Dave settled into a chair, slid in closer to the little table. A sandwich rested on a plastic saucer and a plastic spoon protruded from an open can of pork and beans. He popped the top on a beer and licked the froth from the lip of the can.
“Ah,” he said, taking a bite from the sandwich. “Ambrosia.”
Manny seated himself opposite his guest. “So, you plannin’ on stayin’ awhile?”
“Can’t say,” Dave said, chewing. “Depends.”
“On the kid?”
“Where he goes, I go,” Dave said. “And when.”
“You need to lay low, Coyote,” Manny said, digging into a bag of potato chips. “Unless you want to get caught. And the next place they send you won’t be as comfortable.”
Dave chuckled. “No, I’d say maximum security is pretty much a guarantee. But that’s if I let myself get caught.”
“It won’t be as easy for you with the kid in tow,” Manny said. “With everything you’ve been telling me, he’s bound to draw unwanted attention anywhere you go.”
“The medicine bag will keep him hidden,” Dave said. “From the real threat, anyway. I can handle the domestic authorities.”
“I want to help you, and Brian, if I can,” Manny said. “I could make some calls. Maybe an exorcism.”
“Nah.” Dave slurped his beer. “My gut tells me Brian is meant to tackle his problems head-on, as soon as he’s ready. But I appreciate the offer.”
Manny stared into the bag of chips. “Still the soldier, aren’t you, Coyote?”
Dave stopped with a spoonful of beans poised in the air. “What do you mean?”
“You’re still up for a fight,” Manny said. “Like Saul of Tarsus, you’ve had your epiphany. But you’re still a soldier at heart.”
“Like Saint Paul,” Dave said. “The old man is dead. I’ve become a new creation.”
“Oh, I know that Major Sidney Davidovitch is no more,” Manny said. “But Saint ‘Dave’ would still rather attack than retreat.”
“When the timing is right,” Dave said. “What’s wrong with that?”
“I don’t question your motivations, Coyote,” Manny said. He stood. “Let me show you something.” He took a few steps to where several books were stacked on the floor, topped by a Bible. He moved a few, selected one, and returned to the table. He flipped it open, revealing it to be a photo album. After a momentary search, he pulled out a snapshot and handed it to Dave.
“This was taken a couple years ago,” Manny said. “One of my ‘unofficial’ exorcisms. A friend of one of my parishioners. Came to me because I’m Indian. The same old story.”
“Where was this made?” Dave asked.
“Arkansas,” Manny replied.
“What happened?” Dave brought the picture in close to his eyes. It depicted a normal middle-class house in a large yard. However, extending from the house, which comprised an apparent epicenter, a ring of desolation spread out for some distance. Within its circumference, all vegetation had died, grass, shrubs and trees browned and withered as though by an herbicide. Ivy climbing the brick facade of the house hung limp and curled like earthworms drowned in the rain. A flowerbed resembled a fresh grave heaped with rotting lilies.
“The owners of the house developed an interest in the Occult,” Manny said. “Started conducting seances, reading books on black magic. Had a copy of the Necronomicon. They sacrificed a cat once.”
“Typical yuppie Satanist wannabes,” Manny said. “They didn’t have a clue.”
“So what happened?” Dave asked.
“They had three children. Unbaptized, of course. It got two of them. Full-blown demonic possession.”
“Shit.” Dave slapped the photo down in disgust. “So I got a call. Me and this young woman from the tribe. She had some potential as a shaman.” Manny seated himself. “It went bad on me.”