Chapter Sixteen: Frenemies

The next day, at school, all Virgil could think about was the conversation he’d had with Rona the previous day. It felt different to know for sure that there was something strange going on—and worse, he was smack-dab in the middle of it all. Whoever had said that ignorance was bliss had uttered the understatement of the century. Knowledge was scary. He watched as the other kids laughed and joked with each other, unaware of what terrifying things lurked in the darkness. Everything that he’d ever believed had been turned upside down. Things that he didn’t even believe in were coming to kill him. At least he had a guardian. He could only hope that she knew what she was doing.

“How ya’ feeling, kiddo?” asked Rona. She stood and watched as Virgil fiddled with something in his locker.

“I don’t think there’s a word for how I’m feeling,” said Virgil, closing his locker, then leaning against it.

“Yeah, I dig it,” said Rona. “But don’t have a cow, man, everything is going to be okay.”

“Don’t what?”

“You know, don’t trip, don’t sweat it.”

“We are going to have to update your vernacular.”

“You going to lunch?” asked Rona.

“Yeah. I’m sneaking off campus; gonna’ go to a Chinese food place. You wanna’ come?”

 

“Still sinking in, huh?” said Rona as she slurped some noodles.

Virgil nodded as he toyed with the food on his plate. “I just have so many questions.”

“Ask away.”

“I don’t know—I mean, why doesn’t God just stop all of this? Why does he allow bad things to happen?”

“God doesn’t allow bad things to happen. Bad things happen because of Satan.”

“Yeah, but why doesn’t God just stop him? Isn’t everything that happens His will? Isn’t He more powerful than Satan—I mean he did create him after all.”

“He created Satan, but now he’s out of control. We’ve been at war with Hell for eons but it’s been kind of a stalemate. Good vs. Evil, locked in an epic struggle for supremacy, neither able to gain a lasting advantage—that’s my life,” said Rona through a mouthful of noodles.

“Can Good win?” asked Virgil.

Rona was pensive for a moment. “I used to think so, but now I’m not so sure. It depends.”

“On me?” asked Virgil.

“I sure hope not,” said Rona. “No offense.”

“None taken,” said Virgil. “Do you know God?”

“Of course.”

“What’s He like?”

“He’s hilarious!” said Rona. Her eyes seemed distant for a moment as she laughed to herself as if reminiscing about some funny story. “That’s what I miss most.”

“This is insane,” said Virgil, massaging his face with both hands. “Life was much easier when I just thought I was going crazy.”

Rona flicked her head to the side. “Life seems to be that way. And it doesn’t get any easier. Trust me; I’ve been around for nearly a thousand years.”

“A thousand years? I thought you just came to Earth to protect me,” said Virgil, arching an eyebrow.

“I did. That was just—uh—a figure of speech. Ya’ know? Did you know any of those teenagers that went missing in the past few weeks?” asked Rona.

“No. Actually, some friends and I were looking into those disappearances. Our search led us to the construction site, downtown. We…had a run in with the hooded guys. One of my friends went missing. When he came back he was…different. He kept talking about how he had power now and stuff like that. He was the one I was meeting that night in the park. Do you think those disappearances have something to do with the demons?” asked Virgil.

“I do,” said Rona. “It’s their MO. Disappearances, no bodies found, mysterious circumstances, the whole nine. Your friend wasn’t a demon, was he?”

“I don’t think so. I mean, he could fly off of the handle at times but he wasn’t evil. They did something to him. Is it possible that he could have become a demon?”

“Unlikely. Unless he was into something heavy. Becoming a demon doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s a process. And it usually involves dying. These hooded people, they call themselves the Infernal. I haven’t encountered anything quite like them before. They’re strange. It’s like they’re not human but not quite demons either. It’s possible that that’s what your friend is now.” She gave him a somber look. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. What do they want with a bunch of teenagers? I looked into the disappearances. Those kids didn’t really have anything in common except for their age—our age.”

“I have a hunch,” said Rona. “I talked to an especially knowledgeable priest. He knew one of the girls. He told me that she had some psychic ability. I think all of these kids had some kind of psychic ability. It’s possible some of them could even be Oracles.”

“Oracles?”

“Yeah, it’s kind of a blanket term for people with special abilities. Usually, stuff like predicting the future or mind reading. Stuff like that. As a matter of fact, I should go and check in with that priest today. Now, actually,” said Rona, rising from her chair. She gave Virgil a look and then sat back down. “Do you have any psychic abilities?”

