"Of course," thought Red, at the bottom of a wet and squirming
pile of frogs, "Of course they'd subscribe to the 'Baptism of Fire' technique
of training new employees. Here I am, just sainted yesterday, and they send
me out on my first mission. Ok, I guess technically I won't be sainted until
I die, but, damn, I thought I'd be waiting a little longer for that. Sending
me out, no training, no idea what I'm doing…"
"Don't worry," Hayden had said, "You're one of the righteous
now, son. God may not show his hand in this world anymore, but surely he protects
his own interests. We are doing his work, after all, he wouldn't want anything
to stop that, right? I'm sure he wouldn't, I'm sure he wouldn't."
It had been that morning when they told him, less than twenty-four hours
since his life had been erased and he'd fallen prey to their unusual abduction.
Not being used to waking up at seven AM, Red had sat somewhat groggily through
his 'briefing'. He was wearing one of the suits he had found in the closet
of his quarters, the quarters that had been specially furnished for what he
didn't even realize he wanted yet. Apparently, Red had never realized he wanted
to wear the same thing every day, since all he was given in the way of clothes
was about twenty copies of the exact same outfit. It was a black button down
shirt and dress pants with matching bright red jacket, tie, and shoes. Red
at first thought this was some kind of joke, a pun based on his name, but
he had to admit, standing in front of his mirror after dressing, he did look
"Besides," Hayden had said, "You won't die until you’re
martyred, and there's not much chance of that happening here. You'll be going
to Michigan. There's a priest there we need you to look into."
"A priest?" Red asked.
"Yes," said Hayden, gathering up the files on his desk into a bundle. "There
have been a few… allegations that need investigation. We need you to
go check things out there. Argento will brief you on the details on the way.
Good luck, Red, and God bless you."
"… Thanks," Red said, turning to follow Argento out the door.
Georgie was at her desk, playing solitaire, as she seemed to do most of the
time. She smiled at Red a little nervously and said "God Bless," as
"So," Red asked as he and Argento walked down the hall, "What's
the scoop about this minister?"
"His name is David Patrick. He heads up the Church of the Sacred Trinity
in Grand Rapids. We'll be leaving on a flight in one hour."
"One hour? What airport are we leaving from?"
"Our own, of course."
"How big is this compound?"
Argento laughed. "It's big. We've already had people load up the luggage
you packed this morning. I trust you're bringing more to wear this time?"
"Ha ha," Red said. He had packed a bag full of the same outfit
he was wearing today, topped off by Alison's Christmas Card. So what are we
doing here? What are these allegations we're checking out?"
"There are two, actually. The first is a legal one. One of the parents
of the children who help out at the church accused him of molesting her son."
"Oh, great. So what do I do, go undercover to see if he'll diddle me?
Just what I always wanted to be doing. This job gets better all the time.
What's the second allegation?"
"There's some talk that he is the Second Coming of Christ. Here's the
armory, we need to get your equipment." He swiped an access card through
the panel by the metal door they had arrived at. With a beep, it unlocked
and the two men entered.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Are you telling me my first mission is to go up against
"No," said Argento, "Absolutely not. We sincerely doubt that
he is the Christ. In fact, if you find otherwise, if you believe he is Jesus,
report this information immediately. If this is actually the Second Coming,
we will do everything in our power to assist. But, no, we believe this rumor
to be untrue, and you are going to be looking for any proof to counter it.
Now, your equipment." He punched a few numbers in the keypad of a nearby
safe and pulled out a rather large and expensive looking case. "These
shall be your Holy Implements."
When the case opened, Red could see two things within. One was a large sword
in a metal scabbard, the other a handgun in a shoulder holster. "Huh," said
Red, "I think one of these two items comes as a surprise to me, but I'm
not sure which."
"They are not merely what they seem," said Argento, "Watch." He
picked up the sword and drew it. He then put the holster, gun, and scabbard
on a countertop, closed up the case, and put it on the floor in the center
of the room. "Both weapons have been blessed. The blade of this sword,
and the bullets of that gun, will cut through any object known to man." He
demonstrated on the case, swinging the sword and rending it in two as easily
as swinging it through the air. "However," said Argento, "They
will pass through any living object without doing any damage at all, like
so." He swung the blade towards his own hand and as he had promised,
it passed directly through his hand as if it was not there, leaving it undamaged.
Argento's sleeve was not so lucky- a sliver of fabric fluttered to the floor. "Damn
it! Well, I nicked my sleeve. But otherwise, you can see, I am fine. As I
said, the gun works in much the same way, but I shan't demonstrate it just
now. Since almost nothing can stop the bullets, if I fired it here, it would
continue to fly forward breaking things until it ran out of momentum."
"What do you mean, almost nothing?" said Red, "If it passes
through any living object, and breaks through anything else, what could stop
"Other holy artifacts, some dark magics… not many things, but
you encounter one every once in a while."
