"Now that you have me away from your partner, detective, would you like to ask me the questions that have stewed in your mind since you first laid eyes upon my legs?"
He was sure the redness in his cheeks had given away his embarrassment.
"I'll just cut to the chase then. I think you and I can agree that whatever happened inside that church, it was far from the norm. Not your typical case of arson or random act of God."
She chuckled at this last part.
"And you hope I can provide you with some since of reality to support whatever crazy theories going around at the crime scene. Tell you that I saw firsthand what that man did, before setting fire to my home, killing the only mother I ever loved in the fire."
"The Fire Chief did not say anything about that."
"No, I suppose he would not have had enough forensics to suggest anyone perished."
"Those who were inside at the time all made it out safely...only you managed to remain trapped, which is, I suspect, the reason you sought refuge from the smoke and flames down inside that basement closet you were found in. One could speculate that you may have even been stored there, if one thought about it long enough."
The woman stared down to the table, sliding her hand slowly across it towards the cigarette packet, fishing a slightly bent stogie from inside and placed it between her lips. Her eyes grazed over his left hand, which hovered over his Zippo lighter like a tarantula raised up on its hind legs in warning, seeing the tattoo on the palm of his hand. It was a simple design, a point that started just below his middle-finger and angled to the bottom of his thumb, across the flat of his hand and back to his finger. It was a simple black triangle that stuck out, like a throbbing cartoonish thumb, in certain circles that doubled as both a brand and universal ID to those within The Black. Her heart began to speed up, adrenaline flooded every nerve in her body, her instincts fought for control of the wheel pushing her right hand from the table into her lap, closer to the blade still at her side.
"Or one might assume, being a nun and all, that I knew of the storage space. After all, it does contain all of the church's charitable goods, such as can goods and clothing for our fortnight food drive, Deacon Joseph oversees. Perhaps he can better provide you with a cause for it than I." She explained as she surreptitiously scouted out the nearest exit.
"Of course you did. It must have been terribly frightening, trapped inside a burning building as it collapsed around you. Very lucky."
"Luck is a false deity among the rich detective."
"You know, for a nun, you are very radical with some of the things you have said."
"And for a detective, you have an interesting choice of body markings." She said eyeing his hand.
Ah, he thought to himself, the tattoo. The day he had decided to join the cult, receiving his mark, was still as fresh in mind as the breakfast rolls on his plate.
"You mean this?" He said showing her the mark once more. "Just some stupid thing I did ten years ago, when I was still rebelling against the world, partying beyond my means and fucking women left and right, married or single, fat or small without regard to any one's feelings, including my own, along a destructive downward spiral that may have lead me straight to prison. A friend of mine was all into the satanic cult, never to the point he knew anything about it at all, aside from the devil horns (at this he flashed his hands in the iconic symbol of 80's hairbands and death metal rockers around the world, bending his ring and middle fingers down touching his thumb while his index finger and pinkie pointed straight up like horns) and owning a goat named Lucifer. He eventually became involved with this group of misfits whose shtick was dabbling in the black arts and Demonology, which, in order to become part of this sect, one needed to have the Mark."
Detective White looked away from her. She could see his humility was authentic, to the point he might have changed the subject right then had she not asked him to continue. It was highly unusual for someone with the Mark to be so open about their experience, begging the question was he truly a member of The Black or just a wannabe with stories and a bad tattoo?
"Anyway, my own foolish curiosity took me all the way to an acquaintance's house on the lower east end of town, drunk off my ass, high as hell and minutes away from my first tat. I wanted to get it on my arm or someplace I could easily cover with an article of clothing, like a shirt or something; but, they insisted it be on the bottom of my hand."
"All religions, even those less appealing to the masses, have their own unique practices. I am sure eating the body of Christ and drinking his blood might be a bit unsettling to someone who practices Buddhism." She replied kindly.
She wasn't sure why, but the more he opened up to her the more she wanted to tell him about herself. Knowing full well she could never divulge all of her secrets, she humbled herself enough to tell him a bit about her own life. She spoke of her family, how they perished in a fire when she was young, leaving out the bits about her father and the atrocity of him murdering her sister on that dire evening long ago. Her story arc took a turn from here, joining the covenant at the age of 12 where she spent the remaining part of her life in study and servitude of God. Every defensive mechanism inside her sounded its intuitive alarms. Whether or not he was telling the truth about his experience with The Black, at the end of the day, he was still connected to the sect and that made him dangerous. The fact he might not have known this for himself did not matter. It was nice, she thought, being able to speak to a man without having to recite the Rosary afterward. But, there was still the mission. She stood, her bones cracking as she stretched.
"So, have I said enough to warrant my leaving without you arresting me in the process?"
"As I said earlier, even if I had questions to ask, you would be likely not to answer them. I do appreciate the chat however, it was most informative."
She started to leave when Detective White called to her.
"One last thing sister. Was I ever at risk of you pulling that blade beneath your habit on me?"
There was a long pause between his question and her answer.
"No, but I fear there may come a time when I will. Good day detective."
Detective White pulled out his wallet, throwing enough money onto the table to cover the bill and then looked up to find that she was nowhere to be found. His phone vibrated inside his pocket.
"Detective White, speaking."
"It's Carter. I was able to get the name of that bishop, after a little encouraging. Name's Antonio Verelli. Apparently he was some kind of pariah within the church who pissed off a lot of brass, so much so that his rank of bishop is currently under review with folks at the Vatican."
"Yeah, that hot nun of yours, turns out no one knows a thing about her. No names, no identification at all. One of the older birds said she recalled something about being orphaned."
"Understood. I'll be back in the station soon."
The second he hung up with Carter, he quickly dialed a second number. The voice on the other end was very old, having to take a breath in-between each of his words spoken.
"My master. The church has been completely destroyed. I have on good authority information that suggest the bishop, Antonio Verelli is dead. And...there is something else."
"Go. On. My. Son."
"I have reason to believe there is an outsider now involved, although I am uncertain of her motives."
"A nun. She was found after the fact, safely inside a hidden compartment in the church's sacristy. I lost contact with her, but I have plenty of evidence to run through the system." He said collecting a few butts from the ashtray.
"Very. Well. Do. Not. Pursue. Her. Your. Focus. Now. Is. Finding. The. Priest. His. Location. Has. Been. Sent. To. You."
There was a click and the call ended. Detective White sat for a moment, his thoughts weighing on the woman and his incredible desire to know more about her. They were both very different and on very uncommon ground. Part of him wished they had met long before, when his life was still his own and he could be himself with her, pursue his attraction and arrest whatever emotions that came with this. He looked at the Mark on his palm and knew this could never be.
"Carter, see what you can find on a Wade Keller. I am emailing you the 411 on him now. Thanks bud."
As he placed his cellphone back into his pocket, he felt the hot burning grip of a hand around his throat and a voice that growled its words into his ear instantly turned his skin white with fear.
"Hello again, Bryan. The Black calls upon you."
The car erupted into flames that rose up into a ball of fire, before changing into a plume of thick black smoke drifting slowly into oblivion. Below, the car and its driver were gone without a trace of it ever being part of this world. Nearby, a woman watched the plume of smoke fade into the gray sky, where a single snowflake floated down, kissing the side of her cheek. She scooped the crystal onto the end of her finger, melting into a tiny droplet of water, studying it. She then lowered the veil of her coif and sought shelter in the shadows of the alleyway.