.

Out of Clay

A Stuart Kovacs Mystery

by Sarah Weinman

Laura plopped the case file on his desk.

"I think you'll really like this one, Stuart."

"What makes you say that?"

She smirked. "Trust me, you'll see."

Stuart Kovacs opened the file and started to read, but only got three sentences in before the all-too-familiar feeling took hold of him once again. He knew exactly what was coming but he still felt unprepared. First his eyes rolled right back into his head, then his ears jutted out more prominently than usual and his skin turned sickly sallow.

"Goddamnyoutohellbitchcuntwhoremotherfuckerbitchcuntwhore!"

Laura shrugged her shoulders, said nothing and walked away.

A split-second later Stuart returned to normal. He sighed. At least Laura hadn't run off screaming this time. That was progress. And the attack had only lasted ten seconds. Maybe the therapy was starting to work.

He sure as hell hoped so, with all the money he was shelling out to the demonologist.

The first attack, six months earlier, had been the worst. He'd been out for at least a day, without any recollection of what had happened. Laura took a week to work up the courage and tell him just what horrible insults had emanated from his mouth.

"And to think," she said, "I might have had a crush on you."

He protested to no avail. Only when he swore up and down that it was probably some demented seizure, an isolated incident, did Laura come back to work.

Another attack happened while he was in the kosher section of Wegman's one Thursday evening. He'd stayed rooted to his spot, hurling epithets, insulting everyone in sight.

It was embarrassing. Worse, it was terrible for business. Who in their right mind would hire a mentally ill private investigator? Someone who might go off at any unpredictable moment? You'd have to be mentally ill yourself!

He'd gone to doctors, but none had answers for him. He'd visited psychiatrists who prescribed anti-depressants that only seemed to make whatever was ailing him worse: mixed in with the foul words were terrible jokes. The solution had only come about by accident.

Stuart had been visiting his grandmother in the nursing home. He hadn't been for a while -- okay, eight months -- but he needed to do something, anything to change his routine, and obviously, Grandma Kovacs sure wasn't getting younger.

She sat with all her alter kacker friends along the front entrance wall. As soon as she saw him, her eyes widened and her hands trembled even more than the average Parkinsonian.

"Dybbuk!" she spat.

He ran towards her. "What?"

"Dybbuk!" she repeated stubbornly.

It took a couple of minutes to calm the old woman down, but when he did, his grandmother explained: she'd once dated a young man possessed by a demon, and it had ruined their prospects of marriage. She knew the signs, and she babbled on and on about how miserable her afterlife would be because she'd passed the curse onto the next generation.

"But I'm the generation after," Stuart said.

His grandmother waved him away, continuing to babble in her sudden grief. With no other recourse, Stuart left her, went home and Googled "dybbuk."

Damn. She was right. A demon.

He read through page after page, all through the night. By the next morning he considered himself an expert on Jewish demons. How had he missed out on such a vital portion of his education during his formative years? This would have been so much cooler than Torah and Mishnah and Talmud; the resulting boredom drove him to comic books and detective novels, and well, the whole investigator thing.

But it wasn't enough to know. He had to drive this demon away. Or find someone else who could.

If only it were that easy. Those who specialized in this ancient art were a bit difficult to track down. Why, there wasn't a single listing for "Exorcists" in the entire Regent Park phone book.

Stuart worked up the courage to revisit his grandmother and ask her advice. She knew someone who knew someone's cousin who knew someone's ex-brother in law and that lead him to Hindy Myerson, age twenty-five, licensed demonologist.

"You can get a license for that?" Stuart said during their first telephone conversation.

"You can get a license for anything."

Their first meeting went smoothly.

"Congratulations" she said, after a brief examination. "He's all in your head."

"He?"

he quickly identified the dybbuk type he had, for there were several. "But you're in luck; you have the lowest grade," Hindy concluded.

"As opposed to what?"

"Well, in layman's terms, he's a bit of a trickster. Loves the idea of saying many dirty words in a row. If it weren't for the fact that possessed people look a bit different, you could pass yourself off as having Tourette's."

Stuart decided to do that anyway, at least around people he didn't know. No sense in explaining the whole demonic possession thing, especially when the demons were Jewish.Tourette's was bad enough.

