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"I have to tell you a story, Helen, so you'll understand what's going to happen to you. To us." His voice was different now, deeper, more powerful, an echo from ancient caves.

Paris smiled. "When Father Heaven and Mother Earth were married at the beginning of time, They had many children. Monsters. Horribly deformed and dangerous things ...."

 

An ashen-faced Cletus opened the station door and said, "Joe, would you come here, please?" He was drenched in a clear, thick substance.

McGuire followed Cletus in. "Well?"

Cletus, shaking, replied, "He's dead, Joe. I swear to God I didn't -- he -- c'mon, see for yourself."

The two men stepped into the conference room.

The walls and ceiling were covered in the same thick substance as Cletus's dothing. The table had been split in half. The contents of the file were scattered everywhere.

"What the fuck did you do, Cletus?"

"I only hit him a few times, I swear to you, Joe."

McGuire pressed his hands against his eyes and swallowed. "Christ! Where is he?"

Cletus took him by the arm and stepped around a section of table.

McGuire gasped.

The sickle's blade was buried in the wall almost to the handle. Hanging from the exposed portion of blade was a suit of skin, split open from the center. There was no blood anywhere.

McGuire took a deep breath and leaned against the wall.

At his feet were the shredded remains of the suspect's clothing.

A few feet away from that was something out of a nightmare.

"God, Cletus," said McGuire, "what is it?"

"That's him, Joe. That's what he really looked liked underneath his skin."

McGuire turned and emptied the contents of his stomach into a nearby wastebasket.

"Listen to me, Joe," said Cletus. "When you left I took out my gun and knocked him across the jaw. I tried to get him to tell me where his buddy was."

"You brought a gun into my station?"

"So what?"

McGuire was shuddering but managed to keep his composure. "You know damn well I can't present this ... thing as a suspect. We had a human being in here fifteen minutes ago, Cletus, a human being who's been skinned alive. Oh, God." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm gonna lose my job because of this, you dumb bastard."

Cletus grabbed McGuire's arm. "No, you're not, because the guy who killed the first two boys is still out there and we can get him!"

McGuire looked up. "Where?"

"I'm not sure, but--"

"Oh, that's just great! You're not sure! That'll go over big with the mayor."

"Then look at this," said Cletus, shoving some damp papers into McGuire's hand.

"What is it?"

"Remember Paris?"

McGuire uncrumpled the pages, wiped them off. "Yeah, so?"

Cletus got right up in his face. "When Zeus asked Paris to choose the most beautiful of the goddesses, He expected him to pick Aphrodite, but Paris didn't -- he chose Helen, a mortal woman. The Gods were divided over this. Zeus sided with Paris and the other Gods were angered. So they found a Trojan soldier who was rumored to have an equal eye for beauty. His name was Menelaus. But he fell in love with Helen and fought Paris for her love. It was one of the things that started the Trojan War."

McGuire slammed his fist against a chair. "So what? I don't need a goddamn history lesson, Cletus, I need a suspect. A living suspect!"

Cletus pointed toward the conference room. "He told me his name, Joe. He was Menelaus."

"So you were right. These guys had some kinda thing for Greek mythology."

Cletus raised a finger and smiled. "The first two murdered boys went to the same school. The Anderson Institute For Gifted children."

"We knew that last time. It was one of the first things the FBI checked out."

"Right. But they had no teacher in common so the Feds dropped it. Big mistake."

McGuire looked at the pages. "I don't--"

"I feel like a moron for not seein' this sooner. There are three teachers at Anderson named Helen. One teaches science, another teaches math, but the third teaches three courses: English, Appreciation of the Modern Novel, and Mythology."

McGuire's eyes widened. "Holy shit."

"That's not all," said Cletus, sorting through the pages until he came to the teacher's list. "Look where she's from."

McGuire took the page and read. "Troy, Ohio."

"Paris, Menelaus, and Helen of Troy," said Cletus.

"This list her current address?"

"At the bottom."

Their eyes met.

"He told me his name," said Cletus. "Then he said that Paris had been given his chance and failed, that's why he'd been sent. But Paris had tricked him, he said. The 'others' would soon know and would kill him and Paris. What 'others' I don't know, but he was scared. Said he was dead regardless of what he did now, so he took the sickle and split himself open. Took off his disguise. Asked me to kill him before the 'others' got him. Then he came at me and I shot the thing." Cletus wiped something from his eye.

"I'm sorry but I was scared! I'm scared right now, more than I've ever been."

"Let's go," said McGuire, jumping to his feet.

"Just you and me, Deputy?" said Cletus.

McGuire smiled. "Just you and me, Sheriff."

 

" ... the Furies would return and lead the First Children up from darkness to take possession of the world once again."