“I don’t think so. I would be better at chess if I could read people’s minds,” said Virgil with a chuckle.

“Sometimes it’s more subtle than that. Have you ever seen things that you knew couldn’t be there—I mean before recently? Have you ever had strange dreams or felt the presence of something or even gotten bad vibes from someone?”

“Well, I’ve been having these recurring nightmares that one of my teachers is trying to kill me,” said Virgil. “They’ve been really vivid too.”

“Really? Tell me about them. Every detail!”

Virgil described the dream to Rona being sure to put in as many details as he could. He told her about the eyes that everyone had and the ones he’d seen floating outside his window.

“ ‘The eyes are upon you.’ So they have a catchphrase. I don’t know who or what The Eyes are, but the Infernal seem to worship them. They were outside your window? Not good. Those dreams were clearly prophetic, but I don’t know exactly how to interpret them. I know for sure that Erk is not a demon and I don’t think he’s trying to kill you,” said Rona.

“I don’t think so either, but how do you know he’s not a demon?” asked Virgil.

“I shook his hand.”

Virgil gawked at Rona.

“I can usually spot a demon even if they’ve disguised themselves as human. It would take a really good disguise to fool me. Even still, I can tell for sure by physical contact. Humans and demons very distinct energies that they give off. A demon who is a master of disguise can fool the eyes but not the touch. I touched Erk, therefore I know he isn’t a demon. I guess that would be one of those ‘super-powers’ you were asking about,” said Rona.  She took a big slurp of soda through a straw.

“Cool,” said Virgil. “Am I a demon?”

Rona leaned forward and pushed Virgil by the face, knocking his chair off balance. He had to wave his arms frantically to steady himself. “Not a demon,” said Rona, taking another slurp of her soda.

Virgil got all four legs of the chair back on the floor. He shot Rona a dirty look. “What about Miss Tilley? Did you face-push her?” asked Virgil, picking up a piece of sesame chicken with his chopsticks and throwing it into his mouth.

“Not yet. If she turns out to be a demon, I’ll do more than that. She doesn’t give me that vibe though. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. I’m pretty sure she’s human and also not trying to kill you.”

“Well, you were in the dream too. How do I know you’re not a demon. No one has actually vouched for you yet.”

“I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it. I’m not a demon. And I’m probably not going to kill you either.”

“ ‘Probably’ ?”

Rona shrugged. “Try not to get on my nerves,” she said as she drank the last of the noodles from her bowl. “I’m gonna’ head over to the church now.”

“You’re going to skip the rest of the day?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“You could get detention. They’re really cracking down on that.”

“I don’t have time to waste.”

“I want to go with you.”

“You can’t. You have class. I’ll meet you in the front of the building after school. Wait for me.”

“What if a demon attacks the school while you’re gone?”

Rona pondered that question. “Unlikely. Demons are more active at night and because of The Aegis, they usually must avoid crowds.”

“If you’re going to skip the rest of the day, at least be smart about it.”

“Any suggestions?”

 

Rona tried to will her body temperature to go up as the school nurse read the thermometer.

It didn’t appear to be working.

The nurse shook her head as she removed the thermometer. She placed the back of her hand on Rona’s forehead. Rona moaned in agony as she did. The nurse chuckled. Rona added a cough for emphasis.

“Your temperature is normal,” said the nurse.

“It is?” said Rona coughing more forcefully.

“Well something is going around. Some students and even the principal have been out with the flu the past few days,” said the nurse. She hooked up a blood pressure monitor to Rona’s arm and listened to her pulse with a stethoscope. She listened and looked at her watch. A puzzled look came over her greying features. She took the stethoscope off of Rona’s arm, waited a few seconds and then listened again. Her face scrunched in an even more puzzled look.

“I’ll be right back,” said the nurse, before leaving the room. It wasn’t long before she returned with another nurse, with another stethoscope. “Listen to this.”

The second nurse put the stethoscope on Rona’s arm and listened for a moment. “That’s impossible.”

Rona coughed.

“Your resting heart rate is nine beats per minute,” said the first nurse, staring at Rona with a confused look on her face.

“Really?” said Rona, adding another cough. “It’s usually so much lower than that.”

Lower?” said the second nurse with a shocked expression.

