If Elissa was going to kill Cornel, this would be it. Isolated in a wood cabin in southeast Limousin, the cult leader went underground with only a handful of followers. The governments of Europe and the world ripped their countries apart in their search for Cornelius Smith, Grand Spiritual Leader of the cult, LER, or, Last Epiphanic Religion. Not only for orchestrating assassinations of public figures, torture or money laundering. Above all, they wanted answers.
Two days before, hundreds of LER followers gathered in major cities across the globe. At precisely seven o’clock at night, they doused themselves in gasoline and committed mass, self-immolation. The gruesome acts were broadcast live on television and social media. It was an act of existential defiance the world had never seen before.
Caught wholly unprepared, police attempted to intervene. They couldn't save a single one. For the moment the flames caught, the followers, to the last woman, disappeared. They left behind only the smell of gasoline.
Supernatural events are best left to imagination or nightmares. Now, the whole world had borne witness to something beyond its understanding.
Elissa got the word from her CIA handler.
Neutralize the target.
Could she? Even if she got past the others, there were questions. Questions that never should be spoken out loud, gnawing at her insides like a tumor with teeth.
They sat around the table, each of them armed with a forty-five at the hip per LER security-protocol. Cornelius relaxed, almost asleep, his long Jesus hair curling around his shoulders. O.M.’s arms folded like a meditating gorilla. Denis Labbat, a man Elissa’d never met, stared at the old wooden clock on the wall. He hadn’t moved, not even blinked since she’d entered the room. If his chest hadn’t heaved as evidence of his breathing, she’d assume the skeletal dark-haired Frenchman was dead. Margeux Blanc, LER’s Paris head, sat restless. Unable to stop her leg from shaking, the woman’s fingers rattled on the wooden table. She glanced at the clock, at Denis and Cornelius, then the windows and back to the clock. Elissa followed her gaze. Outside, the noon sun burned down the gorgeous French woodlands of Limousin.
Cornelius leaned forward. “Our five minutes of silence has reached its climax.” He said.
Denis gazed at the clock.
“What thoughts have you conceived in that time?” Cornelius asked. Elissa met his gaze. Cornel’s eyes were a radiant blue. “Margeux?” he said, not breaking his stare at Elissa. “What do you fear?”
“N-nothing,” Margeux replied. “I’m ready, Grand Spiritual Leader.”
“And you, O.M.?”
The bodyguard grunted.
“Denis?” he asked.
“And, you, Elissa? Are you prepared for the meeting?”
The clock struck noon.
The room went dark.
Elissa turned to the windows. Black. Sunless. A void.
Dennis, his bones rattling from his first movement, lit a candle.
Someone knocked at the door like a funeral drum.
“Elissa,” Cornelius said. “Why don’t you greet our visitor?”
I must be drugged, she thought. His eyes are red.
The eyes of all three men were on her. Cornelius’s face was as impassive and unreadable as always, but something in his posture radiated tension. The light flickered as the hand holding it shook. O.M. had unfolded his arms and was sitting bolt upright. His jaw clenched. Margeux Blanc had closed her eyes at the first knock. Alistair could see she was trying to compose herself. Her lips murmured inaudible words, sweat was forming on her brow.
Elissa realised of all the people in the room it was only her who did not know what was waiting outside the door. She lept to her feet and a second later her 45 was in her hand, her chair slamming back against the wall. Strangely no one moved, with the exception of the Frenchwoman who cringed back at the sudden noise, her hands clenching together on the table. Her mind moving with the calm yet rapid speed that had seen her selected for this mission in front of thousands of others, Elissa didn’t need to pull the trigger to hear the dried click that would follow. She was already moving again, lunging forward in a dive that ended with the Frenchwoman’s weapon snatched out of her belt.
Now everybody moved, Dennis fumbling for his own weapon, O.M. much quicker and surer, but not fast enough, as the shot rang out from the Frenchwoman’s gun and he fell backwards into the corner, blood blossoming from his chest. Cornelius had risen slowly to his feet. He raised his hand and Dennis stopped moving, his hand retreating from the gun that had never left his belt. Her attention removed from whatever it was waiting outside the door, Margeux was regaining her composure. Lips clenched her gaze flit between Elissa and Cornelius
There was no reason to wait. The weapon rang out again. A puff of disintegrating fabric as a hole appeared in Cornelius’s chest. This time the fountain of blood did not follow. Cornelius merely smiled, not even looking down to glance at the neat hole in the breast pocket of his shirt. ‘Fire again if you wish. We will have our meeting all the same.’
She did, one more time just to be sure. A second hole appeared in Cornelius’s shirt, with the same result. There was time for two memories, her parents old house by the sea, and her brother, three year old legs pumping as he ran across the sand. Then two more shots, and she and Cornelius were alone. His composure disintegrated in an instant as he saw what she meant to do. ‘No wait!!’ She felt the bone splinters from the back of her throat drive into her teeth, tasted metal, then she was on the ground. Dimly she felt the floor shake as something entered the room. A smell of rot and decay, then a broken voice choking over the alien sounds. ‘Only you priest? Very well.’ Her last thought was a feeling of peace at Cornelius’s agonised screams. Then nothing more.
Special thanks: @dirge for the great prompt.