Discordia: Installment Two

Chapter Two:
The Lady Needs a Man

In a cheap motel room in North Baton Rouge, a man and a woman were engaged in sexual intercourse under the flickering light of a filmy fluorescent bulb. A meager stream of cold air flowed out of a tiny air conditioner in the window, but it barely served to lessen the impact of the deliriously hot Louisiana summer night. The room looked dangerously unclean. Stains covered every inch of the carpet. A close inspection of the dark recesses and corners of the room would reveal thriving communities of ants, fleas, roaches and spiders. The occupants didn’t care about the condition of the room. They only intended to use it for thirty minutes, because after that the man would have to pay for more time.

The woman worried enough about the unsanitary condition of the bed to insist that the man take her bent over the top of the small table by the bathroom. She couldn’t afford to get crabs, so she gritted her teeth against the pain as the man slammed her midsection into the unforgiving wood of the table again and again. She did her best to aid in the man’s pleasure, thrusting back against him and moaning like she enjoyed it. She wanted it to end as soon as possible, and labored to make that happen.

The man was in his mid forties, and overweight to the point of obesity. Within a minute sweat dripped from every part of his body as he gasped for breath, a portrait of cardiac arrest waiting to happen. The man didn’t last more than five minutes, even though he wanted it to go on forever. For a man who depended on prostitutes for sexual pleasure, the woman was the most attractive sexual partner he had been with in twenty years. After he climaxed he leaned over and hugged her tight, unable to see the look of disgust on her face.

The woman marveled at the man’s stupidity, and for a moment she fantasized about pounding his midsection into the wooden table. Still, she waited just a second before she tapped him on the shoulder to signal him to get off of her. She figured there was no reason to be rude just because he was clueless. When she found a possible repeat customer she tried not to offend him.

The used condom fell to the floor with an audible squishing sound, apparently quite full to capacity, while the man pulled up his pants and made himself decent to leave. The woman shuddered at the thought of the condom bursting inside her. She forced herself to think about something else. She slipped her sundress back over her head, and checked herself out in the mirror. She pulled a hairbrush from her purse by the sink and set to work improving her appearance.

The man behind her counted out forty dollars from his wallet and placed it on the sweat slick table. When she quoted him the price beforehand, he expressed extreme skepticism that she would be worth the steep figure. She assured him he would be satisfied, and even gave him a money back guarantee. It turned out she told him the truth. She was worth every penny.

“Thank you so much, beautiful. If I was a rich man I would give you more,” he said to her as he turned and walked out the door.

“You know where to find me,” she called over her shoulder without looking back.

She reapplied her lipstick with a keen attention to detail. There was a reason she could charge extra for her services. She was petite and she had blonde hair, and her hair color was one hundred percent natural. Her ample breasts defied gravity no matter the situation, and she always wore clothes that attracted men’s eyes to her best features. The woman was stunning, but she equated that to little more than an extra twenty bucks per trick. She could have been a model, but instead she lived the only way she knew how.

As soon as she was satisfied with her appearance, she gathered up her little pile of cosmetics and shoved them into her purse on her way out the door. The steamy night air settled onto her skin, almost like a spent lover giving in to sleep on top of her. She decided the odd thought originated in her own desire to rest, and that reminded her that she needed to score a little boost.

She set off across the gravel parking lot of the motel with purpose in her steps. She always parked her car in an old neighborhood off the highway, two blocks away. An old man she met at a bar owned a house not far from where the prostitutes congregated, and he told her it would be okay for her to park there. All he asked in return was that she look in on him once in a while, maybe have dinner with him from time to time. His days of debauchery were long passed.

She was on the highway, a block away from her car, when a BRPD unit saw her and motioned her to the side. She looked inside the vehicle, and cursed when she didn’t see a familiar face inside. The policemen who recognized her usually left her alone. If they stopped her on the street, it meant they just wanted to talk to her for a little while. A lot of the guys on the force turned a blind eye to crimes of consent. She just hoped that the new face in the car didn’t belong to a self-righteous rookie out to change the world.

