It didn’t take long for Perkins to arrange the meeting. Clearly, both Heaven and Hell wanted the matter resolved. Incredibly hung over, John was dragged to the meeting. He’d appear in body only, his mind was still lost in the last 24 hours and a lot of alcohol. Both sides had sent some big timers and their old friends Michael and Aamon had showed up. Both brought with them a pair of lesser beings.
“Thank you everyone for coming today,” Perkins said addressing the room, “I know the last few days have been difficult but I think John and I have resolved it all now.”
“What assurances do we have of this?” Aamon erupted. “Did you ever find the gun? Did you find out if there were any more bullets?”
Perkins offered a calming hand, “No, while we did not we did recover the sword,” which he pulled from a large duffel bag and displayed on the table. “Midnite must have been acting alone. Even his guard, who I questioned adamantly afterwards clearly knew nothing. Midnite wouldn’t have trusted anyone else in the plot so he must have done this alone. On an in depth search of his bar we also found the Ark. It has been secured back at St. Pat’s.”
Michael chimed in, “Well done then. Father is quite pleased with the outcome and efficacy in which it was handled. And He’s willing to overlook your other shortcomings and welcome you back in.”
This puzzled John. Back? Had he heard things wrong? This caught his attention through his inebriated stupor.
“And Father Galleano?” Perkins asked.
“You know that term is not applicable to the man anymore, Mr. Perkins” Michael said, “just like it isn’t to you.”
What was going on? John was definitely awake now.
Perkins seemed to be getting very angry and fast. “So even this is not enough to grant him absolution? I save Heaven and Hell and He still can’t forgive one small ‘heresy’ – one we all know is not that bad.”
“Not that bad,” Michael said standing, “it claims only Catholics are saved and not even all Catholics. Do you have any idea what kind of tidal wave that sends through the rest of the Christian community and how bad of a picture it paints the Catholic Church?”
Clearly, John had missed something. Something big. “Wait, what’s this all about?” he asked.
Perkins wasn’t talking, Aamon just sat back with a silly grin on his face enjoying the show. “Francis Galleano had once been a devout Catholic priest, John. But he was turned to Feeneyism by his best friend, the once Father Leonard Feeney. Feeney was excommunicated for his beliefs. The Vatican tried to get Galleano to recant but he would not. So he was excommunicated as well. Perkins refused to separate himself from his mentor or accept the excommunication and has been working to regain his ordination ever since.”
John couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He shot looks around the room. Perkins stood angrily still at the head of the table. Aamon grinned wider. “Come on Johnny, you as much as anyone must know how much fun we’re having with a priest in Hell?”
Before John could react he heard a growl come from Perkins. “Then damn you all, damn you all to nothingness!” And he reached into the bag again and withdrew a pair submachine guns. Immediately, the room was filled with flying bullets. John managed to dive for cover, having been at the end opposite Perkins but Aamon, Michael and their entourages were not so lucky. John could hear the bullets tear through them. The lesser beings must have died faster. From his vantage point he could see Michael, sputtering on the ground, a fearful look in his eyes as the bloody wounds in his chest flamed to light. Then silence. John heard the guns drop. He saw the feet of Perkins walk around the table toward him. Not knowing what else to do, he stood slowly.
Perkins held the sword, pointed out at John. The look of dread on his face was shattering. “I chose you for this. I assumed if anyone would understand where I was coming from it be you. But I have to know, are you with me now or against me?”
John didn’t know what to say. He was stunned. He was being hit with so many realizations at one time he was at a total loss.
“JOHN!” Perkins yelled. “I don’t want to kill you John. But I will, I’m sure you can tell I have no qualms about that now.”
John searched his mind for anything and came up empty. He knew he only had one choice. “You better kill me then,” he said solemnly and took a step toward Perkins arms held out wide.
Perkins shrugged a bit, “It’s nothing personal John, it’s just that when you have Heaven and Hell against you, you can’t afford any earthly enemies too.” And he readied to thrust. John closed his eyes, ready to accept death. He wasn’t sure if the events as of recent would change his eternal outcome or not. He was sure he deserved it if it didn’t turn out as he hoped. A fact he wouldn’t be bitter about.
But then he heard a smash and before he could open his eyes felt a wave of immense heat that kept them shut a moment longer. When he heard the scream though, he couldn’t keep his eyes closed any longer.
Before him stood Perkins, engulfed in flames and screaming. Wrapped in flame, he fell to his knees. John swore he could see the sadness on Perkins face before he turned to a pile of ash in an instant. John blinked. Then his gaze widened from the shock and awe in front of him to the rest of the room. In the doorway to the meeting room stood Midnite, hands outstretched from the casting.
“Don’t worry John, I no blame you but you owe me one, big time,” Midnite said and walked out of the room.
The only thing John could think of in that moment was he really wish he’d picked a different week to quit smoking.