O’Connor raised an eyebrow. “Stop trying to be funny and answer my questions.”
“Okay. According the Word, Dina would replace Young Mary and bear Jesus, the Son of God. She’d raise him to listen to her, essentially becoming queen regent of the universe. She’d use that power to set the Church and humanity on a less violent course and weaken the patriarchy.”
“And all the editorializing about plagues and drownings?”
“Part of the campaign against all the unnecessary smiting. Trying to get Yahweh to make better choices.” I shrugged. “Like I said, I didn’t write it. I’m sure you’ll search her place, her computer. She’s got drafts, print outs, everything.”
“I’ve got officers there already, I can promise you that.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “You said Dina stomped out of the bedroom and went downstairs in a huff. What happened next?”
“She drank another glass or two of wine. I waited awhile, like I was supposed to, and went down to get her just before midnight.”
“Then what?” O’Connor looked pointedly at the clock hanging over the door.
“We go upstairs to the balcony that overlooks the back garden for the Return. To paraphrase the Word, the smells of roasting lamb and sacrificed doves would ride the air toward us as the tent appeared. Behind the tent we’d see the silvery green leaves of olive trees bright against gnarled trunks the color of dusty crows, the desert of sand and rock. Yahweh would open the tent. Dina was to enter first, and I would follow. Shazam, we’d be in Jerusalem, nine months and one night BC.”
O’Connor didn’t say anything. Letting me talk. Hoping I’d incriminate myself, if I could trust all the cop shows I’d seen on TV. I felt myself shift a bit in the chair and forced myself to sit still and look her in the face. “Detective, I’ve been going to the Judge for years. Years. I drank underage there. Anyway, a year or so ago, I lost my job. Got laid off. I figured I might as well get drunk while I could still afford it. I’m a few beers in and Dina comes walking in. She’s gorgeous and it looks like she’s got some dough, and between the beers and that streetlight right outside the door, she’s got this halo around her like she’s a guardian angel coming to save me. I make a point of hitting it off with her. I can tell right away that she’s nuts, but I’m not looking to marry her. I’m unemployed and my rent is due. Long story short, we go back to her place, and the sex is mind-blowing. Mind-melting.”
“Your idiot grin makes that clear.” Just like that, O’Connor was back to playing good cop.
“Before long Dina’s buying me dinner and screwing my brains out a couple, three times a week. Then four or five nights a week. And she starts telling me little bits about the Word. I still think she’s nuts but I don’t care.”
“Because you haven’t bothered looking for a job.”
“I figured I’d take some time off, write, crash with friends after my landlord kicked me out. You know.”
O’Connor’s face made it clear she didn’t.
“After a while, I moved in. It was her idea and I went along with it. Why not? She didn’t want any rent money, she just wanted me to study the Word and prepare for the Enactment.”
“So you hung around her place playing along with her nonsense and eating Bon Bons?”
I nodded. “Life was good. I had all day to do whatever I wanted.”
“You were living sweet. A kept man.” She shook her head. “What did you do all day before Dina showed up for dinner and the fun part of begetting?”
“I worked on memorizing the Word, worked out, and documented everything that was going on. As a story, it had it all. Sex, religion, insanity, a neighborhood bar where everybody knew my name. I researched the psychology of belief, Biblical history. My plan was to stick around long enough to find out what happened when it inevitably turned to shit.”
I sipped my tea. It had gone cold. “The mainstream church is careful to leave all the disappointment until after death. No heaven? Too bad, you’re already dead. What can you do but rot in your grave and wait for JC to come back for his encore so you can inherit the earth with rest of the meek?” O’Connor made a face but didn’t say anything. “Dina had set a deadline. I was going to have an up-close view of a her religious delusion blowing up in her face. We were going to be standing on that back balcony at the Judge, and when Yahweh and his magic tent failed to appear, Dina would have sort of psychological reaction, probably a massive one. I wanted to see it.”
“You didn’t care what happened, as long as it made for a good book. And that’s why you didn’t try to stop her — because she was your ticket to fame.”
“I would have tried to stop her if I’d believed she’d actually do it.”
A few minutes after midnight, Dina followed me up the Judge’s creaking stairs. Instead of turning toward the bedroom, I opened the small door that led onto the balcony and held it open.
I leaned on the railing and looked at the Judge’s back garden. A wrought-iron fence enclosed the trash cans and cases of empty beer bottles filling the space between the back door and the alley. Cigarette butts and paper coffee cups littered the ground. I knew from years of drinking at the Judge that the caps on top of the fence posts were shaped like spear points.
Dina stood with her eyes closed. A light breeze ran its fingers through her hair, bringing me her scent of eucalyptus and crushed almonds. Behind her, masses of ivy clung to the brick wall. The jagged leaves twitched in the wind, their tips pointing down to the stained concrete below.
“Do you see it? It is as was Written.”
I saw nothing. But I nodded my head.
Dina climbed up onto the wooden railing, leaning against the wall for balance, her hand disappearing into the ivy.
“The time has come. We must go.”
I broke character. “Dina, c’mon. It’s enough.”
Dina looked at me, eyes blazing. She stayed on script. “I will be the Mother,” she hissed, “and my son will do as I say.”
I opened my mouth to argue, and she stepped forward.
“You didn’t try to stop her?”
“I was right about to tell her to forget it, let’s get another drink. But she just well, you know…”
“You could have stopped her. Grabbed her.”
“Look, Detective, I knew she was crazy, but nobody’s that crazy. Nobody just steps off a balcony into thin air.”
“But she did.”
With a the tip of my right index finger, I nudged my mug over the edge of table. O’Connor’s eyes went wide and followed the mug’s path. It didn’t fall for as long as Dina had, but when it hit the grimy tile floor, the mug shattered. A puddle of tea seeped from beneath the shards. I looked straight into O’Connor’s eyes. “It turns out, Detective, that gravity is stronger than belief.”