“Can I see some identification, ma’am?”

The police officer got out of the car. He kept his hand on his gun while he waited for her to respond. The woman was glad to see that he was good looking. At least she wouldn’t have to put on too much of an act if she needed to come onto him.

“Well, of course, officer. I have it right here,” she pulled a Louisiana driver’s license out of her small purse and handed it to him. She could tell he was a rookie from the nervous manner in which he took it. She batted her eyelashes at him and asked, “Is there a problem?”

“If all this information is correct, then your name is Lena Smiley, you’re twenty-four years old, and you live in Sherwood Forest. Is that right?”

“Yes, sir. All of my information is up to date,” Lena told him resignedly. He hadn’t so much as looked at her yet. She braced herself for an unpleasant experience, but it didn’t happen.

The cop finally ran his eyes all over her body, and obviously liked what he saw. A mischievous sparkle crept into Lena’s eyes. She knew his type. The rookie cop wanted a little action in return for keeping her safe from the bad guys. Lena loved handcuffs, but only when she knew it was safe. That was one of the reasons she liked her big, strong policemen. They always looked out for a girl.

“One of my buddies down at the Second District told me to keep an eye out for you. He said you were a real nice girl,” the clean-cut young man told her cautiously. “You may know him. His name is Officer Putnam.”

Lena believed the young cop blushed, and she thought that was too cute for words. “Oh, yes. I know Officer Putnam very well. And your name is?”

“I’m Shipley… Tom… uh, Officer Tom Shipley.”

“I’m pleased to meet you Shipley Tom Officer Tom Shipley. Is there something I can do for you?” She made it easy for him by pointedly examining his crotch and licking her ruby red lips.

Officer Shipley looked up and down the street in both directions. Earlier that night there had been more than a dozen prostitutes in the area, and heavy foot traffic from the poor neighborhoods on either side of the highway. By the time Shipley stopped to check Lena out, it was three o’clock in the morning. There was no one in sight anywhere. The night shift had ended for the working girls. He relaxed and smiled at her, and then he voiced the question that had been echoing in his mind all along. “Is there some place we can be alone for about fifteen minutes?”

Lena was about to tell him she still had a motel room for the next ten minutes, but a rapidly approaching sound distracted her. It was the sound of a Kawasaki Ninja doing one hundred miles an hour down the city street they were standing on. Officer Shipley ran towards the road, intent on either flagging down the motorcycle or reading the license plate number. Lena backed up at least ten feet. She had a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach.

When the motorcycle came into sight it became apparent that it wasn’t the only vehicle coming toward them at a high rate of speed. A black Monte Carlo SS was chasing the motorcycle. Officer Shipley changed his mind about standing in the street when he got a better look at the approaching vehicles. The sound of automatic weapons fire sent him scrambling into his cruiser. Lena could hear him barking into the dash mounted police radio.

The motorcycle whizzed past Lena and the police car so fast it looked like a blur. Right on its tail followed the Monte Carlo. Somebody in the car was paying attention, and didn’t want to risk being chased by the police. A passenger in the back seat of the Monte Carlo riddled the police cruiser with bullets. The Teflon coated rounds flattened both of the driver’s side tires, which faced out to the street. The flat tires would prove to be totally unnecessary. One of the stray bullets shattered the rear windshield, and the Plexiglas dividing the front and back seats, and then lodged in Officer Shipley’s head. The young police officer slumped over the steering wheel of his car, and his face pressed down on the horn. The sound struck Lena as very sad.

Lena knew enough about the law to know that she needed to be somewhere else when a bunch of other cops arrived. Nothing would be okay when they discovered that a police officer had been shot. She saw her driver’s license on the ground a few feet away, carelessly dropped by the handsome Officer Shipley. She snatched it up and sprinted away, crying and praying to God to allow her to make it to her car safely. Distant sirens signaled that the cavalry was on the way. Lena hoped that Officer Shipley was all right, but she had enough to worry about without adding that nightmare to her list.

