Faith Healing part 2
Ethan Rayne wasn't just a sorcerer, Faith decided. He was a magician, playing the crowd with flash and flare. What had begun as a cozy hometown recital had degraded into an anarchy of faith healing. The meekly costumed wolf offered up example after example of the miraculously healed and the sheep ate it up as gospel truth. After the third miracle at the hands of The Amazing Ethan, even those in the audience suffering in silence had lost their inhibitions and rallied forward to become one of the saved. Strangely enough, Faith was enjoying it in a guilty living-vicariously-through-him sort of way. It had to be a rush for all involved since the crowd was just as entertained by the performance as Rayne was by the attentions of his adoring public.
Soon, the donation buckets began to appear, decorated with the same advertising as the discarded paper fans, signaling the moment when faith became a figure and the more you gave the closer to heaven you came. Inspired parishioners gave what they could, some more than they could, all more than they should in hopes to buy salvation. But the three suited gentleman in the back seemed unimpressed, faces stern with disapproval. It was then that Faith decided she wanted to meet this pied piper.
She waited outside until the end of the show, smoking cigarettes she'd flirted out of the holey pockets of a passing truck driver. Once the crowd died down, she stepped up to the open doors just in time to see a brute of a young man begin to pull them shut.
"Hang on," she called as she hurried up the steps.
"Sorry, ma'am but you've just missed the evening worship." He continued to close the doors and she shoved her boot forward to block the progress.
"Too bad, I really needed some serious saving. I just forgot something inside, handsome," she said, smiling flirtatiously as she tried to nudge the door and its guard back.
"You can come back 'round in the morning to fetch it." He tried to close it again only to be stopped by Faith's persistent boot.
"I can't. It's kinda important." She ran a shopping list of possibilities in her mind, selecting the one sure-fire thing to send the hometown boy scurrying away. "Tampons!" she blurted out loudly, "I think they dropped out of my purse. I guess I could wait here if you want to go look for them and…"
"No…" he interrupted, flushed and embarrassed. With a quick glance over his shoulder and an uncertain shrug, he said, "Okay, I'll let you in but be quick about it." He stepped aside to let her pass then closed the doors behind her. She flashed a gracious smirk and marched forward with purpose, scanning the room for Rayne. The only folks remaining were his roadies busily dismantling the sound equipment and lights.
"Ma'am, did you find your… your personal items?" the young man came up from behind her.
"Where's your boss man?" Faith continued toward the stage.
"Reverend Rayne is relaxing in his office."
"Office? You mean he has a room here? Sweet gig."
"Ma'am, if you're done, I'm afraid I need to ask you to leave." The young man reached out to grip her arm but Faith easily dodged out of his way. She wasn't in the mood play rough but had her mind set on a back stage pass.
"Come on, stud, one little minute with him is all I'm asking."
"He doesn't see anyone after worship, Ma'am. Now please…"
"Probably too busy tallying the day's take?" Faith mumbled as she reached the stage. She glanced over to the door Rayne had come from earlier and headed for it.
"Ma'am, please, I must insist that you leave…"
She gripped the knob and threw open the door. The room was empty except for an elderly woman sweeping who nearly had a heart attack with the vigorous action.
"Damn," Faith grumbled.
"As I said, Reverend Rayne doesn't allow visitors after worship. You'll have to seek his service tomorrow in Brakenrich."
"So he won't be here tomorrow?"
"No Ma'am, tonight was our last in Wiregrass."
"Wouldn't have anything to do with the three suits in the back playing movie critic, would it?"
"I wouldn't know, Ma'am. Now please, off you go before I get in a heap of trouble."
"A girl wouldn't want that. Thanks Junior. I owe you one." She leaned forward and gave him a peck on the cheek that she was sure he'd not wash for at least a week, given his dumbstruck expression.
"Take care, Ma'am."
"On it." Faith turned and strutted back out the way she'd come.
She skipped down the steps and landed on the sidewalk with a thump of her hard soled boots. A quick pat down of her pockets reminded her of her lack of cigarettes and she let out a disgruntled sigh. She needed a mark, a greasy easy chump to use her womanly wiles in permanently borrowing some cash. She scanned the night draped landscape and could see she had a snowballs chance in hell in finding action in the wholesome early-to-bed suburb.
