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"Belief is like gravity. You put one foot in front of the other until you convince yourself the ground isn't going away. Thinking, feeling--these things don't make belief. Temples don't made belief. Belief is getting screamed at, getting doors slammed in your face, and you still have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Your mind doubts. Your heart doubts. But your feet believe."
Elijah stopped talking and knocked on the door. After a moment, someone on the other side brushed against the door, probably to look out the peephole at them, and a man's voice chuckled. The door opened.
The man was neatly dressed in black pants and a white shirt with a nametag over his breast. "Come in, come in," he said. He wasn't very tall, and his curly hair was cut almost cruelly short. "I was just about to call the temple and have them send someone."
"Sir, pardon my ignorance," Elijah said, "But are you--"
The man shut the door behind them. When I turned around I saw that the hand he'd held behind the door was holding a strange-looking gun.
"You're almost the right height," the man said and shot Elijah straight through one eye.
I dropped to the ground. Elijah was behind me. I could see his shoes scrape on the linoleum in front of me and lie still.
The gun knocked against the side of my head so hard I saw a flash of light behind my eyes. "You're going to be kneeling in blood in a moment," the man said.
I turned my head. "Elijah." Most of his eye had been blown out the back of his head, and I remember thinking, "So that's what brains look like, then."
"Get up," the man said. "And keep quiet."
I got up and ran toward what I hoped was a bathroom. A woman with a long, arched nose, small gold earrings, and neatly squared-off pinkish nails lay in the bathtub with all her clothes on. A small white dog whose fur had turned yellow around its mouth lay on her chest with one of her arms thrown across it. Its hindquarters were a mess of bloody guts and stink. As I threw up, splattering my shoes, I heard that chuckle again behind me.
"I'd tell you to clean it up, but it really doesn't matter." He paused. "At least wipe it off your shoes. You don't want to have to walk around in the smell of your own vomit all day."
When I came out again, the man had taken everything out of Elijah's backpack and was twirling Elijah's nametag between his fingers. The other nametag had disappeared.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"I'm going to drive us to the bus station. Then I'm going to make you buy two tickets to Dallas. Two tickets. You and I will ride the bus to Dallas," he said. "Then I think I'll let you go. It would be interesting to find out what happens to you. But I probably won't have that luxury."
He ignored me. "Elijah. Good name. It's my name, too." He pinned the nametag onto his shirt and shrugged the backpack onto his shoulders. "What's your name?"
"Elder Jamison. Thomas."
"Do you have the underwear?"
I nodded. I wasn't about to correct him. "Back at the motel room with our other clothing."
"That's why I shot him in the eye," the man explained. "I couldn't risk divine intervention at that point."
It's eleven a.m., and the bus is about to pull into a little gas station on the side of the highway. The place is called Midway, even though I can't figure out what it's mid way between, since were not halfway to Dallas yet. There's a restaurant that looks like a barn growing out of the back half of the gas station. Or maybe it was picked up by a tornado somewhere in Kansas and just dropped here. Bright red siding with white trim, a fake hayloft on the fake second story, with fake hay bales and fake chickens painted on the side. Real chicken wire across the windows, though.
"We're getting out," Elijah says. "Get your backpack."
If it weren't for his eyes, it'd be easy to mistake this Elijah for the one we left at that woman's house. Both built the same, same haircut, same swagger to their walk, the kind that says, "You might be bigger than me, but you'll never get a single swing in." And the entire trip he's been talking. "Let me tell you something. Belief is a tool. Belief let me into that house. Belief let me shoot your friend. Belief let me make you get on this bus. I use other people's belief. I use my own belief. Once you recognize that, you can do almost anything with it." It's almost as if Elijah (the old one) would have said those things, if he'd been born in some kind of Satanist church instead of the LDS. But the old Elijah had brown eyes. This one's eyes are blue.
I've worked it out: he has to kill me when we get to Dallas. He can't let me go. He keeps talking about how he wants to watch what happens to me when he's done with me, as if I would do anything but go to the police, but as much as I want to believe that his insanity and ego will drive him to release me, I won't.
I stand up and pull my backpack out from under my seat. Elijah (the new one) pulls out his backpack, too, and I can see that it's distended on the bottom from the weight of the gun. I file out behind a fat woman with tight pants that cut into her flesh. It doesn't matter whether Elijah pulls the gun out or not. I think: he's right there behind me. He can make me do whatever he wants.
He starts to whistle. "You are my sunshine--"
I hiss between my teeth. "Would you just stop? You know I hate that song."
Elijah chuckles. Everything I do is amusing. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but worth a superior-sounding chuckle. "I do now," he says, and I realize he's not the Elijah whose whistling has been on my nerves for the last nine months. Blue eyes. Brown eyes. Not the same man, but they could be brothers.
The bus is leaving in thirty minutes, after the bus driver has had his lunch break. The waitress shows us to a booth, and I excuse myself to the toilet. Elijah lets me go. He has a cup of coffee (Good, I think. He's not paying attention) cradled in his small, knuckly hands, and he's staring vaguely around the room as I walk away. The bathroom door, a red-painted piece of plywood held shut with a long, coiled spring, creaks open and slaps shut behind me.
It occurs to me suddenly that there's no way for Elijah to see the door from where he's sitting. The toilets are down a short hallway beside a door marked "Employees Only."
The door opens behind me. I've been standing in front of the sink, looking at the reflection of a tall, skinny man with a bobbing Adam's apple, that bit of sin forever after stuck in our throats. The bus driver grunts, walks over to the urinal, and unzips his pants. I wash my hands and walk out.
The door isn't locked, but all it opens onto is a closet. A mop bucket half-filled with swill. Bottles of pink and yellow cleaning fluids. A neat stack of stained rags. Boxes of trash bags. I shut the door. After a moment, I walk back to the booth.
Elijah leans over to me. "Elder Jamison, I tell you, there's nothing more that I want than a cigarette right now. But I've already made a mistake with the coffee, haven't I?"
"I ordered you a hamburger," he added. "I wasn't sure when you'd be back." He chuckled. I see it now. He was giving me a chance to think I might escape, just to prove to me how much control he had over me. He knows this place. He's been here before. He knew all I'd find behind that door was a closet.
The bus driver walks back to his booth, just behind us. He pulls out a piece of paper out of his jacket and walks back toward the phone booths. He stumbles as he walks past us, and Elijah turns. Their eyes lock, and Elijah's hand reaches along the red vinyl seat until it touches his backpack.
The driver keeps walking, but his shoulders are tense and stiff now.