"Not a chance," said Red.
Argento blinked a bit. "I haven't even said anything yet."
"Whatever you were going to say," said Red. "Not a chance."
"Good thing for me I was about to ask if you were going to leave me
standing out in the cold rather than inviting me in." Argento smiled.
Red scowled. He stepped to one side as Alison scooped up Chaser. Argento stepped
inside, saying, "Very honorable of you, my friend."
The three of them made their way into the living room. Argento seated himself
on the love seat while Alison and Red sat on the couch. "So…" Red
said, "You found us."
Argento laughed. "Yes, I did. About eight months ago."
"You said you were going cross country. I said I was not going to try
to find you. Once I had dealt with the… unpleasantness you had left
in New York, I came here, assuming it would be the last place in the world
you would go."
"Great minds think a like," said Red. "You too."
Argento smiled sweetly again and nodded.
"So why didn't you turn us in?" asked Alison.
"I told you," said Argento, "I had no intention of finding
you. I just kept on telling them that you would come back eventually, all
the while watching the two of you make a life for yourselves."
"We just thought…" Alison glanced over at Red.
"We thought our last meeting might have changed your mind," Red
"I can't imagine why," said Argento, "It's not the first time
I've been beaten and framed for an attempted kidnapping when I should have
been looking for a deadly virus. You get used to it."
"Well, that's nice," said Red, rising. "So, anyway, thanks
for not turning us in, but we have to get going so if you don't mind just
slipping quietly into the abyss…"
"Red, I'm sorry…" said Argento. "I don't know what you
think I came here to say to you, but I assure you, I did have a reason."
"Spit it out then, Frank," said Red. "But bear in mind: not
"I'll do that," Argento said. "I just came to warn you… they've
sent the new Saint here. Not for you, but apparently there's something bad
going on around these parts. I just wanted to give you a heads up- it may
be best to lay low for a little while."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," said Red. "New Saint?"
"Of course. They've asked me to keep an eye on her, so I'll try to steer
her clear of the places you're likely to be, but she's kind of a loose cannon,
so I can't guarantee anything."
"She?" asked Alison.
"A loose cannon?" asked Red. "Compared to me?"
"Name's Chelsea. And she's loose in ways you never even imagined being… and
I didn't mean that to sound so dirty… At any rate, I just thought you
should know. I'm sure she wouldn't hesitate to report your presence back to
the higher ups."
Red looked at Alison. He looked back to Argento. In all honesty, when he
saw Argento at his door he'd been expecting the building was already surrounded
and that Frank had only come up to ask him condescendingly to come along quietly. "Thanks
for the warning," he said, finally. "Frank-"
Argento's cell phone rang.
"Hang on," he said, taking the device out and pushing a button, "Won't
be a moment. Hello? Oh, ah, are you finished already? How did it…? Splendid.
What, right now? What happened to…? What on Earth did you do that for?
Alright, well, I suppose I'll have to come get you. Where will you be? Be
right over." With a beep, he slipped the device away. He arose. "I'm
afraid something has come up. I need to be off."
"Oh, ok," said Red. "That's ok, we had things, you know, we
were going out and all, so…"
"Sorry to bother you," said Argento.
"It was no bother," said Red. "Not really. You know."
"Alison," Argento said, tipping his head in her direction.
"Have fun," she said. He chuckled.
Alison scooped up the cat as Red opened the door to let Argento out. "Frank," said
Red, "I guess, if you ever wanted to… uh… stop by, that would,
Argento looked down. "I appreciate that, Red," he said, "But
I shouldn't. To be honest with you, it was risky even coming here now. One
can never tell when one might accidentally be exposed. Besides, I'm sure they'll
soon tire of the search for you and order me back home."
"Oh," said Red. "Well, then… thanks again."
"No problem," he said, "Anytime." And with that, he was
Alison was frowning. She let Chaser hop to the floor. "I don't trust
"Is that a psychic flash or a hunch?" Red asked.
"Neither, really," she said, "But he was going along with
their attack on us. Imprisoning us."
"But he's also been covering for us."
"This from the guy who got him arrested as a going away present."
"I was angry," he said. Red led the way out to the car, still intending
to buy Alison the replacement computer she required. "I wasn't sure he'd
really keep his word. Now I know he did."
"Or he just pretended to in order to get your trust," Alison said,
climbing into the passenger seat. "You have no idea how much of what
he said is true."
"This is silly," said Red. "Unless you've had a vision you're
not telling me about, you don't know either, so let's just drop the whole
Alison didn't reply. After a minute, Red turned on the stereo. He had the
Dead Man's Chest CD playing. Red always preferred to listen to CDs while driving
instead of the radio. Aside from the fact that the radio didn't play the bands
he really liked, he also preferred to listen to songs he was familiar with.
