of all your desires. Indulgence ... undefiled wisdom can be yours."

"OK, that's it, I'm outta here." Andi grabbed Jess' hand and tried to stand. Something more powerful than herself kept them in their seats.

"We offer you kindness and vengeance, in return, we only ask for your souls. You've both offered them to our father and now he wishes to collect your debt."

It was Jess' turn to be spooked. "This is so fucked." The hair on the back of her neck began to stand. She could sense someone right behind her, but didn't want to let whoever it was know that she knew they were there.

"Follow me," she whispered to her spouse. With all her might, Jess pulled Andi from her seat. "Let's go."

The man who was behind their seats was unprepared for their sudden departure and allowed them to get an extra step. That was all they needed to get around him, find the door and run.

Chests heaving with exertion, neither woman stopped. They both ran as hard and as fast as they could to their car. Jess pulled out her keyring and activated the remote lock to the vehicle.

In one swift motion she had the keys in the ignition and the motor running. Tires squealing as they got as far away as fast as they could.

"What the hell was that place, Jess?" Andi blurted out after her breathing returned to normal.

"Uh…well…it was a satanic church," she said sheepishly. "My informant told me they were going to have some kind of sacrifice there tonight. A blood sacrifice."

"Well, I don't care if they do," Andi interrupted. "There is no way I am going back to that place. And neither are you!"

Ordinarily, the lanky animal control officer would argue, but tonight wasn't an ordinary night. "OK"

"I can't believe you let me walk in that place and didn't tell me." Andi uttered incredulously. As every proper Southern girl is taught, she fanned herself with her hand and then placed it over her heart. Her hand stilled.

"My locket …I think I dropped my locket there." She continued to pat her chest as if the motion would make the missing piece of jewelry reappear.

Her wide-eyed soulmate stared forward at the road. Afraid of what would come out of her partner's mouth next.

"That was my great-grandmother Henrietta's locket. I can't lose it, I just can't!" she declared.

Jess found her voice and grudgingly muttered about the only thing that would keep her out of the doghouse for the next month. "Do you want me to go back and get it?"

"Well of course I do, it was my great-grandmother…"

"Henrietta's ...yeah you mentioned that. But, honey, those people were acting like they wanted to do something weird. Can't we go back in the morning?"

Andi rolled her eyes. "We sure aren't going to go back there tonight. We'll go first thing tomorrow though."


The familiar route home suddenly didn't look as familiar to Andi in her position in the passenger seat.

"Where are you heading?" the blonde asked.

"The police station?" the normally self-assured, confident woman questioned hesitantly.

"Why are you driving there? What did those people really do to us that a cop can fix? Even if they had done something other than scaring the crap out of us, what could a cop do? I don't think mace is going to stop the devil."

Jess' eyes were fixed on the road ahead. "Oh," was all she muttered and the car was silent again.

Andi slowly turned her chin. In the eight years she had lived with and loved the woman sitting beside her, there had never been a time she hadn't had a contingency plan. One that would work, anyway. Eyeing her partner, she realized this encounter obviously had shaken Jess far more than she let on.

"So." Jess jumped at Andi's sudden verbalization.

"Sorry, I was trying to come up with a plan."

"Have you? Come up with a plan that is?" Andi queried.

"No, not really. All I know is that I have seen enough horror films to know not to go home. I think if we walked in there and there were zombies running around or we heard an disembodied voice whisper 'get out' I would ..." she paused, "well, I don't know what I would do."

"OK, then, why don't we go to Java the Hut?" Andi sat up a little straighter in her seat, extremely proud that it was she who had come up with an idea first. Java the Hut was the coffee shop where she and Jess had met all those years ago. It was one of their favorite places to go. The best thing about it at that moment was the fact that it was open 24 hours.

Jess chewed on the suggestion and, not readily having another plan handy, agreed.

"Not a bad idea," Jess allowed. "In fact," she continued, "a really good idea. They have that Internet café thing set up now. I can do some research and figure out just what in the hell we were up against over there."

"Uh, Jess…honey…I don't think you want to be using the word hell in vain right now, ok?" Andi rubbed her arms; the goose bumps were immediately back at the mention of the underworld, even as harmless as the reference was.

Jess' eyes went back to the road again.

"Sorry." She said sheepishly, but a bit more relieved now that she now had someplace to drive to.


Andi and Jess headed directly to the computers in the back of the café after ordering their coffee. Both had asked for quadruple shots of espresso in their lattés since, the way things were going, they were going to need to stay awake until it was time to go back to the church and look for Andi's locket.

