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Jim and Blair held onto each other for dear life. Melusine was dreadful in her gruesome triumph. They knew they had no chance against her. The sorcerer of water had the perfect weapons to use against a man who feared deep water, and a man who had once drowned.

But Melusine's mood changed as quickly as her appearance. She glared at the two of them.

"Well? Aren't you impressed?" she asked. "You should be." Her self-satisfaction was complete.

Blair wet his lips. "Yes, we're really impressed," he said. "We never expected – you."

Melusine morphed into a woman's shape again, this time as tall and imposing as Athene, but with black eyes and a look of cruelty rather than serene wisdom. "I am I," she announced. "I am whatever I wish to be." She switched again, this time to a redheaded Goth teen with the map of Ireland all over her/his face.

She puffed up with pride. "I am whatever you wish me to be," she said, and a slyness passed over her features.

"What would you like me to be, Jim? This?" She morphed into a petite young woman with long, tumbled mahogany curls, bright blue eyes and full, cerise lips. "Would you like me as Blair?" Her voice was low and dulcet.

Jim stepped back, revulsed.

Melusine giggled wildly. "Try me on for size, Jim," she coaxed with malice in her eyes.

"No! Stop it!" the sentinel ordered, with a quick glance at his partner.

Blair was crimson with shame.

"Oh, Blair, don't be so sad," Melusine said soothingly. "If he doesn't want you, I can arrange for you to have him." She morphed into a feminine Jim, tall, strong, Amazonian, with short-cut glossy brown hair and eyes like blue topaz. She reached out and stroked Blair's cheek. "See? Whatever you want."

"I don't want this. I don't want you," Blair rasped.

Melusine's eyes flashed. "What if I want you? What if I want you both? What if I want you like this?" She became everyone they had ever known, male and female, friend and foe, one by one, but always, always, revolting.

"Dear God," Jim prayed.

But Blair had somehow recovered his composure, as though the final indignities had settled his mind and heart. "You really are a whore, aren't you?" he said evenly.

Melusine resumed her blonde, pocket Venus guise, leaving neither man any illusions about her ability to take them both down, however she looked. "Yes," she said. "I am The Whore. I've been in every brothel from Rangoon to Persia to Patagonia to Cascade. There is no one I haven't had, if I wanted him or her. The Whore. I have no peer."

She laughed an ugly, evil laugh. "What my so-called competitors didn't count on is that my ability to shape-shift lets me be both The Whore of Babylon and The Anti-Christ!" She gurgled as she appreciated her own depthless cunning, and transformed from Maya to Michelle to Samantha to Lila to Alex to Naomi to Simon Banks to Daryl Banks and everyone else they knew in Major Crime, dazzlingly fast, headily sickening. "If I want you, I will have you. You're pretty, Shaman, and you're handsome, Detective. I might have you both at the same time, and I will be anyone I please to be when I do."

Her eyes were icy. "So don't go thinking you have any say in the matter."

Both Jim and Blair were silent and stoic.

Melusine's lips twisted. "Hmm," she commented. "I'm bored now. I'll be back to have you both in a while, so you might as well go up to my rooms and wait for me, naked, of course. I'll be along later, after I've visited my ocean and bathed in the moonlight. Tidewater is wonderful."

She left the men behind with a dismissive wave of her hand, and tripped down the stairs from Basil's apartments. Outside, the rain was sheeting down, but it picked up a rhythm of sorts, as if dancing as its mistress whirled in its embrace.

Jim and Blair stared at each other.

"What do we do now?" Jim asked, hushed.

His partner sighed. "Pray, Jim," he said. "Pray for inspiration."


It took a couple of moments for the shell-shocked friends to break out of the glamour Melusine had laid on them. Jim looked at the time: quarter after eleven. He tried calling Simon and the Coast Guard for help, from inside and outside the building. But it was still raining torrentially, and that was enough to stop the transmission. Meanwhile, Blair looked hither, thither and yon for a computer, but there was no such thing in the mansion on Saint Germain Island. Apparently, people with the combined power of the four primary sorcerers on Earth didn't need computers. They could call up an elemental to do whatever bidding they wanted done, including collect information.

