Sunday, December 24, 2006

A War On Christmas Carol: Chapter Ten

Ed sat in the dark room for a while, catching his breath, trying to take in all he had just seen: his father, his mother, Barb and her family...was that a threat he heard? Maybe he should talk about it on air next week, so as to scare this Marcus off?

He guzzled the last of the second glass of scotch and found himself at the bottle again, pouring a new one. "Steady fellow," he whispered, "You still have to get home."

Ed began to change clothes, his mind swirling from the liquor and the...hallucinations. Yes. That must be it. He hadn't been feeling all that well today...he seemed feverish. Yes, it must all be made up in his mind! Good.

He buttoned up his coat, and began the walk down the narrow hall from his dressing room to the elevator lobby. Passing the guard, Murray, he threw him a quick wave and managed to shout "Merry Christmas!" to him.

Murray was Jewish, and Ed knew this. But Murray sang back a "Merry Christmas" to Ed, knowing full well Ed would try to get him fired if he said "Happy Holidays".

Ed poured himself into the back of his limo, the one with a bodyguard for a driver and bulletproof glass. Ever since that day when a radical liberal group stormed into his studio and commandeered his show, he's lived in dread of an assassination attempt.

"Where to, Mr. Hughes?" Paul Lowe was a stocky former NYC cop with a black belt in three different martial arts, and a Glock 9 in his armpit.

"Home, Wait. It's nearly midnight, right? Take me to mass. Not St. Patrick's tho...too many people would be there...I need some solitude. Church of Our Savior. Park and 38th."

Lowe eased the limo into the light traffic of the outskirts of the Theatre District, and spun around the block to head east, then south. Ed shivered in the back, despite the warm air blowing across his feet.

The limo swung out of traffic after a few minutes, and stopped in front of the church. By Catholic standards, it was small, but this was midtown Manhattan, so space was at a premium. Jesus didn't mind, though. It still drew large crowds...large crowds who made lots of contributions to the Diocese.

Ed slipped in just as the last organ strains of Puer Natus echoed against the stone walls, and sat in a pew. The priest raised his arms, palms up, and said "A prayer."

The congregation knelt. Ed found the red velvet covered pew cushion, and listened as the priest began, "Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter..."

Ed felt a chill hand close about his shoulder. He opened his eyes and strained them around his socket to try to see peripherally who was there. He saw a robe. A long black robe. He glanced up over his shoulder.

" we sing the ironies of Christmas, the incomprehensible comprehended, the poetry made hard fact, the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder..."

The hooded figure grabbed his shoulder hard, and yanked Ed to his feet. A fleeting thought that he had been recognized by a liberal activist had flashed in his brain, until he looked at the figure eye-to...eye to hood. He couldn't see an eye. Or a face, for that matter.

The figure pointed with his other hand towards the door. No hand showed, just the wool of the robe, dangling off least it felt like a he...arm, nearly to the floor.

Ed scooted crab-like along the pew, and slid out into the nave, reminding himself to genuflect and cross himself as he left. The figure hestitated for a moment, then Ed swore he could hear a small chuckle.

His hand still on Ed's shoulder, the two walked towards the large red wooden doors of the church...and began to float upwards.

To Chapter Eleven