Micki Foster clicked off the television and dejectedly listened to the wind howl outside. For the past three days the wind had been shrieking, bringing with it over a foot of snow and sub-zero temperatures. It had effectively shut down the city... and Curious Goods. Not that she minded too much; the store had rarely become very busy, even in the best of weather. It wasn't busy, nor was there any worry of losing heat; Jack and Johnny had just checked the huge boiler in a far corner of the basement and had pronounced it good for another year of disuse... unless there was an emergency, in which case it could be fired right up.
No, the problem was that Micki was utterly bored. Jack was stuck in New York at the leading edge of the storm and Johnny was snowed in at his own house, his yellow Thunderbird buried under a five-foot snowdrift. Johnny had called earlier to check on her, but the conversation had been short because of the bad connection. It was like he was calling her from Antarctica... which, she mused, wasn't too far from the truth right now. If anyone had been there it would have been painfully obvious how bored she was. The first day of the storm she had catalogued what little new inventory there was; yesterday she had painstakingly cleaned the glass display cases and dusted everything else, from the ceiling fans to the railing supports. It had taken her all day to get done... but then today there was nothing left to do downstairs. Just that morning she had meticulously rearranged the contents of her closet and then spent an hour playing Solitaire before turning on the TV to see if she could find something other than weather reports of the three stations the battered set could receive.
Wandering into her room, Micki dug into the drawer beside her bed and pulled out a well-used crossword puzzle book, then looked around for a pen. Not seeing one at hand - and knowing where such items tend to collect when dropped - she looked under the huge bed she now called her own. She was rewarded with a writing instrument lying right under the middle of the bed. Reaching underneath, Micki felt around and grasped the pen - and froze when her hand found a spot on the floor that yielded to her touch.
"What the hell?" she muttered as she pressed down on the spot, suddenly curious. There was a click a moment later and then Micki heard the sound of wood sliding against plaster over by the balcony doors. When she looked over the mattress she could see a space at the base of the far wall where a section of baseboard had always been before. Micki wasn't particularly surprised by this discovery, though; ever since they had started running the store they had been finding secret compartments that had been created by Lewis Vendredi. There was even an entire room on the main floor that had lain hidden for years, and a chamber underneath the Vault than none of them had even suspected. Usually these compartments held more information on the curses Lewis came up with for the antiques, and that was what Micki expected to find as she removed the contents of the space.
What she found was a small leather-bound book with a silver pen inside the front cover. Micki took it to the kitchen table and opened it, steeling herself for the perverse ways her uncle - damn him, she couldn't help but think - could corrupt the inanimate antiques he had once sold. Instead, the first words she read were:
The book was a diary of some sort, a journal that Lewis had kept for what looked like a long time. Most of the book was filled with his irregular handwriting; every now and then there were pictures and symbols sketched across a page or two, mostly near the end of the journal. The first page read:
May 16, 1956 -- Upon his return from Marseilles today, my friend Jack Marshak surprised me greatly by giving me this. I don't know what I'll use it for... God knows, I'm not much of a writer. I'll probably just keep it in a drawer somewhere, so one day I can reach in and pick it up... and be reminded of how good it is to have friends.
May 22, 1956 -- Jack stopped by my apartment today and asked me to accompany him on one of his overseas trips. I would have loved to... but, once again, I have almost no money. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I lost another job. Morrison was a jerk and I'm sure I would have quit sooner or later, anyway.
But that doesn't help me pay the rent, does it?
August 2, 1956 -- Went out drinking with Jack last night. He paid, as usual. I can't help but wonder why he seems so happy. He's certainly not rich by any means, but he always manages to travel to distant lands and comes back with the most fascinating tales. I'm sure his magic act always brings a crowd overseas, especially with the children. Jack was always good at drawing a crowd.
Jack has always been good at everything he's done, though. Star receiver in football, first guy to get a girlfriend, first to get his license... first at everything. God help me, sometimes I'm so damned jealous of my dear friend. Why is he the one who gets to travel all over the world, the one who gets to see all those wonderful places? And why am I stuck here in this dismal Chicago apartment? I know that my failures are not his fault... but that doesn't change anything.
August 17, 1956 -- I think I'm in love.
