Courting Nuns

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We approach an adobe-style mansion with a terracotta exterior. Logs stained a dark brown, dot across the full length of two floors. Foothills rise in the distance, but the convent sits on a flat and barren wasteland covered with rocks, sage brush, and sparse ponderosa pine trees.

She makes herself at home by opening a tall, hand-carved door with black metal hinges. I, on the other hand, hesitant to walk through the archway, expecting Boss and I will burn up like vampires.

"There's nothing to fear." Trisha waves me inside. "The nuns are sweethearts, and Father Timothy should be pleased you're joining us."

Should be? What does she mean by should be? Boss says.

Equally uneasy, I cautiously stride through the doorway unharmed, but the place is so quiet, the echo from my clunky cowboy boots could wake the dead.

We pause under a black iron chandelier and face a set of grand staircases with twisted railings. "They must be at evening prayer," she says, then turns to our right, leading the way down a long hallway with tall windows that look out onto the front of the building. Statues of saints are inset on the opposite wall.

We enter the chapel through open double doors. I draw in the forgotten scent of incense and flash back to an unhappy parochial education.

Twenty nuns in black veils kneel in the pews, chanting a prayer in Latin. Behind the altar, hangs a life-like, painted figure of Jesus on the cross.

The priest, wearing the traditional clerical collar and black shirt, closes his bible at the pulpit. He's wearing jeans and his sandals flap loudly against the wood floor as he rushes to meet us halfway down the far-left aisle. "Trisha," he says, then frowns at me.

"Father Timothy." She smiles and the two lock hands.

"Who is this?" he asks.

While we shake he focuses on my violet eyes, a discoloration that happens to some humans when a demon's spine essence is inserted below the sternum. As he draws in a deep breath, I prepare for him to throw me out of the church.

"Name's Pete."

"He's a courier," Trisha says.

The priest stiffens and pulls back his hand. "You brought one of Margery's men here, and a possessed one at that?"

A few of the nuns turn and gasp.

"It's okay," she says. "He's the man wanted for closing the Gates of Hell."

He blinks and jerks his head back.

I'm quick to assure him, "I didn't do it."

"Sisters." Father Timothy's voice echoes throughout the chapel. "Please go back to your rooms until dinner."

The nuns stand simultaneously. If it weren't for their varying sizes, they'd be clones in their oversized gray sweaters and black skirts. With their heads bowed and their hands clasped, they file out of the pews and through the doors where we entered.

Once they're gone, Father Timothy says, "Trisha, there's no one I trust more than you, but—"

"He's immortal," she interrupts, "and has worked for Margery since the end of the second world war. Anyone who can evade me for that many years is worthy of sending after Azael."

The priest adjusts his short sleeves. "What makes you think he won't side with Azael?" He turns to me and says, "No offence, but I've been fighting evil for the Catholic Church for ten years, and I have never once met anyone on your side who can be trusted."

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