Inside, the elevator is all bluish lights and stainless steel. There are only three buttons.
“G is where we are. Ground level. P is the pastor’s private library and office, and you can probably guess what L stands for.”
“Oh yeah, Lighthou-”
But she catches me mid-sentence, pushes me against the wall as the doors silently close, pressing her mouth against mine. My palms slide across the polished steel, feeling for the railing as my knees go soft.
Ten light-years later the elevator dings again and she backs out, pulling me by my shirt into the Lighthouse.
Over her shoulder the beacon bounces across the skyline, moving toward our heads but she pushes me down before the light reaches us, and I hope maybe, outside of the light, just maybe God won’t be able to see what we’re about to do. Her fiery red hair explodes, encompassing my vision, backlit by the lighthouse beacon, and a great warmth courses through me.
I hope to God that Cole stays calm.
“Play your cards right, I’ll show why some people call me Hailey.” She gets up to her knees, pulls at the waistband of her skirt, revealing a colorful comet’s tail that traces along her pelvis, disappearing beneath shiny black silk.
Part of me would love to see where that tattoo ends up, but Cole is having nothing to do with it.
Before I can react he has her pinned down, and I’m trying to negotiate, “Just hold on… relax…” but Cole wants to speak.
“All I want is the keys to the confessional.” Cole’s knee digs into her stomach. Her face marks fear, shock and pain.
“Your voice… what the…”
She gasps, “What?”
“The website. You say you have real confessions. I want them.”
I’m helpless, watching it all unfold, watching her lusty eyes turn cold. She says, “Okay, okay,” nodding frantically.
“You come through for me, I can forgive… all this. Understand?”
Her wrist slips free long enough to jab Cole in the eye, I feel it too, but Cole’s still groping for her and I’m powerless to stop him. He takes her throat but her hand finds Cole’s groin, twists everything so even I can’t see straight.
Another flash of pain, somewhere in our head, and the last thing I remember is Rebecca’s shadow rushing into the elevator.
Rush makes the left onto Selby, and it’s a straight shot to the apartment from there, which gives the squad car plenty of time to catch up. The right side of the street’s lined with cars, so he pulls the e-brake to slide into the lot next to Costello’s Pub and he hits the ground running before the car comes to a stop.
He looks up to the corner unit, something about the light seems off, the angle of lamp-shadows behind the drapes.
The squad car is nose-down to the concrete as its brakes try not to lock up and Rush slides across the hood, hoping to make it to the doors before the officer draws his gun. But as he darts around a parked moving van, three guys are trying to free a sleeper couch wedged up-right in the entryway.
“Freeze! Hands in the air.”
Rush skids face first into the frame of the couch and there’s no way to squeeze past. He slowly turns, hands above his head, speaking as controlled as he can manage.
“I need your help, officer. I-”
“On the ground, now!”
Breaking into Mr. Kincaid’s space in the Lighthouse office complex was next to impossible, so we’d used IP address tracing software in conjunction with the source code of his website to get a fix on his neighborhood.
We’re sitting in a rental car, and here’s Rebecca crossing the street in front of Costello’s, going toward his apartment building.
Well, what do you know?
“Hold on, Cole. She’s not the reason we’re here.”
I’ve got a hundred dollar bill says she’ll lead us right to his place, and we’re only here now on the assumption that his home computer has a backup of everything in his office.
“I don’t like it. We don’t know-”
Mars Hill Staffing is our gold mine, an entire directory of atheists. Rebecca is our way in. And we have unfinished business with her, lest you forget.
I’ve already licked the mirror clean, opened the door, slipped on a pair of dark shades when a passerby looks at me sideways.
“Powdered donuts,” I lie, but it’s forgivable. I wipe away the excess blow and continue my pursuit.
I catch the front door with my foot just as she’s sidestepped some college looking guys pulling a sofa out of the elevator. She slips into the stairwell. I peek in, she’s still climbing, must be the third floor.
At the sound of the closing door I dart up the steps, three at a time, peer out and she’s just down the hall to the right, still fumbling with her keys.
Rush has never stared down the barrel of a gun so for just a moment, he freezes.
“On the ground.”
“Shit. Sir, I live here and my fiancée is in danger.”
The officer doesn’t move, “Right now you’re going to put your hands behind your head and-”
A loud crack, could be a leftover firecracker, even this late in August, but when everyone looks up another explosion is accompanied by a flash behind the drapes of the third floor corner apartment.
“Oh G-… Fuck!”
“That your place, son?” The officer is moving around the car, gun still drawn but no longer aimed at Rush.
“Yes, sir. I got a phone call… she’s pregnant, we just found out…” he gasps, “And, oh man, fuck me if I can remember what he said right now but-”
A third shot, the window bursts open, and the officer’s holstered his gun and now he’s pulling on the couch.
One guy says, “It’s been like this for twenty minutes, man. We’re stuck.”
Rush shakes his head, backs into the street, looking up to the window. The officer looks past the couch, the lobby is empty.
“Does this place have a basement, a gym, anything underneath the lobby here?”
“Uh.. no… the uh, parking is off to the right there. There’s nothing below.”
