'It's your choice, MacAdams; a scoop, or continued oblivion.'
MacAdams, the freelance journalist looked at the speaker offering a visit to his secret society in exchange for favourable publicity; no doubt to facilitate recruiting. 'Continued oblivion' wasn't a phrase that would come naturally to one whose accent didn't suggest much of a formal education. Arthur, as he called himself, had dirty brown hair, slouched posture, an unnatural pale complexion, and protruding chameleon type eyes that never stayed still. He wore an old sweatshirt, dirty jeans and filthy running shoes. Standing out from Arthur's appearance was a garish golden ring featuring the head of a goat with a star on its forehead. It wasn't something that came free inside a box of breakfast cereal; someone who looked and smelled like Arthur would have normally pawned the valuable looking ring for money.
'Where will I meet you, Arthur?'
* * *
The October twilight was a brilliant orange that matched the traditional Halloween colour of jack o'lanterns. MacAdams enjoyed the colours whilst awaiting Arthur. The freelance journalist wondered why the people behind Arthur selected a mostly undistinguished writer with only a variety of stringer credits for a visit to what Arthur called 'The Palace of the Palladists', another phrase that seemed unnatural to Arthur. The existence of the Palladists was ignored by the media, except for ridiculing the society as a hoax. Yet one of MacAdams police contacts said they were a mysterious fact that no one had any information on. A freelance colleague of MacAdams named Robertshaw had vanished, with one rumour amongst many proclaiming he had been on the track of the Palladists when he vanished. It was possible that Arthur somehow picked up the name and was using it to entice and rob what he thought was a gullible eager journalist.
Arthur arrived and looked at MacAdams' green musette bag worn diagonally across the journalist's torso.
'What's in your bag?'
MacAdams opened the flap to reveal the contents.
'Notepad, pens, camera, and a chocolate bar or two.'
'Follow me, MacAdams.'
* * *
The pair arrived at one of the city's underground railway stations; the platform was crowded with workers either returning home or going out for night life. Arthur led MacAdams to the very end of the platform. As the crowd poured into the doors of the railway carriages, MacAdams wondered which station they would stop at to view the 'Palace of the Palladists'.
'Move quickly, MacAdams.'
Arthur quickly moved down one of the stairwells leading to the tracks in the tunnel. MacAdams followed as they dashed into one of the alcoves where rail workers would shelter to avoid a passing train. They remained there until the train left. Arthur reached into his back pocket and produced a large cream coloured scarf.
'Put this over your eyes, and I'll lead you to the entrance.'
'Put this over my eyes and you'll stab me, steal my camera and throw me on the tracks. Stuff it where the sun doesn't shine, Arthur. Do you think I just got off the train from Stupidville?'
'If you don't put it on, you're not coming with me. Hurry up, the next train is coming'
MacAdams grabbed the scarf and thrust it in the musette bag.
'The train you're going to push me in front of! Good bye.'
'No wait! Quickly, follow me!'
The lights in the railway tunnel went out signifying the imminent arrival of a train on the track, the sound of its coming sounded like the hurricane MacAdams had lived through overseas and wrote about. They dashed to another alcove, this time Arthur opened a door in the alcove and ran in. MacAdams followed, the train rushed by as Arthur shut the door.
MacAdams' eyes were suddenly facing a bright electric light.
'Watch your step when you go down the stairs', said a new, deeper and more educated voice.
The torch shone on old yellowing tile steps. MacAdams recalled that during World War II air raid shelters were built in chambers adjoining several underground railway stations, then were sealed up shortly after the war or used for storage. The stairs led to a tunnel that was suddenly illuminated by a series of what were the original lights.
The man who guided MacAdams was wearing a Franciscan type brown hooded cassock. There was another brown robe on the floor that Arthur put on as the pair waited. MacAdams noticed that the man with the large torch was wearing an identical golden goat ring as Arthur was.
'Do I get a costume too?'
'You're getting an interview, MacAdams We wear the robes.'