"So, what's the point of these, anyway? If I can't hurt anyone, what's
the point of having weapons?"
"First of all, no one will necessarily know they won't be hurt by them
until you've demonstrated that. But in general, we don't want you to have
to hurt anyone. You could break bonds, stop cars, destroy doomsday devices,
any number of things."
"You get a lot of doomsday devices?"
"Not too many yet."
"That's good," said Red.
"They're mostly around New Years. Now, put these on," Argento said,
sheathing the blade and handing the weapons over to Red. Red took the shoulder
holster first, and slid it over his arms. Once it was in place it disappeared.
"Jeeze!" said Red, "What happened?"
"Another of its properties. It belongs to you now; you will never be
without it. None can see it, or feel it, including you, but if you reach for
where the gun should be…"
Red tried it and was surprise to feel the handle of the gun in his hands.
He pulled it from the holster and examined it. "Wow," he said, "I
don't believe that actually worked." The holster was still seemingly
not there, and when Red attempted to replace the gun, he found that the gun
was gone once more.
"The same will be true for the sword here," said Argento, holding
the strap open for Red to slip his arm and head through. It too vanished. "It's
up behind your right shoulder."
Red reached up and felt the hilt in his palm, but he left the blade in place. "So
I can just pull these out of nowhere whenever I want and slice through anything
without hurting anyone?"
"That's what they're there for," said Argento, heading for the
door. "Let's get moving. Of course, as you know, DI&R appreciates
that you do not reveal your mission or the existence of our organization.
So do try to be discreet about it when you do… Red?" Red had not
left the armory yet. Argento caught the door and reentered the room. "Red?" Red
was brandishing his sword and hacking a chair into bits.
"Sorry," Red said, "But it sounded too cool. I couldn’t
"It's… ok, I suppose. It is sort of… neat."
Red smiled at Argento. "You're coming with me, then, eh?"
"I'm to be your liaison with the firm. I'll be going with you for all
your missions, doing reports for the company, helping out in any way I can."
"So, we're partners."
"I suppose for now. You'll be doing the harder parts of the work, though
so it’s a bit of an unequal partnership."
"What do I call you?"
"Do I call you Argento all the time? You said your first name was Frank?"
"Francis. I suppose you can call me what you like…"
"Can I call you Frank?"
"I suppose so."
"Alright then, Frank. Let's go to Missouri."
And they did. It was a private jet, and therefore about a comfortable as
air travel can get, but Red still shifted uneasily during the flight. Argento
fell asleep next to him, listening to a CD compilation of eighties music on
a pair of headphones. Every once in a while Red could make out "Our House," or "Weird
Science," for a moment, but then it would fade back into indistinction.
Red wished he could have slept as well, but thinking about where he was and
what he was doing was keeping him fairly wired.
Argento had given him the file on Patrick to look over during the flight.
According to sources in the area, Patrick had been healing sick children with
his touch for the past year or so. He did not claim to want publicity or money
in return, which is why he'd asked that no one tell the press. All he asked
was that the children he healed do volunteer work at the church after they
recovered. No one questioned the fact that almost every child he had helped
was male and that none were unattractive or overweight. Flash-forward to a
few weeks ago, one of the parents of the saved children starts to get suspicious.
They make a public allegation, but no one will corroborate. The kids all deny
everything and the parents… There is no doubt in the parents' minds
that this man saved their children's' lives. They had cancer, leukemia, brittle
bone syndrome, you name it, and now, nothing. Not a trace.
Ever since the allegation failed to stick, he'd been healing more children,
even some adults. That was when he started claiming to be more and more powerful.
That's when the Jesus talk began among some of the congregation.
The hotel they had been booked into was a decent one. They were sharing a
room with two king-sized beds, but it was much larger than any hotel room
Red had ever been in. He chose the bed on the right and put his suitcase on
it. H hung all of his suits in the closet, and put his Christmas card in the
drawer by his bedside, trying, successfully, to keep Argento from noticing
that he'd brought it.
"Ok, Frank," he said, flopping onto his bed, "Pop quiz. You're
in Misso- uh, Michigan, it's still before noon, and you've got a child molesting
messiah to bust. What do you do?"
"First of all," said Argento, still putting away his things, "We
sincerely doubt he is the messiah, as I told you. Secondly, I know exactly
what I'm going to do. If I'm not mistaken…" he picked up the little
TV guide on his nightstand, "Yes, here it is, Moulin Rouge is on one
of the pay per view channels, and I have heard it's quite good."
"We rushed all the way out here to watch movies?" asked Red.
"No, we rushed out here so you could investigate David Patrick."
"So I have to do it alone?"
