January 2, 2022

Bigger Steps

Previously: Strip, Tease

Daos had barely reached his dressing stall before his partner started in on him again.

"So are you gonna tell me what the hell's going on?" Dominador demanded as furiously pulled on his clothes.  "We took off our clothes for strangers just so we could find a bowl?  A bowl killed Celestino Ferrera and stuffed him in that girl's locker?  I mean, level with me, Daos; what exactly is going on here?"

"Baby steps, Ona," Daos assured him, or at least tried to.  The junior partner wasn't trying to hear it today.  They were alone backstage as the female strippers had taken the stage, and Daos could feel his partner's bewildered impatience bubbling to surface.

This one's about to blow....

And blow he did.  "Stop baby-steppin' me, Daos!" Dominador barked.  "They shipped me out to this snack-sized town because I remind them of you - what the hell does that even mean?  What is it with you, anyway?"

Daos calmly turned towards him.  "Ona...in 2009, the high school went secular and the city bought it back.  Was the school always a private a Catholic school?"

"No," Dominador shook his head, briefly caught off guard.  "The church bought it in 1983 after the old city hall burned down because the town was short on cash and willing to go uber-Catholic just to keep its head above water.  If this is part where you connect the cathedral that burned in 1919 to the city hall to the high school to this club, don't bother.  I'm already there.  So answer my question already.  Why do we care so much about this town's goddamn history?  Why aren't we rousting up the bars, setting up stings, interrogating the drug dealers already in jail?  Why are we tracking down bowls in strip clubs and statues with three-headed dogs and shit--"

Daos's head snapped up towards his partner.  "Three-headed dogs?"

Dominador was irritably impatient.  "I searched for a picture of the statue of St. Nabirio.  It's an old guy who used to carry a wooden bowl with one hand while petting a three-headed dog with the other.  Stop dodging my questions!  Tell it to me straight!"

"You want to me 'tell it to you straight'?" Daos replied loudly, without actually sounding angry.  "Fine.  The next time you're in a dark alleyway with a demon sorcerer, and he opens up a portal...don't follow him in, Ona.  Let it go.  When you have no idea where a portal will end up, you don't just blindly follow someone in.  It's like, Duh 101, you know?"

He hastily zipped up his duffle bag and breezed past his partner, prompting a baffled Dominador to go, "What?"

As the two men reached Daos's black SUV and the senior detective unlocked the doors, he said, "Yes, okay? It's all true. Every rumor, every theory, every scared little whisper in the dark - everything you've heard about me and my cases is true, all right?  So don't go into denial mode on me now, because we do not have the time."

They stared at each other for a long moment; Dominador trembled, whether with anger or fear or a mix of both.  As his breathing finally slowed, Daos could practically hear the whirling gears in his head as the younger detective tried to solve the puzzle.

"It's Nabirio, isn't it?" he asked finally.  "The original cathedral which burned in 1919 held him as a patron saint.  When it burned, parts of it were donated to the new city hall which was completed in 1921.  When that burned in 1983, parts of it went to the high school, which then became the Academy of St. Nabirio.  After the scandal with the priest, the school auctioned off its statue, its bowl, other items no doubt, and thus the curse - or whatever - has spread to different parts of the city."

Daos laid his duffle bag down on the driver's seat of his car.  With his hands now free, he slowly clapped for his partner.

"Just one thing," Dominador grumbled.  "There is no St. Nabirio.  There never has been.  I don't know whom these people have been praying to all these years, but it ain't no saint."

"It's a demon," Daos told him calmly.  "His name is actually Naberius, if you agree with the Dutch, or Cerberus, if you concur with the Greeks."

"Cerberus," Dominador's brow furrowed.  His mind worked, trying to recall some long lost detail.  "Isn't that, like, the three-headed dog from Hades?"

Daos nodded, still perfectly calm, despite the surge of pride he felt in this new pupil of his.  "Correct.  The Dutch occultist Johann Weyer believed Cerberus and Naberius were one and the same.  Weyer believed Naberius was sort of like a demon guardian of men, said to restore lost honor and to teach the way of moral living."

Dominador was confused.  "He sounds benevolent.  So why's he killing people in this town?"

Daos chuckled softly, suddenly feeling weary.  "First rule of this gig, Dominador?  The mystical doesn't kill people.  People kill people.  People with their deeply ingrained Catholic guilt and hyper-judgmental attitudes towards druggies, strippers, and anyone else they deem 'unseemly'.  The mind is the most powerful thing we possess as mortals, so much that we don't realize its strength sometimes."

"So this whole time, they've been doing this...to themselves?"  Realization lit up Dominador's eyes.

"And one another," Daos nodded.  "We don't have to worry about the items which have left the town, Dominador; they won't have the same power they have here."

"Then what do we do about the school and the strip club?"

Daos grinned.  "The same thing I'm guessing someone did to the old city hall and the cathedral before it.  We gotta burn it down, Ona.  Burn it down and salt the earth."


"Police in Soleado Valle are in the process of investigating two incidents of professional arson.  Tonight, both Club Piel Desnuda and Soleado Valle High School burned to the ground despite the efforts of the local fire department.  Authorities are not certain as to why these two locations were targeted in particular, as they appear to have nothing in common...."

Chief Bibiana Solís switched off the TV in her office, swiveling around her chair with a broad smile.

"Well done, gentlemen," she congratulated them.  "I would've never caught the connection between the buildings or our town's religion."  She gave Daos a meaningful look.  "Are you sure this will do it?"

Daos nodded.   "I'll stay behind to make sure there aren't any residual effects I haven't anticipated.  But I'm confident.  Burning appears to have worked here before.  We should sense a change in the town over the next few days."

"Gentlemen," Bibiana shook her head, chuckling.  "You've each earned a big drink.  Come on; I'm buying."

Next: Opening the Window

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