Time slowed down to a standstill as she ran down the street, and for a moment her car looked farther away than when she started. Then she was at the door, fumbling with her keys and hyperventilating. She wasn’t sure if she was doing the right thing by running away, but she was already committed to her choice. Lena flung open the door of the small Honda and jumped in. The messy interior suddenly aggravated her intensely, and she pounded the dashboard and screamed. She regained control of her frayed emotions out of necessity and started the car. The engine sputtered to life, and she whipped the Honda out of the driveway.

Lena couldn’t believe something bad had happened to her again. She figured she must have the worst luck of any woman alive. She was sexually molested for years while she was growing up, first by one of her uncles and then by her mother’s boyfriend. She left home with an eighteen-year-old boy named Bobby when she was fifteen, certain that he was her ticket from hell to happiness.

Within two years she knew how jealous and controlling a man could be. Bobby beat her on a regular basis, sometimes if he even thought she looked at another man. She got drunk and stabbed Bobby about fifty times one night. He had beaten her one too many times, and then made her do one too many things she hated to do.

The homicide detectives didn’t listen to a thing she said. They told Lena about how Bobby was an upstanding member of the community, and how upset his parents were that she killed him. She showed them the bruises that he left all over her body, but it was like the detectives were blind. At the time Lena wondered if maybe they couldn’t see the bruises because they felt guilty about things that they had also done. The State of Louisiana charged her with second-degree murder. The detectives told her it was because Bobby was asleep, and she could have run away or something.

The Baton Rouge District Attorney’s Office assigned one of their brightest attorneys to prosecute her case. The attorney took one look at the evidence and knew that Lena did not deserve to go to prison for life. Lena was offered a manslaughter plea. The agreement meant she would spend two years in a juvenile facility.

A public defender was appointed to represent Lena in her criminal case. Her free lawyer told her to accept the deal. Lena was told the alternative could mean twenty years in an adult facility. Lena didn’t think she had done anything wrong, but she accepted the deal.

Lena often thought it was strange that the first place she had ever done drugs was in the custody of the authorities. A big black girl named Carol Anne looked out for her while she was locked up, in exchange for her affection. Lena liked Carol Anne, and didn’t mind giving her what she wanted. Lena knew that she would always need men in her life when she was free. With no men anywhere around, Carol Anne was okay to be with. She remembered how Carol Anne often smoked weed with her, and how every now and then they got cocaine. Lena loved cocaine. As soon as she walked out of the house of detention she went and got some.

When Lena was released from juvenile prison, life took one disturbing turn after another. She became hopelessly addicted to crack. She turned to prostitution when she was still only nineteen years old. She got raped twice in one year when she was twenty. She spent ninety days in jail on a possession charge the first time she was caught, and almost a year the second time.

Lena got beaten up often in the adult jail. She had a smart mouth and she wouldn’t take shit from any woman, no matter how big she was. Lena’s life was not a bowl full of cherries. Sometimes she cried because she felt bad about herself. She never seemed to learn her lesson about men, or drugs, or anything else.

She had a car because one of her black customers gave it to her. His name was Leon, and he was a drug dealer. Lena got butterflies when she thought about Leon. He called her his snow angel, on account of how pale she was. She knew deep down that he was no different than any of the other men, but at least he had given her a car. She always wanted a car, and she figured that was the happiest day of her life.

Leon never told Lena the car was stolen. He gave it to her knowing how she would express her appreciation. He figured she would get caught in it, and a few weeks in the Parish Prison would put some weight on her and help her figure. He was astonished when Lena drove it proudly all over the city and never got pulled over.

Lena was flying down Winbourne Avenue while she thought about how much she liked Leon. She knew he didn’t love her, but he showed a lot of appreciation for the things that she did for him. The traffic light at North Foster was green, and she didn’t slow down the least bit on her way through it. The blinking light on the dashboard clock took forever between blinks, and Lena wondered, “What the hell is going on now?”

