Black goblins crawled around the abandoned church like ants invading a picnic basket. Christine Jordan, face soaked with tears and clothes drenched in blood, helplessly chained to a wall. The sacrificial knife displayed under a spotlight as Wally, its last know possessor, drowned in a sea of blood. His arms reached up toward the Heavens, begging for the good Lord to rescue him. The church then exploded! Fiery light scorched the dismal plains surrounding it. Burning debris rained like a meteor shower. But something else came flying through the scorched pieces of decayed wood. Drawing closer like an arrow. Getting bigger by the second. No! Oh God! Veronica! Hurling lifeless with the exploding winds. Rotting Burning. Engulfed in flames!
“NOOOOO!!!!” Gina shouted. She sat up from the bed with her arms reached out. Terrified. But her vision was gone. She was back in her hospital room, quaint with its soft white walls and large beige curtains. Morning rays of the desert sun burst through the blinds.
Gina counted backward from ten to calm herself down. Wiping the sweat from her forehead, she then realized it was another horrifying dream. Damage done to her body must’ve been severe based on the number of mechanics surrounding her. But weirdly, except for oversleeping, she felt fine.
Glancing at the mirror on the wall, she noticed miraculous changes: smoother skin, glowing and replenished - slender fingers - defined tones in her arms. She flipped up her gown and saw finely sculpted abdominal muscles. “Am I still dreaming?” she wondered. “How did I get here anyway?”
As Gina pushed her wild red hair behind her ears, she heard a voice say, “Sleeping Beauty awakes.” Who said that? She turned around. Standing behind her was her sister, Alex. “I was getting bored doing all the talking. Are you okay?”
A sobbing Gina spread out her arms to welcome a big hug from her little sister. Joyful teardrops ran down her face. Even though looking like she jumped off a box of Wheaties, her body felt like she slid out a jar of prunes, still too weak to get up on her own.
Alex walked to the bed, smiling from ear-to-ear. She coiled her arms around her big sister and practically squeezed the air out her lungs, missing her immensely. “Allie?” Gina gasped. “My lower back is killing me.” She released her intense bear hug and laid her sister down on the bed.
“How long have you been here?” asked Gina, sniffling her nose and wiping
the corners of her eyes.
“Just arrived here last night,” said Alex, wiping the smudge from her glasses. “I would’ve been here sooner, but my team and I were on the hunt for a terrorist group plotting to blow up Times Square.”
“Did you get ’em?” “Naturally.”
“And they let you bolt over here just like that? Wow! You must have more
stroke than I thought, huh?”
“Are you kidding? I’m supposed to be on vacation now - a stay-cation if you will. I booked it over a month ago, but I chose to stay on this case until we closed it - as a sign of leadership, you know?”
“Must’ve been rough.”
“Nah, I’m used to it. Besides, all I had planned were two glorious weeks of lying in bed, binge-watching several shows and pigging out on pizza. I would’ve been bored out of my skull after the first three days, so I needed something to do.” Both ladies chuckled.
Seeing her sister donning a hospital gown, Alex quickly changed her mood,
letting her emotions bloom. “I got a call from one of your deputies saying you and Ronnie were in ICU, way out of your jurisdiction. I requested air support as soon as we got back to Headquarters and landed here in Colfax a few hours
later. Nurses directed me to this room and I never left your side - except to either get some food or check in on Ronnie.”
“Ronnie! How is she?”
“Not sure, Gi. Dr. Mohammad told me she’s been sedated since you were both brought it. She was just as banged up as you were, but for some strange reason, she hasn’t shown signs of improvement. Nor decline. If not for her breathing, you would think she was dead. However, the doc believed she’ll eventually pull through.”
“Jesus! Why did I drag her into this with me? I should’ve ordered her to stay in the truck and wait for backup or something.”
“Seriously? Do you think she would’ve sat on the sidelines knowing you needed her help? Ain’t happenin’ Gi. Ronnie takes responsibility for her actions. You know that and I know that. And speaking of which, why the hell were you two out here so late at night?”
Gina explained the entire horrifying story. Shocked upon hearing the brutal and gory details, Alex gasped more times than a Sumo wrestler running a marathon. “I swear, only a screenwriter can make this up,” Alex sighed. “This isn’t what policemen do. Are you just cloaked in bad luck?”
“I used to think so,” replied Gina. “Truth be told, I’ve never felt better in my life. Christine Jordan will get to see her family again, thanks to Ronnie and me. For the first time in a long time, justice had been served and I was a part of it.”
“That’s the Gina I used to know. I just got chills.” Gina smiled.
Doctor Mohammad entered the room for a routine check of Gina’s vitals. Alex excused herself and went to check on Veronica next door. She crept open the door, imagining on surprising her friend just as she awoke from her long nap. But alas, no change.
Alex wasn’t sure how to feel: happy Veronica’s condition hasn’t worsened or worried her body had yet recovered. Wait! A blip on the monitor just flashed.
What does it mean? Is that her heart rate? Could it be - oh no! It was leisurely declining. Concern fell on her face as she held Veronica’s hand and whispered, “Hang in there, Ronnie.”
At that moment, her beats returned to normal. It’s like hearing a friendly voice unconsciously gave her spirit a renewed surge to fight on. At least that’s what the agent told herself. Gina’s guilt would worsen after seeing her best friend in such a predicament. Further depression. She couldn’t let that happen. Therefore, She decided to keep Gina away until Veronica is out of sedation and back to normal.
Doctor Mohammad had met Alex in the hallway just as they both exited their respected rooms. He asked how his other patient was doing. Alex just nodded, which told him no change had occurred. “Waiting is always the stressful part,” he said. “It can take hours or maybe even weeks. But trust me when I
say your friend will make it. Ms. Silverblaze is as strong and resourceful as your sister. And look at the remarkable recovery she has made. Be patient Ms. Vasquez. She’ll pull through.”
