Lorenze strapped his uniform on, knowing where every clasp and buckle fell exactly. Still, something about it felt foreign: he had not worn it in several days. Several very, very long days.
The red, blue and yellow stripes that Michelangelo designed for the guard centuries earlier: many men fell under those colors. He knew their names by heart. And he promised to join them if called to…
…Lorenze propelled himself to the other side of the room where the society had left a small stockpile of weapons. He pulled out the sniper’s rifle case and its box of bullets. With hard clicks, he opened the case to see that all was in order. The parts gleamed and winked at him in the light like so many eyes.
More gently, Lorenze lifted the sight from the case. It was heavy to his hand. He put it to his eye and some miniscule scratch in the floor became like a canyon.
Thou shalt not kill. Lorenze smirked and put the sight down. Thou shalt not kill unless God asks you to. Thou shalt not kill unless God needs you to.
Lorenze closed the case. He surveyed the room, looked again at the uniform. He only had a few minutes left. He knelt to pray.
But what was there to pray for? Should he pray for their lives, for their safety? Could he ask that God grant them success on a murder mission? Should he pray for time or protection, or just for the world not to die?
In the end with his last few minutes, Lorenze prayed for the soul of another assassin. One who also betrayed innocence for the greater good. Remiel had, after all, been right – they were in common with a certain other fallen disciple. And so, with his eyes squeezed shut,Lorenze prayed for mercy for Judas Iscariot. For if Judas – that tool of fate led to betray history’s most innocent man – was able to find God’s forgiveness, perhaps so might he.
Clyde’s features were hardly distinguishable from his forehead down. There was some fragmented cartilage where his nose had once been, and one eye was still intact, although the eyelid had been missing. His cheekbone on the right side was gone, leaving the loose and shredded skin to fill in the sunken mess. The left cheekbone was bared, along with parts of his chin.
But the fingers…now they were distinguishable. Not Clyde’s of course, but rather the fingers of the person who hit him.
There were five visible areas of flesh damage – the first four were each the width and length of a finger beginning on the left hand side of his face and smearing across and down to the right. They looked like dark canals, jagged and full of black, dried blood, giving the mutilated face a striped look. The fifth and last “area of impact” was at his mouth – a shorter and smaller laceration the size of someone’s pinky – where Clyde’s lips had been removed.
“What about DNA? I mean, if someone hit him that hard, isn’t there anything from them…in there? Chris asked in a whisper.
“Nah. See where the,” the sheriff cleared his throat, “the impact lines are? You see them there in the picture? The forensic people couldn’t get anything from them. ‘Parently they’re burned in – not just cut. They were too damaged to carry any sort of identifiable…um…fibers.”
“Burned?” Chris asked the question for both he and Francis.
“Yeah, that’s not all just dried blood there.”
Chris had suddenly envisioned the black, flaky skin of barbecued chicken left on the grill too long.