With Hindy's help -- and a daily dose of some experimental potions and incantations -- the attacks got better, more contained. He wasn't cured, but he thought he was on his way.

Stuart picked up the file and started to read again. Evidently one of the Vice-Principals at Kessler Academy had vanished mysteriously two weeks ago, but the police weren't interested in getting involved because Rabbi Grossman liked to go abroad for long stretches of time and not contact his family for several days.

But when Rabbi Diener, the other Vice-Principal, disappeared the weekend before and the police still refused to act, some students decided to take some action, and not wait for the scandal-fearing administration to do something. A small group of them had banded together to get their community private detective involved, no matter what his mental status was.

"Motherfuckercuntbitch --"

"Will you shut the fuck up already, I'm trying to read!"

Another trick Hindy had taught him, that talking back to the dybbuk was vital. He had to maintain superiority, show the damn demon who was boss.

The demon shut up. Stuart read quickly, not wanting another attack.

When he finished, he had more questions than answers. He called Laura back into the office. To her credit, she didn't ask if he was okay.

"Did you talk to these kids before?" he asked her.

"Chana Glazer, Mark Dorfman and Eliana Rutenberg? They were here last week."

"Why am I only finding about this now?"

Laura shrugged. "You were busy."

A more tactful way of saying that he'd been in a particularly grueling therapy session with Hindy.

"But they're underage. Mark's not even fourteen years old, according to this file. How can they afford to hire me?"

"Kids. They have more money than we ever dreamed of."

Stuart didn't feel like arguing the point. If they could pay him, that was fine. It wasn't what bothered him the most, anyway.

How could Rabbi Grossman simply vanish without a trace when his students had seen him enter the building not five minutes earlier? How could Rabbi Diener be seen walking down the corridor of the school, but not arrive at the end? And what was the mysterious chalky gray gunk that lay in the spot where both men had last been seen?

As Stuart mulled over some possibilities, his head pounded and ached like it hadn't in months. He crouched down in a fetal position, wishing like hell Laura wasn't around to watch.

But she was. "Stuart? You shouldn't have an attack so soon. What's happening?"

His eyes rolled back once again, and he knew no more.

* * * * *

All Lenny Adelman ever wanted was to be the best rabbi in the world.

Instead, he created a monster.

Literally.

It began in the basement of his parents' house, which Lenny called home after his life had turned to shit. He'd given up so much to pursue his dream. His father had been so horrified that he'd cut Lenny out of his will, leaving his son's share to his beloved golf instructor. Lenny miraculously won a scholarship so he could leave town, but those idiots at Yeshiva University failed to understand his singular genius. How dare they tell him he would not only be the worst rabbi ever to grace a synagogue, but he was no longer allowed to study at their school?

Bastards, all of them.

But they weren't the worst. His foulest and most vitriolic curses were reserved for those cretins at Kessler Academy. So he'd told a few lies here and there to get the job. So there had been the little trouble with the Steinman girl, her hair so lustrous, her eyes so luminous, her chest so gloriously endowed --

"Lenny, what on earth is going on down there?"

He stopped mixing. That bitch. Always wanting to know what he was doing and what he was up to. If only she knew how important his work was, how vital the need to concentrate.

"Lenny, if you don't answer me this instant --"

"Sorry, ma!" he yelled. "I'll keep it down."

His shoulders ached so much, but he couldn't stop. The goop was getting firmer, and he had to keep a steady rhythm for four more minutes for it to take effect. He sang himself a little ditty to keep his mind from dwelling on the pain:

I had a little Golem
I made him out of clay
And when he's dry and ready
With Golem I shall play. Oh -

"LENNY!"

"Sorry, ma!"

How the hell would he shut that woman up? Had he really used up all his curses on that stupid school? No, there had to be more. For the sheer indignity of living in his parents' basement with his mother rampaging upstairs, her voice inflaming every nerve ending he possessed.

Lenny racked his brain, but the only curse he could think of involved something about wishing all their teeth would fall out save one, and may it have a permanent toothache.

Great. Now his teeth hurt.

The timer beeped. He was finished! The mixture -- virgin soil, fresh water, a dash of pickle juice (he'd opted for a more up-to-date recipe) was complete. The only thing left was the blessing.

