It was raining as the yellow Lada coasted into a parking spot and shuddered to a halt. The Commander got out and opened a black umbrella.
He’d awakened that morning feeling like a man headed to a capital trial. Head down, shoulders hunched, he scuttled toward the Lubyanka.
Slipping into the hulking yellow brick building, he quickly crossed the lobby, feeling the knot in his stomach tighten with each step.
Pressing the elevator call button, he saw a smear of sweat from his finger. “Why am I so nervous?” he wondered, wiping his hands.
The elevator groaned as it settled onto the lobby floor. The doors squeaked open, but snapped shut smartly after the Commander entered.
He reached to press the button for the ninth floor, but stopped when the buttons’ lights began flashing in an imperceptible pattern.
As the elevator lurched into a brisk descent, the Commander heard ritualistic drums begin to play and his dominant personality fell asleep.
When he awoke, the Commander was no longer a truculent KGB officer. Instead, he was a loyal servant to The Order, toady to the Fetid Lord.
The elevator settled, its doors opened, and the Commander entered a modest antechamber and began undressing.
Naked and chanting, the Commander went to a stone basin filled with blood and lard, scooped out a small handful, and smeared it on himself.
Next, he approached a ram’s horn hung from a hook, bowed, and drank the white, syrupy liquid inside it. The Commander was ready now.
Donning his robes, he thought of the report he was about to give The Order. They would be so pleased with him.
The plan was working just as they wanted. The Commander felt loyal and good. He was doing his part, just as the Fetid Lord had demanded.
He left the antechamber and began ascending a spiral wrought iron staircase. Lodge ceremonies could only be entered from below.
Careful not to make a sound, the Commander emerged from the staircase into a dark corner and silently watched The Order’s ritual.
Eleven hooded figures stood around the large table, hands clasped, swaying slightly as a tall figure at one end uttered guttural sounds.
When the figure stopped his chanting, all the others stopped swaying and removed their hoods. The Commander looked around at his masters.
Some were among of the world’s most prominent men—or had been, long ago—while others had always ruled from the shadows.
The Commander was jolted from his thoughts by the Fetid Lord’s voice. “Come, my servant. We await your news.”
He hesitated, fearful of the Lord’s power, then bowed his head and hurried towards the pungent odor wafting from the table’s end.
He stopped at the edge of the gloom, just outside the dim, viscous candlelight enclosing his masters, and began his report.