cop pulled up, lights flashing, and sat for a moment with his head bent, talking into his radio. Then he opened the cruiser
door and stepped out.
A teenager.” Ron huffed. His hands were cold and he rubbed them together
get farther without the sarcasm.
then you handle it.”
pulled out his wallet again and retrieved his drivers’ license, then pushed it at the young cop as he leaned to look
in the window.
may I see your drivers’ license and—
you go, officer.”
need your registration and proof of insurance, sir.”
sighed and leaned over to rummage through the glove compartment. The leather folder with the registration and insurance card
wasn’t there. He began pulling things out and handing them to Ron as he searched. Then he remembered. They were in the
process of changing policies. The folder was on the computer desk at home.
I forgot. My insurance card and registration are at home. I took them out to get the numbers off them to put on a new application.
cop scowled, and looked through the window at Ron.
officer, this is silly. Why aren’t you harassing our drunken friends up there?”
officer. This is stupid. We’re in a hurry and we don’t have all day for you to waste time calling—”
here, sirs. I’ll be back in a minute.”
cop turned and started back to his car.
bet Junior there will take his time calling in to check on us. Want a donut to eat while you wait, kid?” he said under
worked his jaw. Phil saw the muscles tense.
There’s nothing we can do.”
cop turned back to look at the two men. He studied them for a moment, then opened the cruiser door and sat down inside. They
could hear the voice of the female dispatcher as she entered Phil’s name into the computer.
you check under the seat and find any plastic bags of white powder, they’re not ours.”
shook his head at Ron, but McKenzie didn’t seem to notice. He opened his mouth for another volley.
you shut up, you idiot? All he has to do is call in and verify that I have a valid license and I’m insured. If you keep
quiet. We can get out of here sooner.”
five minutes, the officer returned.
officer? Am I cleared of all charges?”
car license is clear, sir, but your drivers’ license expired six months ago.”
me see that.” Phil reached for the card.
policeman pulled back. “You gentlemen need to sit quietly while I do some measuring.”
ridiculous. Those kids that hit us are drunk, aren’t they?”
need to do some measuring and checking on some details, sir, before I can confirm that.”
for Pete’s sake. They were talking to us…slurring their words. You don’t think we could tell they were drunk?”
Ron’s face was reddening.
need to do some measuring, sir. By the way,”—he bent to address Ron—“May I see your license, sir?
besides this gentleman will have to drive. His license is expired.”
dug out his license and handed it to the officer. He glanced at it, gave it back to him and turned toward the two inebriated
Phil leaned his head out of the window. “How long do you expect us to wait here?”
I learn enough to let you go.”
pounded the side of the car with his fist.
for nothing, Donut Boy,” he mumbled.
Macie clenched her teeth, but Austin held her nose and she couldn’t breathe. Finally, she took the fatal gasp of air. The gas had no odor, no taste. It simply
was. Her body relaxed. She realized
that things weren’t as desperate as they seemed. This would all be over in a few moments, when the men left. It was nice not to be tense. Then a single
word formed in her mind. Weslie.
And she knew she had to fight the trance overcoming her.
odor permeated the room, getting rapidly stronger. Macie thought she recognized it as the stuff they put in natural gas to
let you know when you have a leak. She watched as Doman set a small clock on the desk.
have about three minutes, Gentlemen. It’s time to boogie.”
smiled at the helpless women. “Who can find a virtuous woman? She riseth while it is yet dark...Forgive me my little
jest, ladies…Dr. Sorkin. Goodbye.”