All five feet six inches of Lenny Adelman stood straight over the cauldron. He raised his head and, sotto voce, recited:

"Oh Golem Golem Golem
I made you out of clay
And now that you are ready
You'll do just what I say!"

He repeated the blessing three times, just as the recipe instructed. Then he waited. Nothing. He recited it a fourth time. Still nothing.

That wasn't good.

"LEONARD! If you don't tell me exactly what you are doing down there I swear I'll come right down and -"

Sweat poured down his brow. "A couple of minutes, ma!"

Then the rumbling began. Lenny looked at the cauldron. The mixture had disappeared completely. What the hell?

The noise got louder and louder until it was so deafening Lenny thought he heard the faint sounds of his mother's screams as she descended the staircase, but he couldn't tell and --

The door opened.

His mother's withering stare gave way to a look of pure and absolute terror.

She screamed like a broken animal and crumpled to the ground.

Lenny rushed to his mother's side. What the hell happened? Then he felt something tap him on the shoulder.

He looked up. And up. And up some more. It was the strangest sight in the world.

It was his monster. And it was grinning at him.

From that moment on, Lenny knew he wouldn't have the faintest idea how to control his creation.

* * * * *

Stuart had spent the entire day dodging phone calls. Damn kids with their damn cell phones. He should have had a rule: no clients under the age of eighteen, no matter how much money they offered up front.

They were getting anxious and pressuring him for results, afraid the entire world would soon find out something very, very wrong was going on at Kessler. Two confirmed disappearances, possibly a third as well. Gossip and wild rumors permeated the halls of the academy as students told increasingly lurid urban myths about how two of their most prominent educators vanished.

And all Stuart wanted to do was bang his fucking head against the wall.

He emailed his usual sources, but no one would tell him anything. He talked to every remaining teacher and educator at Kessler Academy, but no one could -- or would, based on their stubborn insistence that "everything was fine" -- offer any explanation or motive for the disappearances. Even when he reported back to the kids and asked if there had been anyone vaguely suspicious-looking on campus, they gave him back blank stares.

And not a single person could give him a concrete answer about the droppings of clay or whatever it was.

The case was driving him insane. Literally.

For months, the dybbuk had been under control, a mere nuisance. Now it practically owned him. He could barely speak properly, with bouts of coherence mixed in between hours of utter gibberish. Laura had done her best by him but finally, she handed in her resignation. Again.

"I'm sorry," she said, voice full of pity. "But I can't work here when you're like this."

"It's only a setback," Stuart grunted, having learned through trial and error that the dybbuk stayed away if he spoke like an unintelligible caveman instead of a normal human being.

"I don't think so," Laura said, "But I really hope it is."

he leaned in closer. "Dammit, why do you keep doing this to me? I thought we had a future!"

Stuart hadn't thought that at all, sticking to more prosaic things like how many ways she might like to be fucked and then cursing himself for such inappropriateness. And then the dybbuk would start laughing at him and he'd talk back and --

It was hopeless.

He spent the night at Hindy's office as she tried remedy after remedy. Nothing took.

Finally, even she gave up on him, though she was too polite to say so outright.

"Maybe you need to face this more directly, Stuart."

"What the hell do you mean? I talk back to the thing! How much more direct can I get?"

Hindy paused. "Perhaps instead of talking back at him, try talking back with him. Engage your dybbuk in conversation. Treat him with respect, with courtesy..."

"He uses words I'd never think of saying out loud! He's disgusting! Why should I treat him with anything resembling respect when he doesn't treat me well?"

Hindy raised an eyebrow. Yeah, it was a stupid thing to say.

He went home and slept for a few hours, letting his brain mull the idea over. When he woke, he decided maybe Hindy was right. Maybe it was time to be nicer to his dybbuk.

Be his friend instead of his adversary. Hell, it couldn't hurt to try, right?

At first, the dybbuk kept on its usual course of insults and slurs. It taunted and jeered and mocked him but Stuart held firm. "You are my friend," he repeated again and again for hours until he felt he couldn't do it anymore.

And then, he felt a change. The dybbuk hadn't left, but it seemed more pensive, more thoughtful.

"You like me?"

The first sentence it had ever uttered that made any sort of sense.

"Well," said Stuart, "I'd kinda like to."

