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Bargain thriller alert! Last chance to download The Ticktock Murders by John D. Garrison for just 99 cents!

Last call for KND Free Thriller excerpt:

The Ticktock Murders (Detective Becka Black)

by John D. Garrison

The Ticktock Murders (Detective Becka Black)
Or FREE with Learn More
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Becka Black is a burned out police detective trying to escape from her past. She is tired of murder and chasing killers. All she wants to do is settle down in a small town in an easy job, solve the occasional robbery, and go home at the end of the day with a smile on her face.
But life has chosen otherwise for Detective Black. She has just arrived in town, and she is already in trouble. She has suddenly been thrust into the pursuit of a serial killer with her job on the line.
Ticktock is a serial murderer that has swept across the United States like a lethal plague. No one has been able to catch her. Ticktock’s trademark signature is a clock drawing at the scene of her murders, showing the exact time of death.
Now that killer is in her town and time is running out. Ticktock kills multiple times and disappears. If Becka doesn’t catch Ticktock by her last murder, Becka will lose Ticktock forever along with her job and possibly the love of her life.

And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:

Alex Smith woke up with a scream on her lips, not quite realizing the scream she heard was her own. As sleep fell from her eyes and she came more fully awake, she stopped screaming, took a deep breath, and rolled over to her side, breathing heavily. Always the nightmares, the screams, she thought. Would she ever have a night of peace?

Knowing that sleep was now impossible, she swung her long, shapely legs over the side of her bed and sat there quietly for a moment. She brushed a strand of blond hair away from her tan brow and glanced at the Sig Sauer .45 caliber automatic pistol on the night stand by her bed. Her hand reached for the pistol. As she caressed the dark rosewood handle and cool gray metal barrel of the gun, calm returned to her. She felt safe and secure with the pistol in her hand.

She rose from her bedside, grabbed a heavy cotton robe from a nearby chair, and wrapped her lithe, muscular form in the soft terrycloth, shoving the pistol into the pocket of her white robe. She walked slowly toward the sliding glass doors of her bedroom, enjoying the soft feel of the thick carpet under her bare feet. She enjoyed living in luxurious, expensive apartments. She had always liked the finer things of life and, being rich, she could afford them.

She unlatched the glass doors and slid one of them back, stepping out onto the balcony of her fifth story apartment. The October night breezes were cool and refreshing. The bay below was a dark undulating mass of water in the night. A low half-moon hung over the bay, and she could see some faint lights in the distance on the far shore. She glanced back at the clock radio on the night table. Its large red numbers showed 3:15 in the morning.

Soon, very soon, she would have her long awaited revenge. A smile lit her lips as she anticipated the joy of finally facing her tormentors. She had been preparing for this moment for a long time. All of the other murders up to now had been merely a prelude to what she would do now.

Alex took a deep, cool breath and held it for a moment, then slowly released it. It was good to be home, at last. Here where everything had begun so long ago at Serenity Sanitarium.

She still remembered the tall white columns that lined the front entrance to the sanitarium and the smiling gray-haired men in the white coats. They all seemed so friendly, so reassuring, when she had first checked into the sanitarium. She had been a shattered, depressed young girl trying to recover from the deaths of both her parents. But it had all been a charade for the terror to follow.

Alex had discovered the truth quickly enough after they strapped her onto a stainless steel gurney and sent thousands of volts through her. She screamed then, screamed for mercy until her throat burned and the pain drove her down into darkness. But the doctors never listened, only smiled at her and told her the treatment was necessary for her to get better.

She remembered the mind numbing drugs that followed and turned her into a drooling idiot. For months she didn’t even know who she was or where she was–lost in a deep drug haze. It was like being dead.

Then one night, the nursing attendant was in a hurry and the pills had fallen from Alex’s hand onto the bed without the attendant noticing. Being afraid, she didn’t say anything, just drank the glass of water that always came with the pills. When the attendant turned back all she noticed was the water had been drunk. The attendant had patted her head like she was some good little girl and left.

There had been no plan to avoid the drugs, just an accident. By this time, after long months of drugs and electroshock, she had been reduced to a mindless animal that only reacted to fear and pain. She hadn’t told the attendant that the pills had fallen onto her bed for fear of being punished.

By the next morning, the mental fog of months had begun to lift. By that afternoon, her mind was working, and she realized with horror that she was in a mental institution, and she had been here for some time. The next evening, when more pills were given to her to swallow, she had purposely pretended to take them, later spitting them out after the attendant left.

With the drugs no longer affecting her mind, a plan begin to form in her brain. She would escape this place of torture and pain. They wouldn’t expect it as long as she pretended to be in a drugged out stupor.

The next morning the attendant took her to the electroshock room. She began to panic even before she was fully in the room, twisting and turning, trying to escape her restraints. She didn’t understand why, but something deep within her did.

She understood all too well a minute later when the intense voltage sent her into convulsions of intense pain. She screamed then, pleaded for them to stop, not caring if they discovered she was faking taking the drugs.

But they didn’t stop, and took no notice of her screams. Apparently, her screams and pleadings were normal. She just didn’t remember them. This was the first time she was mentally fully aware of what was happening.

Later, when they dumped her, quivering like some spastic jelly fish onto her bed, she realized that most of her past memories were gone. She could remember her name, a mental image of her parents, but that was all. Her mind was almost a total blank.

Intense fear swept over her then. She had lost herself, who she was. It would take months after she escaped to piece back together her past life, to realize she was a teenager from a wealthy family and the only survivor of a terrible automobile accident.

It took years and a very good lawyer to regain control of her life and her family’s fortune. But she did it, then changed her name, removing all traces of her past, and then left Bayview; she thought forever.

But years later, while serving as a cop, the rage attacks began. She had been drawn to the police as a career. The violence and action had attracted her. Then a sudden confrontation with a particularly violent criminal triggered something inside of her. She killed the criminal without a moment’s thought.

Tremendous waves of anger and rage had erupted within her, causing her to temporarily lose control of herself. After the rage subsided, she had stood over the criminal’s body a long time, trying to figure out what had just happened to her.

Later, the rage attacks surfaced again. She would destroy anything within reach, screaming and shouting obscenities. For years afterward, when she felt those symptoms coming on, she would hide herself in her apartment or a nearby hotel room until the rage attacks passed. Slowly, she came to understand why she felt these rage attacks.

There was a deep abiding anger inside of her, a rage that knew no consolation. At first, she didn’t understand, but then as she studied her past, she found the source of that rage. It was the men in that sanitarium that had tortured her.

Anger and rage that she thought had disappeared had only bored deeper within her, working their poison through all the following years as she tried to establish a normal life for herself. Then they rose to the surface once more.

Slowly, over time, the rage had developed into an irresistible compulsion to kill. Her targets were always doctors, usually psychiatrist and any doctor involved with mental health. The hatred and rage would build over weeks and months until she felt that she would explode if those intense emotions were not released. Killing released them.

Her compulsions drove her to kill any psychiatrist she could find and if none were nearby, then any doctor would do. She bathed in the intense gratification and release of the rage that was constantly with her when she killed.

The newspapers had nicknamed her Ticktock because she always left a silver plated pocket watch beside her victims, showing the exact time of their deaths. It was her signature so that everyone would know who killed them.

She continued to kill over the years, developing her technique and preparing herself to return to Bayview to kill those psychiatrist she both feared and hated–the doctors at Serenity Sanitarium. She had dreaded coming back here, facing the pain and agony of her past, but it was only here that she felt there might at last be a chance to obtain some measure of peace.

Her knuckles turned white as she tightly gripped the iron railing that enclosed the balcony, remembering the pain and suffering she had endured in that sanitarium. Now she would face her torturers and kill them. No matter the cost, even her own death. No price was too much. She took a long, deep breath of cool air, letting the pain of past memories flow away from her for a moment.

She glanced at the darkness that surrounded her. Alex loved the night; the darkness was soothing and somehow comforting. The stars glittering in the vast dark vault of heaven above her were her friends.

She reached into the right pocket of her robe and softly caressed the cold metal of her pistol. Alex smiled as she thought of what was to come. All the years of killing, of drifting from city to city, had led to this moment and this place. At last she would be free of the rage and anger that drove her, free of the nightmares and terrors that lay in wait for her every night. She would live again.

She placed both hands on the iron railing of the balcony. The cold metal of the iron felt good against her skin. It wasn’t freezing, not yet. It was still early fall and the weather was mild in the south. She watched a fishing boat with its lights blazing heading out to sea for some night fishing. The bay was lovely this time of night, calming and restful as the dark waves ran to shore.

She frowned a moment as troubling thoughts pushed to the surface of her mind, struggling to get free. A part of her, buried deep within, knew that she was mentally unbalanced, out of control. There were brief moments when sanity came close to the surface of her mind, when she realized the terrible things she had done, knew that going from city to city killing was a maniacal, pointless exercise in terror. But then the rage and thirst for revenge that constantly hung over her mind like a large, dark cloud would come storming back, drowning out everything but that single purpose of revenge.

Then there was the lone survivor with the face of a saint that had forgiven her for what she was about to do–murder him. She had wanted to kill him, tried to kill him, but something deep down inside of her wouldn’t let her. Her finger had frozen into immobility on the trigger.

He had talked to her of forgiveness and cleansing of her soul. Alex told him that she didn’t believe in God and didn’t have a soul, but he continued to talk about heaven and hell, about repentance, and that everyone, even her, had a soul. Finally, in disgust, she had walked away from him. The only doctor to escape her vengeance.

Later, after walking for hours, she thought about going back and finishing the job, but she knew that she couldn’t face him again. He had looked too deeply inside of her, made her question herself, what she was doing, made her afraid. She continued to walk long into the night, turning his words over in her mind, wondering how true they were. If she had a soul, if there was some sort of accountability for what she had done, if there was a hell–she shuddered and shut all of those thoughts out. She couldn’t think about that, not now; she had work to do.

She would have her revenge even if she burned in hell for it.

 

Chapter 2

 

Detective Becka Black stood in the middle of the back room of a small, rundown house, surveying the cluttered piles of stolen property from dozens of homes and businesses. The burglary ring had been busy over the past month. Now, early on a Monday morning, she had finally broken the case and the perpetrators were on their way to jail.

The sunlight shining through a single, cracked window pane lit up the room and highlighted Becka’s short, vibrant red hair which framed an attractive but lean face. Detective Becka Black was a tall, athletic-looking woman, standing six feet tall, wearing a black leather jacket zippered half-way up over a pale pink cotton turtleneck blouse with the sides of the blouse neatly tucked into the sides of her beige pants.

She looked more like a model than a detective, but she was stronger and tougher than she looked which had surprised more than one suspect who thought they could overpower her. She was an independent, strong-willed woman that liked to think that she could handle any situation that confronted her. As a detective, those traits had allowed her to excel in her profession.

The morning sun was bright and warm for an October morning. Her green eyes swept the surrounding room again, shaking her head slowly. It had taken her too long to break this case.

Her reputation had been tarnished as a result; the mayor and the city council had unrealistic expectations of what she could do. She wasn’t some kind of superwoman; she was just a detective doing the best job she could to solve a case.

She also knew the limitations of her current job. She no longer had the resources or talents of a big city police department, but somehow they didn’t understand that in Bayview with the exception of the Chief. You had to be a cop to understand how hard this case had been.

Becka sighed heavily. She had been the only detective working the case; she was lucky to break the case at all, but her boss, Chief Williams, was the only one who really understood her dilemma, but then he was part of the problem. She gathered that in order to convince the city council to hire her, he had oversold her abilities and talents. The mayor and city council expected wonder woman to show up, not a plain ordinary detective.

There had been tremendous pressure on the Chief over the last month, but he had stood up under the pressure well, and she admired him for that kind of courage. There had even been talk of firing her. She had been here only a few months and was still on probation. To the Chief’s credit, he had backed her and gave her the time she needed to solve a difficult case.

She gathered that Bayview wasn’t use to any real crime, other than the occasional theft or break-in. This burglary ring had been a real shock to the citizens of Bayview and made them feel vulnerable and unsafe.

She knew from past experience those ugly feelings would fade with time unless something else happened. She fervently hoped nothing did. She had come to this small town hoping for a quiet, uneventful career as a small town detective. No more rampant street crimes and multiple murders for her. She was through with that violent life style.

Becka had always considered herself a good detective, a cut above the rest and taken pride in her abilities, as proved by her past citations. She had a talent for breaking open cases. It was her other attributes that got her into trouble.

“Good job, Detective. If I was still counting on the county detectives, these perps would still be free.”

“That’s why you hired me,” Becka replied, shifting her green eyes to meet her Chief’s gaze, forcing herself to smile. He had just walked into the room. She hadn’t expected him to show up.

“Absolutely correct. For a small town like Bayview to snag an experienced, big city detective like you was a major coup for us.”

“Sorry, this case took so long to break. These guys were part of a bigger ring that stretched back over a major part of the state. That made it harder to crack.”

“But you did; that’s what counts. You have been here only a short time, and you have already made a significant contribution. I just stopped by to see the wrap-up and let you know how pleased I am.”

“Thanks,” Becka said, pausing a moment, before adding, “I don’t think the city council was impressed. They still holding out for a guy?”

Becka knew that the council had wanted a male detective and had held up her selection for several months demanding that the Chief produce one. The Chief had finally convinced them that she was the best available for the small salary the city had offered.

The Chief smiled. “The council has unrealistic expectations as we have previously discussed. I know this last month hasn’t been easy for you–working a difficult case and worrying about being fired, but you have proven yourself now. I think you will find things will get better. We rarely get anything like this burglary ring in this town. So relax and bask in your victory. I think you will find this is a nice town to work in.” He turned and walked out, stopping to chat with several of the other police officers outside.

A few minutes later, in the living room of the dilapidated old house, she met Sergeant Timothy James. He assisted her on occasion, a sort of part-time investigator that the Chief had assigned to her. She was the department’s only full time investigator, and she wasn’t likely to get any full time help any time soon. And that was okay. This was a chance for her, a badly needed chance.

“See the Chief?” Becka asked Sergeant James.

“On the way out. He was all smiles. I guess the city council will get off his back about you now.”

“Let’s hope so.”

“Well, the Chief won this round.”

“They still aren’t satisfied, are they?” Becka said, knowing the answer already to her question.

Sergeant James shook his head. “There are some stubborn people on the council. And of course, they all have their own agenda.”

“I never suspected the in-fighting could get so intense about me. Perhaps I was just naive. I suppose the council is still looking for any excuse to bounce me out of this job.”

“Pretty much. They thought they had it with this rash of burglaries, but you came through. The pressure should ease off, at least for a while.” James paused a moment, then added, “These things take time, Detective. They will eventually accept you. The Chief is a good man to have in your corner.”

“I appreciate the candor. You are probably the closest thing to a friend I’ve got right now.”

James smiled and said, “I’ll be there to back you up whenever you need it. I promised the Chief. Besides, I have a good feeling about you. I have over twenty-nine years on the force, and I have learned to trust my instincts.” He glanced at several officers heading toward the back room. “I’d better help the other officers finish the inventory of the evidence. You heading back to the office?”

She nodded. “I have a mountain of paperwork to finish up.”

As she stepped outside, she paused on a small porch and watched as Jack Rand, the town’s local crime reporter, drove up in that old battered blue Jeep of his and parked. He had a nose for news. She was not surprised to see him here so soon.

