Greyson stood, alone again, his cold, wet toes arched over the curb, a block from his 54th street apartment. A cool misty rain filled the air and melted the remnant snow around him. Greyson had expected to escort his sister’s mysterious friend, Jai, to his apartment as Cael had indicated. Instead, a stretch limo pulled up right next to them as they emerged from the parking garage and Ruben quickly whisked Jai into the back seat.
“Why are you changing the plans again?” Greyson asked, growing frustrated with the unknown.
Ruben answered simply and abruptly as he slammed the door closed.
He stood in the damp air, underdressed and still moderately hung over from the previous day. The entire 24-hour period since the incident with Cael had passed like a hallucination. He wondered if he should just return to his bed with a glass of wine, roll a joint to relax and forget all that had occurred dating back to before the evening out at Fever with Hakim and Cidalia.
As he trudged through the slush, up the street toward his apartment and reached for the metal railing, the ear-shattering screech of car breaks echoed down the chasm between the high-rise buildings. Six, maybe a dozen, thunderous gunshots followed in rapid succession. They boomed off the side of the buildings along 54th street and vibrated through his body into the bones of his toes tucked neatly into his shoes.
Greyson spun around to see a chaotic scene in the middle of the intersection. The limo that had just sped down the street, kicking up muddy slush in its wake, sat diagonally across both lanes of 7th Ave with the windows shot out. People screamed and scattered away from the scene.
Unconsciously, Greyson ran toward the melee. He used his hands to cut through the flow of bodies all scrambling away, back toward 6th Ave. He strained to see over the crowd. Sirens blared in the distance, rapidly escalating in volume as New York Police officers responded to the flurry of 911 calls they received.
Greyson reached the scene first. The driver of the car slumped immobile over the wheel. The back door of the car had swung open and Ruben lay on the ground. Blood stained the sleeve of his shirt and his eyes rolled back. He looked up at Greyson and tried to speak but had no voice.
A bizarre calm set in as the crowd quickly vacated the intersection. Greyson noticed another body and assumed it to be Jai. But upon looking more closely, he realized the person, laying face down in the street, gushing blood into a fast-growing puddle, had different clothes. He wore a red and white turban and had a thick dark, scrubby beard. His outstretched arm had let go of his weapon which also lay just outside of his reach. Greyson looked twice before realizing that the person’s right hand was missing the last finger. It lay there against the black pavement like it had been cut off in an accident, sewn up and then partially healed over.
He heard a gurgling sound behind him and bent down next to Ruben. His firearm dangled from his hand and fell to the ground by the wheel of the car. The approaching sirens filled his head as they reached the next block over.
Ruben looked up at him with what seemed like his last bit of energy and exhaled one of his final gasps of air.
“Precious,” he uttered in a deathly horse whisper. “… Cargo …”
He punctuated his last word in a throaty yelp that scared Greyson to his core.
At that he slumped down onto the cold wet slab and wheezed painfully. Greyson froze until he saw the first glimpses of blue and red police lights from around the corner of 54th street fighting through the gridlocked traffic. He dashed off like a frightened gazelle back toward his apartment and reintegrated into the dazed and confused crowd just as the first responders arrived at the scene.
“I need to tell Cael about this,” he thought to himself as he closed the big door to his apartment building behind himself and shut out the cold wet world. “But how will I get in touch with him?”
He paced back and forth across his apartment. The sirens continued to penetrate his windows and haunted him with their loud whine. He thought about calling 911 and reporting all that had happened. He considered reaching out to Winger. He struggled to crystallize any rational thoughts. In his panic, he failed to consider contacting his sister, who would most likely have some insight into what was going on.
Instead, he threw open the cabinet below the sink and grew flush with anger at the realization that he had consumed all of the alcohol in the apartment during the previous day. He wanted to venture back out in seek of something to drink, but the blue and red alternating flashes, which bounced about his apartment reminded him of the danger just down the block.
He flopped on his couch and stared at the blank TV screen. Both his brother’s and sister’s cams showed complete inactivity. He still didn’t think to contact Melanie. Instead, he stared at the ceiling and listened to his heart pound.
“The whole world has gone to hell,” he thought. “There is no God.”
Henry Lucas sat in the front row of the jet plane to Minnesota. He watched Olivia in the window seat next to him, oblivious to her surroundings and quietly playing with her stuffed animal. The doors had just closed, and the Flight Attendants walked up and back counting heads. Out the window, past Olivia’s pig tails, he thought about the strange mix of people he had just met in the hangar across the parking lot; the mysterious man in the long white overcoat, the military man with the burly Airport supervisor and the former child actor.
