Rocco Mathias in But the Chicken… Part Two
By: Walter G. Esselman

Like a ghost, I slid up behind Father Steven and grabbed his throat with one hand, pulling him tight to me. I pressed my borrowed handgun under his right ear.

"Okay everyone," I said. "Be cool."

Besides the Eager Beaver, there were two more men with assault rifles.

"Who?" asked Father Steven.

"My name"s Rocco Mathias, and I run security for this company," I said.

"You do?" asked the nervous man who had Loren's voice.

"He is!" called out Wu from the doorway.

"What? We"re supposed to make hiring decisions together," said Loren in a petulant voice.

"And you said you weren"t going to call Father Steven until we had talked more about this," replied Wu with heat.

"How could you just sit on this blasphemy!" demanded Father Steven.

"Amen!" cried the Eager Beaver.

I really didn"t like twitchy people holding assault rifles, like the Eager Beaver over there.

"Nothing has to happen tonight," I said in a calm voice. "No one wants to get hurt, especially me. Why don"t we all lower our weapons, and go into the break room, and talk about this calmly?"

"What break room?" asked Loren.

That made me pause. "You guys don"t have a lunch room?"

"We usually eat in here," said Loren. "It"s not like it"s a lab with chemicals."

"Anyways, let"s all go back to the front of the building, sit down and talk," I suggested. "We can hash this out."

"Have you seen the travesty they made!" cried Father Steven.

"Travesty?" I asked.

"The video!"

"I haven"t. And I don"t need to. Not now. I just want to get everyone out of here alive."

"Some things are more important than personal safety," sniffed Father Steven.

"Amen!" replied the Eager Beaver.

"The film can deceive, but the eyes will know the truth," said Father Steven. He looked away from the scientists to his heavily armed flock. "We must see this for ourselves. For real."

"No!" cried Loren and Wu together.

"Because we would expose the truth?" sneered Father Steven. "You will send us back in time to see."

"We can"t do that Father," said Loren. "It"s too dangerous. We"re not sure you"d survive."

"That"s why I am leaving one person here, to guard us until we get back," said Father Steven. "So that you can"t strand us."

"That"s not it," said Loren. "We"ve been working on the problem, but I"m not sure if biologics will go through."

"Bio–what?" asked the Eager Beaver.

"People," said Wu as she stepped into the room. "We"re not sure if people can go through. In fact…"

"I think we have it licked," called out Carlos from the floor.

"You do?" asked Loren.

"I figured out the problem," said Carlos, and then he started to talk some serious science that I did not even begin to understand.

Wu found herself nodding. "I don"t know. We haven"t tested it."

"Then we start shooting," said the Father in a flat voice.

I had to admit that I was impressed, most people with a gun under their ear were not this defiant.

"Dr. Wu," I said. "Send them back."

"But…," she started, but she faltered.

"I don"t see any other option, than to give them what they want," I said softly.

Wu looked from the guns to the machine.

Finally, she nodded. "Okay."

Walking over to the machine, Dr. Wu sat at a computer.

"You can"t do this," said Loren.

"Shut up Loren," said Wu, but there was no heat in her voice, just a resigned sadness. "This is the only way."

"I just wanted to help," said Loren in a small, sad voice.

"And you have," said Father Steven. "We will right this wrong, AND see him."

"No guns," said Wu.

"What?" asked Father Steven.

"Actually, no guns, wallets, jewelry, or anything that ties you to this time," said Wu.

"It"s a trick," said the Eager Beaver.

"Unacceptable," said Father Steven.

"Really, we should have them only wearing hospital scrubs after a bleach shower and having cleaned all the bacteria out of their system," said Carlos to Wu.

"I know," agreed Wu with a resigned sigh. "But I figured that this is the best we"ll get."

"A bleach shower?" asked the Eager Beaver.

"So you don"t contaminate anyone with a disease," said Carlos. "Or give them a bacteria that their systems have no defense for."

"Do you want a bullet?" snapped the Eager Beaver in annoyance.

Wu cut in. "No guns, no wallets or anything tying you to Now. That"s the deal."

"I"m not going to do that," said the Eager Beaver.

"Unfortunately, you will not have to," said Father Steven to the Eager Beaver."

"What?" asked the Eager Beaver.

"I need you to stay here," said the Father.

And the Eager Beaver looked crestfallen.

The priest continued. "I need you—as an officer of the law—to protect our trip back. So that they don"t pull a fast one."

"I…," started the Eager Beaver, but then he stopped.

"Do this for me, for your Lord," said Father Steven softly.

And the Eager Beaver straightened at that. "I can do that."

Father Steve turned his head a little to me. "Are you coming too? Or are you going to drop your weapon."

I stepped back, but I kept his body between me and the Eager Beaver.

Father Steven went about emptying his pockets, and then encouraged the other two of his flock to do the same. They piled the contents of their pockets on a table by the Eager Beaver. Then they laid their guns down too.