“Or higher—or whatever normal is—it’s usually that. I’m clearly sick. Can I go home now?”

The two nurses exchanged glances.

Rona left school. The nurses hadn’t exactly said she could go, but she took their reluctance to send her back to class as an invitation to leave. She arrived at the church a little while later and knocked on the door. There was no answer again, but the door was open. She crept in, looking around for a sign of life and respectfully announcing her presence. A moment later, Matthew walked into the chapel. His face went white when he saw Rona.

“Hello,” said Rona with a smile.

“Um, hi. You’re, uh, here to see Father O’Neal, again?” asked Mathew.

“I am,” said Rona. “If he has a moment.”

“Um, sure. Have a seat. I’ll go and get him.”

Rona nodded graciously and then found a seat on the pews. She found a bible next to her and began flipping through the pages. She put it down after a few minutes. There was a book of hymns tucked away in the pew next to her. She flipped through some of those pages, finding some of the songs that she liked and quietly singing to herself. She had gotten through several songs including their repeating choruses before Father O’Neal came out to greet her. He flashed Rona a practiced smile that gave Rona an odd feeling, but she shook it off.

“Hello—Rona, is it?” said the Father, shaking Rona’s hand.

“It is. Good day to you, Father,” said Rona.

The two of them sat down next to each other on the pew. They angled their bodies towards each other as they spoke.

“Have you ever heard of the Infernal?” asked Rona.

“I haven’t. What is an Infernal?” asked Father O’Neal.

“I think it’s a cult of some sort,” said Rona.

“Cult? Do you think they had something to do with Nicole’s disappearance?” asked Father O’Neal.

“Yes. Was she into anything occult?” asked Rona. She continued as Father O’Neal shook his head continuously at her every word. “Did she practice witchcraft? Did she pull strange disappearances before? Did she have any friends that you found odd? Did she exhibit any changes in behavior prior to her disappearance?”

“No. The police already asked me all of these questions,” said Father O’Neal.

“I figured they would have,” said Rona. She leaned in close and added with a smile: “I was a big fan of NYPD Blue.”

Father O’Neal shot her a puzzled look. “Nicole is a God-fearing girl. She wouldn’t get herself mixed up in anything like that.”

“No offense, Father, but that doesn’t mean anything. Some of the worst people I’ve ever met were ‘God-fearing.’”

“I don’t think she’s into anything like that.”

A moment later, Mathew walked in holding two glasses. He handed one to Father O’Neal and the other to Rona.

“Is this holy water?” asked Rona jokingly before taking a sip.

Mathew gave her a half smile.

“It’s time you told me who you are,” said Father O’Neal.

“Father…” said Rona giving Father O’Neal a sideways look.

“You’re no ordinary teenage girl. Most of them are out at the mall or surfing the internet, but you’re out solving crimes,” said Father O’Neal. “Or pretending to do.”

“I can’t tell you who I am. It could put people in danger. But let’s just say that…the demons…” began Rona. Suddenly it felt like the room was spinning. The lights were too bright.

“Yes…” said Father O’Neal with an expectant smile.

“What was I…saying?” said Rona, hazily.

“Something about demons,” said Father O’Neal.

“Yeah…” said Rona. She glanced over at the doorway, and couldn’t believe her eyes.

There stood the three men that had attacked Ward in the bar.

They were still clad in black trench coats and each of them had their attention fixed on Rona. The distinguished cowboy, Donny Monroe, tipped his hat at Rona and smiled. Terrence scowled at her. Isaac’s face was as expressionless as a face could be without being a corpse. Rona rose to her feet, wobbly and off balance. She had to hold on to the pew in order to stay standing.

“Run, Father. These guys are dangerous,” said Rona, her speech slurring in parts.

“I know,” said Father O’Neal. “That’s why I called them.”

Rona shot Father O’Neal a look of shocked confusion. She opened her mouth to say something but no words escaped. She collapsed to the floor.

 

Virgil hopped on the next Light rail and headed downtown. He had grown tired of waiting for Rona on the school steps and decided to meet her at the church. He typed the address in the GPS of his phone and began following it once he got off of the train. The directions took him further from the Light rail station than he thought they would. He found himself leaving downtown and heading into the nearby Capitol Hill neighborhood. The GPS led him down the street behind the church. Virgil walked by an alleyway that led to the back entrance of the church. From the corner of his eye he spotted something that gave him an uneasy feeling. He hid out of sight and peered down the alley.

