The Goode Student

© 2011 By Timothy W. Spencer

Hell found me. Its hands caught me as I fell. Looking skyward; I wished for a heavenly savior to pierce the milky night, but, as my bloodied body accepted the departure of my tortured soul, not a star glimmered in the damning dull sky. Further, descending from the cloudy firmament, raindrops, which I could only hope blessed my passing from this earthly existence, fell in ever increasing rhythm on my chilling body.  The Angels did not sing. The clouds did not open to enfold me in a warm, golden light. I, a devoted student of His word, forfeited my soul with a final act of murder. The realization fell on my weary psyche with weight and fear. Hell took me.
* * *

“It's tied top of the last inning; Angels and Dust Devils are one-to-one. Willy I think Michelle Bailey and her Fighting Angels still have a chance to win the ASA Championships.” The first announcer declared.
“I don’t mean to play devil’s advocate, Rob,” Willy answered, “no pun intended, but, the bases are full and look who's stepping up; Carla Jackson. I don’t care if she has a bat nicknamed ‘Blaze’ or not. Carla’s hitting record is consistent; either she hits it out of the park or she strikes out, that’s best I can come up with, I’m sorry. Michelle can’t afford any mistakes right now. I’m thinking that it's the latter today. I’m sure Michelle is praying for the former.”
Michelle let a tight smile drift across her face, and then quickly stopped it. She would take time to bathe in the glory later. Right now we need to focus on winning. “Come on Carla; put it over the fence.” Michelle yelled.
Michelle knew this could be her crowning moment, had to be if she planned to concentrate on her teaching career next year. Next summer she had to focus on upgrading her teaching skills. If I don’t, any talk of career advancement would be moot. I am lagging horribly behind on the litany of new testing requirements for maintaining my teaching license. I take the crown home now, or never.
Michelle couldn’t believe her eyes when on the first pitch Carla swung at air, and she let Carla know it, “What, couldn’t you tell that was a sucker pitch? Carla you’re not a sucker so stop swinging at them. Carla, put it over the fence.”
This was Carla’s MO; Michelle knew. She’ll swing at anything, air mostly, but when she connects Carla’s a powerhouse. Nine out of ten she sends the ball so far out of the stadium it's lost. This was a fact Michelle knew well, because she had sent the bat-girl (or bat-boy, whoever’s kid was present that day) to look for the balls behind Hoffman Stadium wall several times; to no avail. It's just tall grass back there.
“It's another strike for Carla Jackson. Maybe Michelle’s luck is running out. The Devils could win, or at least preserve the tie sending us into overtime.”
Michelle frowned. “Not likely,” she mumbled.
Carla stepped out of the batter’s box scowling. She lifted the gleaming red aluminum bat above her head; holding the grip with her right hand as she let her left glide along its length to the tip. She arched her back with the bat in both hands above her and stretched. When she stepped back she gave the home plate a determined thwack with the tip of the bat: once, twice, three times. Then she brought the bat around in a wind-up swing, and said, “Come on pitcher bring it.”
The pitcher’s arm whirred in a circle like a crazed wind-up doll, and the softball snapped free of her hand. Michelle imagined she could hear the churr of the ball as it whizzed through the air. There was a sharp twang of metal as the bat struck the ball; the sound rang through the stadium like a rallying cry. The crowd leapt to their feet as the softball soared over the eight foot high wall behind the field. Carla casually let the metal bat fall to the ground. Michelle watched as the shiny red metal hit the ground and bounced; causing bright sunlight to shimmer and sparkle off its fiery surface. The crowd erupted; catcalls, screams of delight, and thrumming chant of, “Angels, Angels, Angels.” Carla trotted ritually around the bases with a smile of triumph plastered on her face. Michelle stepped from the bull pen and strutted over to home plate.
Michelle gave Shelly Bowman a high-five, Michelle’s best player who had been on third, as she came into home. Tara Spellman came in next, and then, was her name Mindy, Michelle couldn’t remember. The woman was quiet, and I haven’t played her much. I know she can hardly hit or catch a ball, that’s why she’s been on the bench all season. She wouldn’t be playing now if I hadn’t needed a replacement for Renée.