I met her last night at a party. I was out on the balcony, looking out across the Lake Michigan when Jack came up behind me and introduced a lovely young woman to me. I was enraptured from the first moment I saw her, something that has never happened to me before. I mean, I've been on dates, and I've even been intimate with a few women, but this was something I was totally unprepared for.
Her name is Grace Harrington, and I think I'm in love.
September 29, 1956 -- Sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am. I have a job I'm good at and even rather enjoy, and the love of a wonderful young lady to come home to. Just a few months ago I wouldn't have thought any of this possible. Grace spoke to her father and managed to get me a job at his shop, selling antiques. It's fascinating how many different types of items come through his store, and how many people pay unbelievable prices for them. I think that would be something I'd be good at.
January 17, 1957 -- I'm very nervous about this weekend. Grace and I are going out to dinner... and I've decided that I'm going to propose to her. I know it's a big step and I understand I haven't known her very long... but it just feels right.
May 30, 1957 -- Grace and I were married yesterday. It was a beautiful ceremony at St. Michael's, an old church just outside of the city. Of course, her father paid for it all; Mr. Harrington is a kind and giving man. As a matter of fact, he's the kind of man I've always wanted to be - wealthy, powerful, sure of himself. In many ways, I'm still that young, half-starved boy growing up on the grimy streets of Pittsburgh, terrified that there won't be enough food to go around. I'm afraid that my good fortune will not last.
I was sorry to see that Jack couldn't make it to the ceremony. I wonder what delayed him; I know how much he wanted to be there.
November 7, 1957 -- It's been very busy at the store lately. I've hardly had time to sleep, let alone actually sit down and write in this journal. Mr. Harrington promoted me to store manager a few weeks ago, so my schedule has been even more hectic. (I didn't run this much even in the war!) There isn't much money, but it's good to have steady work... and the love of a good woman. I don't know what I'd do without Grace. Oh, and Jack has decided to stay in Chicago for a while; he says he's grown tired of traveling for now. He doesn't have a job, but I'm sure he'll land on his feet. He always does.
June 1, 1961 -- I finally found this journal again; I thought I had lost it when Grace and I had moved into our new home. So much has happened...
I'm going to be a father soon. Grace was so happy when she found out she was pregnant! I can't believe the luck we're having now. Jack even said he would help me set up my own antique store when I manage to save enough money to get started. I asked him to be my partner, but he refused. He said that he'd rather travel and find... unusual stock for me. I'm glad to have such a good friend. Since he settled down in Chicago he's done well for himself... he has even found a love interest. It seems serious; I hope that it truly is. Jack was so depressed after he and Viola parted ways.
October 17, 1961 -- The worst has happened... my child has died.
Earlier tonight, Grace had to be taken to the hospital. She was bleeding badly, and her father said that she was having a miscarriage. I can't believe this is happening now, when everything was going so well for us. I had a long talk with Mr. Harrington and he said that this happened to his late wife as she was bearing another child. He told me that I would eventually get past this tragedy.
I can only hope that he's right.
August 5, 1962 -- Grace returned from the sanitarium today. The color has returned to her cheeks, and some bounce to her step... but she's not quite the same now. I don't suppose any of us are. I have asked Jack to move in with Grace and I for the time being; I am hoping that surrounding her with familiar faces will help her recovery. I am sorry about the sanitarium, but there was no choice... she would have done something regretful if I had not placed her there. And I cannot bear to lose her now.
December 19, 1962 -- Mr. Harrington gave me an offer today. He will help me establish my own business, an antique store of my own... if I do not try to have another child with Grace. The doctors say she could not survive another pregnancy, and I would not dare attempt such a thing anyway... but I want to have a business of my own, and this seems to be the way to get it.
I don't know if this is right. I'm taking advantage of both Grace and her father by doing this. But I don't know if I'll ever get this chance again. I feel that I must take it... no matter the consequences. I won't be reliant on Mr. Harrington anymore, and I'll be able to support Grace by my own means. Like I try to say... things have a way of working out.
March 27, 1963 -- I have spoken to Jack again about becoming my partner, and once again he has refused. Mr. Harrington has found a location for the store in a quiet part of the city, a place which has a most interesting address: 666 Druid Avenue. There's something ominous about that, but the location seems to be wonderful. Several thriving businesses line the street and the suburbs are nearby as well, so a successful business is almost assured.
