The Doll

Walter Ulric Story

By Ian Wilson (Rated PG)

I staggered into my former barn, now my office, later than usual that fine autumn morning. Being as last night was the full moon, I spent most of it halfway between wolf and man. As usual, I endured the cleansing ritual with Father Steve and Conrad’s help. It didn’t take quite so long this time to keep me in my normal shape. I’m hoping one day I won’t have to go through the cleansing every month, but until then, I gotta live with waking up with what I can only describe as a hangover. 

I grunted a good morning greeting to my partner, Conrad LeFontain, as he sat in his easy chair, sipping black coffee and reading emails off his smartphone. I then ambled toward my desk, only to find my chair already occupied. My cousin, Katherine, her bare feet up on my desk, was chewing gum and filing her fingernails. She was dressed in her usual attire for that time of year; bluejeans with holes in the knees, plaid flannel shirt over a graphic tee. 

“Katherine,” I growled. 

“Walter,” Katherine replied.

“What the devil are you doing at my desk?”

“I’m your secretary.”

I spun around glaring angrily at Conrad.

“What’s she talking about, Conrad?”

“I hired her,” he replied.

“Why?”

“Because you need a secretary, my dude,” he replied. “I can’t do all the paperwork and filing, Walter. We need help, she needs a job, I figured we’d help each other.”

“Fine,” I grumbled. “But you’ll have to get her own desk.” Turning back to the girl, I added, “And if you wanna be my secretary, try dressing professional!”

“What’s wrong with the way I dress?” she exclaimed.

“You look like you raided Eddie Vedder’s closet!”

“I don’t even know who Eddie Vedder is! And who do you think you are? Clint Eastwood?”

“I ain’t asking you to look like Audrey Hepburn, just wear something that ain’t ripped, alright?”

Katherine rolled her eyes. “Fine. I’ll change.”

With that, she stomped out of the office. Taking my rightful place at my desk, I drew a cigarillo out of my vest pocket and lit up. 

“Any cases?” I asked, drinking in the sweet-smelling aroma of good tobacco smoke. 

“Nothing we can do from here,” replied Conrad.

I was actually relieved there were no cases today after the night I’d had. A day of rest would do me a world of good. 

As I cracked open the novel I’d been reading, Katherine returned to the office wearing a knee-length skirt, and one of her nicer tops. 

“Y’all have a visitor,” she said. 

Behind her came a young, dark-skinned woman in a nun’s habit. At the sight of this nun, Conrad nearly spit out his coffee.

“Therese?” he blurted.

Sister Therese,” replied the nun. “Good morning Conrad.”

“Conrad, who is this?” I queried.

“Walter, this is… Sister Therese of the holy order of Michael the Archangel.”

The Order of St. Michael is a holy order of priests, friars and lay people who have made it their mission to stamp out demonic activity the world over. Conrad is a lay brother in the Order. Our first meeting was a result of a kill order issued against Hoarfrost – the leader of my werewolf pack and my cousin. 

Rising from my chair, I stepped around the desk and shook the nun’s hand.

“Pleased to meet you,” I said.

“The pleasure is mine,” replied Therese. “We’ve heard a lot about you, Mr. Ulric.”

“Good things, I hope.”

I smiled nervously. For all I knew, her next move would be to put a silver bullet in my gut, but it always pays to be polite.

“A few… concerning things.”

“What did you tell ‘em?” I asked, glaring angrily at Conrad.

Conrad shrugged. “The Holy Order don’t look kindly on amateurs trying to do their job.” 

“Hey, I’m already a monster; who’s more qualified to chance monsters than a monster?”

“We understand you are undergoing the cleansing?” inquired Sister Therese.

“Yes ma’am,” I replied.

“Good to hear. Most werewolves nowadays don’t even try.”

“Erm, thanks, I guess.”

“I have no idea what’s going on,” Katherine broke in.

“I’m a lay brother in the Holy Order of St. Michael the Archangel,” replied Conrad.

“That means nothing to me,” stated Katherine.

“We are an order dedicated to combating the powers of darkness,” added Therese. “That’s what Conrad was doing when he suddenly vanished. We were a little concerned about you, Brother.”

“Understandable,” responded Conrad.