It didn’t matter Michelle gave a high-five to the two of them as they went pass. When Carla came into home, Michelle caught her in a gripping hug lifting the smaller woman off the ground. The Devils were the team to beat, and all they need do is hold them off. When they win (because we will most surely win) the game they would be a cinch for championships: York AME Zion’s Fighting Angels would be the first church team to win such an honor as far as Michelle knew. The rest of the team circled them; picking her and Carla up then carrying them off the field.
The next three days Michelle witnessed their photo gracing the Daily Record’s front page; the headline proclaiming their ascension to the play-offs. For the rest of the week, the sports page ran an extensive three part interview with Terrance Wimms she had given before the game. On the following Sunday, the religious section ran a full page biography, where she expounded on her belief and God’s design: which included His hand in their getting to the championships.
“That’s my favorite.” Michelle said joyously at her meeting with Max Stinson late Monday morning.
Max stared at her from what she considered his 'Thrown’ with baleful eyes.  “You know how I feel about fanaticism, Michelle.”
“The school's not mentioned in my interview, Max. I didn’t connect Goode School to my actions or beliefs.” Michelle said annoyed.
“Regardless, Michelle the public will.”
“That’s ridiculous.”
“Is it?”
“Yes,” she said trying to contain her annoyance. Her mother used to tell her. ‘God don’t mind if you set your religion and faith aside. Sometimes you must when fighting the good fight. You just need to use discretion when doing so.’ She knew this was one of those times when she needed to decide whether to let her temper control her emotions, or forgive and forget. Max is lucky he is the principal and my boss.
“My first duty is to my students. My religion ranks second only by a thin margin. I admit at times one may inform the other, Max. All I do and say those two are foremost, though my students are first.”
“Yes, Michelle you are an excellent teacher. I just want reassurance that you understand that religion is not part of the curriculum.”
Michelle left; regardless of whether or not the conversation had ended. That comment was tantamount to telling me I can’t distinguish between the two. As if I can’t separate my religious beliefs from the secular teachings, which I have to say sound like and seem at times close to lying. I can do it. I have done it for nearly twenty years now. Even as the world around her has become more secular, she managed to continue to teach; changing her lessons. Her religious teaching reserved for Sunday school. Who's he to call my integrity into question?
After leaving Max’s office she had another half an hour before her next class, so she decided to take a quick break. Walking pass her homeroom, she headed for the exit. She pushed the door open; May air slapped her with blistering hot hands.
Michelle struck the match, put the fire to the cigarette, and drew mentholated calm into her longing lungs. The quiet and calm was precious and short lived; Maurice found her. Miles’ dad strode over to the teacher’s picnic table, in that ‘I’m a policeman’ swagger of his, and sat down opposite her. It wasn’t that she disliked Maurice Lech, that couldn’t be any further from the truth. When he appeared unannounced like this; it only meant trouble.
“Good Morning Michelle.”
“What are you doing here Maurice?” Michelle knew she was being rude, but his presence unnerved her at times. “I know when Miles is in trouble; so why the special visit.”
“Same ol’ Michelle, always getting right to the point, that’s what I like about you.” He said.
Michelle wasn’t in the mood for chitchat. She glared, “why are you here Maurice?”
“Ok, ok, jeez. I can see you’re in a hurry to sit around soaking up this beautiful day.” Maurice said, annoyed. “Last night Miles told me about some guy who propositioned him.”
“Propositioned, what do you mean?” Michelle asked, alarmed.
“Propositioned; as in asked him for sex.”
“What? Did you catch the guy?”
“Since Miles only told me last night, three days after the incident, no, that is why I’m here.”
“You think he’ll come here?”
“No. Miles said it happened near Hoffman stadium, after your game last Saturday. The school needs to be on the lookout. If there’s anyone or anything out of the ordinary, let me know.”
“The game; Miles was at the game?”
“Yes, you sound surprised?”
“Not surprised…just…well that doesn’t matter. I think you’re overreacting. I can’t imagine he – anyone – would be so bold, but I’ll keep an eye on Miles. I always do.” She said with a forced smile. It was true she did keep an eye on Miles. She had to; he wasn’t much of a listener. Miles is a good kid; basically. He could do with a touch of home training; like how to respect his elders. Miles always contradicts. I am sure he does it at home too, that has never sat right with me. It probably comes from him not having a mother figure in his life; someone to teach him right from wrong, and not to talk back.