May 2, 1963 -- Vendredi's Antiques has opened for business! After three weeks, the money is not so much as I had hoped... but it is enough for Grace and myself to live on. The store is truly rickety, and I have spent much of my time replacing floorboards and missing banister supports, but I think I will be happy with it... as long as I have Grace. I have thought about moving into the small apartment above the store, but Grace is hesitant. She wants to live in a familiar place, and I must respect that. Jack has been such a help to me in the past months as well; he has been a much-needed companion for Grace when I have been at the store.
September 28, 1963 -- Jack now feels the happiness that I felt on my wedding day. Earlier today he wedded Sarah, a woman he has known for quite some time now. They look very happy together... but not as happy as he seemed to be when he was with Grace. I don't like to be jealous, but sometimes I can't help it. I don't believe Jack did anything inappropriate with my wife. That's not how he is. But sometimes, when he looks at her across the dinner table, or when I hear Grace talking to him over the phone, they seem to be more involved than I would like.
I'm very tired, and this isn't making any sense. Grace loves me, and I love her just as deeply. I have to believe that.
January 16, 1964 -- Jack gave me some very good news today; Sarah is pregnant. Jack is ecstatic about this, and he should be. I couldn't be happier for him. He keeps telling me that I'll be the child's 'Uncle Lewis.'
I like the sound of that.
April 26, 1964 -- The store continues to fare decently, but I have managed to achieve a lifelong dream - I have purchased a new car. It is a black 1964 Mercedes, a huge automobile with a real leather interior and four massive doors. I sat in the car most of the evening right after I bought it, just running my hands over the wheel and feeling the texture of it all. It was like a dream.
Grace thinks it looks like a hearse. I suppose it does, in a way... but it's a hearse with class.
November 5, 1964 -- Jack came over today. I had never seen him so depressed in all the time we've been friends. He told me that Sarah and he had mutually decided that a divorce was the most appropriate way to end their marriage. I was shocked at first; I had no idea that his life was so troubled. He told me that over the past year he and Sarah had come to understand that their decision to marry was somewhat premature, and that Sarah would be keeping the child. Jack would always be able to visit the child and be involved; there were no hard feelings between them. But the look on his face was so miserable that I couldn't bear it. I don't want to see my friend hurt.
I just don't know what to do.
February 26,1965 -- I think I might have made a tremendous mistake.
I can't keep the store open much longer. Sales just haven't been what I expected, and I cannot afford to operate the antique shop with so little income. I don't know what to do... this wasn't supposed to happen. Everything was supposed to be all right when I got my own business.
I don't want to subject anyone else to my childhood. I don't want to be responsible for the starvation and poverty of another person, especially Grace. I spent too many nights hungry and cold to go back there. I can't even take care of the one I love...
March 2, 1965 -- The most... astounding thing happened today. I went to see Mr. Harrington to ask for a temporary loan to keep the shop operating but when I got there he was waiting for me. I was most surprised because I had not made any mention of stopping by to visit him. He invited me in to have a drink and listened patiently to my troubles and request...
And then he asked if I believed in magic. Of course I do; I've done a little magic ever since I was a child. Jack taught me some simple tricks, sleight-of-hand stuff, and later he taught me about a few of the things that are truly mystical. I remember back when I was in my twenties I was visiting my cousin in Massachusetts. His son Ray was playing but somehow cut his neck quite badly on a tin can. I put my hand there, concentrated... and the awful laceration instantly faded away. I've regretted it a little over the years that I didn't keep up with it.
That's all over now, though. Mr. Harrington told me some very interesting things that I could do to keep the store running smoothly, all from the privacy of the spacious basement. He said that was how he had become so successful, by using magic of a most powerful type. I wasn't sure that I believed him at first, but after the things he showed me this afternoon... I truly believe that this is what I am meant to do. I won't go hungry, I won't go a single night without heat or blankets. And I can take care of Grace like I want to.
March 13, 1965 -- I think I may have lost my closest friend. I told Jack about Mr. Harrington's use of magic and my own plans to use it as well. We were at a small restaurant for lunch and, after I was finished, Jack wordlessly got up and walked out. I knew he was concerned about how magic was used, but this doesn't hurt anyone. All it does is help me live a better life. I'm not stealing or injuring others by these actions I'm taking. I just wish Jack could see that there's nothing wrong about this!
