When Adam Leeds’ face emerged from the lobby of the condemned hotel, it seemed as if a tremor passed over the street. Though there were mostly homeless people on skid row, the majority of those witnessing his debut took notice of him immediately. As a warm undercurrent passing through stagnant water, he seemed to touch their jaded minds, each observer exhibiting a slow-witted response. As actors in a slow motion film, their expressions changed imperceptibly, and their bodily movements displayed the delayed reaction time of drunks and idlers on the street. Edging as slowly from beneath the hotel marquee out of embarrassment for how he must look, he decided to test their reaction before leaving the safety of the hotel. Given the powers of his benefactor, he could not help but imagine that each added inch of daylight striking his robe elicited more and more excitement from his future congregation. He noticed that the few automobiles moving through this no-man’s land were slowing down. He heard what sounded like shouts in the distance. By the time his exalted presence was in plain view, a full-scale shock wave seemed to be set in motion throughout skid row. Breaks were jamming, tires were squealing, and an occasional horn blast seemed to herald his debut. He could almost hear an eruption of gasps, cries and hallelujahs as various onlookers recognized the man in white.
His hour had come—the moment of truth… or so he thought.
For a while it seemed as if he had won them all. He was carried away by his own self-esteem and growing confidence, floating down the sidewalk on a celestial cloud. Then suddenly, at the height of his ecstasy, a spate of catcalls, jeers, and ugly murmurs filtered into his cloud. Before long, a group vagrants were on his trail, their stinking bodies and wine sodden breath bringing him crashing down to earth.
“Hey,” one of them tapped his shoulder, “are you one of them transvestite fruits?”
“No,” Adam reeled around angrily, “I’ve been sent as your redeemer!”
“Redeemer?” The heavyset man blinked his bloodshot eyes. “Sent by whom?”
“What’s a redeemer?” a second, scrawny, derelict asked, his smelly visage appearing at the corner of his eye.
“Someone who wants to bring light into your dark lives,” Adam explained, his voice creaking up a notch as a third, forth, and fifth man began dogging his trail.
Without realizing it, Adam had stumbled onto the path of a playful band of vagabonds. Of this particular group, only their apparent leader was important to Satan now. The other disciples, who would make up the twelve, stood by the sidelines looking on. As an ill-wind, Adam’s moment of truth passed as the men mumbled amongst themselves. He was frightened by their presence and also shaken by the answer he gave the fat man, the first tormentor on the scene. ‘Most High,” though it was both a Hebrew and Islamic name for God, seemed appropriate, yet he had almost said God. Just who exactly was he supposed to represent, he asked himself: God, Satan or some new age cosmic force? She would have to clarify this for him in the near future. For the time being, it would be enough for him just to keep his head.
After trying to regain his composure, Adam elaborated, as he walked, on his explanation by misquoting John 8:12: “I am the light to brighten your darkness and the warmth to pierce its cold.”
Adam cringed at his corruption of his words. John’s original passage would have been much better. The fat man, whom he would later learn was Buff Peyton, thought this very strange.
“Darkness?… Warmth?… Warmth to pierce what?” He asked quizzically, fingering Adam’s white robe.
“Right here,” the third man offered, unzipping his fly, “I got something to pierce the dark!”
“You fools! Don’t you know who I am?” Adam felt foolish uttering, especially when he didn’t know, himself. “…. I can help you,” he struggled with Satan’s words. “I have the power to change your lives. Open your minds, and open your hearts!”
“We got us a holy man,” a sixth man crowed in the distance, “down here to save our souls!”
The most ominous voice he would hear this hour, Rhoda Simms—the same crone who heckled Moses Rawlins at the mission—appeared directly on his path.
“He’s a drag queen, that’s what he is,” she cackled, spitting on the ground, “like those fruits up on the Strip.”
“Madame,” Adam tried to show proper rage, “this is a cassock, like a monk wears, not a dress, and you’ll notice I have a beard.”
“Makes no difference sweat meat,” the repulsive woman said, giving him pinch.
“What did he call it? A cass-what?” a small, misshapen dwarf materialized by her side. “Sounds nasty to me. I think he’s hiding something. Let’s see what he’s hiding under that robe.”
“He’s probably wearin’ frilly underwear underneath,” an eighth man joined in. “I bet he don’t even have a dick!”