She kept an eye on not just Miles, but all her kids. That’s why there is a fence bordering the recess area, ball field and schoolyard. She fought for that fence, not that anyone congratulated her.The Goode School students would still have direct access to the trifecta of dangers surrounding this school had it not been for her efforts. Goode Elementary School; a learning facility bounded by busy Chestnut Street to south where Broad Street ended. The two streets formed at ‘T’, Chestnut east and west, Broad north and south, and the school sat right at its intersection.  York City Prison to the east facing Chestnut; on its north side, the closest to Goode School, the prisoner’s exercise area. The school’s baseball field, only separated from the prison exercise area by unpredictable Poorhouse Run creek and that empties into the lagoon just beyond the overpass, was often full of students while the prisoner’s where in the exercise yard. To throw salt on a festering wound, an elevated railroad runs past the prison, over the creek and along the north side of school property. On the west, beyond the teachers’ parking lot, atop a grassy hillside, a garment factory that is sure to be dumping nasty chemicals into the creek. All in all, Goode School occupies a five-acre oasis located in a cesspool; So much for city planning. I can’t believe people send their kids here.
First there’s the prison. Why anyone would build a prison and a school in the same vicinity will always confound, but the York City nitwits of antiquity decided to take it one step further placing the prison right next door. What were they thinking? It took ten years of fighting to close that place, and it seemed as though no one cared except me. Max wouldn’t be smug if a prisoner had gotten hold of a student. Michelle looked beyond Maurice; out across the field at the hulking red brick building beyond the creek. I probably ‘shot myself in the foot’; now the place is an empty, gloomy playground.  A brooding fortress with Poorhouse Run skirting its borders like a moat; vagrants, squatters and the seemingly endless stream of kids willing to breach its walls.
Then there’s Poorhouse Run. In an hour it can change from trickling rivulet to raging torrent on a sunny day. Three kids have drowned, found floating lifeless. Why’d the city take three years to act? I just asked for a fence. That’s what mama was talking about. She had to put her faith on a shelf then. They made me fight for a basic and necessary fence, why? She didn’t know.
“I guess our conversation is over. You haven’t anything else to say?” Maurice said.
Michelle realized she had been lost in thought. “I’m sorry, just a little woolgathering; I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“No, I guess you didn’t.” He stood. “Thank you for looking after Miles.” He said, awkwardly, then turned and strolled off.
She couldn’t help herself; she had to watch. She’d always thought he looked good in his uniform, although since his election to sheriff he seldom wore one. She wished he’d shown some interest towards her, but he hadn’t. Michelle couldn’t understand. It’s been five years since Sonya died. Michelle had known her well; Sonya picked up Miles every day, and attended parent-teacher conferences.
Maurice in his well fitting uniform disappeared around the corner. Michelle heard the cruiser’s engine roar to life. She watched as he pulled onto Broad Street after letting a White Pacer go by in the opposite direction. On the passenger’s side door of the little white car going slowly east on Chestnut she noticed a pronounced and rusted dent. He must be afraid Maurice would pull him over. Usually cars zip by at forty or fifty ignoring the fifteen mile an hour speed limit.
“Have you heard about that kid? I think he was from your school.” Carla asked.
They spent more time together these days. Carla wasn’t her favorite person. If she weren’t on the team Michelle wouldn’t have anything to do with her, but Carla wanted to be friends. I need only indulge Carla until that trophy graces my mantel. At Carla’s invitation they went to lunch after Saturday church service. Michelle liked Autographs. She had wanted to eat there, and though the company wasn’t the best it offered her another opportunity. “No what are you talking about?”
“Wow, you don’t know. I would have thought at least your cop friend would have dropped you a line.” Carla said.
Michelle thought Carla was trying to be coy making reference to Maurice. She’s not succeeding. This was what Michelle didn’t like about Carla. At times Carla’s just immature. That didn’t sit well with Michelle.
“Are you going to tell me or not?” Michelle thought that was snippy, by Carla’s expression she was right. “I’m sorry; I’ve just been tense the last couple weeks.”
“Apology accepted. Nic Teoon. He’s a student at your school right.”
“Nic Teoon. The name does sound familiar. What has he done?” Michelle asked her interest piqued.
“Not what he did, where is he?”
“What do you mean?”
“He’s disappeared, without a trace, hasn’t been home for three days; the story is all over the papers and news.”
