Finley felt a cold shiver pass over him, raising goosebumps on the backs of his arms.
“But that’s… That doesn’t make sense.”
“I know it might not right now, doctor, but maybe someday it will. And maybe you’ll live to thank me. I came in here thinking I’d have to kill you, but now I know I don’t need to. You’ll be able to go on living, and in time you might even redeem your soul.”
Finley rubbed his arms.
“But…you can’t. I mean, why would you want to cut off my hand?”
“So you can’t perform any more abortions. You need your hands to do that, and if you’re missing one, well, you can’t do the work.”
“But they’d put you in jail for that. Prison.”
“So be it. After all, I came in here expecting to get the death penalty. I know I’ll go to prison, but I’m still young. When I get out I’ll be able to remove another doctor’s hand, and then maybe another before they lock me away for good.”
He snipped the shears, and Finley thought of his surgical training. If he lost his hand it would mean he could never operate again. There had to be a way to avoid that.
“Just think of the news coverage this will get,” Zeke went on. “Murders have become so commonplace, but this… This will get people’s attention and…”
“This could save so many lives,” Zeke said. “Believers all over the country would suddenly realize they don’t have to kill abortion doctors to make them stop their abominations. Yes, word would go out, and ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.'”
Ears to hear. Finley wondered if the police were listening to them with surveillance devices. Probably. He chided himself for not thinking of that sooner. He should have been pumping Zeke for practical information, to help the authorities get a better idea of what was going on.
Finley cleared his throat and spoke very clearly. He wanted his words to be understandable to the people outside the room.
“Is that shotgun the only weapon you have on you?”
“What does that matter? One gun or a dozen, you’ll be dead if anyone tries to break in here.”
“But… I thought you said you’re not going to kill me.”
“I’m not, unless they rush us. Then we’ll both be dead.”
“So you’d kill us both? You sound like you have a… Do you have a bomb under that windbreaker?”
Zeke made a disapproving face. “I know what you’re doing, doctor.” He gestured to the door. “Sure they’re listening, but it doesn’t matter. Like I said, we’ll both be dead if they break in. I’ll shoot you, then they’ll shoot me. But I don’t have any choice in the matter. Everything’s in God’s hands.”
Finley tried to go on but words failed him. His seminar failed him. You couldn’t reason with a fanatic.
“You should be on your knees,” Zeke said. “You should be thanking the Lord I had my epiphany when I did.” He snipped the shears. “Murder is bad, and even though I could save thousands of innocent babies by killing you, the taking of a human life is something I don’t want to have on my soul. But let me pray on the new plan, because I want to be sure I’m following the Lord’s will.”
Zeke bowed his head and locked his fingers over the shears. The suddenness of the action surprised Finley, but he had enough presence of mind to know that Zeke was as vulnerable just then as he was likely to get. He looked around for a weapon. Any sharp surgical instrument would do, but the only things on the countertops just then were tongue depressors and a rubber-headed reflex hammer. And then he thought he might not need a weapon at all. If Zeke were deep enough into his praying he could surprise him and…
He looked back to Zeke and saw that he was watching him.
“Don’t be thinking that way, doctor. Shears beat tongue depressors. And if you escalate to that rubber hammer, I have this.” He reached back and patted the stock of his shotgun.
Finley took a deep breath and told himself he should be more careful. He was giving away his thoughts.
“Okay,” Zeke said, snipping the shears. “I’ve prayed on the matter the best I can under the circumstances, and I’m pretty sure I’m doing the right thing. So I guess we should get on with it.” He opened the jaws of the shears, placed them over his opposite wrist and gave them a little squeeze. “Hmm. Not very sharp. You know, this isn’t the best tool for the job. Do you have anything else in here?” He closed the drawer the shears had come from and opened another. “A cleaver would be good.”
“A…a cleaver?” Finley went a little lightheaded.
“Ah,” Zeke said, looking up from the drawer. “I just thought of another Bible passage. From Luke. ‘When Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.’ That passage is proof that fetuses are alive. The baby responded to a voice, so that shows thinking. Living intelligence.”
Finley was still picturing cleavers and said something about the gestating fetus in Elizabeth simply twitching as its muscles developed.
The shears clattered on the countertop. Zeke spun and reached around to pull the shotgun off his shoulder. When he stopped spinning he was facing Finley and the gun was trained on his head.
“They’re not fetuses, they’re children! And Elizabeth’s child was John the Baptist!”
The abruptness of Zeke’s change from conversational to savage stunned Finley. He sat staring down the barrel of the gun. The black hole of the bore made him think of an astronomical black hole, but one that sucked in thought rather than light. Thoughts seemed to streak past the edges of his consciousness, funneling into the barrel, and luckily he recognized a seminar memory of the Luke passage.
“Oh, uh…you’re right, Zeke. That passage does describe John the Baptist reacting to the voice of Jesus’s mother. So that’s an event involving miraculous circumstances, and you can’t really apply what happened there to an everyday pregnancy.”
Zeke considered, then he took a deep breath and returned the shotgun to his shoulder. He picked up the shears and went back to digging in the drawer he’d been looking through before the outburst. He held up something shiny.
“What’s this? A uterine dilator?”
Finley felt sluggish, probably because of the stress hormones being pumped into his blood. He managed a nod in response to Zeke’s question, and Zeke placed the dilator back in the drawer.
“Ah, good,” he said, after digging around some more. “Here’s something we can use.” He held up a coil of plastic hose, the kind used by the suction machine. “I can make a tourniquet with this, to tie off your arm above the cut. And let’s see, what else will we need?” He shut the drawer and thought. “I guess we should prepare for you going into shock. I took a first aid course once and they said that when someone’s in shock you should elevate their feet and cover them, to keep them warm. Do you have any blankets in here?”
At the mention of blankets Finley went cold again, but this time it wasn’t just a shivery sensation that raised goosebumps; the chill reached to his core and he knew it was because his body was pulling in blood from his extremities, preparing for the loss of the hand.