“We hear you’re doing good work here, however. Father Jacob has an important assignment for you.”

“Oh yes?” My partner perked up a bit.

“It isn’t something for all ears.”

Conrad nodded, escorting her outside. I started to follow, but Conrad raised a hand and shook his head. I stayed put. They were out there quite a while.

“What are they even doing out there?” inquired Katherine. 

Nun of your business,” I replied with a slight chuckle. Katherine stared at me like I was growing horns. I guess my brilliant pun went right over her head. Either that, or I’m just not as droll as I think I am. I took one last puff on my cigarillo before putting it out. 

At some point the front door swung open and Conrad entered, a concerned look on his face.

“I’m gonna be gone for… a while,” he stated.

“How long?” I asked.

“A few days, a week, a month; who knows?”

“I can come if you need me.”

“No, you really can’t,” said Therese, shaking her head.

“Say a prayer for me,” said Conrad, solemnly.

“Several,” I responded. “You could at least tell whereabouts you’re going.”

“I wish I could, man. I really do. I’ll leave you with the keys to the jeep so you can get here and there.”

Katherine and I stood silently watching as the pair got into a Volkswagen Beetle and drove off down the road. 

“Well, what do we do now?” asked Katherine. 

I shrugged. “Try to get on without him, I guess.”

Entering the office once again, I flopped down in my chair again and picked the novel I’d been reading. Katherine sat down in Conrad’s chair, crossed her legs and continued filing her nails. 

“Is this all you do all day?” she asked after a while.

“If there ain’t a case, yeah,” I replied. 

“Seems kinda…”

“Boring? Yeah, it is. Things will liven up soon, I wager.”

Conrad had apparently given Katherine access to our email account and she read through the messages while I offered sage advice to those vexed by ghosts and goblins. This continued through the morning and into the afternoon, until the front door swung open and three kids tumbled into the office.

“Walter!” said a familiar voice. 

“Willow, Nate, and TJ,” I said, glancing up from my book. “To what do I owe the honor?”

I’d had two other encounters with this same group of kids; they seem to have a habit of getting themselves into dangerous situations. 

“It’s not a big deal,” said Nate, turning away. “Sorry for wasting your time.” 

TJ and Willow grabbed the poor kid by the shirt and turned him back around. 

“Tell him, you dunce!” snapped Willow.

“It’s my little sister,” Nate said. “She’s been acting… strange lately.”

“Like how strange?” asked Katherine. 

I glared at my cousin-turned-secretary; who told her she could interview clients? She gave me a mocking grimace in return.

“She’s been tired a lot. Falling asleep at strange times. And really cranky. She threw a temper fit at my mom the other night and she never used to do that.”

“This sounds more like an issue for a doctor,” I responded.

“The doctor said there’s nothing wrong with her,” replied Nate.

“Tell him about the other stuff,” said Willow, excitedly.

“Well, stuff is getting moved around, going missing. Then there’s the pranks.”

“Pranks?” I asked, raising one hairy brow.

“Yeah. Like there’s crayon drawings on the wall. Mom and Dad blamed Jael– my sister– but my sister blames Morgan.”

“Who’s Morgan?” asked Katherine.

“Her doll. She claims the doll comes to life when we’re not looking and does stuff.”

Setting my book down on the desk I leaned forward in my chair a bit. I grunted thoughtfully, scratching my short beard. 

“She blames the tiredness on Morgan, too,” said Willow.

“She says she’s tired because Morgan keeps bringing her out to the holler at night to dance with the goblins,” Nate added.

I jumped out of my chair, making my way to the door. 

“Where are you going?” asked Katherine. 

“To bag me a poltergeist,” I said, putting on my jacket. 

“Well, you’re not going alone!” exclaimed Katherine. 

I looked at the girl like she was out of her mind.

“After the last encounter? Your father would have my head on a platter! I’ll call Julia if I need backup.”

“It’s not about the creature.”

“Then what is it about?” I asked.

Pursing her lips, Katherine folded her hands in a way that told me she was trying her best to be diplomatic.

“Your demeanor.”

“What’s wrong with my demeanor?”

“Some folks find it… off-putting. Conrad is sorta there to act as a buffer.”

