Bryant was hauling a bag of trash to the dumpster behind the church when he spotted the black Ford Expedition parked on the side of the building. Bryant slowed his steps until his vantage point allowed him to see the driver’s side of the car. When he saw who was standing next to the car speaking with the driver, he dropped the bag of garbage and froze. Margo Sutter had a frightened expression while listening to the FBI agent talk with her in a harsh tone. Out of curiosity he began walking toward the car.
Margo saw him coming and immediately tried to cut him off. She stepped in front of him while the FBI agent seemed amused through the reflection in the side-view mirror.
Bryant tried to get around her, but she held her ground, palming his chest and pushing him back. The Expedition began to roll away. Turkle’s smile beamed back at him through the rearview mirror.
“What was that all about?” Bryant asked as the FBI agent turned the corner and out of sight.
“He’s trying to scare me,” she said.
“Because,” she walked a few feet away, then back. She looked up at Bryant with pity in her eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“About your family. I’m really sorry,” she said.
Bryant tried to figure out the source of the comment. Where did it come from? It was his nature to understand the root of the words. By Margo’s expression, it seemed to be born out of guilt.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I’m not going through anything you haven’t.”
Margo looked down at her fingers and began to play with them.
The side door to the church squeaked open and Father Joe poked his head out.
“You kids okay?” he said.
Father Joe walked over, letting the heavy door close behind him with a thud. The three of them stood still for a moment and the priest seemed to understand the awkward silence.
“Am I interrupting something?” he said.
Margo clutched his arm. “No, Father, of course not.” She gave Bryant a stern look, like a wife or a daughter would.
“No,” Bryant agreed. “We were just discussing FBI agent Turkle’s motives.”
“I see,” Father Joe said, looking down at Margo. “He doesn’t seem to like you very much, does he?”
Margo shrugged. “I scare people.”
“You don’t scare me,” Father Joe said. “And I’m frightened of everything.”
They both frowned at the priest simultaneously.
“Okay, so I don’t frighten easily,” he admitted. “But really what could he be frightened of?”
Margo looked at Bryant. “You spoke with him last night. What did he say?”
What could he possibly tell her without inflicting more psychological trauma into a mind which deserved some breathing room? He considered going into the details of the plane crash, but she didn’t have any recollection of the accident. It was the mercy of her extraordinary brain that allowed her the reprieve.
“First of all he has a GPS device fastened to your car, so he knows exactly where you are,” Bryant said.
Margo shrugged again. “It doesn’t take a GPS device to tell you I’m at church. I’m here every day.”
“Nevertheless,” he said. “You’re right about one thing. He doesn’t trust you.”
Father Joe rubbed the back of his neck. “I still don’t understand what the FBI could possibly want with her. She poses no threat to anyone.”
“I think I know,” Margo said. She looked at both of them as if examining their disposition. “He’s not doing what they want.”
“What do you mean?” Bryant asked.
“I mean,” the teenager shuffled her feet. “His boss doesn’t want him following me. He’s doing all of this on his own.”
“Is he just a . . . uh, creep?” Father Joe asked. The way he asked it, with embarrassment in his tone, everyone understood the implication.
“No,” Margo said flatly. “It’s not like that.”
A navy-blue pickup truck rolled around the corner of the building and slowly passed the group. The driver examined them carefully as he passed. He was a large-faced man with a beard and round cheeks.
“What are you two talking about?” Bryant asked.
Father Joe and Margo exchanged glances.
The pickup truck stopped twenty feet away in the middle of the parking lot. The conversation faltered as they waited for the driver. Bryant suspected the man was searching for directions.
The door to the vehicle opened and the driver lifted his heavy frame from the truck. He wore a flannel shirt and jeans. The way he hobbled from the cab, it seemed as if he’d been driving a long distance, his knees and legs stiff from immobility. Bryant noticed the Alaska license plate.
Margo immediately gasped and began walking backward, away from everyone.
“Can I help you?” Father Joe asked.
The man reached behind his back. Before Bryant saw the gun he heard Margo scream. It happened too quickly for him to react, or maybe he just froze. One loud gunshot, then two. The man fired at Margo as she held out her hands in vain. Father Joe ran to her as she collapsed. Bryant rushed at the man full-out, body-slamming him to the ground, but it was too late. The man offered little resistance as Bryant grabbed the gun and sent it skidding along the asphalt.
Bryant squeezed the man’s throat with fury. He turned to see Father Joe clutching Margo’s lifeless frame, her body wilting in his arms. The sound of the gunshots still rang in Bryant’s ears as he frantically reached for his cell phone with his free hand and dialed 911.
The man lay there beneath Bryant, his wild eyes flittering and his breathing shallow. Bryant gave the essential information and threw down his phone. He glanced over and saw the blood spreading across Margo’s T-shirt, too fast. He had to get to her, but his rage wouldn’t allow him to let go of the shooter. His body pulsed with adrenalin as he looked down at the man who seemed to be saying something. Bryant realized he was still squeezing the man’s neck, his face turning purple from the lack of oxygen. When Bryant loosened his grip the man finally sputtered out a few words.
“She’s . . .” he wheezed, as his hand pointed up to a dark cloud billowing overhead. “She’s one of them.”