"You're just bullshitting me."

"What do you mean? It's true. I like you. What else do you need to hear from me?"

tuart had gone out of his way to befriend the dybbuk.Now it wanted him to grovel? This was ridiculous.

The dybbuk said nothing.

tuart tried waiting him out, but finally he sighed. "All right. I'm sorry. I wasn't very nice to you, I admit. But I'm willing to try a little harder if you'll let me."

"Well that wasn't so hard, was it?"

"I guess not. So, since we're good buddies now, what's your favorite baseball team?"

The dybbuk was incredulous. "You think I like baseball?"

"Well, why not? What's a dybbuk supposed to like?"

"I don't know. I never thought about it."

So Stuart proceeded to figure out what a Jewish demon was supposed to like. Not surprisingly, the dybbuk liked a lot of the same things Stuart liked: pretty girls, fast cars, and the New York Mets. They differed on matzo balls and sushi (dybbuk yes, Stuart not so much) but were in surprising agreement about how utterly bewildering Britney Spears was.

After a few days of serious bonding, Stuart asked the dybbuk what it thought of the disappearances of Rabbis Grossman and Diener.

"Not good."

"Of course it's not good! It's fucking weird, that's what it is. Before you turned on me I was trying to figure out what was going on but every time I'd read the case file, you'd act all crazy again."

"I was trying to warn you."

"Warn me?"

"That it would be a bad thing to get involved. I stayed quiet at first but you wouldn't listen so I had no choice. But you figured out a better way."

"Which was what?" asked Stuart.

"To work with me instead of against me."

"You know what's going on?"

If the dybbuk had taken human form, it would have smirked. "Well, yeah. It's all about the clay."

Stuart didn't understand.

"You really are clueless about Jewish mysticism, aren't you."

"I liked comics better."

"Like what, Mendy and the Golem?"

"Of course not. Sin City, Sandman, Transmet, those sorts of things."

"That's what happens when you stick around till the 21st century," muttered the dybbuk. "Anyway, because of your preferences for getting a Bachelor's degree in Comics followed by a M.A. in Private Investigation, you missed out on a lot of cool stuff. Like Golems."

"You mean that shitty comic?"

"Of course not! I mean real Golems. Do I have to explain this to you?"

Something rang a bell in another part of Stuart's brain. Bad art…silly lessons to learn…and oh yeah. A cuddly Golem made out of clay.

"Oh," said Stuart, finally understanding.

"Finally," the dybbuk sighed. "You get it. So that's why every time a Rabbi disappears there's clay at his last known sighting. Because a Golem's taken them somewhere."

"But why would it do that?"

"Revenge. Not the Golem's of course, because it has no mind of its own, but the owner's. Find its creator, and you'll have the answer."

"You mean you don't know?"

"Please," said the dybbuk. "I'm just a demon. I'm not exactly God here."

* * * * *

At first Lenny thought the Golem would be his friend. Someone to listen to his problems, commiserate with his frustrations. But from the beginning, it was only interested in one pursuit: mayhem.

And now the monster was getting worse.

It had graduated from causing accidents to outright cold-blooded killing. And that was bad. Lenny tried telling it so but the Golem refused to listen.

"Oh, boo-hoo-hoo. What do you mean you're sorry your mommy's dead?" It chided. "You were planning to live in her basement forever, were you?"

Well, that was true, and now he was living in his mother's bedroom and enjoying unfettered access to her checking and saving accounts and the money he'd got from pawning her jewelry, but he hadn't actually wished her death, had he? Lenny couldn't remember anymore. Things were getting so muddled in his mind that he couldn't separate reality from fiction.

All he had to do was stare at his creation to remind himself just how screwy the line truly was.

Because it was better than staring down at the mutilated body of Rabbi Diener, which the Golem had insisted Lenny help drag from the school to the car to the basement, where the corpse was dumped unceremoniously on the floor.

This was getting to be a bit too much for one man to take.

"Why did you make me do this?" Lenny whined.

The Golem slapped Lenny's face. "I didn't make you do anything, you nitwit. You created me. Therefore I do everything your heart and brain desires even if you're too much of a dumb fuck to figure it out."

"I never wanted to kill anyone!"

