A half hour later Sam sat in a rented hotel room, every light on, back pressed against the headboard, knees to her chest. She had come here as quickly as she could, wanting and needing to be near people and the sounds of civilization.
She thought about what she had learned—It wasn’t so long ago that Uncle Brewin, in his delirium, had told “Craig” he would meet him at “Sutter.” Sam now knew that Sutter Cane Memorial was where she had been taken after her parents’ accident; that it was the place she continued to have nightmares about… and Uncle Brewin, whom she had thought was just a “family friend,” had been there. The same Uncle Brewin who had a mile-wide gap in his personal history.
And Paula, who had been Brewin’s nurse, had apparently been using that position to keep an eye on Sam, under the orders of Kronin. Why? Why was Kronin so obsessed with her? How was Brewin involved? What had he been hiding from her all these years?
Finally she decided her brain needed a break. Not only that, she wanted to hear Elias’s voice. She called and told him, in detail, of her encounter.
“I should have been there,” he said. “I should have been with you.”
“It’s okay,” Sam replied. “I needed to do this.”
Elias then told Sam that the police came earlier in the day; that they had a search warrant.
“Detective Barnes had done some digging,” he said. “Found out that I was arrested a year ago for driving with a suspended license. I’d had a rifle in the trunk, same as the kind that was used at the Rest-In. It was enough to get the warrant.”
“So what happened?”
“Nothing. They searched the garage and apartment but didn’t find anything. Barnes did make it clear that I’m a suspect, and he told me not to leave town.”
At least the search hadn’t turned up anything. Sam was relieved. “Don’t do anything else until I get back, okay? And I want you to think about what Paula told me, about choice.”
“She could have very easily lied to you,” Elias said. It was possible, of course, but Sam didn’t think she had lied. At the very least Sam felt that Paula believed what she said. Of course, Paula had also said angels and demons would hate humans for having freedom. That didn’t make a whole lot of sense… there were certainly plenty of humans, living under corrupt dictatorships, who had no freedom to speak of. Elias said “Thomas Aquinas believed that angels could practice free will more perfectly than humans.”
“I don’t know,” Sam admitted. “All I’m saying is, we should be sure, before we kill them, we need to be sure that they’re either trying to kill us first, or they really have given in to… whatever. Satan, the beast inside them… and that there’s no hope of redeeming them. And with Barnes suspicious of you… just don’t do anything for a while.”
“Alright I’m gonna go. See you in a day and a half,” Sam said.
“Yeah. And hey… I’m glad you’re okay,” Elias said.
“Me too,” Sam said and ended the call. She put her phone on the nightstand, left the lights on, turned over and waited for a sleep that would not come.
Nearly a week had passed when Sam finally returned from her trip.
She had called Kathy but completely avoided talking about what really happened, only saying that she was now sure Sutter Cane Memorial was the hospital from her past. She had promised to visit; then she had gone home to check on Mister Perkins, who was doing well with a half bowl of food and fresh water. Elias had done a bang-up job.
Sam had found herself wanting to see him. She had thought of him constantly throughout her return drive and was looking forward to spending more time with him; to kissing him and talking to him and… and other things too.
The biggest problem she could foresee was the same as before: he was a devout Christian, and she was still a non-believer. Despite their differences though, Sam could not deny her emotions and the strength of the attachment… the magnetism that seemed to draw them together.
When she arrived at the garage the sun had descended but the sky was still cast in a shiny gun-metal gray. Elias had just finished for the day. His medical boot was off and he had only the slightest limp. She was pleased when his eyes lit up at the sight of her; a wide grin softened his rugged features as he embraced and then kissed her.
A moment later they were up in his apartment. Sam stood admiring the large grandfather clock against the inner wall. Elias had removed his shirt to wash up and the two of them were continuing their conversation regarding the Infernum Cane and whether or not they were all, in fact, minions of the devil. From the bathroom, Elias told Sam that he had been thinking about what she had said.
“If one of the Infernum Cane was to renounce Satan and all his works, and would pledge to live a life of solitude where no harm could be done to others… then yes I would let them live,” he concluded.
Elias exited the bathroom and approached Sam. It made her happy that he had taken her feelings into account. More and more she found herself fascinated by this man. He seemed in so many ways, a paradox, she thought as he stood in front of her, looking down intently. She lifted her right hand and ran her palm down his chest. There had been something in particular she had considered on the drive from Montana, and she brought it up to him now:
“So you believe that God created the world and then basically disappeared; and yet… you also believe in fate. A preordained destiny. Those two ideas seem at odds.”
Her hand settled in the middle of his chest, palm resting there and she could feel the rhythmic beating of his heart.
“Think of a clock” Elias said. “Though its creator is absent, every piece is in its place, functioning according to its design, as it was meant to be…”
“There IS a design for the world,” he continued. “There is a plan for each of us. I don’t know your part in all this yet. I don’t know God’s plan but I have faith in its existence.”
“I don’t—” Sam started to say.
“I know you don’t believe in him. But it’s okay…”
Just then Sam saw a red dot directly in the middle of the back of her hand. She frowned…
“I believe enough for both of us,” Elias finished…
As the sound of an object punching through glass reached Sam’s ears. The bullet tore straight through her hand and into Elias’s chest. Eyes wide, he fell away, onto his back.
Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. Sam turned to see a web-ringed hole in the window that looked out onto the lumber yard across the street. Standing there atop a massive stack of wooden beams was a hooded silhouette holding a rifle in one hand.
He turned and jumped off the stack of wood. Sam returned her attention to Elias and she knelt down, mindless of her bleeding hand, feeling with her left for a pulse. There was none. Elias’ empty eyes stared up at the ceiling but the life that had dwelled in them was no more.
Sobbing uncontrollably she scooted around and sat, lifting and cradling his head in her left arm. Numbly, she looked at all of the surrounding clocks. Each and every one of them read the exact same time…