“And you think I need a buffer?”

“Clearly.”

“Alright, then, Buffer the Vampire-Slayer, let’s saddle up!”

“Get your bikes and ride back into town,” I said to the kids. “I’ll be there in a bit.” The kids did as they were told. Fortunately, the farm isn’t particularly far outside of town. Katherine and I got into the Jeep and started the engine. Rolling out the gravel driveway, we rumbled down the two lane road into town. 

I had gotten directions to where Nate lived and had no trouble finding the place. It was your basic pale blue, ranch-style house with a front deck and a small garden out front. A medium-sized, stocky, red-brown dog barked at us from the porch as we came up the drive.

“Howdy, ma’am,” I said to the dog. 

The animal immediately quieted her barking and sat down, holding her paw out. The door opened before I could knock and an attractive-looking woman answered, wearing a floral top and a slouch hat. She squinted at me for a moment before speaking.

“Walter, Katherine,” she said. “What can I do for you?”

“Howdy, Judy,” I replied. “I heard you were having a bit of trouble with your daughter.”

“How is that any concern of yours?”

“Nate seems pretty concerned, Mrs. McFadden,” replied Katherine.

“How do you two know each other?” I asked.

“I come to their Bible study on Tuesday nights,” replied Katherine. “How do you know her?”

“We dated once,” I replied. 

“Wait, what?” inquired Katherine. 

Judy sighed. “It was in high school. I was a rebellious teenager, he was the school bad boy. It was never serious.”

It was about that time that the three kids rolled up. 

“Nathan,” said Judy. “Did you contact Mr. Ulric?”

“We all did,” replied the boy. 

“This is crazy, Mrs. McFadden!” exclaimed Willow. “At least let Walter look around.”

Judy rolled her eyes. 

“Alright, come in.”

She opened wide the door for us. After seating us at the kitchen table, she put on some coffee to brew. 

“I guess it started with the dreams,” said Judy.

“Dreams?” asked Katherine.

“Yes. She’d wake up tired and crabby and when we asked why, she’d say Morgan – her doll – took her out to the holler to dance with the goblins at night. We thought it was just a recurring dream. Then the behavior changes started.”

She took a sip of coffee and continued.

“She started acting out; talking back to me, her father, her Sunday school teachers. Then there were the pranks.”

“Yes, Nate told us about those,” I said. 

“It all came to a head today, so to speak.”

The woman then removed her hat, revealing her shaven head.

“Holy crap!” blurted Katherine, staring in disbelief. 

“What the devil?” I exclaimed.

“She poured my husband’s  wood glue on my hair while I was asleep,” replied Judy. “Once again, she blamed the doll.”

I sat thoughtfully sipping the hot, black liquid.

“How long has this been going on?” I inquired.

“About a month.”

“Anything strange happen before that?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

“Have you recently purchased or been given any unusual objects?”

Judy thought for a moment.  

“Y’know, that was about the time that we got her Morgan.”

I glanced at Katherine.

“Can we see this doll?” I asked.

“Of course,” replied Judy. 

We followed the housewife into what appeared to be a storage room. Judy looked around the room for a moment. Her brows knit into an expression of confusion mixed with concern.

“Where is she?” she asked no one in particular. “After what happened this morning, I took her away from Jael and put her up on the top shelf. You didn’t move her, did you, Nate?”

“Nope,” Nate quickly replied. “I wouldn’t touch her!”

“Is your daughter home now?” asked Katherine.

“Yeah, I had her grounded,” replied Judy. 

Just then the dog began barking, and the door squeaked open.

“I’m home!” said a masculine voice. 

Returning to the main room of the house, we found a man entering the house after a long day of labor. He wore the standard uniform of a tradesman in this region of the world; plaid flannel shirt, work jeans and leather boots. He smiled upon seeing his lovely wife, but his smile turned to an expression akin to disgust upon seeing me.

“Walter,” said the gentleman.

“Angus,” I replied, nodding.

“Elder McFadden,” said Katherine.

“Katherine,” said Angus. 