A small smile parted her lips as Jack got out of the Jeep and walked toward her. His sandy-colored hair and tall, lean six-foot-two-inch frame made her heart skip a beat. He was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a dark blue sport coat with an open-collar white shirt; she had never seen him dressed up in a real suit and tie. He always wore casual clothes which only accented his rugged good looks.

She watched him approach with that dimpled smile and those light gray eyes fixed on her. Damn, but he looked good this morning.

Becka felt a strong attraction to Jack, but so far their relationship had been casual: friendly dates and light chatter. He hadn’t even tried to kiss her yet; she wondered about that. Did he not find her attractive?

“Finally nailed the burglars, huh?” Jack grinned as he stepped up on the porch. “I knew you would.”

“You were one of the few. I gather the city council was about ready to send me packing.”

“Those stuffed shirts are always hard on new hires. They are set in their ways and hard to win over. Don’t worry, they aren’t dumb. Eventually, they will see what a great cop you are.”

“Detective, not cop,” she corrected him. “That seems to be Sergeant James opinion as well.”

“I always thought James was smart,” Jack grinned.

“It’s just…I hate feeling like I am walking around on eggshells with everyone waiting for me to mess up so they can fire me.”

“Yeah, I sort of felt like that when I first went to work for the Progressive Times. No one really knew me, knew what I could do, and I felt like there were others in line behind me waiting for me to stumble. Not a nice feeling. But it worked out for me, and it will for you too.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” She glanced back inside and then said, “Sergeant James is inside taking an inventory of the stolen property. We arrested three suspects. They have already been taken to the police station to be booked. I will be interviewing them later. That’s about it for now. I’m heading back to make out the official police report. I’ll send you a copy of my report when I’m done.”

“I appreciate that,” he said, glancing at his pocket watch, which he then put back into his pocket. “I’ve got a close deadline. I’ll check inside, take a few pictures, and talk to Sergeant James, if that’s okay.”

Becka nodded, then she moved closer, touching his arm. “See you tonight?”

“Sure, Bayside Seafood okay? It’s close, and I have a craving for seafood.”

“You always have a craving for seafood.”

He shrugged with that cute helpless expression of his and walked inside the house. She sighed once and headed for her car. She hated seafood.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Doctor Julian Tate, noted psychiatrist and currently employed at Serenity Sanitarium, stood in his barn piling hay for his horses into a neat pile in one corner of his barn. He was a tall, thin man with a small gray goatee perched on a narrow chin, wearing denim coveralls.

It was early Monday morning, and he was trying to finish his morning chores before going into work when he heard a car drive up. He didn’t bother to check who had come visiting. Whoever it was would find him soon enough. He had to get this hay taken care of first.

After a few minutes, he heard the barn door creak and turned to see a tall, lean blond in a gray pants suit standing in the doorway, her long hair falling to her shoulders. He didn’t recognize her, yet there was something oddly familiar about her, especially when she moved. The way she moved, the tilt of her head, stirred a memory he couldn’t quite place.

“May I help you?” Dr. Tate asked, puzzled by the appearance of this stranger so early in the morning. He stopped pitching hay into the corner of his barn and turned to face her, sticking his pitch fork into the soft earth.

Alex smiled. It was a hard, angry smile. Then, with her right hand in her coat pocket, she walked farther into the barn, stopping only a few yards from Tate.

“Have you forgotten me? You use to tell me I was your star patient, that I would make you famous.”

“I don’t…”

“Perhaps my old name would help. You knew me as Mary, a frail, shattered sixteen year old girl trying to get over the death of her parents.”

“Mary Carson, of course, I thought there was something familiar about you. You know, I devoted an entire chapter to you in one of my books.”

“I’m glad you found me so useful,” she sarcastically replied. Her frozen, grim smile never changing.

“When you escaped, I was very disappointed. I was really only beginning with you. There is so much we could have done together.” There was a wistful smile on his face as he remembered. “You would have proved so many of my theories.”

“Despite the pain of your patient? I remember as well doctor. I remember the thousands of volts pouring through my body, the agonizing convulsions, and the screams, the terrible screams. Do you realize the hell you put me through?”

“I know it was difficult, but it was for your own good. It was the only treatment that seemed to work. You were in a severe dissociative state when they brought you to the sanitarium. There were days when you completely shut down, refused to acknowledge any external stimuli. Nothing seemed to work. Electroshock treatment was our only recourse, and it worked. Surely, you see that?”

“All I remember is a young girl screaming for you to stop, to let her go. You tortured me for two years. And you killed.”

Doctor Tate frowned at that remark. He was beginning to be a little afraid. The woman was obviously full of anger and resentment. She could be dangerous.

“Who are you referring to?” he finally asked.

“Don’t tell me you have already forgotten Jenny, sweet Jenny. She died on the table of your torture machine.”

Dr. Tate inhaled sharply. He had forgotten about the young dark-haired woman with a weak heart. Of course, they hadn’t known about the weak heart then. Only when she died under the electroshock treatment did they discover that Jenny Wool had a history of heart trouble.

“That was an unfortunate accident. The entire sanitarium was sorry about that.”

“You weren’t all that sorry, not enough to stop, were you? You went right on with your treatments.” The accusation was sharp and angry. The smile gone from her face.

“We stopped electroshock treatments,” Tate said, nervousness showing in his voice and face.

“But not immediately, no you continued your torture on me until I escaped.”

Tate had been a psychiatrist long enough to know that he was in danger. He needed help. He removed his cell phone from his pocket to make a 911 call, and then saw the automatic in her hand pointing directly at him.

“Drop the phone, doctor.”

Wetting his lips nervously, he let the small cell phone slide off his outstretched fingers. He knew now that she had come to kill him. In his best professional manner and voice, he forced himself to smile.

“Don’t do anything drastic, Mary.”

“My name is no longer Mary. That woman died a long time ago. My name is Alex now.”

“Alex, I can help you. We can talk this out. ”

She shook her head and then smiled. It was a cold, vengeful smile. “No one can ever talk this out.”

He drew himself up straight, full of pride and defiance. “I have helped many people in my lifetime, restored them to a useful role in society.”

“You have destroyed a lot of lives, including mine. I was fortunate enough to finally escape or who knows what would have happened to me. I could have become another one of those mindless vegetables you keep locked up in the off-limits area of the sanitarium.”

He raised his eyebrows slightly. “You know about those? No one is supposed to know about them.” He paused a moment, frowning with his eyebrows drawn close together and thinking hard. “Many of those patients came to the sanitarium like that. There was nothing we could do for them except house them and take care of them. They were incurable.”

Alex took two steps closer, her knuckles white on the handle of her pistol. “How many of them were your electroshock patients?”

Doctor Tate backed up. His eyes nervously darted from side to side. “A few, only a few, but I couldn’t help them.”

“More than a few. You cover up your failures well, Doctor.”

He suddenly took a step forward and tried to smile, failing. He had to reach this woman, somehow divert her from murdering him.

“We can straighten this all out. No one needs to die.”

“Yes, they do,” Alex said as she squeezed the trigger, putting a bullet right between Tate’s eyes. He fell back in sudden shock, hitting the ground hard, face up, his eyes already glazing over.

“You won’t terrorize anyone else now,” Alex said, tears of relief and satisfaction streaming down her face.

At last, she had confronted her monster and banished him. She had dreaded this confrontation and been eager for it at the same time. She had been afraid of Tate for a long time. She was free of him at last.

Click on the title below to download the entire book and keep reading

The Ticktock Murders

A serial murderer has swept across the United States like a lethal plague…
Is Detective Becka Black up for the challenge? Free sample of The Ticktock Murders by John D. Garrison

On Friday we announced that The Ticktock Murders (Detective Becka Black) by John D. Garrison is our Thriller of the Week and the sponsor of thousands of great bargains in the thriller, mystery, and suspense categories: over 200 free titles, over 600 quality 99-centers, and thousands more that you can read for free through the Kindle Lending Library if you have Amazon Prime!

Now we’re back to offer our weekly free Thriller excerpt:

The Ticktock Murders (Detective Becka Black)

by John D. Garrison

The Ticktock Murders (Detective Becka Black)
Or FREE with Learn More
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Becka Black is a burned out police detective trying to escape from her past. She is tired of murder and chasing killers. All she wants to do is settle down in a small town in an easy job, solve the occasional robbery, and go home at the end of the day with a smile on her face.
But life has chosen otherwise for Detective Black. She has just arrived in town, and she is already in trouble. She has suddenly been thrust into the pursuit of a serial killer with her job on the line.
Ticktock is a serial murderer that has swept across the United States like a lethal plague. No one has been able to catch her. Ticktock’s trademark signature is a clock drawing at the scene of her murders, showing the exact time of death.
Now that killer is in her town and time is running out. Ticktock kills multiple times and disappears. If Becka doesn’t catch Ticktock by her last murder, Becka will lose Ticktock forever along with her job and possibly the love of her life.

And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:

Alex Smith woke up with a scream on her lips, not quite realizing the scream she heard was her own. As sleep fell from her eyes and she came more fully awake, she stopped screaming, took a deep breath, and rolled over to her side, breathing heavily. Always the nightmares, the screams, she thought. Would she ever have a night of peace?

Knowing that sleep was now impossible, she swung her long, shapely legs over the side of her bed and sat there quietly for a moment. She brushed a strand of blond hair away from her tan brow and glanced at the Sig Sauer .45 caliber automatic pistol on the night stand by her bed. Her hand reached for the pistol. As she caressed the dark rosewood handle and cool gray metal barrel of the gun, calm returned to her. She felt safe and secure with the pistol in her hand.

She rose from her bedside, grabbed a heavy cotton robe from a nearby chair, and wrapped her lithe, muscular form in the soft terrycloth, shoving the pistol into the pocket of her white robe. She walked slowly toward the sliding glass doors of her bedroom, enjoying the soft feel of the thick carpet under her bare feet. She enjoyed living in luxurious, expensive apartments. She had always liked the finer things of life and, being rich, she could afford them.

She unlatched the glass doors and slid one of them back, stepping out onto the balcony of her fifth story apartment. The October night breezes were cool and refreshing. The bay below was a dark undulating mass of water in the night. A low half-moon hung over the bay, and she could see some faint lights in the distance on the far shore. She glanced back at the clock radio on the night table. Its large red numbers showed 3:15 in the morning.

Soon, very soon, she would have her long awaited revenge. A smile lit her lips as she anticipated the joy of finally facing her tormentors. She had been preparing for this moment for a long time. All of the other murders up to now had been merely a prelude to what she would do now.

Alex took a deep, cool breath and held it for a moment, then slowly released it. It was good to be home, at last. Here where everything had begun so long ago at Serenity Sanitarium.

She still remembered the tall white columns that lined the front entrance to the sanitarium and the smiling gray-haired men in the white coats. They all seemed so friendly, so reassuring, when she had first checked into the sanitarium. She had been a shattered, depressed young girl trying to recover from the deaths of both her parents. But it had all been a charade for the terror to follow.

Alex had discovered the truth quickly enough after they strapped her onto a stainless steel gurney and sent thousands of volts through her. She screamed then, screamed for mercy until her throat burned and the pain drove her down into darkness. But the doctors never listened, only smiled at her and told her the treatment was necessary for her to get better.

She remembered the mind numbing drugs that followed and turned her into a drooling idiot. For months she didn’t even know who she was or where she was–lost in a deep drug haze. It was like being dead.

Then one night, the nursing attendant was in a hurry and the pills had fallen from Alex’s hand onto the bed without the attendant noticing. Being afraid, she didn’t say anything, just drank the glass of water that always came with the pills. When the attendant turned back all she noticed was the water had been drunk. The attendant had patted her head like she was some good little girl and left.

There had been no plan to avoid the drugs, just an accident. By this time, after long months of drugs and electroshock, she had been reduced to a mindless animal that only reacted to fear and pain. She hadn’t told the attendant that the pills had fallen onto her bed for fear of being punished.

By the next morning, the mental fog of months had begun to lift. By that afternoon, her mind was working, and she realized with horror that she was in a mental institution, and she had been here for some time. The next evening, when more pills were given to her to swallow, she had purposely pretended to take them, later spitting them out after the attendant left.

With the drugs no longer affecting her mind, a plan begin to form in her brain. She would escape this place of torture and pain. They wouldn’t expect it as long as she pretended to be in a drugged out stupor.

The next morning the attendant took her to the electroshock room. She began to panic even before she was fully in the room, twisting and turning, trying to escape her restraints. She didn’t understand why, but something deep within her did.

She understood all too well a minute later when the intense voltage sent her into convulsions of intense pain. She screamed then, pleaded for them to stop, not caring if they discovered she was faking taking the drugs.

But they didn’t stop, and took no notice of her screams. Apparently, her screams and pleadings were normal. She just didn’t remember them. This was the first time she was mentally fully aware of what was happening.

Later, when they dumped her, quivering like some spastic jelly fish onto her bed, she realized that most of her past memories were gone. She could remember her name, a mental image of her parents, but that was all. Her mind was almost a total blank.

Intense fear swept over her then. She had lost herself, who she was. It would take months after she escaped to piece back together her past life, to realize she was a teenager from a wealthy family and the only survivor of a terrible automobile accident.

It took years and a very good lawyer to regain control of her life and her family’s fortune. But she did it, then changed her name, removing all traces of her past, and then left Bayview; she thought forever.

But years later, while serving as a cop, the rage attacks began. She had been drawn to the police as a career. The violence and action had attracted her. Then a sudden confrontation with a particularly violent criminal triggered something inside of her. She killed the criminal without a moment’s thought.

Tremendous waves of anger and rage had erupted within her, causing her to temporarily lose control of herself. After the rage subsided, she had stood over the criminal’s body a long time, trying to figure out what had just happened to her.

Later, the rage attacks surfaced again. She would destroy anything within reach, screaming and shouting obscenities. For years afterward, when she felt those symptoms coming on, she would hide herself in her apartment or a nearby hotel room until the rage attacks passed. Slowly, she came to understand why she felt these rage attacks.

There was a deep abiding anger inside of her, a rage that knew no consolation. At first, she didn’t understand, but then as she studied her past, she found the source of that rage. It was the men in that sanitarium that had tortured her.

Anger and rage that she thought had disappeared had only bored deeper within her, working their poison through all the following years as she tried to establish a normal life for herself. Then they rose to the surface once more.

Slowly, over time, the rage had developed into an irresistible compulsion to kill. Her targets were always doctors, usually psychiatrist and any doctor involved with mental health. The hatred and rage would build over weeks and months until she felt that she would explode if those intense emotions were not released. Killing released them.

Her compulsions drove her to kill any psychiatrist she could find and if none were nearby, then any doctor would do. She bathed in the intense gratification and release of the rage that was constantly with her when she killed.

The newspapers had nicknamed her Ticktock because she always left a silver plated pocket watch beside her victims, showing the exact time of their deaths. It was her signature so that everyone would know who killed them.

She continued to kill over the years, developing her technique and preparing herself to return to Bayview to kill those psychiatrist she both feared and hated–the doctors at Serenity Sanitarium. She had dreaded coming back here, facing the pain and agony of her past, but it was only here that she felt there might at last be a chance to obtain some measure of peace.

Her knuckles turned white as she tightly gripped the iron railing that enclosed the balcony, remembering the pain and suffering she had endured in that sanitarium. Now she would face her torturers and kill them. No matter the cost, even her own death. No price was too much. She took a long, deep breath of cool air, letting the pain of past memories flow away from her for a moment.

