At 3 P.M., Cherie walked the streets, wild-eyed. Like she used to, most nights, when Danny was drinking.
Tol’ja, he’d said, I gave that shit up . . .
It was Good Friday. In three days, Lent would be over. But she bet he’d already slipped.
Once again, he’d stood her up. But not at her house, or her dad’s pizzeria. This date was at church.
From 12:30 to 2:30 P.M., both were scheduled for “The Great Watch.”
“ During ‘The Great Watch,’ ” Father Shaver had explained, “a church member sits and guards the Blessed Sacrament so no one comes in and desecrates it.”
Desecrate . . . Who would be that sick?
Moira . . .
Danny’s ex. That redhead biker bitch who feared nothing. Believed in nothing. Cherie feared he was back with her.
In church, Cherie sat alone with the veiled crucifix and statues. Blindly, she stared at the altar, where the Sacrament sat. Where is he? she wondered, about Danny. Is he dead? She fought back tears.
The old Danny might be drunk, somewhere. With . . .
Cherie couldn’t even think that name.
But the sober, gentle Danny she’d met here at St. Mark’s . . .
Might be dead.
She started to get up.
“You need to be serious about this,” Father Shaver had said, “You can’t leave, no matter what.”
But if Danny’s sick . . . or . . .
Cherie imagined Father’s smile. He was a realist, a Vietnam vet. A real badass, he’d been, back then.
He’ll still be dead when your “Watch” is over.
An hour crept by. Please, God, Cherie prayed, send Danny. Sweat dripped down her back. During “The Great Watch,” Father had said church members were welcome to come in and pray, or meditate.
Please, Cherie prayed, send . . . somebody.
When the heavy door opened, she felt a chill. Jangling jewelry and the clip-CLOP of high-heeled boots told her who had come in.
As she passed Cherie, Moira smiled smugly, then strolled to the front of the church.
A blade, she’s got, Danny had warned Cherie. She’d kill you, to get back at me!
And he wasn’t here to protect her.
In the first pew, Moira turned slowly to face Cherie.
Like a demon from hell, Moira looked, with that ghoulish makeup. Hair spiked in all directions. So many earrings and bangles, she might’ve robbed a gypsy’s grave.
How did she know, Cherie wondered, I was here?
I loved her once, Danny had told Cherie.
When Moira smiled, Cherie’s chest tightened.
Did he set me up?
For what felt like hours, Cherie stared back. By the time Moira got up and strolled out past her, Cherie was a sweaty mess. God, she thought, wildly, have you forsaken me? She’d lost track of time. Forgot why she was even here.
Had Moira hypnotized her?
“Cherie?” someone finally whispered. Old Lynn Baker, the vestry’s junior warden. Her hand on Cherie’s arm felt clawlike.
If he’s back with her, Cherie thought, suddenly, I’ll kill him.
“Are you all right?” Lynn asked her, as she rushed out of the church.
As Cherie searched for Danny, that chill she’d felt in Moira’s presence crept up into her brain.
I’ll kill them both.
An oppressive gloom followed her, like lightning would strike, in March. On Danny’s block were patches of blackened snow.
For a few moments Cherie stood on his porch, listening, waiting.
The jingling was muted, might’ve been silverware, or bells. But to Cherie, it was clanging gypsy bangles.
She burst into the house.