The Church Bells All Were Broken


abby2_icon.gif delilah_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif felix_icon.gif

joseph_icon.gif leland_icon.gif mona_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title The Church Bells All Were Broken
Synopsis Freedom fighters, retired terrorists, EMTs in training and officers of the law are among the first on scene to dismantle three lynchings in the rain while the fire at Guiding Light Baptist Church rages on into the night.
Date September 26, 2009

Guiding Light Baptist Church

Volcanic billows of sooty smog smudge fervent red from horizon to horizon, soiling the night sky shades of blood and sangria that thicken with every meter of ground gained for Greenwich. The smell of wood smoke is warm on the wind, dishearteningly natural in all the wrong ways. Past the smouldering wreckage of an overturned fire truck and intersections rendered navigable only by foot by strategic sinkholes, felled poles and rends ripped violent across blasted concrete, sweltering heat radiates away from the ragged roar and pulse of a fire blazing wildly out of control.

In the heart of New York, Guiding Light is burning.

Somewhere, the wail and scream of wayward sirens suggests invisible help seeking an alternate route in, but there are no whirling blue lights and it's clear that what few uniforms are here have only just arrived on foot, hands to holsters and eyes showing white as their knuckles grasped bare around busy radios. A helicopter churns once low through the smoke and is gone, visible only for the time it takes the ruddy haze all around to roll back in after the tail.

The church is a total loss. Flames wind in draconic pyres through sections of caved in roof, writhing white hot where fresh fuel is readily available against cooler oranges and the black contrast of the battered frame. What little wind there is stirs in unforgiving waves, kicking up clods of incendiary debris that lift and drift like resilient sparks to set adjacent structures ablaze. Shattered glass scattered in wide sprays across superheated concrete reflects the lick of fire through vacant windows from a thousand slivered points of view. It seems like everything is burning, or about to be, and it only gets worse.

Amdist the chaos, the wide set of three stoic lamp posts stationed tall and black along the sidewalk before the skeletal church's scorching heat is host to the real message, here. Three posts and three bodies — one for each: captives hung stiff by the neck from the high curve of metal overhead, heels dangling slack some four or five feet above broken glass and charred rubbish. One double agent to the left, the Law to the right, and positioned squarely between them, a man of God.

Abigail runs out of the portal made by the latino. Her church, Joseph's church, the community's church. The helicopter and it's detestation left behind, the former healer runs forward, taking the moment to get her bearings before unerringly zoning in on where to go, cellphone clutched in hand and messenger bag slung crosswise across her body. This wasn't happening. Joseph would come back to a burnt church. This couldn't happen.

Abigail's steps falter for a moment or two when she comes across the sight of the three people on the light poles. It's enough to send a hammering heart nearly stopping at seeing Joseph, some strange woman and a mangled felix on the pole. The fact that it's three of them strung up with Joseph in the center is not lost on Abigail. Up to the center post Abigail barrels, getting a swiss army knife fished out of her bag. "Someone get a ladder!" She yells, screams even as she comes to the center pole. "Get them down!" How long had they been hanging, had their necks been snapped in the process or did they just choke? The training she's been receiving starts to filter to the front of her mind. "Get them down! Get them down fast! Now!" Screw the burning church, it's just a building, these were people though.

Swiveling headlights through the dark, the motorcycle snips a curb in a shining example of patentedly bad driving, shrieking rubber against concrete, before straightening its tires to keen down the sidewalk at a guttural pace. Teo stops — too fast; the Panhead skews, imbalances again, drags its chrome-skinned ribs against the asphalt with a kiss of sparks, barely sparing his foot from being temporarily reduced to oatmeal.

His dismount is a ropey, disorganized chaos of running feet and scrabbling fingers, uncinching the helmet from around his head. Fire in heinous heat, smoke cuts breathing, adrenaline crashes his ribs. He can't really hear who or what's scrambling around apace of him until he glimpses the red of Abby's hair. Redder still, by firelight. Trying to jump-start his ability is clumsily fat-fingered, somehow; he sends his mind on a brief circuit through the hanged men. Joseph, suffocating and raw-skinned from scorching air, a fleeting frame of some thalamus discharge blinking visual when he looks, not quite a dream; Felix, breathing in total psychic blackness; and Mona.

