The Book of Enoch
Chapter 4 – Dinner
“So, isn’t it a little early for supper?” Beth was slowly wandering around the large library of books and admiring the man’s collection. It was seriously impressive, even to someone like herself. Beth had done her time in college, but never considered herself much of an egghead. She liked to read, but looking at the thousands and thousand of books before her now she had to ask herself where the man found the time.
“Supper, yes,” replied Manatee from the third level of his loft home. It was an open landing that comprised what she assumed to be the kitchen and sleeping spaces. He had excused himself to prepare their meal, something that surprised her, but only a little. Many bachelors learned to cook. “But you Americans always confuse supper and dinner. Dinner, or tea, as it were, is generally had near the middle of the day and is more substantial, leaving supper as something light before bed. I’m not sure why your culture insists on having a large meal right before sleeping at night… It’s very unhealthy.”
“I take it then, that you’re not a native.”
There was a soft laugh from above. “Hardly. I was born near London, but I moved to the America’s fairly early in my life so I suppose that I should call it home now.”
Beth noticed something sad in his voice but didn’t press. After a few minute listening to pots and pans rattling she thought of something.
“Professor, can I ask you a question or two while you work, or would you perhaps prefer some help?”
“Oh, I’m fine. Cooking is science in one of its most appealing forms. Please, ask. I enjoy the sound of your voice.”
She smiled at his compliment. “You said something to me earlier… right after you accused me of being a demon.”
“Actually, I tested the hypothesis that you might be a demon. There were no accusations.”
“Tested?… How did throwing a spider to me prove I wasn’t a demon?”
“That damn well looked and acted real!”
The man took a moment to answer. “I do apologise for that. It was necessary. To answer your question, a demon wouldn’t have reacted.”
“Really? Why?” Beth had just pulled a book down from the shelf that had caught her eye, but she stopped before opening it to listen for his reply.
“Demons can not be harmed by this world. They are immortal beings who have no fear of beast or human. Their emotions are actually quite limited. But given that, a spider would no more startle a demon, or rather one possessed by a demon, any more than something completely inanimate like a rock. It’s just an object. By reacting as you did, you confirmed that you were entirely… yourself.”
“Hmm. I think I get it. You said it would be ‘child’s play’ for a demon to take over my body. Is that like in the Exorcist or something?” Beth idly flipped through the book in her hands, admiring some etchings that she found within. The book had caught her attention because of the strange title – “Goren’s Guide to Sexual Charms and Curses” and the etchings were more than a little explicit. “You have some really interesting books down here, Professor.”
There was another pause. “Please be careful, Miss LaHeron. Some of those are… quite old. I assume you are making a reference to the movie of that name?”
“Yeah, the one with the girl that spins her head around and crawls on the ceiling and stuff.” She could hear the sound of something sizzling in a pan and cooking smells started to drift down to her. Whatever it was he was making, it smelled heavenly and Beth’s stomach rumbled again.
“Hollywood. Utter nonsense. Demonic possession is much more subtle, my dear. It is nothing more than the subjugated conscious control of a person’s body. The will of the victim is pushed back, allowing the demon control much like you might drive an automobile. It often takes place during sleep, but in all cases, is, at least initially, with the victims consent.”
“Really?” Beth replied, stunned. “You mean, they actually want the demon to take control or something?”
“I said ‘consent’, which is different than something they might choose to do for fun. Do you remember in our conversation regarding the intelligence of the Watchers, I mentioned restrictions?”
“As to whether they were smarter than us? Sure.” Beth was staring at one particular etching that showed a naked female sinking into what looked like a pool of living pasta. From the detailed expression on her face, she could pretty much tell that the subject depicted was seriously getting her rocks off. Beth couldn’t read the description at the bottom of the drawing since it was in some language she wasn’t familiar with, but she hardly needed to. Whatever it was she was hip deep in must have been very stimulating indeed. She also noticed that it appeared as though the woman’s hands were wrapped and held down by the same pasta-like creature or plant or whatever it was, so regardless of the sensations, she wasn’t going anywhere. Trapped in bliss. She swallowed as she felt her body reacting to the idea. For a moment, her mind superimposed a rendition of her own face as that of the female in the writhing pit of pleasure and she gasped slightly. Snapping the book closed, she placed it back on the shelf where she had found it and moved to a different bookcase.
“While it’s true that they may have knowledge that we do not, they do lack qualities that we humans have in abundance, such as creativity.” She heard something crackling wildly as it went into a hot pan.
