Chicago homicide detective Paul Gminski haunted by dark dreams of his late mother. Paul becomes entangled with the serial murders of a mysterious group called the Council of Six. But to do so will force him to answer this question: Who--or what--is Amuz?
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The Eyes of the Stars
Chicago Homicide Detective Paul Gminski is haunted by dark dreams of his late mother. Unable to rest, Paul and his partner Ivey become entangled with the serial murders of a mysterious group called the Council of Six. Someone or something is killing the group's members, each of whom possesses a piece of an ancient collection of relics called The Eyes of the Stars.
Paul finds himself in a desperate race against time as he battles to unravel the mystery of the Eyes of the Stars. But doing so will force him to answer the question: Who--or What--is Amuz
“And He said to me, ‘You will see greater abominations than this… Behold, He brought me to the north gate of the house of the LORD and there sat the women who were weeping for Tammuz.”
Chapter 1: Chicago, IL, February 27th 2011, 5:56am
For Paul Gminski, the horror that came to Chicago started with his dream. He didn’t know that in the beginning. No, to him, the uneasiness that came to him during his nocturnal hours must have been the result of working too hard, sleeping too little or not having been laid in six months. He didn’t grumble about it at the precinct or go bitch about it at Shirley’s during Happy Hour. He didn’t want to see the union shrink or talk about at some half-assed group therapy session. It was just a dream and nothing more.
Anyway, It wasn’t like he had five years to spend for some pretentious, shit-sheet, Northwestern graduate to tell him that he wasn’t properly breast-fed. He was a cop and cops sometimes had rough times. He didn’t need some overpaid asshole to tell him that. He didn’t need any that weak minded crap. He would be okay.
It wasn’t because of the dream that he started unloading his gun at night. That would be the act of someone who was going crazy. And Paul Gminski was definitely not crazy. At least, he told himself, not yet.
It always went same way. He was back at home in Forest Glen on the curved hump of Dad‘s manicured front yard. He must have been about eight because he and his sister Patty were taking turns throwing the football through the battered tire hanging from the Dutch elm. He remembered that was the case because Patty stopped playing ball when she turned ten and Dad cut the tree down the next year when it was nearly dead. In the dream, Patty stood on the other side of the tire catching his throws through the center and rifling them back through it with surprising precision for a girl.
The summer sun was just beginning to dip low and the smell of the fresh cut afternoon grass was in the air. The neighborhood had the perfect stillness of memory. The only sound to be heard was the dull thump the ball as he and Patty tossed it through the lightly swaying tire. Even in the depths of his dream, Paul could feel the simple joy that this rhythm brought him, washing him once again in familiar childhood expectations. All good things seemed wrapped up in the thudding release and return of the ball. He always found himself hoping it would continue for forever and that nothing would change the way he was feeling at that moment.
It was then he noticed that his Mom was standing on the front porch. Stopping his toss in mid-delivery, he saw that she was watching them in the spreading gloom, the sun filtering through her reddish, blond hair, the breeze tugging the edges of her blue skirt. Watching her stand there, Paul knew what was coming. If running were a possibility, he would have run. But nothing ever stopped what came next.
He noticed in the partial darkness that Mom seemed to be crying, holding her face down in her hands. Letting the ball go, Paul always noticed that it made no sound when it hit the ground. Without a noise, it rolled its way down the grade towards the black gravel at the foot of the driveway. With an eerie speed, he made his way to the broad, wooden steps where she stood, tugging at her skirt, trying to find words of concern to tell her, words of comfort.
But no sound would come from Paul’s 8 year old mouth. Despite struggling with all his might to speak, he could manage nothing through his dry, cracked lips. Mom’s tears continued to fall, slipping through the edges of her fingers down towards him standing at her side. Paul actually could feel her body shaking sobs through her legs as he clutched to them. The light drops of her tears salted his forehead as he held on to her. But, as always, he heard no sound coming from her shaking body.
In the dream, Paul always brought his right hand to his left cheek to wipe away the tears from his eyes that had mingled with the sea of grief unleashed by his mother.
It was at that moment he would see that his hands were covered in blood.
Paul would feel his eyes were drawn to his mother’s face, though he fought it with all the might he could summon. Already knowing what was waiting there never brought relief for Paul. As he saw it in the dream’s eye, night after night, what he saw only deepened the feelings of fear and revulsion in the pit of his stomach.
With those same child’s eyes, Paul saw the gaping sockets where her eyes had once been, her cheeks streaming with dark red ribbons of blood. It was at that moment the silence would be broken. With his mouth shaped in a silent scream and his heart exploding in his chest, Paul Gminski would hear his mother’s blood choked voice say again the same four, small words:
“You, Paulie, only you.”
The sharp, metallic ring of his cell phone brought Paul up into the gray darkness of his of his bedroom. As Paul grabbed the silver box from his nightstand, he peered at the time displayed on the face with a grunt. 6:00 AM. A whispered obscenity followed as the caller ID showed it was his partner Ivey calling.
“Yeah, Ivey it’s me.”
“You okay, Paulie?” said Ivey, with an all too familiar tone of annoyance in his raspy baritone voice. “I paged you like 30 minutes ago.”
“Man” said Paul, while rubbing his forehead. “I didn’t hear. I must have been sleeping dead to the world.”
Paul heard a sharp grunt from the receiver.
“Bad choice of words for a homicide detective, brother. Get your ass in gear and meet me down at the Museum of Natural History. We’ve got a body here. I told dispatch you were already en route.”
The implications of Ivey’s words jolted Paul into a more alert state of mind. “Shit, man, how long ago was that?”
“Nearly 40 minutes ago. So hustle. We’ve got a ton of uniforms already crawling around here and I can’t make excuses forever.”
“Yeah, I’m there,” said Paul gruffly, closing the phone with a sharp snap.
Another night had passed again for Paul in a seeming blink of an eye. If he had slept, there were no signs of it. His body ached and his mouth seemed rough as the floor of a desert. As he slid from bed to floor, he wiped the sweat from his shoulders with a flick. A hacking, halting cough suddenly shook his torso, causing Paul to shiver. With a reckless frenzy, he recycled his clothes from the bedroom floor, zipping and stuffing while heading for the bathroom.
As he flicked on the lights, the face in the mirror caused Paul to halt in his tracks. Looking out at him was the face that his father had carried. Worn and lined, his brown eyes bleary, specks of gray spotting the edges of his sandy hair. While rubbing his cheeks, he felt the grime of three days without a shave. He had to laugh at the thought that his father’s face was looking back at him in the mirror. No one had looked more ragged and beaten than the old man when Paul was a teenager. Yet again here was dear old Dad, like death warmed over in the piercing glare of the overhead light.
Without further hesitation, he applied a splash of water to his face and hair, a swig of mouthwash to his teeth. As he passed his bedside, Paul grabbed his holster from the chair back, slinging it over his shoulder with a dip and a flip. He momentarily fumbled over his dresser for the bullet clip he had removed several hours before. With a single motion, Paul inserted the clip and cleared the chamber, grimly thanking himself for remembering to load the damn thing. He dodged the couch and sprung out the front door, ready for the world.