Overwhelming disgust now joined the overwhelming fear he felt for his tormentors. Pivoting on the heel of his sandal, he managed to cross the street but was distressed to find that not one other pedestrian or passing driver would say a word in his defense.
“Hey, where ya’ going sweat meat?” the hag called as he quickened his pace. “I thought you came to redeem us.”
“I’m going to find men and women with open hearts and open minds,” he cried bitterly. “This is unhallowed, infertile ground!”
Once again, he realized, slapping his forehead, he had selected the wrong words.
“Why, mister holy man? We’re open and we’re fertile,” declared Buff, roaring with laughter. “Bend over and find out!”
“Filth!” Adam shouted. “Abominations! Pariahs of God!”
There was that word again, he shuddered. There were now over a dozen hecklers, most of whom had followed him to the other side of the street. His worst antagonist was Rhoda Simms, who appeared to be mentally deranged. The other vagrants, following merrily behind, had found one more way to while away their time. He was totally shaken by the barrage of obscenities blaring into his ears. Although he tried to straighten his shoulders and hold up his head as befitting a savior, he found himself hunching further and further down with each new insult. The hag continued, with a practiced ugliness, to fill their unwashed ears with fabrications. She told everyone within earshot that his beard was just a disguise and probably fake, and underneath that fancy robe he was all woman, unlike the drag queens on Sunset Strip. He probably had, she went on to explain, a sex change and was sporting female organs beneath. Maybe, suggested Buff, the first heckler, he was really a hermaphrodite and had both. He was, according to the second heckler, just playing hard to get. Buff, who was giggling foolishly to himself, appeared to be fascinated with this theme. Unlike the hag, who bore him inexplicable malice, the fat man and his friends were like school children taunting the neighborhood geek. When other idlers heard what Rhoda was saying, they were brought progressively into the merriment, until it seemed as if almost everyone on this street had joined their ranks.
“You mean he’s got a vagina?” One of the recent arrivals feigned disbelief.
“He sure does,” the woman responded. “I bet he’s got boobs too!”
“Hot damn,” a deep voiced black man boomed, “we got us a convertible.”
“That’s right;” she cackled, “this one’s got handlebars on his chin, like those artists downtown.”
She elaborated awhile on this theme for her audience, and Adam was deeply sickened by what he heard.
“I got first dibs on his vagina,” Buff Peyton chimed.
“I’ll take his ass,” a more distant voice, he had not heard before, cried.
“Give me the whiskers,” the deep voiced black piped. “The rest of you sons-of-bitches get what’s left!”
In his panic, Adam had been retreating from, not to, the hotel. There were several dozen homeless men and a few crones following him up the sidewalk, as he did an about face, hastily crossed the boulevard, and doubled back. So far, with his long and lanky legs, he had managed to stay ahead of them, but they were thick on each side of the street and were obviously not worried about him out distancing them, especially with so many more vagrants popping up from their alley nests.
“Excuse me…. Excuse me please…. Let me pass…. God damn it, get out of my way!” He shouted at the slow-moving vagrants in his path.
The hotel, he estimated light-headedly, was now a city block away. He was slowed down greatly by homeless people blocking his way but also by his attire. As he forged ahead through the crowd, he stumbled in his leather sandals—perfect copies of the footgear worn during New Testament times. His mentor had also arrayed him in purest white Biblical clothing, which caused him to sweat profusely now. He wore an inner tunic of linen stretching almost to his ankles that was wringing wet, a leather girdle that had been fastened too tightly around his waist, and a long, flowing woolen cloak that kept flying up into his face. He would much rather be wearing a pair of Reeboks and a jogging outfit instead of his sandals and this silly getup. The woman, who had made herself the ringleader of his tormentors, roared with laughter at his clumsiness, and he could hear her shout in the background “Let’s get’em boys, and give’em the treatment!”
He could not be certain what the others had in mind, but with those threatening words, Adam knew that at least Rhoda Simms, the ring leader, meant business.
“Where are you? Where are you? Where are you?” He chanted deliriously under his breath.
An uncompromising dread filled him as he listened to the sounds of feet shuffling on the sidewalk. The gauntlet of curious homeless men and women on each side of him made him feel trapped. The hotel, which he had unintentionally been walking away from before, now seemed a million miles away. As he forged his way back to his protector, the dirty hands and street worn faces of his future congregation sickened and frightened him. Their annoying and obscene chatter, driven by Rhoda, the Skid Row Witch, now carried a deadly ring. He found himself gathering up his tunic and cloak, kicking off his sandals, and dashing madly down the block. As would a football halfback, he elbowed anyone standing in his way, his only goal to reach the hotel lobby before he got Rhoda’s treatment—whatever that was.