Mona's fucking dead.

It's a quick decision, which isn't to say it's an easy one, but it hurts, bothers him, mostly because he already knows what he's going to do even as he jarrs to a stop in front of Joseph's lamp. Wraps one arm around the pastor's thighs, sets grips the waist of the man's trousers, heaves as much of the man's weight onto his own shoulder as he can. "Mona's dead," he rasps. He thinks, but doesn't say: Joseph's odds are the best, that's all. That's all.

The rabbit hole opened up, blessedly, and a herd of bunnies spilled through to the other side. Abigail is the first, and Delilah the second, spurred onward by sound and noise and chaos on her tail. There are no number of thank yous that Dee could utter through a cellphone, when it comes to Carolina. Blink. The gutted church fills her vision as she follows Abby out of the portal, glancing once over her shoulder to the end of the line coming.

Heels on asphalt come to a similar falter as Abby, though when Delilah sees the three figures strung up along the poles, her initial reaction is a bit different. Delilah effectively teeters on her toes, face alight with the orange of the fire. When more screeching and yelling from Abby rattles her out of the daze caused by something of horror- Dee takes a lungful of hot air before moving forward to lend a hand with Joseph's descent from above. It might be a funny thought if it wasn't very real.

Under normal circumstances, Leland would never accept a teleport offer from a terrorist group. But Teo's report that a man who looks like Felix was spotted hanging changes that particular prohibition. In a morbid way, he's been waiting for this, has been waiting for this since the first time Felix died. He's had a feeling it would come to this, over all the helpless weeks of complete dead ends and being told to wait. This is what it's lead to. He knew if they decided to kill Felix, it would be in a public way. Question is, was he dead when they put him up there?

The numbness that has settled into Leland Daubrey since this all began spreads now, until he's only driven by logic. Emotions don't exist anymore, can't exist. Once a level is hit, you just stop feeling anything at all. He moves forward, towards Felix, not one word spoken to anyone. And he lifts, as Teo does, to stop the pressure of the rope from cutting into his neck. His face is a dull mask.

Eileen's utility knife cracks open in her right hand, fingers clenched around its silver grip and knuckles bulging. Little Abigail Beauchamp is barking orders like a drill sergeant, and although her voice is but hoarse whisper in comparison to the dull roar of the flames, her body language communicates with perfect clarity what needs to happen. As her feet slam against the pavement, she's shrugging out of the leather jacket she wears, not to discard it, but to whip the garment around in her free hand, twisting it into something elongated she can grasp between them.

Between Abby, Teodoro and Delilah, Eileen has little doubt that they'll be able to bring the pastor down. That leaves the other two, and of them she immediately recognizes Felix's shape hanging prone, though the man with his arms around his legs is a stranger to her. She slings the jacket around the post, secures a grip and launches herself up, using it to climb as she braces her feet against the metal.

Even if Leland could hear her, she lacks the wind to tell him to hold on.

Smoke has made the street hazy, turned the three hanging bodies into dark silhouettes against the play of searing firelight behind them. There's a subtle swing, a minuscule pendulum motion to Joseph's frame where it hangs heavy off the rope caught up from the street lamp, wrists lashed together behind his back. Up closer towards the black street lamps rising up from the ground and casting its own eerier, less frenetic luminescence down upon the three hanging bodies, it's hot. Intensely so. Waves of it pours from the burning building, blows its own wind to ruffle hair and clothes, bright flames that try to lick at those nearby though never quite reaching. Light and smoke in equal measures burn eyes.

And then, movement from Joseph, as Teo's hands come to grip at his legs, take pressure off the rope that should, by rights, be killing him. There is no sound from the hanging pastor, but his head, which had been bowed, eyes closed almost peacefully, shifts to the side. Details come into play - a lashing of fabric across his mouth, between teeth, to still whatever protests or cries for help the man would have otherwise had.

