Natalie exited the church feeling numb. Her quest for revenge had been taken to a whole new level. John Hart and his army were more malicious that she thought. He was a man with a devilish heart. But aligned with real devils?! That’s not something she can just stomach. Fear told her to walk away, but anyone who knew Natalie Mercedes would agree on one point: fear is just a four-letter word. Halfway down the stairs, she looked up at the big cross on the roof and had faith that justice would come from her family. Pastor Goode had such an amicable persona, even if his divine narration sounded a bit out-of-reach. She just needed strength from the Lord to outlast this cat-and-mouse game.
“Are they closed?” she heard someone ask, startling out of her train of thought. She turned around and saw Gina Vasquez standing by the bottom of the stairs with both totes held by her sides. “Sorry if I scared you.”
“Uh, no – not at all,” Natalie answered. “Yes, they’re still open.”
“Thank God. I’ve been rolling these anvils around for hours now. My arms feel like they’re about to fall off.” Gina made her way up the steps while lugging the bags behind her. “Don’t have time to think about the pain when my mind’s been traveling a zillion places at once.”
“Girl, you ain’t gotta tell me. I’m on one of those ‘acid trips’ myself, more than you can imagine.”
“That remains to be seen, but I’ll take your word for it.” She noticed Natalie looked distracted. “Are you alright?
“Yeah, I’m good. It’s just one of those days when you think you have enough strength to stand tall and face diversity head-on, only to have something else come along and pull the rug from underneath your feet. Hurts even more when you have your feet planted firmly on the ground. You start to wonder what you stand for.”
“Been there before. Did Pastor Goode give you bad news?”
“Oh no, not from him. He brought my problems into the light. Such a wise and humble man.”
“That he is. Glad the changing of the times hasn’t changed him. This is what he does. I’m Gina, by the way. Gina Vasquez.” She extended her hand.
“Natalie Mercedes,” she replied. accepting a handshake. “Cool name.”
“Cool piece.” Natalie caught a glimpse of Gina’s badge clipped to her belt. “You’re a cop?”
“Not in this town. I’m a sheriff in New Mexico, but I used to work for the
“Ain’t that a kick in the head? I also worked for the NYPD. Quit about five
“No kidding? That’s the same time I left!” “Are you serious?”
“Yes. I left because...well that’s not important. Wow, it baffles my mind how
we’re meeting like this.”
“Yeah...,” Natalie recalled Pastor Goode’s words about a movement being formed. Was there a message being told that she wasn’t reading? What does this meeting signify? Could this redheaded Latina be an ally in the future? She had
to keep some form of contact just to be sure.
“Silly me, I’m probably holding you up,” Gina said. “I have to see Pastor
Goode before he leaves for the day. I hoped he helped you as much as he’s
helped me over the years.”
“He did,” said Natalie. “My family’s going through a rough period and… I’m sorry. I don’t normally invite strangers into my life but I…I –”
“Feel like you can trust me?” “...Yeah.”
Gina chuckled. “It’s funny because I sense the same thing about you. Maybe it’s fate.”
“Check this out.” Natalie handed Gina her business card. “In case you ever want to get into the private eye game or share old police stories, give me a ring.”
“Good meeting you, Gina.” “Same here, Natalie.”