As he ran, his thoughts raced ahead of him. He saw himself battered, bleeding and naked in a darkened alley. Surrounding him in his vision where his tormentors, their pants down and fists hammering at his will. In the background, moving impotently against the full force of evil came the belated shadow of Satan. After what he had seen so far, he had little confidence in her eccentric behavior. She had toyed with him erratically and unmercifully, offering him, in the disguise of a bum, the lowest dominion on earth: skid row. What if it was part of her plan to allow him to be raped by these filthy beasts? What if this was all some sort of monstrous and hellish joke? Perhaps, every once in awhile, Satan came up topside to slum it awhile and play tricks on mortal beings. After not believing in the devil for so long, he would never get use to the idea that Satan was not even a man.
He had almost convinced himself, as he ran across the street again, that he was doomed. In spite of his doubts, however, as he fled back toward the condemned hotel, he began searching for his new master. Somewhere in that dilapidated building she must be standing and looking down at him from a dirty window. Maybe she had transformed herself back into an invisible spirit and was this very moment hovering around them, waiting for just the right moment to strike. Where was she, and what was she waiting for? Why had she forsaken him in his hour of need? The last questions reverberated over and over in his mind. Long ago it had been pondered by another redeemer, but it had been directed by God, the Son, toward God, the Father. This time the question “Why have you forsaken me?” was directed toward someone called by theologians the father of deceit and mother of lies. So utterly perverse were these moments, he would have laughed hysterically had he not been running for his life.
After scanning left and right and straight ahead, as if she might just fly out of the sky, he realized that Satan was nowhere in sight. He could see the old hotel straight ahead but it was still several hundred meters away. He wasn’t even sure where the window for their room had been. If he could only make it into the lobby of the building he was sure that she would come down and save him now. But he could see in the distance that several more derelicts were idling in front of the hotel. None of them looked friendly to him at this point. They all looked bored and yet they stood there as if waiting for him to come their way.
Adam came to an abrupt stop when he looked ahead through these idler and saw Rhoda standing beneath the hotel marquee. She looked out of breath, herself, having ran ahead to ‘head him off at the pass,’ he thought grimly. Why did that woman—a perfect strange—hate him so much? Was she insane or simply evil? Turning his hopes now to the motorists passing through, he waved excitedly and called frantically to them, but made another bleak discovery: the motorists were not stopping. They were not even slowing down. Perhaps it had only been his imagination, but he had detected a current of excitement in this neighborhood. Had it all been in his mind? Where was the congregation Satan had promised him? Motorist passed through without a care, and his sidewalk audience, the derelicts who were the mainstay of skid row, either didn’t care or had degenerated into wide-eyed, open-mouthed ghouls. Not one voice was raised on his behalf. With the exception of a distant voice of a street evangelist hollering apocalyptic warnings, a great silence had fallen over the street as he looked around wildly for an avenue of escape.
Outside of his own breathing and the murmuring of his pursuers, the only sound coming into his ears at this point was the street evangelist’s foreboding call for repentance, the last sound on earth he wanted to hear. Doubling back once more to avoid running into Rhoda Simms, Adam frantically held up his robe as his energy ebbed. It seemed hopeless. Not knowing where else to go, he ran in the opposite direction again. Too out of shape to follow close behind, the fat man was shouting: “he’s had enough Rhoda. Leave him alone!” Not trusting the fat man’s motives, Adam kept running away from the hotel and the sound of the street evangelist’s voice.
Though distracted by his predicament, Adam could see a familiar visage not too far ahead. Why, he wondered, was that tall, lanky red haired man with a flowing beard dogging his trail? He could see Moses Rawlins, the evangelist, standing in a vacant lot next to a large brick building, shocked into silence by what he saw. Though he didn’t know the man’s name, he recognized him as the kindly vagrant concerned about his safety yesterday on the street. How very intuitive he was, Adam thought bitterly to himself.
Awakened from his shock, Moses pointed his Bible at Adam, as if his message was aimed directly at him, and said in a loud, baritone voice “Behold, the False Prophet is among his children--a sheep among wolves. Beware of this man. He may come like a lamb, but he will tame the wolves, for he is really one of the beasts foretold by Saint John.”
