From The Lazarus Vector:

Chapter One

For the first time ever, Jonas believed there was something his old man couldn't fix. One hell of a game-changer, that. An epiphany, he thought they called it. Too bad it looked like that it was going to be the last epiphany-hell, the last goddamned thought-Jonas was ever going to have in his life.

But how was he supposed to have figured that the kid ran with a gang? Short and skinny, his beltline and boxers both hanging low enough that his hipbones poked out, the kid looked about all of twelve years old. How was Jonas to guess that the kid would close in fast and hard, the moment Jonas turned out of sight of the cheap storefronts and the cars with their blaring hip-hop? As if any of those guys were likely to look up from the dominoes they were playing on upturned crates for long enough to help him.

The kid might have been small, but he was mean and fast, in the way of kids who had grown up fighting their entire lives. He grabbed Jonas before Jonas even knew he was there, shoving him through the creaking iron gate into the tiny weed-choked graveyard, and sending him sprawling against a tombstone, which slewed suddenly sideways, like one of the priests that was supposed to be buried here was about to reach up and grab Jonas with a bony hand.

Instead a balled fist rammed into his stomach; a hard arm slammed into his windpipe, choking off his air, and in one swift move, Jonas was pinned between one of the gate's stone pillars and a cheap-ass wooden shrine covered in plastic flowers, with some kind of holy water fount jamming his kidneys, his face scraping hard against the bricks.

"You be stealing, bro. You be stealing from us."

Oh, hell. Oh, shit. This was worse than any ghost-priests that might have haunted this place. Because this was real. And this was real bad.

How could he have been stupid enough not to see it coming? How could he have not guessed that if he could figure out how to steal drugs from the shelter, somebody else was probably doing it already? But he'd been too pissed off at the old man to think straight, which was pretty much the story of his whole sorry life, short as it now seemed likely to be. Just a little Ritalin, a few Ambiens circulated among friends, but his father had reacted as if he had unearthed a Mexican cartel. Had cut off all of Jonas' prescriptions and made a point of clearing the medicine cabinet of any drug more marketable than aspirin, as well as emptying the kitchen of what he pretended was cooking wine. So what did the old man expect would happen when Jonas had figured out the combination on the medicine cabinet at the shelter? And had opened it and had tasted what was inside. The shelter might be so stone broke that the nun that ran the place insisted Jonas wash and reuse the plastic sporks the local winos ate their free hot lunch with, but what was in that medical cabinet was fancier by far than what had gotten Jonas thrown out of what was, by his count, his tenth school in as many grades: a fancy boarding school that never ever referred to their students as retards or troublemakers or just plain bad seeds. It just dosed them with enough of everything to get you to shut up, and if you asked real nicely maybe a little extra to sell on the side.

So Jonas had seen an opportunity and had seized it, just like his guidance counselors were always encouraging him to do. No, Jonas had seen more than an opportunity; he had seen payback. Payback for his old man forcing Jonas to go cold turkey. Payback for his old man forcing him to work at the shelter. Payback for his old man hating him - no, worse. Payback for his father just not caring. Probably was watching right now from some remote camera in his lab, chortling like the mad scientist he was at Jonas learning a valuable life lesson.

"Okay, okay," he gasped. "I'm sorry. I didn't know."

"You know now," the kid said, as he punched Jonas square in the nuts.

As Jonas doubled over, retching, heaving, his foot caught on a loose board that had peeled free from the shrine, and he stumbled to his knees, just as the kid kicked him in the stomach. The breath rushed out of him, and he rolled over, clutched in the fetal position, as somewhere above his head, the foot pulled back to strike again. Scuttling away, Jonas grabbed the board, reared straight and slammed it across the kid's knees.

The kid staggered backward, fumbling at his belt.

Jonas swung again.

Which was when he saw the gun in the kid's hand and knew he had fucked up for real.

And Jonas just barely had time to ask himself whether his father would care enough even to be relieved his fuck-up of a son had finally fucked up bad enough to be out of his hair for good, before the end of his life unfolded with the jerky logic of a movie spinning off the reel.

He lunged for the kid, and they both reeled into the cheap-ass shrine, knocking it over so the statue toppled out: some ugly saint on crutches with dogs sniffing around his feet. Whose eyes seemed to look at Jonas with infinite pity, before his head slammed into the iron gate, and the world exploded into light and sound...

And then... nothing. Nothing but a shadow that leaned over him, reaching for him. Not the kid. Another face. An old, wizened face, floating above a white collar...

Aw, shit. Aw, no. The last thing he was gonna see on earth was a priest? Jonas tried to scramble backward, but he couldn't move. Couldn't even tell the guy that he didn't believe in fucking God, before the old pervert gathered Jonas into his arms and began to kiss him.

*****

Words floated around him, like the remnants of his life.

"What the hell happened?"

"What the fuck you do, Rafe?"

"Man, we gave you a job. You were just supposed to hurt him, not kill him."

"You were supposed to prove yourself. You were supposed to show you were a true Lazarito."

"Instead you bring a gun? Who tole you to bring a gun?"

"Christ, Rafe, look at the blood. We thought you was dead."

"What the fuck just happened, Rafe? What the fuck you do?"

Jonas struggled to move, to sit up, to see who the bastard was who had just shot him, but his limbs weren't listening and his vision was fading into a whirling mass of blobs and stars, and maybe it was good idea just to lie here and play possum anyway.

"Shit," the one called Rafe said. The kid. The one that had killed him. "It was an accident. Gun just went off."

"The Man ain't going to care. DA neither. Not when it's some rich, white kid."

"Not while he's lying outside a church."

"You were supposed to handle this quiet. This... this ain't quiet."

"Come on. We need to go. While we can."

They hauled the kid to his feet and their footsteps hurried away. And still Jonas couldn't move. Couldn't so much as twist to take a look at the bastards who had just killed him.

But some sensations were returning. He was lying flat on his back, out in the street, all the way out in the gutter like some wino or bag man, with the sharp edges of cans and bottles jabbing into his shoulder. And hell everything stank. Beer. Sewage. Piss. He was wet: Dark, cold liquid was running everywhere. Gutter crap? Dog shit? His own blood?

He jerked a hand off the pavement. Nearly wept when he found it could move. Reached down to run it warily across his belly. And froze when he felt wetness. Staining the front of his pants. As if...

Angry tears welling, he managed to look down. And saw he had wet himself-like some fucking ten-year-old brat.

No blood. No guts. Jonas had just pissed himself. Right here in the middle of the street. With what felt like a thousand people converging on him from every direction.

"Santa Maria, Madre de Dios."

"Oh, my Lord Jesus!"

"Gloria al Padre!"

Footsteps pounded from every direct, and faces began to crowd above him. Touching his forehead. Reaching for his pulse. Praying. Crying. Shrieking and wailing and shouting orders in half-a-dozen languages and snapping pictures with their cell phones. Pictures of Jonas peeing himself like a goddamned ten-year-old. Christ. How much more fucked-up could one person's life get?

"What happened?"

"Milagro!"

Miracle.

The woman's voice was old and quavering, but the word sliced through the noise, quelling everyone else. Even the traffic seemed to stop.

"It was the priest," the old woman went on, bad accent and all, just like some crone making some Satanic prophecy in some lame horror movie. "I saw him myself. Father Enoch come back. Come back to save him. Bent right down and kissed him, and he arose, picked up his bed and walked. I saw it. I saw it with my very own eyes."

© - Erica Obey
Photos © - George Baird