"You"re going to need to go over to that chamber," said Wu and she pointed to a tight room within the machine. It looked pretty dull for a time machine, now that I was looking at it. It just looked like a giant computer. Only two flashing lights and a dark screen.

I wouldn"t have told Wu, but I was little disappointed.

As Father Steven and his flock went into the chamber, Loren suddenly dropped his lab coat, and then dropped his wallet and keys on top of it.

"What are you doing?" asked Wu with alarm.

"Someone has to guide them," said Loren, and he walked into the chamber. "And I have to see it for myself."

"We can go again!" said Carlos with near panic in his voice.

"I have to go now," said Loren flatly.

"No," said Carlos, and he started to step towards Loren.

I put my hand on his shoulder gently. He glared back at me, but I just looked him in the eyes.

"Loren understands the risks," I said.

Carlos looked from me to Wu, who was typing furiously. Then Wu stopped and looked back at him.

"He wants to go," said Wu.

Carlos" shoulders dropped.

"Ready Dr. Wu?" asked Loren from inside the chamber.

"Almost," said Wu. "You"ll arrive just after the Bob left."

"Let us see Him," said Father Steven with joy.

"Loren?" asked Wu.

"Activate." was all Loren said.

And then they were gone.

"Huh," I said slowly. "I thought there"d be a spiffy lightshow at least."

Megan Wu smiled sympathetically at him. "The first time, we thought it hadn"t worked."

"Or that we"d figured out a way to disintegrate stuff," said Carlos with a sad chuckle.

"So…they"re in the past?" asked the Eager Beaver in confusion.

"Over two thousand years, and will stay there for five minutes before the machine pulls them back," said Wu.

"Why five minutes?" asked the Eager Beaver. "Can it be longer?"

"It can be as long as we like," said Wu. She turned and tapped on the computer. A dark screen near the machine came to life. "Our probe, Bob 4, filmed Jesus" ‘Sermon On The Mount" two days ago."

And an image popped up on the screen of the time machine. It was a middle eastern man speaking some language I didn"t know. But that wasn"t what caught my eye.

It was the fact that the fellow on the screen looked barking mad. He gestured with wild eyes, but his charisma flowed, even through the video to today.

"But…that"s not him," breathed out the Eager Beaver.

"That is who we call Jesus Christ," said Wu with a definite voice. "We had the audio translated, and the men around him even named him before he starts speaking."

The Eager Beaver"s face contorted into rage. But he had been too distracted by the video to see me sidle up to him. As the Eager Beaver turned his weapon towards Wu, I shot him with my Taser.

There was a thrum, which vibrated the floor. I was picking up the Eager Beaver"s assault rifle when the chamber suddenly filled again.

And it was all I could not to puke on the Eager Beaver.

Wu took a deep breath and stood up to look into the chamber.

It looked like a bomb had gone off, but there was nothing bigger than a droplet.

"Oh God," moaned Carlos.

"Rocco?" asked Wu in a small voice.

"Yeah?"

"Now can we call the police?"

I was about to say yes, but then I stopped. I looked at the time machine, which was now a crime scene, to the video of Jesus. It was paused and it was not a flattering pause.

"Not just yet," I said.

*

I was snoozing outside the police station when someone tapped on the passenger window. I jolted awake and saw Megan Wu standing outside my Range Rover with Carlos.

Unlocking the doors, I let them in; Wu in front and Carlos in back. They looked beat.

"Thanks for sending over your friend," said Wu.

"I figured you two might need a good lawyer," I shrugged.

In my rearview mirror, Carlos looked at me suspiciously. "I thought you just did security, not get lawyers too."

"I like to think that we—at Rocco Mathias Security LLC—provide a wide range of services, taking care of all our client"s needs," I said loftily. "Especially when they are innocent."

"Are we?" asked Wu.

"When the cops asked, I told them that it was self defense," I said. "And I believe that."

"But…," started Wu, and she looked ill.

"Had we not done what we did," I insisted. "We"d be dead."

After a moment, Wu nodded, a little reluctantly.

At a stoplight, I gave a little wave to get her attention. She looked up at me.

"You would be dead," I said with rock–hard certainty. "Both you and Carlos. So we did what we had to do. For the record, I wish I could have found a better solution, but that was all I had."

This time Wu nodded with more certainty. "Okay."

"The lawyer mentioned something about going off the grid," said Carlos. "He did it when the cops weren"t paying attention."

"Just for a few weeks, I can secure you both in a little house, where no one can find you," I said.

"That might be a good idea," said Wu.

"I don"t know," said Carlos.

"Just till this blows over," I said quickly. "You"ll still see your lawyer, and I"ll get you anything else you need."

"We about the files, and the video," said Wu. "What about those?"

"Let"s sit on those for now," I suggested.

"Probably best," agreed Wu as I pulled out into traffic. "But someday soon…"

THE END

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