I’d forgotten that Nate’s father was Angus McFadden: electrician, presbyterian elder, well-liked by the community; a respectable sort. He and I had never really gotten along well. He was the typical high school jock; quarterback, charismatic, handsome, popular. I was a bad boy; outsider, loner; not necessarily popular, but respected and even feared by some. We both vied for Judy’s affections, but I eventually figured out (with my friend Steve’s help) that she only dated me to annoy her father. I suspected, however, that Angus still didn’t trust me very much.

“What’re y’all doing here?”

“Investigating,” I replied, crossing my arms.

“I see,” said Angus. “Investigating what, exactly?”

“Jael,” said Judy. 

Angus nodded looking at his wife with a peculiar expression. She shrugged. 

“Come to any conclusions?” asked the elder.

“There’s a possibility it’s the work of a malevolent spirit,” I replied.

“We’d like to talk to Jael, if it’s alright,” said Katherine.

Angus chewed his lip for a moment. “Will you excuse us for a moment?” 

McFadden drew his wife into the next room. I could hear their voices faintly, not that I was dropping eaves. My name came up a couple of times.

Katherine looked at me with an inquisitive expression. 

“Do you two have history?” she asked.

I shrugged. “Katherine, I have history with almost everyone in the whole darn town.”

The couple entered the main room again. 

“Follow me,” said Judy. 

We followed the woman into an adjacent hallway, where she paused at a dark blue door. 

“Jael,” said Judy, “some people are here to see you.”

Judy opened the door to a room filled with weird decor for a child that age. Posters from fantasy and old horror films hung on the walls, along with pictures of crows and other dark animals. A little girl of about five sat on the floor. Her hair was light brown, almost blonde, and she wore dark purple overalls. On the floor in front of her sat what I can only describe as the most disturbing toy I have ever seen, and I grew up in the ‘90s. It was about ten inches tall, with light blonde, almost white hair. Its plastic skin had a grayish pallor to it, almost like a dead body. Its large, round, dark eyes stared out with a blank expression. It felt like it was looking into my soul. 

“Jael, how did you get Morgan in here?” asked Angus.

“She hopped off the shelf and came in here on her own,” replied the little girl as though nothing was odd about that statement. 

“Listen, sweetie, Mr. Ulric and Katherine are here to talk to you,” said Judy. 

“I know,” said Jael. “Morgan told me. She doesn’t like you very much, Mr. Ulric.”

“If it’s alright, Katherine and I would like to talk to her alone,” I stated.

McFadden hesitated, narrowing his blue eyes. 

“Alright,” he said after a moment. “We’ll be right out in the hall.”

The parents left the room. I squatted down close to Jael’s level. 

“Now why wouldn’t Morgan want you talking to me?” I inquired.

“You make trouble.”

Katherine snorted

“She ain’t wrong,” I replied. “Does Morgan have any other opinions she’d like to share?”

“She would like you to mind your own business. The Old Men of the Hills aren’t very happy with you.”

“And who are the Old Men of the Hills?” asked Katherine.

“They’re… old men… in the hills. Didn’t you hear me?”

“What are they like?” asked Katherine as she sat cross-legged on the floor.

“I don’t know them very well. They don’t come out much, but Morgan talks about them a lot. They’re sorta angry, ‘cause younger folk keep ignoring them.”

I nodded. 

“Do you know their names?”

“They ain’t got names, least none that I’d say out loud. But they got titles; the Goat-Man and the Corn Man are the ones Morgan talks about most.”

A chill ran down my spine. I’d banished the Goat-Man to the Outside a year ago. The Corn Man I’d never met, but I’d heard quite a few tales about him. How could she know about these things? Was it just from listening to the older folk, or was this doll actually speaking to her?

“What’s this I hear about dancing goblins?” asked Katherine.

“Morgan invites me out the holler every night to dance with them,” replied the girl. 

“What are they like?” asked Katherine.

“They’re about my size. They got bodies like regular folk, but a little weird-shaped, with black skin and ugly heads like animals. I probably shouldn’t tell you any more; Morgan doesn’t like me talking to you.” 

“Well, we got what we needed anyway,” I said. “Thanks for talking to us, Jael.”

“Morgan wants me to tell you to tread lightly, Mr. Ulric.”

I nodded at the girl. She looked at me like a spooked horse as we left the room.

“Well?” asked Nate as walked into the hallway.