His body wracks, once, a choking cough muffled against the gag as smoke stings and worries lungs, but otherwise he hangs slack, smoke smeared, rumpled. It brings him to life, or at least, drags him reluctant. Muscles tense, hands close into fists.

Beyond the hellish roll of smoke's red belly smothering low overhead, thunder rumbles soft. Once, then again more gently than before, and already there's the pitter and pat of rain drops piercing cold through the fire's raging haze. Pin pricks of black pattern and spot where the concrete is coolest; hissing and spitting elsewhere, where the soles of shoes soak up scorching heat and the air itself feels like fire against unshielded skin.

Mona is perhaps the worst of the three. The sit of her skull on her spine is jockeyed and jolted at the kind of angle that loops and twists the guts to look at. People don't bend that way, and she is still as death as fatter drops gain momentum in their cling and soak through the drift of her dark hair. A uniformed officer who runs her way hesitates; clasps at her near calf. Recoils when she sways vacantly with the motion of his push, one and a half arms touching too lax at her sides.

Felix isn't much better. There's a smell about him that clags thick in the sinuses: human decay and putrid rot mingling in the blood and infection-murked runoff that the mounting rain washes against Leland's neck and into his shirt. More significantly, a pulse threads feathery light beneath the detective's solemn grasp, and if Eileen squints, she might detect the barest of rises at the starved Fed's battered rib cage.

The rain falls faster and harder with every beat, distorting smoke's sooty cling about the sidewalk in driving sheets that smother drifty bits of flaming debris and quiet fire attempting to take hold elsewhere. The Guiding Light itself is less amenable to taming — for all the storm's effort, the blaze burns higher and hotter, belching and lashing unrestrained against thunder's more patient growl.

"Go for the ones alive! Ivanov, Pastor Sumter" Abigail glances over to Eileen who has the same idea as the red head. Off comes her own leather jacket, black with tan piping and it's around the pole. Years of climbing trees in the bayou coming to the fore. "Get them down! Someone get on Mona next!" Who knows, maybe Mona could come back, CPR and the like.

Her leather jacket slides around the lightpost and with shoes kicked off, the red head is shimmying up the pole with the utility knife open and clenched between her teeth and making her way up and towards the place where rope meets metal. Hopefully there will be people below to catch the falling men when they're down. There will be time to cry later but for now, She needed to get Claira's husband, ex-husband, down. No way was she calling that woman to say he was dead. Not in a million years.

Wet, bedraggled like a hound dog, Teo seems smaller than he normally is, stilted up underneath Joseph's body in a straining stack of bone and sinew. His fingers are clenched white into the fabric of the pastor's trousers but his face is an ugly oil-slick mash of runny gray and red, dampened grime and infernal illumination making morbid caricature of his aquiline features. "Eileen—" there's a saccadic beat of surprise. "Eileen has Felix," he shouts up at Abigail, despite that she obviously already knows, modeling her monkey climb after the Englishwoman's.

He doesn't repeat about Mona again. Doesn't want to. It's too tempting to shut his eyes from the glare and torrid gusts from the fire, the stinking slime of the rain coming down and weighing into his clothes. He gives Abigail's heel a push, her hip a brief, steadying hand, slips and reconfirms his hold on Joseph's slack body. Of all the most absurd things, it's hope that he's keeping his teeth shut on, now, fighting to control its giddy visceral buzz instead of hate, fear, grief after the church's scarlet husk, or even the drowning ascent of his current levels of physical discomfort.

Though she is not as strong as Teodoro by far, Delilah at least has some height on her side in order to help Abby stay up and to make sure that Pastor Sumter is kept afloat. Her presence near the concentrating Teo consists of dampening red hair and muffled breathing. If she is muttering to herself, nobody else understands it. The rain on her face doesn't come as a surprise, but it does come as a relief. It will help to control the fire, hopefully. The last thing that anyone needs is the entire block burning to cinders. House fires were never Delilah's strong point- especially as of late.

All she can do now is wait for Abby to cut the rope, and help Teo bring Joseph down.

