One Road Rage, Heavy Catch Up
The 1964 Impala ripped through the roadblock like a plastique detonation. Jesus slunk down in the seat and drove like a low rider, while Rosie and Lena ducked as far down on the floorboards as they could manage. The guards at the checkpoint sprayed bullets and arrows through the front, rear and sides of the car. Miraculously no one got hit. The car tore down the gravel road at seventy miles an hour, gaining speed by the second.
Lena poked her head up to check out the action. An arrow protruded from the back of the seat, directly above where her head had been. She broke it off and threw it out the window. She peaked out through the shattered rear windshield, and that was when she discovered the bad news. Three guys on motorcycles were chasing them.
“First three guys in a car chase you while you’re on a motorcycle. Now you’re in a car being chased by three guys on motorcycles. Does this kind of thing happen to you often, Jesus?” Lena asked him cynically.
“This is the first time it ever happened in one night,” Jesus paused, “As far as I can remember. No, wait, there was one time in Houston, but that involved horses too. I’ll have to think about it.”
“Don’t bother. I was kidding,” Lena explained.
Rosie didn’t budge from where she was curled up below the front dashboard. She prayed the Lord’s prayer over and over. Every now and then she spoke the words loud enough to hear, even though she tried to keep it quiet. Lena didn’t hear her, but Jesus did. He didn’t blame Rosie at all. He figured that if prayer could help her, then more power to her.
At the next intersection Jesus slammed the Impala into a ninety-degree left turn at fifty miles an hour, throwing dust and gravel twenty feet in the air. A hundred yards later he jerked the steering wheel back the other way. They were aimed west, directly at the river three miles away. The motorcycles gained ground in the turns, but not enough to bring the car in range. All Jesus had to do was keep them alive down a three mile straightaway.
The motorcycles caught up with them a quarter mile down the road. Bullets lodged in the driver’s side door, and in the seat behind Jesus. The riders had noticed a lack of return fire, and they pegged Jesus for a sitting duck. Jesus had other plans.
“Take the wheel, Lena! Hold it straight!” he shouted at the girl in the back seat. He had already determined that Rosie was not in a good place, and wouldn’t be any help. Lena climbed over the front seat and took the wheel.
The bikers kept pace behind the car, and on both sides. They knew better than to pull up even, because the car itself was a lethal weapon. They emptied round after round into the car, but Jesus stomped on the gas. The old Impala gained momentum. Holes sprouted in the quarter panels, well to the rear of their targets.
Jesus leaned out of the window with the M16. He fired short, controlled bursts at the two motorcycles on the driver’s side. One of the riders swerved around to the passenger side, but Jesus nailed the other rider. The rider fell back out of the seat, and the handlebars of the motorcycle jerked sideways. The bike flipped end over end in the air, and exploded into a fireball when it came down. Jesus slapped another clip into the rifle.
The Colombian pulled himself back into the car, and yelled, “Get down, Lena!” Lena shoved herself down upon Rosie as Jesus slammed on the breaks and cut the wheel hard, spinning the car sideways. If the car hadn’t been so wide and low to the ground, then it would have flipped over. As the Impala spun out, the bikers behind the car on the passenger side came into view through the front and rear windows. Jesus opened up with the M16, and emptied a full thirty round clip at them.
The biker closest to the side of the road swerved to avoid the gunfire. He hit something in the grass, and the bike lay down on its side, dragging the rider down the road with it. Jesus wasn’t sure if the rider was shot or not, but it was obvious the man wasn’t getting up. The other biker took several rounds in his chest, but somehow he managed to stop the bike without wrecking. He must have died as the bike came to a halt, because he and the motorcycle fell over slowly. It was a bizarre way for a car chase to end.
“That was intense,” Lena told Jesus breathlessly. Her heart pounded in her ears. The night continued to get more exciting. She extricated herself from Rosie.
“You kneed me in the kidneys. I already hurt all over. Could you be a little more careful the next time?” Rosie whined.
“I’m sorry, Rosie. They were shooting at us. I didn’t have time to plan how I got out of the way,” Lena told her patronizingly.
“You’re so mean, Lena. Do you hate all women, or just me?”
Jesus backed the car until it faced west again, and then he gunned the engine. He was tired, and he had enough hostility to deal with from the entire world. He didn’t need an extra fight going on right next to him.
“If you ladies don’t treat each other with civility, then I’m going to put both of you out of the car right here,” he said firmly. The girls could tell he was serious. They rode quietly for a while.
