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Chapter 14: Whose God is She?

In the cold light of day The Belladonna truly showed her age. She had been built in the forties and in her prime had been the most handsome building in the area; the place to be and have a good time. Now, time had dulled her once white paint and subsidence scarred her once flawless face. Even the neon sign that screamed out her name had lost its life and looking up at her now, Cayne felt empathy for her.

She had woken that morning with a numb head and soon realised she’d lost a day, with no memory of what had happened. Then she felt the pain in her hands and noticed the bruises, which just added to her questions. What in hell had she done? She soon received the answers as she stepped from her bedroom and saw the sleeping figures of Michael and Daniel. There on Daniel’s face was something she hadn't wanted to see. Bruises matching her own. Shame filled her realising she must have attacked him and unable to face them both when they woke, she fled.

Cayne stepped into the darkness of the club. The smell of stale alcohol was still strong in the air and with it came a sense of comfort of what had been before the priests.

‘Cayne, honey, how are you?’

She smiled at the sound of a friendly voice. Her boss, Alex, had always been good friend and as he swept her up in a bear hug, she fought the urge to cry. He was Vince’s cousin and ran the bar, refusing to get involved in anything else that Vince did. He was such a good man. For a man in his mid-forties, he was incredibly handsome that sometimes it was hard to believe that the same blood ran through both his and Vince’s veins. His big arms squeezed her tight as he whispered condolences about Mary into her hair. This time she could not hold on and soon she was shuddering with tears. He half carried, half walked her to one of the booths before hurrying to get her a glass filled with water.

‘She was desperate for money,’ she sobbed, ‘there was no need for her to die.’

‘I know honey, and believe me I am not condoning anything, but she knew better than to do what she did. What did you tell the police?’

Cayne gulped down the water and nearly coughed realising it was neat vodka.

‘I pleaded ignorance,’ she answered.

Alex got to his feet and dug into his pockets pulling out his wallet. From it, he pulled out a wad of notes and handed them to her. For a moment she looked at them blankly before looking up at him. She was unsure whether this was him buying her silence and didn’t know whether to be insulted. Sensing something, he took a seat beside her and placed them in her hands.

‘You’re due a holiday and I'm insisting that you take what is owed. It's holiday pay.’

‘I can’t...’ she stammered

‘I’m your boss, Cayne, and I’m insisting. Look, either take the holiday or I'll fire your arse. Either way I want you to stay away from this place for at least a month. Get yourself together and, please, stay away from Vince. Then come back and be the best barmaid that I've ever had. Deal?’

‘You’d fire me?’ she sobbed.

‘Anything to get you to take a break,’ he smiled.

Cayne threw her arms round him once more starting to cry. He was so good to her and unlike others never expected anything in return. After a moment, he pulled away and could see he was satisfied she was going to do what was asked. She picked up the wad of notes and shoved them in her pocket.

‘I don’t deserve any of this,’ she said getting to her feet.

‘Yeah, well, just make sure you save a place in heaven for me when the time comes.’ Cayne felt her body stiffen as icy chills ran down her back. ‘You okay?’ Alex asked.

Cayne grabbed her coat and muttered she was fine before running out of the club. All she wanted was to get away, get back to her flat and close the world away.

Daniel hurried to keep up with Michael as he followed him back towards Ben’s shop. He had been eager to leave Cayne’s and was relieved to find that she had already left by the time they woke. In his dreams, it had been she and he in a passionate embrace and gone much further than with Michael. So much so that when he awoke it had taken him a moment before he could move. Catching a taxi, he’d gone back to the hotel in order to gain some perspective and feel normal, but it wasn’t working. As he showered, he had been eager to clean the dream away from his mind, but there was a part of him that still clung on to it. It was as though being near her was affecting his ability to function like the man he was. His senses were all blurred and in a mess. He could no longer think straight any more.

A sharp pain in his shoulder woke him from his daydream and he heard a mumbled apology coming from a mammoth of a man, who seemed eager to keep his face hidden behind a scarf. Daniel responded that it was not a problem, but the man had already disappeared. Rubbing his shoulder, he followed Michael into the shop where Ben was sat at the counter with his head lowered over a paper.

‘Why is it, Michael that you seem to lack the understanding of the phrase “leave me alone”?’

‘It’s important Ben, we really do need your help,’ Michael replied, his tone almost humble.

Ben lifted his eyes from the paper and frowned at them both as they stood in the shadows,

‘Tell me you sent her to Rome and I may consider talking to you.’

Daniel and Michael stepped forward so the light from the window shone on their faces. Ben banged his stick hard on the counter, startling them both at the sudden noise and movement.

‘For Christ’s sake, why don’t you ever listen, Michael?’ He snapped. ‘The girl is dangerous and far too much for you or even that boy to handle.’

Daniel felt his temper rise. How dare this old man judge him when he knew nothing about him and how capable he was.

‘With all due respect...’ he started, but Michael stopped him and went to the counter where Ben was still sat.

‘Why don’t you start by telling us what exactly he’s not experienced enough to deal with? Come on Ben, you need to give us something to work with and all you’re doing is giving us cryptic nonsense.’

Ben pushed himself from the chair and grabbing his stick began to shuffle towards them.

‘First, tell me how you came about those,’ he said pointing the stick at them both.

‘Cayne seems to be suffering from a form of stigmata, although not in the usual way of showing wounds,’ Michael started. ‘Then yesterday, she was under some form of possession and attacked us both.’

‘Do you suspect demonic?’

Michael shook his head. ‘Not at all.’

Ben’s eyes narrowed as he glanced at them both. ‘Why not?’

This time Daniel stepped forward. This was his case, and so far Michael had done all the talking. No wonder this old man thought he was incapable.

‘Because, sir, she, for some reason, stopped in mid-attack and kissed me. Then asked her friend to save her.’

‘Her friend?’

‘Yes, her friend, who had, in fact, recently died.’

Ben looked at them confused. ‘What exactly did she say? Because if she was under possession why ask for a friend who was already dead while kissing you?’

‘Her exact words were “Save me Mary”’ Daniel answered

Ben’s face paled even more than it already was and his grip on his stick became much harder as his body shook. Michael was right. This man knew more than he was letting on. He was scared of something or someone, but at the end of the day his duty should be to God, priest or no priest.

‘And what do you suppose I can help you with?’ he asked.

‘It’s why we’ve come to you, Father. We hope you have the answers we need,’ Michael said.

Ben looked at him in surprise, it had been so long since someone had used that title and now he could see nothing but respect and desperation in Michael’s face.

‘Then you have come to the wrong person,’ he said with sadness.

He started to shuffle away, but Michael grabbed his arm with such force that Ben nearly fell.

‘Ben, I'm begging you. Daniel came here convinced that this girl is the Anti-Christ and now we’re not sure. Are you really going to allow Rome to kill another messiah?’

‘Rome already has its messiah. The girl belongs to someone else. She is someone else’s god,’ Ben snapped as he wrenched his arm from Michael’s grip.

‘Well at least tell us whose god she is?’ Daniel pleaded.

Ben turned back towards them. His face trembled with the strain of keeping some form of control.

‘She is the god of all that is truth, but our world is not ready for that sort of god or her truth and so is better off dead. And you boy are better off going back to Rome to bend a knee to Joshua. He is your Christ. Just leave the girl alone.’

‘How did you know that the boy’s name is Joshua?’ Michael asked.

Ben looked at them both and realised they were not going to leave him unless he gave them something. Anything. Then maybe he could be left alone and out of this.

‘Fine. You had better come upstairs,’ he sighed.

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