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(Created page with "The B’nei Elohim were set apart from the rest of humanity in that each enjoyed a power that was unique to them and yet was firmly grounded in the operation of natural laws, not…")

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The B’nei Elohim were set apart from the rest of humanity in that each enjoyed a power that was unique to them and yet was firmly grounded in the operation of natural laws, not magic. Robyn, the Prophet of the End Dome Church, could see the future as a mental stack of events that assembled itself anew after each one of her significant choices, and yet this power relied entirely on the ability of El Shaddai and Bat-El, acting in concert, to pierce time.

Hunky was Aquawoman. Her own body could manufacture the oxygen she needed to stay alive in airless places, but this was actually delivered to her by El Shaddai terminating (in a very rapid sequence) a narrow fold-line in various locations throughout her lungs and delivering the oxygen directly there.

Dory was the Great Communicator. No matter where any B’nei Eloah was in the Green River Gorge area, they could be placed in direct contact with any other B’nei Eloah nearby through the agency of Dory. It was a pale shadow of the communication network that bound together the Elohim, the one that neither El Shaddai nor Bat-El could use because Mastema and Belial blocked them, but Lilith promised to eventually extend Dory’s power across a much larger range.

Jill’s power resembled the power of Yeshua to heal in that it relied on the transfer of invisibly small nanomachines to work. With a touch Jill could subtly alter a person’s brain chemistry, flooding the pleasure or reward center and thus registering her approval in a powerful way. This ability could be used as a tool for strong persuasion. Jill first tested this power at the clinic in Black Diamond, where she talked her way into a job as a triage nurse with no experience, no certifications, and only a generic two-year degree from a community college in Maryland.

Julie Pritchard walked in that first day looking pretty bruised. She claimed she had tripped on a vacuum cleaner cord and fell flat on her face but Jill knew without a doubt that she was being beat up at home. The other signs were all there and Jill was familiar with the dreary lot of them.

There were no open wounds so there wasn’t much the doctor could do for Julie except prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug as well as a strong analgesic to alleviate her discomfort. Five hundred milligrams of Damitol disconnected her from the pain and made her feel very fuzzy. “I’ve given you some pretty hefty painkillers,” he said, “so I can’t let you drive yourself home.”

“Then what’ll I do?”

He checked her questionnaire. “What about your husband?”

“No! He…can’t get off work.”

That was a terminological inexactitude, of course. Frank Pritchard was home and chronically unemployed. With the death of Erik Lokken and the Golden Gift gone missing, no more new coal seams were being opened up, and with that industry gone, and the virgin timber on the hills around the area already logged off, there really wasn’t much left over in the Green River area in terms of driving an economy. In Seattle they called it Gonorrhea Gulch.

It didn’t matter, because for all her adult life Julie herself, aside from her more steady employment and tips as a waitress, received an weekly annuity from her parents that helped her to pay the bills and the mortgage and there was even some extra mad money left over for her. Frank required her to fork it all over every Monday when she went to the bank. “If I ever find out you’re holding out on me, Julie,” he told her, “I’ll make you wish you had never been born. Don’t you ever forget it!”

And sometimes he’d freshen up her memory with a smack to the face.

Into the awkward silent between Julie and the doctor, Jill spoke up. “I’ll tell you what, Julie. If you can stay in the waiting room for about an hour until I get off work, I’ll drive you home myself.”

It was an easy wait. The Damitol disconnected Julie from boredom as well as suffering.

After Julie gave directions to her house, Jill said, “Look, Julie, I’d like you to watch which we we go. I want to show you something on the way home and make sure you know how to get there.”

“Okay, Jill.”

The thing Jill wanted to show Julie was a gray house with red trim in the new Eastpointe community south of Black Diamond, where the road to Enumclaw climbed up out of the Green River Gorge. “The very next time you think you’re about to have another ‘accident’ and hurt yourself, I want you to go there. It’s a B’nei Elohim sanctuary. Do you understand what I’m really trying to say to you?” And Jill touched her hand just then.

