Tom Howard

Tom Howard is a banking software analyst in Little Rock, Arkansas and thanks the Central Arkansas Speculative Fiction Writing Group for their help and support.


By: Tom Howard
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He pulled the vial out of a drawer and placed it between his pistols on his desk. “He tried to poison me.”

She approached, ignoring the armed men in the room, and carefully picked up the bottle. Even stoppered, she identified the faint acidic smell. “That’s Lysergsäure-diethylamid, a powerful hallucinogenic called LSD,” she said. “Where did you get it?”

The big man’s voice was deadly cold. “The question is where did he get it?”

We all saw the quick look that passed between the two llama heads. Sister Joan on the right looked at her suddenly sheepish sister. Sister Joan placed the vial back on the desk and stood tall. “I confess. I did it. I forced the boy to poison you.”

Generalissimo Franco stood, his anger giving him renewed energy. “You lie, Sister! I know your religion prevents you from killing anyone. Even someone like me. You’d say anything to save this boy and the villagers who concocted this poison.”

Suddenly, he picked up one of his pistols and offered it to her. She took it in her right hand, looking confused.

“Go ahead, Sister,” he said. “Shoot me. Kill the spawn of Satan himself. Go ahead, it’s loaded.”

She grimaced and he sneered. “See? Even to defend yourself, you can’t kill me or you’ll go straight to hell.” He picked up the remaining pistol and pointed it at her. “Your stinking vows make you weak.”

Sister Joan opened her mouth to speak, but the generalissimo abruptly pulled the trigger, sending the bullet through her mouth and out the back of her head. I screamed in horror and fought pointlessly against my ropes. The guards, some of them splattered with brains and blood, stood frozen in shock. Several crossed themselves, not sure Sister Joan’s deity was as powerless as their leader insisted.

I watched as the generalissimo slowly realized what he had done. Sister Joan’s head flopped over – one of them anyway – and blood splashed freely onto the floor. I was crying.

But Sister Joan didn’t fall. She took one step to steady herself and reached with her left hand for the gun still clutched in her right. She brought it up slowly and fired one perfect shot between the generalissimo’s bulging eyes.

“Actually, General,” she said as he fell forward backward into his chair, “only one of us took vows.”

She turned the gun on the nearest guard. “You! Untie the boy. The rest of you put down your guns and get out.”

Afterwards was a blur. I used my former bindings to apply a tourniquet to Sister Joan’s neck and sent one of my brothers for the midwife to see what she could do. We buried the head of Sister Joan the day after the soldiers limped out of town after keeping their weapons, horses, and boots. We never saw them again. The remaining Sister Joan, looking awkward with only one head and a bandaged stump, gave a wonderful memorial service although, as I recall, it was a bit more colorful than we were used to.


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