July 22, 1965 -- The efforts of the past few months are bearing fruit. I am now operating the antique shop fully in the black, and business is getting better every day. All of this for just a few lines of chalk drawn on the floor and a few words spoken in a small ritual. It's so simple that I'm almost ashamed to admit I didn't think of it sooner. The possibilities are limitless! I could create a chain of stores, selling all manner of items to those who are drawn in by the magic. So many things I could do...
October 29, 1965 -- Grace locked herself in the bathroom of the store and wouldn't come out today. She says that what I'm doing is wrong, that she'd rather live in poverty than use the magic to be wealthy. This is just the latest incident regarding our prosperity. I don't want her to be unhappy, but I don't truly believe that she would be happy if we were living on the street. She's always had a roof over her head and food in her belly; she doesn't know what it was like on those long nights when Father might be getting a paycheck the next day, waiting for just the slightest morsel of food to touch my lips. She doesn't know how much it hurt to see both Father and Mother work so hard, just to watch their children die one by one. I can't make her understand these things! She wasn't there!
Oh God... I don't know what to do.
November 22, 1965 -- I think I might be losing her. I really do. I followed Grace to a restaurant where she often eats lunch today; I thought I would surprise her by this because we never eat together anymore. When I got there, though, I was shocked to see that she already had a dining companion... Jack Marshak. I watched them eating and laughing and even holding hands from a table near the back, where I don't think either of them saw me. I can't believe this. My wife feels more comfortable with a former friend than with me.
I wonder how far it has gone between them.
January 14, 1966 -- She's having an affair, of that I'm sure. She hasn't let me touch her in months. She says that I've corrupted my spirit in order to receive wealth. Perhaps I have... but isn't it worth it? Isn't being secure for the rest of our lives worth a little corruption?
But that thought can wait. I saw Grace with Jack again...and he was holding her hand. I don't want to believe that they're sleeping together, but I don't know what other possibility there is. Something has to be done, and very soon. This has to be ended.
February 25, 1966 -- It is finished.
I am sorry for what happened... but I had to do it. I had to, for both of us. Nobody will ever know how Grace really died; my power is too strong for that now. You see, I have been practicing more powerful magicks than even Mr. Harrington taught me of. I can easily conceal anything strange about her death from prying eyes; if that doesn't work, I can kill them as well. But there has to be some record of what really happened, if only for my peace of mind.
I poisoned her. I make her tea every night before she goes to bed. Last night, though, I mixed a substantial amount of poison with her cup. She couldn't taste or smell it; I'm far too careful for that. I watched her drink it while I sipped at my own cup, and when she was done I said goodnight to her... and this morning, she was dead. Her body has already been taken to the mortuary, and everyone believes that she died of a stroke. No one will ask any questions. Not even Jack.
February 28, 1966 -- Grace was laid to rest today. Many people attended her funeral, including her entire family... and Jack. He looked so saddened by what happened that I did not confront him about what I knew was going on between them. The pain of her death will be enough reminder for him, waking up every day without her and knowing that if he'd just stayed out of it she would still be alive. I am sorry about all of this.. but she should have known better. They both should have known better.
July 18, 1967 -- It has been far too long since I wrote in this journal. I am now living in the small apartment above the store; the house sold for a great deal of money, and the store continues to do well. But it's not enough! I have to find a way to get more. There are always more bills, more expenses to pay.
I met a vibrant young woman recently. Her name is Liza Redding. She came into the store to look around when she noticed the book I was reading, a guide on obscure incantations that I was planning on using. I was amazed to find out that she was part of a group of witches and magicians who practice similar rites for similar reasons. They're just starting out, though... and I've been practicing those rites for years. I can help them greatly, and they can help me as well.
October 2, 1967 -- Liza has graciously decided to help me form a witches' coven. Of course, that means that I must first become a witch myself. While I have found that I can control great power, becoming a full-fledged witch will enable me to control much more potent energies, and affect a much greater range of people. I won't even need the store anymore; I'll be able to have money literally thrown at me! The power that witches hold over others is mind-boggling; Liza and her coven have influence over several major figures in Chicago politics and in the police, which allows them to operate without suspicion. Such great things, and from a girl not much more than half my age! I hope that the training will proceed swiftly.