She glanced at the darkness that surrounded her. Alex loved the night; the darkness was soothing and somehow comforting. The stars glittering in the vast dark vault of heaven above her were her friends.

She reached into the right pocket of her robe and softly caressed the cold metal of her pistol. Alex smiled as she thought of what was to come. All the years of killing, of drifting from city to city, had led to this moment and this place. At last she would be free of the rage and anger that drove her, free of the nightmares and terrors that lay in wait for her every night. She would live again.

She placed both hands on the iron railing of the balcony. The cold metal of the iron felt good against her skin. It wasn’t freezing, not yet. It was still early fall and the weather was mild in the south. She watched a fishing boat with its lights blazing heading out to sea for some night fishing. The bay was lovely this time of night, calming and restful as the dark waves ran to shore.

She frowned a moment as troubling thoughts pushed to the surface of her mind, struggling to get free. A part of her, buried deep within, knew that she was mentally unbalanced, out of control. There were brief moments when sanity came close to the surface of her mind, when she realized the terrible things she had done, knew that going from city to city killing was a maniacal, pointless exercise in terror. But then the rage and thirst for revenge that constantly hung over her mind like a large, dark cloud would come storming back, drowning out everything but that single purpose of revenge.

Then there was the lone survivor with the face of a saint that had forgiven her for what she was about to do–murder him. She had wanted to kill him, tried to kill him, but something deep down inside of her wouldn’t let her. Her finger had frozen into immobility on the trigger.

He had talked to her of forgiveness and cleansing of her soul. Alex told him that she didn’t believe in God and didn’t have a soul, but he continued to talk about heaven and hell, about repentance, and that everyone, even her, had a soul. Finally, in disgust, she had walked away from him. The only doctor to escape her vengeance.

Later, after walking for hours, she thought about going back and finishing the job, but she knew that she couldn’t face him again. He had looked too deeply inside of her, made her question herself, what she was doing, made her afraid. She continued to walk long into the night, turning his words over in her mind, wondering how true they were. If she had a soul, if there was some sort of accountability for what she had done, if there was a hell–she shuddered and shut all of those thoughts out. She couldn’t think about that, not now; she had work to do.

She would have her revenge even if she burned in hell for it.

 

Chapter 2

 

Detective Becka Black stood in the middle of the back room of a small, rundown house, surveying the cluttered piles of stolen property from dozens of homes and businesses. The burglary ring had been busy over the past month. Now, early on a Monday morning, she had finally broken the case and the perpetrators were on their way to jail.

The sunlight shining through a single, cracked window pane lit up the room and highlighted Becka’s short, vibrant red hair which framed an attractive but lean face. Detective Becka Black was a tall, athletic-looking woman, standing six feet tall, wearing a black leather jacket zippered half-way up over a pale pink cotton turtleneck blouse with the sides of the blouse neatly tucked into the sides of her beige pants.

She looked more like a model than a detective, but she was stronger and tougher than she looked which had surprised more than one suspect who thought they could overpower her. She was an independent, strong-willed woman that liked to think that she could handle any situation that confronted her. As a detective, those traits had allowed her to excel in her profession.

The morning sun was bright and warm for an October morning. Her green eyes swept the surrounding room again, shaking her head slowly. It had taken her too long to break this case.

Her reputation had been tarnished as a result; the mayor and the city council had unrealistic expectations of what she could do. She wasn’t some kind of superwoman; she was just a detective doing the best job she could to solve a case.

She also knew the limitations of her current job. She no longer had the resources or talents of a big city police department, but somehow they didn’t understand that in Bayview with the exception of the Chief. You had to be a cop to understand how hard this case had been.

Becka sighed heavily. She had been the only detective working the case; she was lucky to break the case at all, but her boss, Chief Williams, was the only one who really understood her dilemma, but then he was part of the problem. She gathered that in order to convince the city council to hire her, he had oversold her abilities and talents. The mayor and city council expected wonder woman to show up, not a plain ordinary detective.

There had been tremendous pressure on the Chief over the last month, but he had stood up under the pressure well, and she admired him for that kind of courage. There had even been talk of firing her. She had been here only a few months and was still on probation. To the Chief’s credit, he had backed her and gave her the time she needed to solve a difficult case.

She gathered that Bayview wasn’t use to any real crime, other than the occasional theft or break-in. This burglary ring had been a real shock to the citizens of Bayview and made them feel vulnerable and unsafe.

She knew from past experience those ugly feelings would fade with time unless something else happened. She fervently hoped nothing did. She had come to this small town hoping for a quiet, uneventful career as a small town detective. No more rampant street crimes and multiple murders for her. She was through with that violent life style.

Becka had always considered herself a good detective, a cut above the rest and taken pride in her abilities, as proved by her past citations. She had a talent for breaking open cases. It was her other attributes that got her into trouble.

“Good job, Detective. If I was still counting on the county detectives, these perps would still be free.”

“That’s why you hired me,” Becka replied, shifting her green eyes to meet her Chief’s gaze, forcing herself to smile. He had just walked into the room. She hadn’t expected him to show up.

“Absolutely correct. For a small town like Bayview to snag an experienced, big city detective like you was a major coup for us.”

“Sorry, this case took so long to break. These guys were part of a bigger ring that stretched back over a major part of the state. That made it harder to crack.”

“But you did; that’s what counts. You have been here only a short time, and you have already made a significant contribution. I just stopped by to see the wrap-up and let you know how pleased I am.”

“Thanks,” Becka said, pausing a moment, before adding, “I don’t think the city council was impressed. They still holding out for a guy?”

Becka knew that the council had wanted a male detective and had held up her selection for several months demanding that the Chief produce one. The Chief had finally convinced them that she was the best available for the small salary the city had offered.

The Chief smiled. “The council has unrealistic expectations as we have previously discussed. I know this last month hasn’t been easy for you–working a difficult case and worrying about being fired, but you have proven yourself now. I think you will find things will get better. We rarely get anything like this burglary ring in this town. So relax and bask in your victory. I think you will find this is a nice town to work in.” He turned and walked out, stopping to chat with several of the other police officers outside.

A few minutes later, in the living room of the dilapidated old house, she met Sergeant Timothy James. He assisted her on occasion, a sort of part-time investigator that the Chief had assigned to her. She was the department’s only full time investigator, and she wasn’t likely to get any full time help any time soon. And that was okay. This was a chance for her, a badly needed chance.

“See the Chief?” Becka asked Sergeant James.

“On the way out. He was all smiles. I guess the city council will get off his back about you now.”

“Let’s hope so.”

“Well, the Chief won this round.”

“They still aren’t satisfied, are they?” Becka said, knowing the answer already to her question.

Sergeant James shook his head. “There are some stubborn people on the council. And of course, they all have their own agenda.”

“I never suspected the in-fighting could get so intense about me. Perhaps I was just naive. I suppose the council is still looking for any excuse to bounce me out of this job.”

“Pretty much. They thought they had it with this rash of burglaries, but you came through. The pressure should ease off, at least for a while.” James paused a moment, then added, “These things take time, Detective. They will eventually accept you. The Chief is a good man to have in your corner.”

“I appreciate the candor. You are probably the closest thing to a friend I’ve got right now.”

James smiled and said, “I’ll be there to back you up whenever you need it. I promised the Chief. Besides, I have a good feeling about you. I have over twenty-nine years on the force, and I have learned to trust my instincts.” He glanced at several officers heading toward the back room. “I’d better help the other officers finish the inventory of the evidence. You heading back to the office?”

She nodded. “I have a mountain of paperwork to finish up.”

As she stepped outside, she paused on a small porch and watched as Jack Rand, the town’s local crime reporter, drove up in that old battered blue Jeep of his and parked. He had a nose for news. She was not surprised to see him here so soon.

A small smile parted her lips as Jack got out of the Jeep and walked toward her. His sandy-colored hair and tall, lean six-foot-two-inch frame made her heart skip a beat. He was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a dark blue sport coat with an open-collar white shirt; she had never seen him dressed up in a real suit and tie. He always wore casual clothes which only accented his rugged good looks.

She watched him approach with that dimpled smile and those light gray eyes fixed on her. Damn, but he looked good this morning.

Becka felt a strong attraction to Jack, but so far their relationship had been casual: friendly dates and light chatter. He hadn’t even tried to kiss her yet; she wondered about that. Did he not find her attractive?

“Finally nailed the burglars, huh?” Jack grinned as he stepped up on the porch. “I knew you would.”

“You were one of the few. I gather the city council was about ready to send me packing.”

“Those stuffed shirts are always hard on new hires. They are set in their ways and hard to win over. Don’t worry, they aren’t dumb. Eventually, they will see what a great cop you are.”

“Detective, not cop,” she corrected him. “That seems to be Sergeant James opinion as well.”

“I always thought James was smart,” Jack grinned.

“It’s just…I hate feeling like I am walking around on eggshells with everyone waiting for me to mess up so they can fire me.”

“Yeah, I sort of felt like that when I first went to work for the Progressive Times. No one really knew me, knew what I could do, and I felt like there were others in line behind me waiting for me to stumble. Not a nice feeling. But it worked out for me, and it will for you too.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” She glanced back inside and then said, “Sergeant James is inside taking an inventory of the stolen property. We arrested three suspects. They have already been taken to the police station to be booked. I will be interviewing them later. That’s about it for now. I’m heading back to make out the official police report. I’ll send you a copy of my report when I’m done.”

“I appreciate that,” he said, glancing at his pocket watch, which he then put back into his pocket. “I’ve got a close deadline. I’ll check inside, take a few pictures, and talk to Sergeant James, if that’s okay.”

Becka nodded, then she moved closer, touching his arm. “See you tonight?”

“Sure, Bayside Seafood okay? It’s close, and I have a craving for seafood.”

“You always have a craving for seafood.”

He shrugged with that cute helpless expression of his and walked inside the house. She sighed once and headed for her car. She hated seafood.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

Doctor Julian Tate, noted psychiatrist and currently employed at Serenity Sanitarium, stood in his barn piling hay for his horses into a neat pile in one corner of his barn. He was a tall, thin man with a small gray goatee perched on a narrow chin, wearing denim coveralls.

It was early Monday morning, and he was trying to finish his morning chores before going into work when he heard a car drive up. He didn’t bother to check who had come visiting. Whoever it was would find him soon enough. He had to get this hay taken care of first.

After a few minutes, he heard the barn door creak and turned to see a tall, lean blond in a gray pants suit standing in the doorway, her long hair falling to her shoulders. He didn’t recognize her, yet there was something oddly familiar about her, especially when she moved. The way she moved, the tilt of her head, stirred a memory he couldn’t quite place.

“May I help you?” Dr. Tate asked, puzzled by the appearance of this stranger so early in the morning. He stopped pitching hay into the corner of his barn and turned to face her, sticking his pitch fork into the soft earth.

Alex smiled. It was a hard, angry smile. Then, with her right hand in her coat pocket, she walked farther into the barn, stopping only a few yards from Tate.

“Have you forgotten me? You use to tell me I was your star patient, that I would make you famous.”

“I don’t…”

“Perhaps my old name would help. You knew me as Mary, a frail, shattered sixteen year old girl trying to get over the death of her parents.”

“Mary Carson, of course, I thought there was something familiar about you. You know, I devoted an entire chapter to you in one of my books.”

“I’m glad you found me so useful,” she sarcastically replied. Her frozen, grim smile never changing.

“When you escaped, I was very disappointed. I was really only beginning with you. There is so much we could have done together.” There was a wistful smile on his face as he remembered. “You would have proved so many of my theories.”

“Despite the pain of your patient? I remember as well doctor. I remember the thousands of volts pouring through my body, the agonizing convulsions, and the screams, the terrible screams. Do you realize the hell you put me through?”

“I know it was difficult, but it was for your own good. It was the only treatment that seemed to work. You were in a severe dissociative state when they brought you to the sanitarium. There were days when you completely shut down, refused to acknowledge any external stimuli. Nothing seemed to work. Electroshock treatment was our only recourse, and it worked. Surely, you see that?”

“All I remember is a young girl screaming for you to stop, to let her go. You tortured me for two years. And you killed.”

Doctor Tate frowned at that remark. He was beginning to be a little afraid. The woman was obviously full of anger and resentment. She could be dangerous.

“Who are you referring to?” he finally asked.

“Don’t tell me you have already forgotten Jenny, sweet Jenny. She died on the table of your torture machine.”

Dr. Tate inhaled sharply. He had forgotten about the young dark-haired woman with a weak heart. Of course, they hadn’t known about the weak heart then. Only when she died under the electroshock treatment did they discover that Jenny Wool had a history of heart trouble.

“That was an unfortunate accident. The entire sanitarium was sorry about that.”

“You weren’t all that sorry, not enough to stop, were you? You went right on with your treatments.” The accusation was sharp and angry. The smile gone from her face.

“We stopped electroshock treatments,” Tate said, nervousness showing in his voice and face.

“But not immediately, no you continued your torture on me until I escaped.”

Tate had been a psychiatrist long enough to know that he was in danger. He needed help. He removed his cell phone from his pocket to make a 911 call, and then saw the automatic in her hand pointing directly at him.

“Drop the phone, doctor.”

Wetting his lips nervously, he let the small cell phone slide off his outstretched fingers. He knew now that she had come to kill him. In his best professional manner and voice, he forced himself to smile.

“Don’t do anything drastic, Mary.”

“My name is no longer Mary. That woman died a long time ago. My name is Alex now.”

“Alex, I can help you. We can talk this out. ”

She shook her head and then smiled. It was a cold, vengeful smile. “No one can ever talk this out.”

He drew himself up straight, full of pride and defiance. “I have helped many people in my lifetime, restored them to a useful role in society.”

“You have destroyed a lot of lives, including mine. I was fortunate enough to finally escape or who knows what would have happened to me. I could have become another one of those mindless vegetables you keep locked up in the off-limits area of the sanitarium.”

He raised his eyebrows slightly. “You know about those? No one is supposed to know about them.” He paused a moment, frowning with his eyebrows drawn close together and thinking hard. “Many of those patients came to the sanitarium like that. There was nothing we could do for them except house them and take care of them. They were incurable.”

Alex took two steps closer, her knuckles white on the handle of her pistol. “How many of them were your electroshock patients?”

Doctor Tate backed up. His eyes nervously darted from side to side. “A few, only a few, but I couldn’t help them.”

“More than a few. You cover up your failures well, Doctor.”

He suddenly took a step forward and tried to smile, failing. He had to reach this woman, somehow divert her from murdering him.

“We can straighten this all out. No one needs to die.”

“Yes, they do,” Alex said as she squeezed the trigger, putting a bullet right between Tate’s eyes. He fell back in sudden shock, hitting the ground hard, face up, his eyes already glazing over.

“You won’t terrorize anyone else now,” Alex said, tears of relief and satisfaction streaming down her face.

At last, she had confronted her monster and banished him. She had dreaded this confrontation and been eager for it at the same time. She had been afraid of Tate for a long time. She was free of him at last.

