Iolanthe stood up and Father Kerrdon led her out of the room, down the spiral staircase, and back into the crossing between the two transepts of the church. She stopped and looked to see if the little girl in the brown linen dress and brown wool sweater was still kneeling in prayer, but the child was nowhere to be seen. Once again, she looked up at the great marble statue of the savior.
“Magnificent, isn’t it?” said the priest. “I’ve always thought it was the most beautiful recreation of the savior I’ve ever seen. One can see the pain, the hope, and even the forgiveness in that face.
“Still,” he continued. “I would be willing to wager that all of the likenesses carved in marble by Pallaton the Elder are beautiful. I have not seen them all of course, but he is reputed to be the greatest artist of his period.”
“Perhaps,” said Iolanthe, continuing on through the nave. “But I have always suspected that the savior was quite simply a very beautiful woman.”
Outside the double doors of the church, Iolanthe paused to let her eyes adjust to the brightness, hyperventilated once more, and then made her way quickly down the steps, around the corner, and back to her carriage. She noted that the steam coming from the release was much less than it had been, and with a sigh, opened the coal bin and retrieved the small shovel that was lying upon the supply of extra coal. Using the shovel to lift the firebox latch, so that she wouldn’t burn her gloves, she shoveled a dozen scoops of coal from the bin to the flame. She then used the shovel to close the firebox door, tossed the shovel back into the coal bin, and closed the coal bin door. She flipped the steam cock to the engaged position and climbed aboard the carriage. Looking at her blackened gloves with disgust, she peeled them off and tossed them unceremoniously under the carriage seat. Then opening the glove compartment, she pulled out replacements from among several pairs of gloves, a small stack of handkerchiefs and two loose shotgun shells.
Iolanthe released the brake and pressed down with her foot on the forward accelerator. The carriage slowly rolled forward. The steam built up, and soon the vehicle had returned to its former vigor. She tried to drive around the block of the Great Church of the Holy Savior, and get back onto the main road to return to the Old City, but the roads in this area did not seem to follow the normal grid pattern. And there seemed to be nowhere to turn around. After half an hour of trying to negotiate the unfathomable maze, she found herself at a dead end. She pulled the brake lever and sat trying to figure out at which turn she should have made a left, and how to get back to that point.
Suddenly a figure approached the left side of her carriage. It was a dirty man, wearing dirty clothes, with a dirty bald head, and a big dirty nose. He stepped in close to her and ran his eyes down the length of her form. Another similarly dressed man stepped up behind him.
“Well, this is nice, ain’t it?” said the second man. “We can have us a little fun.”
“Yeah, fun” said the first man, pulling a long, thin knife from his belt.
“Careful though,” said the second man. “She might have a little pistol in her handbag.”
“Does you have a little pistol in your handbag, dearie?” the first man asked. He casually waved the knife in his right hand, as he pawed at her ankle with his left. Then he stopped when he heard the sound of two hammers being cocked, and looked up into the twin twelve gauge barrels.
“I don’t carry a handbag,” said Iolanthe, pulling the shotgun to her shoulder. She pulled the first trigger, disintegrating the head of the first man, and sending a fountain of viscous remains over everything within twenty feet. The second man had no time to react before the second barrel was fired at him. He was far enough away however, that though he was killed, people who had known him would still be able to identify his body.