“All that science makes Jack a dull boy…” she said somewhat to herself.
“I’m sorry, I missed that.”
“Nothing. I was just thinking that the Watchers spent a lot of time on the ‘mysteries of the cosmos’, and not so much on partying.”
The professor took a moment. “You really were listening. That very well may be. Whatever the case, they are extremely clever, but not very good at coming up with fresh ideas on the fly. They don’t like chaos.”
“And how does that relate to giving consent to be driven like a truck?”
“While something like art might not be their forte, they are highly adept at trickery. They could either fool you into consenting, or convince you to consent by lies or even hard, er… persuasion.”
“I don’t think I like the sound of that.”
“Nor should you, especially since while pain is a very good means of changing someones mind, humans in particular are resistant to it by nature and will seek ways to avoid it.”
Beth frowned and momentarily stopped her perusal of the man’s library. “But, Professor, if not pain then what?… Oh… Really?”
“Absolutely,” he replied from above. “Humans have almost no adversity to pleasure, and as such, nearly any resistance or defense. Our bodies equate pleasurable sensations with ‘good’, and as any drug addict would tell you, enough of it can override even the most devout and reasoned objection. Eventually, we would even choose pleasure over death.”
Beth considered this for a few minutes. Finally she said, “And you think that’s what happened in my rape case.”
“I do not believe possession was involved in that instance,” said the man from the bottom of the stairs, startling her slightly. He had on a dark green apron and a kitchen towel over his shoulder. “At least not in the context we were referring to.”
“Yeah, she got possessed all right. Over and over.”
“And I would like to hear about it, and… see those case photos, but that is hardly the proper topic for diner conversation. Are you ready to eat?”
She brightened. “Famished. What’s on the menu?”
It was the Professor’s turn to beam. “Well, with limited time and resources I had to improvise. We will start with a roasted pear salad… roasted pears, pomegranate seeds, endive, mesclun greens, blue cheese; balsamic glaze and a hazelnut vinaigrette.”
“Oh my god,” commented Beth, amazed, her mouth already watering.
“Then on to porcinis and crispy polenta…sautéed porcini mushrooms, white wine, garlic, shallots, butter and vegetable demi glaçe; served over crispy polenta triangles.”
“This is limited resources?! You must have one hellofa pantry.”
“Had I known you were coming…”
Beth laughed. “You really didn’t have to go through all the trouble. I’m just as happy with Chinese takeout.”
The Professor rolled his eyes. “Sacrilege! And it’s no trouble. I would have been making something similar regardless.”
“You eat like that all the time?”
“Food is another of life’s pleasures that is hard to resist. And since beyond moderation to hold one’s weight to a healthy maximum, why should we… resist, that is. Can I see you to your seat?” Offering her his arm, the older man led her up the stairs to the loft, which was quite a bit bigger than Beth had imagined. The kitchen was open and connected to the main eating area which held a beautiful table in carved wood and brass. Two seats were set and dished and candles illuminated the space from nearby.
“How in the world did you do all this in less than fifteen minutes,” she asked drooling. The food looked and smelled incredible.
“Magic,” he answered with a smile as he pushed in her chair.
“I thought you didn’t believe in magic?”
“No, you are the unbeliever, remember. Some wine?” When she nodded, he filled a glass halfway and then his own to match. “I simply said that it’s human culture that treats anything we don’t understand as magic.”
She didn’t know if it was rude not to wait, but the food in front of her simply looked too good and she took a forkful while he was seating himself. Then she took another.
“Oh my god…”
“Is there a problem with the polenta,” he asked looking concerned.
She finished yet another mouthful before responding. “Yeah! There’s not nearly enough… This is amazing!”
Relieved, the man began his own meal.
“Where did you learn to cook, Professor?”
“Please, at the table I am Alvin, or at least Mr. Manatee.”
She made a crooked smile. “Ok then… Alvin. You a chef as well as a self-proclaimed non-expert on demonology?”
The man snorted. “Professionally I am a scientist, more specifically a Tinker, and although I have at many times in my life been designated as a ‘cook’, I have no official training in that profession. What I know has been gained the hard way – by time and trial.”
“Wow. Well you could have fooled me. This really is excellent.”
“I am very glad you are enjoying it, Detective.”
She grunted. “If I’m calling you Alvin, then it’s Beth or Miss LaHeron. At least while we’re at the table,” she added and smiled. “So what’s a Tinker?”