The men met up again in middle of the main hall.

"No go," Jim reported.

"Same here," Blair told him.

"Shit."

"Yeah."

"How did she kill Basil? Do you know?" Jim wanted to know.

"She didn't. Six did. He turned Basil's spell back on him, by a curse. That as the fire required air to burn, and Six was the master of the air feeding them, so, the salamanders must return to their master and burn him to equalize things. Half of them left, you saw that for yourself, and I saw half of the sylphs leave too." Blair was panting for breath, near to panic.

"Look, there's got to be some way to fight her," Jim urged desperately. "Stay with me here! You know this stuff. What can we do?"

Blair hung his head and shook it. "Jim, all I can tell you is that she's still playing by the book, and if we use white magic for protection, creating a protective circle, you know, it might give us a couple of more minutes of life. But she's strong, Jim, and she's smart. Getting Six to trust her, so she could manage things to get him to kill Basil and Basil to kill him – that's pure genius. She's evil, and she's smart. And she's strong."

"You're repeating yourself," Jim said, his hand stroking worriedly over his short-cropped hair. "Whatever we can do, we need to do. It isn't just about your life and mine. If she is who she claims to be, the whole world is at stake!"

Blair looked up at him. "Well, then, let's think about faith, Jim, and white magic. If we have to stop her, white magic isn't going to do the trick alone."

Jim paused. He took a deep breath and let it out. "You know, Chief, there are a lot of agnostics who find God in a foxhole."

"Is this foxhole big enough for you?" Blair asked hopefully.

Jim stared into the night. "It might be."

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO—

Somewhere in the dark outside, Melusine screeched horrifically, breaking off in mid-scream; the rain stopped; and the whole world turned over on the equator.


"That, that wasn't...you? You fighting off Melusine? Was it?" Blair asked, disconcerted, peering through the hall door and into the dark outside.

"No, not me. Believe me, Chief, I wish it was, but I think it was something else, and I don't think it's good." Jim rubbed his temples.

"Can you figure it out? Can you pick anything up with your senses?" Blair needed to know. He took hold of one of Jim's wrists. "Be the sentinel, Jim. Pick up whatever is out there, please!"

Jim looked sick, but jerked his head in agreement with his shaman's assessment. "Okay, but I need you to keep me from zoning. I have no idea what we're dealing with."

Blair gripped his partner's hand hard. "I'm here, and I won't let you zone. Just try, okay?"

So Jim did. "I'm trying sight." He started to move toward the great wooden doors, but Blair dragged him away, further down the hall and into the kitchen.

"No, no, no! You're not getting any closer to whatever that was," Blair informed him. "You're trying all the senses in turn, but from here, okay? We need all the space between us that's possible. We need to be able to run, Jim. Not face it, but run, if possible."

Jim's lips tightened, but he said, "Yeah, you're right. It's so natural an impulse, to go look."

"Not this time. Listen first."

"Okay. The rain's stopped, for one."

There was silence in the great granite hall for a few minutes, and then Jim began to heave.

Blair pushed him down on his haunches and bent him forward. "Breathe, Jim. Slow and sure."

The nausea passed. Jim cocked his head and looked at his best friend. "That was bad, Chief. I picked up something with my ears, and piggybacked smell."

"What? What did you get?" Blair almost danced in impatience.

"It's something scaly, and slow, and big, and it stinks of snake," Jim reported.

Blair looked as if he'd been punched in the gut. "Oh, shit, oh, shit, oh, shit," he babbled.

"What is it, Blair?" Jim asked apprehensively.

"Something not good," Blair declared slowly. "I think – I think Basil survived his immolation, but not in human form. If I'm right, we do have a chance of beating him, but only if I've got it right."

An explosion outside sent shrapnel streaming towards the stone mansion. Reflected in every window was the furnace that had been a hangar with a helicopter, airplane, and fuel. The two men were fixated at the sight.

