Chapter 3: Escort
From: Strong-arm Security Corporation
Subject: Probationary Assignment #3: VIP Escort
One of our VIP clients, Adrian Belle, has requested an armed escort for the afternoon. She requests that you meet her at the Cathedral of the Resurrection after the service.
That is all. And remember, we have high hopes for your success.
The sun shone brightly nearing its zenith, and the air was crisp and cool as Pierce made his way on foot to the East Side. His eyes were downcast and his body was tired. The combination of physical and mental stress that the first couple of jobs had put him through was taking a toll on him. And now he had to meet Adrian Belle, the crazy cat lady. But he was beginning to catch up on his payments to the hospital, and he couldn't let his mind or body quit.
He brought his attention back to the present and began scanning faces and body language. As he made his way down the streets leading to the church, he noticed that everyone else looked happier and better rested than he felt. If there is a God, he thought, He must not like me very much.
Eventually, the Cathedral of the Resurrection came into view. It was the same church he had caught a glimpse of as its Gothic spire rose above the surrounding buildings when he was on his first assignment; but as it came into full view, he noticed that it was under construction of some sort. It looked like they were moving the entrance back and expanding out the other side of the building. A sign describing the ongoing renovations mentioned that there would be a new statue out front designed by some new artist Pierce had never heard of. He couldn't quite tell what it was supposed to be when he examined the picture, but it made him uneasy.
The cathedral's cyclopean front doors were opened wide, and he heard the voice that came from inside. It was rhythmic and forceful, filled with conviction, and fairly deep for a woman's voice. She preached, "As the New Church we must fight. We fight the old guard who preached hate. Those brutes who called out the oppressed, we curse all those self-righteous fools. Remember this, my lovely flock: our god is full of love, not hate."
He glanced around the inside of the large cross-shaped building filled with a mixture of older elegant furnishings and new bright-colored banners with slogans exhorting the viewer to join the crusade of the New Church against the Old.
After an alter call to make a commitment to fight injustices and hate, the organ played a song that Pierce knew from when he was a child, but the words that some of the congregants muttered did not match his memories. He watched as several people came to the front, weeping. After the service was over, he looked around the room, and someone caught his attention with a delicate wave of her gloved hand. She was older than he was by about ten years, but her smile radiated a warmth that immediately put him at ease. If this was Adrian Belle, maybe he was wrong about her, maybe she wasn't crazy. Maybe today wouldn't be as bad as he thought. She winked at him, then beckoned him over.
Her voice was very similar to the preacher's, but with a more calming and seductive tone. "Agent Pierce, I presume?" She reached out her hand and he shook it.
"You're more handsome than I pictured you."
"Thank you, ma'am."
"And much too formal," she laughed. "Call me Adrian, not ma'am."
She face-palmed and chuckled. "You are really tired from your first week on the job, aren't you? I heard about what happened at the bank. You've been busy doing an excellent job for the company. You'll have no problem becoming a regular agent."
The preacher walked up to them both. Adrian greeted her, "Hello, Janice, that was a lovely sermon today."
"Glad you liked it. Who is this good-looking gentleman?"
"He's my SSC escort for the day. I'm going to give him an extra job later, if he's up for it," she said suggestively, then winked at him again.
What is she thinking? Pierce thought. The company doesn't allow us to be that kind of escort.
"Oh, I understand you," Janice laughed. "Just don't get yourselves caught."
"He is a professional."
Pierce was uncomfortable.