He pulls out his gun and fires downward at the frame of the couch, three shots and it begins to slump inward so the officer kicks at it until it falls into the lobby, then climbs over.
The college guys swear under their breath in disbelief.
Rush climbs over next, panting, “I would have called you guys. Honest. It’s just, with the call, I didn’t know what else-”
“You stay behind me.” He calls for backup on his radio, then asks how many stairwells the building has.
“Two, but they both empty into the lobby here. Shit, no, another one goes to the parking lot.”
“Well, the elevator and two stairways lead here, so that’s three out of four, how fast is the elevator?”
“Slower than the one at Sex World.”
“Any other day, I’d pretend I didn’t know what you meant.”
He leans into one stairwell, listens, Rush mimics and listens into the other.
“Well, the elevator ain’t moving.”
“Let’s do it, then.”
My pulse races, my hands get sweaty and I hesitate in the doorway, so Cole slides up behind her, thrusts his arm around her neck and pushes the car keys into her back.
“Rush? That’s not fu-”
“What was that you said about a nickname? Hailey, is it?”
She tenses in his arms.
“Oh God, David, no-”
“Oh, no no no, since we’re sharing, I have a nickname, too. It’s Cole. Now open the door.”
Just inside she pulls away. Cole catches her but she’s starting to vomit so he lets her crawl to the bathroom.
When she settles, wipes her mouth, she mumbles, “Morning sickness.”
“Wow. I mean, wow. Just a few weeks ago, up in the Lighthouse. You were all over me, and now this.”
“I just found out. We’d sort of… separated.”
“Oh, you mean Mr. Kincaid here?”
Cole reaches into his pocket, pulls out an old Bible.
“That’s just perfect, actually. Well let’s see then. It’s not exactly adultery, I mean, neither of you are married, right?”
“What? No… we’re…”
“Good. That makes it easier, less possibilities.”
“We just got engaged.”
But Cole isn’t listening.
“I don’t see any stones lying around, no angry mob. So how about,” he pages through a few books, “Ooh, I’ve always wanted to try this one.”
Cole rips out the page, hands it to her, then takes her by her hair into the master bedroom, throws her onto the bed.
When the officer opens the door to the third floor he immediately tells the other residents to get back inside their apartments.
Rush bursts out of the opposing stairwell, “My place, it’s the one in the corner.”
“I can’t cover you, but I doubt that’s going to stop you from following me in, so just stay behind me until I can get a handle on what we’re dealing with. Clear?”
“Uh-” He steps over a computer mouse. “What the?”
“Seriously, focus. Right here, right now.”
“Yes, sir. Yes, sir.”
The officer announces himself, demands the door be opened. Nothing.
He whispers to Rush, “No sign of forced entry.”
“Is that good?”
He shrugs, then demands whoever is inside open the door again, and with no reply he moves to kick it in.
From the bathroom, a man’s voice moans, “Help, I’m shot… I…”
“This is the police, identify yourself.”
But Rush pushes past, recognizing the voice.
“Josh, is that- Of fuck, Josh.”
Blood everywhere, Josh is slumped into the shower, wrapping his belt around his arm, which won’t do a thing for the chest wound.
“The game tonight… I brought… beer, but… Hailey screamed…”
“Where is she, Josh? Where’s Hailey?”
“She screamed ‘No, David, no’… she shot me, man.”
“Who’s David? Is anyone else here?”
“Josh, listen to me, where is Hailey?”
“First thing I saw… the computers were gone… then … the bedroom…”
He tries to point down the hall.
Rush and the cop pass the office, it’s been ransacked, cords hanging everywhere.
“Well, I’d say whoever it was, he’s long gone.”
Looking through the doorway they can see the mirrored closet doors and in the reflection they both see a silver handgun on the floor, just beyond a woman’s arm, extending from behind the bed.
“That’s my gun. That’s-”
The officer leads with his gun, instinct, nudges the bedroom door fully open, quickly clears the room and moves around to the other side of the bed.
“Son, I think you may want to hold off for a moment.”
“I don’t understand.” She scans the page while Cole walks into the kitchen, begins going through the drawers.
“And where is Mr. Kincaid? Is he coming home soon?”
“He’s picking up my paych-”
“I just need to know how much time we have. Keep reading.”
She meets him in the doorway to the bedroom, “David, just talk to me.” Then she sees the knife.
“It’s Cole right now, Miss Rebecca-Hailey whoever you are. Keep reading.”
Her eyes don’t move from the blade until she bolts for the closet, where she knows Rush keeps a revolver, but Cole is too fast.
He wrestles her to the floor, then with the blade against her neck he picks up the page and holds it in front of her face. His voice is flat.
She scans the page frantically, “I don’t understand… I just-”
Then her eyes widen.
“There we are. Read it aloud. Hosea, chapter thirteen, verse sixteen.”
“Oh God… no.”
“S-S-Samaria shall become desolate; f-for she hath rebelled against her God.” Her face distorts into ugliness, the way anyone looks when trying to avoid tears.
Cole presses the flat side of the blade against her neck. “Keep reading.”
“…they shall fall by the sword. Oh Jesus… Their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped open.”
This is the beginning.
© Anthony David Jacques MMX