Clipped against his pocket, Leland's radio burbles out clipped words in cop shorthand. He presses up as high as he can, lifting Felix up as much as he can until Eileen can reach the tether that holds him up. Somehow he manages to tap his radio, to press in the code that indicates an ambulance is desperately needed. The wonders of modern technology allow his radio to show up as a GPS blip at dispatch.

Eileen doesn't climb any higher than she has to, and fortunately that's less than halfway up the lamppost because there's no way she could reach the top in such an awkward, halting fashion. The hand not holding the knife wraps the jacket around the lower half of her opposite arm, achoring her to the pole as she straightens her legs, arches her back and leans away from it to twist around and cut through the rope.

It isn't a clean break. Eileen's utility knife was not made to tackle material as thick as the rope in one swift motion; instead, she has to alternate between sawing and hacking, hewing and slashing before the rope is frayed enough to fracture, splitting in two with an audible snap. Tension releases, the noose around Felix's neck grows abruptly slack and the federal agent's full weight slumps into Leland's arms.

The rain comes pattering down— somewhat blessed, the first scrap of anything remotely cleansing Joseph has had in nearly a month— and combats the smoke, sloughs off the navy suit Joseph is still dressed in and will never, ever wear again. He shakes his head, abruptly, unwillingly drawn back out of semi-conscious reverie. Even through the cold rain, he can feel the curls of heat against his back. His church is still burning. Prying open his eyes, Joseph shakes his head again, the invasive feel of the gag almost worse than the noose itself.

Which becomes clear as to why when Abby sees it. The noose is wrapped tight around his throat, but there's more, disappearing down the back of his collar, pulling taut against navy fabric from where it loops beneath it around his torso, beneath his trapped arms. His weight hangs off a knot somewhere high between his shoulder blades, not from the rope around his neck - uncomfortable, effective.

But not a killing loop. Joseph swings a hazy look towards her, then towards Mona. A muffled cry of dismay barely reaches ears, and his legs jerk unwilling against Delilah and Teo's grips.

Water runoff choked thick with grit and ash makes climbing the poles difficult but not impossible. Slips happen where feet fail to find purchase or a sodden jacket jolts down half an inch unexpectedly — not enough to impede progress or purpose. Eileen and Abby climb. Delilah, Leland and Teo support. Felix, Joseph and Mona hang.

Sirens are sounding again in the background, close enough now that screeching tires give way to the sputter and rush of a torrential flow from the burning church's rear, though no trucks are visible here at the front. Firemen have found an in through the street behind and have set up hoses to arc in from there, flooding steam white to mingle with pelting rain and oily smoke bruised red over black.

Grasp, wrap legs around the pole and cling tight with her thighs and her left hand on her jacket. Abigail's close to joseph and sawing for all she's worth. The sight that greets her down the back of joseph's shirt perhaps not making her own movements sof rantic and rushed as Eileen's is. The rope that travels down and from the looks of things… supports Joseph. "Getting you down Pastor, God I promise, getting you down!" She yells to him, hoping her can hear. She gets rewarded with the same snap, the same release of the rope and Teo and Delilah below get the full weight of Joseph as down he goes leaving Abigail clinging just out of their reach ont he pole like Eileen.

Teo is bad with kids, and Joseph makes the most ungainly of infants. There's some horrible joke here, waiting in tandem with the fact that Delilah's holding up the pastor's other end, but he quells the dislocated mania of Ghost railing in the corner of his mind. He shifts his arms up the pastor's legs as gravity brings him shunting down, catching as many centers of balance as he can even as he folds down to his knees, deferring to gravity just long enough for he and his cohorts to figure out how to carry, how far. Ambulances. That shit.

Ambulances— his is the vague impression somebody's already on that, and the Felix is down, Mona's been generally accepted as a lost cause (twinge), though he can't quite figure out who's doing what exactly; he can barely see. "We should at least probably get across the street." He should probably have added an exclamation point to the end of that sentence; he can barely hear himself, doubts Delilah can hear him, but common sense has their path laid out. Tree good, fire bad. Get away the fucking fire.