“Help me!” Adam cried hoarsely to the preacher, as he approached. “Call the police, not God. Don’t just stand there; I need a hiding place, not that goddamn book!”
But the evangelist pointed an accusing finger at him and shouted to the people around him “Don’t be fooled by this man. Drive him out of your neighborhood before it’s too late, and you become the devil’s slaves!”
Still not used to the revelations flashing in his head, Moses flinched at these high-sounding words.
“Devil’s slaves?” He mumbled to himself. “Whoa, that’s a bit strong!”
The sermon he gave now, which sounded nothing like verses from the Bible, carried a hollow ring for Adam now that he had changed sides. The evangelist, for his part, found it hard to believe that this storefront Jesus could be a threat, and yet the Lord had singled him out for Moses last night. Now, in disguise, he looked very much like Christ but was not doing very well as a false prophet. If he was anyone of such substance and importance, reasoned Moses, why would he be running for his life? Why would he be marooned in this hellhole without a friend or even so much as a friendly face to give him encouragement now?
The preacher was probably the only homeless man on skid row who knew who he was, and yet Moses felt sorry for this buffoon.
“You’re not very good at this,” he called out, as Adam ran passed. “The Lord must be talking about another false prophet. In the first place, why would he pick one on skid row?”
This quizzical response from the evangelist did not stop Moses from sending another exhortation after the advancing pack: “You wolves will soon have a new leader: a wicked messiah, pretending to be your friend. But don’t be fooled by this mockery of the Lord. Twelve of you shall he gather and mark them as the devil’s own. God help anyone else who gets in his way!”
A human roadblock of curious vagabonds emerging from the alley onto the sidewalk blocked Adam’s way. The slight curvature of the ground allowed him to see beyond the filthy, matted heads of derelicts to other denizens moving on the street. Among a second wave of spectators, a tall, scrawny, yellow-haired, buck-toothed youth’s loomed out even at a distance. This delay caused by the crowd, plus unexpected traffic on the boulevard as he tried moving around them, prevented his escape long enough for Rhoda Simms to catch up to him once and for all on the street. Turning, in a staggering motion, in the opposite direction, Adam decided to attempt one more run for the hotel. At this point, the yellow-haired youth was swallowed up by the initial press of bodies. Plowing right through a group of drifters passed the cackling witch, he could hear renewed scorn from members of the crowd, but absent now were the voices of Buff Peyton and his friends. Though the fat man had been the chief instigator, himself, Adam sensed a more sinister motive for the witch. Had Adam understood whom the yellow-haired youth and his gang were, he would have been even more frightened this moment.
“Hey Louie,” Buff called to his ferret-faced friend, “this is getting out of hand. I thought we were just having some fun!”
“Yeah,” Louie rolled his bloodshot eyes, “tell that to her!”
Rhoda allowed Adam to stagger passed her, panting and sweating profusely as she reached out and slapped his rear.
“What’s your hurry sweat meat?” She cried out mockingly. “No one’s going to save you in that hotel. There’s no one in there but muggers, drug addicts, and two-bit hookers, looking for a fix.”
Only a few hundred feet from the entrance of the hotel, Adam was out of breath and almost out of his mind. “Where are you?… Come down and help me?” He muttered, gasping for air.
His teetering faith in Satan had taken a turn for the worst. No longer pursued but surrounded by hundreds of unwashed bodies, a dreadful form of claustrophobia overtook him. Already, the presence of the yellow-haired youth and his gang was sinking into the collective mentality of the crowd. As Adam caught the voices of the new group approaching, the few concerned bystanders who had voiced concern shrank from commitment. His confidence in his mentor disappeared entirely as he trudged through the crowd. She wanted him to trust her, and yet she was pushing him to the limits of endurance. She expected him to wait patiently, when it was obvious that he was threatened by the mob.
“What’re you waiting for?” He continued to mumble. “Come down here and save me! I deserve nothing less than a miracle: a stroke of lightning or small earthquake. Are you waiting for God to intervene? Are you trying to find out how I function under stress? Or is this some kind of monstrous joke?” “…. Is that it Satan?” he looked inappropriately up at the sky. “First you ruin my life and take my soul, then you let them kill me, so I’ll burn in hell?”