A loud bang sounded from somewhere beyond the town hall followed by raised voices. Faith walked in a hurried pace along the sidewalk, watching as the cross road came into view. Parked a short distance behind the rear of town hall was what looked to be an understated touring bus, semi-glossy black with not a spec of logos or flash. It had to be Rayne. She headed toward it, stopping for a moment to try and overhear the heated conversation taking place within.
Words like injunction and tax evasion were tossed around like threats. Faith didn't know what they meant and didn't need to. She got the angry tone of accusation loud and clear. The door to the bus flew open and the three suits stormed out one after another. The last one stopped and whipped around to take one last shot with, "You're a fake, Rayne, and I aim to prove it!"
The guilty until proven innocent defendant stepped forward, remaining on the last step of the bus, nose bloodied and quickly soiling a shimmering white handkerchief.
"Be my guest. I look forward to you testing my…" Rayne smirked, "patience. Good evening, gentleman. God be with you." With that, the men grumbled and turned, making a hasty departure down the street.
"Fucking prick," Faith heard one of the others mumble. "Why can't I just shoot him?"
"Later, after we get what we came for," the accuser responded.
The young man who Faith had flirted up moments before hurried up to the bus. "Reverend, are you alright?"
"I'll be fine." Ethan gave a fatigued wave, dissuading his associates concerns.
"But, sir, you're bleeding…"
"Is that what this is?" Ethan glanced narrowly at the bloody fabric. "And here I thought I'd sprung a leak."
"Should I call Doc Mather's? He'll likely be over at Miss…"
"I'll be fine. Just see to it I have no more… gentleman callers tonight."
"Understood, Reverend Rayne."
"Good lad. How's the crew coming along?"
"Nearly finished, sir. They're getting mighty fast with all the…"
"You must be the infamous Ethan," Faith announced her presence as she walked her very best take-no-prisoners, fuck me strut up to the bus.
The young man raised his and in objection. "No Ma'am. You can't be here!"
"Yeah, well, what can you do?" She shrugged and continued closer, watching Rayne watch her. A man of the cloth shouldn't wear the look he was casting all over her. It was down right sinful.
"Perhaps I should be the one inquiring," Rayne smiled warmly. "What might I do for such a lovely young lady this fine evening?"
"That'll be all."
"But sir, you said you didn't want any more visitors tonight."
"Actually, stud, he said 'gentleman callers'. Seeing as how I ain't no gentleman, I'm thinking I pass the basic requirements." Faith said playfully, all the while starring unblinkingly at Rayne.
"I think she's got you there, Charley boy. Go see to the others and then call it a night."
"Are you sure?"
Rayne dismissed Charley with a wave and raised the handkerchief to his nose. Charley glanced disappointedly at Faith before storming back inside the town hall.
"Looks like your Calvary came a bit too late." Faith shifted her weight, swaying ever so slightly in her spot.
"The three bruisers work you over? Too bad your boy Charley…"
"He's not my boy."
"He wants to be. Anyway, doesn't look broken. Still, a busted nose… might be a good idea to have it looked at."
"It's fine. What is it I can do for you?"
“Good show tonight. Liked the… um, trick with the sparkles. Kickin' pyro, can't argue with that.”
“Glad you enjoyed my tricks,” He responded with some bitterness.
"My bad. You probably prefer spells, castings, enchantments… or are you a glam glamour type of sorcerer?"
Rayne didn't even blink. "Miracles, all. Blessings, if you like. His will, my hand. That's all there is to it." His smile had returned and he became patience personified.
Faith approached, returning a smile with not so much patience and bordering on threatening. "Listen up, Rayne man, I know what you are and what you're doing so don't give me your bullshit company line."
"If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were one of those bruiser prats. Accusations are opinions, my dear, and only as creditable as the author giving breath to them."
"You see, that's the thing… this author isn't writing fiction. It's fact. And I got the wicked skills to prove it."
"Skills?" His brow shadowed suspicious.
"Invite me in."
"As tempting as your offer is…"
"I'm not a blood sucker, if that's what's putting on your brakes. Blood's not my thing, sucking, on the other hand…"
Ethan chuckled, "Bloody hell, who are you?"
"The best partner you'll ever have."