Chapter Seven
Sisters Margaret and Joan were not blood sisters. They were sisters in spirit to each other and in their relationship to God. Retired nuns from the Parish of the Blessed Trinity in Atlanta, they moved to the small town of Hexewald five years ago. They remained active in the new parish they joined, the Most Holy Redeemer. The sisters wore their habits when they went out, but never in their own home. Margaret’s family had money, and she was willed it as the only surviving member. She donated most of the inheritance to the local causes and steered clear of the more controversial charities, those that would donate to baby-killers. She still had her family’s name to think about. Sister Joan had a more colorful past. During the Great Depression, her family were notorious Southern bootleggers. She confessed to Margaret many years ago that she knew where her family kept their hidden money, and the week before she had entered the convent, she removed the money from their hiding place. She admitted to donating the dough to the church to pay for her education to become a nun. “Somebody’s got to pray for the souls of my family, because the Lord knows that they won’t be doing it themselves.”
The rain hit their aluminum roof. Their television was tuned in to Channel Twelve, the station with the nice-looking, clean-cut weatherman Ben. The filth on cable was not for them, and they stuck to local channels. Ben served as the lector at their church.
Four hours ago, the sisters’ phones went out. The only reason Sister Margaret became mindful of this was because she attempted to use the computer and the modem didn’t work. They settled down in front of the television to weather out Fiona. Sister Margaret got up from the couch to prepare some tomato soup and crackers before the imminent power outages that accompanied such natural disturbances. Whenever they lost their electricity, they would play gin rummy for a penny a point and pray for the souls of those who had nobody in their lives. Rinsing out the soup pot, Sister Margaret noticed a man running across their lawn.
“Sister Joan,” she said. “Come over here and look at this one.”
Sister Joan rose from the sofa and walked over to the kitchen window. The man pulled on his leg as if it was stuck in molasses and a red liquid seeped from his shoulder.
“What do you make of that?” Sister Joan asked.
“Why do you think that I called you over here? I can’t make heads nor tails of this maniac in this weather. Don’t he have the sense of a beaver at a dam that it’s dangerous out there during a hurricane? He needs to hunker down someplace safe.”
“Should we invite the poor soul in?”
Sister Margaret walked over to the door and opened it. “Mister, what in the name of all things holy are you doing outside?”
The disheveled man looked at Margaret. The man smiled. He must have been happy that he was invited into a home. Was he homeless? His clothes were dirty but not tattered. Something in his attitude seemed amiss. He glanced around and behind him as if he were searching for someone.
“Come on in. You are not getting a better invitation from somewhere else, mister,” Joan said as she joined Margaret at the door. The man jogged to the door. Margaret closed the door behind him. A gust of wind followed him in.
“Well, mister, it seems as though fortune smiled upon you today.”
He grinned back and lifted his gun. “Yes, ma’am, I suppose it has.”
*
Connie cursed. Bruen couldn’t have gotten far. He was wounded, with most likely another bullet hole or two in him.
Marvin refused to stay behind with Ashton and the others. She would have rather had him back at the office to organize the situation, but knew it was better to have him with her on the streets. She had grown up in this town, but landmarks had changed while she was gone.
The rain trickled down off of her hat. The cold seeped through her skin, and she was itching to end this so she could go back inside with a cup of hot coffee and ride Fiona out of the Gulf.
Marv hadn’t stopped swearing since Bruen escaped. Not one word of, “all right, cuz, we can find him.” It shouldn’t surprise her; Marvin hadn’t been involved in too many instances where gunfire was necessary. Come to think of it, this was only the third instance for Connie, which was unusually high for a law enforcement officer, no matter what television and movies told viewers.
She pointed to a small home on the offside of the hill. Acres of land engulfed the home and the road to it was clay and rocky. “Do you know who lives there?” She bent over to catch her breath. Connie considered trailing back to get a SUV, but she dismissed the thought. This gave them a better vantage point of where Bruen might have escaped to. A vehicle could miss the more subtle details of the ground and routes.
“The sisters,” Marv said as if she should know who he meant. He doubled over. She wasn’t certain if it was the exertion or the adrenaline wearing off that caused him the distress.
“Marv, pretend for a second as if I had been away from town for the past fifteen years and answer the question,” she said.
“The sisters are retired nuns. They moved here about five years ago. One of them, Sister Margaret, she’s got some family money. The other one, well, I guess she just sponges off of her.”
“Nuns don’t sponge, Marv.”
If Bruen was wounded and exited the alley, the nuns’ home would be the closest place for him to get warm and fixed up. “You want we check them out?” Marvin asked.
“Yep.”
“You gonna call for back-up?”
“From who, Marv? I swear to God. Ashton’s hurt, Dodge is dead or injured. We need a couple of deputies at the station to keep the peace. It’s not like the marshals are on their way to save our asses. We are by ourselves and have to handle it alone.”
“So you better have a plan.”
Connie surveyed the land. They couldn’t ride up in a patrol car. If Bruen was inside, he could get violent. On the other hand, if Bruen was on the outside, he might be tipped off. “Are they listed?”
“Landlines are out by now.”
“What about the cells you distributed to all of the elderly for emergencies?”
“It’s only for them to call out to 911 or get emergency bulletins during a–” Marv stopped when he caught on to the idea.
“Marv, if it can give a signal, it can get a signal. Call Sally and tell her to activate emergency protocol text messages. Everyone in this town will get a text, but it should reach the sisters.”
