Temple Girls

by lingonberryjelly

Temple Girls


Abernathy Greene returned to her basement after a long forty-eight-hour day.

The shelves in the storage room she called home were still covered in books, relics, and statues, but the spiderwebs were missing along with the dust, and where there had been the smell of mold, now her nose was bombarded by Pine-Sol.

Abi instantly suspected Olena, the supposedly retired Russian assassin who’d been staying with her for the last few weeks, so she wasn’t surprised when, leaving the maze of shelves, she saw her sitting on her pallet, smiling at her like a satisfied wolf pup.

Hello, Miss,” Olena said. She had pale skin, short dark hair, and was wearing a black jumpsuit, dyed black with Rit, Abernathy knew, from the black ring it had left in her wash tub.

Who are they?” Abi asked, pointing at the three new girls sitting next to Olena, two pale bleach-blonds, and a black girl, slightly darker than Abi with hair shaved sloppily like she’d had lice, all of them wearing Olena’s same black jumpsuit.

Tinatini and Ketevan from Georgia, and Wendy, from Cincinnati Ohio,” Olena said as the girls bowed their heads.

We should talk,” Abi said, turning back to the shelves as Olena hopped up, signaling wait to the girls with her hand.

Yes, Miss,” Olena said, joining her in the limited privacy lent by the shelves and under the watchful eyes of a hundred statues of Mary.

Who are they?”

Very nice girls-”

Where’d you find them?” Abi asked.

This is a story…” Olena said.

Abi wondered if that meant a lie, or something too long for no sleep and that time of night.

I have been trying to follow your example,” Olena said, smiling as she looked down at her feet.

So, you haven’t killed anyone?”

No, not yet- I mean to say, I have been trying very hard.”

And the girls?” Abi asked.

Kurva- Prostitutes….”

And why’d you bring whores to my house?”

Ah! No. They were prostitutka, but now… they have abandoned the corporeal,” Olena said, a phrase she must have learned from Berylanne.

They’ve taken orders?”

…They are very obedient- They cleaned your house this afternoon, each of the statues very carefully, and we polished your washtub-”

Where’d you find them?” Abi asked.

Ah…. Following your example, I went hunting-”

But you didn’t kill anybody?”

No,” Olena said, nodding her head. “I found a man, sought by your politsija for fraud and public indecency, but he is also a man who trades in human flesh.”

He’s a pimp?”

Yes…? I shipped the other girls back via freighter to The Black Sea, but these three are without family.”

Did you give him a warning?” Abi asked, peeking around the shelf to find the girls staring back at her from their pallet.

I left him one testicle,” Olena said.

That wasn’t Abernathy’s preferred method, because she would have to touch things she would rather avoid looking at. She might have worn gloves, Abi thought, but then saw blood under Olena’s nails.

Have they eaten?” Abi asked.

…Breakfast,” Olena said.

Abi had left her with food money, two days ago, but it hadn’t been enough to feed four.

I’ll be back,” Abi said, leaving again, up the concrete steps from her basement, and through the church graveyard.

She was headed for the payphone at the end of the block. Pizza sounded better than Chinese, but she would decide when she got there.