The black motorcycle from earlier whizzed past the front of her car, and Lena marveled at how it went by like freeze frame photography. The sound of its engine penetrated into her Honda as if it came from the bottom of a well. The Honda inched out into the intersection. Lena knew that something was wrong, because she was doing about forty miles an hour and her Honda wasn’t supposed to be inching. That’s when she saw the Monte Carlo, directly before it slammed into the passenger side of her car.

The high-speed chase had doubled back, and Lena drove right into the middle of it. The dissonance of the crash ripped through the still night air. The sound of wrenching metal and shattering glass bounced off of the walls of an abandoned body shop and a condemned housing project. Any people close enough to hear it went in the opposite direction. A car crash meant police, and nobody out that time of night wanted to see the police.

The impact of the collision caved in the entire passenger side of the car, and flung the Honda at a forty-five degree angle in the direction of the path of the Monte Carlo. Lena forgot to put on her seat belt when she got in the car. That may have been the only thing that prevented her from being killed instantly. She was ejected from the vehicle during the initial impact. Had she been strapped into the driver’s seat, she would have been crushed when the Honda flipped upside down and plowed into a light pole on the far side of the intersection. There was almost nothing left of the small Japanese import.

Lena looked up at the sky from the small patch of grass she landed on. She couldn’t feel her arms or her legs. Before she lost consciousness she cursed God for all the terrible things that happened to her. She was pretty sure it wasn’t fair at all.

The Monte Carlo turned sideways and skidded off the side of the road. The front tire caught on a storm drain as it jumped the curb, and the car flipped onto its side in the roadside ditch. The car was carrying two people in the front and one in the back. The man in the back got partially ejected from the driver’s side as the car flipped over, and was torn in half across his midsection. The driver didn’t have a seat belt on either. He busted his head wide open on the steering wheel, and would have been ejected through the windshield if he hadn’t pulled the seat up a little too far. His legs held him in the vehicle through the initial impact, but it wouldn’t save his life. When the car turned over on its side he flopped into the open driver’s side window as it contacted the ground. Most of his scalp and face was scraped off.

Only the front seat passenger survived the collision. He was banged up and bruised, but still breathing. His seat belt saved his life, but the impact caused him to lose consciousness. He hung limply in the straps, separated from the ground by three feet of air and the body of the driver. For a moment the only sound was the spinning of the right side tires and the dripping of blood and gasoline.

The racing motorcycle rolled slowly back onto the scene and pulled to a stop on the road beside the overturned Monte Carlo. The rider got off of the bike and pulled off his helmet, revealing handsome Hispanic features. His eyes were gray with a slightly green tint, but they almost glinted red as he walked around the car and looked inside. He saw that the passenger was alive, and then climbed halfway through the shattered windshield. He unfastened the passenger’s seat belt and pulled the unconscious man out of the car in one fluid motion.

He placed the passenger on the ground beside the car, and then attempted to revive the traumatized man. He shook the guy and slapped him gently a few times, until the passenger opened his eyes. The biker smiled when he saw that the man was awake.

“Did you really think that you were going to be able to hunt me down and kill me? I was sent here to kill you. I’m not sure how you got that turned around,” the motorcycle rider cooed down at the accident victim.

“Jesus? Is that you? I’m having a hard time focusing right now,” the man on the ground wheezed out, and a small amount of blood spluttered between his lips when he spoke.

“Yeah, it’s me, Alex. Look, I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t have to. I looked into your background, and I found out you’re a good man. That’s what makes it so hard to understand why you would make a deal with Baphomet. That was idiotic. I found every indication that people consider you an intelligent person, but then you reneged on the idiotic deal you made with Baphomet. That totally mystifies me. Listen to me, Alex. Nobody screws over Baphomet. He’s not one of those candy ass lesser devils. He’s the real deal.”

“It’s not my fault that the deal went bad. I didn’t understand the terms when I made the deal. I can’t give Baphomet what he wants,” Alex objected desperately. He lifted his hands before him pleadingly.