Though he appeared to be rambling incoherently, his words finally reached an audible range. With the key words Satan, soul, and hell, several unwashed ears perked up
“Who’s he talking to?” They murmured amongst themselves. “Is he taking to God?”
Buff Peyton smiled and rotated a dirty finger beside his head. “I think he’s addled in the brain.”
“Yeah,” replied his friend Louie, “maybe we’d better leave him alone.”
In place of the malevolence Adam had seen on many of their faces, he detected curiosity and even concern. Though he didn’t yet trust the fat man and his gang, he sensed inexplicably that he had friends in this crowd.
“Who was this strange man?” He heard them ask each other. “…. Where did he come from? Was he really sent by God?” These questions and many more were asked by the denizens of skid row. Adam was aware of their misgivings, but wasn’t sure what they had in mind. Some of the street people he spotted when he left the safety of the hotel, who had the deadpan expressions of drunks and down-and-out people, had managed to heckle him. The big fat man and his friends had been the first. Many of the same people appeared to be afraid of him now, while others continued to grin mischievously or frown with contempt as he pressed on.
“Please give them a sign,” he whispered more discretely, hoping that the crowd loitering beneath the marquee would let him pass. All he wanted this moment was the safety of the hotel. “Use some of your black magic to help me,” he prayed to his benefactor. “Oh, Satan, blast these bastards! Stop them in their tracks! If you don’t get off your infernal ass and help me, they’re going to do something terrible to me. I’m probably going to be raped!”
“He sounds delirious,” Buff said to one his friends. “I think we pushed him over the edge.”
“Hah,” cackled Rhoda, “he’s as crazy as a loon.”
“Hey,” Louie reached out to tap his back, “I heard you say ‘Satan.’ Are you really talking to God?”
At that point, Charlie Blintz, the yellow-haired youth stepped forward as if to block his path. Sensing evil, Adam dodged the new threat, catching sight of the man’s splotchy face as he passed. On each side of Charlie, stood a bald-headed Asian with a savage scar running down his cheek and a bearded, one-eyed man. In back of this trio, were three other unsavory fellows, who appeared to belong to his gang. The men laughed derisively as had the fat man’s gang. Not certain what the fat man and his friends had in mind, Adam felt as if there were now two groups of antagonists threatening him. He wanted to return to his safe haven or at least find a place to hide. He was, at this point, less than a hundred meters from the entrance to the hotel, still hoping he would be saved by pedestrians or motorists on the street. When the skid row gangs, with Rhoda’s coaxing, finally encircled him on the sidewalk, he yelped voicelessly, his body almost paralyzed with fear. In spite of this dark moment, however, something remarkable was about to happen to Adam and this neighborhood, timed in such a way that only Satan knew how it would end.
While the vagrants circled as jackals around Adam Leeds, voices suddenly erupted among the group that lined the sidewalk and spilled onto the street. The vast majority of the men, he sensed, had merely been bystanders whiling away the time. With the exception of the hag egging them on, none of the homeless women had joined the merriment either, and had simply followed out of curiosity for the strange man. Several men who had originally began heckling, however, were having second thoughts about what they were doing and joined the others in protest of what was going on. Among those who had stood by helplessly to watch Adam being chased were ten of his potential twelve disciples. Miraculously, Adam would later discover, they had been standing together as a group, many of them never having associated together before. The only ones missing from Moses’ prophesized twelve were Buff Peyton, one of Adam’s chief tormentors, who was now having second thoughts, himself, and Kaz Yorba, the dwarf, who had been one of the original hecklers on the street. Finally, as Charlie Blintz’s gang and a remnant of the original horde pressed in on Adam, several members of the ten spoke up.
“In God’s name, leave him alone,” Wyatt Brewster, a young seminary student cried, elbowing his way through the crowd.
“Yeah, leave the poor crazy bastard be!” Effie Powers, a small splotchy skinned vagrant, croaked, stretching out her gnarled hand.
Royal “Stork” Channing, a tall, blond haired, fair skinned apparition led a trio of like-minded homeless men and women through the gawkers block, shouting at the top of his lungs “Stop it! He’s had enough!
Troy Holland, an Iraq War veteran, who had served ten years in the Marine Corps, added his protest, along with Alden Taylor, a distinguished looking Afro-American man in an old worn suit, who looked out of place in this motley group. Though verbally active, not one of the five protesters, Wyatt, Effie, Stork, Troy, nor Alden, stepped forward to prevent the persecution. The remainder of the twelve, in fact, displayed a combination of interest, indifference, and outright fear.