May 16, 1968 -- The coven has been hard at work assisting me in my pursuits. So far we have been able to corrupt and turn two city councilmen to our wishes, and we expect to double that number in the near future. It's more than I had ever dreamed of being able to do.
January 15, 1969 -- Our power has grown beyond the limits of the store's basement. Liza and I have arranged to purchase a condemned church just outside of the city, St. Michael's, as a base for our coven to practice our ceremonies in. St. Michael's... the very mention of it brings the memories flooding back. Grace and I were married there almost twelve years ago. Back then it was a beautiful place, but now it stands abandoned, almost as if it were waiting for us to come along. It's a very fortuitous stroke of luck.
May 4, 1970 -- I'm writing in this journal less and less, it seems. Maybe I just don't have as much to say... or maybe I'm just too old and tired to write so often. I have to face the fact, though: I am getting older. My hair has thinned noticeably as of late, and my joints ache when I wake up in the morning. I'm looking more and more like Father did near the end, before his prematurely-aged body just gave out on him and left Mother to take care of us on her own. I don't want to die, not like that. It hurt Mother so badly when Father passed on... and it hurt me. There must be some way to avoid that fate.
June 28, 1971 -- I guess it's no secret now... everyone within three blocks of the antique shop is terrified to come inside. I know that I can't keep all of my practices secret, but why did they have to become suspicious so soon? We have privacy in the old church, but it was so much more convenient when I could perform the incantations here in the basement. Dominic Fiorio, owner of the hardware store next door, seems to be the only one who thinks I'm acceptable to be around. His son comes over quite often now, looking for refuge from his life. He is very unhappy with his life, and I wish I could help him...
But I don't know how.
October 20, 1973 -- I have come up with the perfect solution to my problems. It will take a very long time and a great deal of effort, but I'm sure it will work. The coven has gladly agreed to assist me with this plan, even though it will be several years before it comes to fruition. I am glad to have such loyal associates.
June 18, 1974 -- The first steps have been finished. We have to proceed quietly, for I do not wish to arouse the suspicions of my neighbors. There is still much work to be done.
We have excavated a large hole underneath the basement of the store. I know it will be large enough for any ritual I might care to perform, and I have provided for adequate protection. Liza feels that my preparations are somewhat excessive, but you can't be too careful when preparing to deal directly with the forces of evil. I know I have the will and the power to harness these forces.
As a matter of fact, I'm counting on it.
March 12, 1975 -- I welcomed a most unexpected guest today, my old friend Jack Marshak. I haven't seen him since Grace's funeral, and that was... oh, nine years ago. He's changed a lot. His hair has thinned and gone gray and he's put on a good deal of weight, but the most noticeable changes were in his eyes. They've grown cold and isolated, so unlike the way he used to be.
It was easy to see why after he told me what had happened. His son, Peter, had died trying to help another child. Barely ten years old, and Peter had the power to enter the mind of another. Just because one has the power, though, does not mean one should use it without the proper experience. Jack was devastated by what had happened, and asked me if I could spare him a bed for a few days. I was worried at first; what if he had found out about my actions? How could I kill a man that I had once called a friend? As it turns out, though, I had nothing to worry about. Jack had no clue about the truth, and I was more than satisfied to leave it that way. He asked me if I still had use of his services finding stock for the store, and I was almost happy to tell him 'yes.'
November 17, 1975 -- Finally, it is completed. The Temple and the Vault above it have both been finished and properly protected. It is a perfect arrangement; I can enter from inside the store, and my associates can easily find their way from the maze of storm drains nearby. It took a little work, but now we have a permanent safe place to perform our rituals... as well as the church, just in case something goes wrong.
Things always seem to have a way of working out, don't they?
March 12, 1976 -- It won't be much longer now. The coven and I have successfully summoned a demon known as Noch'cha, a creature of vengeance. We have sent it out into the world to stop those who would wish us harm, and so far it has performed its task very well indeed. There are many who would try to stop us, but I take comfort in the knowledge that they will undoubtedly fail.
I will soon be having a conversation with he who wields the greatest power of all.
January 7, 1977 -- It is done!