After a moment he began singing along, spitting out the lyrics of "Bleak
and White World" in unison with the recording.
Alison didn't say anything on the ride, which left Red enough time to run
conversations with her in his head, starting with him being angry at her for
being so bitter towards someone who helped them out and ending up sorry that
they'd even fought in the first place. When they arrived at Circuit City,
he turned off the car and turned to her, his voice oozing with regret, and
said, "I'm sorry, Al."
"It's ok," said Alison. "Let's go."
They made their way into the store. "Independence Day" was playing
on the big screen TVs as they walked past. Red lingered for a moment in the
DVD section considering the new releases. He managed to scoop up a copy of
the new "Wrath of Khan" new Special Edition with all new bonus footage,
documentaries, and commentary before Alison grabbed his arm and dragged him
into the computer section so they could peruse the laptops.
The most expensive model they had was one cent under two thousand dollars
before tax. Red and Alison were doing their best to stand in front of it dramatically
and with intent in order to lure one of the salespeople in their direction
when the surprising crash of a DVD player smashing through the glass of a
large television shocked them and ruined their chances of catching the eye
of the nearby red-vested clerk.
They spun on their heels to see a balding man with a prominent moustache
waving a shotgun as he kicked over one of the wide-screen HDTVs. Where his
hair still grew on his head it was dark brown and grown out long. He wore
a tan duster that was still buttoned up, with a red turtleneck coming up from
the collar. "Everybody stay where you are!" He shouted.
Panic immediately broke out and almost no one stayed where they were. Many
moved rapidly in the direction of the exit until the man fired on the woman
closest to the door. Her back exploded red and she crumpled to the floor.
"I said stay where you are!" he said.
"Oh, crap," Red whispered to Alison. "I have to do something."
She looked at him. He could tell she would prefer he didn't, but she nodded,
clearly scared. Red slipped away from her and ducked down behind the Gamecube
"None of you understand," said the mustachioed assailant, stalking
up and down the aisles of the store. Red could hear him ranting as he prepared
himself. "You think they just sell you things, and they do, but it's
all greed, they want the money and they take the money but it's not enough,
never enough! There always has to be more, so there's more TVs and more gadgets
and if you won't buy them they make you buy them!" Red snuck a glance
around the edge of the demo module. The guy seemed to be rounding up the salespeople
are gathering them around the circle of camcorders in the middle of the store. "They
take their own needs and shoot them right inside our brains so we have to
come here and give them exactly what they want us to give them by coming here
like they wanted us to! They make us replace everything by taking what we
have and leaving us no choice but to take what they have for us and giving
them more of exactly what they want! Someone has to show them that that isn't
ok! We need them to realize that we aren't their livestock! I for one will
not be a cow anymore! No swollen udders here! This is one cup of milk you
won't be drinking, no, it's going to drink you, you hear me?"
"Yeah, I would say we all hear you, after all, you do have the 'Talking
Stick'," Red said, gesturing to the gun. "Why don't you pass it
on to the next member of the circle and give someone else a chance." Red
had buttoned his coat up to the very top and had taken his scarf from his
pocket and wrapped it around his head, except his thick spectacled eyes.
No sooner had he spoken than the gun was leveled at his chest and fired.
His sideways leap barely managed to help him escape with his body's vital
bits connected to one another.
"They have you too!" said Mr. Mustache. Despite Red having gained
his immediate attention, he still stuck close to the clerks. "You think
it's just telling you what's what but it's really finding out all about you!
They know you! They know everything about you!"
"It's ok," Red said. "I brought my own stick." For the
first time in months, Red brandished his sword. "Mine's longer than yours."
Red flopped down to the floor as another shotgun blast destroyed a stack
of Microsoft products that could have been him.
"Yours does seem to shoot farther though…"
"You're only helping those who would make you a brainless thing fueling
their ever growing machine of ever growing machine sales! They will take away
your self and leave you an all-consuming thing without the capacity for independent
Red stuck the tip of his sword through the shelving in front of him, creating
a tiny peephole for himself. Mr. Moustache was lining each of the clerks up
in front of the different cameras so he could see them all on the monitors
above the display island. Red pulled his gun.
"Their capitalist greed is going to destroy free enterprise! They devour
each consumer as a fish devours another fish who has the money that the bigger
fish wants in the first place!"
Red fired his gun through the peephole, causing the monitor Mustache was
viewing a very timid looking salesman on to burst in a fit of sparks. Mustache
spun around in circles.
"Exactly!" he said, "That's just what they want you to do,
break, destroy! They break you into breaking for them! They only thing to
do is to break them first and most!"