There are no added loops of extra rope on Felix's felled corpus. Sloppy knotwork around the noose has left him room to breathe where he was meant to suffer to a slow death, just as it accelerated Mona's into a near instantaneous pop of wet bone and gristle. Bandaging crinkles around his person, sticky with rain. His legs swing too loose with the momentum of his fall, tendons cut through at the knees and ankles. A bullet hole sinks nasty into one shoulder, bleeding started up again at so much jostling, and he is deathly, deathly thin.

Once Leland has the weight of Felix's prone form against him, he lowers the Russian to the muddy ground. From his belt he pulls his own knife and works with the jagged, teethy lower end to sever the noose. First responder training kicks in, puts him on auto pilot. Check for pulse, rate of breathing. Administer CPR if needed. There are mechanical things he can take care of before he has to worry about the emotions. And the wail of those sirens are getting closer. He lifts the radio to his lips, presses thumb to button and murmurs, "This is Daubrey on scene at the Guiding Light. One presumed dead, two in critical condition," a pause, then he adds. "Agent Ivanov's condition is poor."

Delilah is not a mind reader, but she can read people enough, and do enough guesswork- that when Pastor Sumter comes down from his place in the air, Delilah's arms hook underneath of whatever points that she can reach first. Strings of hair plaster about her face when she looks up towards Teo for some sort of visual cue, if there is one. He can barely see, and her world isn't exactly free of being a wild, fiery blur either.

"This way!" There is an exclamation on her end as she veers her feet across asphalt, and a powerful hoist; 'weaker' sex, heels and skirts be damned, she is going to help carry Joseph across the road with Teo, glancing once sharply over her shoulder for Abby. Just hoping that she regains her own balance, at the very least.

A prolonged squeak of leather sliding down metal signals Eileen's descent and is punctuated at the end by the sudden crack of booted feet coming into contact with the pavement below. She unwinds her jacket, uses it to wipe the greasy amalgamation of soot, sweat and rainwater from her face, a wild mane of oil-black hair clinging to her flushed cheeks and brow. Stark in contrast to the white shirt she wears, soaked thoroughly through, the dark weave of her shoulder holster cuts into her arms and across her back in a diagonal line. Buckles gleam in the firelight, though the grip of the pistol itself is matte and would reflect nothing if it wasn't for the downpour.

Mirrored in the street's silver sheen, Eileen's shape ripples, contorts and courts the flames as she moves away from Leland and Felix, parallel to the curb. With Teo and Delilah manhandling Joseph across the street, Abigail is still up the pole. Arms come out, up, ready to catch or help the other woman on her way down if need be.

Gravity jerks him down without dignity, as abrupt as a shower curtain being yanked off its pegs. Joseph legs fold useless beneath him, but to the credit of Delilah and Teo, only gets bruises and scrapes rather than sprained ankles and concussions. What impact there is seems to go right through his body, jarring, arms stiff where they're bound and head loose on his neck. The cut rope, taut from the knot, trails limp and frayed. The harnessing nature of its bonds obvious, but this close.

"Mmf." That would be a protest, movement, knots slipping to allow the gag to fall against his chin, past it with a final head shake to join the noose about his throat as rain travels down it slickly. "Not me." The words are hoarse and thin, and too late. Rain makes streaks through a face gone sooty from the smoke. "Not me— I'm fine— "

Joseph doesn't look fine. He is currently only a very liberal interpretation of that word. But he also doesn't look like Mona's broken neck variety of dead, or Ivanov's loose-limbed fever-wracked state either.

He isn't dying. Which means his legs still work awkward beneath him, staggering with his weight switching back and forth between the grasps of the two Phoenixers. There has been too much of this, and his limbs lock and jar automatically, though he's not trying to be difficult. His once polished shoes scrape against the wet asphalt of the road, and upon the inevitable halt, the first thing he does is twist with more dexterity than he can afford to look back.

With two captives down and in capable hands (well — sometimes capable) a shuddering rumble and snap from Guiding Light wooshes into a partial collapse of roof to skeletal, char black pews. Sparks furl up through the snaggled gap in a vomitous rush, flooding to their premature deaths against rain's ongoing onslaught and the efforts of invisible firemen working to establish a second line.