The Golem whirled around, hands on hips. "Bullshit. What were all those curses for then? For show? To vent your anger and tell the world what a man you were? Give me a fucking break, Lenny. I'm just doing what you tell me to do."

The Golem kicked Rabbi Diener's corpse for extra emphasis.

Cowed, Lenny looked down at the man who'd both hired him and fired him. "So what do we do now?"

The Golem shook his head. "Nope. It's your turn."

"What do you mean, it's my turn?"

"Hey, it's not my fault you were too chickenshit to do this yourself -"

"I never wanted to do this in the first place! Can't you get it through that goddamned brain of yours?"

The Golem laughed. Lenny despised the sound, which reminded him of rusty nails sliding together on a chalkboard. Or something like that.

"I don't have a brain. I don't even have a soul. I shouldn't even be able to talk but you added that pickle juice."

"It's what the recipe said -"

"Shut up, Lenny. Like I said, it's your turn."

Lenny did not want to do this at all. He'd seen what had happened to Rabbi Grossman and it had made him retch for two consecutive days. And the Golem had hardly done anything that time. This was so much worse. He looked at the bloody eye sockets and thought he'd convulse right then and there.

"Stop acting like such a fucking wimp. Lift him up!"

Lenny did.

"Put him in the cauldron!"

Lenny did that too.

"Do you really need me to tell you what to do next? Get going already!"

Lenny opened the closet and took out several cloth rags. He threw them over the corpse so that it was completely covered. The only good thing, because then Lenny didn't have to watch what would happen.

He took out a small bottle of propane and sprayed it over the cloth rags. He and the Golem lit matches and flicked them into the cauldron.

As the corpse burned, the Golem looked at Lenny with a hard, glittering expression. "Only one more to go."

Lenny rushed upstairs to the bathroom and wished he could lock himself there forever.

* * * * *

The dybbuk had filled in the necessary gaps once Stuart sat down with the case file and read it thoroughly for the first time in weeks, followed by a few hours of choice Internet searching and record-hacking. As a result, Stuart discovered one man with a very strong grudge against his former employers, one who was volatile enough and just possibly mentally unstable enough to try anything to get revenge.

When he brought the man's name up at his next meeting with the kids, Eliana's face went white.

"I can't believe I forgot about him!"

The others looked at her mutinously. "We weren't allowed to talk about him," said Mark in a horrified whisper.

"Why not?" asked Stuart.

"Because he was weird. He'd go around the corridors staring at the girls like they were fresh meat. He'd start screaming and yelling in class for no good reason. How were we supposed to learn Gemarah that way?"

"Or Daf Yomi," said Eliana.

The kids looked so spooked that Stuart assured them he'd find a way. And thanks to the dybbuk, he did.

All he had to do was stake the school out on a moonlight night and well, that would be that.

"You've got to be kidding me," said Stuart. "You think it'll be that easy?"

"Certainly. Look at your notes. Lenny Adelman is not exactly the brightest bulb in the world."

This was true. He lived in his parents' basement, for god's sake.

"It's all about the obvious," continued the dybbuk. "Since the Golem has to do what Lenny tells it to, and Lenny seems to have a burning need to get revenge on those who he thinks did him wrong, then what's the most obvious next step?"

"Take Rabbi Kvartik out quickly and efficiently?"

"Close enough," said the dybbuk, "which means we have to stop them from doing so."

Stuart didn't argue. Ever since he and the demon had become allies, he'd pretty much deferred to its judgment, accumulated over far too many millennia (as it constantly liked to tell him.) So if it said that a disgraced rabbinical student was the only suspect worth pursuing, Stuart listened. If it decreed they should stakeout the school on the first new moon of the month in order to stop the duo from killing Kessler Academy's principal (and the man who'd had the honor of firing Lenny) then so be it. If the dybbuk decreed that Stuart should approach only after watching Lenny and the Golem for five minutes, then that worked just fine.

He was struck by the irony that his investigative skills -- never mind his mental health -- had been vastly improved by a demon.

One with bizarre ideas on what to do next.

"You'll have to confront the both of them," the dybbuk had said on the drive down to Kessler Academy on the moonlit night in question.

"And do what? Charm them with witty repartee? Tell them that no, it's a terrible, terrible idea to kill that other rabbi?"