Austin glanced back at Macie; she thought she saw a shadow of uncertainty on his face. But then they were all gone. She struggled to
rise, but her legs were rubbery. Then she heard Dr. Sorkin’s voice.
on, Maxine. You have to get up.” She looked up to see Abraham slapping Maxine’s face. The older woman, limp, didn’t
respond. Macie watched, spellbound, as Abraham pulled the large woman to her feet and half-carried her to the door. She pushed
against it and it opened; the men hadn’t bothered locking it. The two disappeared outside. Then, Abraham was back, pulling
be right back for Paige. You need to come now.”
can’t stand up. I’m too tired to stand up.”
watched Dr. Sorkin’s nebulous form as he turned away, then knelt and picked at something with his hands. The gas smell
had gotten worse. Macie thought of road-kill skunks and the sickening sweet that rolled into the car after you passed the
carcass on the highway.
be praised.” The voice was Abraham’s, but the face belonged to her shining man. “The timer is disconnected.
I have stopped the clock.”
felt herself being pulled to her feet.
stood, keeping a shaky hold on the doctor’s desk. “It’s all over?”
over.” The doctor took out his handkerchief and mopped his forehead.
slumped into the chair. “I’m going to get a second chance with Ronny. I’m going to tell him I want to adopt.
We would be good parents, I know we would.”
leaned against her, wondering how the nitrous had worn off so quickly. How Dr. Sorkin had been able to carry—she was
sure she’d seen it—to carry Maxine outside. She sucked in her lip, thinking hard, and the bruised flesh stung.
Well, it wasn’t important now. They were safe. Soudo and his accomplices were gone. Maybe not far away, yet, but there
was that flight to catch, and…and the timer was off and they were safe.
door opened and Macie raised her head to meet the eyes of Brother Soudo. His eyes were glazed and his mouth slack. He stared at the trio in confusion.
moved between Macie and Paige and the preacher.
girls. Out. Quick, before our friend…”
produced the little gun and waved it in the air. Then he turned and engaged the deadbolt on the door. “You see, Me maw? You see what I face. If they
live, they’ll go to the…Please,
had trailed the other men, had closed his eyes, squeezed them shut as soon as he got outside the clinic.
work is done. Amen”
opened his eyes again. “Amen. The work is done, the Philistines are taken.”
crazy, preacher. Get in.” Doman reached for Leonard, but Leonard side-stepped him and stood, swaying on the sidewalk.
in, Reverend Soudo.”
Leonard considered Austin’s request. No. this was a time for celebration. He dodged Austin’s outstretched hand and two-stepped on the lawn. The car sped off. Leonard thought how like King David he was,
dancing in front of the conquerors, leading the army back in victory carrying the Ark of the Covenant. He stripped off his
coat, threw it on the lawn, and whirled and bobbed until he dropped in exhaustion to the frozen ground.
have run the race and I have gained the crown, Me maw.” His heart raced with exhilaration. He reveled in the high it
produced. He was the victor. Amen. Hallelujah.
He sat still listening. He felt tears stinging his eyes. “No, Me maw. I did it for you. For you and the babies. There
is now laid up for me in heaven a crown of gold.”
barely breathed. He didn’t try to stop the tears as they coursed down his cheeks.
you proud of your grand baby, Me maw? Ain’t I done great things in your sight and in the sight of the Lord?”
can’t Me maw. I can’t go back. The end is not yet.”
stood, and turned toward the clinic, where the open door showed lights shining brightly onto the street.
pushed Macie toward the door.
Macie. Get out of here.”
don’t know if I can. I can’t leave you. I don’t know what to do. Paige, come on. Please.”
You need to make a choice. You need to act. Your baby can’t protect herself.” Macie looked up at the voice, strong
and unfamiliar. Her hand glowed softly. In fact, her whole body seemed encased in warm, golden light.
She heard her name again, only this time it was Paige Mckenzie’s voice. “It’s okay. The Prodigal thing...Tell
if you come with me now, it will be okay. I know it. Just come.”
moved slowly, creeping toward the exit.
pointed the gun at Abraham. “No. You must stay. You can’t leave…not now.”
held his arm behind him, waving at the women to get out. Macie dashed for the door and made it onto the front lawn. Paige
began again, but Leonard caught her arm.
have turned back from the plow, sister. You have shamed the elect.”
