Debating their next plan of action, the party stood in the parking lot of “Big B’s Bone Machine”, the thumping bassline and drums of its canned music reverberating through the pavement. Ismene suggested returning to Doctor Long’s, as his vast library may contain useful information, but Harry was reticent, not trusting the man’s hospitality as genuinely altruistic. “Two can keep a secret if one is dead,” he admonished.

“We’re going to kill people?” Seth asked, confused and more than a little surprised.

“No Seth, we won’t be killing anyone,” Ismene reassured her bodyguard. “I’m sure Doctor Long can keep a secret, and we’ll be careful what we say. Will that suffice, Harry?”

Begrudgingly letting the rest of the team visit the doctor’s home in Carmichael, Harry took public transit to his own house, promising to wait by the phone for word that everyone else was safe, meanwhile tapping his own sources for more information on the demon they had been tasked with capturing.

Welcoming the group into his expansive home, Doctor Long wasted no time in asking about their exploits at the dangerous biker bar, particularly of the proprietor’s otherworldly nature. Attempting to avoid directly answering his questions, Ismene’s verbal dancing was interrupted by a knock at the door. Everyone’s attention was drawn to the tall, severe-looking man who entered the house, effortlessly carrying Harry’s comatose body.

“We really should talk,” Doctor Long suggested with a tone that in no way conveyed that it was actually a suggestion.

Snapping his fingers, the house disappeared, replaced by an inky blackness. Everyone found themselves standing just outside a painted circle on a midnight floor, twelve hooded figures forming an outer ring. “Loyalty is a founding principle of our order,” Doctor Long spoke in a calm, measured voice to Tommy. “It is time to choose your loyalties.”

Tommy’s eyes narrowed. “You’re asking me to choose between the society and my friends?”

The hooded shapes drew wicked, ritual daggers as Seth and Tammy moved to protect Ismene and Harry, trying to keep their friends safe. “Nobody threatens my friends,” Ismene whispered as she withdrew her hold-out pistol, shielded from view by her team. A gunshot rang out, and the hooded figures crumpled to the ground as their leader, Doctor Long, clutched his chest. “Nobody.”

Harry grabbed Seth’s heavy, nineteenth-century revolver and aimed it at the tall, menacing figure who had carried him into the house. “No government black-bags Harold Kozlowski.”

The tense standoff continued until Doctor Long slowly rose from the ground, standing with a chilling nonchalance for someone who had just been shot in the chest.

“We should speak,” the tall figure intoned, his voice seeming to fill the black void in which they found themselves.

Eyes around the room narrowed, suspicion, fear, and anger flashing between the team.

“The choice is not between the society and humanity, Thomas,” he continued, hands spread in a placating gesture. “The swarm and its agents have an advantage over unsure minds, against those who do not have the conviction to hold to their beliefs.”

“I choose my friends, Elijah,” Tommy menaced in a low voice, prepared to draw his sword, calling the tall stranger by name.

“Hold on to them,” the man admonished. “You will need each others’ strength to surpass the trials ahead.”

In a blink everyone was back in the doctor’s sitting room, warily staring at the two strangers. A tense standoff was broken by Ismene pointing to the door. “Seth, make sure we get out safely.”

Retreating as safely as possible, everyone save Harry piled into Ismene’s media van. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“Get out of here,” he growled, pulling a wrench from his out-of-date suit pocket and making his way to the gas main. “Forget Tyenx, Bael’fagore, Big B, whatever other demons are out there — that Elijah guy is going down.”

The group made their exit in haste, not wanting to be involved in Harry’s well-warranted fiery revenge.

“Drinks are on me,” Ismene offered, shaking her head as the van pulled away from the estate.

With her studio up in flames and under the scrutiny of an active arson investigation, Ismene invited the group to her small duplex, pulling out bottles of strong alcohol to help them forget the strange encounters of the night, from the hostile biker bar to the supernatural kidnapping, to Harry’s attempted demolition of Doctor Long’s estate.

“Well that was exciting,” she offered tiredly, trying to maintain her normally jovial attitude, pouring a tall glass of vodka and cranberry juice for each guest, the first of undoubtedly many that were on everyone’s agenda for the late night.

“What do we do now?” Seth asked the room. “Your studio blew up and now our allies all threatened us, and all I know is I’m planning to sleep on that couch over there,” he rambled, several drinks in.

“We need some answers,” Ismene suggested, looking pointedly at Tommy. “Interesting friends you have; care to explain yourself? Tonight was a lot more extreme than just ‘it’s complicated.'”

“It’s not a cult,” Tommy offered, unasked. “It’s a society.” Ismene didn’t seem convinced. “We are dedicated to protecting this world from various forms of evil, most of it mystical.”

“And for some reason they think we’re a form of evil now?” she barked, gesturing for Seth to refill her drink.

“I am not privy to all of their secrets,” Tommy admitted, shrugging noncommittally.

“They drag in Harry, then tell us everything’s fine when it’s all far from it. They surround us with knife-wielding cultists, you get all chummy with tall, dark, and strange, and we barely get out of there by the skin of our teeth. I want answers,” she demanded, slipping into her investigative reporter voice.

“I don’t think I’m in their good graces any more.”

Seth hiccuped, half-asleep on the couch. “Oh Ismene, that cop left you a message earlier.”

“‘That cop?'” she asked.

“The one investigating your studio blowing up. Virgil somethingorother. He wants you to come down to the station and answer some questions.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” she frowned, pouring herself a glass that was far more cranberry than vodka.

“We should stay away from the authorities,” Tammy said, nodding in agreement to herself. “There’s no future in it.”

“We should stay away from a lot of people,” Seth added tiredly, barely lifting his head off the sofa cushions.

“We need sleep before we make any firm plans,” Ismene declared, having looked at the clock and noting that the sun would be up soon.

Seth’s slack-jawed snoring from the couch showed he was already one step ahead of her.

Header image courtesy of Screen Media Films’ movie The Void