About to Crap Yourself

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Ten minutes later, we're in a white Bronco, Father Timothy behind the wheel, heading west toward Trisha's cave.

In the back seat, on my lap, rests the olive wood case that contains the Sword of Sin. It stretches three feet long and eight inches wide and was made to stifle the blade's powers. I trace the dark woodgrain with my finger. All too soon, it will be my only defense, even though I lack the skills to use.

Feels like you're about to crap yourself. Boss says.

I ignore him and study the mountain range to our right.

Open the box. You know you want to. Boss plucks at my lower spine, but the usual stab is no more than a tickle now that the potion has kicked in.

So far, Trisha and the priest have insisted I keep the container closed, but I finally give in to temptation and fiddle with the rusty latches. The hinges squeak as I open the lid a few inches to reveal the dull gray sword with nicks across the full length. Awe-inspiring that the thing's made from metals that once penetrated Jesus' body, but the thing appears useless against a rat, let alone an angel.

Trisha reaches back and forces the lid shut, pinching my index finger. "I told you not to open that." She rubs her temple and takes a deep breath. "It's bad enough I've lost my wings. Don't make me defenseless before we even reach my cave."

"Sorry." I refasten the latches. "I didn't think it would work that fast."

She flips her curly ponytail. "An open box is a dead giveaway to any angel that the Sword of Sin is near. The worst thing you can do is open it too soon and give Azael time to escape."

"How do you know he's camped out at your cave?"

"I don't," she says, "but moving a hundred white warriors to a new location isn't exactly easy, so going there is our best first option."

"You never answered my question earlier," I say.

"What question?" she asks.

"Why you both think I can fight a fallen angel."

They share a glance before Trisha says, "It's not that we think you can succeed, but more that you're our best short-term solution. Besides the three of us, we have little to no support."

"Huh?" I bite my lip and frown.

You heard her, Boss says. We do this and we're on our own. Can you live with that?

"We want to help you in any way we can," she says, "but the Catholic Church can't—"

"What she's trying to say is we've moved into a new age of technology," Father Timothy says. "Most of the world doesn't believe in the supernatural and religious ways of the past. Today's Catholic Church is a business. Priests are talented in raising funds, not protection against evil forces. To announce to the world that a fallen angel has escaped and is threatening free will is to further risk the reputation of the Church."

"Excuse my language, Father, but that's fucked up." My eye twitches. "If you have no support, how do you have the sword or even know how to capture Azael?"

"I'm a member of a small elite group of priests who reports directly to the Pope. We battle evil for the Catholic Church," Father Timothy says. "There's a diary at the Vatican that was written by a Knight of the Templar. He was part of an order that escaped to North America with important artifacts at the time the Templars were being hunted and destroyed. I've studied the book for years, specifically how to use the Sword of Sin."

"And you haven't shown it to me," I say. "Where is it?"

"It's too fragile to remove from the Vatican Archives in Rome," he says. "But you can rest assured I'm an expert on its contents."

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