Jim became alert to his surroundings first. "Tell me what to do, Chief, to fight this thing, and we'll do it!" The sentinel was going to war, and taking his shaman along with him.


They fled up to Melusine's rooms, the only suite not destroyed, juggling their booty from the kitchen. Once there, Blair took in the group of rooms in a single sweep, and groaned.

"God, why didn't I think of this?" he lamented.

"What?" Jim asked, busily moving the huge mahogany hall table to reveal the round, blue silk rug beneath it.

"Shit, Jim, she hasn't got any mirrors in here! I was counting on the mirrors," Blair said, his fingers raking through his curls.

"What would she need with mirrors? She looked however she wanted to look, in her mind's eye," Jim said absently. He held out the box of salt. "Wanna bless this, Chief?"

Blair started to give his best friend a glare, but suddenly relaxed. "Yeah," he said gently. "Let's both bless it, okay?"

"What do I say," Jim asked.

"Lord, bless this salt and protect us against all evil, thank you," Blair suggested.

They both said the words.

Jim found the bottle of imported water, and they said the prayer, amended as necessary over it. Then the same was done for the candles and the cinnamon they'd brought up from the kitchen.

Jim was in charge of laying down an outer circle of the blessed salt, all around the perimeter of the rug. He was half-aware of Blair at his shoulder, letting water soak into the border of the carpet.

The other half of him was aware of the coming of a huge, scaly beast.

"Chief, it's inside the downstairs hall. Work fast!" he ordered.

"I am, I am. There, the water's in a ring. I'm gonna work on the candles."

"Okay, I'll take two of them. Which names?"

"You do Gabriel and Michael. I'll do Raphael and Uriel," Blair assigned the appropriate archangels to the appropriate believer.

They were scratching the second names into the soft wax of the emergency candles, using their pens, when Jim gave another update. "It's at the bottom of the stairs. It's making for us."

"Okay, okay, we knew it would," Blair said. "Just keep working." He put stars of David on his candles, then exchanged them for Jim's ones with crosses, and they inscribed their symbols on all of them.

Blair gathered the candles together. "Where is due north, Jim?"

The sentinel pointed the four directions and the candles were set out hastily, each to the point attributed to the archangel whose name was written on it. Saying brief prayers, Jim lit them, Blair following with pinches of cinnamon to freshen the air. That covered the four elements of earth, water, fire and wind, the white magic plan, such as it was. It had taken them only fifteen minutes, and, privately, each of the men wondered how many extra seconds it might add to their lives, if any.

Blair squatted on the rug, within the protective circles, and drew Jim down next to him, making sure that Jim was facing away from the door to the landing.

"Jim," he started, and choked.

Jim took his face gently in both his hands. "We're not getting out of this, are we, Chief?"

Blair grasped Jim's hands and squeezed hard. "I don't think so, Jim."

They let their hands, still clasped, fall between them.

The skritchy, scratchy, scaly sound was halfway up the last flight of stairs. Slow moving, and gigantic, was the body making it. Loud thwacks reverberated in the stone as a massive tail hit rhythmically against the walls.

"Don't listen," Jim said. "Just listen to me, okay? We can choose not to see or hear it."

"Okay," Blair managed to get out. He made himself breath more deeply a couple of times, and asked, "What'll we do instead?"

"Look at our memories. Us, together, Chief."

"Good, good." Blair smiled, a small but real smile.

"I want you to know what a difference you made in my life."

"Jim – "

"No, I want you to know. I have to make you know. I remember the biggest surprise I ever got was when you threw me under the garbage truck and saved my life. I'm so glad you didn't just let me walk away."

"I remember when I was at my lowest, after the warehouse burned, and you took me in, ape and all. Even when Larry was destroying the loft. And when you found me, when Lash...."

"I remember too. I was so worried I wouldn't be in time."

The monster had moved a third of the way up the stairs.

"I was so scared when I heard the shooting. You'd dropped your gun. I thought Lash must have had one. I'm so glad he didn't hurt you."

"I remember when you said no to Eli's offer. I thought you were leaving for good."

"I was an idiot even to have entertained the idea for a minute."