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The Ticktock Murders

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Meet Becka Black, a burned out police detective trying to escape from her past, but life has chosen otherwise….
The Ticktock Murders by John D. Garrison

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The Ticktock Murders (Detective Becka Black)

by John D. Garrison

The Ticktock Murders (Detective Becka Black)
Or FREE with Learn More
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled

Here’s the set-up:

Becka Black is a burned out police detective trying to escape from her past. She is tired of murder and chasing killers. All she wants to do is settle down in a small town in an easy job, solve the occasional robbery, and go home at the end of the day with a smile on her face.
But life has chosen otherwise for Detective Black. She has just arrived in town, and she is already in trouble. She has suddenly been thrust into the pursuit of a serial killer with her job on the line.
Ticktock is a serial murderer that has swept across the United States like a lethal plague. No one has been able to catch her. Ticktock’s trademark signature is a clock drawing at the scene of her murders, showing the exact time of death.
Now that killer is in her town and time is running out. Ticktock kills multiple times and disappears. If Becka doesn’t catch Ticktock by her last murder, Becka will lose Ticktock forever along with her job and possibly the love of her life.

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Love
Or currently FREE for Amazon Prime Members Via the Kindle Lending Library
Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:

Jack King is an ex-con unjustly convicted of killing his girlfriend, Kate, by a corrupt district attorney and a prejudiced jury. Now he is out of prison and looking for the real killer.

Kate’s sister, Georgia, is slowly beginning to believe that Jack is innocent, but she still has doubts. Jim Terrell is out to kill Jack because he believes Jack killed Kate. Nadine Sand is also attracted to Jack and is hiding from a terrible past. She hates Jack and all men, but Jack is stirring something new in her, something she hasn’t felt in a long time. Then there is Ann Banks, Jack’s old girlfriend who dumped him in high school for a better prospect, and now wants him back. If she can’t have him, no one will.

Looming over all of this is Kate’s killer. That killer has already tried to kill Jack once. Jack knows that killer will strike again, but he refuses to stop looking for Kate’s killer. Jack’s search for the real killer could be the death of him.
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an excerpt from

Love’s Revenge

by John D. Garrison

Copyright © 2014 by John D. Garrison and published here with his permission

Chapter 1

Kate stood in the entrance to his cabin, all smiles and very happy. Jack King watched her with happiness in his heart. They were going to be married soon. After years of dating, they would finally be married.

For some reason, Kate didn’t speak, just stood there, looking intently at him. Then the cabin suddenly grew dark, and she was gone.

Jack rushed toward the door where she had stood only moments before, but was too late. She was nowhere to be found. Sudden sadness overwhelmed him. He knew that she was gone forever. That was when he woke up.

Jack rubbed the sleep from his eyes and stood up from the chair he had fallen asleep in. Kate still haunted his dreams on occasion and would continue to do so until he caught her killer. She would have no rest nor would he.

Jack walked to his cabin door and opened it, looking out over the woods as the evening sun set. It was a peaceful evening. He could hear the tree locusts singing their evening lullaby. So much was changing in his life as he hunted for Kate’s killer.

Of course people in Gulfview still thought he had killed Kate, his girlfriend, in a fit of rage. He had been sent to prison for three years on manslaughter charges for that, then released recently on a technicality, but only a few believed in his innocence. To everyone else, he was an ex-con that should still be in prison.

He uttered a deep sigh of frustration as he stood on the cabin porch. Would he always be an ex-con? Would everyone always consider him a murderer? He had to clear his name somehow.

Jack was a handsome man in his middle twenties with coal black hair and green eyes. His lean six foot, one inch, frame was all hard muscle. He had pumped iron while he was in prison, developing lean abs and hard muscles. You had to be strong to survive in prison.

Jack walked back inside the cabin. He reached for a lamp to turn on a light as the darkness gathered inside his cabin. Just as his hand touched the lamp, the lamp exploded and Jack hit the floor as a rifle shot echoed from the woods. Someone had just tried to kill him.

He crawled to the gun cabinet and retrieved his father’s shotgun, quickly loading the long barrel gun. Then he crawled over to a corner of his cabin and stood up. The corner angled away from the main room of the cabin and gave him some protection from the cabin front door. He could not be seen from that doorway, which still hung open.

He waited. His would-be assassin had two choices: leave and assume he was dead or come find out for sure. Jack was betting on the latter option. There was absolute silence in the woods, even the tree locust had stopped singing.

As Jack stood huddled in the corner of the cabin with his shotgun pointed toward the cabin entrance, he wondered who was trying to kill him. There had been one attempt already on his life, but that assassin had used a pistol. This one was using a rifle which tended to make Jack think this was a different person.

He wiped the sweat from his brow as he waited. His heart continued to beat rapidly. That bullet had narrowly missed him. The assassin must have lined his shot up with the open door to his cabin and fired just as he reached for the lamp. The gathering shadows of the cabin had probably saved his life, obscuring the assassin’s target.

Jack heard someone stepping up on the cabin porch. Jack pulled the hammers back on both barrels of his shotgun. He saw the barrel of the rifle first as it was pushed through the cabin doorway, then a man followed, clutching the rife tightly as he stepped into the cabin. He stopped for a moment as his eyes swept the room, searching for Jack’s body. Then he moved into the room further, swinging his rifle away from Jack’s position as he searched for the body he felt sure must be there somewhere.

Jack stepped out from his hidden position and pointed his shotgun at the man’s back. He took a small breathe and said, “Freeze, I have a shotgun pointed at your back, and at this range, I can’t miss. Drop the rifle.”

The man had frozen instantly at Jack’s voice, hesitated, then started to turn. Jack couldn’t allow that.

“Drop the rifle now or I shoot.”

The man stopped turning, but still clutched his rifle. They both stood there in the darkness debating their next move. Jack couldn’t understand why the man hadn’t dropped his rifle.

“What’s wrong with you? Do you want to die?” Jack asked.

“I’m dead already,” the voice said.

Jack knew that voice. Jim Terrell was standing in his cabin. It all made a crazy sort of sense. Terrell believed that Jack had killed Kate just like everyone else in Gulfview. He had come seeking revenge.

“Dying isn’t going to help Kate, now drop your rifle,” Jack snapped.

Reluctantly, Terrell dropped his rifle on the floor of the cabin. He stood there in the gathering darkness with shoulders slumped–defeated.

“Now turn around,” Jack said.

Terrell turned around and stared at Jack with hatred burning in his eyes. Terrell had been seeing Jack’s girlfriend, Kate, before she died. Terrell was the reason that Jack had broken up with Kate. He was the last straw in her long line of infidelities. With a great deal of pain and soul searching, Jack had told Kate that it was over between them. The next day Kate was found dead by Jack who became the number one suspect and was eventually convicted of her death.

His conviction had been engineered by a crooked district attorney and a jury all too willing to believe Jack had killed Kate in a fit of anger. He had been convicted by that jury before the trial had even began.

Terrell continued to stare at Jack, then finally asked, “Now what?”

Jack turned on another lamp, flooding the room with light. He studied Terrell for a moment. Terrell was tall and well-built with curly black hair and brown eyes. His voice had a deep bass quality to it. He was a handsome man in his late twenties. Jack could see why Kate had been attracted to him.

“Now you go home.”

“You aren’t going to call the police?”

“No, I understand your pain. No one knows better than I how painful Kate’s death was to the people that loved her. That’s why I intend to find Kate’s killer. You would like to find out who really killed Kate, wouldn’t you?”

“You’re lying. You killed Kate,” Terrell said, anger in his voice.

“You can believe what you want, but consider this. What if I am telling the truth? What does it cost you to wait a little while to find out?”

Terrell stood there a moment, his brows knit together in intense concentration. With a tight, intense frown, he said, “I guess I can wait, but not for long. What about my rifle?”

“I’ll return it to you later, after you have had a little time to cool down.”

Terrell nodded slowly, then started moving toward the door of the cabin. He didn’t look back as he exited the cabin. Jack stood in the doorway and watched Terrell disappear into the woods. His vehicle was probably parked on the other side of the woods where the dirt road curved back toward the highway.

Jack picked the rifle up from the floor and walked to the gun cabinet in the back of the cabin. He placed both the rifle and his shotgun inside the gun cabinet. He closed the cabinet door and let out a deep, long sigh. He had come close to meeting his maker tonight. God help me survive and find Kate’s killer.

Chapter 2

Matt King was a handsome man with coal black hair and brown eyes. He had an athletic build and resembled his younger brother Jack, who he had always been jealous of. He was nearing thirty and had just had a severe setback in his career.

Matt looked up as his father, Lee King, strolled into his small office. Lee was in his early sixties with graying hair that had once been black, the same as his sons. He was a tall, broad shouldered man and still in good shape for a man of his age. He had an easy going personality that put people at ease, which made him a good CEO of the Starlight Corporation.

Once Matt had been a vice president of Starlight, but his father fired him when Matt tried to take over the company and force his father out. Because Matt was his son, Lee King gave him another chance and hired him as a marketing manager at half of the pay of his former position. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Matt.

But Matt was determined to work himself back into the good graces of his father by working hard and showing that he could be trusted. It was a difficult road to travel, starting from a zero trust position. Matt knew that it would take a lot for his father to trust him again.

“What can I do for you, Dad,” Matt asked as he stood up, somewhat nervous at this unexpected visit.

“Just wanted to see how you were doing, son. Please sat down,” Lee said as he sat down in a chair across from his son’s desk.

“I’m doing okay. I have a lot to learn in this position, but my boss is showing me the ropes.” Matt paused for a moment, then said, “Let me apologize again for what I did. I don’t know what came over me.”

“Blind ambition can be a terrible master. If you aren’t careful, you can hurt a lot of people trying to achieve your ambition. A man has to have integrity and honor to guide him, else he can become a ruthless individual, not caring who he hurts as long as he gets what he wants.”

“Sort of like I was. Something inside of me drove me, Dad. I felt I had to be the best at any cost. I shut everything else out. My wife tried to warn me, but I wouldn’t listen.”

“I’ve always liked Lidia. If I had a wife like that, I wouldn’t have made such a mess of things with my family. That’s partly why I am here, Matt. I have let us drift apart. I should have been closer to you and been a better father. I let my business and my blindness in regards to your mother interfere with my relationship with you. So, you see, what you did was partly my fault.”

“You mean that?” Matt said, hope on his face.

“I do. Why don’t we wipe the slate clean and start over. I was thinking about inviting you and Lidia to supper tonight if you are available.”

“That would be great.”

“Good, I look forward to that. There’s another matter that I want to discuss with you. You already know I am divorcing your mother, and you know part of the reason why. I would like to explain the rest of my reason.”

“Sure, Dad,” Matt replied hesitantly. Matt loved his mother and they had always been close. It was difficult to hear that his dad was divorcing his mother.

“When I was young, like all young men, I thought I was invincible and knew everything. When I met your mother, I fell in love with her quickly and was desperate to marry her. My father tried to counsel me about Helen, but I wouldn’t listen. He knew that she wasn’t the wife for me. He even suggested that I attend a church counseling session for people planning to be married. In my arrogance, I turned him down. There was nothing anyone could say or do to prevent me from marrying your mother.

“I was a fool, and it has cost me. My children were the true victims of my folly. I was prepared to do anything to keep Helen happy, overlook anything. Between her and building my business, you and your siblings were neglected. I apologize for that.”

“Dad, you don’t need to apologize.”

“But I do. I see now more clearly than I ever have before. I was married to a vain, self-centered woman who cared only for herself. Between her neglect and mine, it is a small miracle that my children turned out as well as they did. I want to make amends for that, starting with you. I don’t think I have ever said this enough, but I love you, son.”

“Is there any way that you and mom can get back together?” Matt asked hopefully.

“No son, there isn’t. I know you are close to your mother, and I am sorry it had to end this way. I’m not saying everything is your mother’s fault. I played a part in this too, but it is time to go our separate ways.”

“Whatever you decide, I will do my best to help you both. But right now, I just want a fresh start with you. I want to get to know my dad again.”

Matt rose from his chair and walked around his desk. His father rose from his chair and they hugged. Tears gathered in the corners of Matt’s eyes. He had found his father at last.

Chapter 3

It was late Monday morning and Jack sat at the kitchen table in his cabin, staring at three folders laying on the table. He took another sip of coffee and glanced at Glenda Logan, the Gulfview News reporter that was helping him search for Kate’s killer, and shook his head.

Glenda was a tall, thin woman with long black hair and brown eyes. She was energetic and outgoing, in her early thirties. She was a career woman and proud of it. No husband or family for her. She didn’t keep a boyfriend long either, particularly when they discovered that the relationship would never be anything but temporary.

Jack frowned as he looked at the folders. These were the only suspects they had been able to come up with in connection with Kate’s death. They had found nothing to place any of these suspects at Kate’s home at the time of her death. They needed more information.

“As for as I am concerned, Robert Trace is still at the top of the list. The way he lost his temper when I questioned him about Kate indicates a very volatile nature. He could have easily lost his temper with Kate and killed her.”

“What do we know about his movements on the day that Kate died?” Jack asked.

“Nothing so far. I will need to do some more digging,” Glenda said with a frown.

“What about these other two: Ben Grass and Roger Toth?”

“Neither of them seems to have had a connection with Kate, but both of them have a white four door sedan. The same kind of white four door sedan seen at Kate’s home before she was murdered.”

Jack leaned back in his chair with a deep look of concentration. Then he picked up Ben Grass’s folder. “I know this guy. We were in high school together. He is Ann Bank’s brother.”

“How well do you know him?”

“Met him a few times in high school, but I haven’t seen him since. Seemed like a nice enough kid back then.”

“So we keep digging,” Glenda said with some frustration.

“Yes, we need more background. I have a feeling I am missing something here that is important, but I can’t put my finger on it.”

“You want to follow up with Ben Grass since you know him?”

“I doubt that he will even remember me, but I can follow up with him and Robert Trace.”

“Be careful with Trace. He could be trouble.”

“Don’t worry, I know about trouble.”

“We may have to face an unpleasant fact. None of these suspects could be our killer,” Glenda said with a frown.

“Maybe, but I am not ready to admit that yet.”

“Okay, I will take Toth then. Maybe meet back in a few days and see where we are at?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Jack rose from the table and walked back into the living room, then out onto the porch and sat down in one of the wooden porch chairs. He sat there frowning as his glaze swept the surrounding woods. He wondered if they would ever find Kate’s killer or was he just on a wild goose chase?

“Penny for your thoughts,” Glenda said as she walked out onto the porch and stopped beside Jack. She flashed a pleasant smile, pushing back some of her long black hair that had fallen in her face. Her soft brown eyes studied the face of an unhappy man.

“You don’t won’t to know my thoughts. They are somewhat grim,” Jack said gloomily.

“Maybe it’s time to start thinking beyond this search for Kate’s killer. Whether you find the killer or not, you are going to have to go on with your life.”

“I’ve thought about that, but how I proceed with my life will depend on whether people still think I killed Kate. I don’t want to be known as the ex-con who got away with killing Kate, serving only a light sentence.”

“That’s a valid point. If you can’t find her killer, I would suggest you move to somewhere else where they don’t know you.”

Jack gave her a grim smile and picked up a newspaper off of the table by his chair. He handed it to her.

“I was reading that when you drove up. It’s one of the national papers. Seems like I have made the headlines. There isn’t anywhere I can go now that they won’t know who I am.”

Glenda read the article on Jack. A Bernard Jarman, running for the U.S. senate, had charged Mark King with corruption, using his influence to free a killer, Jack King. It was all there, a recap of the trial and the details about Kate’s death. She shook her head in disbelief. Jack was now national news.

“I’m sorry, Jack,” Glenda said.

“My uncle warned me that things might get ugly in his senate campaign. He was right. It’s more important than ever to find Kate’s killer. Not only my future, but my uncle’s future may be riding on the outcome of our search.”