Paris smiled, a smile that was almost tender--

--Helen took a breath--

--and made her move.

She slammed shut the mythology text book and flung it at his head with all the strength she could find; it should have struck him at the base of his left temple because no human was fast enough to dodge something like that but he cocked his wide, monstrous hand up in front of his face, caught the book with three fingers, and crumpled it like a piece of tissue paper. He breathed heavily as he continued to grow, his head almost touching the ceiling. The clothes on his body shredded apart.

He stood naked and hunched over, a good three feet taller.

That was the moment Helen realized she was in the presence of something not human.

She tried to turn and run toward the bathroom but the damn leg brace--

--shuffle, clunk-thump--

--tripped her up. She lost her balance and shrieked, her arms pinwheeling as she toppled into the chair and fell across it like an animal across an altar. All she could do for a moment was lie there and try to breathe, try to stop the pain and get some balance. Plaster dropped from the ceiling in large chunks and struck the back of her head as Paris started to move toward her. She reached down and gripped the legs of the chair, pulled in a breath, then rolled over and jerked the chair up in front of her, holding it over her head. The pain in her back shot into her belly and cramped her. Hot, angry tears burst from her eyes as she gritted her teeth and vowed to fight him until she was dead. The kitchen lights shattered from the pressure of Paris's back. A shower of sparks fell over his shoulder and rolled down his arms.

He tore the chair from her hands, then knelt down next to her legs.

"I'm not going to hurt you, my love."

Helen tried to move away but he gripped her braced leg and pulled her toward him.

He inserted one of his fingers under the first clamp of the brace and snapped it apart.

"You won't be needing this," he said.

Then he snapped the second clamp.

"Story's not finished yet. You see, Father Heaven forgot about the First Children for a very long time. Many of them died waiting for His return. But not all of them."

He tightened his grip on her leg and snapped the third clamp.

"A few survived. He saw how much they wanted to live and was touched. After all, they had outlived the Cyclops and Titans and Kraken. They deserved to go on."

The fourth clamp went. Rivulets of sweat dripped off Helen's forehead and into her eyes.

"So He sent them mates. But these mates were human women. From their wombs sprang forth the sick and deformed, the damaged, the retarded. And these offspring made their way to the surface and intermingled with humankind, producing others that were like themselves. Father Heaven tried to gather up these new offspring but by the time He realized what had happened, the seeds of the First Children had spread so widely He could no longer recognize the new generation. What had marked them, what had made them special had been distilled, filtered down, if you will, by combining with human blood. So He gathered what he could and returned them to the bowels of Mother Earth, promising to release them when one was born who was clearly marked as both human and not. Only then could He allow the Furies to be summoned."

The last clamp went and Paris yanked away the leg brace. "But this woman had to be very special, very beautiful, very wise."

"W-why me?" choked Helen.

"Your face was the answer, my love. Measureless time ago, a great war was fought over the woman whose lingering seed gave you that face." He leaned closer. "Father Heaven returned to us many nights ago. He returned to His children in darkness and told us it was time to summon the Furies. Then He told us of you. And we chose you." He touched her face with more gentleness than Helen had ever known.

"But I wanted you for myself, Helen. I was denied you once before. Never again. I was the first to be sent up. Father Heaven gave me the sickle Cronus used to castrate Him. I had only a few days to find three boys, three untouched, virginal boys, and bleed them. The Three Furies must be summoned together. One boy for each. But I failed. I saw you and all thought of my mission fled. I would not be allowed to rejoin the others below but I didn't care."

Helen struggled and tried to pull away from him.

"Do you realize the price I've paid for your love? After the Great War I was punished for my sin of choosing you over the goddesses. I was turned into one of the creatures Father Heaven had hidden away. I was forced to live down among the darkness. My only comfort was that my enemy, Menelaus, was made unhuman, also. But the memory of your loveliness kept my seed strong." He released her and stood.

"I waited for the moment to come to you. But Father Heaven sent Menelaus to the surface. I had to pass the sickle to him so he could make the necessary sacrifices. But that's not all I passed to him. You see, my love, whoever sacrifices a young boy to the Furies must keep something that belonged to that child to use as a talisman, a controlling charm. I gave the two I had to Menelaus. The fool actually thanked me. He seemed to think that the creatures had erased my hatred for him and what he did to us during the Trojan War. But I have no affection for him. Father Heaven made us both unhuman, yes, but that did not make us brothers. Once he'd taken the talismen I made a phone call to the authorities. I imagine they have him by now."

He raised the knife.

" ... p-please," whispered Helen.

"Not to worry, my love. I won't harm you. But since I've revealed part of my soul to you, it's only fitting that you see the rest."

He smiled. "Look from what you sprang."

With a powerful downward arc he thrust the knife deep into his stomach and dragged the blade across.

 

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