Olga, more properly Princess Olga, not of nobility but of the whim of her immigrant parents, and now that she had taken her vows, Sister Princess Olga, of the cloistered sect of Our Lady of Dispassionate Humility, knelt in three inches of cold water spiked with the stink of chlorine. She prayed silently with thin, desperate lips.
Her eyes were shut fast, though she held a prayer book in her hands. A well-worn rosary dangled from her fingers, and it swayed with her heartbeat as she prayed to Almighty God to save and protect her immortal soul which was in such immediate peril right this very moment.
Screwed into her ear was the cold, blunt snub-nose of an angry man’s pistol.
The Boss towered over her, swaying on his feet to some crooked rhythm and muttered in a foreign language, something she did not recognize. She heard the sounds of another man, grunting and cursing in some gutter-dialect and the chunky, rhythmic crackthud of his pickaxe chopping a hole in the wet tiled floor of the Community Pool.
Though she could not hear him, she knew another man, silent, but fragrant with coconut oil and cigarette smoke stood behind her and he was the worst of all, she knew.
These men were puppets of the real evil at work in this world.
She prayed to her Father, and knew she was without sin, and that utter belief kept her mind focused and her prayers unbroken, no matter what these men wanted, she would not, could not give it to them. She knew that only silence would protect the Gate, and with that solace, she prayed and kept her vigil.
The Boss was getting tired of this shit. This broad was getting on his nerves, upsetting his digestion, making him all gassy and shit. He belched and tasted Fi’s cooking from three nights ago, a greasy eggplant and olive pasta that stank like his ass.
He pressed the barrel a little further into her ear to get her attention and said,
“I’m gonna give you one more chance, Sister and then I’m gonna pull this trigger. Lucius Slick said you had this fuckin’ key and you are going to tell me where it is or I’m gonna put this pistol away, and ask Mister to introduce you to his favorite machete. He’ll start with your feet and take you apart piece-by-piece. We both know you can’t hold out against sumpthin’ like that, it ain’t natural. So save us both some time and yourself some pain and tell me where it is, before you make me do something you won’t walk away from.”
She considered his words for a moment, brushing the threat away, and seeing what was underneath this vile man’s rantings. Olga decided then to break her silence and break her vigil for one sentence against her death, a message that she hoped would resonate in the mind of a very evil man, one that she hoped would scare him to the path of charity and honor.
She turned her face up to the man but did not open her eyes. She said, “You tell Lucius Slick that the Key is destroyed and the Guardian awoken.”
Before she could turn her face back to her Bible, a crashing blow drove her to the floor of the pool, she heard something break and then lost consciousness.
Meat saw the nun’s tooth fly out when the Boss clubbed her for being willful. He laughed of course, and the way she bounced made him laugh even more. He had forgotten all about the Boss’ orders and was leaning on a pickaxe, one foot crossed over the other, on point. He had a big grin on his face and his eyes were big and shiny. One of his buttons had come undone and a tuft of hair, like the pelt of a bear poked out and waggled like a rabbit’s tail when he laughed, his whole body moving with the motion.
The Boss rubbed his face and cursed in the mother tongue. Then he bellowed, “Meat! Get back to work you fuckin’ douche or I’ll jam that axe up your ass! “
At his feet was the stupid nun, her blood making a spreading slick in the stagnant water.
He rubbed his face again and looked at around for a minute and tried to get a handle on his temper.
Meat was back at it, chopping an ever-widening hole in the floor of the pool. He was exactly that, Meat, all muscle, no brain. Still, he had his uses, one of which was heavy labor, and they were running out of time. If this key was not here, then he and his crew were dead men. Mr. Slick did not abide failure. He had been in Slick’s employ for nearly three years now, near a damn company record, and he had no plans to go home empty handed just so he could get shot and buried. Mister was standing silently behind the old bitch, his hands crossed casually behind his back, his manner calm and relaxed. There was no sign of his favorite machete.
The bitch was coming around. She groaned like a baby and raised her head out of the brain and blood soup she was dozing in. He didn’t like willful women. Or kids. Mouthy little fuckers they were. Always saying “no”. Well. Mr. Slick didn’t take “no” for an answer and he was damned if he was either.
As he watched her, she groaned again and pushed herself slowly up into a kneeling position, wiped her face off, and turned her face up to him. Her eyes were still closed tightly, and he relaxed a bit, she was gonna spill it and he could get out of here and get something for his stomach, and as he burped again, the bitch opened her waterlogged Bible and began praying aloud right to his face!
His hand twitched, raised the gun to club her again, his face flushing bright red and he took a step towards her before he realized, almost too late, that if he hit her, and she died, then he was dead too, and he pivoted in the water, his foot squeaking on the tile bottom. He cursed loudly and liberally in Greek, cursing the church, dirty-minded priests, willful nuns, the pope’s stupid fucking hat and God in general for making his life such a constant, living hell.
Sister Princess Olga’s mind was scattered, a sloshing broth of jagged pain and muddled self-thought, as if her inner voices had scattered and were playing hide-and-seek with her, running at her in the dark, hearing their voices near and then far all at once. Only the constant litany of the Holy Word was able to let her grasp some small thread of her control and identity.
Her throat was so dry and her jaw ached where she guessed she hit the floor when that terrible man hit her. She did not have time to assess her condition, the way people do to reassure themselves that their pieces are all still there, she dare not stop her prayers, not even to rub the swelling, bloody knot on her head that was even now drooling her life away into the fetid water of the winterized pool.
