July 24th, 2017
At five in the afternoon, for the last three days, the Priest had been at the ready. He stood in front of the door and knocked in his usual habit. And by five-twenty in the afternoon, he would leave. It was like that. Routine.
He felt like a debt collector.
It wasn’t unreasonable either. At least…he thought.
He just wanted to know what had happened. The news hadn’t shared much information about anything of the fire, other than the number of corpses found and the destruction wrought by the burning building. He wanted to hear it from Apollo. But Apollo would not say it, would not even think it. He did not open his doors. Not until the fourth day, when The Priest said;
“You open this door, or I’ll break it down.”
So he did open the door. And on his face we the heavy eyes and heavier wrinkles. His body, slunk, falling like heavy slop.
A hood dragged across his face, sweatpants torn at their bottoms, and socks with holes had him sliding across the wood floor.
“What in God’s holy name is this.” He wasn’t even given the courtesy of having the door opened to him. Apollo just left it there, unlocked and ajar.
“You’re a mess.” He said. Apollo sat in his chair, marking maps and throwing empty white bottles of orange juice to his side and into the trash can. There was some rum near it too. Just one of his many bottles. He rimmed the plastic, it fell to the side of the trashcan.
Just another failure, part of a whole collection of bottles rolling around the side of the trashcan. Like dead fish on the shoreline.
“What do you want?” Apollo asked. He was working on the board, in front of Polaroids lined up with photos of suspects. At least, that’s what they were called in the little section below the picture.
Some were drawn with circles. Others were ripped in half, on the floor or stained black with coffee.
“What do I want?” The Priest walked forward, past the desk and to the window. He worked on the bottom of the trussed, closed binds. The little rope broke, the handle ziplined up, and the window was open.
Apollo flinched from the ray of gold. He strayed into the murk, into a coal-colored shadow in the room. Dust particles flew outside, gentle and serene and they dissipated.
“It’s like a tomb in here.” The Priest looked to Apollo. “And you’re the mummy living in the sarcophagus.”
“I didn’t order a maid, alright? Why are you here?” Apollo walked into the light. His eyes narrowed, he wrote down numbers and letters in yellow paper. The Priest could see the messy silhouette of his fluffed hair, and his unshaven neck. He hadn’t slept, it seemed.
“Why am I here? We haven’t spoken in days.” He said. “ Not only that, there was a building on fire just last week. Five dead. Five! And I get the feeling you had something to do with it.”
“And if I did?”
He grit his teeth. He tightened his face. “And Dion. He used to come every day for prayer, haven’t heard a word from him.”
“As long as the work gets done, why do you care what we do?” Apollo asked. “Didn’t you call him an animal too? First day on the job, to boot.”
“So what? I don’t feel ashamed one bit by saying it.” The Priest stepped in front of Apollo. “I still think you two are monsters. Half-demons, ridiculous. Agents of God, they want me to call you that.”
“Not half-demons. Only part.” Apollo walked passed him. He tore a taped photo on the wall, it looked pixelated. “Secondly, I don’t know where Dion is. He’s none of my business.”
“He’s your partner.”
“Was. We had a split.”
“You always have a spout. You two are children.”
“This time was different.” Apollo turned around, his eyes downcast.
“What are you talking about?” The Priest asked.
Apollo turned around. “What I’m saying is that this is none of my business,” Apollo said. “Not Dion. Not the city. Not anything but getting rid of your little cult problem. That’s it.”
“Can you at least tell me about the fire? The rundown newspaper place. They said it looked like a nuke going off with how big the fires rose.” The Priest dragged a chair around the room. It was a small complex, but it felt bigger without Dion, without the presence of his laugh or his kneeling body on the bedside.
“What about it?”
“So you admit it’s your fault. Is that why you’ve dodged me? So you wouldn’t have to answer for it?” The Priest asked.
“We burned a building down and captured four degenerates.” He looked down then rose head. “No, not people – rats,”
“And then the place burned down, and the four went down with it. Or five. I forget.”
“There was another body.” The Priest rested his head on his arms and leaned forward. “A small girl. Do you know anything about that?”
Apollo stood with unnerving stiffness. The pen-marker slipped from his hand. He jerked at the noise. Then leaned down with a movement so slow, he brushed against the pen, it rolled down the floor, to the Priest. He held it firm.
“What happened?” The Priest asked.
“Things that might happen given our line of work. Dion lost it. That’s the short of it.” Apollo stuck out his hand. “He knocked me out too. The prick has a nice right hook.”
“And then?” The Priest handed him the pen.
“Then, well, I don’t know what happened after that. I woke up a few buildings away. In a dumpster, of all things. There was no one left. Just a howl of sirens, firemen, police… Paramedics.”
“The girl was mutilated. Do you have anything -“
“No.” It was the first time Apollo had shouted. At least, that the Priest heard. “She was like that when we found her.”
“The others were mutilated too. Worse. Drilled, with holes. Like they were put through hole punchers.”
“Ask Dion. I was out cold during that whole thing. What do you think he did?” Apollo swerved to a suitcase laying on his bed. It indented the mattress and left it concave, the springs recoiled into a harsh swing up as he picked the pounds up. He laid it on the floor and scrounged inside. Undoing his own clothes as he did so, flashing the scars and burns on his body. He was striped, Apollo’s torso, like a zebra. Like a soldier or commando with camouflage rouge in the thicket of a war-torn jungle.
Olive skin cut sporadically with black lines; burns, scars, such and such.
“I’m asking you what you know. Not him.” The Priest stood. “Answer me. What happened?” Apollo worked his suit on his body, he fixed his tie and set his tired eyes on the Priest. This was it; that terrible gut feeling. The numbing feeling. Tension in the air so thick it felt like the bottom of the ocean. A pressure that compressed the Priest, made him feel small. He was waiting, wondering, if his eyes would pop out, if his eardrums would collapse into bloodshed.
“I answer to no one,” Apollo said. “Not to you. Not to Dion. Not to her grandfather, no one. No one.”
Maybe this was the point the Priest should have been afraid. Maybe he would have in another time. But he noticed something. A blink, shifty eye, quivering lips.
“Her grandfather? Whose that? Who’s the ‘she’?” The Priest said.
“No one.” Apollo hissed.
And the Priest looked in his pocket for his rosary, and he counted the beads. “Lie then. Lie to me. Lie to Dion. Lie about what happened. But not yourself.”
“Well, ain’t you holy?” Apollo went to the door.
“You can pretend you’re not hurt. You can pretend you’re not affected, or that you don’t care about anything. But that’s all it is, pretend. A game. Another mask.”
“I’m leaving. I’ve got to do something.” Apollo’s voice went faint. Exasperated, the air was cold, and steam came from his breath.
“I’m no doctor, but even I can make a prognosis for you; Guilt.” The Priest said.
“Monsters don’t feel guilt.”
The Priest made a face, he didn’t know which one himself. A frown? A smile from cleverness? Maybe a bit of shame for himself.
“I’m sorry for what I said.” The Priest said. “But you really will be a monster if you don’t deal with this.”
“F*** off,” Apollo said.
The Priest made his way to the door, Apollo stood outside, looking for his keys.
“Your soul can’t heal as well as your body. I hope you realize -“
The door shut on him. And he didn’t bother to open the door again. No, he let him run off, down to a car. Where the engine roared and sped along the narrow street way.
“At least lock your own door.” The Priest sighed.