Burning dust and heat-blasted debris rolls out into the abandoned street in a stifling heap, rain slick concrete muddying resilient embers and white hot ash once it's huffed past Abby's turned back and thrown itself ragged after those retreating across the street.

Revived from the beginnings of a slump by the fresh intake of air and massive crossbeams, the fire roars on, all violence and snarled crackling against the rain-streaked night sky.

And finally, finally there's a show of human movement in through a side alley, white uniform shirt soaked through enough to give Eileen a run for her money when an ambulance worker (and another, and another) wrest out onto the sidewalk. "Hey! Hey — is everyone al — " and then they spot Mona and go crestfallen all in a shocky line. …Oh.

Down Abigail shimmies, grateful for Eileen below and the safety net that she provides when the last little bit is actually Abigail sliding down thanks to the rain. But Eileen is there and it's only a bit jarring and leaves the red head a little out of breath. "Mona" Abby unwinds her leather jacket, peeling the knife from out of her mouth. "Teo said her name is Mona, that she's not breathing, dead. Help me up the pole, I'll cut her down and we'll see." The woman may be dead, Teo said she was, but that doesn't mean that the woman has to endure the indignity of being a swaying corpse. There's no respect for the dead in that act.

And as quickly as she was down, Abigail's at Mona's lamp post, swinging the leather jacket around and once more monkeying up, swiss knife clenched between teeth.

A wetly grime-rimmed hand scrapes the gag further away from Joseph's mouth, makes poking inquest over his eyelids and throat. There's a whiff of recent shampoo, frankincense and myrrh when Teo puts his head down near the pastor's head, catches an earful of words as well as confirmation that he's okay, breathing. Teo's relief is instant, and he rallies his inexplicably numbed hands to the task of loosening the remainder of rope around the man's neck.

They're down, now, on the sidewalk. There's a bruise forming on the Sicilian's knee where he landed too hard, but no part of the holy man is worse off for the impact. "Hey." Teo's teeth show white against his dirt-marred face, grinning, sharp-cornered and so wide that his ears shift half an inch on either side of his rain-slicked head. "Hey, Joseph. You're not fine, but you're going to be. Ambulances coming— few days at St. Luke's, some— oxygen. Help on the way." They could all use a little oxygen, judging from the unseemly rasp and cough of Teo's voice.

When Joseph is set down, Delilah helps with the last loop of ropes casting off of him; holes scrape open in her dark stockings as she comes down to her knees, going through the usual measures of aid and keeping the Pastor's head and neck still, regardless of which knot was keeping him up. This requires setting his head in her lap, but she won't be the first to care. Her soot-framed and damp features hover there parallel to Teo's as he smiles down at Joe, relaying that he's not okay- but will be. By contrast, she isn't grinning for once. Her hand are on either of his shoulders now, almost like the weight of a mother keeping down a fussing child. Just enough.

"They got Ivanov down too." Dee doesn't mention Mona. Her face might say it for her. "You'll be alright, stop fussing or I'll just tie you the fuck up again." Nobody wants that, right? Good.

Abby asks for help and it's help she receives, this time in the form of Eileen's clasped hands giving her a boost up the pole so she can reach Mona without having to sacrifice her footing. The bird-whisperer will be there to catch her if she falls.

Heat radiates from the pyre that was once the Guiding Light, distorting vision and blistering skin. Through the din, Eileen can hear the sizzle of water evaporating off the pavement as steam as flames continue to lick the side of her face turned toward the church. Ash fills her nose, cakes salt and pepper around her lips. Too dry to spit, her mouth forms a croaked word instead: "Hurry."

Joseph draws a breath to speak, again, but as if to prove Teo's point, all that comes out are hacking coughs, guttural and dragging razors along his throat. He twists a little, enough, to be polite, but there's no real struggle against Delilah's hands as she keeps him otherwise still. He doesn't immediately collect words once it's over, just reverts his attention back towards the burning church. Blackened stone and structure, partial implosions spitting fire-fly debris that die quick in the downpour that he scarcely minds. He stares for two, three seconds, before something switches off.

