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Acts of the Saints
By K.A. Schuster
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 K.A. Schuster
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCatherine switched off the radio before she slid back into bed. She was limp and sore and idiotically blissful.
"You didn't just go to the bathroom, did you."
Startled, Catherine searched for Theo's face in the darkness. "I thought you were asleep."
"I'm sure you did. Come here."
She nestled against him once more, assuming her usual nighttime position. This night, her sleep would be peaceful, and her dreams would restore her.
"So you went to him?" Theo asked neutrally.
Catherine hesitated. "Yes."
"Did he accept you?"
"And was he very lovely?"
"Very." Catherine sighed, remembering. "Just as you described him."
"Beyond words." She couldn't judge how Theo was taking this. Suddenly, she felt solicitous. "Does it bother you?"
He laughed once. "That we resort to secrecy when exercising our humanity, that we have no choice but to behave like criminals because we're branded as criminals, that nature and need have become as troublesome a burden as any psychosis-yes, that bothers me. That you enjoyed another human being in a way I cannot"-he squeezed Catherine's shoulder-"no, not in any significant way. I'm happy for you, hon. We all have to counteract the effects of those bloodsucking-"
The high, dancing sound of shattered glass.
"It came from the living room," Catherine whispered tightly. "Oh, Jesus. Marty ..."
"The suitcase," Theo hissed.
He didn't have to elaborate. Catherine pulled it from under the bed. She opened it, scooped out her and Theo's things, popped open the false bottom; she snatched out two canisters of tear gas. But something was missing.
"The Colt, where the hell is the nine-millimeter Colt?"
"Damn, it's in the car."
There was a low rumble of voices in the house, the sullen thumping of heavily shod feet.
"Never mind," Theo said. "Come on. Hurry!"
They ran down the hallway and entered the living room just as Donald came stumbling down the stairway from the second floor.
"What the hell is going on?" he croaked. A mosaic of glass fanned out over the carpeting; he recoiled when he saw it wink in the light from a streetlamp.
Theo picked up a paper-wrapped brick as Catherine ran to the open front door.
"Stop!" she shouted. "We're armed!"
But the intruders didn't stop, they only hurried along more purposefully-four men and two women bearing a prone figure aloft: Marty, naked and writhing, powerless.
"Let him go!" Catherine screamed, then lobbed a canister with practiced accuracy.
The gas unfurled and drifted, but Marty's captors were already shoving him into the back of a capped truck. One of the men began coughing. His arm swung backwards, and when Catherine saw what was in his hand she screamed again, "NO!" She ran for her and Theo's car and scrabbled for their pistol just as the coughing man lunged forward, thrusting a six-point buck antler between Marty's legs.
Catherine's wail of horror spiraled through the night, twining around Marty's cry of agony, the fused sounds echoing and billowing like the voices of the damned in some deeper circle of hell and nearly engulfing the choked growl of the torturer. "You can thank your whore for that."
Weeping, Catherine sank to her knees.
Gate and doors slamming, the truck roared and shot forward.
Theo grabbed the Colt and aimed it at the truck, but Catherine clutched his wrist. "Don't, don't," she sobbed. "Jesus God don't, they'll hurt him again."
"I'll follow them," Theo said. His face was drawn and livid in the sickish light. Still carrying the pistol, he got in the car; it, too, disappeared down the street.
Mechanically, Donald approached Catherine, helped her get up, wiped the tears from her face. "I called the cops," he said hollowly, then dropped his head to his hands. They both knew such calls were fruitless where the welter of fanaticism overwhelmed any foundering, nearly anachronistic laws.
Together they returned to the house.
A light was on, and the shards of glass glinted menacingly wherever they were tilted to refract it. Donald picked up a piece of paper from an end table and handed it to Catherine.
"Ingenious fellows," he said with mock blitheness. "They broke a window to unlock the door and delivered a message in the process."
Catherine's hands quaked as she lifted the soiled and wrinkled note.
You play the devils music, you play the devils games, you pay the devils price. Thou shald not love men and wommen alike nor covit another mans wife. Unaturel acts reep unaturel rewards.
With a strangled cry of disgust, Catherine dropped the paper.
Donald had wilted onto the couch. He rubbed his face. "Fucking Witnesses. God knows how much they've seen and heard over the last thirty-six hours. They must've passed the word among the neighborhood cretins ... who always do the dirty work, you know. The Witnesses can't. They're champions of the law and the Lord and the Lord's law; they're respectable as hell."
His voice became a lilting singsong, as incongruous as the smile that slashed across his face when he looked up at Catherine. It was a mime's smile, too large for his bones. His red-rimmed eyes seemed to glow.
Catherine had no comfort for him. She had none for herself.
Donald's smile drooped into a frown, as if he had shucked his distorted mask of comedy and donned the one of tragedy. "You know," he said, shaking a finger at Catherine, "that note suggests they're a lot more hip to us than we thought. Some voyeur-for-God must've taken quite a few peeks at us, must've recognized one or more of us as unrepentant queers-David, maybe Jack, too. And they must've guessed that Marty can swing both ways like the pendulum do. But how ...?" Pointing at Catherine, he paused and raised his eyebrows high. "You and Marty played doctor, didn't you." He slapped his forehead. "I should've been able to predict it! You went to him and asked him to play doctor with you, you naughty girl ... and you were caught!"
Catherine winced. She felt herself staring but couldn't seem to blink. "They were watching," she whispered. Her stomach fisted.
"You betcha, babe." The demented smile returned, briefly, before Donald's head fell to one side. He drew his knees up to his chest and closed his eyes. "Oh Jesus," he whimpered, "what's going to happen to him?"
Excerpted from Acts of the Saints by K.A. Schuster Copyright © 2006 by K.A. Schuster. Excerpted by permission.
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