Pastor Soudo. Please let us go. We won’t tell anyone. You can still get your flight.”
perhaps. But the work is not yet finished.”
raised the gun, put it to Paige’s temple. Paige whimpered and Abraham held his breath. The pastor hesitated.
Reverend. Think about your…your religion. Think about all the people who respect you. Your good name. It means something,
I believe, to be Reverend Leonard Soudo. Does it not?”
lowered the pistol and slackened his grip on Paige. His eyes widened.
maw, I came back just like you said. I came back, but the enemy is encamped about me. Help me, Me maw. Help your baby like
you always did.”
moved quickly, snatching the gun from Leonard’s limp hand. “Now, Mrs. McKenzie, get out. Hurry.”
jerked, made eye contact with Abraham, and grabbed for the gun. Then he stopped and raised his head. His muscles seemed to
relax. Leonard smiled.
we go now.” Abraham put his hand on Paige’s back and gently pushed her toward the door. He matched her steps and
soon they both stood at the door to freedom. By the smell, Abraham guessed the room was saturated with natural gas. He thought,
for just a moment, about going back to the water heater to shut it off.
is only a building, Abraham.”
twisted her head to look at him.
nodded toward the outside. “Come.”
the two of them gasped the fresh air outside the clinic, a moan rose from the doctor’s office. Like a calf, bawling
for his mother. Like a mother, standing at her child’s casket. Paige turned back.
moan came again.
I can’t leave him there. He’s sick, and he’s one of your creations.” Paige heard Abraham Sorkin scream
her name as she crossed the threshold into the clinic.
Soudo stood in the center of the room, his nose running and tears streaming down his face. Like a little boy. Like a lost
Soudo. Please come with me. The room is full of gas. We need to get out. Please.” She extended her hand to him.
looked up, and his face beamed. He put his arms out, as if to embrace her, and stumbled forward, knocking the doctor’s
old lamp to the floor. As his foot ripped the cord from the wall, there was a spark…
gasped for air and it stung her lungs. She looked up through a red haze and thought she saw Phil above her.
it baby. Deep breath.” He wiped blood from her face with his hand and kissed her forehead.
Her head was spinning and pain exploded in her back.
down. The ambulance is coming.”
happened?” Macie’s words were slurred. She thought maybe she’d lost a tooth.
clinic. It exploded. You got some glass in your back. You need to lie real still, for me honey.”
hesitated. “ I ...don’t know Mace. We’ll pray everything is okay.”
is going to be all right. She’s lying on the grass...right over there.”
tried to turn her head, to see where Phil was pointing, but pain stabbed behind her eyes as she moved.
Paige? Where is Paige?”
didn’t answer. Behind him a man sobbed. And Macie knew.
Sorkin saved us. He’s a hero.”
hero, I am not.” Abraham Sorkin’s face appeared above her. “Just a man lucky to be alive, Macie. You rest now. Later, we talk…about many things.”
face replaced the doctor’s. “You need to rest, now.”
let her head sink back onto the cold grass. She shivered, and Phil took off his coat and put it over her.
waited for you…Weslie and I. We thought you’d come and get us.”
so sorry, honey. Every time we had a lead, something happened. Like something was keeping us away.”
head was throbbing. Her legs were getting numb. She swallowed, and tasted blood and panic welled inside her. Then her mind began to drift. She heard Dr. Sorkin’s
from somewhere to her left.
okay, Maxine. I’m not hurt.”
don’t really know. Somehow, the gas just didn’t take. I saw you lying there, and I thought about the gas and an explosion, and I just picked you up and
carried you out here.”
said something else, Macie didn’t catch all of it. Then the doctor responded.
something else. A man. A man was there.”
of Soudo’s friends?”
A big man, like a laser. Like a man made out of light.”
Maxine said something else. Macie struggled to hear, but the EMT’s were there, and as
they put her on the back-board,
her thoughts washed away in the cold pain.