"Do you not listen when I tell you things, or do I mumble? Yes, you
go it alone. I am your liaison, I brief you, give you any counsel I can
offer, debrief you when you're done, and submit a report to Hayden. I told
was not a fair partnership."
"No," said Red, "No, I distinctly remember you saying you
would help out in any way you can."
"Well…" he said, "Considering that you are a Saint,
and I am a paper pusher, that is any way I can."
"Great," said Red, "Just great. What the hell am I supposed
to do while you're watching Nicole Kidman strip?"
"I recommend that after a bit of lunch, you go to the Church of the
Sacred Trinity for some reconnaissance. Anything you can find out about Father
Patrick is sure to come in useful. Does she actually appear nude in… well,
I suppose we'll both find something interesting out this afternoon."
For some reason, Red had been imagining that the church would be a stone,
cathedral-like building, with huge stained glass images and spires, maybe
even a flying buttress or two. In actuality, it was a much more modern affair.
It was about two, maybe three stories tall, was rectangular in shape, had
brick walls, and a white roof that sloped down from the middle. It was both
long and wide, although longer than wide, had a huge parking lot along its
right side, and a large quantity of lawn on the left. A large white cross
hung over the main doors.
Red was still pretty worn out from lack of sleep, so he tried the direct
approach first. He went in the main doors. After the anteroom with coat racks
and such, he entered, of course, into the main hall. As one might expect,
it was a large hall with a long center aisle separating pews on either side.
The walls were lined with the stations of the cross. The altar featured a
large crucified Jesus mounted on a cross which was, in turn, mounted on the
wall. There were a great number of candles to either side of the altar, all
lit. Red dipped his finger in the basin of water next to the door, and touched
it to his head. He saw a confessional over on the left side of the altar,
near a doorway leading further into the building. The light was on above both
doors, so Red walked up and sat on the nearest pew. It felt good to be off
his feet. He only had a moment to relax, though, before a balding, forty-something
man came out of the sinner's side box, holding his baseball cap in his hand.
As he knelt and crossed himself before leaving, Red entered the booth.
The first thing he noticed upon closing the door was that the screen between
him and the Father next to him was different from the others he'd seen as
a child. Instead of the two of them being completely cut off from each other,
there was a small opening, like the type found in a ticket booth, where you'd
exchange the money for the tickets.
"Welcome my son," came the voice of the confession-taker. "Do
you have anything you'd like to tell me?"
"Yes, Father," said Red, trying to think of something to say. It
had seemed like a good idea to come in here at the time, but now that he had
done it, he had no idea what to say. "I, uh… I've sinned, I guess."
"Don't worry, my son," came the voice, "We all sin. That is
why we all must confess and make amends. What would you like to tell me?"
"Well, I've… been lazy," said Red, "I used to, you know,
kind of just sit around and stuff. I've, uh, I've got a job now though, so,
you know… I think that I'll, uh… stop. That."
"That's good my son," said the voice, "Anything more?"
"Yeah, I, uh, I guess I, you know… masturbate a lot. You know,
I mean, touch myself, uh, impurely."
"And what do you think of when you touch yourself?"
"Yeah, I guess, yeah."
"Pretty young, I guess. I mean they're not- Oh. Well, uh… very
"Yeah. Underage, mostly, yeah."
"And what do you imagine doing with them?"
"Well, you know, I just, uh… You know, just the, uh, the regular
"Yeah, hey, I guess so. Yeah."
"My son, you do realize this is a serious sin against both God and nature."
"Well, yeah, sure I do. That's why I'm here, you know, forgiveness and
"The first thing I recommend, my son," said the voice, "Is
that you donate of yourself to this church not just your money, but your time
as well. We have many church events, especially dealing with the children,
and we could use people like you helping us out. This congregation, my flock,
we are headed for bigger things all the time, and we need people like you,
people who understand these urges, these impure, unnatural thoughts that God
has put within all of us, tempting us all the while towards the side of the
serpent… We need people like you to… volunteer and help out."
Red sat there for a moment. "Ok, father, I'll definitely look into it.
Uh, check the schedule and all. Thanks."
A bible was placed in the opening between the booths. "Put your hand
on the good book, my son," said the voice, "and I shall absolve
you of all sin." Red placed his hand on the bible and felt the Priest
put his hand atop them both. At first Red felt nothing other than uncomfortable
with being touched by the man. Then he noticed how much better he felt. He
was no longer tired, his body did not ache from exhaustion. He smiled for
a moment, and then the voice said, "Good Heavens, a Saint!"