“No one knows where he’s gone. I bet he ran away. If I remember correctly he doesn’t have a good home life; single mother, never married, I don’t think she even knows who the father is.” Michelle stated matter-of-factly.
“Wow that’s harsh.” Carla said surprised.
“I’m sorry. I’m a teacher; I see it all the time. I’m just being honest.”

“Well he’s gone, and I’m sure she’s just as worried about her son as any mother would be.”
“I’m sure you’re right dear.” Michelle said reaching a hand across the table and patting Carla’s in a comforting, motherly way.
Michelle entered the school Monday morning saturated with rain and gossip.
Michelle chatted with Emily Hogan during their lunch break. Emily, one of the new hires that Michelle felt a need to, when she met her, take Emily under her wing; as a result Emily idolized her. That assumption was justified when Emily asked me if she could be on the softball team. Emily wasn’t always with it, but there are moments she’s tack sharp. Michelle was witnessing the former.
“I think he was kidnapped.” Emily stated emphatically.
“Really,” Michelle feigned interest. Emily had prattled on for nearly an hour, covering and re-covering the same lowbrow dull topic. Michelle was bored, and couldn’t wait to get back to her homeroom. If they cared about Nic as much as the gossip his disappearance created, he would still be here.
Emily had come a long way since they first met. She was just a wayward lamb when Michelle met her at the beginning of the school year. Now she attends Bible study on Wednesdays, and shows up for church every Sunday. Michelle was proud Emily found her way to Him, but that only slightly tempered Emily’s inability to hold an intelligent conversation.
“Yeah; he’s probably some wacko.” Emily said, with far too much enthusiasm in Michelle’s opinion.
Michelle hated it when Emily used ‘Yeah’ instead of ‘yes.’ It makes her sound like a Swedish stereotype. After methodically arranging the food and trash on her tray; Michelle stood. “It’s time to go back to work.” A brief flick of injury rippled along Emily’s placid, plain features; Michelle ignored it.
“So are you coming to Bible study Wednesday?” Emily asked, a hopeful smile, as she walked toward the trash bin with Michelle.
“I told everyone last week I wouldn’t, and neither are you. Did you forget, we’re having practice every night this week? Championships start this Saturday.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right. I’m sure we’ll win; we have the big guy on our side.” Emily said, index finger pointing up.
“He’s a great sponsor, true, but, I think he knows with the Angels he doesn’t need to perform any miracles, we perform on our own just fine.”
Classes were over, the students left, the rain stopped. Practice in three hours; by then the temperature will soar over ninety. Michelle was certain. Michelle looked out the window; the sun washed everything with white-hot brightness.  Michelle’s cell phone vibrated; Maurice’s name on the caller ID.
“Have you seen Miles?” Maurice asked his voice to professional.
“No, not since class just before lunch, why?”
“Because he’s not home; I tried calling him. He’s not answering.”
“Maybe he’s outdoing what kids do Maurice; like hanging out with his friends.”
“No he’s not. I’ve called all their parents. Their kids are doing homework, something Miles should be doing.”
“I’m sorry Maurice. I don’t think he’s here at school. I’ll check around for you.”
“Thanks. Call me back, ok.”
Michelle didn’t think Miles out enjoying the day was strange. He’s just enjoying what’s left of an increasingly beautiful day. Maurice was upset, which made her upset. She went out into the corridor, and stared down its darkened lengthy expanse, lined on both sides with lockers and doorways, at its end; the two doors, with safety glass in the upper half, leading to the open grassy field.
Through the windows of the doors Michelle glimpsed the dark red brick of the prison. She couldn’t say what pulled her. Couldn’t fathom why she felt the need to find out what lay outside those doors, beyond that field. She thought there was a connection. She had heard the kids talking earlier about dares, and if the dare wasn’t met, the child was forever known as a pussy. Mindless kid stuff I had thought. Like a moth to a flame, Michelle headed toward the daylight spilling into the corridor; Michelle’s sensible flats click-clacking loudly along the polished tile floor as she went echoing though the empty hallway.
* * *
“If we can’t keep the Goode Students away, we should try keeping the Goode Students in.” Michelle said at the council meeting three years ago.
“What would we be fencing in Ms. Bailey?” Councilmen Loren Crow had said.
“I’m not concerned with fencing anything in, sir. I want to keep the Goode students out of Poorhouse Run.”
