Long Way From Paradise

“We can’t go on together
With suspicious minds”
—The King (among others)

“The Government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion.”
—John Adams, 2nd President of the United States

—–

It had to be the biggest bust either had seen in years. Well over one hundred violations. One hundred seventeen to be exact.

And the sheer amount of drugs… Well, that would please the bosses, who had been looking desperately for something to point to to show they were still needed, that their work was not yet finished.

“One hundred eighteen,” Subagent Weathers offered from the door in the garage. He walked around to the front of the house. Overagents Walker and Davis followed him to see what else he had found.

There was a bird feeder in the front yard. Granted, it was a minor violation, especially in view of what else they’d found but why in the name of all that is holy didn’t the neighbors report it? The Department could have stopped the activities they’d found much sooner. By all appearances, the disgusting deeds had gone on for decades without so much as an inkling.

The bird feeder had a can, spray-painted black, hanging upside down around the pole it sat on top of. Suspecting the worst, Davis rubbed some of the paint off and found what he expected to see. The company’s logo, now removed from the collective public memory so far as such things can be, plain despite the age of the rusted can.

Good Lord, what else might they find?

“One nineteen,” Davis said with a sigh.

Davis and Walker went back inside to take another look at the hidden room toward the back of the house.

On the way, they passed the elderly man, still sitting quietly beside his departed wife on the hospital bed in the living room. A bible sat not fifteen feet from the bed. Dog-eared, it appeared to have gotten extensive use, though it clearly was an old edition.

“He tested negative for contraband,” the Subagent watching to make sure the old man did not flee the scene offered. She pulled off her rubber glove with a snap to give the comment dramatic weight.

That would make what they had to do next more difficult, but not impossible.

Nothing was impossible.

The room was literally covered with Elvis paraphernalia. Posters, LP album covers, posters, even concert tickets, stuck to the walls. There were also three calendars from years past, one over two decades, that had Elvis Presley in various stages of his career above each month.

Walker reviewed the inventory list. She had all but one of Presley’s albums. An impressive collection, especially given that unauthorized music had been banned by the Second Coming, or, as he was known to the non-believers, General Patrick M. Melison III.

Once there had been impurity in the US but Melison had ended all that in one day. He had visited His Father’s vengeance upon the unjust with the might of the US Army and saved it from impurities, whether they be behavioral, genetic or psychological, now all considered criminal.

And yet there were people like this old couple. It never ceased to amaze Walker that there were people this brazen, fearless in their violations of the legislature who turned Melison’s Word into Law.

It was a simple enough thing, ridiculously simple that had gotten them caught. The old woman had slipped just a bit of a drug into a child’s milk. A small enough amount that the change in behavior would be minimal. Probably just a tiny boost in energy, nothing that might arouse suspicion.

But the child had a routine doctor’s appointment later the same day and her bloodwork had shown beyond dispute: she was impure. The drug was in her veins, so it was merely a question of how it got there.

Her mother figured it out very quickly. She had not yet confessed (she definitely would, it was merely a case of asking the right way, under the right conditions as revealed and instructed by Melison). She had not yet confessed that she knew all along that the old woman, now deceased in the living room, was not only a user herself, but a pusher of the most insidious variety: one who gave drugs to children.

The Agents of the Department of Faith had found over fifty pounds of the stuff when they searched the home and shed on the property. It was just a matter of finding out the source and Walker and Davis would receive a few hours in Haven (the nickname for the Department’s recreational facility where the rewards made one ecstatic) and the Subagents would be one step closer to becoming Overagents.

The problem now, of course, was that the ringleader, the old woman, had died peacefully in her sleep.

How could God allow that? She deserved punishment for her crimes. She had seemed like the nicest lady, that was clear despite her neighbors and acquaintances now attempting to distance themselves from her. Walker had been around the block and knew there were those who would eventually find themselves part of the Inquiry so that when all was said and done there would be no question that the entire drug cartel had been rolled up and that America was once again safe from impurities.

People needed to know that it was God who fed the birds…for mere humans to do so was blasphemous.

And of course the drugs.

Without a primary perpetrator, however, that left only the old man. A sweet old white-haired fellow, anyone could see that.

The coffee cans were loaded into the SUVs. They escorted the old man to the van. They put the hood on him, knowing it was the last time he’d see daylight (praise Melison!).

He’d be turned over to the Department of Inquiries and spend the rest of his life—however long that might not be—paying for the sins of his wife. It was what God had demanded (as revealed by Melison). His screams and cries for mercy (which would go unheeded, praise Melison!) would remind us all that Hell was real. And if it didn’t exist someplace else, well, we’d just make one here.

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