Chapter 4

John Arrowsmith was six feet tall with light sandy hair and piercing blue eyes with a slight scar above his left eyebrow and dimples at the corners of his mouth when he smiled. His narrow face made him attractive, but not quite handsome. He had been a police detective once, but now was an associate pastor at Ocean Front Church, which was a rather dramatic change for him. He was still struggling with becoming a minister, but God had given him a special talent for healing and reaching troubled individuals.

Jack strolled into John Arrowsmith’s small church office with a smile. Arrowsmith walked out from behind his desk and shook hands with Jack. Then pointed to a nearby leather couch.

When Jack first met Arrowsmith, he was working at the church mission on Southside, serving food to the homeless and hungry. When Arrowsmith began preaching to those poor souls gathered there, Jack felt peace settle into his spirit for the first time in a long time. All the anger and rage he felt for the injustices he had suffered went away for awhile. He felt almost whole. He was anxious to pursue that peace, to be free of his anger and rage so he had sought Arrowsmith out again.

“Why don’t we sit over there?”

“Sure.”

“I was surprised when you called for an appointment this afternoon. It’s been awhile since we last talked.”

“I had some thinking to do. You opened some doors into rooms I needed to explore.”

“Well put,” Arrowsmith laughed, “that often happens. We lock away many things that happen to us in life, some happy, some sad. They can be like rooms. Some of those rooms can have heavy locks on them.”

“I am finding that out. There are areas of my life that I don’t want to look at too closely. I spent three years in prison, and I did some terrible things while I was locked away. Sometimes I feel like I am unclean inside. Can God ever forgive me?”

“Of course He can. Nothing is too great for God to accomplish, but first you have to forgive yourself and put all those past acts behind you.”

“How do I do that?”

“Jack, as you draw closer to God, he will help you unlock the doors to those rooms and deal with what is behind those doors. That is his promise to all who follow Jesus. He will set you free, but to be set free, the truth must be embraced. We can’t lie to others, and most important of all, we can’t lie to ourselves.”

“How does one lie to himself?” Jack asked, puzzled by what Arrowsmith had said.

“Sometimes, people can build a world of illusions. This is a world they want, not necessarily that is real, but they lie to themselves every day that this imaginary world is the real world.”

“I think I understand. I thought Kate was someone she wasn’t. I refused to see what she really was. My illusion fell apart when I discovered the truth.”

“The truth often destroys illusions and pierces the lies that we tell ourselves. Unfortunately, sometimes, those lies can last a life time.”

“Which brings me to why I am here,” Jack said, frowning.

“I know the last time we talked, you were concerned about salvation. You didn’t think you could be saved.”

Jack nodded and said, “I have been studying the Bible lately and asking myself some soul searching questions. I want to be saved, but I don’t know how. I don’t want to just join a church. How do I receive salvation?”

“You’ve just taken the first step, Jack. You realize that there is something more that is needed in your life. Sometimes we don’t realize that God is even missing in our lives until we touch him, and we touch him through prayer. Have you been praying over what you have read in the Bible?”

“Yes, but I don’t know if God hears me.”

“He always hears you.”

“I have another question that troubles me. Do unsaved people really go to hell?”

“Yes,” Arrowsmith replied.

“That seems sort of harsh. There are a lot of good people in the world.”

“I think the Bible answered that question a long time ago. The Bible says there are none that are good, not one, except God. God has a different measuring tool for what is good. Man doesn’t measure up. That’s why we have to believe in Jesus. As Christians, God cleans us up, and we then belong to his kingdom.”

“You are talking about heaven,” Jack said.

“Yes, but more than that. His kingdom also exists here on earth wherever a Christian walks.”

“I had a lot of hate and anger when I got out of prison. I realize now that I have to get rid of that hate. I’m trying. I pray about the anger and bitterness. I pray for peace, but it is a slow going process.”

“God does everything in his own time. Continue to pray, attend church, and read the Bible. Then come as often as you like to talk to me. Believe me, you will find God and salvation. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen immediately. Now, let’s pray together for guidance.”

As Arrowsmith prayed with him, Jack felt peace slowly enfold him. All of the turbulent violent emotions he carried within him subsided, and he felt a gentle joy settle over him. Perhaps he could be saved.

Once he thought finding Kate’s killer would bring peace to him as well as justice. But he realized now that finding Kate’s killer was only part of the solution. He needed to dump all the anger and hate, to clean himself up so he would be fit company, and to do that, he needed to find God and salvation.

Chapter 5

Georgia Fairfax sat in her living room waiting for her date to pick her up. So far he was not making a good impression. He was late. His name was Tom Taylor, and she had seen him around church. They would often stop and chat before church. Finally, he had asked her out.

Georgia Fairfax was a beautiful young woman with blond hair and blue eyes. She was short and very pretty. She was Kate’s younger sister, just turned nineteen. She had been very attached to Kate. Kate’s death had been a severe blow to her.

Georgia’s thoughts turned back to Kate and Jack, the two people she loved best in the world. One was dead, and the other had been convicted of her sister’s murder. She had thought at first that Jack had killed Kate, and she had hated him for it. But now she wasn’t sure. She had begun to think that he was innocent, but she was virtually alone in that conviction. Her father thought he had killed Kate and so did all of her friends. She so much wanted to believe he was innocent. How could she love someone who had killed her sister?

She had always loved Jack even when he was dating Kate. Kate knew and had told her it was merely an infatuation, and she would grow out of it. Only, she hadn’t. She had never revealed her true feelings to anyone else except her best friend. She had tried to forget Jack, but somehow he was ever in her thoughts. If she could just find someone else to love, all of her problems would be solved. Hence the date tonight.

She had been a little surprised when Tom asked her out. Her first impulse was to refuse, but then she thought why not? Maybe it was time to think about someone else besides Jack. Her best friend had been encouraging her to see other guys. She needed to find someone that could offer her a future, someone else she could love besides Jack.

Her situation with Jack was impossible. How could she become involved with a man that was supposed to have killed her sister? Her father, her friends, no one would ever understand that.

She had a choice to make. She could either mope around the house feeling sorry for herself or pick herself up and get on with her life. Tonight was her first attempt at a new life without Jack.

Georgia glanced at her wrist watch again and shook her head. Had she been stood up? Tom had seemed such a nice man, caring and considerate. She stood up and walked to the mantel. She stared at the picture of her sister resting on the mantel.

She still had nightmares about her sister’s death. They had been close. Jack and Kate had included Georgia on many of their outings to her delight. She had been young, still in grammar school when Kate had first started dating Jack, following her sister and her boyfriend around. Kate had kidded her about having a crush on Jack, but it had all been in good fun.

As Georgia grew older and entered high school, she tried to downplay her feelings about Jack for the sake of her sister. She would never do anything to hurt her sister. Jack and Kate were made for each other.

Then, suddenly, Kate was gone and Jack was in prison. Her entire world had crumbled and sent her on an emotional roller coaster that she was only now recovering from. Her life had changed drastically the day her sister died.

There was a knock at the door. She crossed the living room and opened the door to find Tom standing there full of apologizes for being late. Perhaps this evening would end well after all.

Chapter 6

“It was nice of your dad to take us to supper tonight. He seemed to be genuinely trying to be nice to you.”

“I will say this for the old man. He doesn’t hold grudges.”

“Thank God for that. Not many men are that forgiving when someone tries to steal their company from them,” Lidia said, shaking her head. She still couldn’t believe her husband had tried to do that.

Matt winced at her words. He knew that he had done a terrible thing. He thought it would take years to get back into the good graces of his father after that fiasco, but then his father had showed up at work today and bent over backwards trying to mend fences between them. He had been stunned to say the least, and overjoyed that his father wanted him back in his life again.

He had felt something break inside of him when his father had hugged him and told him that he loved him. It was as if he was a kid again with his father’s loving arms around him. He felt all the bitterness and resentment in him towards his father melt away. He very much wanted his father back in his life again.

Matt had felt like a new man driving back home tonight. He told Lidia as much. She had been happy to hear it. She hated seeing Matt at odds with his family.

“I think that with time I may be able to climb back up the corporate ladder again. I’m going to work my butt off to prove to my dad that I deserve to be promoted.”

“I’m sure that in time he will promote you, dear,” Lidia said.

“I’ve always felt like it was my dad and Jack against me and my mother. Tonight for the first time, I think I have my dad back. You don’t know what that means to me.”

“Have you thought about mending fences with your brother?”

“That bastard? Never.”

“Why do you hate your brother so much? Surely, you can forgive him for whatever past transgressions he may have committed. If your father can forgive you, why can’t you forgive Jack?”

“I just can’t, that’s all. Sometimes I wish that I could, but there is just too much against it.”

“Perhaps you need to ask Pastor Arrowsmith about this unreasoning hatred you have of your brother. Maybe he can help.”

Matt looked at his wife in shock. “I’m not going to air the family laundry in public. No one needs to know my business but us.”

“You are supposed to be a Christian, Matt. Christians forgive.”

“Then I’m not a very good Christian.”

“Oh Matt, don’t say that. I think this animosity you have toward your brother is poisoning you. You need to get rid of it.”

“Leave me alone. I don’t want to talk about it.”

Lidia watched her husband walk off. He was in pain. She knew that, and she knew what to do about it. She would save her husband despite his objections. She would contact Pastor Arrowsmith and set up an appointment for her husband.

Chapter 7

John Arrowsmith kneeled at the prayer rail in front of the church sanctuary, both of his hands folded together in prayer and resting gently on the wooden rail. John was struggling with the new direction that his life had taken. Everything had happened so fast in his life.

He had come home to Gulfview, a disgraced cop of twenty years, fired for something that wasn’t his fault. He had been at the bottom of his life, wounded and no place to go. Pastor Michael Phillips of Ocean Front Church had taken him in and nurtured him, renewing his faith in God and giving him a new direction.

Then the most amazing thing happened to him. During a prayer session, he had fallen to the floor unconscious and was out for almost ten minutes. When he came to, he could swear that he heard angels singing, but, of course, no one else had heard anything. The deacons helped him to his feet, and he sat down in a nearby pew. Nothing like that had ever happened to him before. He felt different somehow.

Later, he had prayed for an elderly lady, and she was instantly healed. He didn’t make the connection until he prayed for another person who was also healed. He began to think that he was responsible for the healing, but then he prayed for others and no healing took place. His healing ability seemed to be sporadic. There was no consistency to it. He was both terrified and mystified. He tried to downplay his healing ability, but people kept coming to him.

Finally, he had turned everything over to God. After all, it was God who did the healing, not him. Then his second gift became manifest. When he prayed with people, healing of their spirit seemed to take place. This was not sporadic, but happened every time he prayed with someone. He reached deep down into people and opened their spirit to God’s divine love. He couldn’t explain that anymore than he could explain the physical healing.

John had spent long hours with his pastor, Michael Phillips, trying to make sense of it all. These gifts as Phillips liked to call them had all started when he had passed out at the prayer rail. Something had happened to him, changed him. He wasn’t sure he liked what had happened to him. For the most part, he felt confused and unsure.

But Phillips had encouraged him to turn everything over to God and let things happen as they would. It was not for John to figure out what God intended to do with him. He should just rely on his faith and go where that faith led him. That was easy for Phillips to say, John thought, but very hard to do.

So he came here to the Ocean Front Church sanctuary every evening and prayed for guidance. He needed direction in his life. Because of his gifts, Pastor Phillips had made him an associate pastor of the church, but he had no formal religious training to justify such an appointment. Somehow, the position he had been given didn’t feel right. He still thought of himself as a cop.

John finished his prayers and stood up, frowning slightly. That was when he heard the tapping sound. He turned and saw a woman coming slowly up the church aisle. She leaned heavily on a cane as she dragged her left foot behind her. A young woman accompanied her, daughter maybe. He shook his head. He knew what they wanted, what they all wanted, healing.

John couldn’t turn anyone away who sought prayer and healing, but it hurt when the healing did not come. He saw the disappointment and anguish in their faces when he failed them. It was hard to live with.

They stopped in front of him and the older woman asked, “Are you John Arrowsmith?”

“Yes, I am.”

“My daughter says you heal people.”

“God heals. I merely provide a channel for that healing.”

“As you can see, I need some healing. Can you do it?” the woman asked. There was doubt in her voice.

“Do you believe in God? Are you saved?”

“Yes, of course I am, or I wouldn’t be here,” she snapped.

“Healing relies heavily on faith,” John cautioned.

“I have faith enough to come here. Isn’t that enough?”

“I can’t guarantee anything. I can pray with you, but healing is up to God.”

“Never thought otherwise,” She snapped again.

John glanced at the daughter, then said, “Please help your mother up to the prayer rail. Can you kneel?”

“Kneeling isn’t a problem. It’s the getting up that’s hard,” the crippled woman said with a frown.

When the crippled woman reached the prayer rail, John and her daughter helped the woman to kneel. Then with his hand touching her forehead, he began to pray for the woman.

“Believe that God can heal you. Release any anger you may have. Forgive those who have wronged you. Let the divine power flow through you.”

At first nothing happened, then slowly a warmth began to spread over John, rising from within him. The warmth spread to his hand, to his fingertips that touched the woman’s forehead. Suddenly, she jerked.

“My left leg hurts,” she complained.

“Continue to pray and hold to your faith,” John urged.

The warmth increased and flowed out of John even stronger than before. He felt close to the Creator, as if he had a foot in heaven already. It was always this way when he healed someone. Some of that divine power washed over him bringing joy and peace.

Then, as suddenly as the power had come, it ended. John stood there a moment, enjoying the wonder of it all as that heavenly joy slowly faded away. Then with a sigh, he opened his eyes and looked at the crippled woman beside him.

“Why don’t you stand up?”

The woman nodded and began to stand, but it was still difficult for her. John and her daughter helped. Finally, the woman was on her feet. She shook their hands off of her.

“Let me stand on my own. Something has happened to me. I can feel it. I feel real joy.”

The woman threw her cane away and began to walk, unsteadily at first, but as she continued to walk down the church aisle toward the rear of the church, her left leg seemed to grow stronger. She had started out limping, then the limping vanished, and she was walking normally.

“Hallelujah, I can walk!” she shouted.

Her daughter turned to John with tears in her eyes and said, “You don’t know what this means to us. She has been crippled so long.”

The elderly woman returned smiling and hugged John. Then she turned away without saying anything and went to her daughter.

“God has healed me, child. Thank you for bringing me. We can go home now.”

John watched them leave. This time he had not failed.

Chapter 8

Blake Stone was a middle aged man with black hair and brown eyes. He was dressed in a blue pin-striped suit. He wondered how long this was going to take.

Currently, Stone sat handcuffed to a table in the police interrogation room waiting for someone to tell him if the current district attorney had accepted his deal. He didn’t know who had taken his place as district attorney. He had heard they had appointed someone outside of his department to clean up the district attorney’s office. He imagined a few people would be fired, particularly anyone that had close ties with him, the old district attorney.

There were a lot of charges piled up against him, including trial tampering in Jack King’s case. Jack had started all of this with his search for Kate Fairfax’s killer. All of his backdoor deals and maneuvering to get Jack King convicted had been exposed, which had led to other corruption charges.

Stone was trying to cut a deal with the cops and the district attorney. He had information on at least a dozen other crimes in Gulfview and the state. He could name names. If they would guarantee him no jail time, he would give them that information. It was a strong card to play.