Jesus changed the subject. “That must have been a main checkpoint into evil territory. They only keep motorized vehicles at major checkpoints. I am sure they weren’t considering the consequences of their actions when they followed us. The motorcycles were worth more than catching a few gatecrashers. The stupidity of evil never ceases to amaze me.”
“I think a lot of the bad guys get off on killing. They have no other purpose or goal for their life than kill or be killed, so they get obsessive about it. They couldn’t care less about their motorcycles, because that would interfere with their obsession,” Rosie hypothesized as she looked out the window at the passing scenery.
“How would you know?” Lena asked sharply. Lena meant the question to be nasty and rhetorical, but Rosie didn’t take it that way.
“I spent weeks at the mercy of the same kind of people, or did you forget? They kept me in a cage in the men’s barracks. My own thoughts were my only entertainment, when I wasn’t being abused. I contemplated my captors a lot. Evil makes people somewhat two-dimensional. I think it may be external, perhaps a part of damnation,” Rosie postulated at length.
Lena felt embarrassed that she put Rosie on the spot, and perceived that her own feelings of inferiority fueled her attacks on the girl. Rosie was beautiful, and evidently very intelligent. Lena hated those qualities in women around her, because that narrowed her chances of getting a good man. She decided to take it easy on Rosie, however. The girl had been through a lot.
“That sounds awfully accurate, Rosie. The bad guys never stop attacking once they get started. Maybe that really does come from something external,” Jesus reflected.
The sun began to rise in the east, and the gray shades of dawn spread out over the strife torn lands. Closer to the river a thin fog captured the growing illumination and formed ethereal shapes that drifted aimlessly. The gravel road took several unexplainable twists when it reached the downtown area. Jesus slowed the car at that point, relatively certain there would be no more trouble.
The track wound up the slight ridge that ran straight through the city. Residents of the city knew that the ridge was actually the natural levee, formed by the river instead of a geological upheaval. From the top the occupants of the Impala could see the fortress known as the Pentacle. Jesus stopped the car, and they drank in the sight of it for a few seconds. It was pleasant to see a place where people would help them, rather than try to kill them.
“I hope I can get some news about the guy I’m looking for,” sighed Jesus.
“There’s only one way to find out. Personally, I’m in need of a hot bath more than anything else in the world. Those savages never allowed me to clean myself. I actually began to look forward to being tortured to death. It had to be better than living like that,” Rosie shuddered.
“Yeah, I didn’t want to say anything, but you don’t smell good. I can’t wait to get out of the car,” Lena said, but not out of cruelty. The statement was merely true.
Jesus nosed the car down the long gentle slope to the fortress. Long-range sentries warned the forces inside the Pentacle about the car’s presence long before it could get within weapons range.
Two women armed with state of the art compound bows rode out on horses to meet them. The horses were magnificent and so was one of the women. The other woman could very well have been born to warthogs. Jesus tried not to stare at the ugly one. He instead directed all his attention to the pretty one.
“State your business in the Pentacle,” the less sightly of the two women demanded.
Jesus was forced to look at her to respond. She had warts. One of her eyes was ice blue, and the other looked black. Most of her teeth were missing, and a long scar ran from her forehead through one eyebrow and down to her chin. Jesus swallowed hard.
“I’m here to seek information on a man named Louis Comeaux. These two women are in my care. One of them is a newcomer, and we rescued the other from certain death no more than an hour ago.”
The two women on horses glanced at each other with knowing looks. The pretty one turned in the saddle and waved her bow high in the air. A group of four armed men rode out from the fortress toward them. Jesus controlled his impatience. The women were just doing what they were required to do.
The woman with the scar said, “We don’t trust newcomers and escapees. Both of them have been cozy with evil, very recently.”
“The newcomer came here as a result of my actions. She knows nothing about evil, and is here through no fault of her own. As for the ‘escapee,’ as you called her, I can assure you that any affection she may have once held for evil has been stripped from her,” Jesus argued reasonably.
The pretty (by somebody's standards) woman demanded, “Why did you ask about the man named Louis?”
One of the men rode close to her and whispered in her ear. She nodded her head and turned her attention back to the car. “Are you Jesus Mendoza?” she inquired.
“Yes, I am,” the assassin said with trepidation. He recalled many times when giving out his name resulted in an immediate firefight. He fingered the M16 apprehensively.
“You should have said so. Drive on up to the stockade. By the way, that’s a nice car, stud. Maybe you could take me for a ride in it later,” the scarred woman winked at the assassin. She was only poking fun, but Jesus felt vulnerable and exposed. He shuddered as he pulled the car forward.