There were three men in long, black trench coats in the alley. The biggest of them was carrying something wrapped in a blanket. It was draped over his shoulder—the way you would drape a sack of potatoes—or an unconscious person. In fact, the blanket-wrapped object looked vaguely Rona-sized. The big man tossed the object into a van that had been backed up to the door of the church.

Not good, thought Virgil.

Whatever was going on in this alley, it was very unchristian-like. He was sure that Rona was in trouble, though he couldn’t explain why. He waited until he heard the van start up, then tried to act casual as it pulled out from the alley. He snapped a picture of the license plate with his phone.

Then he pressed “one” on his speed dial.

 

A hand slapped Rona across the face, waking her up.

“What the hell, Brittany? I don’t care if I’m late for school today,” said Rona groggily.

Another slap whacked her across the face, harder this time.

“I’m up, dammit!” said Rona, opening her eyes slowly. Her vision was still hazy and she felt numb all over. The first thing she saw was Terrance, preparing to slap her for a third time.

“That’s enough, Terrance,” said Donny.

Terrance slapped Rona again. “That snoring was driving me crazy,” he said before walking over to stand next to Donny and Isaac. Father O’Neal sat in the corner, his forehead resting in his hand.

Rona didn’t know where she was. She saw nothing but boxes around her. Perhaps she was in some kind of storage facility. She tried to move her arms, but she was chained to a chair, her arms behind her back, her legs chained around the legs of the chair. And the chair had in turn been chained to the floor. She struggled against her confines, to no avail. Her strength hadn’t returned completely and her head was spinning.

Across from her, leaning his back against a few boxes, stood Donny, a stern look on his face. His black cowboy hat cast a shadow over his face, making his eyes hard to see. His long, white mustache hung down past his smile. He wasn’t wearing his trench coat, and instead was clad in just a t-shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. His relaxed posture wasn’t enough to conceal his hostility towards Rona.

Terrance glared at her. His choice of clothes was more military styled. Black fatigue pants and combat boots. A grey t-shirt showed off his powerful build. His fade was tight, his goatee smooth. He was a dark-brown man, with clear and healthy skin. Rona decided he would be handsome, if it wasn’t for the permanent scowl.

Isaac had no expression. He wore a black hoodie, black sweat pants and sneakers. He stood straight up with his hands clasped in front of him.

Father O’Neal didn’t look at her at all.

By the look of things, she was about to be chastised, and she was a captive audience.

“Stay a while,” said Donny in his gravelly, country drawl.

“I literally cannot turn down hospitality like this,” said Rona.

“We just want to ask you a few questions,” said Donny.

“Who the hell are you?” asked Terrance, impatiently.

“I’m just a teenage girl,” said Rona, introducing panic into her voice. “I just want to go home. I have rich parents; they’ll give you anything you want. Please, just don’t hurt me!”

“Cut the crap,” said Donny, sternly. “We know you’re not a teenage girl. Who do you work for?”

“I don’t work for anyone. I’m not even legally old enough to work. I didn’t do anything. Just let me go,” said Rona, bringing tears to her eyes and shaking her head pleadingly.

Terrance walked up and slapped her hard across the face.

Rona laughed. Then she shot Terrance a dangerous look. “I’m gonna’ make you pay for that.”

“Ah, there she is!” said Donny with a smile. “Do you recognize us now?”

“Vaguely,” said Rona. “But you look different when you’re not lying on the floor bleeding.”

“Well, we underestimated you, but that won’t happen again,” said Donny. “Also, we hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before.”

“And I really hadn’t eaten anything that whole day,” added Terrance.

“Was the sun in your eyes as well?” asked Rona.

“Enough games,” said Donny. “Where is it?”

“Where is what?” said Rona.

“I said, enough games!” the sound of Donny shouting stunned Rona. His voice boomed and echoed through the warehouse. He tipped his hat up, revealing the hard look in his baby-blue eyes. The whole room went silent as he and Rona stared into each other’s eyes. Although his face never contorted and his body never shook, Rona could see Donny’s anger on full display in his eyes. If Rona had him pegged correctly, then he was the kind of man that could look into someone’s eyes and tell if they were lying. Rona leaned as far forward in her chair as the chains allowed. She stared deep into Donny’s eyes.