He knew there was no chance of getting his job back as district attorney, and he would probably lose his license to practice law, but at least he would be free to start over someplace else. He was finished here, but first he had a debt to pay. Jack King must be dealt with; Blake promised himself that revenge. Jack King was responsible for all of his troubles.

Then there was Ann Banks. Even now, he could visualize her–tall, blond with those piercing blue eyes. How he loved that woman. There had to be a way to get her back. He knew that she didn’t care for him, but that didn’t matter. He had to have her. He would find a way.

Finally, the door to his interrogation room opened, and Detective Sergeant Bret Walker walked in with a grim frown. Walker was a veteran police officer. He was short with red hair and green eyes in his early forties. He possessed a strong sense of morality.

He stared down at Stone for a moment, then shook his head. The current district attorney and the state attorney general had accepted the deal that Blake Stone had offered. Walker didn’t like deals. He felt that all criminals should go to jail, regardless of what deals were offered.

“Looks like they are going to approve the deal, Stone. I don’t like it, but apparently my opinion doesn’t matter. The district attorney will send over the paperwork shortly. Once you accept the deal, I want full details about the crimes you have witnessed.”

“Of course,” Blake smugly smiled.

Once he was released, he would begin planning his revenge against Jack. Ann might like that. Maybe that would be a way to buy her affections.

Chapter 9

It was a little past nine o’clock on a Tuesday morning when Jack knocked on Robert Trace’s apartment door. He could hear sounds beyond the door of someone stirring around. He would have to be careful. According to Glenda, the man could be violent and had a hair trigger.

The door opened, revealing a man in shirt sleeves and pants with a tie hanging around his neck, yet to be tied. Apparently, Jack had caught Trace in the middle of dressing.

“Who are you? I don’t have time to talk to you. I am on my way to work.”

“This won’t take long,” Jack said as he pushed his way into Trace’s apartment, closing the door behind him.

“What the hell… You can’t just force your way into my apartment,” Trace snapped.

Trace was tall with dark hair and brown eyes that were rapidly filling with anger. People didn’t shove him around.

“I need to talk to you about Kate Fairfax,” Jack said sternly.

“And just who the hell are you?”

“I’m Jack King,” Jack said quietly.

“The man that killed Kate!” Trace yelled, then attacked Jack.

Jack blocked Trace’s first punch and sent one of his own, a strong right uppercut to Trace’s jaw that staggered him. Before Trace could recover from the blow, Jack sent a left punch into Trace’s stomach, doubling him over. Trace fell to his knees gasping for breath.

“Your temper will get you into trouble,” Jack said as he stood over Trace.

Trace slowly staggered to his feet, rubbing his jaw, trying to shake off the effects of Jack’s punches. There was still anger in Trace’s eyes, but now there was also fear. He realized this man could hurt him.

“What do you want?” he snapped.

“I want to know where you were the day Kate died?”

“Why would Kate’s killer want to know anything about me?”

“I didn’t kill Kate. I’m trying to find out who did,” Jack replied.

“You think I killed her?” Trace replied, puzzlement in his voice. “I would never harm Kate. I loved her.”

“Someone saw a bruise on her face after she met you,” Jack pushed.

Trace turned away from Jack and walked over to a small bar in the corner of his apartment and poured himself a Scotch and downed it in a single gulp. Then he poured himself another and turned to face Jack.

“I have a temper. Sometimes it gets out of control. I regret ever striking Kate. I tried to apologize to her, but she stormed out. That was the last time I saw her. I tried to call her, but she refused to answer my calls. I thought if I gave her a little time, maybe she would forgive me, but she died before that happened.”

“You didn’t go over to her house that afternoon, around five o’clock?”

“No, I had a late class that day. Ask anyone at the school. I was nowhere near Kate when she died, and that’s the truth. I thought you killed her.”

“Would I be here asking questions if I had killed Kate?”

Trace finished his drink, paused a moment, and then stared back at Jack. “I guess not. If you didn’t kill Kate, who did?”

“That’s what I am trying to find out,” Jack said as he turned toward the door.

“I hope you find the bastard, whoever he is,” Trace called after him.

Jack didn’t reply as he exited Trace’s apartment. He had found out what he wanted to know. If Trace’s story checked out, Jack could cross him off his list which only left two suspects, neither of which looked very strong for the murder of Kate.

Glenda might be right. What if he never found Kate’s killer?

Chapter 10

Pat Springfield was a short blond woman with deep blue eyes that were currently focused on Lee King. Lee sat in a chair across from her in her home, a deep frown on his face.

“Helen is talking about going to court over this divorce. She is making unreasonable demands.”

“What are you going to do?” Pat said.

“I don’t know,” Lee replied. “I don’t want to drag my family through a long court battle, but I will if I must.”

“Have you met with her yet?”

“The lawyers have set up a pre-trial meeting to see if we can work things out instead of going to court. I will be fair in my dealings with her, but I am not going to give away the store.”

Pat nodded as she walked over to stand beside Lee. She placed her hand on his shoulder. He covered her hand with his own.

“We will find a way to make things work out,” she said.

“If I didn’t have you, this would be almost more than I could bear,” Lee said. “When Helen and I split up, I never thought I would find anyone else that I could love. Then I suddenly realized you were more than a business partner. You were a caring and considerate person who comforted me when I was down. You were the kind of woman that I always wanted, that I thought Helen was, until I found out otherwise.”

“Sometimes we see only what we want to see,” Pat said softly.

“My father tried to warn me about her before our marriage. She was a selfish, self-serving woman with little consideration for anyone else. I didn’t see that. I was in love and wanted to spend my life with Helen. I wouldn’t listen to anyone, even my father. I have paid dearly for that stubborn pride of mine. I have a dysfunctional family that is at each other’s throats half the time.”

“You told me you had a nice chat with Matt. That seems like progress.”

“Yes, that went well. I’m trying to knit my family back together. Between my drive to build a company and a self-indulgent wife, my children were badly neglected in the early years of our marriage. It’s a wonder they turned out as well as they did. Well, I have had my eyes opened. I see my marriage for what it really was, not what I wanted it to be.”

“I know such revelations can be painful,” Pat said.

“You have no idea. To suddenly realize you are married to an uncaring, selfish woman that cares only about herself, that has little love for me, that was painful. Then to sell me out by trying to have me replaced as president of my company, all for the sake of gaining some money–well, that was too much. I suddenly realized what kind of woman I had been married to. The blinders came off, and I had to face facts. My marriage had failed, had been failing for a long time. I just refused to admit it.”

Pat leaned down and kissed Lee gently, then said, “We have each other now. We will put this behind us and build our own happiness.”

Lee smiled for the first time. “You have given me hope. I am going to do my best to mend my fences with my children and be the kind of father they deserve, particularly Matt and Mary. I’ll do what I must to put this divorce behind me and start to live life again with you by my side.”

“What about Jack? Is he still searching for Kate’s killer?”

Lee frowned and shook his head. “I’m worried about Jack; about what this searching for a killer will do to him. He seems sort of lost, not like his old self. There is no joy or peace in his eyes when he looks at me.”

“I imagine that prison was rough on Jack. It will probably take time to get over that experience.”

“A lifetime I expect. There is a hardness in Jack now, a ruthlessness, that scares me. I know he had to do some terrible things just to survive in prison. He has said as much.”

“Prison can be a brutal place.”

“I also worry about Jack finding this killer. What will he do when he does? If Jack kills Kate’s murderer, he could wind back up in prison. But then I worry about what happens if Jack doesn’t find Kate’s killer. What will happen to Jack? He will forever be branded as a killer. I don’t know if Jack can live with that. I fear what might happen.”

“Perhaps you worry too much. You’re his father. It is only right that you worry about your son, but maybe things aren’t as bad as you think.”

“I hope so, for Jack’s sake,” Lee said.

Lee didn’t speak for a few minutes, staring off into space, thinking. His son was lost in a sea of misery and trying to make it back to shore, to a world where the sun shone brightly and no one thought of him as an ex-con, a killer. Lee would do everything in his power to help him. He just didn’t know what to do.

Chapter 11

George Banks sat at his desk at the First National Bank of Gulfview and wondered how much longer he would be employed. He was a loan officer at one of the largest banks in town and that bank was failing. Rumors were rife throughout the bank about the coming collapse of the bank. A large number of people had already been laid off.

George was a short, heavy set man in his late thirties with thinning brown hair and deep brown eyes. He had always been an easygoing man who tried to do a good job. His career at the bank had been less than stellar. A fact that his wife constantly reminded him about.

If he lost his job, he could well lose his wife. Ann had made it abundantly clear what she thought of him and his failure to fulfill his promises to her. She was eighteen when he married her, and he was thirty. He had turned her head with promises of wealth and prestige. He had promised her that she would be somebody important with social status if she married him. None of those promises had come true. A fact that Ann reminded him of every single damn day.

She had been dating Jack King when he enticed her away from Jack. He thought with time and success that Ann would come to love him as much as she had loved Jack, but that had turned to dust. He was so much older than Ann and now pretty much a failure. Would she divorce him? He felt she was close to doing exactly that. What would he do if she left him? She was the love of his life.

“I just heard from a friend of mine in personnel. They are letting some more people go today. They are sending the e-mails out now,” Tim Hillyer said.

Tim was one of the loan officers that worked with George. He was a young man of only twenty-four, bright and energetic.

“Surely they wouldn’t let any more people go. They have fired so many already,” George complained.

“George, haven’t you been paying attention? I’ve told you this bank is going under. You had better start looking for a job somewhere else. I started looking days ago.”

“Have you found anything?”

“Not in banking, but there may be some opportunities in some of the smaller finance companies. Of course, they don’t pay much, nothing like this bank. But, hey, any port in a storm, right?”

“But I don’t know how to do anything else?” George said, worry plain on his face.

“Hey, look, I know it’s harder for you older guys to learn new jobs, but banks aren’t hiring. You are going to have to find a job doing something else.”

“What will I do?”

Tim shook his head. George wasn’t exactly the sharpest tack in the box, though he didn’t seem to realize that. He should have been further along in his career. My God, Tim thought, the man has worked at this bank for almost twenty years and was still only a loan officer. He should have at least been a loan manager.

“George,” Tim said as gently as he knew how, “you need to start looking for other employment. There is bound to be something out there for you.”

George slowly nodded as he checked his e-mail. There was a notice from the personnel department, setting up an appointment for him. The email didn’t mention anything about him being fired, but did indicate the meeting was urgent due to recent company developments.

Fear clinched his stomach. George thought he might throw up. What would happen to him? What would happen to his marriage?

Chapter 12

Ann Banks was a striking tall, blond woman with blue eyes in her middle twenties. When she entered a room, heads turned. Men found her very attractive. She knew that and counted on it to get her way.

She sat on her patio and stared at the red roses that were blooming beside her. She sat in a swing and gently pushed the swing. She enjoyed the swinging motion. The air was cool this morning, invigorating. She felt almost happy until she remembered her present circumstances.

Her beauty had failed her with George. She had attracted the wrong man, but didn’t realize it until much later. George had been handsome at thirty and had filled her young head with wonderful promises of wealth and happiness. She had been in high school and gullible. Although she loved Jack, she wanted more. She thought she could love George just as well Jack. She had been wrong on all counts.

George was considerate and kind; she should have been able to feel something for him, but she felt nothing. All through the early years of her marriage to George, she had waited for a spark, a feeling, something, anything, to bloom between them. She wanted desperately to love George. She was married to him after all, but it was as if her heart was made of stone, except when she thought of Jack.

As the years had passed in her loveless marriage, her thoughts had gradually turned back to the times she had been happy. When she thought of those past times, she thought of Jack and how she had felt about him. Then she felt those old powerful emotions of love and passion begin to churn within her. She had gradually come to realize there would never be anyone else for her but Jack. She grew increasingly desperate to change her circumstances.

Unfortunately, her need to feel love had driven her to frivolous and brief affairs with other men. The result was always the same, exciting at first with promise, only to end in disappointment.

She had talked to other women who had loved again. When other women talked about finding love again, they made it sound so easy. Some had been in love multiple times. What was it about her that she could only love once?

She shook her head sadly. She had made so many foolish mistakes. She thought about Jack often now, but every advance she had made toward him had been rebuffed. Jack wanted nothing to do with her, which only infuriated her.

Now she was straddled with a middle aged man with thinning hair who was going nowhere. And worst of all, she wasn’t in love with him, and never would be. She lived in a very modest home and wore cloth coats instead of the furs that George had promised her. She was a bitter woman wondering what her future held.

If George lost his job, they would have even less. It was time to abandon ship. She had stayed far too long as it was. But she hesitated. She had no job experience. She had been dependent on George to take care of her. She would need to find someone else to take care of her, but who? Until she had new prospects, she would have to stay with George. She hated that realization most of all. She felt trapped.

If only Jack would realize what they could have together. They had been good together once, and Ann felt they could recapture that magic if only Jack would try. Instead, he dated other women and ignored her, which infuriated her.

In recent years, Ann had begun to fantasize about Jack, about their past together, and about what their future could be like together. She dreamed of a home and children, of a new life, the life that should have been before she was sidetracked with George.

But now that life seemed even further away. Jack just didn’t seem to be interested, and she didn’t know how to change that. There had to be a way.

Somehow she had to make Jack love her again, but he kept seeing other woman which made Ann jealous. Couldn’t he see what was in front of him? Other men found her attractive and desirable. Why couldn’t Jack find her attractive? Once he did.

With renewed determination, she vowed to herself to find a way to make Jack love her again. She was clever. She would find a way.

Chapter 13

Bernice stood over Jim Terrell, her brother, and shook her head. The crazy fool had actually tried to kill Jack King. He was fortunate indeed that Jack King had decided not to press charges.

Bernice was in her mid-forties and plain faced with a husband and family of her own, but she loved her brother so took time away from that family to come here this afternoon and talk to her brother. She was surprised to find that he was not in jail today.

“So Jack King just turned you loose after you tried to kill him?” Bernice said, amazement still in her voice, even after hearing her brother’s account of what happened.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Why? He should have called the police and had you locked up for attempted murder.”

“He said that he knew how I felt, but that he didn’t kill Kate. He is looking for Kate’s killer. He asked me to withhold judgment for a while and let him find that killer. I…I think I believe him,” Jim Terrell said as he passed a hand through his curly black hair.

“What are you going to do?” Bernice asked.

“Wait and watch. Someone has got to pay for Kate’s death. I loved her, and I will not allow her killer to escape justice.”

“Look Jim, you’ve been given a second chance. Take it. Forget about Kate and this entire mess. Start fresh and put your life back together.”

“Don’t you think I want to do that? But I can’t. Kate haunts my life, my dreams. Kate’s death left a hole in my heart that I can’t seem to fill. I have tried dating other women, tried putting Kate behind me, but nothing works. I keep seeing Kate’s smiling face whenever I close my eyes, and I feel intense pain when I think that I will never see that beautiful face again. I have to do something. I will never have peace until Kate’s killer is brought to justice.”

Bernice shook her head. Her brother was seriously broken. She had tried everything she knew to make her brother see reason, but he was fixated on Kate and nothing she said would move him away from Kate.

She had thought about seeking medical help for Jim. She had even mentioned seeking professional help to Jim, but he refused to even consider any sort of medical help. She needed to do something. It was a miracle he wasn’t killed or sent to jail when he tried to murder Jack. Next time he might not be so lucky, and Bernice knew there would be a next time unless she found a way to prevent it.

