Chapter 14Disclaimer: See previous chapters.
“So, is it over?” Kailey carefully asked Giles. “Did you pull it off?”
“Yes...no...not exactly,” Giles said absent-mindedly. “Thank Merlin for Slayer speed and strength!”
“Um, and to those of us who were further away from the center of events?” Oz said, quietly. “Giles? The full version, please?”
“Something went wrong,” Giles replied, quietly. “The ritual was supposed to separate the prime-val spirit from its host and send it back into the astral plane, thus freeing the man from its influence. Only it rather worked the other way around, and it was the man’s spirit who moved-on into the afterlife.”
“Of course it moved on!” Kailey interrupted. “Two spirits can co-exist in one body only if they’re equally matched in size and strength, or even the stronger spirit controls the weaker one. Otherwise, the strongest one subjugates the weaker spirit completely...rather how Mr. Hyde got the best of Dr. Jekyll. When your magic struck, it freed the weaker spirit from the control of the stronger and enabled it to move on.”
There was a pause as everyone stared curiously at the mystic. “What? I specifically study such things. That is what we mystics do!”
“Fair enough,” Giles said thoughtfully. “Fair enough. Still, I wonder what the contemporary society will do with a huge prehistoric lizard-“
“That is probably more of a concern for Courtney’s cousin,” Faith spoke for the first time since the actual event, “rather than ours.”* * *
“Don, I’m sorry about calling you,” Stephanie said, clearly apologetic. “I don’t know what has come over me.”
“You just dialled a wrong number – it happens,” Don said, diplomatically. “It has happened some times to me as well.”
“Yes, well, still,” Stephanie wasn’t convinced. “At least you had the presence of mind to contact the proper people who were able to get to it before it got hurt.”
“It got hurt?” Don said, incredulously. He was aware that Stephanie tended to like animals more than people, but surely not to such extremes. “It killed three people, Stephanie – no, make that four.”
Stephanie inhaled, ready to do a statistical battle... but then exhaled. “I’m not in a real mood for argument right now, Don,” she admitted. “So let’s just assume that you’re right, and can tell me, how did an overgrown Komodo dragon from Indonesia get to us?”
“That’s the tricky thing, Steph,” Don rubbed his chin. “The lizard doesn’t appear to have come from Indonesia at all...”* * *Some time earlier...
“What do you mean, you’ve been expecting this?” Mac exclaimed, in a careful tone of voice. “I mean, Jo, I’m sorry at snapping at you like this, but...”
“Okay, okay, here’s what we found out,” Jo said quickly, “or rather, Lindsay and Danny did. Yes, the museum did charter a flight to Australia, in theory to retrieve the corpse of the deceased would-be show host, but when looked at the flight’s expenses, they realized that it was all wrong. The expenses weren’t for transporting a corpse, but for transporting a live being – and not a human one, either.”
Mac carefully looked at Jo. For several moments his lips just moved silently as he was figuring something out. Finally, he looked back at his co-worker. “I’m guessing that the man was buried there, and the lizard was brought here instead.”
Jo nodded. “Yes, the museum did give the footage of the failed Australian expedition to the deceased’s widow, who put it into the Net. What neither she nor the museum’s PR people have realized, is that the lizard got also caught on film – only a few times, and only indistinctly, but you can see it – black, with yellow spots: a variation of the typical coloration for the juvenile monitor lizards.”
“This lizard, as a juvenile, bit the man – Tim his name was, I think – and due to a combination of events, lack of common survivor knowledge on his part, and simple bad luck, the man succumbed and died there.”
“And was discovered by the local villagers.”
“Yes – with the lizard actually eating his corpse. The villagers, however, have met and dealt with these lizards before, so they captured, and planned to fatten it up and eat it. The museum’s representatives, however, when they came to pick up the corpse, also saw the lizard and realized that this is a potentially new species, so they brought it with them instead.”
“Instead of the corpse,” Mac said flatly.
“Yes, I think. It was quite deteriorated by then, though.”
“I don’t think that the widow was overly consoled by that fact,” Mac said dryly.
“Lindsay checked out other records – there was a burial, they might’ve substituted a body as PR control damage. This is responsible for some of Rachel Straw’s extra expenses too.”
“Not for all?” Mac specified.
“No, the bulk of these expenses went towards the raising and studying of the lizard,” Jo said, carefully. “Luke, the supposed janitor that Lindsay and Don had talked to, was actually the main caretaker of the reptile, and was-“
“-Making sure that it wouldn’t be discovered here before the time was right,” Mac said with finality. “Only the lizard was either stronger or smarter than they expected, and learned how to get out of its’ cell, I suppose.”
“Yes, it has,” Jo nodded. “Fortunately, it decided to just be satisfied with Luke, and leave the rest of you for some reason or another...”
“Possibly,” Mac wasn’t quite convinced, some of the fact didn’t quite fit, but for now... now wasn’t the time to talk about them directly. “When we get back, I want to see these files that got uncovered; possibly, the museum’s authorities are guilty of more things than just a defamation of a corpse...”
“Fair enough, I’ll tell Lindsay later,” Jo nodded.
“Later? Why not know?”
“She’s settling things with her cousin,” Jo explained.
“Ah.”* * *Meanwhile...
The cell phone rang loudly, startling everybody.
“Oh, hey cousin Lindsay! It is me, Courtney...”To be continued...