Safe Harbors Catholic Church was a beautiful place, thought Father Christopher Monk from where he lay on the steps in front of his podium. The same podium where he would preach every mass, his Lord’s book on the dais before him, looking over the children his Father had sent to him for guidance. Stained glass windows spilling sunlight, tinted in vibrant colors, through the room. Gorgeous reds, blues and greens were cast across His bible and onto the faces of His devout. Oh, God, his beloved congregation, the twenty-seven people who came every Sunday at the crack of dawn to worship.
The same twenty-seven faces every week, smiling as they came up for communion. Their voices mingling in prayer or hymn, echoing around the chamber. Father Monk's family, His children.
Not that Father Monk ever turned away a new face, no, he actively welcomed the new members of his flock. Which is why he had said nothing as five boys in red coats—much too bright to be safe to wear down this street—shuffled into the farthest pew. Though his church was deep in Sons of Liberty territory, Safe Harbors had always been just that—a safe place. Too many of the gang boys’ mothers, girls, and girls’ mothers came here for anyone to bring violence into the white hall.
Father Monk had been welcoming, smiling warmly as a Redcoat looked up and made eye-contact. The boy—quite a large nose and full cheeks on him—had smiled weakly, and for a second Father Monk thought he recognized him, then the boy's eyes flicked back down to the bible in his hands.
He'd been unafraid when they approached the altar for communion. When the full-cheeked boy took the wafer from his hands, Father Monk almost didn't catch the hushed apology whispered to him. The boy kept his gaze glued to the wafer in his hands. Father Monk patted the boy’s arm and smiled, though the child moved on without looking up.
He'd watched with simple confusion as the Redcoats stopped in front of the altar, backs to him in a solid line. The truth of their presence at his mass was revealed as Father Monk processed the first gunshot.
From his place behind his podium, he watched as the front row of pews exploded in blood. People screamed as more rounds fired off. The congregation stood and tried to run, scrambling over pews and fallen loved ones. Something—maybe God’s word, maybe just his own wishful thinking—told Father Monk that if he just broke the line up, the slaughter would stop. As His children were cut down in front of him, Father Monk launched himself at the nearest Redcoat.
He dove for the one in the middle, a tall white fellow. Father Monk’s arms closed around the man’s chest, sending them both tumbling down the steps. The Redcoat cursed—a stream of fucks and shits—and pushed Father Monk off. He rolled sideways, landing on his side. Father Monk pushed himself to his feet, only to find himself face-to-face with another of the Redcoats. The look of spite and boredom caught Father Monk off guard, giving him little time to react when he felt the muzzle of the gun press into his chest.
In that moment, Father Monk knew he was going to die. His God called for him in the gunshot that sent his ears ringing, reached for him in the pain that blossomed in his chest. He felt his knees give out and he hit the stairs with a heavy thud. The gunshots continued over his head, but Father Monk focused on the remains of the stained glass window of Mary and baby Jesus. It has been shattered, but the Holy Virgin’s face had been spared. Her halo and gentle face had been shown mercy from the flying bullets.
Yes, Safe Harbors church had been beautiful once.
At some length, the gunshots stopped, as did the screaming. A Redcoat boy sighed, and let the ammo clip fall from his pistol.
“So, did we get ‘em?” one asked, walking out into the bleeding bodies.
“I don't know,” another said, the British accent surprising Father Monk. “Arnold?”
“Uh, I… maybe?” the apologetic one said.
“‘Maybe’ ain't cutting it for His Majesty,” the one standing over Father Monk said.
“Well,” Arnold said, his voice strained, “maybe that one is? But Washington isn't… He isn't here.”
“Washington isn't here?” the first one asked, “what do you mean, Washington isn't here?”
“He's not here,” Arnold repeated.
“The fuck, Arnold. You said he came here every Sunday.” The first one came back to the altar, and grabbed Arnold by the jacket. “You told us Washington and the rest of his little shit gang come for mass.”
“I-I thought,” Arnold stuttered, “he m-made us come with—” Arnold cut off, the sound of gagging and retching replacing his words. The scent of vomit hit Father Monk, mixing with the blood and gunpowder still in the air.
“Damn it,” the British one hissed, kicking one of the bodies. Father Monk shut his eyes, the room starting to spin and darken. He didn't want to be here anymore, in this hell. He was ready for his Heavenly reward. “We need to go,” the British one finished, his voice following a set of footsteps as they walked away.
“Washington’s not here, James, but the cops will be soon. Let's go.”
Father Monk lost consciousness before the Redcoats even made it out of the door.
Father Monk didn't think an incessant beeping would be part of Heaven, but apparently it was. He groaned, which perhaps was not the most graceful way to enter God’s kingdom, but it was all he could manage. The Angels would forgive him, surely. As the groan left his throat, it turned into a slight cough. His throat scratched and burned.
Odd. Pain had not been in his vision of Heaven. The beeping he could handle—pain, not so much.
Father Monk cracked open his eyes, and the blurred white above him made sense until his eyes focused, and he could see the drop-down ceiling and fluorescent lighting for what they were. He glanced to the right—the direction of the beeping—and found a little monitor beside his head. Behind it, a cheerful little painting of a boat on a tan wall.
He was in a hospital then, not Heaven.
He clenched his right hand, finding the remote he figured would be there. He felt around for the largest button, pressing it carefully when he found it. A few minutes later, a nurse came in, followed by a doctor.
“Father, how are you feeling?” the nurse asked, smile plastered across her face.
“Tired,” he answered, his voice scratchy and weak.
“You've been out for over a day,” the doctor remarked. The nurse asked if he would like to sit up, or if he wanted a glass of water. He nodded for both, and as the nurse adjusted his bed he looked back at the doctor.
“A day?” he asked. The doctor nodded.
“You gave us quite a scare, Father. You were in surgery for four hours yesterday morning.”
“What time is it?” Father Monk took a sip from the plastic cup the nurse offered. The doctor glanced at his watch.
“Almost 11:15. I'm Doctor James Warren, by the way.” The doctor came over to his bedside. “I'd like to perform a few tests, if that's alright?”
Father Monk nodded, and followed Warren’s instructions as best he could around the soreness in his lower chest. He figured he was on painkillers, which was why he wasn't in horrible, screaming pain. He'd been shot before, he knew how it felt. When Warren was finished, he wrote some things down on the chart that hung from the end of Father Monk’s bed.
“Early signs are good, Father. We expect a full recovery.” Warren said, sliding the clipboard back into its place. Warren looked at him from the end of the bed. “If you're feeling up to it, the police are here. They'd like to ask you a few questions, but only if you think you can handle it.”
Father Monk shut his eyes, steadied himself, and sent a silent prayer for strength. He nodded, and heard Warren open the door and speak softly to someone on the other side. He could hear them enter his room.
“Father Christopher Monk?” One of them asked in a southern drawl. Father Monk opened his eyes. There were three new people, two in sharp suits and the third in a cop’s uniform. He recognized the third, Police Captain Paul Revere. The other two were strangers, and exceedingly tall black man and another, exceedingly short black man. If he had seen them in any other context, the height difference might have amused him.
The tall one, the one with the large, curly Afro and purple suit jacket approached him. He reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a leather case. He flipped it open, flashing the badge and ID card to Father Monk.
“Thomas Jefferson, FBI,” he said, the southern accent peaking through. “And my partner, James Madison.” He pointed at the short man in the suit. “We have a few questions, if you don't mind, Father.”