Chapter 35

Pain

Oliver saw the priest rock back and sweep his right arm upward, clutching a gleaming knife in his hand, as he let loose a scream that echoed through the cavern.

Oliver swore and charged forward, gun arm extended as he hurtled towards the chapel of bone.

Diana saw the knife flash up and knew that she would have no better opportunity. She dropped, feeling her heart thud in her chest and bile rise up in her throat as a gunshot echoed through the cavern from somewhere close behind. The instant she hit the floor she kicked off from the side of the altar, launching her body upwards again and back as she reached blindly for the guard behind her.

As Diana fell and kicked backwards, Jeanne leaped across the altar to grasp at the arm of the enraged priest. She caught his right forearm just below the wrist, but she had misjudged the height of the altar and found herself sprawling across the body of the dead guardian. She lost her grip on the arm and had just enough time to envision the gleaming blade slicing through her neck while she lay helpless, when a gunshot ripped through the air and slammed into the priest’s left shoulder. Rather than slashing the blade through Jeanne’s neck, the priest buried his knife in the chest of the dead guardian as he collapsed to his knees.

Diana’s arms found one of the guard’s legs and she pulled hard, yanking his knee forward so that he collapsed atop her as she thudded back into the ground. She kicked up blindly with a knee, praying that it would find someplace to strike the man atop her, and was rewarded with a satisfying crunch and a cry of agony from the guard.

Jeanne slid from the altar and aimed a vicious punch at the face of the priest. He dodged out of the way and Jeanne stumbled past him, cursing as she again failed to strike her opponent.

The priest spun about, raised his knife again, and lurched towards Jeanne, screaming in rage and pain as blood poured from the bullet wound in his left arm.

Oliver had nearly reached the doorway to the chapel when he spotted the whiplashing flashlight of the third guard approaching from the opposite side of the chapel. Then he saw the flash of a gun and heard a sharp “zing” cut through the air, far too close to his head, followed by the echoing report of the gunshot.

He raised his own weapon and aimed at the shadowy form to the right of the bobbing flashlight.

He pulled the trigger, then dove, rolled across the hard floor, and came up several feet away still aiming towards where he had last seen the guard. The flashlight had dropped to the floor and was still rolling, sketching lazy circles of light across the wall of the cavern beside the skull and bones entrance.

No way of knowing if he had killed his target without going to look but, as much as he hated to leave his flank exposed, Oliver had to turn away and continue his run towards the chapel. He spun and looked though the doorway of the chapel just in time to see Diana struggling with the remaining guard on the floor to the left of the altar, while Jeanne dodged to the side, avoiding a knife thrust from the priest.