Chapter 14

Jack stood in Glenda’s office at the newspaper. He had strolled in right after lunch, hoping to catch up with her and talk about their progress in the hunt for Kate’s killer. He found her typing on her personal computer and muttering to herself.

“You looked worried,” Jack said.

“I am. I have a deadline to reach, and I am behind. My editor gets sort of upset when I miss a deadline.”

“I thought we might discuss our case, but if you are too busy, I can come back later.”

“No, stick around. I can spare a few minutes. I need a break anyway.”

Jack sat down in a straight back, wooden chair and smiled at Glenda. She was still frowning as she stared at her computer screen. “This newspaper piece I am writing refuses to cooperate. Something is wrong with it, but I can’t put my finger on it.”

“As you said, maybe you need a break.”

She glanced at him then and smiled. She pushed away from her computer and folded her arms.

“You have my undivided attention.”

Jack shrugged and said, “Trace says that he was teaching a class at the time of Kate’s death. If that checks out, he has a solid alibi.”

”You think he is telling the truth?” Glenda Logan said, puzzlement evident on her face. She had felt sure that he was their number one suspect after meeting him at the college.

“Hard to tell.”

“I will check with the school and see if I can find anyone who attended his class on that day. If he told you the truth, that only leaves Toth and Grass,” Glenda said.

“Did you interview Toth?”

“Yeah, nothing there. He has no alibi, but I can find no connection between him and Kate. He didn’t know her, didn’t even travel in the same social circles. Seems to be a dead end.”

“Which leaves only Grass. Seems like we are striking out all the way around,” Jack said with a frown.

“We have talked about this before, Jack. There may be no good suspects.”

“I can’t accept that. There has to be someone, Glenda. We have missed something. Kate had to know her killer. There were no signs of forced entry, and whoever killed her, knew her well enough to get into an argument with her and kill her.”

“So who could that be?”

Jack stood up from his chair and started pacing. “I don’t know. I have looked at this case from every angle, and I am coming up blank. I’ve got nothing so far. I will talk to Grass. Maybe there is something there.”

“Grass is a long shot. I read his bio, and he doesn’t seem like a good suspect,” Glenda said.

“Yeah, I know, but right now, he’s all we got.”

“Maybe we should start over. Start interviewing everyone that knew her.”

“That sounds too much like a dead end, like we are giving up. I’m not ready to do that,” Jack said.

Jack knew that he was missing something. There had to be some piece of evidence they had overlooked, something that would give them a clue as to who killed Kate.

Chapter 15

Seth Fairfax sat in his black recliner and relaxed. He had just gotten in from work. He rubbed his gray streaked black hair and smiled at his youngest daughter, Georgia, sitting on the couch. He loved Georgia and her sweet, innocent personality. He tried not to think about Kate, his oldest daughter. She was dead, killed by Jack King, although Jack still claimed his innocence. Seth wasn’t ready to accept that yet, but he was beginning to doubt his once strong conviction that Jack had killed Kate, particularly after meeting with him.

Kate had always been wild, going her own way. He knew that she was cheating on Jack. He had even tried to talk to her about it, but she had just brushed him off with that small laugh of hers and told him not to worry. Seth thought Kate genuinely loved Jack, but couldn’t seem to leave other men alone. He shook his head slowly. Maybe if her mother had lived, she would have made a difference in Kate’s life.

“What’s wrong, Dad. You look sad,” Georgia asked, a look of concern on her face.

“Just thinking about the tragic events of the past.” Then he forced a smile and asked, “How did the date go last night?”

“Okay, I guess. He is nice enough.”

“No sparks yet?”

Georgia laughed and replied, “No sparks yet, but it’s early.”

“Well, it can take time. I’m glad you are dating again. You need to have a life. I was afraid for awhile that you were never going to start living again.”

“Kate’s death affected me deeply, Dad. I just needed time.”

“It affected us all, sweetheart, but we need to put that tragedy behind us and get on with our lives.”

“I agree.”

“What are we having for supper?” Seth asked.

“Your favorite–fried pork chops.”

“Sounds good. Well, let me wash up, and we’ll have supper,” Seth said as he rose to his feet.

Georgia watched her father leave the room, and then sighed to herself. She had never told him about her intense feelings for Jack. Last night, on her date with Tom, all she could think about was Jack, and how she wished that Tom was Jack. Georgia knew she had to put her feelings about Jack behind her somehow. So many people would be hurt if they knew how she really felt about Jack, her dad most of all.

No, somehow, she had to make this work. She had to start a new life without Jack and find someone else to share that life with, but it was damn hard.

Chapter 16

Jack stood in the kitchen of the Southside Mission, which was sponsored by Ocean Front Church. The goal of the mission was to feed the hungry and preach the gospel to the homeless and destitute. Jack had visited several times before. Helping people in such desperate need made him feel like he was doing something important and restored a feeling of self-worth.

Fred was the chief cook and managed the daily affairs of the mission. Currently, he was watching a small black and white television set mounted on the wall in the kitchen. Fred was short, fat, and bald, but a good-natured soul. At the moment, he was staring intently at the television screen.

“I really like this Glenn Gilmore guy. He speaks my kind of language,” Fred said.

“Who is Gilmore?” Jack asked innocently.

Fred looked at Jack as if he couldn’t believe his ears. Then he shook his head.

“Gilmore is running for President of the United States. Where have you been?”

“I guess I haven’t been paying attention,” Jack said, shrugging his shoulders.

“Well, you and the rest of the country had better start paying attention. This country is going down the tubes and unless someone like Gilmore gets elected, times are going to become even more desperate than they are now, although frankly I don’t know if that is possible. It’s pretty bad now.”

“Things aren’t that bad,” Jack said, doubt showing in his eyes.

“Come here, Jack,” Fred said, pointing toward the line of people standing at the locked front door of the mission. “Those people are coming here because they are starving and there is no place else to go. Many of them once had jobs, a home, a life. This bastard economy has taken everything from them and left them destitute.”

“I hadn’t realized things were so bad,” Jack said, contrition in his voice.

“You got three meals a day and a place to sleep in prison. Why would you notice?” Fred snapped.

The reference to his past stay in prison stung. He was an ex-con. He didn’t try to hide that, but the way Fred had said it hurt a little, but Fred was probably right. He was fed, though the food wasn’t good, and he did have a place to sleep in prison. The rest of it wasn’t so good, however.

“I guess I have been out of circulation for a while.”

“Sorry about snapping at you, but I just get so upset when people don’t seem to understand what is happening in this country, or worse, don’t care. Last year that line of people at our door was half that size. Every day the line gets longer.”

“But they say on the news that things are getting better,” Jack said.

“The news media is in bed with the politicians. They are all lying. I just have to look at that long line of hungry people to know that.”

“You think this Gilmore guy can turn things around?”

“I don’t know, maybe. We may have waited too long. Nobody may be able to turn it around now, but if anyone can, Gilmore can.”

“I guess I will start paying more attention,” Jack said.

“Good for you. Now put on that white apron hanging on the wall and put on a pair of serving gloves, then grab that pan of biscuits and take them to the serving line. I am about ready to open up.”

Jack stood on the line with several other people he didn’t know, waiting for the doors to open. He glanced around the large room filled with wooden tables and benches. The serving line occupied one side of the room, and the dining tables occupied the remaining space. There was a small wooden pulpit standing in the far corner of the room. He had watched John Arrowsmith preach standing behind that pulpit the last time he was here. Food for the stomach and the soul–that was what the church mission was all about.

Fred opened the doors and people began flooding into the room. All types and ages of people were present, from the very young to the very old. Some wore decent clothes, others wore rags. All of them had a desperate look in their eyes.

Jack handed out biscuits and ladled out gravy as the people came through the line. There was a woman next to him dumping eggs on people’s plates. The line moved fairly quickly, people were hungry and anxious to eat.

Where did all of these people come from, Jack wondered? They chatted with him some as they went through the lines. They all had a personal story to tell. He knew some of them were homeless by their appearance. He guessed that others were without jobs but still living at home, waiting to be evicted. One woman had mentioned that in passing, wondering where she would stay once she was forced to leave her home. Several kids tagged along behind her, looking confused. Some even had a job, but came here because their job didn’t pay enough, and they ran out of money. A few even apologized, feeling like they didn’t deserve to be here. They all had one thing in common: they were hungry.

The last of the people filed through the line, and Fred closed and locked the front door. No one else would be allowed in. The food was gone. The eggs had gone first, then the gravy and biscuits. Jack had managed to give the last person a biscuit with some gravy over it. He felt bad that the man had received so little. Fred must have noticed his sad look.

“There is nothing you can do, Jack. There is only so much food and the number of needy keep growing. The church is supposed to give me some additional money to help feed people, but I haven’t received it yet.”

Fred looked up at the door and saw several people looking through the glass door. They had been late and now would go hungry the rest of the day.

“I guess those people won’t be fed today,” Jack said, shaking his head.

“No, they won’t. Sometimes this job breaks your heart, but we do what we can. We used to serve supper as well, but now we only have enough money for breakfast. For most of the people gathered here, this will be the only meal they receive today.”

“That is so sad,” Jack said.

“Tell me about it,” Fred said as he looked up to see John Arrowsmith coming through the back door.

“John,” Fred smiled, shaking John’s hand vigorously. It was obvious that Fred liked John.

“Jack, I am surprised to see you here,” John said.

“I felt like doing something for someone besides myself,” Jack replied.

“A noble ambition,” John replied with a smile. John’s eyes swept the room and the people eating. “You have a large crowd today. Looks like it’s about time for my sermon.”

John walked out into the large room, heading for the pulpit. People looked up and smiled at John as he passed. Many of them obviously knew him.

“They really love that guy,” Fred said.

“Does he preach here every day?”

“Sorry to say, no he doesn’t. He gets over here maybe twice a week. I wish it was every day. He really gives everyone a boost.”

“Does anyone else preach here, sort of fill in the gaps?”

“Oh sure, there is always someone preaching about salvation. That’s one of our main goals, but no one reaches these folks like John does. There is just something about him that reaches down into a man’s soul.”

John cleared his throat and smiled at everyone. Many leaned back and watched John with a slight smile on their faces. A few were still eating.

“I know things are rough out there, but God is always with us. He will see you through these tough times. Let’s pray.”

As John prayed, Jack felt his spirit lift within him. Arrowsmith’s words struck deep within him, letting God’s light shine into the darkness of his soul. He had done so many terrible things in prison. Could God ever forgive him? Yet, as he stood there listening to John’s prayer, he began to pray himself, pray for his soul and his deliverance from evil. A slow kind of joy began to spread over him. God was listening.

… Continued…

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Here’s the set-up:
Ominous forces are gathering to destroy the Gospel of Jesus scrolls, a recently revealed divine revelation that could bring new faith and hope to a world that is slowly sliding into darkness. A handful of brave souls are fighting to preserve that precious document, but they are being overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the forces arraigned against them.
As this valiant group resists the forces coming against them, the apocalypse draws closer as war breaks out in the Middle East and fire rains down on Israel. Terrorists have also started a campaign of death and destruction in America. Millions are at risk.
A great satanic evil has also arisen in the city of Gulfview that seeks Arrowsmith’s death and the destruction of the New Christian Movement. Arrowsmith is now the face of the New Christian Movement which has grown out of the Gospel of Jesus. The Darkness must destroy the New Christian Movement or lose its dominance of the world.

And here, for your reading pleasure, is our free excerpt:

Chapter 1

 

John Arrowsmith tossed and turned in his sleep. A heavy weight seemed to press down on his chest. He began to sweat as his body seemed to tense in his sleep.

He stood before towering bronze double gates that were shut tight. The gates were so massive he could not see the walls that must hold the gates. On the gates themselves were hundreds of massive iron rings.

He glanced around him. Hundreds of men and women stood beside him, pulling on the iron rings and straining with all their strength to open the huge gates. John found his own hands on a large iron ring along with the others, pulling to open the massive gates.

He looked behind him and saw people in their thousands stretching out of sight, marching over a large sandy plain toward him, all shouting with joy and praising God. Their shouting sounded like some massive roaring sound coming from a river tumbling over a water fall.

Behind them, in the distance, coming slowly into view was a massive red bird of some kind that was too far away to identify.

John turned back to the iron ring his hand was wrapped around and continued to pull with all of his might. The gates were stubborn and would not open. But with every minute that passed, new hands reached for more iron rings and pulled with John and the others. All of those men and women behind him were coming to help open the gates.

John knew that all the people around him were Christians, and they were here for only one purpose–to open the gates.

John heard a distant trumpet sound behind him. He turned again to stare at the many Christians behind him, only now there was a black swarm of creatures in the distance coming rapidly down the hillside and into the valley behind the Christians. The creatures were black from head to toe carrying something in their hands that reflected the sun brightly.

As that red creature in the sky drew closer, John could now make it out, and that creature was no bird. John could not believe his eyes. A massive red dragon hovered over the valley, breathing fire and creating panic and death all around it. And the black swarm of creatures that came behind the dragon were black clad soldiers carrying large swords that glinted in the noon day sun.

With renewed urgency, John and the others pulled even harder on the iron rings. Slowly, by inches, the gates began to move. A crack appeared between the gates and a fierce bright light shot out, lighting up everything around John. He could hear angelic voices singing beyond the gates.

But he also heard a loud roaring coming from the rear as of thunder coming from the red dragon as it grew closer with its dark army. John knew in his heart that if he could not open the gates in time, the dragon and his legions would destroy everyone.

But where the brilliant light from between the gates struck, the black clad soldiers screamed and fell. Even the red dragon avoided the bright laser of light from the gates. The light was the answer.

John strained with all his strength. They had to get the gates open, or they were all doomed. Then he woke up.

John Arrowsmith lay in a pool of sweat. His breathing was heavy. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat there for a moment, trying to make sense of the dream, or was it a dream? This had more of the feel of a revelation, as if God was trying to tell him something, but what?

John shook his head and rose to his feet. His pajamas were soaked. He needed a shower.

He saw an April sun rising through the window of his bedroom. It was dawn. Perhaps a sail over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico would calm his spirit and give him time to make sense out of the dream.

One thing he knew for certain. Something terrible and evil was coming his way.

 

 

 

Chapter 2

Sebastian Black stood on the wooden dock watching the sailboats in the bay of the city of Gulfview. He stood straight and tall with his shoulder length black hair blowing gently in the cool breeze coming off the bay. His six foot, two inch frame easily stood out over the few people around him. His small black mustache looked almost out of place on his long, narrow face. A face marred only by a thin jagged scar that ran the length of the right side of his face, near his ear.

All in all, he was a handsome man though a chill might run through someone that looked at that face too closely. There was a sense of danger about the man, something that said watch your step.

His dark eyes followed one particular small sailboat. The occupant seemed to be enjoying himself immensely, completely unaware of Black standing on the dock.

Black unconsciously rubbed the long jagged scar near his right ear. The scar was a souvenir from a past accident that had claimed his wife and left him with a badly injured leg until Arrowsmith had healed that leg. The healed leg was a reminder that there was a God, not that he wanted to admit that to himself.

Black still carried his brass handle cane out of habit, but no longer needed it. He waited patiently for Arrowsmith to come in from sailing, looking out of place on the old wooden dock in his thousand dollar gray striped suit and silk white shirt.

As he waited, Black wondered what had happened to him. When Arrowsmith healed him, changes began to occur in him, subtle things that were hard to pinpoint but real nevertheless. The cold detachment that had always been his trademark began to melt away.

