The Balancer of Scales
The next morning when Sam awoke, the first thing she did was try to flex her hand. Despite her effort, the fingers and thumb barely moved.
She went on through her day as if sleepwalking, barely cognizant of her actions between awakening and sitting before Captain Hoskins’s desk.
“I’m sorry about Brewin,” Hoskins began. “I considered him a friend.”
In a flat, even voice Sam asked “Did you know he was CIA?”
“I suspected,” Hoskins answered. “He never talked about his past. I never pressed.”
When Hoskins declined to say more, Sam simply stared at him, waiting. “I also talked to Barnes, the captain said. “This whole thing, you and that Elias guy, a suspect… it’s a mess. You have to understand that. It’s been all I could do to keep Internal Affairs out of it.”
Sam knew what was coming. She wondered vaguely how many punches life was going to throw at her; how many more times she would get knocked down and have to fight her way back up again.
“You’re suspended, Sam.”
And there it was.
“I need you to hand over your badge and gun. We’ll revisit all of this when the time comes. Until then I want you to stay where we can reach you.”
The rest of the day melted by. Sam spent hours sitting on the couch, focusing on the muscles in her hand; visualizing the ability to curl her fingers, to make a fist.
For as long as she could remember, all she had wanted was to be a cop; to be the best cop she could be…
But was that really what she had wanted, or was that what Eclipse had planted in her brain?
Sam tried over and over again to move her fingers. Finally as the day waned, she experienced a slight increase in movement. That night Sam slept on the couch, Mister Perkins curled on her lap.
There was a place, where Ben and Kathy used to take Sam as a little girl; it was a stretch of beach in Semiahmoo Bay. There Sam would turn over large rocks and pick up the little crabs that hid beneath before they scurried away. She would stand and watch the ferries come and go, collect shells and driftwood… they were happy times. Memories that weren’t fake; hadn’t been planted to cover up something else. They were hers and she knew they were hers.
As the rising sun cast its light onto the calm waters, Sam stood at that beach in Semiahmoo Bay, holding her right arm in at her side, palm up, straining to bend her fingers just enough. Her forearm muscles flexed beneath the bandages. Her fingers moved, a fraction of an inch.
So much had happened; so much turmoil that the equilibrium of Sam’s entire life had been thrown into complete chaos. What was needed now, she realized, was to begin balancing the scales.
Focusing all of her effort, Sam concentrated on her hand once more. This time, the fingers moved a fraction further, especially the pointer finger. It moved just enough that, with the assistance of her left hand…
It would be capable of squeezing a trigger.
The sun had almost set when Sam finally found the balding, bug-eyed homeless woman who had approached her at the crash site several days ago— the same who had led Sam and Elias to the meeting of the Hell Hounds where the claw-handed man had spoken.
Sam was wearing clothing to make her appear homeless as well. She had wiped her face with dirt, just as Elias had taught her... a memory that produced a deep ache in her chest.
Her Mustang was parked one street down from the intersection where the old woman stood on the corner panhandling. The realization of who exactly was approaching didn’t occur to the vagrant until it was too late. Sam grabbed the woman and pulled her back from the roadside, through a thicket of scotch broom and on through a small stretch of grass into a bower formed by overlapping branches of ash, cottonwood and elm. Sam pushed the woman to the ground, produced the Desert Eagle from behind her back and leveled it at the woman’s head. It was all she could do to maintain pressure with her hand around the gun’s grip. Her right pointer finger only lightly brushed the trigger. Sam supported her right hand with her left and her left pointer finger joined the right. The two of them together would be capable of doing the job.
“Where is Kronin?” Sam asked.
The vagrant’s large eye strained; her lips quivered as she held up her right hand, palm out in defense. The mark on the homeless woman’s palm infuriated Sam even more and it was all she could do not to fire.
“Tell me or you’re dead,” Sam said.
“No, please. I don’t know where he is—”
Sam took a step forward.
“No!” the woman cried. “Tomorrow night, they gonna gather. He usually comes when they gather.”
“By the railyards. Off o’ the freeway and Carpenter. Yeah. Right there, they gonna gather…”
Sam leaned in, barrel pointed at the woman’s forehead.
“Listen to me very carefully, because your life depends on what you say next.”
The woman whimpered, waiting.
“Do you reject the devil and all his works?” Sam asked.
“Do you reject the devil and all his works?” Sam repeated.
“But I, I p-promised my soul, I—”
Sam put the barrel to the woman’s head. Her bug-eye swiveled up at the gun. The woman mewled and then nodded emphatically.
“Do you swear to leave this city, to go far away from population and to never let your… condition harm anyone else? Do you understand that it’s a choice you can make?”
“I, uh yeah. Yeah okay I swear,” the woman said. “I—”
Suddenly the woman’s face contorted. Her mouth opened wide; her good eye was shut tight even as the larger one darted about rapidly. She landed onto her back as her body arched and a raspy cry escaped her throat. Her skin turned red as she rocked from one side to the other. Her mouth opened wider and Sam could see a bright illumination from inside; a piercing red shaft of light like a beam projected outward several inches. The bulging eye quivered, popped and then collapsed like a small, deflated balloon. An agonized scream erupted from the woman as smoke rose from her skin. A smell of sulfur permeated the air. The shaft of light from her mouth brightened and was joined by another shaft from her ruined eye just before the woman’s entire body burst into flame.
Sam backed away, wide-eyed and unbelieving, watching helplessly as the vagrant woman flailed, screamed and burned.