Julie was too shy to blurt out her answer, but Jill was satisfied by a nod of Julie’s head.

The opportunity to take Jill up on her offer presented itself immediately after Julie arrived home. Her husband Frank was there, slouched in front of the television. Garbage was beginning to pile up around him since it had been hours since Julie had been there to pick up after him.

“Where the fuck have you been?”

“At the emergency room.”

“For a black eye? Bullshit! What did they do?”

“Nothing. Gave me some pills for the pain.”

“Give me the pills, Julie.” It was not a request. Terrified, she handed them over.

“How much did your selfish little splurge at the doctors run me?”

“I didn’t have any money. They said the bill would be sixty bucks.”

“Well shit, for sixty let me give you another shiner and make it worth it.”

She let out a yelp and jumped back, screaming, “No!” In terror, she fled from the house and fumbled with her keys to the truck frantically. She locked herself safely inside only seconds before Frank could reach her and kick the side of the door.

“If you don’t turn around and get back in the house right now, Julie, so help me God I’ll kill your fucking ass!”

After getting a few blocks away Julie didn’t race anymore. She thought she was safe now. There was only the one vehicle.

Frank went next door and asked his buddy for the keys to his car. “Just for a few minutes. Gotta catch me an errant wife.” That was a good enough reason, and Frank caught the keys tossed at him. “Thanks, buddy, I owe you a half-rack of beer for this.”

It was a quiet night with light traffic. Frank still saw what he hoped was her in the truck, stopped at a light far up the road. In his pursuit of her he would ignore such conventions as the rule of stopping at a red light. Eventually he got up on her rear end and followed her south out of Gonorrhea Gulch to the house Jill had shown her earlier. Pulling off to the side of the street he watched Julie go inside.

“Prolly one of those Pony hidey holes the guy on TV was talking about,” Frank muttered to himself. Visions of RE-ward money started dancing in his head. He went back to return his car to his neighbor, and thought about the call that would probably result in a shitload of RE-ward money.

When Julie was welcomed inside the Safe House a lookout was posted upstairs as a precaution. Sure enough, within the hour a police presence began to materialize on the street below. They weren’t advertising themselves with blazing lights or sirens but the sound of the sheriff’s radio dispatcher blaring out into the night from five or six cars sort of gave the game away.

A phone call to Dory was passed along to Lilith, and Jill materialized in the basement of the house, marveling that it had happened so soon.

Jill went upstairs and greeted Julie, then asked her to follow her back downstairs. A closet in the basement was actually the door of a tunnel leading next door to a closet in the basement of the house over there.

Julie grabbed Jill by the shoulder. “I want to tell you something. I want to admit something. I tried to be careful but I think my husband followed me here. I don’t know how. I think he’s the one who called the cops!”

“It’s all right, we’ve been at war for years. I’ll take complete responsibility. The important thing was to get you away from Frank. There’s almost no time left, Julie, so let me give you some plain talk. They hit you because there’s rarely any consequences. It’s a cycle. The woman gets hit, so her self-esteem plunges. With no self-esteem, she never leaves her abusive husband or boyfriend. He feels rewarded for hitting. That’s why when the woman actually does leave, a lot of them snap. They even kill.”

Julie nodded. “That was the last thing Frank screamed at me when I drove away from the house. Exactly!”

“And even if he doesn’t kill you physically, your fear of Frank is killing your spirit.” Jill placed a slip of paper in Julie’s hand with the address of another safe house in River City. “Here are the keys to a car behind the house next door. Tinted windows. It’s yours now. One that Frank won’t recognize. I bet he’s watching us right now, gloating over his handiwork, but he won’t spot you in this car. Take the back alley and get out of here.”

“Jill, I want to join your team. I want to make full payment, with my life if I have to, for what you’ve done for me.”

Jill smiled at her. “I’ll look you up, Julie, I promise.”

Julie evacuated by herself then, walking down the narrow tunnel, and found herself in the empty house next door. Soon a deputy knocked on the front door and told her to gather what she needed and evacuate the house immediately.

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Strangers In Paradise