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WARNING! Grossly coarse language.

PART EIGHTY-SIX

Caleb put a steadying hand on Skylar’s shoulder as they wound their way through the underbrush that covered the spongy ground adjacent to Mrs. McNutt’s property. In addition to duct taping Skylar’s mouth shut, Caleb had loosely bound her hands behind her back, and the last thing Caleb wanted was for his precious daughter to fall and injure herself as they retraced their steps in the black swamp.

Ideally, Caleb would have brought Skylar to one of his Elohim’s Army compatriots where she could be properly brought into the fold but, as warriors had noted since Abraham and his three-hundred-eighteen fought the armies of Shinar, warriors go to war with the army that they have, not with the army that they wished they had.

There was no time to introduce Skylar to God’s truth via a slow, inch by inch, gradual sanctification into His holy waters. No, tonight Skylar was going to be fully immersed in righteousness and baptized with the blood of justice.

Skylar stumbled a bit and Caleb, hand already loosely encircling her arm just below the armpit, gripped more firmly to prevent her from falling. “Easy there, sugar,” he whispered in her ear. “We’re almost there.”

The van wasn’t far and Caleb, knife in hand and hands at the ready should his guest somehow be lying in wait for him, slid the rear door open quickly. No street lights adorned either Black Lake Road nor hundred feet distant State Road Fifty-four, so Marti was more of a darker black patch within the van’s unlit black interior than an easily discernable human entity.

“Yo, yo, yo!” Caleb said to Marti as he opened the door. “I told you we’d be back! Did you miss us?” he asked, tapping the base of her neck with his knife handle, “Cuz it’s party-time!”

Marti emitted a stunned groan from the sharp pain of Caleb’s quick, hard rap and Caleb smiled in satisfaction. “That’s just the beginning, hook nose,” he whispered in Marti’s ear. “I got a real special night planned for the two of us.

“Come on, Skylar,” he said, turning his attention back to his daughter, and opening the van’s front passenger door, “we gotta get Miss Marti pants here up to your place. I bet she’s right anxious to see the inside a your house.”

State Road Fifty-four was busy, visible, and easily accessed via a short section of connecting Black Lake Road asphalt. With Caleb’s attention split between Skylar and Marti, the little girl made a quick dash out from the weedy niche where the van was parked and toward the six-lane. Caleb grabbed for his daughter’s wrist but caught nothing but a little bit of the girl’s skin under his nails as she valiantly tried to run from him in the dark.

Skylar managed five steps forward before snagging a fallen log and slamming into the wet, muddy ground. Caleb towered over her, his face portraying a mixture of anger and delight. “Girl, you are a fighter, ain’t cha? I like that about you!” he said sincerely, reaching down and grasping her by one arm and jerking his daughter skyward. “But you have got to learn to mind!” he said, pushing his face to within a fraction of an inch of hers.

Walking her back to the van he thrust her into the passenger seat, pointed a finger in her face and said, “Now. You stay right there. I’m gonna pull this van up to the house and then you and me’s gonna have a chat and then me and Miss Marti’s gonna have a little party. Got it?!” he demanded, slamming the door as he uttered his question.

Turning from the front of the van to the rear he added, “And now, little Miss bar code, you’re gonna get exactly what you’ve got coming.” Which he punctuated with another door slam.

Walking in front of the van, Caleb slid into the driver’s seat, turned the ignition key and, after pulling the column mounted gear shift into D, pushed his foot on the accelerator. Rather than lurching forward the van’s tires spun ferociously, and Caleb brought his hands to his face, covering his eyes with his palms and tightly squeezing the crown of his head and temples. “Fuck shit! God damned, mother fucking, son of a bitch!

“Fine,” he added calmly, taking a deep breath and forcing a smile to his face, “We’ll walk.” Stepping out of the van he returned to Skylar, grabbed her from the van, plunked her down on the ground and commanded, “Stay!” before opening the rear door, grabbing Marti, throwing her over his shoulder and declaring to Skylar, “Shut the god damned doors and come on. I’ve had enough of this shit.”