"Hey, you're the detective. I'm just a demon."

Stuart gritted his teeth as he turned into the school's parking lot.

* * * * *

Lenny had gone through all the mourning stages: shock, anger, self-pity and then acceptance. But the context was a little different, because he was mourning the loss of what he had once been, and worse, what he'd become.

A killer.

The Golem was right. It couldn't act autonomously, of its own accord, so it really was all Lenny's fault.

But it still wasn't fair. All he'd ever wanted was to be a rabbi and do good in the world. He'd gone to synagogue for the first time (that he could remember) at the age of three, and for whatever reason, decided to rush into the sanctuary at the climax of the rabbi's stirring sermon and yell out "SUPERMAN!" at the top of his lungs.

The rabbi had looked at him sternly but not to punish, and something turned inside little Lenny's heart. He wanted to be that man. He wanted to preach and teach and educate and be a leader, someone to emulate.

But it hadn't exactly worked out that way, and he'd blamed everyone he possibly could. Everyone but the real culprit.

"I hate myself," said Lenny, as he and the Golem crouched in the bushes outside Kessler Academy, waiting to begin their final act of vengeance.

"Get over it, for Christ's sake!"

Lenny's eyes widened. "You're not supposed to say that. It's blasphemy!"

"After what we've done, you can talk about blasphemy. Amazing. Fucking amazing."

"Oh." Lenny dropped his eyes. "See? I can't even argue with you properly. I'm such a fuckup. Maybe you should just kill me."

"And then what? I kill you, and I'll die too!"

"You never know. If that pickle juice could make you speak, maybe it can make you think independently and grow your own brain!"

"That's crazy talk," said the Golem. "And we're supposed to be quiet here so we can break into the school properly."

Not that there was much that needed to be overcome. Security was pathetic, even after the "disappearance" of the two Rabbis. Administration never got it into their noggins that there might be bad people out there to get them. It was something that had bothered Lenny for the two months he'd taught there, though the concern got lost amidst other, far more important ones.

He and the Golem waited some more, but nothing happened. Then a rustling sound emerged from a few feet away.

"What's that?" Lenny hoped the fear didn't show on his face.

"Probably nothing. Focus, will you?"

Lenny tried, but it wasn't working. The noise seemed to be getting louder and he wanted to know what it was.

"Just ignore it, Adelman. It'll go away."

It did, but was replaced by a surprising sight - a tall, slightly stooped middle-aged man with a distinctly receding hairline.

"Damn, that's got to suck for him," cracked the Golem. "Look at him. He has more hair peeking out of his shirt collar than on his head."

"Shut up! Why is he here?"

"Guess we'll have to find out."

They waited, not moving anywhere even as the man walked right towards them. Even when he stood right before them with a strange grin on his face.

"Looking for someone?" said the man.

* * * * *

Of all the utterly, incredibly idiotic things to say, Stuart had chosen the stupidest question in the world.

Of course they were looking for someone. Not him, but the other teacher, Rabbi Kvartik. But whatever he was going to say got lost as soon as he saw the Golem for the first time.

Stuart hadn't reckoned, and the dybbuk had neglected to tell him, that the Golem would be so damn tall. At least seven and a half feet, meaning it dwarfed its creator by a couple of feet. And how should he have guessed that it would weigh at least five hundred pounds?

No wonder Lenny Adelman looked like he was about to shit his pants. Who exactly controlled whom?

The dybbuk hadn't said a word from the time Stuart parked the car until the moment he faced his two opponents. And now, just when he could have used the demon's presence, it seemed to have gone away.

He would have to improvise.

"Well," said Stuart, "Are you?"

Shit. He always hated improvising.

The Golem raised his arm to strike Stuart somewhere, so he did the natural thing: he ducked low.

"Jeez, don't hit me. I just wanted to talk some sense into you."

"Some sense?" said the Golem. "What makes you think I have any, Baldy? Besides, I know who you are. Why should I believe anything you say when you can't even string a sentence together? I'm surprised your mouth hasn't drowned from all the foam."

Good. Better it should think he was incoherent. Or crazy.

"You're sadly mistaken," Stuart said. "I don't have any disorder whatsoever. I'm perfectly fine. And I'm about to stop you from doing a horrible thing."