“But that’s not what you said. You said, ‘we should try to keep the Goode students in’, what did you mean by that?”
* * *
Michelle hadn’t understood what point he was trying to make. She hadn’t cared. She wanted – needed – that fence to save lives: it doesn’t matter. She knew – could feel – something was…wrong. Again, she would make it right. She would obey mama; ‘Put your religion to the side.’ She stepped determinedly from the cool comfortable corridor into an increasingly hot late May Day.
Before going boldly on her journey; Michelle went to her car. Opening the trunk she pulled her cleats out, and dropped them to the ground gracefully slipping them on.  Michelle let her fingers encircle the grip, and slid the red metal bat – Blaze – from the bat bag. The sing of metal against metal conjured images of a warrior knight unsheathing his great sword. The sound of the trunk closing reverberated through the quiet evening. She walked across the grassy knoll – the wet grass to green and vibrant after the day’s rain – towards the gloomy structure and its moat. The sooty burgundy of the prison absorbed the light. A shimmering wave of heat hovered over where she knew the water flowed but couldn’t see.
She stood at the fence, fingers of her left hand clasping the links, the bat dangling from her right. Michelle stepped gingerly along the perimeter moving towards the gate. Michelle went through the gate. She came to the crest of the embankment; she looked up at the prison. The prison’s sucking up light, again. She started to descend to the water below; she noticed a face in one of the bar covered windows.
The visage looked down on her with searing blue eyes. There’s no way she could know this – should know – though she knew it to be true. The disembodied head floated in the window, cut off by the sill, spilt in two by the bars hanging vertically. A bearded, craggy face looking down at her with bright knowing eyes, the head turned, looking towards the underbrush where Poorhouse Run disappeared into the lagoon. The vegetation seemed tropical to her. Why hadn’t I noticed that before? Discarding the thought, she noticed near the bank of the rivulet the brush grew out over the water; like drapes pulled tight against a draft. There along the bank, a leaf wavered; below the vegetation she saw the footprints. Michelle looked back, all the time knowing the face wouldn’t be there.
[i]“And when they were dead,
The robins so red,”
She lingered at the edge of the vast lagoon, listening to the echo of the lilting voice floating on the stiflingly thick and hot air. The boggy water seeping into her cleats as she discerned from which direction the singing was coming.
[ii]“Brought strawberry leaves,
and over them spread;”
Smidgens of sunlight cut through overgrown brush. Michelle heard a splash and a stifled yell.
[iii]“And all the day long,
the branches among,”
She headed toward the voice.
Wielded by supple experienced hands gracefully holding firm to Blaze’s grip, her small foot broke through the brush, landing with precision, pulling a strong leg attached to a stout body. As the blaze of red circled back in preparation of a swing; the calm serene face of Michelle Bailey floated out of the brush into view.
[iv]“They mournfully whistled,
and this was their song;”
His back to her, he knelt at the shoreline not knowing someone had discovered his truculent assault. Michelle saw Miles’ legs kicking, one foot struck out at the man’s face, that’s when she noticed the helmet, black and glossy, on the man’s head. Michelle noticed the water filling Miles’ nose, then his mouth as he tried to scream. He hadn’t heard Michelle’s approach. The man’s muffled rhyme floated on murky death filled air to Michelle’s ears, his lilting voice rising as he chortled,
[v]“Poor babes in the wood! Poor babes in the wood!
Oh! Don’t you remember the babes in the wood?”
Blaze soared through the air. When the bat connected at the man’s jaw, a ring went out, echoing around the lagoon; slicing through the quiet like a butcher’s blade through butter. An abundance of red sprayed across the murky bog; the man fell the side and rolled away
Michelle lifted her student out of the water. Coughing, Miles attempted to expel the putrid liquid. Michelle noticed the body; the bare white foot, the bluing legs, the bloating corpse. She knew the face; she remembered now, how could she have forgotten, Miles’ best friend, Miles’ only friend, Nicolas, Nic Teoon.
Michelle dropped Miles, letting him fall to the muddy ground, sucked in rancid air and staggered sideways into the trees, anchoring her body against the trunk of a Sumac.
“You’ve found the babe’s friend.” The voice was low and clear; almost without menace, nearer to love and caring. “Happy he is, soon you will be too.” The singing began anew.