The man with the torch examined MacAdams's musette bag as Arthur had done.
'We'll shoot the photographs.'
Their footsteps echoed in the yellow tiled tunnel as the torchbearer led them to MacAdams' interview. The torchbearer turned and raised his left arm to guide MacAdams and Arthur into a room.
Inside the room was a stainless steel table with straps from the four legs. Behind the table was a group of five leering men and women in similar brown robes. Standing against the sides of the wall appeared to be either life size sculptures or actual human bodies wrapped in layers of heavy duty transparent thick polythene. Arthur and the torchbearer each grabbed one of MacAdams's arms by the elbow joint. The oldest of the brown robed reception committee smiled as he slowly approached MacAdams.
'Welcome to not your, but our interview...'
The voice of MacAdams's self defence techniques instructor came back into memory...
'The best way to buy time is through appealing to the vanity of those that want to harm you.'
'What's that ring with the Goat Sheriff on it mean?'
The speaker stopped and raised both his arms.
'It is Baphomet, who we serve and...'
MacAdams did a weekly self defence course that equally mixed military unarmed combat. back alley dirty fighting and Three Stooges mayhem. In accordance, MacAdams's feet raised and stomped the shoes of those restraining the journalist's arms and sharply thrust unmanicured fingernails into their eyes.
The surprised speaker stopped his gloating as MacAdams's boot went sharply between his legs into his groin.
MacAdams sprinted back down the way the party had come pursued by the uncrippled four brown robed men and women who shrieked as they ran.
Reaching the stairs the party had come down, MacAdams began climbing back up them but felt the arms of those that dragged the journalist down to the tunnel from whence they came. Back on the tiled tunnel floor MacAdams was held as one of the brown robed men raised a silver machete, MacAdams squeezed the scrotum of the brown robed man who restrained the journalist and turned him with the result that the machete found its target on the back of the brown robed man causing an unearthly scream.
As MacAdams rose from the floor one of the brown robed women held the journalist's head and sliced MacAdams's neck with a machete. The journalist held the woman's wrist preventing further movement and thrust a thumb into her eye making her drop the machete. MacAdams felt no pain at all, only a feeling of warm liquid; then grabbed the machete and returned the favour by slashing the woman's carotid artery, the area of MacAdams' own neck that the woman had missed. MacAdams pulled the machete from her throat and strongly thrust the point of the machete into the eye of one of the remaining two brown robed men with both of them giving a shout; MacAdams expelling breath. The remaining brown robed man tackled MacAdams, the two rolled on the floor with MacAdams able to get on top of the brown robed man, the journalist's blood falling on the face and eyes on the now blinded brown robed survivor. MacAdams extended thumb and forefinger thrust across the trachea of what appeared to be the last of the brown robes.
MacAdams reached into the musette bag pulling out the scarf Arthur had wished to use as a blindfold to apply direct pressure to the blood gushing throat, then dashed up the stairs to the underground railway platform. The journalist heard the approaching sound of one of the trains but reached the stairwell to the platform.
The train screeched to a halt with a loud thump as the passengers on the platform screamed, whether it was the sight of the red soaked scarf MacAdams was holding or the fact that the train had run over a brown robed person or two didn't seem to matter...
* * *
The paramedics had soon arrived at the railway station, applied a more effective pressure bandage and took MacAdams into Emergency.
MacAdams's doctor explained he was going to put the journalist under with anaesthetic prior to going into the operating theatre. The last thing MacAdams recalled was seeing the golden goat head ring the Doctor wore...
Author Notes: I am the author of three Extra Dimensional/Ultraterrestial military science fiction novels MERCENARY EXOTIQUE, OPERATION CHUPACABRA and WORK IN OTHER WORLDS FROM YOUR OWN HOME! as well as two travel books THE MAN FROM WAUKEGAN and TWO AUSTRALIANS IN SCOTLAND. I live happily ever after with my wife in paradise (coastal Kiama, NSW Australia).