Because of the mission to infiltrate the lab, there was no training scheduled for that afternoon. With time on her hands, Cassie went to check on her garden. She had turned much of the daily maintenance over to Alaina’s older students, but she missed the lazy afternoons of digging in the soil. With a polite nod to Truong, the guard, she gathered her tools and set to work.

She worked steadily for nearly an hour and was checking a potato plant for signs of insect infestation when someone said her name. She looked up to see Paul ambling toward her. He didn’t have his Bible, which was a good sign, but Leila had been increasingly rude and elusive with him while his own behavior became more erratic. Being alone with him was the last thing Cassie wanted, but it was too late now. She stood up, still holding the fork she had been using to loosen a patch of soil. “Pretty day,” she said.

“If we’re victorious against those sinners at the lab, it will be.”

Cassie suppressed a sigh. Was there nothing one could say any more that he wouldn’t turn into a talk about God? “I like to think every day God makes is a good one. God doesn’t make mistakes.”

“Yes, but people do. I want to talk to you about a rumor I heard.”

Cassie felt her stomach clench. “There’s lots of rumors around this place. Sometimes I think all anyone does is think up new things to say, most of them only half-true, when there’s any truth to them at all.”

Paul wasn’t fooled. “So is it true that Leila is involved with David?”

How could he not have noticed what had been in front of his eyes all this time? He must’ve been blinded by the light of his own righteousness. “We all spend a lot of time together. That doesn’t mean—”

“But does she spend whole nights with him? That’s what they’re saying. That she doesn’t go back to her room until morning.” When Cassie hesitated, he flailed his arms in disgust. “Why didn’t anyone tell me? She said she was only nice to him because she didn’t want to make a Kevork mad. She acted like maybe she would like to hang out with me, read the Bible, maybe go to church on Sundays.” He jerked his body in agitation. “She lied to me while playing the harlot with that—”

He took a step toward her and Cassie backed away.

“You know David is the devil, right? He likes to kill people and destroy things. He’s the one who fed Jay drugs and liquor and made him do things, until I had to save him. You know that, don’t you? That David is evil and tempts good, honest people into sin?”

Cassie took another step back and darted her eyes toward Truong, who was distracted by a pigeon building a nest in an eave. Dammit, why didn’t he look this way and rescue her? Nervously, she gripped the fork she had been digging with earlier, hoping she wouldn’t have to use it as a weapon. “I’m sure David doesn’t mean to be evil and Leila can look out for herself.”

“No. She wanted to join him in sin, or else why—”

Now Truong saw. He hurried over, his hand on the gun at his hip. “What’s the matter, Jesus freak? God grows potatoes on his schedule, not yours.”

Paul wheeled on him. “Don’t blaspheme the name of God!”

“I don’t think he did,” Cassie offered.

Paul ignored her, focused now on Truong. “This is none of your business, Chinese infidel!”

“Vietnamese,” Truong said. “And I’m a Presbyterian.”

“All of you are sinners!” He lunged forward and Truong drew his weapon in alarm. “Don’t think God doesn’t see into your heart of darkness! He sees the sparrow fall and—”

“And I’m going to see you fall right off this balcony if you don’t get out of here now,” Truong said. “If you’re that fucking worried about my sinful soul, go pray for me.”

“Better do it,” Cassie said. “You can pray for Leila while you’re at it.”

Paul looked at them both. “I won’t forget this. And God won’t forget it, either.”

After he stormed away, Truong put his gun back in the holster and gave Cassie a grin. “You should come around more often. This is the most excitement I’ve had since being put on potato patrol.”



Anonymous said...

There's always one crazy guy in the group.

Alice Audrey said...

Love that last line.

They're all going a little crazy. Some more than others. I really hope for Galahad's sake Paul doesn't actually hurt anyone. Too much to hope for? Probably.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

In a situation such as the one these kids are in, an overly simplistic understanding of religion ("If I do X, then God will do Y.") will make you dangerous, crazy, or both.

Truong cracks me up, though. Too bad he's in only one other scene, because he's as good with the accidental one-liners as Doc.