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episode twelve

Chapter Twelve

September 5, 1990

Arabella Hoyt has opened my eyes. In the time we spent with her, I have realized that I have been completely wrong about everything I thought about Ted. He has used me. He destroyed me. And the thing that may be growing inside me is not a force of good. It is a force of pure evil. I have been deceived. I must do what I can to end this horridness.

Jason sat up straight in bed. "Did you hear that?"

I was up too. It was midmorning. The sun was up. Streams of light came in through the narrow windows, drawing bright rectangles on the floor.

Jason was on his feet, shrugging into a shirt and checking to make sure his gun was loaded. I followed suit. I wished my hair was longer. I would have liked to pull it back into a ponytail. Instead, I just shoved it behind my ears. Our guns drawn, we crept to our door. Jason kept me behind him as he opened the door. The hallway outside our room was silent. We listened again.

"I heard shooting," Jason said to me.

"So did I," I said, peering around him.

We listened. There wasn't any noise now, but it wasn't dead silent. We could hear the sounds of the streets coming from behind us. Cars beeping. People chattering in Italian as they passed by. But within the monastery, we heard nothing. Jason pulled the door shut.

"What do we do?" I asked.

"Maybe nothing's wrong," said Jason. "Maybe it was a firework or a car backfiring or something."

"Maybe," I said.

Another gunshot. A scream.

"No," I said. "That was a gun."

"Yeah," said Jason. He took a deep breath. "Okay, then. Say goodbye to your clothes."

I glared at him. "Are we going to try to go out the front door?"

"Don't see why not," he said.

I grabbed a bag and shoved some clothes and one of the laptops into it. "Let's just try to take some stuff with us, okay?"

"Whatever," said Jason. "Let's go."

He opened the door again and we eased out of the room. Our backs against the wall (well, my stuffed-full bag against the wall, anyway), we crept down the hall, holding our guns. We didn't see anyone.

Our room was relatively close to the entrance. We only had to go down one hall, make a left, and then we'd be right at the door. We moved quickly but cautiously, glancing around for danger. At the end of the hallway, Jason stopped me. He peered around, gun out.

We heard another gunshot, much closer now.

Jason snapped back around the corner. "The Sons," he reported.

"You can see them?" I asked.

"They're at the entrance," he said. "They shot a bunch of monks."

"Oh my God," I breathed. "I thought we were safe here. I thought this whole city was sanctuary."

"They attacked us in a church before," said Jason. "I don't think sanctuary much matters where we're concerned."

"How many?" I asked.

"I don't know," said Jason. "But a lot. Maybe twenty. And who knows if they don't have reinforcements waiting somewhere."

"Should we kiss and try to drive them crazy?" I asked, trying to make a joke.

Jason grabbed me by the neck and kissed me fiercely. "No," he said, pulling back. "I think we should look for a back door."

He grabbed my hand, and we fled back down the hall. It had been a while since Jason and I had lived in this monastery. Still, we knew our way around pretty well. I didn't remember there being a back door, though. "What back door are you talking about?" I asked Jason.

He shot a look over his shoulder as we ran. "The kitchen," he said. "There's a door in the kitchen."

"Well, we're going the wrong way!" I said.

Jason yanked me to the right, hard, and we emerged in the cloister. The cloister was a covered walkway that surrounded a square courtyard. I pointed across the courtyard to the other side of the monastery. "The kitchen is over there," I said.

"Yeah," said Jason. "We're going across the courtyard." And he pulled me along with him.

More gunshots echoed from inside the monastery. Jason and I scurried across the courtyard and back inside the monastery. We emerged in a small hallway. The door to the kitchen was right in front of us. We could hear the sound of screams from the main entrance. Jason threw the door open, and we rushed inside.

We were greeted by the sight of several ex-members of the Council cowering in front of the sink. At the sight of us, they immediately bowed their heads. Geez. They were in fear for their lives, and they were still doing the bowing thing?

Jason pulled me forward. "Ignore them," he said. We headed for the door.

"Don't!" said one of the ex-Council members.

"They've sealed off all the exits," said another.

Jason stopped short as we saw that there was body in front of our exit. Immediately, he pulled me away from it. We clattered into the stove. He addressed the ex-Council members. "They're outside the door?" he asked.

They nodded. "Briggs tried to get out. They shot him."

"This is sanctuary," said Jason. "What is Hoyt thinking?"

"We think they're going to go through every room and just shoot everyone," said another ex-Council member. "It's Hoyt's way of showing us what he'll do if we stand up to him."

"They're looking for us, though, right?" I said.

They nodded.

"Jason, we've just got to go engage," I said.

"What?" he said.

"They're killing all these people because of us. We can't just let them die."

"No, it is an honor to give our lives in your service," said one of the ex-Council members.

