After my encounter with Magpie, I decided to try to lay low for a while. Lose myself in the city, then stay on the move, hoping that they wouldn't be able to follow me.
Last night, I decided to spend the night in a church. Bigger cities usually have at least one church that holds a Saturday evening mass, and even if they lock the doors, they don't have particularly tight security. I can slip in on a Saturday night and slip out on Sunday morning. I feel weird, using a religious place like that. Like, even though I know that I need a place to stay and the church would probably be willing to let me spend the night if they knew about it, there's still some judgmental heavenly eye looking down on me. Something about it just feels wrong.
After everyone had left, I crept into the sanctuary and sat looking at the architecture. Stained-glass windows are always so cool, but it's been a long time since I've seen them during the day when they're actually lit up. At night, they're just dark and murky images. I looked up at the cross above the pulpit. It too seemed more threatening than comforting in the dark. I curled up on a pew and thought. Is there a god somewhere? I don't know. It's hard to say it's impossible while on the run from the supernatural. At the same time, could the Fears be gods themselves?
I wish I had talked to Lily more about her beliefs on religion. She said that she was "raised Christian." I never got much of a solid answer beyond that. I tried to keep from thinking about it last night, though, because wondering about that leads to wondering whether or not she's in hell now that she's dead. I don't want to think about that.
I heard footsteps and flattened myself into the pew, gripping my staff tightly. I hadn't expected anyone to be in the church after this point and didn't want to risk getting caught, even if they might be understanding. After a bit, I heard a voice.
"Huh. Fitting. So bright and cheery during worship. So euphoric that you could say that the building itself is alive. You can practically feel the spirit of God around you." The man was muttering to himself quietly, though every word echoed in the empty sanctuary. "But when it's empty...." he let out a dry chuckle. "Look at it. Just look at that cross. All these people coming in and worshiping a brutal execution instrument. Eating a guy's body and drinking his blood."
He fell silent for a moment. "Could be worse," he muttered. "Could be Scientology. Don't you agree, Kenny?" I froze. "Come on, I know you're here. Come on out." I didn't move. I heard some more footsteps, then lights flickered on. "Let's not draw this out, okay? My little girl's back home. I need to get back to her before it gets too late. You can understand that, can't you?"
I slowly stood up, knowing it was useless to run. The middle-aged man there was probably over six feet tall. Balding, heavyset and muscular but with a beer belly, dressed in a white wifebeater and jeans. In his hands he carried a pair of meat mallets. The spikes on the ends didn't look particularly sharp or long, but with the man's strength and the weight of the hammers, it didn't look like it mattered much.
The man smiled. "Name's Gabe. Nice to meet you. As I'm sure you've guessed, I'm one of the Ten Masks. Nothing personal, you understand. It's just business. It's a steady job that pays well, and I've gotta take care of Janie somehow."
I looked up at Gabe, and even though I'm sure I looked like a cornered squirrel, I still put on a brave face. "It looks like she'll have to go hungry, then."
Gabe gave a full belly laugh, as if he found my statement more charming than threatening. "Oh, Kenny. I'm so sorry, kid. You're brave, I'll give you that much. Not a good fighter, but you're definitely brave." He smiled. "I'm really sorry we had to meet under these circumstances. I'll try to make it quick for your sake."
He charged down the aisle at me. He was a lot quicker than I would have expected from a man his size, but I could already tell that speed was my biggest advantage over him. That, and my reach. Even without using the full length of the staff, I had more range than his hammers. Of course, if he hit me even once, I'd probably be done for.
I jumped back as he swung and the hammer crashed into a pew, sending wooden shrapnel flying. I watched as carefully as I could as he swung at me again and again. It was fairly easy to dodge him, since he telegraphed his moves so much. There was a lot of power behind his swings, but there wasn't much speed. Overhead or from the side. He'd swing one of those two ways. All the while, wooden slivers would go flying at us as the hammers would chip at the pews.
I ducked beneath his arm as he raised it and swung at him from behind with all my strength. He grunted and coughed as my staff struck his back and knocked the wind out of him, but shrugged it off and turned. I hadn't planned for him to recover from my maneuver, and he caught me off balance. I desperately raised Lily to ward off his blow, and managed to clumsily block the mallet. I felt the wood start to give a bit, as if it was going to break, but it didn't. Still, it was enough to throw me completely off-guard mentally. I ended up on the floor with Gabe standing over me.
"That's enough," came a voice from the other end of the sanctuary, echoing around the room. Gabe looked up and I craned my neck around. A police officer was standing at the far end of the aisle, gun drawn.
"You..." Gabe whispered.
"I'd leave the boy alone and get out of here if I were you," he said. "Your choice. Consequence-free freedom, or death."
Gabe stood there a second before smiling down at me. "Congrats, kid. Guess I'll get the chance to see you again, ya lucky bastard." He stepped away from me and walked past the cop out of the sanctuary.
"What's...what's going on?" I asked as the cop helped me to my feet. He was a tall, thin man, with a long, very sharp-looking face. I blinked, trying to get my bearings. The whole thing had given my mind a bit of whiplash.
"Kenny Mortel? My name's Edwin Canis. I've been looking for you." I tensed up, and I could tell he sensed it. "Relax, I know your situation here. I know exactly what you're dealing with, and I want you to know that I'm here to help you. I've pulled some strings. You're not listed as a missing person anymore. I'm also going to be providing safety for you for a short while." He gave a slight smile. "You're in good hands for the time being."
"How did you find me?"
"An anonymous tip. Told me that this church was being vandalized and that I'd want to check this one out personally. Looks like I got to you right in time."
So instead of a night in the church, Canis let me spend the night at his house. He's asking me about what exactly I've been through. Says that I'll have access to some of my parents' money now that I'm 18, but I think I'm going to save it for emergencies. Basically, Canis is going to help me get back on my feet.
But I'm still worried. Gabe found me so easily last night. Who knows when he or Magpie will be back, or when the rest of the Ten Masks will show up?