He thought back to the altercation that had just occurred. The Marine and Ruben, upon hearing Olivia’s hiccup, had whirled around with menacing expressions of shock. The Marine shot a quick glance to Ruben as if to reprimand him for failing to secure the perimeter and they both instinctively moved with purpose toward him, closing the 50 yards with surprising speed.
Henry recalled considerable shouting which scared Olivia.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Their angry voices echoed across the top of the metal shell above their heads. As they quickly approached Henry, they placed their hands across their waists as if reaching for their concealed weapons.
From several dozen yards back, closer to the plane, Greyson Holiday’s voice called out meekly.
“Hey, whoa. Everyone relax.”
Henry recalled catching the Marine’s eyes. He could tell that the Marine would have pulled out a gun and shoved it in his face had it not been for Olivia who had darted behind him. Her second cute little hiccup floated through Henry’s legs and broke the tension.
The two men stopped their motion toward Henry and more calmly asked him to identify himself.
Before Henry had a chance to speak, Greyson called out across the way, finally gathering enough gumption to exhibit his New York attitude.
“What the Fuck is going on here?” He yelled, loud enough to temporarily silence all other noise in the hangar. “Who are you guys?”
Ruben turned back toward Greyson and the Marine kept his eye on Henry with his right hand over his hip.
Before anyone could offer an explanation or gain full control of the scene, Olivia broke out and started bawling. Henry turned to comfort her. The Marine stepped forward. Greyson stared out with his arms extended and an incredulous look on his face.
Nobody took notice of the other individual, the man who had identified himself as “Jai”. During the altercation, Jai had slowly walked across the cement floor and made his way toward Olivia.
“It’s Ok,” he whispered to the Marine with a light pat on the shoulder as he passed his frozen position and came to a distance close enough to reach out and touch Henry.
He lowered himself to a knee and spoke to Olivia. Henry’s protection instinct thawed and he felt a strange sensation of comfort in Jai’s presence.
Olivia’s crying muffled and morphed to a whimper before trailing off. She stepped out from behind her father and slowly moved her mouth to formulate a smile.
For an instant, nobody spoke. Jai and Olivia locked eyes. Henry stood frozen as if time had stopped. The other people ceased to exist.
“Are you God?” she asked.
“Do I look like God?” he replied with a smile as if he had been touched by her inquiry.
“He’s a lot older than you. And he has white hair and a beard,”
At that Jai laughed. Henry relaxed. The Marine moved his hand from his belt.
“There is no danger here,” Jai said over his shoulder to the Marine before standing up to meet Henry’s eye. “Your daughter is a precious young child. You are blessed.”
Henry observed Jai’s face. It looked completely different up close than it had from the longer distance. He had clearer, paler skin than he thought - and rich blue eyes. His smile disarmed and his handshake conformed like a molded glove.
“I’m sorry to intrude,” Henry addressed the crowd in front of him. “My daughter here left her stuffed animal in Mr. Holliday’s bag and I just hoped to get it back for her.”
Olivia’s eyes had not moved from Jai’s face.
“You can’t be God,” she continued. “You’re too young. You must be Jesus.”
The Flight attendant took the in-cabin microphone and announced the airplane’s safety protocol as the engines revved. Henry’s recollection scattered in his mind as the commotion in the plane distracted the memory. The Town Car had sped off several minutes earlier, but he could not help thinking about the exchange between Jai and Olivia.
“Child,” he had answered, “I am what people believe me to be. I am God’s voice and God’s body. I hope to help people find God in themselves. Do you think you have a little piece of God in you?”
“Yup,” she answered, pointing at her chest with her finger. “I got a tiiiiiiny little piece, right here in my heart.”
Henry glanced over at Olivia as she tucked Muffy under the fleece blanket between the seats. He watched her pretend to read the in-flight magazine and whisper to herself, lost in some imaginary reverie. The feeling dawned slowly. He noticed not so much by the sound, but by the lack of sound. The thought formed in his subconscious but took several additional minutes to comprehend.
“Olivia?” he whispered as the craft jolted to a slow forward roll. “What happened to your hiccups?”
Even before her answer, the instinct to get off the plane welled in him and he reached for the button to hail the Attendant.
“I have to get off this plane and find that Town Car,” he thought as he registered Olivia’s casual pronouncement about her hiccups.
“Oh,” she casually chirped. “They’re gone now.