Meanwhile in Albuquerque and then Meanwhile In New York...

Meanwhile, in Albuquerque?

“Is it true?” I asked Brigitte. Brigitte just looked at me. “Is it true, Brigitte? Were you told to love me?”

She stared at me. She didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what that meant.

“Tell me,” I said.

“Yes, tell her,” Samson said. He didn’t sound nice. I knew I never liked him.

Brigitte looked up at me. There were tears in her eyes.

“Rachel,” she said.

“It is true, isn’t it!” I felt a lump in my throat. I couldn’t even breathe for a second. I felt dizzy. “You were told to make me love you. This is all just a big set-up! You’re like all the rest of them, like Reverend Tommy and this stupid damned guy,” I pointed at Samson, “And Rex and your father and those revenants and all of them. You just wanted… you all want to… use me. That’s all.”

“Rachel,” Brigitte choked out and she was crying. “I’m sorry,”

“Sorry!” I just whispered it but I wanted to shout it. I couldn’t, though. I felt so sad. So weak. So I tried to say it again. sorry…” and then I realized that I was sitting down. I looked over at Samson, who was smiling.

“You should never attack someone in his own HQ,” he said.

“What are you doing?” Brigitte demanded.

“Sleep gas,” he said. “I need her to not leave and I need you to back off now.”

I slumped to the floor. Not sleep,” I said. I don’t want to…

Brigitte looked at me. “You’re giving her too much,” she said to Samson. Everything was blurry like it was underwater.

“She’s strong,” he said.

“Rachel, listen to me,” she said, and came over by me. I wanted to push her away. I wanted to grab her and hold her. How could she? How could she lie to me? She was saying something. I tried to focus as my eyes fluttered open and closed, open and closed. So blurry, so hard to focus. I could kind of taste the gas, I thought, and I hated Samson even more. I wanted to tell him that I was never going to help him now but I was trying to stay awake because I didn’t want to go to Hell and I didn’t want to miss what Brigitte was saying and also there was some kind of rumbling or crackling near me. Brigitte was talking. “Just because I was told to make you love me,” she began and then started crying and I tried to focus. It was true! I felt the tears in my eyes. All I could think of was after the pie was finished and the restaurant was closed. I put my head down and my eyes closed but I wasn’t asleep yet and she tried to begin again. “Just because…” but then she was interrupted by a loud roaring and crashing and buckling and tearing. I opened my eyes just a crack, the most I could do, and I saw the floor trembling and breaking up around me and I felt something, some kind of scaly thing grabbing me. I saw Naked Girl running up behind me…

“Protect,” I said… I was going to tell her to protect Brigitte but I couldn’t finish and as I felt a hand or maybe a tentacle grab at me and as I saw revenants swarming in with ray guns shooting at Brigitte and Samson, as I saw Naked Girl dive towards me, I blacked out.

Meanwhile, In New York Again:

“It’s done,” the man said. He slumped heavily to the floor, sitting there and resting his hands on his knees and his head on his forearms. He paid no attention to the blood and bodily fluids that were all over his arms and his floor, sitting in a puddle of goo and glop that would have soaked through his clothing if he had not worn the protective gear. “We just have to animate it.”

“That took long enough,” the revenant said. He was mad, the man suspected, because they’d had to kill the third henchman, too, and that hadn’t been planned but the limbs on the others just weren’t working.

“It should have taken longer,” the man said. It was not a retort, not a sarcastic comment. It was just a statement. He fretted that the sewing was not good enough, that the parts were not adequately matched, that the whole thing was substandard work that would reflect badly on him and lose him money and get him caught. He stood up again. He picked up the chip from where it sat on the table.

“What are you going to do with that?” the revenant asked.

The man went over to a cabinet that he pressed his hand against. One heartbeat, two, three and he lifted his hand. Each time, it would reset to a different prime number of heartbeats that only his biorhythms could trigger. He opened the door to see the Display.

It glowed.

It was set on a large canvas, a canvas painted sky blue in large, swoopy brushstrokes. The man had done those himself, at the start of this enterprise. It was not something that the Lieutenant had taught him. It was something he’d felt he should do himself. Something that helped him feel as though this dirty business he practiced was not so nasty, that all the fluids and chopping and sewing and, yes, killing and kidnapping, was maybe for a higher purpose, that he was at the least helping these people, these women, that he brought in off the streets and then chopped up and put back together with parts of their sisters-in-spirit, that he was helping them. On the blue background, the painted background that called to minds clouds and air and blue skies and water all at once, a pattern was taking form, an intricately rendered mosaic picture of a woman, a beautiful woman with long slim legs and slender arms and a narrow waist and a shapely bosom, a woman whose head was thrown back, whose eyes were closed, whose hands were open and at her sides, a woman who looked as though she was soaring through the sky/water/clouds/brushstrokes.

The woman was a mosaic made entirely of chips. She was not finished, only about ¾ of the woman’s body was filled in, but it was a thing of horrifying beauty, even for the Revenant, who stalked over and stared at it.

“How many…” he said.

“A lot,” the man said. He stared at the Display and looked to the chip.

“Why?” the revenant asked.

“To help them,” the man said. He could not express the symbolism that he felt, and did not try. By projecting them, their chips, soaring, the man knew, he was sending them to Heaven, wherever that might be. When he placed a chip onto the mosaic, as he did now, he felt, he was taking the soul of the woman or man he had just dissected, the woman or man whose body was reassembled in parts here and there, whose body would become a vessel for the wish fulfillment of someone else, someone rich, someone who needed a recomposed zombie slave, he was taking the soul of that person whose body he had destroyed, and he was sending that soul straight to Heaven.

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