Before she could lift the bat, the man hit Michelle; knocking her backward. Then he was on top of her, the man’s hands encircling her neck. The black helmet was cracked; drops of blood transuding through the fissure and falling onto her face as she struggled with him. The red beads mixing with the muck seeping up around her neck, head, her face, as he pushed and squeezed harder. Michelle wouldn’t have minded breathing in the bad air about the lagoon at that point, but she couldn’t get any past the man’s strong hands or the increasing water. The blaze of red hit the man across the head. The red bat soared back into view. The man fell forward. Michelle pushed the unconscious man off her and looked at the barely standing Miles.
“Do you think he’s dead?” Miles asked.
“No, let’s get out of here.”
Four weeks, and one gold championship cup later, after Maurice and his force captured Beau Cuifler. White Pacer Man, as the papers dubbed him after a brief interview with Miles. Who told them that was how he thought of Beau when he first saw him at the edge of the lagoon.
“The first time I saw him was at Hoffman Field, after Miss Bailey’s game a while back. He was in a funny looking white car. My dad showed me some pictures of cars; the one that looked like the car that man had been driving my Dad said is a Pacer. So that’s why when I saw the man again I thought of him that way.” Miles had said.
After a brief courtroom hearing appearance, and the defense claiming that because of Miles’ apparent coaxing in the identification of Beau as the perpetrator, Beau should be set free. The judge agreed. The papers announced in blaring front-page headlines that Beau, ‘White Pacer Man’, is free on bail, awaiting trial.
Because of the hearing the celebration had been delayed. Two days later the team gathered at The Hotel Yorktown for their championship party. Crispus Attucks Youth Center was their first choice because Michelle had wanted the party somewhere of historical importance; not to mention it's free. This is a historic moment. I could teach my fellow teammates about Crispus Attucks’ contribution – a great African-American man momentous of historical importance – to this great country. The hotel was a place they could ill-afford, but they had missed their small window of opportunity at the youth center. The horde of reporters waiting outside the hotel tried to stop her at the revolving door. She stormed past them into the happy occasion.
Walking up to Carla and Emily, as if they had orchestrated Beau’s release, and said, “Can you believe they let him go, in God’s name why, what if he goes after some other kid?”
“Well they didn’t find the other body you claimed was there.” Emily said meekly.
Michelle’s eyes blazed with fury. “What’s that supposed to mean? That Nic Teoon’s body was never there. I was just imagining it.” That’s just what the defense lawyer had portrayed. I am not a liar; I don’t like anyone referring to me as such. I didn't like it in the courtroom, and I don't care for this piss-ant’s veiled inference.
“Michelle, Emily didn’t mean to imply…” Carla tried to calm Michelle.
“Didn’t she? Well what did she mean?” Michelle challenged glaring at Emily.
Emily’s eyes flicked from woman to woman, “I just meant that it was hard to make it stick.”
“Well that’s unacceptable. I saw that man, Beau Cuifler, drowning Miles that should have been enough.”
“I agree,” Emily said, “it should have been, but sometimes these things don’t go the way we hope. Besides, you also said that the man you saw was wearing a black helmet that is prime fatter for the defense. How can you be sure it was this Mr. Cuifler?”
Michelle’s said tightly, “I know it was him. Regardless, that pedophile is free. Miles can’t get out of the bed, and Nic isn’t even buried.”

“Pedophile,” Carla asked, surprised.
“Miles didn't suffer any sexual assault or abuse, Michelle, you know that. Nic's body hasn't been found; you don't know if he did. Why do you keep saying that? The person who did this, whether it is Cuifler or someone else, as far as anyone knows, only wants to kill, that’s it. Whoever it is, I’m not trying justifying his actions; I’m just saying this person only likes killing kids.” Emily challenged, and then tentatively placed a hand over Michelle’s, “At times like these we need to hold tight and take comfort from our faith Michelle. Maybe we can pray.”
Michelle snatched her hand away. “In my current state of mind, Emily,” Michelle said threateningly, “I doubt God wants to hear my prayers.” Michelle continued bitingly.
She left them; mulling around the crowd with disinterest. Yes, they won the championship, but Michelle could hardly concentrate on the game at the time, she couldn’t bathe in the glory. Someone stepped in front of her. What did she want; I don’t feel like talking anymore.
