"What is this? What is this? Who in the hell do you think you are?"
"Alma." Adonie spoke one word, softly, but it stopped my words and
stopped me where I stood.
As smooth as her word Adonie stepped before me interjecting her person
as she had her word, coming between me and the others. With some
ridiculous urge to laugh and a stab of inexpressible poignancy all in one
fraction of an instant I realized she was trying to shield me. She was
shielding me. As if I had been Olive she was trying to protect me.
She was trying to save both of us.
I was certain of it.
I was assured in my mind that we were expendable, Adonie and myself;
they wanted Olive and nothing else. Whether we came along or were
dragged along or were left here incapacitated or dead was of no concern
to them. I met the brown eyes of the leader. They were absolutely
committed and absolutely ice. This woman recognized one thing in her life.
It might have been Georgina, or it might have been what was behind,
before. What Georgina accessed, pushing Georgina like a button. This
woman was with Georgina for one of those two reasons. Whether she followed
Georgina or not I could not tell.
The others followed. That was what they did. They followed orders.
But the power of the leader was not only convincing or undeniable. It was
Her ferocity paralleled mine in force. I held onto that thought. If I could
tell how much we were alike I might get an advantage, some, any, tiny,
I doubted it, watching her. She had been trained to the ultimate. She
was now her training.
I lost a moment in the thought: Georgina. Georgina was the impetus of
this. It seemed scarcely possible. I held a memory....
But there were some who would have seen no difference between
Georgina and myself. Intelligent. Focused. Ruthless.....
There was no time.
The leader's head was sleek, smooth, finely shaped. Her brown hair was
pulled back tightly and locked into a hard knot at the back of her head.
Her sleek dark suit sucked light and allowed no hold. None of them
carried weapons. They were weapons.
It amazed me with a vertiginous flash, as though I were being strobed
through several simultaneous random realities any one of which were
equally possible, that these four lethal weapons in dark suits were standing
poised and motionless between the couch and the two great sagging old
chairs. Their polished blunt-nosed black boots were on the familiar worn
scrap of rug Adonie had once described as only fit for training puppies.
The familiar lamps by which we read and worked in the evenings and
Olive sometimes fell asleep under Adonie's arm, were marking the angles
of their sharp faces and glinting like never before in their eyes.