The mounted soldiers parted their horses for the Impala. The people of the fortress had a few motorcycles, cars and trucks stored in a large barn inside the walls. They preferred to use horses because the animals were beautiful and full of life, qualities that were very antithetical to the nature of evil. The animals gave their riders inspiration.
Jesus knew how much those horses meant to their owners. Mounted cavalry would fight all the legions of hell for their steeds. Some of the horses were magically enhanced to communicate with quasi empathy, and horse owners were very clannish. Jesus didn’t know much about that, though. He was just a simple assassin on a quest to kill all evil.
“What are you thinking about, Jesus?” Lena asked him, and she looked right into his eyes. She saw myriad shades of gray and green inside them, and she thought the sunlight made them very beautiful.
“Just something I read a long time ago,” Jesus looked away as he spoke.
Jesus felt that he could not afford to become attached to anyone. He stopped the car and got out, and closed the door behind him. Lena quietly cursed the man. She huffed noisily and climbed out the passenger side after Rosie.
A very tall man of great size strode purposefully through the gate in the stockade and stopped in front of the car. “You are Jesus?” he directed at the assassin.
“My name is Michael Flannery. I’m Louis Comeaux’s priest. I prayed for your arrival most of the night. Louis wants to leave within the hour,” Michael spilled out all at once.
“I’m afraid that’s out of the question,” Jesus responded.
Lena interrupted, “My name is Lena. I’m tired, I’m dirty and I’m not happy to be here. This here is Rosie, and you can see her condition. Now where can we get cleaned up and bed down? I am assuming that the forces of goodness do have baths and beds. Am I right?”
“That is, uh, Louis said… Cara!” Michael finally yelled for help. He didn’t know that the acolyte had come up right behind him.
“Yes, Michael?” Cara answered him in a quiet voice. Michael jumped visibly in surprise.
“Can you see that our female visitors are taken care of?”
“I was about to do so before you yelled,” Cara told him. Her voice conveyed no emotion of any kind. She was always like that. She gestured broadly with her right hand, and the girls tromped in the indicated direction. Cara fell in behind them, and they all disappeared into the Pentacle.
“What about me?” Jesus asked.
“Perhaps you should speak to Louis. He intends to depart for Asmodeus’ palace this morning,” Michael told him.
“Asmodeus?” Jesus blurted out the question. He really didn’t want to know the answer to that question, but it was too late.
“Follow me. We have much to discuss.”
The two men talked as they walked across the front lawn of the fortress. Jesus appeared not to notice the intricately carved frescoes and ornate tiling of the Pentacle’s interior. They ascended the black marble staircase that spiraled up to the other floors, and neither one of them showed the least appreciation for the classical statues set in small alcoves every few feet. They were both too engrossed in the business at hand. When they reached the fifth floor, where Louis’ quarters had been relocated, Michael finished the condensed report and pointed to a wooden door down the hall.
“He’s in there,” Michael told Jesus. Michael sat down on the stairs to wait. He refused to get involved. Michael knew that Louis mood had grown dark since the dream in the middle of the night. The priest already tried to change the young man’s mind. Michael thought it was best to get out of the way and let someone else have a try.
Jesus walked to the door and knocked, and on the other side Louis said that it was open. Jesus straightened his back and entered resolutely. The young man stood over the bed filling a small backpack of earthly manufacture. Louis struck Jesus as childlike in appearance. Jesus shook his head, because Louis’ actions were childlike as well.
“Louis, I’m Jesus. I’m your bodyguard.”
“That’s great. Time’s a wastin’. Are you ready to go, Jesus?”
“You’re not going anywhere, at least not right now. I suggest you make yourself comfortable, because you’re going to be here awhile,” Jesus informed him.
“Oh, is that right? Who’s going to stop me? You?”
“Absolutely. My job is to keep you alive, and that means preventing you from doing anything stupid. I understand that you are shocked by this experience, and that you want to go home. Trust me, though, Louis, getting killed is not the solution.”
“Haven’t you heard? I’m pure magic. I don’t think I’m even human. Nice, right? First I get sent to this world o’ shit, and then I lose my humanity. I gotta tell you, I’m feeling more and more like a victim than a perpetrator. A little petty theft and some drug use is peanuts compared to what has been done to me. I’m ending this game,” Louis carried on bitterly, “and then I’m going home.”
“Louis, I want to go home just as bad as you do. I’ve lived here over two thousand years. I get sent to Earth to kill people, but I can’t rest until I’m back here. You have no idea what it’s like to go home and be unable to stay there. My life, my soul and my ticket home all depend on getting you out of here alive. I’m going to get you home, Louis, because that’s how I’m going to get home. But not today. First we make plans.”
