For his eighty-six years, Mantooth appears stronger than he is. Veins on his forearms like cables. A chest that could still be classed as barrel. None of it mattered. Not once we begin. Four teeth falling from his mouth and we’re halfway to the place I want us to be.
“You’re going to tell me if there were more of you, Father. More than just Bobby and you. You tell me that and your ability to chew holds a much better chance of staying intact.”
Cheap tent or not, he folds, admitting to everything that had been speculation up to the point in time to where Bobby LeBec decides a boy no older than ten deserved the very same thing the Father had allegedly done to him.
Bleeding, repentant, the old man tries his best to wrap himself around my knees. He pleads. He begs. He causes me to rethink my offer of allowing him to live.
“Things are wrong upon this world,” he says, his hands finally realizing that my right leg was not as whole as it appeared. “Things are not right within me.”
“You don’t say,” and I’m already past the point of no return before I register his screams. He ends up beneath the majority of my boot, his jaw and the pew he ends up against a greyish pink mush by the time I realize his skull has become something less than bone.
Batista was right: age would never be anything but a number.
“The prosthetic works fine. No worries.” I tell Batista. I needed to get it out of the way quickly. If I didn’t, there was no way of telling how far he’d try to take things. Not that I could blame him, the man only acting as nature made him.
“Your balance is fine, then? No real problems with speed?” I look over at him. He’s thinner now. Too thin, in fact. As if he knows what I’m thinking, he readjusts his shirt, then does it again, ending with a hand which travels through a beard that’s no longer there. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Textbook and Batista, they are one and the same.
“It’s been a year, John. The leg works. It gets it done. Can we just get on with it?” I lost the lower part of my right leg more than a year ago, to an axe and a man who no longer breathes. Where I see this as time lost to cleaning up walking, talking garbage, Batista sees it as something else. We’d had the same difference of opinion years ago, when we first started out. But the Detective, he came around to my way of thinking, which is exactly what I hoped would happen here.
“Fine,” he says, but the face he gives me says he wished to say more. Wonders of wonders, he doesn’t, and almost like that we are back to saving the world the only way we knew how: one shit-stain at a time.
Overweight, wearing an orange track suit past the point of structural integrity, Bobby LeBec sits on the edge of his bed, blood gushing from his mouth. The fabric of the track suit absorbs most of the liquid, accentuating cracks and crevices years in the making. I raise the hammer again and LeBec screams, holding up his hands to ward off the coming blow.
“There were others,” he cries. “I lied. I LIED!”
Now we were getting somewhere.
I just hoped we weren’t too late.
But we were too late. Only two of the six monsters were still alive. Three had been taken by cancer, another by DUI.
“Three of the four died hard, Rider. If anything, we can at least take solace in that.” It wasn’t enough. Would never be enough. Batista knew as much, believed as much, but has always been a glass-half-full type of guy. Saying such a thing might suggest I am the opposite, but this is not the case. More to the point: the glass, in my world, it fails to exist.
None of this changes what Batista does, how he roots out the remaining two, the pair of them still holding ties to the church. A little more digging and he sets them and me on a collision course—one their wheelchairs would have a hard time saving them from.
The thinner one protests the entire way to the edge of the building. Over and gone, the screams continue, trailing off as I turn my attention to his buddy, this other “man of God.” He’s trembling, covered in liver spots, trying with all his might to remove himself from the chair. I slide behind him, release the brakes, and move us to the edge.
I remind him of the lives he touched. I remind him of the lives he destroyed.
I repeat it was time to fly.