J&A TnT #2: Striking men mad

It’s November, and I’m writing the ninth and final Jason and Azazel book. In celebration, every Tuesday and Thursday (TnT), I’ll be posting scenes from previous Jason and Azazel books. Obviously, if you haven’t read the series, thar be spoilers in these parts. Read at your own risk!

The climax from Breathless:

Jason and I stood up, startled. Jason pushed me behind him, facing the men, who were wearing all black, and had guns in their hands. Their guns swung at their sides. They weren’t aiming at us, but with their solemn expressions and squared shoulders, they were still quite threatening.

“I thought this was sanctuary,”I whispered to Jason.

The man who led the Sons inside heard me. “Sanctuary means no violence on the grounds. It doesn’t prevent us from entering.”

“I’m not coming with you,”said Jason. “Has Hallam Wakefield been able to conduct his negotiations?”

The man sneered. “Hallam Wakefield is probably dead by now. What would he have to negotiate with anyway?”

“That’s a no,”Jason muttered to me.

“So what do we do?”I asked Jason, peering over his shoulder at the men. They were spread out in a line at the opening of the church, standing in what looked like a military at-ease stance. They looked so formal.

“Nothing,”said Jason, loud so they’d be sure to hear. “We’re in sanctuary. We’ll just wait them out. Either Hallam will get what he wants or his messages will go out.”

The leader held up a cell phone. “I don’t think so. I’m waiting on the response to a request to override sanctuary. Considering how important you are, I’m sure it’ll go through.”

“Can they do that?”I asked Jason.

“I don’t know,”said Jason. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”He went tense in front of me. I could tell he was thinking. Weighing our options, pondering escape routes. “How about a deal?”Jason asked.

A deal? Jason didn’t make deals. What was he doing?

“I’ll come with you,”he said.

“No,”I said.

“But you leave the girl alone. The girl walks, you understand?”

“Jason–“I said.

“Shut up, Azazel,”he snapped at me.

The leader only chuckled. “I don’t think you understand the situation, Jason. We were close to the Brothers you killed. Richard Durham was my mentor. Now, we know we can’t kill you, but as long as we get you back alive, we don’t think anyone will mind too much if you’re a little… damaged.”The leader smiled cruelly. “We’d all kind of like to damage you a little bit.”

Oh, this wasn’t good. This was very, very bad.

Jason reached back for my hand. I wondered what he was planning.

The leader’s cell phone vibrated. He raised it to look at it. Almost simultaneously, Jason twisted, grabbing me by the waist and throwing us behind the statue of the Virgin Mary in the front of the church. At nearly the same moment, the Sons opened fire on us.

The statue exploded, blowing bits of colored cement all over the floor of the church. They skittered under pews. They soared through the air, breaking chunks in the stained glass windows.

Jason covered my body with his own as the plaster rained down on us.

On our bellies, we crawled along the floor to the altar, bullets blasting through the pews.

We sat with our backs against the altar, only the wooden box between the Sons’ guns and us. A bullet splintered through the wood, right between our faces. I yelped.

Jason was pulling a gun out of his jeans. I hadn’t realized he was carrying it. I didn’t have a gun. He leaned around the altar, squeezed out several shots.

I wanted look to see if he’d hit anything, but I didn’t dare. The sound of gunfire was ringing in my ears.

Jason leaned back against the altar, his eyes alert.

Now, I couldn’t help but steal a look around the altar.

None of the Sons were down. They were approaching the altar, closing in on us, firing all the way.

Jason ducked back out to shoot again.

More bullets riddled the altar. One skidded past right next to my cheek. Too close for comfort.

Was this it? After everything we’d been through, after all the running, all the fighting, after discovering everything we’d discovered, was it going to end here? Just when Jason and I had realized exactly how much we meant to each other?

It didn’t seem fair.

Jason’s head thudded back against the altar. He turned to me desperately.

“There’s no chance, is there?”I asked.

“I love you,”he said.

“I love you,”I said.

Our lips met hungrily behind the ruined altar. Behind us, the staccato beats of gunfire underscored our final moments together. They were going to kill me. They were going to take Jason. We kissed like it was the end of the world, because we knew that, for us, it was.

As our lips parted, I waited to see the Sons swarming around the altar, thrusting their guns in our faces.

They didn’t come.

Actually, it was quiet.

Jason’s eyes caught mine. We listened.

Nothing. Silence.

At once, we jerked our necks around, staring around the altar.

The Sons were still there. They were standing in the aisle of the church, looking bewildered. A few were staring at their guns, scratching their heads.

What was going on?

The leader’s brow was furrowed. He glared out over the others. “The bathtub is full!”he announced to them determinedly.

One of the Sons started crying. Another dropped to a crouch, his hands raised in protection against an unseen attacker. One of the men ran screaming out of the church, yelling something about bees.

Jason and I slowly looked at each other. He looked just as confused and astonished as I felt.

Carefully, we moved out from behind the altar, stepping over the debris left from the gunfight. There were shards of stained glass littering the floor like shiny pieces of hard candy. All of the statues had huge holes in them. Jesus was missing an arm. Mary was gone from the waist up. The pews were covered in bullet holes.

We stepped in front of the Sons. They didn’t seem to see us.

We took their guns from their hands. They didn’t protest. One of them said to me, “Is it time for Cheerios yet?”

What was going on here? What had just happened?

I approached the leader last. I took his gun.

As if he were trying to be helpful, he handed me his cell phone. I took it. It was black and cold in my hands. Suddenly, it vibrated. I opened it. There was a text message. In all caps, it read: “RESCIND OVERRIDE. THIS IS FROM THE TOP. ABORT MISSION. REPEAT. ABORT. WEEM’S ORDERS.”

I handed the cell phone to Jason. “I think Hallam got through to Weem,”I said.

We stared at the now seemingly harmless members of the Sons of the Rising Sun, all of whom seemed to have gone crazy at the exact same moment. They milled about the church, gazing at the damage they’d caused. They seemed confused. Disoriented. Blank. What had happened?

Jason took my hand. I searched his deep, dark eyes for answers. His eyes were so similar to the eyes of the Michaela Weem. And I shivered as her words echoed back to me from earlier that evening.

The power. It will strike men mad.