86 miles northwest of Cancun, Mexico.
10:17 pm . . .
I tried sleeping but all I did was toss and turn. I’m trying to focus my mind on hunting whatever it is the 23 Evils have become. I’m keeping Kristen out of my head as much as possible. Obviously, it’s not lost on me what might happen when we come face to face. This thing all ends with me having to kill each and every one of them.
My old friend Rupert—the librarian—I have to kill him.
Thomas and Stewart, the first faces I ever saw on Deadside, I have to snatch their life away.
And eventually all the others. Eventually . . . Kristen. This girl that I thought loved me, I have to take her life.
For the second time.
I’m not sure if I have the strength in me to take life. I know that in my lost past I could. Uriel said I was a killer before my marbles got scrambled. He seems fairly, if not disconcertingly, confident that when the time comes I’ll be able to do what’s necessary to clean up the mess I’ve left on the world.
For me, the jury’s still out.
I’m stronger than before, but I don’t know if I’m strong enough, yet.
My skill sets consist of throwing knives and walking among the forsaken dead. I’m hoping that gets me over the hump.
I glance over at Ricky who is discussing something with one of the pilots. From his expressions I don’t think it’s too terribly worrisome. Ms. Josephine is sleeping rather peacefully. Mr. Green’s finally put Sodomy Cat down and now he’s studying some of the strip maps that Ricky had printed for us.
He looks up at me, “Ever done any time in a jungle?” Like it’s a prison. A place you get sentenced to.
Not that I can recall, no.
His eyes study me for a moment, he nods, and then he’s back to the two-dimensional, black-n-white representations of where our nightmares are likely to begin.
“Jack,” Ricky says, keeping his voice low enough that it won’t wake Ms. Josephine.
I look over at him, and he’s half-biting his bottom lip.
“There’s a tropical storm just south of Cuba, north of Jamaica. It’s already giving Havana grief, and there are two more storms that might become hurricanes in its wake. We’re not going to be spending the night in Cancun.”
Damn, I say. And I was really looking forward to getting turned-down by a bunch of hot college girls.
“I know you were, buddy,” he consoles. “But we can’t get stuck in Cancun for three days while these storms figure out what they want to do. So, we’re just doing a gas-n-dash. An hour on the ground, tops.”
Then it’s on to Quito?
“That’s right. Then it’s all jeeps and boots and whatever else. We’ll hit the ground and get communications set up with the office. Billtruck just informed me that there had been a bunch of encrypted message traffic coming out of a small church in Cotopaxi, heading to the Vatican.”
“What are they saying?” Mr. Green asked as he sat forward, his elbows leaning on his knees.
“Something about a team of investigators they have on the ground.”
Mr. Green rubs his forehead anxiously, “That’s going to get . . . sticky. If we’re not careful, and even if we are, I don’t know.”
Ricky’s eyebrows wrinkle uncomprehendingly, “There just a bunch of Priests, right? Shouldn’t be anything we can’t handle.”
Mr. Green crosses his arms over his chest, “Those guys are the farthest thing from priests. I’m more of a priest than them. There might be a priest among them . . . but most likely, they’ll all be mercenaries.”
You mean Dispute Arbitrators?
“No,” he says with a grim laugh, “ . . . mercenaries.”