Looks towards where the women are cutting down the last of them, barely making out details enough to recognize, save for Abigail whose gone brunette in the rain and smoke. Ivanov is over there. Joseph could be happier about being rescued.

If this wasn't exactly how it was meant to go, he'd be happier. Joseph blinks black eyes up at where Teo and Delilah's faces are hovering above his like twin, ashy moons, and he draws in a quick and panicked breath, freed hands up to wipe at his face, push hair out of his eyes and rain water too. "I don't— Ivanov's dyin'. Mona's arm— " Hoarse voice breaks and crackles over his words. "I'm not hurt." Which could be a selfless sentiment if not for the fact he just wants to go home, or something like it that hospitals can't quite achieve.

Up, up, up Abigail goes with the help from Eillen, face unbearably hot, and back, lungs complaining about the heat and smoke that she inhales and the ash that smears along her face and coats the inside of her nose.. Leather wet, gripping the pole, slapping sound that heralds the dull shuffle of wet denim that follows and the whine of wet feet against metal till Abigail is up far enough to rinse and repeat the actions with Joseph. Little knife sawing with one hand while the other grips the arms of her jacket and holds on for dear life. "She's coming down!" Rasped and yelled out moments before the snap of rope gives warning of the impending Telepaths descent.

Mona falls like a length of disembodied lumber, limbs ragdoll loose in their sockets when she plummets to a dead roll against steaming concrete. The paramedics are there in a smoggy flash, faces sweltering red under smudges of soot shadowed in around wide eyes and white teeth.

"She's not breathing — " "We can't keep her here!" "We shouldn't move her — " There's not enough breath to go around to argue with, and with some panicky shuffling and the groaning and creaking of another imminent collapse at their backs, two of them manage to get Mona's corpse up, up, up off the concrete between them.

"We have ambulances parked on the other side — just through there," the remaining young man shouts at Abby and Eileen, left arm angling wildly back in the direction from whence they came. "We can help if you can get them there."

Already a little ahead of the game, Leland is moving through the background to haul Felix more delicately in that direction than he should be able.

"Sorry," Teo says, as Teo is wont to say. Sorry. How woefully inadequate to a situation could that word possibly be? Sorry your church burned down, baby girls got kidnapped, your dog nearly shot, Mona's dead, by the way, Felix is close. Sorry I'm sure what they did to you in the weeks they had you was worse than all of these events aggregated and measured out on some universal scale of disaster. Sorry I didn't find you. Sorry— "You really should go to the hospital," he elaborates, shyly polite, even under the approaching scuff of medical technicians. "To check you out.

"You'll be able to go home soon, I'm sure. You look fine." Joseph doesn't look fine, but it seems rude to make his parting statement anything else; harsh truths are reserved for another time. The Sicilian's smile vanishes when the paramedics rattle their stretcher to a halt, metal and plastic snap-clicking into carrying configuration. He glances away, puts half a hand on his face, paranoia eating through the short-lived glow of optimism. It isn't easily mistaken for vanity, but no one's looking at him, never mind with suspicion. He didn't set the fucking church on fire.

Delilah draws her own wrist across her face to push water and the floating placement of ash across her cheek. When her hand comes down again, it's to brush Joe's hair back with more precision than has been given with his own try at it. Maybe that's all that she has to add- as the paramedics bring up the stretcher just a few short moments later. They can't fit a truck, but at least they tried the other thing on wheels. Hopefully, Felix got one first.

She'll try to help them pick Joe back up, but it is likely that she'll be shooed off, left to stand there with Teo- maybe they follow right away, maybe they don't. She'll go along with what is apparent. Holes in her hose and looking like a toasted marshmallow, there's only one other thought that comes to mind when her shoulders weigh themselves down and her attention goes again the the bonfire that is the Guiding Light. "…I never thought I'd take the name of the church so literally."