Red yanked his hand out of the man's grasp, leapt from the booth, and booked
up the left side of the hall. He heard Father Patrick yell "Wait!" after
him as he broke from his half of the confessional to pursue. When Red reached
the main doors, he kicked over the basin of Holy Water, hoping that it would
either trip up Patrick or make him slip. He also ran smack into a man on his
way into the church, and with a brief "Excuse me!" tossed him aside
and reached the outdoors. At least one of the obstacles must have worked,
because it seemed to Red that he had a pretty good head start as he ran the
length of the parking lot. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the dump
truck pulling into the lot. When he reached the back corner of the building,
he turned and ran behind it, Patrick having just made it around to the side.
He noticed an opened hatchway into the basement level of the building. He
jumped inside. The room within had no furniture and, aside from the hatch
he'd come in through, only one door. Red tried the door. It was locked. He
didn't want to risk climbing back out, so for the moment, a feverishly frightened
Red clung as close as he could to the wall near the hatchway, hoping he could
stay out of sight. The beeping was getting louder. Two sets of running footsteps
approached and slowed.
"Hey!" Father Patrick called out, "Did you see a guy run this
"I don't think so!" yelled a voice over the truck's engine.
"Alright…" Patrick called. "You go check the cars in
the lot, I'll continue around this way."
The beeping stopped. "Am I lined up?" the other voice yelled.
"Yeah, you're all set!" Patrick called out, and he began running
off around the building. Red breathed a sign of relief as a mechanical sound
began quite loudly. A second later, the truck was dumping its payload, a humongous
quantity of frogs, down the hatchway on top of him.
Red's first instinct, of course, was to jump up screaming and shake the filthy
things off of him. After a moment's consideration, brought on by his inability
to move easily due to being buried in frogs, he realized that that might have
brought a bit more attention to him than he would have liked. He tested to
see if he could breath (he could, although he did not particularly enjoy the
bouquet) and decided to lay low beneath the beasts until he was relatively
sure it was safe. Through the ribbiting din of the wriggling mass, he could
only make out a mumble of the voices from outside. The clanging shut of the
hatch came much more clearly and, after a bit of effort, he poked his head
up from the pile.
Not being very good at estimation, Red could not have guessed how many frogs
were in the room with him. He was about waist deep in them, but the pile was
much shallower on the side of the room away from the hatch, where the door
was. He waded his way over there and tried the door again. It was still locked;
not that he had expected it to change, really. He leaned up against the wall
in defeat for a moment, scratching his head, when his hand felt something
hard behind his right shoulder. His sword.
Red drew his sword and slashed right through the door with no effort at all.
It cleft the door in two and made big gashes in the walls on either side as
well. Then, trying not to make too much noise, he gently pulled in the fractured
door and set it down on as few frogs as he could manage. By the time he turned
back to the doorframe many of his green fellow prisoners were making a break
down the hall. He sheathed his sword and crept after them.
At the end of the hall was a stairway. Red waited at the bottom of it for
a moment, listening, and then mounted them. He was, after all, below ground.
It was far more likely he could find a way out on the first floor. When he
reached the top of the stairs, however, a familiar voice, that of Father Patrick,
came echoing down the hall. "We need to find him." Red ducked into
the first room he saw. Once inside, he realized it was Father Patrick's chambers.
He suppressed a squeal of dread and leapt into the closet.
Father Patrick and whomever he was talking to entered the room and closed
the door. "He's either with us, or against us, we need to know which
as soon as possible. Then we can deal with him accordingly. Give his description
to everyone. The moment anyone in this congregation sees him, I want to know
about it. Go."
"Yes, my Lord," said the other, then the door opened and shut once
more. Red knelt down to chance a peek through the keyhole, but all he could
see from his angle was an empty chair. A sound off in the distance caught
Red's attention. A croak. It had caught Father Patrick's as well, for his
door opened a moment later.
"What the devil… Simon!" Patrick called out.
"Yes, Lord," said the voice from before, scurrying back.
"Simon, the plague of frogs is supposed to rain from above, not hop
up from the basement! What are all these frogs doing loose?"
"I don't know, my Lord, I… I can go check…"
"Please do, and keep the damned things hidden! If everyone knows I have
them beforehand it's not going to be much of a miracle is it?"
"No, Lord, I'm sorry, Lord."
"Clean them up and tell me what happened down there."
Red was fairly certain the wall he was leaning against was the outer wall.
Unless it was the wall to his right. He was pretty certain it wasn't the one
on his left. He tried to remember exactly which way he had gone since entering
the building… right, then up, sort of around and… the last bit
confused him. He was reasonably certain it was the wall behind him. Almost
one hundred percent. It was pretty much assured…
He drew his sword, quietly mind you, and cut a hole through the wall, leaning
into it, to push the wall and himself through the newly made hole. He toppled
to the floor amidst many shrieks of surprise and exclamation. Around him were
many young teen and pre-teen girls in various states of changing from their
school clothes to their church garb. Red covered his ears as their shrill
After a second, Father Patrick burst into the room. "Your Holiness," he
said, "I should have guessed I'd find you here."