“Oh, that’s where you’re wrong. You can and will give Baphomet what you agreed to. You didn’t help yourself at all by trying to kill me, and on top of that one of your buddies killed an officer of the law. This whole episode served only to fan the flames. You’re in big trouble. I just want to apologize in advance for what I’m about to do. You deserved better than this,” said the Hispanic man in a melancholy tone.

“Mendoza, wait. You don’t have to do this, do you? I mean, why do you have to do this? Can’t we work something out?”

Jesus Mendoza pulled a Colt 1911 A1 out of his jacket and chambered a round. The man called Alex attempted to scrabble backwards across the pavement, but he was still too shaken up to move very quickly. Jesus stepped forward and placed the barrel of the gun against Alex’s head. Alex wailed and blubbered like a little girl. Jesus turned to look the other way, and pulled the trigger. He hated to see a grown man cry, and he also hated to get blood in his eyes. Jesus walked away without ever looking at the body. His contract had been satisfied, and that was all he really cared about.

The lack of pedestrian and vehicular traffic through the scene owed to a low level protection spell Jesus cast over himself before returning to check out the accident. The power of magic in normal reality was so limited that it could only be used sparingly at irregular intervals. The spell began to wear off, and Jesus thought he heard sirens once more. He made haste to depart the dimension.

Jesus traced a large pentagram in the street and cleared his mind to begin the chant that would open the portal. At that moment he saw Lena’s body out of the corner of his eye. He could tell that she was still alive, but also that she suffered incredible pain. He probed her mind with his, and the things he witnessed there caused him to pull back in horror. Jesus sighed. He couldn’t leave her there to die in the state she was in. She would most certainly be damned, and he couldn’t have that on his conscience. He searched his own thoughts for a plan of action.

He jogged over to Lena, and dragged her limp form into the center of the pentagram. He began the chant to open the dimensional portal, but he threw in a variation that would summon a major deity. He traced the proper symbols in the air and raised his arms up to the heavens. A circle of red light appeared and grew in size. When Jesus finished, the portal was large enough to allow him to cross over with the girl in his arms.

Jesus was accustomed to dimensional travel, but he never called up a deity unless it was a supreme emergency. The woman’s suffering had touched a cord inside of him that he thought no longer existed. He felt genuinely sorry for her, but he was also attracted to her. He gathered her up and stepped through into the emptiness between realities. An adolescent Grecian boy waited there for him.

The opening to the mortal realm winked shut behind Jesus and Lena. The boy looked at the two humans with an expression of boredom and contempt. Jesus waited for the deity to speak. After an uncomfortable silence it became apparent that the deity wanted an explanation. Jesus cursed silently that the deity who had responded to his summons was Pan. Jesus had hoped to find an agent of goodness when he stepped through. He knew that he had to choose his words carefully.

“Great Pan, I have called upon you for the purpose of requesting a favor,” Jesus said with as much reverence as he could muster.

“Oh, please, Jesus. We both know you didn’t call on me specifically,” Pan told him impatiently. “Now what is it that you want?”

“Will you save this woman’s life?”

“Why would you want me to save the woman’s life?” Pan asked him suspiciously.

Jesus had anticipated the need for an explanation. Pan was aligned with chaotic evil. Jesus knew he couldn’t tell the deity that he wanted to save the woman’s soul. He appealed to Pan’s appreciation of lust instead.

“My years of servitude have made me famished for the pleasures of the flesh,” Jesus spread it on thickly. “I desire to make this woman my pet. If you delve into her mind, then you will find that she devoted her life to the satisfaction of lust. Since without my intervention she would have been dead and damned, I hope that the gods will find my request a reasonable one. I’m not snatching her from an ascent to heaven, nor am I giving her a complete reprieve from hell. I can think of many imaginative ways to make her service less than enjoyable.”

“You know that it is not in my power to grant this favor on my own. Bide here a moment while I consult with some of my more powerful brethren,” commanded Pan as his image flickered and disappeared.

Jesus breathed a sigh of relief. If he had told the truth, that he wanted to save her because he felt sorry for her, then Pan would have laughed in his face. The wicked little pervert had fallen for his lie. Jesus always thanked Yahweh for denying the power of omniscience to any divine being but Him.