“If they turn on their cell for messages.”
A bolt of lightning cracked in the sky. Marv was right. Connie knew seniors were not the most technologically savvy folks in the world.
*
“Shit, shit, shit, shit,” Bruen said. He slammed the phone down on its cradle. He didn’t know what to expect. If the phone worked, what then. “Give me your cell phones.”
The two old ladies looked at each other, sitting in chairs opposite him. “A please would do just fine, young man,” the one with the short dark hair said.
The other one with the long braided blondish hair stared at him as if he were Satan himself. He aimed his weapon at her. “Now, goddammit, before I blow this bitch’s brains out.”
“No need to take the Lord’s name is vain, mister.” She took off to the bedroom.
Bruen kept his piece aimed at the stubborn-looking biddy. She was the troublemaker of the two. He wanted to kill them both, but what if somebody wanted to check on Grandma during the storm? He needed this one to control the other. He doubted this one would bow to pressure.
“Come on, what’s taking you so long?” His leg burned. His side ached. The punch of the bullet in his side hindered his breath. His shoulder wound hurt like a mother. The stubborn one stared at him. “What’s your name, lady?”
“My friends call me Joan, but you can me Sister,” Joan said.
“What’s your friend’s name?” The pain crept up higher on his thigh. He had run so fast, he might have pulled something out. His knee hadn’t had time to heal from the altercation with the cop who arrested him.
“You’d have to ask her.”
The friend came back into the room with an older cell phone. She held it out for Bruen. He snatched the device from her. She guffawed and sat next to her friend. Bruen searched for the power button. The cell must have been a good five years old. “How the hell are you supposed to turn this bastard on?” When neither of the ladies answered, he tossed the cell over to the unnamed lady. “Here, you figure it out.”
The mobile hit the carpeted ground. She bent over to pick it up. She appeared as confused by the cell as he had been. He aimed the gun to her. “You turn that sucker on, lady. I ain’t playing games here with you.”
“I never use this thing. That Deputy Moore dropped it off a little while ago. Said to use in an emergency.”
Moore, the handsome smug deputy at the jail. The one who acted as if he wanted to put a bullet through his brain before he did the same to Watts. “I know who that Deputy Moore is, and you better pray to Jesus Christ that I don’t meet up with him or that bitch sheriff again.”
The click of a phone coming to life. Bruen, with his free hand, reached for the cell. “Here, give it back.”
Joan snapped her fingers at him. “You wait just a minute, mister. We got to get those bars. You can’t call nobody without bars.” She pointed at the phone. For Christ’s sakes, couldn’t these ladies do anything right?
“Christ, I could use a bar now. What have you lesbos got to drink around here?”
“What did you call us, mister?” Joan’s face sneered with anger.
“I call ’em like I see ‘um. That’s what you two are, right? A pair old dykes?”
“Bite your tongue, mister. We were servants of the Lord for forty years.”
“There’s a picture of an envelope on the phone,” the dark-haired one said.
Bruen wanted to blow his own brains out. “That means you’ve got a text message.” How could they be so ignorant of the world? Everyone knew what a text message was and how to send one. “Jesus Christ, lady, hand the phone over to me. It can’t be important. You don’t even know how to work the phone.”
“Hold up a minute. It might be personal.”
Bruen crunched his lips together. He couldn’t believe these ladies. After he placed his call, to hell with his plan, he would kill these two bitches.
Margaret hit the button for “Read Messages.” On the screen displayed: This is Sheriff Corvus. Srs. Margaret & Joan if he is there Hit “Reply” type in “1” and hit “Send.” Margaret looked over to Joan, who seemed to read the message. She stretched over Margaret and hit the requested buttons.
“Did you get the message? Who was it?” the man with the gun asked.
“We won a prize. They’re gonna send us a nice present,” Joan said.
The man rolled his eyes. “You dumb bitches, that’s a scam. Hand the phone over to me.” He reclined on the couch. A muddy, bloody leg on the clean sofa. Every movement exhibited a grimace on his face. Margaret never adhered to the principle of violence except when necessary. She would keep to her beliefs. Perhaps the police would arrive any minute to rescue them and give this man the help he needed.
“We will do no such thing, mister,” Joan said. “I think that you will shoot us if we hand the phone over to you.”
“Why would you say something like that?” he asked.
“Because I would,” Joan said. Margaret turned to her. Joan’s face tightened. Her normal mask of calmness evaporated, and she revealed a harshness that Margaret had never witnessed in the decades they had known each other. “And I still might.”
He pointed his gun at her. “You are a mess of trouble, aren’t you?”
Joan laughed. “I may have been in service to the Lord over the past forty years, but I know a scaredy-shit loser when I see one. You pick on little old ladies. You think this makes you a big boy?”
This appeared to infuriate the man with the gun. The phone vibrated in Margaret’s hands. A new message lit up on the screen. She pressed the button to read it: Sit tight. Stay calm. Margaret stood up. She let the phone drop from her hands to land onto the carpet.
“This isn’t any way for people to behave towards one another. You’re nothing but a bully. You had over that gun, then we’ll see how confident you are.”
The man pointed his gun. “I would sit down if I were you, Granny.”
Margaret parked her keister in the seat. She touched the cross around her neck. She prayed to St. Francis to let her saviors arrive quickly. The television had been on mute ever since the stranger entered, but the weatherman continued talking, and the map showed the devastation inflicted on the area.
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