"Maybe for you," I conceded. These guys were messed up in the head. "But not for the monks here. They don't want to die for us."

"It's screwed up," said Jason. "We should have gone to freaking Africa!"

"Jason, we can't let them shoot monks!"

"There are twenty of them at the main entrance. Who knows how many of them are surrounding the monastery," said Jason. "We go out there shooting, we could maybe take down half of them. But not all of them. They'll kill us."

I sighed. He was right. But it was sickening the amount of people who had been killed in the crossfire of this hunt for Jason and me. At the Sol Solis School, it was one thing. At least those men had been Brothers, trained to fight and prepared for dangerous situations. These monks, however, were peaceful. They'd offered us a place to stay. They'd hidden us. I leaned against the stove, scratching at the bandage on my arm. It was still itchy.

That reminded me that the bandage hadn't been changed recently. I planned to do it this morning. I hoped it wasn't getting infected. I tried to examine my wound through the bandage.

"Don't play with that," Jason said.

I dropped my arm, studying the gun in my hand. I'd already been shot once by the Sons. I didn't think I wanted to be gunned down, even if it meant that they stopped shooting monks. I was lucky they hadn't killed me at the promó

Lucky. "Jason," I said. "How likely is it that one of the Sons would miss a shot? You know how the Brothers are trained. If you meant to shoot someone in the head, would you miss and shoot them in the arm?"

Jason looked at me like I was crazy. "If I shoot someone in the arm, it's because I meant to shoot them in the arm," he said.

I held up my arm. "Why didn't they kill me? I was standing in the open. I was an easy target."

Jason's eyes narrowed. "That is weird," he admitted. "I was so glad you were alive, I never thought to question it."

"Maybe they're not trying to kill us," I said. "It's only hearsay that they are."

"So then, what are they doing?" Jason said. "Why are they here with guns, shooting everything in sight?"

I didnít know. I had no idea.

"Even if they don't want us dead," said Jason, "they aren't trying to do anything nice to us."

No. I guessed they weren't. I sighed. "So, I guess we try to get out of here."

"There was another plan?"

No. It was just that I had wanted to minimize the violence, somehow. Keep people alive. I turned to the ex-Council members. "How many of them do you think are at the door?"

They shrugged. They didnít know.

Were there more at the entrance than at this door?

They thought so. Probably.

"So," said Jason, seeing where I was going with this. "You think we should just try to shoot ourselves out of this door?"

I shrugged. "Unless you have a better idea."

We surveyed the door. It opened into the kitchen, which wasn't great. If it had opened out onto the street, we might have been able to use it as a shield. Maybe. It was a wooden door, after all. It wasn't exactly impervious to bullets. We decided to stay low. We figured the Sons outside would assume that whoever was opening the door was standing. So we would lie flat, our guns out. Jason would reach up and open the door a few inches, just enough so that we could see what we were dealing with. From there, we'd just have to see what happened.

First we had to drag Briggs' body away from the door. His wound left a smear of blood on the floor. We were going to have to lie on the blood smear. Gross.

Jason and I got in position. He reached up for the knob and eased the door open. Almost immediately, there was a volley of gunfire, but it went over our heads. So far, so good.

I was watching through the opening of the door as Jason pulled it open. Quickly, I assessed the situation. There were seven members of the Sons in the street. I shot as soon as I had a clear view. Carefully aiming, and remembering to breathe, I squeezed off three shots. They hit home perfectly. Three head shots. The men I'd hit crumpled to the ground. Jason was with me. He shot the other four.

Well. That had been easy.

We scrambled to our feet and out the door. Jason pulled it shut behind us.

"It's them! It's them!" yelled a voice.

And Jason and I were immediately swarmed by at least ten more members of the Sons. We opened fire.

They were everywhere, coming from all sides of the building. Some had been hiding behind cars. Others had been on the roof of the monastery. I got off several good shots. Jason got off even more than me. We took down at least five more of them. But there were so many.

Then someone kicked the gun out of my hand and someone else tackled me from behind. I went down on the ground, my chin skidding against stone. I bit my tongue and tasted blood in my mouth. I cried out.

They were on my back, handcuffing my arms and feet.

I twisted, looking for Jason. He was fighting with a group of men who were on him, slinging punches everywhere. "Azazel!" he yelled to me.

"Jason!" I screamed.

The Sons who had me hoisted me into the air. Two men had my feet and another three held my head and upper torso. They were taking me away. "Jason!" I screamed again.

The last image I saw of him was the Sons finally overpowering him and forcing him to the ground. He was struggling and yelling my name. I strained at the handcuffs. I tried to wrench my head so that I could bite at the hands of the men who held me. But I was trapped. We rounded a corner. I couldn't see him anymore.

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Copyright (c) 2009 Valerie Chambers