It wasn’t long at all before Pan returned to the place between dimensions where Jesus waited. The Greek had a smile on his face, and Jesus didn’t like that at all. “Nobody ever tells old Pan anything. It seems intrigue is afoot, and you’re to play a role in it, Jesus. The gods have agreed to heal the woman for you, but you’ll have to agree to something in return.”

“What is it that the gods ask of me?” Jesus voice betrayed his trepidation.

“A man has crossed over into Discordia on a quest set for him by Yahweh Himself. The man’s name is Louis Comeaux. The gods want you to protect him from harm. If you succeed in the mission, then your debt will be cleared. I think these terms are extremely generous. Do you agree?”

Jesus knew that Pan’s eagerness to execute the agreement betrayed hidden conditions. There were almost always hidden conditions. Jesus countered, “I need more information before I can agree. Who came up with the conditions? Was it the good guys or the bad guys?”

“I’ve heard about you, Jesus. They say you always want to win, no matter how outclassed you are. Wasn’t it your arrogance that led to your current predicament in the first place? And why do you insist on using such shallow and degrading labels as ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys,’ Jesus?” The adolescent sneered at the Hispanic with utter loathing.

“I can’t agree unless I know who I’m working for. It might jeopardize an existing agreement, Honorable Pan. It’s my responsibility to find out which side I am agreeing to help,” Jesus spoke to Pan condescendingly, as if the god were a child that needed complicated things explained for him. Pan became furious.

“You dare to patronize me? I should strike you down where you stand!” Pan boomed out his displeasure in a thunderous voice.

Jesus couldn’t take it anymore. He burst out laughing, but only for a couple of seconds. He had business to attend to. “Look, Pan, I apologize about that, but we both know Yahweh doesn’t allow you ancient gods the power to smite humans anymore. The only way you can destroy a human is to turn their free will against them. The rules say that you have to answer all of my questions, because to keep me ignorant is to deprive me of my free will. I’ve heard that trickery is the time bomb of the gods, and I have come too far to watch everything go up in smoke. So who presented the terms of the agreement?”

Pan calmed down while Jesus spoke. It was considered ungodly to throw temper tantrums, and the ancient god felt slightly embarrassed by his outburst. “It was the entirety of the council of deities, both good and evil. Both sides agreed to the arrangement,” Pan reddened and turned away. “I was supposed to tell you all about it on my own. It just gets so frustrating not being able to wreak the havoc I could in the olden days.”

“I can’t say I feel for you, Pan. Since you admitted your intent to deceive me, I am assuming that there was more to the agreement than you put before me. So tell me. What do I have to do to save the life of one human girl?” Jesus looked down at Lena with undisguised compassion. It no longer mattered what Pan thought about his intentions with regard to the woman. The entire council of deities watched the proceedings.

Pan squirmed with impotent rage. He was compelled to tell the truth. “The quest presented to Louis Comeaux could affect the balance of power on Discordia. Gods and devils are interested in the outcome of his quest. The stakes are high for both sides. No matter what happens, someone is going to walk away an awfully sore loser.

“I guess I wasn’t clear enough the first time. There are going to be thousands of evil men out to kill Louis Comeaux. Agree to protect him, and the girl lives. Succeed in your task, and you’re a free man. The young man faces overwhelming odds against completing his quest, but I still think the terms are generous.”

Jesus’ breath caught in his throat. He could be free. After two thousand years of servitude to the higher powers he could be free. He could age and die. He could father children, and care for a family. “Free!” he shouted joyfully in his mind, and then his good judgment returned. He reminded himself that there was always a catch.

“What happens if I fail to protect this Louis Comeaux?”

“If Comeaux fails then you will burn in Hell, with him and everyone else you’ve sent there in your life.”

“The reward is great, but the penalty for losing sounds mighty harsh. What happens if I refuse to accept the terms?”

“You’re usual clients quit sending you business. Your debt never gets paid off. You remain in servitude for the next ten thousand years or so, a permanent resident of Discordia,” Pan said with an evil grin, “if you can survive that long.”