"No, no, you weren't. It was a good job."

"Doesn't compare to my own work with you. Plus, it's about friendship. It always was."

The monster had gained another third of the staircase.

"I remember all the quarrels...."

"...and I remember we made them all up. I remember you choosing to be a sentinel."

"I remember you being made shaman of the Great City."

"Most of all, I remember being in the jungle, being the wolf, and feeling so alone."

"I remember." Jim had to swallow hard before he could continue. "The best time in my life was when I was the jag, and I found you. Then we came back together."

The monster was at the door. The stench was acrid and vomitous.

"What are you seeing, Jim?" Blair asked.

"You on the grass, Chief, breathing. Breathing again. That's all I can see. You?"

"You looking down at me, okay and smiling. It was all I wanted to see, then and now. I can't see anything else. I choose to see you, then."

A horrific hissing, the cold wind from flapping leather wings, and a blast of heat made it part of the way through the circle they had laid.

Blair said sotto voce, "Jim, I don't think the protective spells have any more strength."

"Maybe this is all the time we have."

"I think so. I'm glad we're together, buddy."

"Me, too. Me, too. And grateful to have known you, and have you as my friend, Chief."

"Same here, Jim."

"Here goes."

Together, they turned to face the Anti-Christ.


The change was instantaneous. It started at the eyes. They lost their glitter, and their color; they lost all intelligence. It took longer for the rest to turn to stone.

But it was only the eyes that they had to worry about. It was only the eyes that could kill with a glance. Once it had seen itself reflected in the watery surfaces of blinded eyes belonging to two men who cared for each other more than for himself, both humble enough to know he couldn't go it alone and grateful for the other being part of his life, the proud and monstrous beast could not live with its own soulless, empty being.

The basilisk died with one look at them.

Jim and Blair had to blink their tears away, but, mercifully, it was after they had turned to look at the candidate for the title of Anti-Christ.

"What is it, Chief?" Jim asked, surveying the half-gray, half-green snake with wings.

"A basilisk, Jim," Blair said wonderingly. "It's one of the forms Satan takes, like the serpent or goat or satyr. A snake on steroids, a venomous, fire-breathing dragon without legs, and the ability to turn people to stone with its eyes, like Medusa and the other Gorgons."

"It was Basil, then?" Jim deduced.

The graying crept along the beast's belly.

"Yeah, it was. I just remembered. When he introduced himself, it was as 'Basilicos Basiliscos"," Blair realized. "I said something about it to you, didn't I?"

"That he thought of himself as royalty. Prince Basil, Heir to Hell. Prince Basilisk, huh?"

"That would be him. I guess you can't fight fire with fire; the salamanders Six turned back upon him only strengthened him, or maybe it was the sylphs that fed the fire. Basil must have risen from his own immolation like a phoenix from its ashes, only hideously evil and impossibly much stronger. Maybe he triggered the explosion of the hangar for the same reason. God! What would hellfire at midnight have done to him?" Blair shivered badly.

"And we stopped him?"

Blair gazed back at his partner. "Not us. Not our power. But what we both believe in. The same thing that made me the wolf and you the jag, that time before."

"Yeah," Jim said. "Yeah."

They didn't have to spell it out. They both knew Who and What had slain the hateful snake. They both knew their prayers had been answered, and they felt the divine, the numinous, in each other and in their own bones.

So Jim did something normal, as the basilisk continued to transform from flesh to rock. He called Simon Banks. The call went through.

"Simon, come get us, and make it as fast as possible. Helicopter, Coast Guard, anyone. Just get us out of here!"

While their captain expostulated on the other end, Blair had been looking out of the windows of Melusine's bedroom.

"Jim! Jim, tell him to hurry!" Blair yelled back.

"Why? What's wrong?" Jim asked.

"The sea, Jim. The sea. It's advancing. Look! The dock has disappeared! The storm's stopped, but the sea...."

Jim joined his best friend, the brother of his heart, and looked out at Puget Sound. "Simon, get us off this island now, the thing is sinking into the sea!"

"What? Are you kidding?"