She was a daughter of God. A nun in holy service and communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. She needed no armor, no weapon. Her spirit was her weapon and her mission was more important than her life. She was the Guardian, and she would not fail the others. She knew that the Gate was the key to ….
The Boss turned back to her, his eyes shining with rage. “Fuck this! Look Sista, you’re gonna tell me now! Now Goddammit!”
He stepped in and ripped the book from her hand and flung it out, away. He grabbed her wrists in one chunky hand and pulled her to her feet, and up off her feet. She nearly went down again when she touched the slippery pool floor again but he had her fast and she stood on wobbly legs before him, eyes clenched shut, lips rapidly whispering in Latin, the litany of a lifetime of devotion.
“Open your fuckin eyes! I said open ‘em!” The Boss shook her by the shoulders, hard.
He threw his gun away and grabbed her face and, using his meaty thumbs, pried her eyelids apart, spittle flying from his mouth as he screamed into her face, “OPEN YOUR FUCKING EYES BITCH!”
As the picture of her murderer was forced into her sight, her sorrow grew, for she had wished to next see the face of God and so had kept her eyes closed for His glory and now her eyes were sullied with the sight of evil.
Tackle Ethan Prestmeyer, known to his Boss as simply, Mister, felt the situation change when the Boss grabbed the nun. The room suddenly charged up with ionization. He felt the prickle on his skin.Meat was watching again, a shiny-eyed grin on his face, the gaping hole at his feet was forgotten, the pickaxe was now a wobbly seat. The old lady’s face had not changed, beyond the Boss’ fingers all up in it. But she was standing on the balls of her feet, like a prizefighter, and her shoulders had changed. She seemed tensed. Poised like a cat.
Mister did not think, but stepped forward and let the Teachings wash over him.
The Boss felt Mister’s presence beside him as he yelled into the old broad’s face, overcome with a fit of pure, white-hot rage at being balked.
He was startled, because that meant that Mister felt he was under threat, and there was no way that could be true, unless some crew had rolled up on them, unawares. But if that were true Meat would have already been shooting, he had a sixth sense about that kinda shit, one of the other reasons he kept him around.
If it wasn’t ‘bangers or cops, then it could only mean that Mister thought the old bible-thumper was the threat, but how could that be? He looked into her eyes. Really looked this time. They looked back at him, blazing with adrenaline and fervor and he knew, in his gut, that something was wrong.
Mister did not play with his enemies. He had nothing to prove. He simply stepped forward and touched the old lady under her left arm, near the ganglion cluster that controls the lower legs and bowels and she sagged for a moment and he was about to step back, when she suddenly bounced back to her feet, stood straight up and and her voice rose to shouting THINE IS THE KINGDOM AND THE GLORY AND THE POWER AMEN OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN HALLOWED BE THY NAME THY KINGDOM COME THY WILL BE DONE
and the Boss was gone, thrown clear of the pool and he heard the sound of glass breaking and the sound of his own ribcage breaking as she threw the fastest kick he had ever seen in his thirty plus years of the Way. He was thrown clear of the pool and smashed head-first into the old pool house’s thick cement wall. He lay shivering, his limbs twitching with crossed and broken signals from his broken neck.
He was paralyzed and she wasn’t even breathing hard.
He couldn’t bring himself to look away when she came for him. It was her eyes, they shone with a light he could not imagine living without. It filled him and sustained his mind with a harmony that he could not resist. He heard the sound of music that swept his mind up and away, and he knew neither hunger or fear or pain or doubt, and the light grew ever brighter, promising solace and gentle, comforting acceptance.
He cried aloud when the light went out and the darkness rushed back, bringing the fire of pain and an agony of regrets and lost choices. She slid out of his view, her space suddenly filled with Meat and the pickaxe buried in her head.
Meat was crying. He knelt down and looked at his friend.
“Too slow too stupid stupid Meat stupid slow dumb Meathead Meatfucker. Boss is hurt or dead, Mister Tackle is hurt real bad and stupid dumb Meat is slow and bad. Meat is stupid. Meat has to help the Boss, has to help Mister.”
Mister watched Meat wrestle with whatever passed for his mind.
Meat couldn’t decide what to do. His mind went round and round the limited possibilities he had come up with – call Mr. Slick, drive the Boss and Mister to Mr. Slick’s house, or take the Boss and Mister out of town to hide until Mister Slick wasn’t angry no more – but he couldn’t decide which had the most importance and he was getting angry about it.
He looked at the old lady, stupid old lady, mean old bitchy lady. Wasn’t for her the Boss would be ok, Mister would be ok and Meat’s head wouldn’t hurt from all this thinking.
So he kicked her and burst into tears. Kicked her again. The sobbing turned to wailing and snot and tears flew. He lifted her half-up and started hitting her. Grabbed her up and threw her to the ground roughly, her body tumbling, and then he went after her and wiggled the pickaxe out of her skull, one bloody boot up on her head, and got prehistoric on her.
He chopped her open with the pickaxe and pulled out her insides, crying and roaring all the while, “Stupid stupid lady stupid mean lady!”
Suddenly he stopped.
He looked over at Mister, but his eyes were shut.
He looked over to where the Boss must have landed, but couldn’t see him.
Meat put his hands back into the mangled mush and said,
“Meat found sumpthin.”
In his hands was a bit of metal.