It was then that Mr. Moustache ripped open his duster, revealing the large
quantity of what looked to Red like a bomb. A large number of sticks of dynamite
were linked together with a bunch of wiring and a little box with a big red
button on it.
Red swore under his breath. He holstered his gun. He didn't know a thing
about bombs. He was tempted to just slice the whole contraption apart, but
he didn't know if that would make it go off. He thought he remembered parts
in movies where they said if you cut the wrong wire it would blow. He wished
he knew if that was one of the made-up parts.
"Even if we all die here today, we free ourselves from the shackles
of the slavery they have custom made to fit our comfortable lifestyles, with
all it's luxuries and add-ons and mail in rebates and special features and
His rant gave Red and idea, and Mr. Moustache seemed on-edge enough for it
to work. Red took the "Wrath of Khan" DVD out of his pocket and
began unwrapping it. The cellophane drifted to the ground with a whisper as
he popped open the seal and took out the second disk full of special features.
He slid himself to the edge of the aisle and waited for an opening.
A moment later, when the maniac took a breath in his list of evils of the
society, a supplemental disk flew across the store right through his line
of site. Mr. Moustache screamed and fired multiple shots at the silver UFO,
until the gun clicked with emptiness. Red, meanwhile, dove to floor backwards
and slid on his back between Mr. Moustache's legs. "You do realize you're
nuts, right?" he said, upon which he thrust his sword upward into the
crotch above him to the hilt. The blade, of course, left the man's genitalia,
and indeed, all his inner organs A-OK. The impact of the hilt on his testicles
seemed, however, to disagree with him as he fell over forwards, his empty
gun clattering to the floor. "You realize them now," Red said.
From Moustache came a high pitched noise that didn't seem to have any specified
vocabulary in it.
"Everybody get out of here!" Red yelled, hopping to his feet. "He's
unarmed! Go, quickly!"
The other customers did not need to be told again. After popping their heads
up to see if it was actually true, they all moved speedily to the nearest
exit. The sales people, too, wasted no time in retreating.
"Taken down by a Special Edition Re-release…" Mr. Moustache
squeaked. "Why sell once what you can keep selling over and over? Where
does it end?" His hand weakly rose from his privates towards the chest
button. Red prepared himself for a blast, but nothing came but a faint tap.
The tap then occurred a few times in quick succession as Mustache pressed
and repressed the button. He fumbled with it for a moment before coming across
a wire that was sliced right in half.
Red realized it must have happened when he'd stuck his sword through the
man. He had forgotten just how lucky he could be when he was doing the Lord's
Work, as Hayden would say.
"Fool!" Mr. Moustache bellowed. "Don't you see? They have
to be stopped before we give them everything we've got in order to just keep
what we have!" He reached out for his shotgun, sitting empty nearby.
Red spun himself around on the waxed-tile floor, causing his foot to connect
with Moustache's moustache, among other facial regions. He fell backwards
and smacked his head on the floor with a thud.
"Man, I am so sick of the nonsense you're spewing," Red said. "Now
just play dead until the police arrive."
Moustache laughed. "Play? Oh, ho, I can do you one better than that!
Capture is not an option! I can't go back to being one of their herd! This
cow is running with the bulls in the sky!"
Red heard a crack from Mr. Moustache's mouth.
"What the hell was that?" he said, kneeling at the man's side.
"Contingency plan," said Moustache, swallowing. "Poison designed
to… prevent… capture… or… comm… erce…"
"Oh come, on, no!" said Red, checking the man's not-so-vital signs. "For
someone so pissed off about capitalism you sure didn't skimp of the poison!"
Sirens began approaching. Red glanced out the front windows and saw flashing
lights just coming into the plaza. He hoped Alison had the spare set of car
keys- he was going to have to meet her at home. He ran back through the store
all the way through to the car stereo section and through the 'employees only'
door. He didn't have time to figure out which way was out, so he picked the
nearest cinderblock wall and sliced himself an exit.
Chelsea's cigarettes were ruined in the water as well, she soon discovered.
The pack joined her cell in the nearby garbage can. She managed to bum a smoke
off a passing college student. Not her brand, but better than nothing. Wearing
a soaking wet T-shirt and jeans in Upstate New York at the end of October
is not really the kind of thing they recommend in the travel brochures for
the area, and it wasn't doing wonders for Chelsea's mood. The smoke at least
warmed her up on the inside.
That was not the only reason she hoped Argento would hurry. As much as being
outside soaking wet was uncomfortable, it was also suspicious. She wasn't
as far as she'd have liked to have been from the computer pod. If she'd known
the area better she would have picked a meeting place elsewhere, but as it
was, there was precious little time for reconnaissance before she'd had to
Argento pulled up in his Outback before too many people had the chance to
get dirty looks from Chelsea for looking at her funny. "What's the matter,
never seen a girl get wet before?" she almost snapped at them, but held
her tongue for fear of giving them another means of identifying her later.