Hopefully, Felix got one first. Joseph's brow is tense with a simmering anxiety that doesn't come to boil enough for him to argue anymore. Okay. He should get checked out. Go home soon. Okay. He gives a nod of consent that is more token than necessity, and allows the paramedics to flock in like professional, pristine vultures, one introducing himself and everything.

Onto stretcher, straps in place that he is far too tired to care about, oxygen easing comfortingly through seared lungs as breath fogs the plastic mask, and Joseph is summarily rolled away. If anyone's following or neglecting to, he doesn't opt to notice for now, busy trying to shake off the feeling that he isn't safe.

Mona's down, paramedics on her like white on rice. But from where she had been, the woman was… like Teo had said. Dead. She'd seen, and didn't need a textbook or any of the lessons she's paid for to tell her that. Still up the pole like a monkey, she watches the people swarm and start to take over now that people are no longer hanging from posts like corpses waiting for the buzzards.

Abigail lifts her head, gaze going from the ground below to around, up on rooftops, blue eyes swiveling left and right while her little knife stays one again clenched between teeth. She's looking for witness's of the non friendly variety. Anyone who wanted to watch their handiwork. But successful or not, and more than a little weary with aching, protesting muscles and feeling like she's spent too much time near the wood stove roasting marshmallows and then more, the red head starts to carefully climb down. Away from heavily smoky air and maybe catch up with Joseph's stretcher.

The Sicilian himself has retracted in on himself, turned furtive, trying to reduce himself down to the nonchalant insubstantiality of his shadow and slip away. He lets Joseph go, of course, but doesn't fail to notice that Abby's catching up— or that no technician is coming with oxygen for Mona, and Felix is already gone, borne away in the circle of Leland's arms. It's great. He has a handle on everything going on, despite that the edges of things keep running together, Delilah's hair bleeding into the soapmilk of her skin. Her words in miserable irony.

He means to talk her into leaving, now, before the cops come, but lethargy takes his feet, strange confidence that the law can differentiate between an unexpected Samaritan and a terrorist, just this once, for a few minutes, and what comes out instead is a wheeze, almost incredulous. "I can't believe they're alive." Two out of three is incredible enough for him. He stares into the smelted rainwater blur of the incinerating church. His hand closes wet and coarse on Delilah's.

To some degree, Delilah does feel the few moments of blurry rigidness coming off of Teo as his brain cogs click and whirr beside her. Her eyebrows lift in the center when he breaks the moment of quiet, face turning towards him to receive the words. "We had to leave people behind when we came- they goaded us all into the open on Roosevelt-." There's a small rustle of dirty cloth when he takes her hand, red hair tipping down with a glance.

"I had better be able to say the same for them." Her hand squeezes his back, fingers tight and safe on his calloused hand. "We'd better go." Somewhere else, as long as it isn't where they are, right?

Eileen guides Abby back down, small hands at the other woman's waist, and then her face as she pauses briefly to push the hair from her eyes and examine her for obvious injuries she might have sustained, either while trying to climb the pole with a knife between her teeth or in the initial crackle of gunfire back at the Suresh Center. Seeing nothing that indicates this is the case, she steps back, vacating the space ,and swivels her head to direct her eyes out across the street to where Teo and Delilah stand hand-in-hand.

There's nothing left for her here. As Abby moves to catch up with the stretcher carrying Pastor Sumter, she slips out through the smoke, camouflaged in soot and ash, simply melting away into nothing like the brittle pages of curling scripture consumed by the flames.

Abigail endures Eileen's examination, a shared glance with the similarly stained woman before she's peeled away, stopping long enough to grab her messenger bag and get the phone out. Scratches, scrapes, a few small cuts from her knife that likely if she actually drinks anything she'll notice. But in the rain and on the heels of Joseph's stretcher and a yell to the paramedics that she's coming with them and her pastor whether they like it or not, she speed dials a number.

Down in Tennessee a phone rings. One that's rung a few times the last month with regular updates. Only this time, it's good news. "Claira? It's Abigail" In all her hoarse, barely there smoke laden voice. "We have him. We got him. Joseph's alive and he's gonna be fine."

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