Holding the coffee in one hand, Jess used her other to press the power button on at the first computer she came to. She started up the browser and began looking at a variety of terms at the first search engine site that came to mind.

Andi was at her own computer station. She glanced over at Jess' screen.

"How can you be looking at that stuff? It's Halloween night, it's dark out, and we don't know what we've stuck our noses into. You're giving me the willies." She involuntarily shuddered to underscore the statement.

"I need to know what we're up against. I might have many skills, but fighting Beelzebub is not one of them." She took another sip of the hot beverage and went back to the web page she had found.

Hours passed by while Jess scribbled notes and went to page after page. Andi busied herself by finding the homepage of her favorite soap opera and tracing the history of Pine Valley back to 1970.

Jess was engrossed in some website that kept playing George Harrison's song, My Sweet Lord. It was very disconcerting to Andi, hearing that song and knowing what kind of page it was on. Since they were both using their own AOL accounts and she had already memorized the names of each of Erika's husbands, Andi decided to send an instant message to the love of her life.

Andi watched Jess smile as she received the simple message. She responded to the message. Their easy banter back and forth on the computer program made the earlier events seem far away and somewhat surreal. Both women appeared to be far more relaxed than they had been when they arrived several hours previously.

Jess was going back and forth between her research and answering Andi's messages. Since Andi had run out of sites to check, she was busily bombarding Jess with increasingly racy correspondence. The content of the messages had succeeded in directing Jess' attention to them over the exploration she was doing.

After a bit, the messages tapered off. Andi's thoughts wandered back to a night she abruptly awoke, sweat drenched, after a dream. She had been worrying about their finances. She mumbled to herself that night, "I'd sell my soul to get out of debt." The next thing she remembered was a deep male voice answering her plea, "Would you?"


"Dear God," Andi thought to herself, "what did I do?" Her face paled at the memory; a sudden chill pierced the air.

The hair on the back of Jess' neck stood on end, reminding her of her task. She turned to look at the blonde, she could tell her partner also felt the difference in the room. Andi straightened her back and jerked her hands from her keyboard. Jess looked at the screen seeing Andi's movement away from her machine. It was then she noticed the screen was totally black.

She turned back to her computer. Hers had also gone black but with one difference. The keyboard began to type on its own accord. The clacking of the keys seemed magnified in the quiet room as 'Join Me' was written one stroke at a time and positioned directly in the middle of the screen.

Without a word, both women quickly leapt from their respective seats and ran back to the safe haven of their car. The sound of the store clerk yelling after them for payment of their many coffee drinks and computer time became one with the background noise as they drove further and further away.

"Did…?" Jess finally was able to regain her voice.

"Yes." Andi responded, not needing to hear the question and not wanting to give voice to yet another thing to which there was no explanation.

"Do you still…?"

"I have to; it's my great-grandmother's locket." Again, Andi was able to answer without Jess finishing her sentence.

"OK" was the simple reply.

The women drove for about an hour. They traveled in a rather aimless fashion, though Jess did try and drive by as many churches as she could manage. It never hurt to be on the safe side.

Finally the sun began to peek up over the horizon. Vivid shades of pink and blue streaked the sky as the bright orange ball of light made its way higher and higher into the morning sky.

The dawn was refreshing, allowing each of the women to relax a bit once again -- because everyone knows the really bad stuff only happens at night.

Within what seemed like only a few moments, the sun was high in the sky. As it moved higher, the lump in Jess' throat moved lower, finally coming to rest where it was now, a big ball of dread in the pit of her stomach.

The night's activities, while causing several anxiety-induced adrenaline rushes, had left the women exhausted.

"No time like the present," Jess proclaimed wearily.

With a heavy sigh, Andi agreed. "You're right, let's get it over with." After a quick U-turn the women were on their way back to the church.



The return trip took about an hour, due to the unconscious effort on Jess' part to put as much room as possible between her and the nefarious building. When she started to recognize their surroundings as being close to their destination, Jess pulled the car over to the curb and stopped.

"Are you ready for this?" She hesitated. "Really ready?"

Andi pondered the question. She closed her eyes, not knowing what could be next. "Yes," she whispered and audibly swallowed, "I'm ready." She quickly added, "No matter what happens in there, just know that I love you with all my heart. Always have, always will." The love and sadness on her face was the very definition of bittersweet.

"I love you too. And I'll just be happy when this is over. Trust me when I say I don't think I'll be calling this informant back." Jess reached for Andi's hand. Turning in her seat, she faced Andi and took in the sight of the woman she loved. Several heartbeats expired before Andi looked up with bloodshot eyes, making the green even more vibrant.