Chelsea went up to the driver's side and opened the door. "Out," she
Argento stared at her. "You're welcome…" he said.
"Yeah, thanks, out," she repeated. "I'm driving."
"This is my-"
"Uh-huh, thanks for letting me drive it, out you go," she said.
He put the car in park and clicked off his seat belt. Chelsea grabbed his
arm and jerked him out of the car, hopping into it as he went around to the
other side. She cranked the heat up high and flipped through the radio stations
until she came upon something by System of a Down.
"Where are we going?" Argento asked.
"I dunno," she said. "Back to the hotel, I guess."
"So why did you need to drive us there?"
She sped off into the road. "As I'm sure you know from my files, I like
to be in control of things. That's why I only have temporary babysitters like
you. They know I wouldn't tolerate one full time."
"Ah," he said, apparently letting the situation drop. He'd probably
heard about Cranston. She snorted back a laugh thinking about the guy. She
almost pitied him.
Argento didn't seem like he'd give her much trouble. He seemed like a nice
guy and, more importantly, he was kind of a wuss. Everything she'd ever heard
about him was how he'd let Red Cain walk all over and eventually kick the
snot out of him. Apparently he's been waiting around this stupid town in a
feeble attempt to get a jump on the Saint. He'd become quite a joke back at
the compound. No, Chelsea didn't expect him to give her much trouble.
They were almost at the Holiday Inn where Argento had been keeping himself
these past months and into which Chelsea had recently checked when it happened-
a vision struck her.
She saw the White House shatter and then flicker away. An innocent death.
A game behind which a hero enshrouds himself. Two martyrs clash- one self-made,
one reluctant. A silver shine in the air. A lucky stab. A death in vain. A
The Outback skidded in a sudden U-turn through an intersection, other cars
swerving to avoid it and blaring their horns as it did.
Chelsea mentally laughed at Argento's girlish scream.
"What in God's name are you doing?!" Argento shouted at her.
"Exactly, exactly that. In God's name. Everything I do is done in God's
name, you'd do well to remember that and not question me so much."
"You could have gotten us killed!"
"Not when I am doing His Work," she said, her voice cool and focused.
Argento was gripping the handle above his window for dear life as Chelsea
wove in and out of traffic. "Where are we going now?" he eventually
worked up the gumption to ask.
"I've had a vision," she said. "I'm needed."
"Where? What's going on?"
She didn't say anything. She didn't need to answer to him. She could explain
it to him later so he could do his ridiculous reports to the Highers, but
she was the Holy One, she'd tell him what she was doing if and only if she
wanted him to know, and this she most certainly did not want him to know.
He keeps things from her, she keeps things right back. It was only fair.
Chelsea wasn't the first Saint who was also a Prophet, of course, but as
far as those serving with DI&R go, they were few and far between. That's
how she knew she was special. Even among the chosen, she was chosen. God had
granted her not only the vision to see what must be done, but also the power
to actually make it so. She had an obligation to do what he revealed to her.
Working with DI&R had help make that possible and it made getting where
she needed to be easier. They had the same goals and she respected that, but
she had her own work to do and she would not let their nonsense get in the
way of that. As long as they could accept her on those terms, things went
well between them.
She pulled the Outback off the main concourse onto a side road and then up
what was obviously a deliver entrance to a shopping center. She came to a
stop outside the loading dock and turned off the radio.
"What are we doing here?" Argento whispered.
"Shhh," Chelsea replied.
After a moment of silence, Argento asked, "What are you listening for?"
"Nothing," she said, "I'm just tired of your stupid questions."
After they sat there for a minute more sirens began to fade into hearing.
"Chelsea, what is going on here?" Argento said. "Are those
sirens coming here?"
"Yes," she said.
"Then let's get out of here," he said. "What are we waiting
"That," she said.
A small metallic triangle appeared protruding from a nearby wall. It quickly
darted around in a circle and the slowly, with a grinding sound, that circle
of cinderblocks was pushed towards them until it fell out onto the pavement
outside. Through the new hole popped a man in a leather coat buttoned all
the way up with a scarf wrapped all around his head except for a pair of thick
glasses and the top of his hair which stood up rather ludicrously.
"Hello, your Holiness," said Chelsea.
The man looked from her to Argento and back a few times.
"Well…" said Argento, "Red, meet Chelsea. Chelsea, Red."
"I think you have a bit of explaining to do, Argento," Chelsea
said. "You- get in."