“I Honestly. Do not know. What you are talking about,” said Rona. Her eyes never wavering from Donny’s. Donny stared back. Rona could tell he was searching her.

“Are you thirsty?” said Donny, breaking eye contact and walking over to a cooler.

“No thank you. The last time I had something to drink, I ended up in a warehouse, chained to a chair, and surrounded by men,” said Rona shooting Father O’Neal a look. He didn’t return her gaze. “And not in the fun way, either.”

Donny chuckled as he dug out four cans of beer from the cooler. He tossed one to Terrance, who caught it without taking his eyes off of Rona. He handed one to Isaac and then offered one to Father O’Neal, who declined with a wave of his hand, despite Donny’s insistence. He shrugged and set the beer down on top of a box.

“Is an actual conversation going to begin soon? I don’t have all day,” said Rona.

“Yeah, you do,” said Terrance, before taking a sip of his beer.

“Who are you guys?” asked Rona.

“We’re the Knights of Templar,” said Donny, raising his beer in a toast before taking a big gulp.

Rona jolted with surprise. She had never met a Knight of Templar before. She had even assumed that they were extinct or disbanded or perhaps they had never existed at all. According to legend, the Knights of Templar guarded the Blood Gage. They stayed hidden, and they devoted themselves to their job for life. They were a secret—a shadow. Although practically everyone had heard the name, most people didn’t really know anything about the Templars. Most people, like Rona, had assumed they were merely a footnote in history. Rona guessed, it must have been easier to hide when everyone already thought they knew where you were.

“Can I see some I.D.?” asked Rona.

“No,” said Terrance. “You’re gonna’ have to take our word for it.”

“What did you guys lose?” asked Rona, sudden realization coming over her.

“You know,” said Donny, taking a sip of beer.

“The Blood Gage,” said Rona, her mouth staying slightly agape as she slowly began to understand.

“We didn’t lose anything,” said Terrance. “It was stolen right from under our noses by your friend from the bar.”

“Ward,” said Rona, anger welling up inside of her. That explained the uneasy feeling he had given her on the airplane. He had stolen the Blood Gage then used her to evade capture. “He played me.”

“So you don’t know him?” asked Donny.

“Not well. He was someone whom I got information from on occasion. That’s about it. He was on the airplane with me when I flew here,” said Rona.

The Templars sat bolt upright.

“He’s here? In Denver? Did he say where he was going?”

Rona shook her head.

“We need to find him,” said Donny.

“You sure do. Good luck with that. He’s an oracle—at least he says he is—so there is a possibility he’ll be one step ahead of you,” said Rona.

“An oracle? That explains how he knew how to take the Blood Gage and then escape without being caught,” said Terrance, realization showing on his features.

“And how he knew just what to say in order to get me to help him,” said Rona. “Good luck. Give him one for me when you find him.”

“You’re gonna’ help us,” said Donny.

“Pass,” said Rona.

“You don’t have a choice,” said Terrance, forcefully. “This is all your fault!”

My fault?  You’re the idiots who let him take the damn thing in the first place! He was halfway around the world by the time you guys caught up with him. It isn’t my fault that he made it that far. That was on you. You guys have one job and you suck at it. I screwed up; I’m woman enough to admit that. But this is your mess, you clean it up. Trust me, I’d love to get my hands on that weasel right now—in fact, he better hope you guys find him before I do—but he isn’t a priority for me right now. I apologize for my part in all of this, but this isn’t my problem. Now let me go!” demanded Rona.

“No,” said Terrance. “You’re not going anywhere until you agree to help us find this guy.”

“I don’t have time for this,” said Rona, her frustration growing.

“Then clear your calendar,” said Donny. “The Blood Gage is an amulet of unimaginable power. If it falls into the wrong hands, it will be everybody’s problem. He must have told you something that could help us.”

“I’m drawing a blank, right now,” said Rona defiantly.

“Then you can sit there until your memory starts to clear up.”

“Look, there’s somebody that really needs my help. I can’t afford to be stuck here, right now. So, please, let me go. When I have time, I’ll help you find Ward. Believe me, I’m looking forward to it,” said Rona.

“Can’t do it,” said Donny.

“We told you who we are. Who are you? What are you?” said Terrance.

“Really pissed off,” snapped Rona.

“Tough,” said Donny, taking a swig of beer.

“You’re not a demon, are you?” asked Father O’Neal, looking at Rona for the first time.