Michelle realized there were two women. Another woman stood behind and to the right of the first; the two women looked expectantly at Michelle. These two weren’t all smiles and happy like everyone else. Michelle recognized the shorter of the two as Mindy the benchwarmer. She doesn’t have any reason to celebrate. She didn’t contribute much to getting the trophy. “Can I help you?”
Mindy opened her mouth, and then closed it, looking to the woman behind her as if asking permission. Mindy turned her hazel eyes on Michelle again, and then cast her eyes down at the floor.
“When starting a conversation it helps to talk.” Michelle said with little compassion. It suddenly occurred to her Mindy had certain proclivities that Michelle didn’t care for, which made it even less desirable for her to speak with the woman. Woman, now that’s a stretch.
“Um…well…Michelle, I know you’re not …you know…fond of me.” Mindy cut off again. Looking at what Michelle took to be Mindy’s ‘Rock of Gibraltar’. Rock being an apt description for the stocky woman who could throw a shot-put into the next county. “Well…we think it's an atrocity they set that psycho free; even if it is only until the trial.”
Michelle felt a sudden pang of kinship with these women. No one else has offered any sentiment of encouragement. None; as if it doesn’t matter, they ignore the disservice portrayed on York’s citizenry. No one cared. These two, who until now I refused to allow on my radar, they offer condolences. That made Michelle madder than anything else; her fellow Angels didn’t care as much as she. Don’t they know who I am; every person counts, and must stand up for those who can’t?
“We think,” the shot-put woman stepped forward, “if the authorities refuse to keep him away from the innocent, then we should do what they won’t.”
Michelle felt a slow mental push; a slow onset of vertigo. All along, for some time, unknowingly she had been standing at the edge of a precipice, and only now did she recognize her peril…or salvation…the chasm wide, bottomless, and inviting. The wind of realization rushing up from its fathomless depths sang sweet songs along the annals of her mind. What she had said, how she had responded to Councilman Crow, at the long ago council meeting came back to her; if I can’t keep the Goode Students away, then I will keep them safe. Another passage came to her; ‘Then he will descend earthbound to smote the dragon and protect the innocent.’ Michelle’s glare bored through the women. Her mind raced as she fell farther and farther into the chasm's depths. Then she said, “His army of Angels shall battle the demons…” her voice trailed off as she realized what she and the others must do.
Michelle walked purposefully to the front podium. She knew the two women followed she could hear the heavy steps of the shot-put women punctuated by Mindy’s bird-like ones. Michelle lifted the microphone and flipped the on button.
It took four hours to persuade them, though it had been surprisingly easy; she felt. The Angel’s strutted, carrying their bats; some metal – red, blue, and green – some wood. Michelle led the group, still dressed in their team uniforms, purposely descending Market Street toward the mottled green two floor apartment building. Everyone knew where he lived; the paper published it with Miles' interview, so they only had to walk the short three blocks to number 245 Market Street.
After their arrival, the white and red clad group stood sizing up the building. Off the right side, a fire escape descended to a – little used at that hour – parking lot. The white pacer was nowhere to be seen. Impounded I bet. The dry cleaners at ground level, through floor to ceiling glass, the lights blared; a beacon in the night pulling them towards its safe harbor. “Carla, tell them to leave.” Carla obediently went up to the door and entered the cleaners.
Michelle looked up to the second-floor window. She could see him in there; looking out, watching. She knew he was waiting; the devil always waited, biding his time until the proper time to strike. Regardless of how much fire the dragon blew she would be victorious.
Michelle looked at Mindy. “Go through the front; we’ll take the fire escape.” Mindy brought her green metal bat to bear; resting the tip in her right hand. A lefty; why hadn’t I noticed that before? Michelle turned and strode toward the fire escape.
Michelle had hoped that Emily would join them, had wanted her to see, firsthand, God’s work, but the devil made her say, “…it's foolish, how are they any better than the killer they seek to kill.”
* * *
Michelle had retorted, “Kill, who said anything about killing. God-fearing people don’t kill that’s one of the commandments, girl. I think its sacrilege that you even brought it up. No, what I’m talking about is bringing God to that child; let him know that God won’t abide his transgressions.”
“You can wrap in pretty paper Michelle, but when you open the presents its all same you’re breaking the law.” Emily said defiantly.
Even though it impressed Michelle that Emily had finally found her spine, Michelle felt sorry for her, “God’s word is the only law, and what we plan tonight is God’s will.”