“Didn’t you hear anything I said? I don’t need you. I’m pure magic. Now I suggest you get out of my way, before you get hurt,” Louis threatened.
“I’ll make a deal with you, Louis. I will follow you without question, no matter the danger, but you have to do something for me first. Prove it. Show me the magic. If you can do anything magical, anything at all, then we will leave for New Orleans right this minute. I’ll give you sixty seconds,” Jesus checked his Rolex, “starting now. Go.”
Jesus crossed his arms and stared at Louis. Louis looked away, and then fumbled with some of his clothes. He finally looked Jesus in the eyes, and tears welled up in the young man’s. He sat down heavily on the bed and covered his face, ashamed of his own emotions.
The assassin wanted to know more about Louis, for business purposes only. Jesus initiated his powers of telepathy to delve into Louis’ mind. It was the same ability he used on Lena while she was unconscious in the street. It was harmless, and it only took a second. He reached out with his psyche. He found Louis’ consciousness, but something struck at Jesus’ probe with fantastic force. Jesus staggered back into the hallway a couple of feet, and almost collapsed. Louis showed no sign that anything happened.
Jesus regained his composure, but he developed a splitting headache. He glance over his shoulder at the priest, and saw Michael gazing at him with concern. Jesus had just gained firsthand proof of Louis’ magical alter ego, and within the sixty seconds allotted. Jesus kept the information to himself.
One of the most important things Jesus learned in two thousand years on Discordia was the importance of planning. Failure to plan constituted suicide in a place like South Louisiana. Dangerous people inhabited every corner of the cities. Jesus knew that it wouldn’t matter if Louis’ could split the atom with his bare hands, their success depended on their intelligence.
Louis’ wiped his face and looked out the window. The sun was slightly more orange than he remembered, but somehow it was still a beautiful day. He crossed over to the window and studied the landscape in the distance. A strange idea entered into his head. For a second he wanted to save Discordia. He knew that it was crazy, so he put it out of his mind.
“I’m sorry, Jesus. I’m not normally the sensitive type. I thought I ran out of tears a long time ago, but I was wrong. You’re right. We need to take our time and think things through,” Louis almost whispered.
“I know we don’t know each other, Louis, but you will find out that I am one of the good guys. I’m not superior to you as a human being. I am one of the best assassins of all time, but my trade almost led to my damnation. I have teetered on the brink of hell for two thousand years. I see that as two thousand years of atonement for losing my humanity. If anything, your tears define you as the kind of person I wish I was,” Jesus revealed compassionately. It was a side of himself he rarely had occasion to call upon.
“When you asked me to perform an act of magic, I couldn’t do anything at all. I guess I look pretty foolish. Maybe what I dreamed last night really was a coincidence.”
“No, Louis, it was no coincidence. There’s something incredibly powerful inside you. I found that out for myself a minute ago. You need to learn how to control that power, and you don’t have much time. Every bad guy, every sadist, every devil worshipper and every two-bit shyster on this planet wants you dead, and I can’t take them all out.”
“Then what the hell do we do, Jesus?” Louis wanted an easy answer.
“Play it by ear. Right now I need you to promise that you won’t leave for New Orleans while I take a nap. Uncle Jesus is tired. Maybe something will come to me in a dream,” Jesus suggested inanely. He really didn’t have any plan beyond getting some sleep.
“I promise I won’t split while you’re asleep. Something’s bothering me, though. If every bad guy on the planet wants me dead, then why don’t they attack this fortress?”
“Louis, I could kill you for asking that out loud.”
The statement darkened Louis’ mood even further, but Jesus didn’t notice. The assassin hadn’t slept in four days. His mission with Louis surpassed every other assignment of his life in danger, complexity and importance. He desperately needed rest, because the point when every second counted could not be far away. He exited Louis’ room with a slight nod, which Louis solemnly returned.
Jesus conferred with Michael briefly. He extracted a promise to look after Louis. He asked about a place to sleep, and found that for some reason nobody prepared a room for him in advance. Jesus asked for the location of Michael’s room, and then descended two floors to make use of the priest’s bed. Jesus fell into the bed fully clothed, and drifted instantly into a fitful sleep.
[Taking a cue from Metalocalypse it's necessary at this point to say that any mistakes in this serial novel have been left in because they make the work more "brutal." That's not the truth, though. The truth is that I am a fantastic editor unless I'm editing something I wrote. In that case I am somehow temporarily blind, and bad at it to boot.]