"Blair and I are in real danger of drowning. Do you think we'd kid about something like that, sir?"

"Syd's already in the air, Jim; he insisted on going as soon as the micro cell cleared up. The copter will be there in just a few minutes. The water's too choppy for the Coast Guard."

"Tell him we'll be on the helipad, if the island isn't under water. Tell him to expect to have to lift us out."

"I will. Good luck!"

"Thanks. We need it." Jim closed the phone.

"How do we get down?" Blair asked anxiously.

"Crawl over the damned thing," Jim said, with renewed vigor. "Give me your hand."

Blair reached out, and they began slithering down the petrifying body. Jim pulled back as they got to the lower landing; the tail was still lashing back and forth.

"Do we have time to wait?" Blair asked, counting on Jim's hearing to pick up the sound of the sea and the rescue helicopter.

CRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK

Bits of the granite walls around them began to flake off. They were in a hail of stone flak.

"Move, Chief! It's crumbling around us!"

Jim timed his jump exactly, missing the basilisk's beating tail at precisely the right moment. He cleared it totally, coming to rest on the floor of the great hallway. He turned back to Blair.

"Get ready!"

Blair nodded, trusting his best friend to take care on his behalf, and his sentinel to know when he would be safe.

"Now!"

Blair leaped, and Jim helped catch him. They had to run like rabbits to dodge the final, snaking death throes of the monster they had slain.

Together, they dashed for the rear door, grateful they were so close to it.

"God, Blair! It's coming down! Go, go, go!"

They both threw themselves out of the house.

With a ghastly, baleful howl, the stones that The Pythoness had called from the earth collapsed on her murderer's thrashing tail.

The partners came to a complete halt.

A rip in the earth had opened up, and the hangar, with all its burning, was swallowed within the gash. Only an inch-high rim of flame could be seen.

But the airstrip, the airstrip, was still there.

"Come on," Jim yelled, as another fissure opened behind them, and the mansion erected by The Pythoness began to fall into the abyss, block by block, the great snake sliding down along with it.

They ran forward, Jim shouting and pointing at the sky, where the lights of the police chopper were visible.

"Can they see us?" Blair asked.

Then powerful night strobe lights centered on Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg, and the man afraid of the water jumped for the rope ladder let down by Syd Blailock, before the sea could inundate them, and the man afraid of heights bounded up right behind him.

As the chopper lifted straight up, they hung onto each other as well as the ladder. Below, Saint Germain Island sank into the Sound, and was no more. The mistress of the earth had her revenge on the rivals who had inhabited her mansion and her island, at last.


"Simon, please," Blair asked, exhausted.

Banks, almost crazy with worry, was taking it out on his best detectives, who were also his best friends. "I deserve an answer, damn it!" he demanded.

"I know, I know, sir," Jim said. "But it's long and involved and it's even more than the usual Sentinel stuff."

"No, no, no, no. I don't want to hear that!" Captain Banks groaned.

"What time is it?" Blair asked.

"Uh, about ten to midnight. Why? Do you want to get to the party on time?" Simon asked nastily.

"Yeah, that's exactly what I want to do. What I want Jim to do, too."

Simon looked closely at the police consultant, then even more closely. "You need this, don't you?"

"Oh, man, Simon, we so need this. Normality and friends at midnight."

"When it's safe to rejoice," Jim put in.

"Need to know everyone's safe. Everyone."

Simon was perturbed. He was beginning to think they were in shock, and needed hospitalization, not partying.

Blair sent an exhausted plea to Jim, without words. Simon needed convincing.

Jim obliged. "The short of it is," Jim did his own version of obfuscating, "a woman called The Pythoness admitted to killing Zachary Groundwater. Due to the sinking of Saint Germain Island, and the collapse of the mansion on them, the rest of the inhabitants are presumed dead. We got airlifted off just in time, thanks to you and Syd."

"You saved our lives," Blair Sandburg said.

Simon, who had more affection for the people under his command than it was wise to admit to, and who counted these two second only to his dear son, Daryl, made a pass with his cigar in the air. "And you want to go to the New Year's Eve party."