"I'm so sorry I got us into this. Even if we didn't need to go back and get your locket, I think we'd still be here trying to figure out what went on last night. Don't blame yourself for anything." Jess grabbed Andi's chin to force eye contact. "I'm serious, this isn't your fault." The dark-haired woman then reached over and gave the other woman a peck on the tip of her nose. The action was received with a quick but sincere smile.

The animal control officer steeled herself and turned back into the driving position. With a quick flip of her wrist, she started the car.


"What's wrong?" Andi reached over and turned the key into the off position.

"I was just thinking that maybe it isn't a good idea to drive up to the church. Maybe we should walk. That way no one sees our car?"

"Well, I think it really doesn't matter. I mean, I don't know if Satan is like God or not and can see everything, but I figure if Santa Claus can, then the devil probably can too."

Andi unbuckled her seat belt and pushed the door open.

"We aren't going to go over that whole 'is Santa real or not' argument again are we?" Jess asked as she mirrored Andi's movements.

Jess waited as Andi walked around the car.

"What's wrong?" The blonde queried her tall partner.

"I was thinking."

"I could tell; that's the only time you chew on the inside of your cheek."

"I do not."

"Do so."

"Do not … but anyway, I was thinking perhaps it isn't a good idea for us to go there unarmed."

"What? You think we should go get some holy water or something?"

"Very funny. No I don't think that, but maybe we should take something with us, just in case." Andi reached inside the car and took the keys out of the ignition. Opening the trunk with one of the keys on the ring, she rummaged around to see what would be of use.

Under the blankets, her hands felt something solid and metal. Pulling out the object with one hand, she closed the trunk with the other.

"There, now I feel a teensy bit better," as she showed Andi the rust-speckled tire iron that had been yanked from its home.

Now armed, the women began their trek of a few blocks back to the single scariest place they had ever been in their lives.

As they neared the place where the ritual had taken place hours before, Jess pulled out a piece of paper from her back pocket. "I thought I could find it without the address but maybe not. I thought it was right here and all I see is a field."

Andi took the piece of paper and read exactly what was written on the paper. Jess slowed to look at the house numbers.

"Well this is the block and this house is 9412, the next house is 9506. The address is 9424. I don't get it, we didn't have any problems finding it before. It was here plain as day. Now all I see is an empty plot where the church should be."

The women turned to look at one another.

"Jess, you don't think…?"

"No, impossible. Something must be mucked up."

"I'm sure this is where we parked last time." Jess shielded her eyes from the morning sun. "I still don't see a church," she exclaimed, squinting just in case it was there and she couldn't see the huge wooden building.

" Maybe there is something we're missing."

"Something we are missing?" Jess mumbled under her breath. "I don't think we could have misplaced a church, for heaven's sake." She quickly covered her mouth. "Uh sorry, God, I don't want to piss you off right now." Crossing herself as she had seen others do, she felt much better. After all she had been in a Catholic church once in her life. When she was three.

Andi stood in the middle of the empty field. It appeared to be overgrown without any kind of maintenance in several years. Close to one of the fences dividing it from a house there was a grove of trees and blackberry bushes. That was the only thing other than grass in the field.

Jess was mystified. "Do you think that Chinese food we had the other day had something in it and we had a joint hallucination or something? There is no church here, and it looks like there never was."

Andi was equally bewildered. "You're right, honey, it doesn't look like anything has ever been here. Let's get back to the car and try again. We must have gotten the street wrong or something." Andi turned to go back to the car. Her ankle twisted in a rut in the grass before she completed the rotation, causing her to fall forward onto the ground. It wasn't enough to hurt her, just sufficient for her to lose her balance.

Jess stepped toward her, hand outstretched to help her up when she caught sight of something out of the corner of her eye. Andi, seeing the intrigued look on Jess' face, followed the woman's gaze.

At once, both women recognized the glittering object. In the very next heartbeat, both women felt the small hairs on the back of their neck rise for at least the tenth time since the beginning of the whole ordeal.

Andi was closer. She reached out for Great-grandmother Henrietta's locket with one hand, and the other pushed her up. She made a mad dash for the car in a repeat of the previous evening, Jess directly behind her.

In their haste, they failed to notice how they were being watched from the thicket at the back of the field. Or the faint smell of sulfur as the figure disappeared into the undergrowth. The words he spoke hung stagnant in the air, "next time."



The end.