Jessie devoured her slices with the vigor of any ravenous post-teen. I was more moderate in my approach, but still wolfed down a full slice of pepperoni and mushroom without saying a word to continue my story. Nikki indulged in a slice of the same, though she took tiny bites, nibbling at it. She never did eat much when it came to meals; for her it was more social nicety than necessity. Her real meals required different fare.
That thought helped chase my hunger away, especially as a glop of sauce fell from my bite and onto a napkin. It was too thick, and yet the imagery was crystal clear in my brain, which sent the message to my stomach.
“Right, so where was I?” I asked.
“Gmfw tmems hi maawer,” Jessie said around her pizza.
“I believe you had just secured your passengers in the vehicle,” Nikki said.
“Mmhmm!” Jessie nodded vigorously.
I shut the door, and then heard the garage door opening. I whirled to see a guy ducking under it, then snarling several cursewords at me. I ran around the car, and jumped into the driver’s seat, saying a quick prayer that now, out of all the times when I needed the car, that the engine would start immediately.
It did. I slammed it into gear and tore off down the street. Unfortunately, I saw their car back out of the garage and turn after me. I was in the middle of suburbia in the evening. I was easy to spot as most people had gotten home an hour or so before. That and there were only so many directions to turn.
I didn’t do high-speed chase scenes well. And with every corner, I had to slow down, allowing them to catch up. They didn’t seem to care as much about the corners as their tires squealed around every turn.
I didn’t know where I was going, turning automatically, skipping some side streets and taking others. I floored it, trying to open the distance, but my Taurus was no match for their car. I felt the ram from behind as I started a turn. The wheel got away from me and I had to slam on the brakes to avoid plowing into a block wall. I spun the wheel hard, now, fishtailing and then aiming at the wall on the opposite side of the street.
The guy boxed me in. Couldn’t go forward, and couldn’t go backward. So I ditched the car, taking baby Jesus in my arms and running. It seemed stupid, foolish, and every other kind of idiocy I could imagine, but I ran with the plastic savior in my arms. I saw the community center up ahead. The lights were on, and the sign out front proclaimed, “Christmas program rehearsal tonight”
If I can reach there, they can call the cops.
I snuck a glance back and saw the boys running after me. No, running wasn’t the right word. It didn’t look like a human run. More like an animal loping along. I didn’t see any glowing eyes or anything, but I could tell that something was in them. Something bad.
“Wait a moment,” Nikki interrupted, leaning forward. “Are you telling me that these boys had become demonically possessed?”
I ticked off my fingers. “Circle drawn on the ground, ancient Hebrew text, moving like some kind of animal. Yeah, I think that’s what I’m saying.”
“Wow,” Jessie breathed. “Really?”
“I must confess I find your story dubious, Matthew,” Nikki sat back, glowering.
I shrugged. “I didn’t want to tell this story in the first place.”
“Why would they steal a Nativity? Demons must have a higher agenda than that.”
“So you’re an expert on demons, now?”
“No, but this doesn’t make sense.”
“Okay, looks like we’re going to have to have a time out to talk about demons. Pass me another slice, Jessie. Are we out of root beer?”