"Yeah," Jim and Blair chorused.

"Okay."


They took Simon's sedan, and, of course, Jim had to drive, with his usual reckless disregard for traffic, Simon beside him, mouthing imprecations. Blair lay on the backseat, trying to regulate his breathing and reach the first stage of meditation. They arrived at Joel's house with three minutes to spare. But both sentinel and shaman made the headcount, and all their friends and loved ones from Cascade were there, including Libby, Blair's dog. Joel had a soft spot for her, just as he did for her human companion, and had brought her home with him, in the expectation that her housemates would arrive sooner or later. Blair and Jim had their faces well licked, and then accepted glasses of California champagne.

An empty corner of the kitchen beckoned. The two men withdrew, Libby following, ostensibly to get something to eat, whether for her or themselves didn't matter.

The countdown was being called out by their friends. The new millennium was dawning.

"Happy New Millennium, Jim," Blair said, holding up his glass to clink with his friend's.

"Happy New Millennium, Blair," Jim wished him.

"Thank God we can make the toasts."

"Thank God."

They shared a deep look, which held an understanding that came only to a few and only at great cost.

"My best friend," Jim said, dumping the glass in the sink.

"My brother," Blair said, dropping his in too.

They clung to each other in a hug that lasted too long and was too close, too cherishing, for the mores of the day, but was only fitting for the two of them, alone together. The shout that midnight was marked and a new day come, was not loud enough to pierce their shell of thanksgiving for the miracle of having each other in their lives. But it didn't matter, nor did the joshing they got afterwards, nor Libby's impatience for a liver treat.

They were the Sentinel and Shaman of the Great City of Cascade, and that was what mattered more than anyone else would ever know.

THE END


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AUTHOR'S NOTES

1. The author had a lot of help with the research on this story. As to ball lightning, her great thanks to the late Kjell Nilson is due; as to spontaneous human combustion, thanks to the fire-fighting brother-in-law, who said he knew nothing about it, but if it was for fiction, to go for it! Also to my researchers, Antoinette Bennion and JAC. For the illustrations, to Suisan, CarolROI, Michele, and JAC. The author hopes she hasn't left anyone out!

2. The author must thank her tireless beta's, too. Lady Shelley, CarolROI, Amy, Lin, and Suisan all worked like dogs to make this thing a go. Thank you, ladies. Love ya, L.S.!

3. If you absolutely have to have information on spontaneous human combustion, here's the place to start: 150 Human Combustion Links at

http://www.mysteries-megasite.com/main/bigsearch/human-combustion.html

4. The report by John DeHaan of the original trials he ran before doing the BBC documentary is at: http://www.forensic-science-society.org.uk/DeHaan.pdf

(A comment about DeHaan's work: he is the author of Kirk's, the arson handbook, should you see references to it in the literature.)

A critique of DeHaan's demonstration, which the author heartily endorses, having seen the documentary before reading the critique, and being outraged at the methodology in the television program, is here:

http://www.alternativescience.com/spontaneous-human-combustion-burning-issue.htm

It is the author's opinion that real scientists don't and shouldn't bullshit about their experiments.

Most of the individual cases discussed in this story are cited at the site immediately above, or can be found by links from it.

5. As to individual cases, the references are as follows:

The teenager who burst into flames while walking down the street in London, England, is Paul Hayes, and his case is discussed here:

http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Rampart/9866/SHC.html

The elderly woman in Sydney, Australia, who died of burns received while sitting in a parked car is Agnes Phillips, and her case is discussed at:

http://www.alternativescience.com/spontaneous-human-combustion-burning-issue.htm

The woman passenger in the moving car, who had 20% of her body burned, is Jenna or Jeanna Winchester, and a brief mention of her can be found here:

http://anomalyinfo.com/articles/sa00070.shtml

The woman who suddenly emitted blue-green flames from her mouth in full view of her father and brother-in-law is Jeannie Saffin, and the case can be found here:

http://www.alternativescience.com/spontaneous-human-combustion-cases.htm Also, her brother-in-law was interviewed in the documentary Burning Bodies: Spontaneous Human Combustion, infra.