“No,” said Rona.

“I believe you. It’s just that, when you came around asking about Nicole, I figured that you may be up to no good. When I called these guys and gave them your description. They confirmed my suspicion. I’m sorry,” said Father O’Neal, hanging his head. “Let her go.”

“We appreciate the call, Father, but we’ll take it from here. Why don’t you get on back to the church,” said Donny.

It wasn’t a request.

“I’m not going to just leave her here with you,” said Father O’Neal, defiantly.

“You have nothing to worry about, Father. No harm will come to her so long as she cooperates,” said Donny.

“And as long as she doesn’t snore,” said Terrance.

“We’re under orders to get the Blood Gage back…by any means necessary,” said Donny in a low and dangerous voice.

“Is that so?” said Rona.

“Yeah,” said Terrance, and with that he began walking toward Rona, menace all over his face. Rona leaned forward and bared her teeth.

There was a loud banging on the door.

Everyone in the room froze in place. The door was down a hallway to Rona’s right. She couldn’t see down it but whoever was banging, was doing it loud enough that it echoed through the warehouse. The banging commenced.

“It’s the cops,” whispered Terrance.

“It isn’t the cops,” said Donny. “No one knows we’re here.”

“It’s the freakin’ cops. Trust me, I know. They have a distinctive way of banging on a door,” said Terrance.

“Fantastic,” said Donny. “Don’t answer it.”

“If we don’t answer, they’ll get suspicious and come back with a lot more cops,” said Terrance. “It’ll be best if I go out there and tell them that everything is okay.”

 

Terrance opened the door and found Jay standing in front of him, sunglasses hiding his eyes and bubble gum smacking in his gums. He was in jeans and a Hawaiian T-shirt.

“I’m officer Brennan,” said Jay, flashing a badge in front of Terrance, which Terrance inspected with scrutiny. “There was a noise complaint.”

“Oh yes, I heard that too. It sounded like it was coming from a few houses down,” said Terrance, pointing to the houses on his right.

“They said it was coming from here,” said Jay.

“Here?” said Terrance, indignantly. “Well, Officer, this is a warehouse. Things do get moved around from time to time. I’m sorry if we’ve disturbed anyone. We’ll try to keep it down,” he said, with a smile.

“Do you mind if I come in and take a look around?” asked Jay.

“Actually, I do mind. I don’t consent to searches.  Do you have a warrant?” asked Terrance.

“I don’t, but I can get one,” said Jay.

“Then I suggest you go and do that. Have good day, Officer,” said Terrance, closing the door in Jay’s face. Jay put his hand on the door to stop it from closing. He stepped closer so that he was in the doorway only a few inches from Terrance’s face. Jay had to look down so that he was nose to nose with Terrance. He blew a bubble that burst less than an inch from Terrance’s face. Terrance didn’t flinch or even blink. Jay removed his sunglasses with in a swift, deliberate motion.

“I’m going to give it to you straight. I got word that a friend of mine is in this warehouse. A girl. And underage girl. About this tall,” said Jay, tapping Terrance lightly on the bridge of the nose with the bottom of his palm. “Black girl with blue hair, big pretty eyes. Sound familiar?”

Terrance shook his head, his eyes never leaving Jay’s. “It doesn’t. But I’ll keep an eye out. If I see anyone fitting that description I’ll be sure to give you a call. Do you have a card, or something?”

“I don’t think you’re quite understanding me,” said Jay, rubbing his forehead in frustration. “Ya’ see, I know she’s in there. And the only way I’m leaving is with her, capiche?  And the only way that you don’t go to jail, is if she comes out here within the next thirty seconds and tells me that everything is okay. If you think I’m playing with you then put me to the test. Please! I promise you won’t have to worry about me getting a warrant because I’m going to take a personal interest in you. An unhealthy interest—bordering on obsession. I’ll make sure that you don’t leave this city. I’ll make sure that you don’t make a move or even take a shit without me knowing about it. I’ll be everywhere you are. Like a shadow. A big, white, shadow in a police uniform. You don’t want that—I do, because I have a lot of new equipment that I’ve been waiting to try out—but you don’t. You see, I’m a sick individual. And you don’t want to get to know me personally. Now go in there and tell my friend her ride is here.”

The two of them stood in unblinking silence for nearly a minute.

“I’ll be right back,” said Terrance, attempting to close the door, but Jay put his hand on it again.