“I know doctor,” said Alex. “But my sister already feels guilty about dragging her out here in the first place. I informed her earlier about Ronnie’s condition, but if she sees it with her own two eyes then it may deflate the confidence she’s fought so hard to regain.” She exhaled. “Can you do me a favor, doctor? Is it possible to have Ronnie moved for the time being? Say it’s for reasons you can’t disclose, but assure her a speedy recovery. Or lay some kind of ‘doctor talk’ you know?”
“But, why? Your friend needs all the support that she can get right now.”
“I’m aware of that. But Gina has been dying a slow death for years now, based on actions from her past. Seeing Ronnie like this will push her over the edge. I know it’s asking a lot, but you’ll be doing her a great service. And me, too.”
“Understood. I’ll have Ms. Sliverblaze moved within the hour. But first, I
must file the paperwork to discharge Ms. Vasquez.”
“Discharge? My sister can leave?”
“I’m just as surprised as you are Ms. Vasquez. My nurses and I ran every
examination to assure her condition is stable. She’s as fit as a fiddle. Bruises and
scrapes have healed. No broken ribs, like we previously thought. She’ll be ready to leave by this afternoon.”
“Wow, that’s…that’s great! Thank you, doctor!”
Dr. Mohammad excused himself and walked down the hall to his office. As Alex was about to go back into Gina’s room, a nurse from the nurse’s station hollered for her to wait. She trotted down toward her holding an envelope. “I was told to give this to Ms. Vasquez,” the nurse explained.
“What is this?” she suspiciously asked as the nurse handed her the envelope. Alex flipped open the flap and pulled out a wooden crucifix. She has seen this item before, but she can’t remember where? For some strange reason, she felt it came from someone close to her family. “Who was the last person to visit?”
“Umm...I think an elderly man. He didn’t stay very long -” “Did he sign the manifest?”
“I believe so.”
Alex and the nurse hurried to the nurse’s station and scanned the visitor’s sign-in sheet. They checked the night when Gina was admitted. Only two names appeared on the page: Alexandra Vasquez and Matthew Goode. The agent was awestruck. “What in the world!” she thought. “...Can’t be.”
Pastor Matthew Goode, a loving and humble man of God, is an old friend of the Vasquez family. For years he’s been a parental figure and spiritual influence on their mother, Sienna. One night while patrolling the streets of the South Bronx, Sienna got shot after saving a young girl from a rape attempt. He walked by Sienna as she stumbled onto the sidewalk, drenched in blood. Immediately,
he came to her aid. When they got to the hospital, he stayed with her throughout the night, praying for her life to be saved. By morning, Sienna thanked the
pastor and the two have been close ever since. As kids, Gina and Alex saw the pastor in their home sporadically, never without a smile on his face. He offered warmth and security like an angel sitting on their shoulder.
But, how could he have known what was going on? Unless he watched from afar, there’s no way his visit could’ve been so perfectly timed. Alex pondered on how much of a divine influence did the pastor truly have. Racing
back to the room, she burst through the door and hopped on Gina’s bed. In her head, she arranged her thoughts to try and not sound insane. Gina took a sip of water and waited for her sister to speak. Judging from the stress on the agent’s face, she expected it to be related to her encounter with the Spawns of Satan.
“Do you remember Pastor Goode?” asked Alex.
“Of course!” said Gina. “His name was synonymous with Santa Claus while growing up: not there every day but a happy day when he arrived. Why do you ask? Have you talked to him recently?”
“No, but I -”
“I remember right before I left for the academy, I asked him to say a blessing for me. The words that poured from out his mouth were so beautiful that it greatly touched my heart. I thought God had been watching over me ever since. I wish I did a better job of staying in touch with him, especially when I got engaged. Maybe he could’ve warned me of my upcoming hardships.”
“You trust his word that much, huh?”
“Absolutely. Mom told me how he changed her life, giving her unconditional support after Grandpa passed away. The pastor was the reason Mom stuck with law enforcement instead of pursuing nursing. You remember that?” Alex nodded. “I just feel there’s a higher presence when I talk to him. It may sound weird but...when I’m around him it’s like…how can say it…almost
“I’m in kind to believe you.” Alex unfolded the sign-in sheet and passed it to Gina. Seeing Pastor Goode’s name made her think she was dreaming again. Her head turned to Alex who looked as equally astonished.
“Did you tell him you were coming here to see me?” asked Gina. “Nobody knows I’m here.”
“Not even Mom?” Alex shook her head no. “Then why in God’s name
would he show up right after we got…did something happen that you’re not telling me?”
Her sister looked away for a moment. Again, the words escaped her. “Well... how should I put this.” She cleared her throat and sighed. “The night you and Ronnie were brought here, the state of your condition was comatose. Doctor Mohammad and his nurses did what they could to revive you, but eventually... you died. And that’s why I rushed over here.”
Time seemed to stop. Never had she fathomed discussing her death while still alive. “He knew I was going to die?” Gina speculated.
“That can’t be possible,” Alex dismissed. “Divine connections are one thing, but you’re talking precognition. Can you honestly believe the pastor possesses such an implausible gift?”
“I don’t know. After seeing this paper, however, I can’t entirely claim it as a coincidence. I have to know for sure. And the only way for me to do that is to talk to him face-to-face.”
“How do we know if he’s still in the area? If your theory is correct, then he must’ve known you’d eventually awaken. Given his inconspicuous absence, I’d say he wanted to stay stealth. He’s probably back in New York by now.”
“Then that’s where I have to go.” “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that I need to solve this mystery. But making a few phone calls and surfing the web is going to be good enough for me. You finally get your wish. I’m coming home.”