The Church of the Derived MindMature

I remembered Dr. Siff from a couple of years ago.  He'd been researching graffiti found on walls in temples that predated the last great ice age and had asked me how he would go about finding a modern day graffiti artist.  My recommendation of a place to look was on the tow-path underneath the Fifth Bridge, and Dr. Siff was unlucky enough to go on the night that the police raided it.  I stood him bail with money I'd stolen from a pension fund and he's been willing to help me out ever since.  Usually from a safe distance.
He reached into his pocket in a smooth, practised motion and pulled something out.  Acting on reflex I turned, deflected his arm over his head and punched him in the ribs.  The air gasped out of his lungs and I stepped forward, pulling his arm to bring him off-balance.  As he started to fall, I kneed him sharply in the groin and cuffed the side of his head.  I let go of him and he started to curl up into a foetal position, still falling.  I reached behind him and seized his ankles and then straightened sharply, pulling upwards so that his ankles were at my eye-level and his face was in the right position for kicking.  Then my back went into spasm and I just stood there shaking like an underdressed epileptic in a strobe-lit snowstorm.  Five more seconds passed and then I collapsed on top of Dr. Siff, my fingers spastically contracting around his ankles as though they were trying to crush them.  Dr. Siff screamed, a muffled sound from somewhere beneath me.
Marv and a couple of the other museum guards rushed up now; the whole incident had taken barely ten seconds from start to finish.  They donned protective gloves and pulled me off Dr. Siff, leaving me on the floor to twitch like an innocent man in the electric chair.  Dr. Siff was picked up, dusted down, and generally checked over until he protested that he was quite alright.  Only then did the guards turn their attention to me.
"What shall we do with him?" asked Marv.  A voice I didn't recognise but that I promised myself I would remember piped up from the back, "How do you know it's a him?"
"I've seen his birth certificate," said Marv.  "It's the only one I've ever seen where both parents' names have This person wishes to remain anonymous written in instead.
"It's quite alright," said Dr. Siff.  "It was just a misunderstanding, I'm sure.  I was just getting my passcard out of my pocket."
I groaned, a little more theatrically than was really necessary and made myself sit up.  I listened to the clicks and snaps of my body trying to remember what normal feels like, and then sighed.  "I thought you were going for a gun," I said.  "It's a reflex."
Marv looked disappointed that he wasn't getting to beat the crap out of me, but I was allowed to get up and follow Dr. Siff, who waved his passcard at the Employees only door and made it open.  I noted as we went through that the door was at least six inches thick, and had hinges that looked like they'd support the weight of lead.  Curious.
We walked together down a bland, fluorescent-lit corridor passing equally spaced doors on both sides until we reached the fifth door on the right, where Dr. Siff waved his magic card again and made it open.  He lead the way in, flicking a light-switch on as he entered.
The office had a large wooden desk in the middle with a wooden swivel chair behind it and a paper-stacked armchair in front of it.  More papers were piled on the desk, leaving only enough space in the middle for a shiny black PDA.  The walls were lined with bookcases where there weren't windows, and the bookcases were laden with books and papers to the point that the shelves were bowing in the middle.  The two windows were in the same wall, behind the desk, and looked out onto a park I'd never seen before.  I've lived my whole life in this burg; there's nowhere that I don't know.
"What monster are you trying to baptise, Mac?" said Dr. Siff, sitting down in the swivel chair and looking intently at me.  His hazel eyes gleamed brightly.
"What?" I said, not understanding.  I sat down on the papers on the armchair and a couple of armfuls spilled out from underneath me, gliding across the floor.  I noticed that one of the pages had just a bright red number five written on it, but then Dr. Siff started speaking again.
"What monster are you trying to baptise, Mac?  Generally that doesn't destroy them, it just makes them a little more Christian than they were before.  Sometimes it even means that Christian cults can summon them, and that's just bad news for everyone."
"I'm not trying to baptise a monster at all," I said, still confused.  "I'm looking for a church that has already baptised a monster, the one who runs a third of the underworld in this burg and has done for the last fifty years.  The man I'm looking for is associated with this church."
Dr. Siff leaned forwards and steepled his hands in the small space on his desk and frowned at me.
"It would have to be either the Church of Starry Wisdom or the Church of the Derived Mind then.  They've both been active for over a hundred years.  I've got some fascinating notes on them--"
I cut him off.  "The Church of Starry Wisdom burned down."  I was there, watching, when Mad Frankie and his Anger Management backed the oil tanker up to the church and filled the basement to drowning level.  I was running away as fast as I could while they were setting fire to the priest and pushing him into the building.
"They might still have done the baptism," said Dr. Siff.  "But you should probably start with the Church of the Derived Mind.  Their church is on Phedra road, and they have a corporate headquarters in the Angelicus building."
I shivered, Mad Frankie has his headquarters in the Angelicus building too.
I stood up to leave, and Dr. Siff leaned back in his chair.  "I've a message for you too, Mac," he said.  "Call Pussy.  She can help you if you let her."
I hawked and spat, then walked out of his office listening to the sputum sizzle on the wood of his desk.

The End

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