Jesus didn’t have to think about it long. “I have decided to accept the offer. I do have one more question, however. What’s so important about Louis Comeaux?” Jesus failed to conceal his burning curiosity.

“That’s none of your business,” Pan said gleefully. The ancient god took joy in denying Jesus at least that bit of information.

“So heal the woman. I have work to do,” Jesus said gruffly.

Pan passed his hand through the air above Lena, and she coughed. The deity disappeared, and the two humans were sucked through the other side of the portal. They were deposited roughly on the ground. The portal winked out above and behind them with a sucking sound and a loud clap. Jesus looked around with alarm, remembering that he set up the portal in a particularly dangerous place. North Baton Rouge wasn’t especially safe in normal reality. In Discordia the area belonged to evil worshippers. Jesus had brought them across behind enemy lines.

“I hope you are an intelligent woman. If you aren’t, then we’re both probably doomed,” Jesus thought to himself.

Lena stared at the unfamiliar sights around her in wide-eyed astonishment. She studied Jesus for a long time. It was obvious that she was having a hard time getting her thoughts together. She stood up and smoothed out her dress, and examined herself closely. Finally she said, “Oh, shoot. I broke a nail. Don’t that beat all?”

Jesus made peace with his immortal soul, certain that all was lost. He allowed his emotions to interfere with his better judgment, and picked up a huge liability for his efforts. Sitting in a gravel road deep in evil territory with a beautiful but ignorant prostitute, Jesus suspected he made a huge mistake. As the reality of his situation settled in, he realized that he didn’t ask enough questions. He had no idea where to find Louis Comeaux. He knew the ways of the gods too well to think that he could get any assistance after he accepted their offer. Somewhere in the heavens gods were watching every move he made. He had no doubt that many of them were delighted with the mistakes he made right out of the starting gate. If the odds were as impossible as Pan made them out to be, then he didn’t have room to make any more mistakes.

Jesus stood up and dusted himself off. Lena, still slightly disoriented, turned her attention to the man beside her. His appearance greatly impressed her. He was over six feet tall, and he looked extremely athletic beneath the thin blue silk shirt he wore. He had striking features, with jet black hair and a thin goatee on his chin. He was obviously Hispanic, but his eyes were a gray the color of winter fog. Lena had strange memories floating around in her head, and she wondered if he was an angel. He quickly dispelled any such illusion.

Jesus didn’t mince words when he addressed her, “If you want to live, then you need to do everything I say. Now, what’s your name?”

“You just hold on, mister. I don’t know who you are, or what’s going on, but you have no right to threaten me. And you don’t scare me. If you’re going to kill me, then just go ahead and do it now.”

“You don’t understand. I’m on your side. I saved your life, and I’m going to try to keep you alive. Look around you. Do you know where you are?”

Lena looked around her again, and the alien feel of the place made her shiver noticeably. “No, I don’t know where I am,” she admitted.

“You’re in a very bad place, honey. Now what’s your name?”

“My name is Lena.”

“I am glad to meet you, Lena. My name is Jesus Mendoza. I promise I will explain everything to you as soon as we’re safe, but right now we need to get out of here. Do you understand what I’m telling you?”

“Yes, but where am I?”

“I’ll explain when we’re safe. Is everything clear?”


“Okay. Stay behind me, and try to keep up,” Jesus told her. He turned and jogged into the night without any further discussion. Lena took one more look at the sinister surroundings and jogged after him, thankful that she gave up heels in favor of tennis shoes.

Even in the darkness Lena knew that she was far from home. There were streetlights, but they didn’t seem to be halogen, or even electrical. She could see buildings set back off the gravel road, and wicked looking barbed fences surrounded most of them. The windows in the buildings were narrow slits, and the lights that shined through the slits varied from dark red to fluorescent green. It certainly didn’t look like the Baton Rouge she knew. Lena picked up her pace and closed with the Hispanic man in front of her. It looked like a very good place to stand by her man.
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