May paid for her generator in aspirin and menthol which she siphoned from what she had made for the Pharms. Cassie and Galahad put the items into packs and slipped them under their clothes to keep them safe from any Pharms who might be about. To further disguise the reason for their visit, May gave them some of her failed jewelry creations, which Cassie thought looked perfectly fine, and she let Leila have a pair of earrings from the new series.

On the way back to the hotel, Cassie exchanged one of the plastic necklaces for skewers of meat from a sidewalk stand. She and Galahad ate ravenously, too hungry to care where the meat might have come from, but Leila demurred, claiming she didn’t have an appetite.

Cassie couldn’t bother to be annoyed by Leila’s prissiness. It was a sunny day, the streets were quiet, and she had Galahad by her side. Her thoughts drifted to the time he had nearly undressed her in the garden. She thought, too, of the casual way the twins fondled each other, making love without a care for who might see. Although their way could never be her way, she wished she had just a little of their confidence. If Galahad acted like an ordinary person it would be a lot easier. She was about to reach for his hand and to hell with if she was wrong, when he waved for both girls to stop. He squinted into the distance and reached for the gun at his hip.

“What is it?” Cassie said, fumbling for her pepper spray.

“This isn’t their turf.”

“Who?” Cassie made out a group in red and white in the distance.

“Christian Soldiers.” He stole a glance at Leila, who was unarmed. “We better detour.”

Leila protested, but Galahad was firm. A block later, a group of children ran past, fleeing the main road.

“Not good.” Galahad had just urged the girls to turn around when the streets erupted in a chaos of running, shouting, gunshots, and breaking glass. He pulled Cassie close and looked around wildly. “There.” He pointed with his gun. “We’ll hide in that restaurant.”

They made a dash for it and were almost across the street when a pack of children and yapping dogs cut them off. Someone fired a gun, and one of the children collapsed, bleeding from an ugly wound in his stomach.

Galahad tugged on Cassie’s arm. “Hurry.”

Cassie started to go, but Leila froze, staring at the injured child. “We should bring the kid.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Cassie said. “He’ll die, anyway.” She grabbed for her as Galahad pulled in the other direction. “Please.”

Still Leila hesitated. “But maybe—”


Leila gasped and ducked behind Galahad as a pack of Christian Soldiers came into view. One of their party, his shaved head marking him as a neophyte, rushed forward and lunged at Galahad. “Let me at the whore!”

While Galahad spoke in soothing tones and Paul screeched about sinners, Cassie tried to pull Leila away, only to find her rooted to the spot with the look of a frightened rabbit. Just when she saw a clear path of escape, the rest of Christian Soldiers closed in with clubs in their hands and murder in their eyes. Paul broke away from Galahad and pointed at Leila. “This is the whore I told you about.”

In the chaos that followed, Cassie heard Galahad’s gun go off. She got one Christian Soldier in the face with her pepper spray, but someone grabbed her by the hair and made her drop the canister. At her feet, clubs rained down on Leila, and in the mayhem someone yelled that Cassie, too, was a whore who deserved to die. Galahad tried to make his way toward her, but two Christian Soldiers blocked his way and knocked the gun out of his hand with their clubs. Cassie was struggling against the one holding her hair, kicking at anyone who came near, when she was suddenly turned loose and fell to the ground. She rolled away from a foot aimed at her face as another of her attackers collapsed, blood spreading across his white tunic.
“It’s the devil and his minion!” someone shouted.

Cassie looked up to see Thing One on the restaurant balcony, aiming a rifle into the mob. Crouched at his feet, Thing Two was reloading. With their black clothes, grayed-out faces and charcoaled eyes, they looked like something escaped from hell.

Someone grabbed her under the arms. Cassie struggled and kicked until Galahad’s voice in her ear stopped her. “They’re covering us.”

“But Leila—”

Galahad jerked her arm so hard she had to follow or have it torn from the socket. With a staccato of gunfire ringing in their ears, they ducked into a side street, then an alleyway, then into an open door and the filthy recesses of an abandoned building that reeked of unremoved Telo victims.

Galahad wouldn’t let her stop. He pulled Cassie up stairs, down hallways, and into and out of rooms of rotting bodies. Finally she could go no farther. She wrenched her hand from his and sank to the floor beside a metal office desk where a desiccated form still lay slumped across a keyboard. “They’re not coming.” Her mind flashed back to the bloody mess on the street that couldn’t possibly be her friend. “No more!” She heard herself screaming, but it was as if it was some other girl was doing it. In her mind, she was calm, but when Galahad crouched beside her and took her in his arms, she couldn’t tell him that and could only cry.



Alice Audrey said...

Wow. I had a feeling Leila would come to a bad ending, but I didn't see this coming. I should have, but I didn't.

You sure have a way with ending a scene, too.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

This sort of thing is why my characters eventually come to distrust me. ;-)