“Something about that doll makes my skin crawl,” I replied. 

Being a werewolf has its advantages. I can sense danger, particularly black magic. Conrad’s senses are more acute, but I can still feel the presence of evil. I felt it surrounding that doll like heavy black smoke, choking and suffocating. 

“Where did you get it?”

“Thrift store,” replied Judy. “She specifically requested that particular doll.”

I narrowed my eyes at the women.

“Our daughter has odd taste,” said Judy, seemingly in answer to a question I hadn’t asked.

“I understand,” I replied

“How much do I owe you?” grumbled Angus, reaching for his checkbook.

“Consultation is free,” replied Katherine.

“We’ll talk money once the case is closed,” I added.

Angus nodded.

“What are our next steps?” asked Judy.

“Put that doll back in the storage room and lock the door,” I replied. 

“I don’t get it,” remarked Angus. “It’s just a doll.”

“It ain’t just a doll, Angus,” I retorted. “It’s black magic. I don’t know what sort yet, but I know magic when I feel it.”

“You have to let him help, Dad!” said Nate. 

“At least put the doll back in the storage room,” said Judy. 

“Fine,” said Angus. 

Turning away, Angus went into his daughter’s room, while Judy saw us to the front door. Raised voices resounded from Jael’s bedroom as Angus confiscated the devilish doll. 

“She’ll just get out again!” cried Jael. “She always does!”

Judy flushed with embarrassment.

“I’ll try to bring Angus around,” said Judy. 

I shrugged. “You do what you can. Just make certain that door is locked.”

“Of course.”

Katherine and I got into the Jeep again.

“What do we do now?” asked Katherine.

“We go visit an old friend,” I replied, starting the engine. 

We drove down to an older neighborhood in North Fork. Brick houses covered in red Virginia creeper lined the street, with well-trimmed hedges and gardens. I stopped the Jeep in front of one particular house. Removing my helmet, I walked up that familiar brick sidewalk and tapped the little brass door knocker.

A short, white-haired, elderly woman answered. 

“Oh, hello Walter,” she said kindly.

“Hello, Mrs. O’Feeney,” I replied cordially. “May we come in? I’d like to have a word.”

“Oh, of course!”

The old woman stepped aside, allowing us to enter the domicile. 

“I don’t know if you know my cousin, Katherine,” I said. 

“We’ve crossed paths a time or two,” said O’Feeney. “I knew your father well.”

“Oh yes?” said Katherine with some hesitation.

“He was quite the trouble-maker back in the day. I’ll never forget the day he took up bagpipes and started piping Mary into school every morning. She didn’t appreciate it the first few times, but eventually she figured out he was trying to say ‘I love you’.”

Katherine chuckled.

“Let me get you some sweet tea.”

The elderly woman hustled out to the kitchen to fetch the pitcher and some glasses. 

“Much obliged,” I said as she poured me a glass.

“Now,” said O’Feeney, “what was it you wanted to talk about, Walter?”

“What can you tell me about the Old Men of the Hills?”

O’Feeney’s face fell. “I was afraid you’d ask that one day.”

The old woman took a long sip of tea and said: “The Old Men of the Hills are the malevolent spirits of the Appalachians. You’ve already met the Goat Man, and you’ve heard of the Corn Man. They are ancient, they are powerful and they are cruel.”

 I sipped my tea, thinking about everything she’d said. How would a little girl know about all that? Unless…

“Do you know anything about a spirit named Morgan?”

“Morgan, eh? What sort of spirit is it?”

“Not certain as yet.”

“I seem to recall that the last witch of the Corn Man cult was named Morrigan.”

“What happened to her?” asked Katherine.

“No one is absolutely sure,” said O’Feeney. “She disappeared after the blaze burned down Crooked Horn down the road.”

“Is there any chance she might still be around?” asked Katherine.

“Oh, even if she’d survived the night, she’d be well over a hundred years old by now.”

“But what if her… spirit survived?” I inquired.

O’Feeney narrowed her eyes at me.

“Walter, is there something I should know?”

“Client confidentiality and such keeps me from saying too much,” I replied after another sip of tea. “But let’s just say I’m involved in an odd case.”

O’Feeney nodded. 

