CHAPTER 1

The darkness of night ushered in the prospect of something from a made-for-TV-movie, but Pearl saw it differently. The blackness, though frightening, offered her a new dawn, a second beginning, one last chance to save herself.

The mood of the night was so evil that the darkness, becoming even more black, stimulated her. Suddenly, she felt heroic as if she could do anything and that no one could stop her. Not even The Big Man Upstairs. If He was even upstairs. Pearl felt ready to take Him on.

It was getting late and by now both ends of the sky as far as she could see were twisted into a flawless strand of fight-for-your-life nothingness. But all that tended to do was to make her more courageous, more war-like. More I-don’t-give-a-damn. She wanted to taunt God, to get back at Him for not answering her prayers.

She drove on.

Riveted by the awakening ugliness of the stark blackness, she, for some unexplained reason, experienced the sensation that the night had eyes, and that they were watching her. She smiled. She was the star of the show.

Stop me!” she screamed in defiance at the heavens. “Stop me!”

Her plan was to expose God’s total neglect of His creatures by killing one of His servants tonight, that is unless God Himself stopped her. This was her plan, her private experiment to prove that God did not answer prayer.

She pulled into the church’s parking lot. She took a moment to reflect. It had only been a week since the Superior Court judge had dismissed the three murder charges against her and she had walked out of jail a free woman. Now, came the big question. Did she really want to go through with this? Hell yeah!

Pausing just inside the church’s door, she smirked. Damn places all smelled the same, like they had just been sprayed with wood polish. She turned up her nose.

As she now moved quickly through the quiet sanctum, she numbly recognized how the edifice reeked of all the passages in the bible dealing with the Ten Commandments. She cringed and for a brief second stopped, standing mute in the eloquent silence.

On the move again, Pearl’s blood stirred. Creeping forwards, she removed the gun from her purse, and snatching open the door to the pastor’s study, she confronted the preacher. “Pray!” she ordered coldly.

The preacher spoke calmly. “There is no need for the gun, my daughter. I will pray for you because I love you.”

Pearl scowled. “The prayers are not for me.”

“No?” the preacher said quizzically, “then what family member are they intended for?”

“They’re not for anyone in my family.”

The preacher was clearly confused. “Then who?”

“You!”

            “Me? But I don’t understand.”

Pearl exhaled. “You do believe in the power of prayer, don’t you?”

The preacher nodded.

“Then you must believe that God answers prayers, that He is kind…and good….and great?”

The preacher remained silent.

“Well, dammit,” Pearl snarled, “do you?”

“Why yes, of course.”

Pearl smiled. “Then pray to make Him stop me from killing you.”

“W-what?”

Pearl nodded. “You heard me right. I say that God does not exist.”

“That’s blasphemy. God is.”

Beginning to enjoy herself, Pearl pushed the study’s door closed with her foot. She skillfully fitted the silencer onto the gun, and winked her eye. “Then you should be more than willing to participate in my little experiment.”

“Miss——.”

“Shut the fuck up and listen.” Pearl hooked a chair with her foot and not taking her eyes off the man, dragged it towards her. “The experiment is simple, very uncomplicated. I am going to kill you unless——-.”

“Unless what?”

“Unless,” Pearl said casually, “you make God kill me. Rather simple, huh? Personally, I don’t give a damn how you pray to get the job done. Hell, surprise me. You can pray that I have a heart attack or just drop dead, right here, of natural causes. How about this, with the bad weather outside, what about a lightning bolt through the neck?” Pearl smiled evilly. “Now, that would be creative. Anyway, the choice is yours. It’s your prayer, but I’ll tell you this, let you in on a little secret. Now, if your prayer doesn’t get answered and God doesn’t kill me in one of the infinite ways at His disposal, then this is precisely how you’re going to die. You ready for this?” Pearl chuckled. “If God lets you down, then I’m going to stick the muzzle of this gun down your fucking throat and blow the damn insides of your head to Kingdom Come.” Pearl leaned back in the chair. “Does that sound fair to you? It does to me.” She got comfortable. “Don’t mind me….Pray!”

>>>>> 

 

“You better pray harder than that, preacher-man,” Pearl wailed. “I don’t feel like I’m dying or nothing. If you can’t get Him to kill me, then tell Him to send you a guardian angel to knock the gun out of my hand. If not, then well, you know…….”

After another five minutes, Pearl cursed, declaring religion a fraud. She waved the gun like it was a baton. “Do you hear me, preacher-man?” she ranted. “Where is your God? Why doesn’t he deliver you? You know why?” she shrieked. “He doesn’t exist, that’s why. It has all been a big hoax.”

Pearl stuck the gun behind the head of the kneeling man. She laughed fiendishly. “What has all your foolish praying brought you? Nothing.” She took a deep breath. “Prepare to die, fool,” she snarled viciously. “It’s gonna get a little rough from here on.”

“Don’t play with God,” the preacher whimpered.

“First time playing this game, huh?” Pearl laughed.

“Oh my God!” the preacher shrieked. “You’re insane.”

“You worrying about the wrong thing, preacher-man. You need to say your prayers harder. I know some of you preachers are so dumb that you can’t recite Mary Had A Little Lamb, but I hope you one of the smart ones.” Pearl made a dramatic gesture with her eyes. “Then that would mean that I’ll be the one who’ll get fucked up.” She frowned. “To be truthful, though, I don’t think that will happen.”

“I believe in God,” the preacher shouted angrily.

Pearl cleared her throat, then blurted. “Make Him kill me, then. That’s what I want you to do. I want you to pin your hopes on prayer. I’ll pin more on this pistol.” Pearl’s shoulders sagged appreciably. “Let’s see if God is on your side.”

After what had seemed like an eternity, Pearl felt faintly masculine and when she demanded to know if the man sensed he was about to be saved, she spoke in a voice that sounded like ironed darkness.

“Your time is up!”

Predictably, Pearl unconsciously brought her right hand up and in one quick sweep leveled the gun on the back of the preacher’s head. Breathing rapidly, she hovered over the kneeling man, and with the gun nudged the man’s head deeper into the carpet. “Pray, motherfucka! Make God kill me! Pray!

Slobber dripped from the corners of Pearl’s lips as she appeared caught up in some devilish rapture. Her inflamed eyes glowed with a perverse fire that burned as if they had squeezed out all the sparks from her soul. She howled with outrage. “Ha! You preachers are the so-called steward’s of God’s divine promise and yet He won’t even answer your prayers.” Pearl laughed wildly. “Some God.”

<<<<<

 

Over coffee the next morning, Pearl considered what had happened the night before, and she started to pace back and forth across the kitchen floor. With the first thoughts, her old fears crackled back to life, but she was not surprised. It just gave her butterflies in the pit of the stomach.

As usual, she had been all business once she was convinced that God was not listening to the preacher and had held the gun firmly against the man’s head. Yeah, she had knocked him around some, but it had been relatively painless. A few loose teeth, a fractured rib or two. That was the extent of it. Playground injuries.

But it had gotten worse. Since the man had been larger than she was, it had required a lot more energy to win his surrender. And it hadn’t been a completely bloodless affair either, but Pearl couldn’t have helped that, not with the seeming super-strength.

The pastor’s study had been small and when she had knocked the preacher over, he had put up a valiant struggle. Pearl had always known that problems could occur if any of her victims fought back, but the excitement of a life-and-death battle only added a new, more breath-taking dimension to the adventure. And she had loved it.

After the first shot to the man’s shoulder and a second one to his leg, the preacher had sadly learned how unfit he was to play hero. Then it had gotten ugly.