TSoA: Chapter 24: Second Choice
Having been rudely rebuffed by Good Christian Murphy, Shane Barrington seeks out Paul Wallach. Paul, you may remember, was injured in the church bombing in Babylon Rising. Not, mind you, that Shari (who invited him to church in the first place!) or Murphy ever seemed to give a damn. Indeed, Shari took a page from Levi Abrams’ book, literally punching Paul where she knew it would hurt him most.
Paul is entirely alone in the world. His mother abandoned him, his jerk of a father is dead, and he has no brothers or sisters, and apparently, no other relatives or friends. So it did seem like a real miracle to him when Shane Barrington swooped down and offered him a scholarship from Barrington Communications, allegedly because Shane wanted to help a kid who reminded him of his recently-murdered son, but really so he could worm his way ever closer to Michael Murphy.
And now Shane is going to double-down on Paul, since he failed at his mission to get Murphy to come and work for him. He finds Paul in the library, strikes up a friendly “just checking up” conversation, and offers him a job at Barrington Communications when he graduates. But there’s a condition: Shane wants to monitor Paul’s writing skills, so asks Paul to do weekly write-ups on what he learns in Murphy’s class. (He’ll even pay Paul for his time, in addition to the money he is getting from the scholarship!)
This is a pretty shrewd move on Shane’s part, and will probably go a ways in making The Seven (They’ll stop at nothing! Not even offering people incredibly lucrative jobs!) a bit less angry about the whole Murphy thing.
Still, I doubt Paul’s class notes will be particularly enlightening:
JESUS WILL COME BACK AND KILL ALL OUR ASSES
SHARI IS LOOKING REALLY CUTE TODAY. TOO BAD THAT HOLDING HANDS IS AGAINST HER RELIGION
GOD WILL SMITE US
DNA IS A SATANIC CONSPIRACY
Shane closes by telling Paul that he thinks of him “as a son,” and even inviting to fly him up to New York so they can go to The Phantom of the Opera together.
Well, except for the part about Shari, who has been watching from afar and, when Shane heads off, badgers Paul about stuff that is none of her gorram business:
“What did he want? Did he come here just to see you?”
Paul had intended to steer the conversation in another direction, but Shari’s tone was getting under his skin.
Gee, I can’t imagine why.
“Why shouldn’t he? He takes an interest in my work, that’s all.”
“Why should the head of Barrington Communications be interested in your work? You’re a student, Paul, not a world-famous professor.”
Wow. Now there’s an interesting topic-change, Shari. Jesus, why don’t you just marry the guy? Murph’s single now, yanno.
Paul felt himself going red. “Oh, that’s right. I don’t have crazy ideas about proving that fairy stories in the Bible really happened. Not like world-famous Professor Murphy.”
Paul, you magnificent bastard!
(I’ll add that I have my own doubts about Murphy being world-famous. A few cable specials do not necessarily qualify someone as world-famous. And yeah, there was that whole golden head thing from the first book, but Murphy found it under very dubious circumstances, and it hasn’t even been mentioned once since.)
Of course, Shari is offended by the “fairy stories” remark, but immediately switches gears back Shane. (Maybe she realizes that bringing up Murphy was a bad move, one just a leeetle too close to home.) Instead, she brings up Murphy’s point about Shane’s network’s shows being “trash.”
“You don’t even watch TV,” Paul countered. “Maybe if you took your nose out of your Bible once in a while, you’d get a different perspective on things.”
Paul, you ROCK.
Also, WHY ARE THESE TWO EVEN TOGETHER??? (And I use “together” in a very loose sense, since we know that their dates only involve Shari’s attempts to convert Paul. So, we know why she’s “with” him, but not why he’s with her.)
And due to the Phantom invitation, Paul bows out of their Bible study group “date” (OMG hawt!).
Okay, Paul is my new hero. Too bad he’s currently hellbound.
Way more fun than a Bible study group.