Gregson cracked his eyes. The morning had finally come. He checked his clock above the stove. It ran two hours fast— it was 8:07.
“Okay, that’s close enough to 6. If I lie here and drink coffee in the dark, I can expel the poison I ate last night, without too much pain.”
Gregson was doing well on his diet; it had lasted almost two weeks—13 days to be exact. They say 13 is an unlucky number, but Gregson didn’t mind being unlucky—it was a lack of luck, entirely—that got to him—like there were no spiritual forces that wished him well or wished him evil.
The doctor called it self-sabotage. Gregson called it self-love. He pulled a piece of pizza from the box, and ate it in bed.
The phone rang, and clanged.
“Who would be calling me?” Gregson asked the dark. It took him a moment to formulate his words. “Hello.”
“This is your buddy Murphy.”
“Buddy—you know how early it is?”
“Have you been eating pizza, again, Gregson?”
“Is that why you called me? To check-up on my diet?”
“Don’t get grumpy, Gregson. I have a strange case to throw your way. In fact, it has me a bit scared. What do you know about the occult?”
“Oh—that’s just a few insecure men who like to play dress-up.”
“I’m not so sure Gregson. I’ve been undercover for three weeks on this island, and the atmosphere keeps getting stranger.”
“What does intelligence have to do with the occult?”
“Occult, means hidden—and it has a long history with espionage. Aleister Crowley, L. Ron Hubbard, Jack Parsons—they all had a connection to dark forces that shaped history. I can’t tell you everything, until you are sworn in by the President of the United States.”
“Can’t somebody else, do it? I’m enjoying reruns of Poirot.”
“Sorry, my friend, but this case needs a human touch. We need somebody who can mingle with the locals. These agent-types have spent too much time in their cubicles—they’re rigid. You have resisted all of that. You smoke cigars at midnight, and enjoy violating society. We need you, Gregson. You’re the only one who can blend in, and discover the secrets of this secret society.”
“Let me guess—the fate of the world is in jeopardy, again?”
“I don’t know, Murphy. I’m starting to think it would be better if the whole thing ended.”
“Okay—I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be telling you this, but this island…”
“Yeah?” Gregson asked a little bit more interested.
“Is a sex-cult,” Murphy said. He let out his breath.
Gregson did a sharp intake of air, like a drug. “And you want me to infiltrate it?”