“Door stays open,” he said. “And I wouldn’t bother trying to go out the back. I’ve got a couple guys on that side too.”

 

“Untie her,” said Terrance, once he came back in the room.

“What?” said Donny.

“Just do it,” said Terrance. Donny walked over and unlocked the chains around Rona. She stood up and stretched out her muscles. She rubbed the spots where the shackles had been.

“We’ll be in touch,” said Donny.

“I’ll help you as soon as I’m done with what I have to do,” said Rona. Terrance walked over to say something but Rona punched him in the stomach before he could. He doubled over in pain. “You shouldn’t hit a lady. It just pisses us off,” she said, before walking to the door.

When she got there she saw the cop she had seen the night at the construction site. His face lit up with recognition but Rona could tell he was trying to hold it back in order to keep up whatever performance he had put on to spook Terrance into letting her go. Instead he gave her a curt nod. As she walked past him. Terrance, Donny and the others came to stand in the doorway. They eyed Jay dangerously.

“Is everything okay?” Jay asked Rona once she was outside.

“Yeah, everything is fine,” she said, looking back at Donny and the others. Jay turned and sized the group up.

“Well, aren’t you guys a motley crew of sorry-asses,” said Jay, antagonistically. “This guy probably snorts protein powder,” he said, pointing to Terrance. Terrance glared at him. “And this guy looks like something out of a John Wayne movie,” he pointed to Donny who stood poker-faced. “And this guy has no idea how many profiles he fits,” he said, pointing to Isaac, who’s lip moved almost into an expression. “And a Catholic priest. Why am I not surprised?”

Father O’Neal’s features converged into a scowling mask. “How dare you? Why, I outta’–” he said marching toward Jay, until Donny grabbed him by the arm. “If I were twenty years younger I’d–”

“Still get your ass kicked,” said Jay. “If I catch any of you around my friend again—or any underage people for that matter—you will go to jail. There’s been some disappearances lately and I’d love for you to become my number one suspects. Have a good day fellas.”

Jay and Rona began walking back towards the car parked at the curb. When Terrance shut the door behind them, Virgil popped out from behind a nearby bush.

“That was so awesome!” said Virgil almost leaping in the air with glee. “I’m gonna’ take a personal interest in you,” he said imitating Jay’s voice. “You’re the best, Jay! You’re the man!”

“You liked that?” said Jay with a smile as he and Virgil clapped five.

“Hell yeah, man! You’re awesome,” said Virgil, his voice cracking a little bit on the last word, as he lightly punched Jay in the arm.

Rona gave Jay a look.

“What? He’s excited,” said Jay as the three of them piled into Jay’s Nissan. “Who were those guys?” asked Jay as he started the ignition.

“How much has Virgil told you?” asked Rona, arching an eyebrow.

“Virgil hasn’t told me jack squat. Except that his friend may or may not have been taken by some thugs in a van,” said Jay.

“I didn’t know how much I’m supposed to say,” said Virgil to Rona.

Rona patted him on the shoulder. “Thank you,” she said to Virgil. She turned to Jay. “They aren’t the bad guys.”

“Really? Coulda’ fooled me,” said Jay.

“I’m as surprised as you are,” said Rona.

“Kind of like frenemies?” said Virgil. “Like a cross between friends and enemies?”

“I guess you could say that,” said Rona.

“First I catch you at the construction site where there’s been a lot of strange instances. Now this. You have a pension for getting into trouble, huh?” said Jay, looking at Rona in his rear view mirror.

“Something like that. But I promise not to involve you every time,” said Rona.

“No, please do. You guys are young adults and you can take care of yourselves. And I’m not your parents so I’m not gonna’ get all up in your business unless I have to. Try to stay out of trouble. Don’t sell drugs. Don’t use drugs. Don’t join gangs or do anything that’s gonna’ hurt someone. But if you run into a problem that you can’t handle by yourself then you give me a call, so we can solve it before it escalates, alright? Now that doesn’t mean that you can go out getting in trouble and starting a bunch of crap—come on, you guys know what I mean. Use common sense,” said Jay.

Rona and Virgil both nodded.

“Just do me a favor and be straight with me. You don’t have to tell me everything, but what you do tell me better be the freakin’ truth, capiche?” said Jay.

Rona and Virgil nodded.

“Good,” said Jay.

Rona liked Jay.

 

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