After several more futile voices from the crowd were raised on his behalf, the mood spread, until a chorus of voices, both men and woman, demanded in short and some cases slurred commands, that his tormenters set him free. As it caught on, as if an alarm had spread, he heard for the first time, since his debut on the street, motorists, who were not vagrants but commuters and “normal folk,” shouting their protests too.
“Leave that poor lunatic alone!” blared a women from her car.
“I just called the cops on my cell phone,” he could hear a more distant man’s voice. “They’re on their way. Leave the weirdo alone!
So far, during the protest, he had, among other names, been referred to by his defenders as a lunatic, a poor crazy bastard, and a weirdo. Although this was not a promising beginning for his ministry on the street, it was far better than no reaction at all. While pedestrians, who were too scared to get involved, voiced their outrage and a few brave drivers shouted from the curb, motorists’ horns, which had been silent, blasted sporadically in alarm. No one stepped forward, however. Even the ex-gang-banger Heck Reyes and his Native American associate Johnny Trueblood remained on the sidelines with the others. Though fearful themselves, Ursula Painter, Effie Powers, and Liz Moydin chastised the male members of their group.
“Shame on you!” Ursula motioned to the men.
“It ain’t the habit of street people to get involved with other folk’s business,” Heck explained with a shrug.
“Yeah,” Ursula replied bitterly, “just like you did when Crazy Charlie’s gang beat up Ignacio!”
“Cowards—all of you!” spat Effie.
Watching Adam’s tormentors close ranks around him, Liz turned in desperation to the men. “What’s the matter with you? You’re an ex-marine, Troy. You were a big shot gang member, Heck. What happened to you and that big dumb Indian? You lose your balls?”
“Bad medicine,” grunted Johnny.
“It’s none of our business,” reaffirmed Heck.
With the exception of Cassie Moa, who seemed to be in her own little world, the women continued berating the men. Troy, Stork, and Alden bristled under their scrutiny. Buff now stood on the opposite side of Charlie’s circle, aware that it was his mischief that had sparked the current dilemma.
Kaz, the dwarf, who had drifted away momentarily from the hecklers reappeared suddenly by Wyatt Brewster’s side. “Why don’t you pray for him, padre, huh-huh? He looks like Jesus with that beard and robe. He might perform a miracle and strike us all dead!”
As Wyatt broke into a prayer, Kaz, a borderline schizophrenic, laughed foolishly to himself. His eyes wide with spiritual insight, Wyatt declared in an awed voice that only Kaz could hear “Yes, children, Moses, the preacher, is right. Prophecy will be fulfilled, but the Lord will protect this man!”
Adam’s heart was beating so loudly he could barely hear voices in the mob. After making a few frantic motions to break through, he realized he was trapped. Silence now settled over the scene, as Rhoda, Charlie Blintz’s gang, and several members of the original mob decided what to do.
“Just what are you suppose to be?” Asked the buck-toothed, yellow haired man.
It was the same question everyone present wanted to know. Buff and his friend Louie, who had started it going, stood by, helplessly scratching their heads, wondering what they should do. Those defenders, pedestrians and motorists alike, who had protested during the past few moments, grew restive. Many onlookers and a few vehicles slipped away during the lull. Strangely enough, the loud-mouthed preacher he had heard earlier remained silent, and yet a truck driver, pulling up in a large rig, stuck his head out his vehicle’s window and promised to report them on his cell phone—an action which spurred new motorists, driving down the boulevard, to pull over momentarily and survey the scene. A strange irony was taking place in which the street, itself, which merely passed through this hell-hole, was moved to action, while its tenants stood by helplessly watching it take place.
A perfect set of circumstances had developed, regardless of everyone’s motives, to put his master to the test. So why are you silent? He tried sending his thoughts, looking up at the building in which he had made love to the Princess of Hell. Don’t you know what these people might do? This was a perfect opportunity for her to demonstrate her powers and rescue him from assault and murder. Where was his benefactor and protector now that he needed her? Why was she playing coy? Was all this—his ordeals with Henny Lumpkin and Big Molly, the apparent murder he committed, and debut on the street—merely sick games to occupy Satan’s time?