A.N. So, here we are, folks. The last chapter (tears up). Hopefully you all have enjoyed the adventure as much as I have. Fortunately, it isn't the end. I will soon be posting the sequel to this "The Devil in Manhattan" in a couple days to tie up the loose ends (note: dead men) and bring the brothers more closure with what happened. Anyway, I want to thank you all for reading and reviewing (and pestering me for updates ;) ). Hope you enjoy.
Sitting in the now darkened sanctuary of St. Peter's Cathedral, Special Agent Paul Smecker found himself once again marveling at the monumental power of faith or feeling on the actions of men. At the core of his thoughts, though, sat the almost maddening revelation that before such forces he himself was as powerless as any other. For as much as he respected the MacManus brothers and believed their actions to be necessary, he often found the cloak of their faith encumbering to the simplicity of their task. It wasn't until he heard the gunshots, however, that he realized how wrong he'd been.
Such personal analysises, however, were for a different time. Glancing to his right, he favored the approaching Anna with a rare smile. The young woman returned the expression with a tired one of her own before slowly lowering herself into the pew beside him.
"Mind if I join you?" she asked as though suddenly remembering her manners.
"Doesn't look like I have much choice," Smecker replied. Anna nodded before proceeding to lose her eyes and lean back into the pew.
For a long moment, the pair sat in silence. Eventually, Smecker began finding his attention drawn from the church's ornate Crucifix to the young woman beside him. While her injuries weren't as severe as Murphy's (he'd all but forgotten himself capable of the rage he had felt seeing the burn marks and the burned-out outlet in the basement's corner) they had still required immediate attention. In the privacy of his own mind he had gone over the day's events for the thousandth time already, wondering if he could have at least spared her injury. He knew coming upon the scene in the basement, it had taken too damn long bribing the hooker out, he'd never forgive himself for not finding Murphy sooner. That said, though, seeing the two together, alive, had almost made him want to say a prayer of thanks. Almost. There was still work to do. Moving the injured upstairs and out to the car. Fashioning a homemade icepack to stem the bleeding and swelling from Anna's wound. Finding a blanket to cover Murphy. Driving them all to St. Peter's Cathedral where Father Genosa (a supporter of the Saints) was waiting at the back door. Everything prepared ahead of time in hope that...
Smecker had never been a religious man but that didn't preclude him from reading the Bible. He found he often preferred the harsh solidity of the Law to the slippery, often confusing doctrine of the Gospel. In the law there was no question, no doubt. Yet, he acknowledged that in some respects the parts of scripture he found wanting had merits of their own. For instance, the cynical man could not deny, even to himself, that a certain truth rang about the sustainability of hope. Even though all facts pointed to the contrary, he had still found himself hoping they would find Murphy alive.
"The doctor wanted me to mention the damage wasn't as severe as he thought," Anna suddenly spoke aloud, interrupting his reverie, "Connor's bro- Murphy's going to be fine."
Smecker turned, surprised slightly by the timing of the statement. Anna remained reclining in the pew, seemingly comfortable, with her eyes still closed. He couldn't be certain if she had opened them and seen something in his face or if her own thoughts had gone down a similar path. His ability to read into people seemed to have been shot to hell as of late.
"Funny," he finally replied, matching her position on the pew, "You don't seem convinced."
He watched as Anna's eyes opened slowly, still slightly fuzzy despite the doctor's okay. Part of his preparation had included bringing in a surgeon, a friend of Father Genosa and fellow supporter of the Saints, to do what he could should they find Murphy alive. He had diagnosed Anna with minor concussion, ordering she stay the night at the church for monitoring, and bandaged her up to stave of the rest of the bleeding. The fuzziness, however, took nothing away from the frown etching its way across the young woman's face. Smecker recognized it immediately for what it was. He had often produced one of his own when drawing conclusions at crime scenes.
"Physically, I have no doubts," she said finally, closing her eyes once more. It was so damn hard to keep them open, "It's his mental state I'm worried about."
"Hmm," Smecker replied as way of acknowledgement. Anna opened her eyes. Turning her head to the side, she fixed a curious glare on him.
"You're not?" she asked, sounding almost appalled at his supposed lack of concern. Smecker shook his head.
"It's not that I'm not worried," he replied "But I know these two...longer then you have anyway. As long as there together-"
"They'll either make it or one will bring the other down with him," Anna finished with clinical inflection in her voice.
Smecker glowered, his immediate reaction defensive of the boys. However, rationality soon followed and he realized, on some level, he knew she was right. He was aware of the fallibility of men and the processes by which those weaknesses could be derived. He was also aware of the cost being forced to face those weaknesses could toll. Yet even now that little inkling of hope still remained, fueled by something stronger.
"Then they'll just have to make it," he replied finally, "They're still needed."
Anna snorted, turning away from him.
"You still believe that crap?" she responded eventually, a note of curiosity in her voice.
"Don't you?" Smecker replied, his own tone matching her's. He found it hard to believe that for all the trouble the young woman had gone through for the boys she still claimed she didn't believe in their mission. Either she was adept at fooling herself, or she was lying.
She didn't answer for a long time. Eyeing her, Smecker saw her face was drawn into one of intense concentration. It were as though a silent debate was raging through her mind and he couldn't make out which side was winning. Eventually, she drew in a deep breathe through her nose and turned to look at him again.
"I believe there's evil in this world," she began, "I believe evil should be punished though I know that sometimes it doesn't happen. I understand what Connor and Murphy want but I don't believe the way they go about it is correct. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. What they've chosen to do has put them on a slippery slope and they have no way of knowing what repercussions they'll encounter. Look what's happened here. Can you honestly tell me you feel safe having Murphy go after scum like Rossi after what's happened to him?"
She paused to see if the agent would answer. When he didn't, she shrugged, turned away and continued, "But what do I know? Not like it matters in the end."
"What do you mean?" Smecker replied. A ghost of a smile teased Anna's lips as she sat up. Leaning over the edge of the pew in front of them, she folded her hands.
"I still helped them," she said wistfully, "And I'm still going to help them. I always wanted to go into counseling and it looks like I've got my first patients, " she turned to look back at Smecker, "We may not agree on what they do, but we can at least agree they need our help."
An almost bemused grin spread along Smecker's face.
"Think that's enough?" he replied. Again, Anna shrugged.
"As far as I know, we're all they got," she replied.
"They've got each other.
Anna's eyebrow raised in an unspoken echo of Smecker's own question.
"Yeah, it's enough."