“She might’ve transferred her spirit into a familiar or some sort of anchor.”

I scratched my chin. I’d heard of some powerful witches being able to do that. Maybe the doll was that anchor she needed. But what did she have planned for Jael? 

After thanking O’Feeney for the tea and the conversation, Katherine and I made our way to the door.

“Y’all be careful out there, now,” said O’Feeney. “Some very old things are starting to stir.”

Nodding solemnly at the elder, we returned to the Jeep and went home.

My cell phone buzzed and rang loudly, awaking me out of the nearly dead slumber I had been enjoying. I fumbled for the electronic device, cussing under my breath. 

“Ulric,” I said, groggily. 

“Walter,” came the voice of Julia. 

“Oh, hey J,” I responded drowsily. “How’s tricks?”

“I need you at the McFadden residence, like now.”

“Check.”

I hung up and dialed my friend and Catholic priest, Father Steven.

“Hello Walter,” mumbled Steve from the other end.

“Steve, I need backup,” I replied. 

“Where are you at?”

“You know where the McFaddens live?”

“Approximately.”

“Good. Meet me there.”

I hung up the phone, threw off the covers and got into a pair of bluejeans and a tee-shirt. Quietly as I could manage I crept down the stairs. Of course, it wasn’t quiet enough for Ma.

“Walter?” she said, emerging from her bedroom. “Where are you going?”

“To take care of business,” I grumbled in reply. 

“Alone?”

“Julia and Steve will be there,” I replied. 

“Be careful.”

“As always, Ma.”

I continued down the stairs into the den, where I grabbed my shotgun off the rack. After tying my boots and strapping on my brain-bucket, I straddled my bike, gunned the engine and went out the gravel drive to town. I arrived at almost the same moment as Father Steve. 

“What’s this about?” asked the priest.

“You’ll find out in a moment.”

I rapped on the door of the little ranch-style home. Angus answered. He looked haggard; anger and fear were written all over his face. He ushered us into the kitchen, Judy sat at the table, weeping with her son. Julia laid her hand on the woman’s shoulder. Deputy Harry just stood there, arms crossed, unsure what to do.

“Oh, good, Walter’s here,” said Harry. 

“Fill me in,” I said. 

“We put the doll in the storage room and locked the door, just like you asked,” began Angus, “but somehow it got out. I went to check on Jael, and she wasn’t in her bed. And the window was open.”

Angus’ voice broke. Tears welled up in his eyes.  

“You remember Steve, right?” I said. “He’s here to help. Show us the room.”

Angus took me to the bedroom where Jael slept. We examined the room. Nothing seemed out of place. Taking a dirty sock off the floor, I went back to the living room area. 

“Harry, is Barney with you?”

“Yeah, he’s out in the truck,” replied the deputy.

“Get him.”

“I’m coming with you,” said Angus.

“It’s dangerous,” I replied. 

“I can handle it.”

“You got a Psalter?” asked Father Steve.

“I’m a Presbyterian Elder, of course I do.”

“Bring it.”

We went outside and Harry released the police poodle from the back of his truck.

After taking a few whiffs of the sock, the dog ran off into the night, following the scent trail of Jael. Harry, Julia, Angus and myself followed the animal through the sleeping neighborhood. Out of the town we went, into the darkened wilderness of the Appalachians. As we pressed further into the woods, I could hear faintly the sounds of some sort of music; drums pounded with a rhythm you could feel in the earth, while flutes whistled like the calls of birds, and over it all was the sound of some kind of chanting in a language I could not understand, nor did I want to.

Eventually we came to a ridge. Barney let out a mournful whimper and refused to go any further. 

Drawing our weapons, Julia, Angus and I peered over the ridge. Below me was a sight that still chills my blood. Dark, misshapen figures danced in wild frenzy about a fire, chanting and howling, while hooded beings pounded on drums. Among them danced the figures of Jael and that demonic doll. Just as I suspected, the thing was alive! 