“Ah. A Tinker is… well, it’s a little hard to describe. I guess we’re a cross between a research scientist and an inventor. We take things apart and put them back together in a different, hopefully better way.”
“Hmm. That would explain the first floor. The salad is wonderful by the way.”
“Thank you, my dear. The first floor? Oh, you mean the Abdicates?”
She swirled her wine, savoring the tastes still in her mouth. “Is that what they’re called.”
“They are… experiments that did not go as planned.”
“There are certainly an awful lot of them, Alvin.”
He considered his own wine for a moment. “That’s true, but there are no schools for Tinkers, and like my cooking, I have had to learn the hard way.”
“Time and trial,” she quoted.
He lifted his glass in toast. “Exactly.”
When they were finished, she helped him clear the table, but he would not let her assist with the dishes. “You are my guest,” he said as reason of explanation. She sat at the table and continued to nurse her wine, which he had refilled at her request. Normally, she didn’t drink while on duty, but she was technically only doing research at the moment. Besides, like the food, the wine was really very good. She was used to the cheap stuff, and her current glass was anything but and she said so. The bottle had only a cast wax seal as a label.
“Yes, it is nice. One of several bottles that my great grandfather savored. Now he could cook. It was said that his lemon tarts were so delicious that it made the girls cry.”
“Ugnn… I love lemon tarts, maybe too much. They go right to my hips.”
He wagged one soapy finger at her. “Not these. They are light and fluffy and contain not an ounce of processed sugar. You could eat a dozen without ill effect… Except possibly the over-satiated need to take an immediate nap.”
“Delicious and unfattening? I don’t believe it. Nothing that good comes without a price.”
“Hmm. A wager then. We will continue our discussions while I bake a batch. While I don’t contend to be my great-grandfather, I will do my best. If they don’t live up to my boasting then I will stop pestering you to see the case photos.”
“No bet. I was planning on letting you see the file anyway. But, Alvin… What’s with you and those photos?”
“Call it a professional interest.”
“You sure you’re not just a dirty old man who gets off on seeing naked dead girls?”
The man looked hurt. “Detective, if you really believed that of me then you wouldn’t still be here.”
“Perhaps. Mind explaining that ‘professional interest’ a bit more?”
Professor Manatee finished drying the last of the plates and leaned against the sink while he wiped his hands on the kitchen towel. “I have a suspicion. Demon’s do things in predictable ways. I can most likely confirm that suspicion by looking at those crime scene pictures.”
Beth simply eyed the man for several seconds. “Very well. Here, take a look.” She then set the case file down on the table next to her.
Setting his apron on a hook, he sat in a chair and pulled the file over. But before he could open the folder, Beth put her hand down on it, holding it closed. In her hand was her gun. Manatee stopped cold and slowly looked up at her.
“But before you do, let me give you another possibility, Professor. As lovely as dinner was, suppose it, and the whole demon story is all just part of a huge lie to cover up a rape and murder. Someone with your background and intelligence… It’s not beyond you to create the whole scenario, including the package and the diary, just so that the police would be thrown off track, or rather onto the track you wanted. Your listing on the internet sure came up fast and first… almost as though it was planted. Maybe the photos in this folder are the final little bit of porn to complete your fantasy.”
Beth’s face was cold and serious, and the man looked suddenly quite uncomfortable.
“How could you think that of me?”
“Let’s see… how did you put it? Why wouldn’t I?”
“I don’t…” he started, confused.
“For starters, I hadn’t been at your door thirty seconds before you guessed my case was a rape. How would you know that, Alvin? You knew specific details of the crime scene, such as the fact that the lights were all busted, something you yourself could have set up to ensure that that I would be intrigued enough to ask for your help. You’re an eccentric, unmarried loner, financially independent, with questionable taste in art and literature. In short, you perfectly fit the psych profile of a serial killer, Mr. Manatee.”
Neither said anything more for almost a full minute.
“Are you going to arrest me, Detective,” asked the grim-faced man finally.
“No,” she said flatly. “I don’t have enough… yet.” She lifted her hand with the gun and took the folder. Standing she said, “Thank you for the dinner and the wine. One way or another I’ll be in touch. I’ll see myself out if you don’t mind.”
“Just like that,” he asked, still looking stunned.
“Yeah, just like that.” She started for the stairs and turned around. “Oh, and Professor…”
He looked up at her.
“Don’t leave town.”