I have called up the most powerful of Hell's beings into the Temple, Lucifer himself. The coven was not present; this was something I had to do alone. Once in his presence, he told me that I have been doing his work all along, and that all I needed to do was to accept him as my lord and master. Once I did so, every wish would be granted.
I sank to my knees and gave myself to him, just as he asked. His titan's hand brushed my forehead in a gesture of acceptance and in that one brief moment, I knew that all I had done before was right. It was the most profound moment of vindication I have ever experienced.
Our deal was simple: I will receive everlasting life and tremendous wealth, and all I have to do is continue to sell my antiques. Of course, they are substantially different now; some of them are blessed with Lucifer's touch, and will spread my master's influence far across the world. I am only too pleased to be a part of this.
August 10, 1977 -- I have sold well over a hundred of the cursed antiques so far. It is more work than I had initially anticipated; not only must I sell the antiques (which, in all truth, is not difficult at all), I must decide upon the curse that is to be placed upon them. It is almost thrilling to be in control of the fate of who knows how many people. I change the way the antiques present their powers to those who buy them; sometimes I tell them outright when they come in the store, and sometimes I let the owners figure it out on their own. Not everything that changes hands is cursed, but many people will feel the influence of my master by what I am doing.
October 30, 1977 -- This may be the last time I write in this journal. My master has charged me with additional tasks, selling more items all the time. I am more than happy to serve my master, but something he told me to do has worried me. He wants no more record of my actions here at the store, nothing that gives any indication of the work I am doing here. I don't have many friends, and sometimes it's good to have something that will just listen to me... even if it's just a book.
But I will always abide by the will of my master.
August 7, 1985 -- I was misled.
Reading back through this journal, I can see things more clearly now. I have been misled from the very beginning, both by myself and by my master. You see, I may be immortal now... but I still grow older. I can feel my body changing every day. I understand that the deal I made was for immortality... not for youth as well. I am hoping that I may be able to renegotiate my deal with Lucifer... but he is the ultimate trickster, and I am sure that any action he perceives as being against his wishes will be met with harsh consequences. I'm taking a great chance even writing these few words, but this is too important to keep in my head anymore.
May 29, 1986 -- My master has agreed to allow me to change our deal, but only if I allow the antiques to choose who they are sold to. Of course, who the antiques choose is who Lucifer chooses as well. That does not matter; my deal is now unchangeable and I will remain this age forever. I may not be young forever, but at least I will grow no older. It is a good day after all.
December 13, 1986 -- I am very tired now. This old body just can't handle the workload anymore. I sold over fifty items today in four hours. Fifty items! I hardly had a chance to get them listed in the Manifest, let alone tell the buyers of their special properties. And then I spent most of the night down in the Temple, creating new curses. It's getting harder and harder to do what is asked of me, and I'm starting to think that I've made another mistake in my deal. If I don't keep everything in perfect order, if I don't keep the books straight for Lucifer, he'll surely be displeased... and then he'll take his revenge. I'm afraid that in all the rush I'll lose something, or one of the objects will be stolen before it is properly recorded.
And then it will be my end.
March 12, 1987 -- My worst fear has been realized. I cannot find one of the antiques. With the hordes of people coming in and out of the store, somebody must have picked up something and snuck off. I must find the item before tomorrow night... when the books come due. Or I must try for another deal. I only hope my master will grant me this.
I am going to hide this journal now. Maybe someday someone will find it and understand what happened and the mistakes I have made. Maybe they'll even understand, and find a way to do it right.
I am afraid something terrible may happen.
Micki flipped to the next page, but it was blank; so were all the rest in the journal. Micki expected this when she had read the date on the last entry; it was the day of Lewis' death. She stood up and stretched, feeling a spasm of pain in her neck shoot into her shoulders. Picking up the journal she looked at the clock, and was surprised to see that it was almost midnight. She had been sitting there reading for ten hours straight, fascinated at times and other times horrified by the events chronicled in the book. She knew that Uncle Lewis was evil, but killing his own wife... it was almost unthinkable.
As the snow fell and the wind howled through the leaky windowframes, she slid open the drawer in her nighttable and put the journal inside next to her own diary. She knew that there were some things she and Jack would have to speak about once he got back, but that would wait.
Micki closed the drawer and switched off the lamp.
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Last modified on February 10, 2005.