Suddenly the music (if you could call it that) ceased. The misshapen monsters continued chanting quietly, as four of the hooded human figures brought out a large cauldron on long poles. A gunshot rang out; one of the hooded figures cried out, dropped his pole, clutching at his bleeding arm. The Cauldron fell with a heavy thud. Angus held the smoking rifle in his shaking hands. All eyes turned to us, including the eyes of Morgan. The little devils screamed in rage that anyone would dare interrupt their ritual and began climbing up the ridge toward us. I fired off a rock salt shell from my shotgun, injuring several goblins. Julia and Harry, meanwhile, loosed several bullets into the devilish horde. 

“Freeze!” Julia cried at the hooded people. Most of them ran for it, leaving their cauldron behind. Angus shot another one of them in the leg. He (or she, I couldn’t tell which) dropped to the ground with a scream. 

“Angus!” yelled Father Steve. “Put that rifle away and sing!” 

Angus hesitated, then swung his rifle around his back, took out his Psalter and began singing Psalm 68. 

The little devils were on top of me in an instant. I whacked them with the butt of my shotgun, until they yanked it outta my hands. I then drew my pistol from the holster, but one of the cussed critters bit my wrist, causing me to drop the weapon. Digging their little claws in wherever they could get a handhold, they dragged me to the ground.

“Walter!” cried Julia as she came to my rescue. Father Steve ran to her side, spraying holy water into the horde. 

Meanwhile, Morgan and a few of the goblins were leading Jael away into the forest. 

“No!” cried Angus. 

Snatching my pistol off the ground he chased after them. Once he was within range, he took aim and fired a single silver bullet into the head of the doll. There was a loud wail as the thing fell to earth, lifeless. The goblins fled. Angus ran to his daughter, hugging her tightly. 

“Are you okay, honey?” he asked as soon as he was able to speak.

“I think so,” said the girl in reply.

Taking his daughter in his brawny arms, Angus carried her back to the holler, where Father Steve anointed my wounds with holy oil. Meanwhile, Julia and Harry arrested the two wounded cultists as they spat curses at us. 

“The transference was nearly complete!” said one. “You had no right to interfere!”

“You have the right to remain silent,” said Julia. “You have the right to an attorney. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” She turned to Angus and asked, “Is she alright?”

“She seems to be,” replied Angus.

“Have the elders of your church pray over her,” said Steve.

“Of course,” said Angus. 

“Where’s Morgan?” asked Jael.

“Yeah, good question,” I added.

“I shot it,” said Angus. “I left it back in the woods.”

“Where?” asked Father Steve.

“Over that way.”

Following the direction Angus indicated, Julia, Steve and I searched the forest floor for the doll. Finally, we located the hideous thing. There was a large bullet hole in her plastic head. I picked the now lifeless object up, carrying it back to the holler and tossing it into the dying flames, just to ensure it was well and truly destroyed and the spirit within was released. 

That evening, once everything had settled down, the McFaddens had invited Katherine and I over for coffee as sort of an after-action meeting. 

“Since Morrigan put her essence into the doll, she couldn’t be killed,” I explained. “She’s been waiting all these decades for someone to let her out.”

“But what did that have to do with Jael?” asked Judy.

“Jael is young and full of energy,” I replied. “Morrigan could feed off the energy to gain her former strength and then offer her to the Corn Man.” 

“Sounds horrible,” said Judy.

“That’s black magic for ya!” 

Angus shuddered. “How do we keep this from happening again?”

“Keep alert and pray,” said Katherine.

“What happened to those… druids or whatever I shot?”

“Sheriff took them into custody,” I replied. “I suspect they were part of some cult or other, up to no good.”

Angus nodded. 

“We can’t thank you enough, Walter,” said Judy.

“Yes, thank you,” said Angus.

“All part of the job.”

A couple of days later, I sat at my desk, a smoldering cigarillo hanging off my lip while Katherine sat in the easy chair, reading off emails. The door swung opened with a loud creak, as Conrad LeFontain sauntered in. 

“Howdy, Conrad,” I said nonchalantly, like he’d never even left. 

“Howdy,” said Conrad. “Anything happen while I was away?”

“Nothin’ much,” said Katherine. “Just killed an evil doll and stuff.”

Conrad squinted quizzically at me. 

“A lot has happened,” I explained. “I’ll fill you in at the diner.”

Getting up from my desk, I motioned to Katherine to follow us out the door. All three of us got in the Jeep and headed to the diner for lunch. 

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