Shadow Unit

Case Files

Teasers & Deleted Scenes

Silver Spring, MD, December 18, 2007

Light still showed under Rebekah's bedroom door. Esther Falkner tapped the white-painted wood with a fingernail; Rebekah might have fallen asleep with the light on.

Two seconds, before her daughter called, "Come in."

Rebekah perched cross-legged on the end of her bed. Her laptop sat, open but unregarded, on the duvet beside her; her sketchbook lay near it, closed. She had a paperback in her hands, and she worried the corner of one page, folding it, smoothing it, folding it again. Esther recognized one of the Philip Pullman books.

"You okay, kid?" Yes, it was a stupid question. It always was, but it was still the one you asked.

Rebekah nodded without looking up.

If it were one of the team, she'd say, "You look it." But the egos of teenaged girls were a permeable membrane, particularly vulnerable to sarcasm. Esther sat on the edge of the bed, her hands in her lap. It was like the waiting part of any interview, except for the part where she hurt for the subject.

"I don't...think I believe in God," Rebekah said.

The golden age of teen atheism was fifteen, but Rebekah was always ahead of the curve. "Why not?"

Rebekah looked at her sideways. "You're not mad?"

"It's between you and God, kid. I'm just the mother."

The result was a tight little smile and a tear leaking past Rebekah's lashes. "There's just so much...crap in the world. Sorry, Mom."

"I still know more bad words than you. Don't worry about that now."

Rebekah shook her head. Esther waited, counting seconds by habit. Finally Rebekah said, "God's supposed to love us and judge us and be fair. But it's not fair. And if God loved us, he wouldn't do these things to us. So either God hates us or he doesn't exist."

I'm glad you came down on the side of "doesn't exist." She'd seen what could happen when kids believed God didn't love them. Esther searched for the right tone of voice: not too light, a little sad, earnest. So much easier to do when the subject wasn't one's daughter. "You couldn't have waited to have a spiritual crisis until there was a rabbi in the room?"

Rebekah looked up and gave her something more like a smile.

Hard questions deserved hard answers. Another thing she'd brought home from the job. "I think... I think another name for God is 'the world.' I know the world is too complicated to explain in a sentence. It doesn't always seem to make sense, or be fair. Sometimes that's because I don't know enough. And never will. But I believe the world is good. I believe if I pay attention and do right, it gets better for everyone. And when I do that, I feel stronger and happier, and I think maybe that's the world's love."

Rebekah sniffed hard and wiped her face with the heel of her hand. Since she was very small, she'd done it that way, never with her fingers. "But the stuff you see at work is horrible."

You didn't lie to your kids. Rebekah knew what her mom did for a living, at least in the broad strokes. And any kid with internet access could read true crime stories. "Yeah."

"So how can you believe God--the world--is good?"

Esther laced her fingers tight in her lap. Killing in the name of God. Killing for love. Torture, terror, things that made Medieval stories of demonic possession look like a schoolyard fistfight. The thing, the anomaly, that made every base impulse of humanity worse. Oh, good question, kid.

No darkness fell without a balance of light. The victims who'd drawn on impossible strength and courage to hang on in the face of impossible evil. The hosts they'd seen who struggled against the devil on their shoulders. Police officers, firefighters, medical personnel who never lost hope, or lost it and went on anyway.

And the team. Worth, who'd seen the dark and instead of turning away, came to find and join the people who fought it. Brady, who denied his own vulnerability to be a shield for others. Todd, who'd transformed curiosity into selfless courage. Lau, who would lie to put out a fire but never to start one. Chaz, who rose from his own childhood ashes to pass along the help he'd never gotten. Hafidha, for whom knowledge was power and power multiplied when shared. Reyes, who knew better than anyone how deep the darkness was and how important it was to keep lighting matches, even if they burned you before they guttered out.

She untwined her fingers and lifted a hand to brush Rebekah's hair back from her cheek. Rebekah leaned into the touch. Esther put her arm around her daughter's strong shoulders. "Because every day, I see that, too. That the world is good. So I believe in it."

Rebekah put her head on Esther's shoulder. It wasn't more than she could carry.