The man with a blue aura, who died in Budapest, is discussed anonymously at:

http://www.science-frontiers.com/sf073/sf073b06.htm

The tramp whose body emitted blue flames and so attracted help is Robert Francis Bailey, found September 13, 1967, in Lambeth, England. A report of the case is here:

http://www.alternativescience.com/spontaneous-human-combustion-cases.htm

6. The BBC programme is referred to in the article in the BBC News article, 'New Light on Human Torch Mystery', at http://new.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/158853.stm

The critique of it at comment 4 above is detailed as to the methodology, and, truly, the author cannot recommend acquiring or watching the original programme. It's not worth the time or trouble, in her opinion, unless you want to compare the arson methodology therein to that in the paper DeHaan wrote, cited supra.

The more recent documentary shown on the Discovery Channel this year, in which is discussed the internal phosphine/diphosphine/methane oxygenless-fire, is Burning Bodies: Spontaneous Human Combustion, produced by GRN Entertainment Inc. in association with the Discovery Channel, copyrighted MMI, Sequoia Entertainment, Inc.

7. Larry E. Arnold is the author of Ablaze!, which is available both through Amazon.com and from the author at his website below, as are his tapes on the subject. He is the promulgator of the 'pyroton' theory. He also explores such topics as the effect of leylines on spontaneous human combustion cases, UFO's and Kundalini power, so it's a case of 'reader, beware'. http://www.geocities.com/slashaeby/ablaze.html

It appears to the author that the proper spelling of the sub-subatomic particle he posits is 'pyroton', with a 'ton' ending like 'proton', but she has seen 'pyrotron' in a variety of places, and believes the second is a misspelling.

8. Rejected material: The author rejected out of hand theories that involved backed-up kundalini power in the celibate, psychic fire starting, leylines, UFO's and Men in Black. The author could be wrong, but somehow she doesn't think they're involved. The case of Jack Angel, in Savannah, Georgia, 1974, has been thoroughly debunked as fraud by Joe Nickell of CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal). Of debunking, there is much, and most commentary is more than merely skeptical of Mr. Arnold's theories; but the one sure thing of Larry E. Arnold's work is that he researched the heck out of SHC cases, citing a variety of sources for the more obscure, i.e., the ones with survivors or witnesses. It doesn't cut the mustard for an apparently all-inclusive theory to ignore the exceptions. The wick effect isn't all-inclusive. The author would like to know the answer, but doesn't buy bad science any more than she buys bad New Age beliefs.

9. In re: ball lightning, the case of the anonymous man in Budapest cited above posits ball lightning as the cause of that person's death. It is a report in a meteorological journal, and, as such, very interesting. The author has three years worth of research on ball lightning, and it's still a labyrinth of theories without proof. It's almost impossible to replicate in the laboratory, and there's no way to predict when and how the balls of lightning will occur in nature. In other words, it exists, but there's no hard science on it, and the possibilities are endless. The descriptions the author gave of the balls of lightning and their behavior in real life are all as accurate as possible, and have been observed in the wild all over the world. For their effect on glass, try here:

http://www.science-frontiers.com/sf085/sf085g13.htm

There is more to know at:

http://www.eskimo.com/~billb/tesla/balllgtn.html

And if you must have it, there are 130 links on ball lightning, too! Gotta love the megasites!

http://mysteries-megasite.com/main/bigsearch/ball-lightning.html

10. Smoking stool syndrome is a real medical condition, a result of phosphorus poisoning. Information on it can be found here:

http:www.emedicine.com/emerg/topic918.htm

11. The Latin. The author is nearly three decades away from her Latin classes, so the language may be a little rough. Here goes:

Conciderite: Be destroyed.

I, stulte: Begone, fool.

Ergo animam aeris pasco, ideo mutuo dominum tuum adirite: As I have kept your essence alive with air, so return to your master and treat him as you do me. (Spoken to the salamanders in the ball lightning.)

12. Happy New Year!