This time Stuart couldn't evade the blow. Shit, this Golem was a mean motherfucker.

"Stop it!" squealed Lenny.

Amazingly, the Golem did. Maybe the whiny dude actually controlled him after all.

"You can't hit him there," said Lenny, "You'll only injure him. You have to incapacitate him!"

On the other hand…

Stuart ran, wondering why the fuck the dybbuk hadn't shown up yet. They were supposed to be friends! What kind of person would let a friend down when he needed him most?

As Lenny and the Golem chased him around the courtyard, Stuart did a curious thing: he prayed. To God. For the first time in as long as he could remember.

And it was sincere and fervent and heartfelt.

The Golem stopped in its tracks, a curious expression overtaking its face.

Then it grinned and did the oddest thing. It picked up a terror stricken Lenny, threw him as high as possible, and watched him fall to the ground.

Stuart watched as well, numb to do anything even as Lenny hit, turning from a live person into dead, mangled mush.

The Golem advanced toward Stuart.

"You are the worst kind of idiot I've ever known," it said in a new voice, a strange mixture between its original and Lenny's. "By praying, you allowed me to take over Lenny's soul. You think you're going to stop my plan now?"

Stuart didn't have a good response to that. At least, any other response other than "No."

The Golem advanced further, its arms fully outstretched so as to crush Stuart.

A private investigator was supposed to anticipate all manners of dying, but Stuart never imagined his death would be instigated by a large pile of clay.

It was just too fucking weird.

As was what happened next.

Inches from Stuart's face, the Golem stopped moving. It looked upward, struggling to contain its terror.

"Malakh?" said the Golem.

"Bet you didn't think I'd show up, eh G.?"

"Like you didn't ruin things the last time around?"

"Just like always," the dybbuk cracked. "Every single time, you think you're going to have the last word."

"But -"

The Golem never finished its sentence. A thundering sound threw Stuart to the ground, and when large chunks of clay propelled themselves toward him, he crouched into a fetal position, covering his face with his arms.

The Golem screamed. The dybbuk laughed. And then there was silence.

When Stuart dared to open his eyes, he realized he was alone. The Golem was gone.

The parking lot was completely silent, stripped of all intrigue, terror, and any signs of life. There was only Stuart, wondering what to do next. How to thank an entity that no one else could see, that only lived inside him, for saving his life.

Finally, the dybbuk spoke.

"Feel like a couple of beers?"

Stuart stopped, too stunned at first to reply.

Maybe the dybbuk had a point. It was all over now, time to move on. He'd go into the office tomorrow morning, brief the kids... oh, that will be fun, he thought... and try his damnedest to win Laura back. He'd go to his next therapy session with Hindy and actually have something positive to report.

Because he hadn't just made a new friend -- he had a new partner.

"Beers?" Stuart said. "Are you some kind of sissy? Jack and coke, my friend. Several rounds of it."

As Stuart and the dybbuk made their way back to the car, the demon concurred.

"Yeah, you're probably right, but Coke makes me all burpy."

"So try something else. Or straight up."

"You can drink Jack Daniel's straight up?"

"Of course you can," said Stuart as he drove out of the lot. "It's alcohol. What else is it good for?"

Copyright (c) 2006 by Sarah Weinman.

Sarah Weinman is the Baltimore Sun's crime fiction columnist, co-editor of the publishing industry news blog Galleycat, and the proprietor of Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind hailed by USA TODAY as "a respected resource for commentary on crime and mystery fiction." Her reviews, articles, essays and stories have appeared in numerous online and print publications, and more short fiction is forthcoming in Dublin Noir, Baltimore Noir, Damn Near Dead and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. She lives in New York City, but she says she misses her native Canada -- and the beer -- a whole lot. (2006)

| Home | Detectives A-L M-Z | Film | Radio | Television | Web Comics | Comics | FAQs |
| Trivia | Authors | Hall of Fame | Mystery Links | Bibliography | Glossary | Search |
| This Just In... | Word on the Street | Non-Fiction | Fiction | Staff | The P.I. Poll |

Drop a dime. Your comments, suggestions, corrections and contributions are always welcome.
"...and I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk."

Copyright 1998-2017 , thrillingdetective.com. All rights reserved.
Web site by The Thrilling Detective Web Guy