She left then; Emily had walked out of the room. “Well she will regret missing His glory,” Michelle said to her fellow angles.
* * *
Michelle stood at the back door of Beau’s apartment; behind her a flock of Angels. She stared through the glass into the face of the man who had tried to kill her and Miles and murdered Nic. Hardness entered her. She felt powerful; stronger than she ever felt before. If I stood in the path of a speeding tractor trailer, striking me would be as if it ran into a twelve-inch-thick masonry wall. She stepped to the side; the women behind her on the fire escape stepped back giving her swinging room. Michelle swung red blaze back over her shoulder. The bat circled back in a glistening red streak. The glass exploded inward.
The Angels swooped into the small apartment; Michelle in the lead. From the front door came the many booms of bats pelting the hollow-core door. Finally, it gave way and Angels flowed through the door. Shot-put grabbed Beau and threw him to the floor. Michelle stood above him; glaring.
“You won’t get away with your transgressions devil. We have come to make this right.” Michelle said righteously.
As if a General declared war; the Angels began swinging their bats. Michelle stood over Beau looking down as a halo of chaos exploded around them. Windows broke. Dishes shattered. The TV exploded. Michelle leaned down, securing a hand full of Beau’s hair and drug him across the floor through shards of glass and debris to the backdoor. She roughly pulled him onto the fire escape. Trying to get away, he wriggled out of Michelle's grip. Carla gave him a swift kick to what would have been his family heritage had he been worthy of procreation. Now his abused gift shriveled from the force of Carla’s spiked cleat.
The Angels forced Beau down the fire escape, once in the parking lot the cabal got under way. Some swung in unison, others took turns hitting him; all hit without proclivity towards any particular area. Sirens roared from several directions. As the black and white cars came to squealing halt on all sides of the building and lot, only Michelle continued to swing. Beau’s body – after such a brutal beating, seemed silly to refer to it as such – remained erect; the blows administered far too quickly to fall. She hit Beau’s body with strong, swift, swings; the way a kid might desperately beat a piñata wanting it to burst, but just can’t manage the task.
The Angels separated as Maurice with Emily close behind, came forward. She stopped swinging. Beau’s body swayed then fell hitting the macadam with a fleshy plop. Michelle, blood spattered, watched with impassive interest. She walked over and stepped onto the dragon’s forehead letting red blaze rest on its cheek. She was vaguely aware that Maurice's gun was out and pointing at her, but she didn’t care. He couldn’t touch her there was a greater law that she and her Angels answered to, and now that she slew the dragon; she victoriously stood over it. So, what can he do? I will not be crucified by this man. So what, let him shoot, I’m not afraid of going to meet my savior. I’m more than willing to fly heavenward; soaring to His bosom. Michelle raised her arms up from her side; her red metal bat still in her hand Beau’s blood dripping to the macadam. She heard Maurice’s perplexing warning. Emily’s scream and then a sound akin to popping reached her ears. Then the acrid smell of burning flesh mingled with crisp night air.
Michelle stumbled backward.
“I said drop the weapon, Michelle!”
Michelle, though her mind raced, thought she heard anguish in Maurice’s words. When she looked at him, she saw the pain there; the love. That look of loss, of failure, of something that had never been and now can never be made Michelle think that possibly this wasn’t worth it; she could have had more. Then it occurred to her that she was a good student of His word and all good work, no matter the outcome, was worth the pain and loss. Her legs refused to maintain her weight; she stumble again. As she fell backward, she looked skyward; waiting for the heavenly brightness to pierce the night sky. When she hit the ground, and her life fled her; not even a star twinkled in the stormy sky as watery rivulets of red flowed in all directions.

[i]©Public Domain, Author: Sabine Baring-Gould, The Babes In The Woods; A Book of  Nursery Songs and Rhymes
[ii]©Public Domain, Author: Sabine Baring-Gould, The Babes In The Woods; A Book of  Nursery Songs and Rhymes
[iii]©Public Domain, Author: Sabine Baring-Gould, The Babes In The Woods; A Book of  Nursery Songs and Rhymes
[iv]©Public Domain, Author: Sabine Baring-Gould, The Babes In The Woods; A Book of  Nursery Songs and Rhymes
[v]©Public Domain, Author: Sabine Baring-Gould, The Babes In The Woods; A Book of  Nursery Songs and Rhymes