He was the Order’s troubleshooter, the man who cleaned up the messes, who carried out the important missions, who never let himself become personally involved. Last year, he had been sent by the Order to steal the Gospel of Jesus so the Order could destroy that manuscript, but he had failed and now the world marveled at the words contained in the Gospel of Jesus.

But that man who had sought the destruction of the Gospel of Jesus was dying, and a new man was emerging. The man he had been when his wife had been alive. When he cared about someone and could laugh and be happy. That man was returning from where he had been hidden away for so long under a weight of rage and guilt.

Black had blamed God for his wife’s death, and he had also blamed himself for surviving the accident. He could never understand why he had been spared and a lovely Christian woman had been taken. It made no sense to him so he directed his anger and rage at God. He had done terrible things in the name of that rage. Things he wasn’t proud of and wanted to forget.

But then John healed his leg and everything changed. Not obvious at first, but now all too apparent.

Maybe that was one reason he was here, Black thought, redemption–a simple word that carried so much meaning. That spiritual power that had healed his leg had reached deep inside of him and began to heal his spirit and soul. That terrible feeling of guilt and anger was slowly disappearing, vanishing little by little each day.

That change had caught Black by surprise because it had been so subtle, so gradual. Slowly, through the following days and weeks after his healing, he began to see himself in a new light. He began to measure himself against what he had been and what he was becoming.

It was then Black had looked around at his station in life, at what he was doing in the Order, with a clearer vision than he had ever had before and came to a quick conclusion: this was wrong, the Order was wrong, and he no longer wanted any part of such an organization.

But one didn’t just up and leave the Order, not and live. He had to develop an exit strategy so he had taken some time off. He told the Order that he was going on a vacation. He needed to figure some things out.

Then he had heard about someone being targeted by the Order for an assassination in Gulfview, someone involved with the Gospel of Jesus. Arrowsmith had come immediately to his mind. He had probed further, but could learn nothing more.

So he had come to Gulfview to warn Arrowsmith and help protect him from what might be coming his way.

 

 

 

Chapter 3

John Arrowsmith saw Sebastian Black standing on the dock as his small sail boat headed in from a morning of sailing. The tall, imposing man with long dark hair and a small black mustache had not changed in the year since he had seen him. He stood tall and patient on the dock, slightly leaning on his cane with a grim smile on his lips, waiting for John to arrive.

John had no idea why Black was here.They were enemies in every sense of the word. Nothing had changed. One of his subordinates had shot Rebecca when she was attempting to deliver the Gospel of Jesus.

John had tried to forgive Black for that shooting, but now that Black was here, old resentments and anger were rising to the surface. Apparently, his attempt at forgiveness had not worked as well as he had hoped.

He had never expected to see Black again, yet here he was, standing on the wooden dock as John maneuvered into his boot slip and jumped off the sailboat. He tied up the boat and walked over to Sebastian.

Arrowsmith was shorter than Black, standing only six feet. His sandy colored hair was in sharp contrast to Black’s coal black hair. His blue eyes studied Black for a moment before he spoke.

“What brings you here?” John asked sharply, a frown on his lips.

“The settling of an old debt.” Sebastian touched his right leg, the one that John had healed last year.

“You owe me nothing,” John insisted.

“I think otherwise. In any event, I am here to balance accounts.” Sebastian paused a moment, then said, “You are in grave danger, John. The Order believes you are a threat to them.”

John stepped back, shock on his face, “The Order? The people you work for? ”

“The people I used to work for. I have quit. They just don’t know it yet.”

“Obviously, you think they will do something drastic if you are here,” John said, looking worried.

“Indeed I do. I believe an assassin is coming to kill you.”

“Are you sure?”

“No, and that is the dilemma. All I have are rumors and innuendos, nothing concrete, but something is happening. Your name has been mentioned more than once.”

“What can I do?” John asked, frowning, trying to digest this sudden, upsetting news.

“Run,” Black said.

John slowly shook his head. “I was never much good at running. It’s the cop in me. I may be retired, but I am still too stubborn to retreat. How long before we know for sure if the Order is out to kill me?”

“When you are dead,” Black replied with a small grin. “Or if a month passes and nothing happens, then we will know I was wrong.”

“A month can be a long time.”

“I will be around to keep an eye on you,” Black said, patting John on the back gently.

“Why? And don’t tell me it’s because I healed your leg.”

“Let’s just say that I have gained a new perspective on life. When you healed my leg, I began to see my life with new eyes.”

“I didn’t heal you, God did,” John said.

“You know I don’t believe in miracles, John. Still, something miraculous did happen. I would like to figure out what. Maybe hanging around you will give me a clue.”

“It isn’t hard, Sebastian. It is all about Jesus.”

“Yeah, you would say that. In any case, I have warned you, and I will try to keep an eye on you. Be careful.” Black walked away with a wave of the cane he always carried.

John stood alone on the dock. His mind was swirling with questions and fears, wondering how this could happen to him. Then there was Black. Why was he really here?

Was what Black said even true? How could he trust Black? For all he knew, Black was sent to kill him, but that didn’t make sense. Why warn him if that were true? Could he actually believe that Black had changed? Had he really left the Order? He had no answers to those questions.

Finally, he shook his head and started walking. There was nothing he could do anyway, but pray and trust in the Lord.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4

CIA agent Mack Mackay stood on the airport asphalt at six in the morning and listened to the whine of a jet engine powering up, waiting to board a private jet bound for Tel Aviv. He had been rousted out of bed a few hours ago and told to be here. He had no idea why.

A gentle wind blew his curly brown hair into his steel gray eyes. He brushed the offending strands back out of his eyes. Mackay was of medium height and well conditioned with years of experience as a CIA field agent.

A few minutes later, a long black limousine pulled up beside him, and Alfred, one of the CIA director’s many assistants, jumped out with an envelop in hand, shoving it toward Mackay as he approached.

Mackay took the bulky envelop and opened it. There was money and instructions inside. He didn’t bother pulling the instructions out; he could read them later on the plane.

“So what’s up?” Mackay asked, putting the envelope away in his jacket pocket.

“We picked up some intelligence last night,” Alfred said, dropping his voice as he looked around to see if anyone was close. “Iran is going after the Gospel of Jesus scrolls.”

The Gospel of Jesus scrolls were purported to be written by Jesus himself and now circulated world wide in paperback format. The ultimate source and authority for the Gospel of Jesus were the ten ancient scrolls housed in a warehouse owned by Isaac Stein located near Jerusalem.

“What? Are you kidding? That’s nuts,” Mackay said, amazed at this revelation.

“Who said the Iranian regime was sane? The ayatollahs don’t think like we do. Apparently, infidels possessing the Gospel of Jesus is simply too much for them plus it would be a great propaganda coup for them.”

“You think that is the real reason?” Mackay asked, still astounded that Iran would risk war with Israel over some ancient scrolls. The Stein compound where the Gospel of Jesus was located was too close to Israel for the Israelis to ignore an Iranian attack. There would be trouble.

“Who knows?”

“Why me?” Mackay asked.

“Logical choice since you know Simon Stein. You are going to need leverage to make Isaac Stein move those scrolls. I understand he has become quite attached to them.”

“You haven’t answered the real question. Why does the CIA care about the Gospel of Jesus scrolls located in a stuffy warehouse miles from anywhere.”

“Let’s say we would like to poke Iran in the eye a little and prevent them from destroying the scrolls,” Alfred said with a small smile.

“For them to attack and fail would be a huge loss of face,” Mackay admitted.

“Exactly. We need to keep Iran on a tight leash. Too many Moslem countries are beginning to lean in her direction. A loss of face might slow that lean.”

“How is the attack coming?” Mackay asked.

“We think planes, maybe fighters. Don’t know for sure. Our agent’s informant couldn’t verify the type of attack, only that one was to be launched in four days from now, on Friday morning.”

“Doesn’t give me much time. What am I suppose to do?”

“Talk Isaac Stein into moving his scrolls to a London museum. We have already made arrangements. It is the same museum he chose for the Bartholomew scrolls.”

“That will take some convincing,” Mackay said.

“Not if he wants those scrolls to survive,” Alfred said.

“By the time I arrive in Tel Aviv, I will have a little over three days left. That’s not much time.”

“Couldn’t be helped. A C-130 cargo plane will arrive on Wednesday afternoon to pick you and the scrolls up. You need to be out of there by Thursday. That gives you an extra day for a safety margin.”

“And if the attack arrives first?”

Alfred shrugged and said, “Nothing we can do about the time table. It is what it is. However, I do have some good news. We have arranged for an AWACS to be in the area, code name Overlord.” Alfred handed Mackay a satellite phone. “You can reach them on this. It is all set up. Just press the button and talk. With luck, the AWACS might be able to give you an early warning, time to get out if things get close.”

“I don’t like this. It’s too hurried, too unorganized,” Mackay complained.

“If you don’t like that, you will hate this. We aren’t telling the Israelis anything about this.”

“They are going to suspect something when things start exploding,” Mackay said, concerned about the lack of Israeli support.

“Yes, but they might not do anything if the Iranians are gone before they can react. If they knew the Iranians were coming in, they would scramble to meet them. Planes would explode, and pilots would die. A big Mideast Crisis could result. We must avoid that at all costs.”

“They have to know the C-130 is coming in to pick up something from the Stein warehouse. How did you explain that?”

“We told the truth. Isaac Stein is moving some cargo out, and we are assisting. We filed the flight plan a few hours ago,” Alfred said.

“And they didn’t ask any questions?” Mackay said, incredulous that the Israelis would just let a C-130 fly through their airspace without a thorough investigation.

“We have an understanding with the Israelis. They owe us big time. I won’t go into any details.” Alfred looked Mackay hard in the eyes. “This is going to be dicey at best. The director wishes you good luck. He knows it is a tough assignment.”

Mackay just stood there, shaking his head, not knowing what to say.

“Looks like your plane is ready,” Alfred said, nodding toward the plane.

Mackay glanced at the plane, then sighed and started walking, wondering if he could pull this mission off. An awfully lot of things had to go just right for success to happen. It had been his experience that was a rare occurrence. Something always went wrong.

 

 

 

Chapter 5

Two senior members of the Order stood in a luxurious room with a thick white carpet on the floor and long silk drapes hanging from tall, rectangular windows. The Order was the invisible hand that sought to steer the world’s course. They influenced thousands of national leaders and bureaucrats all over the world. Gently leading them in the direction the Order thought best.

The Order had been around over a thousand years, held together by a single idea: to form a world order based on unity and reason with war no longer an option. While the goal was lofty and perhaps noble, the methods they chose were often ruthless and dictatorial. Any means to achieve the ends was acceptable to them.

“You are sure you heard correctly? Assassins are being sent to kill John Arrowsmith?” Sarine, one of the oldest members of the Order council, said.

Daric nodded and said, “Straight from the Chairman. A kill team was dispatched a few days ago. Their orders are to make his death look like an accident.”

“Damn, but this is dangerous. John Arrowsmith is well known now. He has been on all the talk shows and in the news media. The world knows Arrowsmith. If this goes south and the Order is implicated…”

“My thoughts exactly. We should have left well enough alone, but that isn’t the worst of the news.”

“What could be worst?”

“Our chairman has been talking to Iran about the scrolls of Jesus,” Daric said.

The Gospel of Jesus scrolls were at the center of a running controversy. Many said that Jesus wrote the scrolls and were his personal gospel to the world. Others said the scrolls were a fake sent to destroy the Christian religion.

Unfortunately for the western nations, the Moslems believed the scrolls were genuine and that it was sacrilege for a non-Moslem to handle such religious scrolls. Consequently, the entire Middle East was in an uproar over the scrolls being in the possession of the Stein family who were Christians.

Continuing, Daric said, “He has convinced our friends in Iran to take out the scrolls at Stein’s warehouse.”

“Sweet Mother of…” Sarine couldn’t finish, but sat down on a nearby couch and shook her head. Then she looked up and asked, “How?”

“Fighter jets. They will target the Stein warehouse and blow it to smithereens.”

“How stupid can the Chairman be? The Israelis will see them coming and track those planes right back to Iran. And what the Israelis know, the Americans will know. The military intelligences of both countries will go after this incident like rabid dogs. They could trace this back to us. Couldn’t you convince the Chairman to wait? This is far too drastic,” Sarine said angrily, fuming over the foolishness of such an attack.

Daric shook his head and walked over to an open window. A cool spring breeze blew in through the open space.

“He had his mind made up before I even talked to him. The wheels were already in motion. I doubt the Chairman could stop the launch of Iranian jets now anyway. The ayatollahs were already leaning in this direction. It didn’t take much of a push to get them involved,” Daric said as he looked out of the window.

“Then you don’t think it would do any good for me to talk to him?” Sarine asked.

Daric turned back toward Sarine and said, “None whatsoever. Like I said, he already had his mind made up. He is determined to destroy the scrolls of Jesus. He sees them as a threat to the Order’s goals.”

Sarine knew that copies of the Gospel of Jesus scrolls had already gone viral around the world. Paperback copies of the ancient scrolls were everywhere. She and the Order feared the damage this Gospel of Jesus could do to their plans to rule the world.

The Gospel of Jesus contained the ideas and preachings of Jesus, direct from his hand and written over two thousand years ago. The religious work was already creating divisions within the Christian world and beginning to have political ramifications as well.

“Destroying the scrolls now is pointless,” Sarine said in frustration.

“Some think that if the scrolls are destroyed, there will be no way to authenticate the Gospel of Jesus. They could claim the Gospel of Jesus is pure fiction,” Daric said.

“I disagree. People will believe what they want to believe, even if the scrolls are destroyed,” Sarine said.

“Perhaps, but in any case it doesn’t matter. Iran is bent on pulling off this attack to prove that the ayatollahs in Iran are best suited to lead the Moslem world. What better way to drive the point home than to destroy the scrolls and the infidels who possess them,” Daric said.

“Yes, I know. Jesus is considered a Moslem prophet of God, and in their one sided view, he and anything he wrote belongs only to them. To let an infidel handle such a religious relic is a great offense,” Sarine said.

Sarine stood up and studied Daric for a moment, then said, “Well, there is nothing we can do now. Perhaps it is time to plan for a new Chairman.”

“My thoughts exactly, but first we have to survive this disaster.”

They both nodded agreement and began planning their next moves.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6

John Arrowsmith entered Pastor Phillips’ church study, knocking on the door frame as he stepped inside the cozy room. He had decided to see his pastor at Ocean Front Church. He had questions on his mind that he needed answered.

“John, I didn’t expect to see you this morning,” Phillips said with a broad smile on his face, standing up from his desk chair and walking around his desk to meet John.

Pastor Phillips was still spry for a man in his mid-sixties. His gray hair was in sharp contrast to the alert and intelligent brown eyes gazing at him now through black rimmed glasses.

“I’m not interrupting, am I?”

“I always have time for you,” Phillips said.

They shook hands, then John sat down in a chair across from the pastor’s desk. Phillips retreated back behind his desk and sat down.

“I need some guidance, Michael. I have been having visions again. I don’t understand them, but they feel so real. Then, of course, there is this healing ability I have that seems to work intermittently. I don’t understand what is happening to me?”

“I once said, John, that it will take time to understand the path that God has set you on. At first, I thought you were a healer, sent to heal and help God’s people. Now, I think you are more than that, much more.”

“What do you mean?” John asked, curiosity lighting his eyes.

“I think you might just be a prophet of God,” Michael said, studying John’s reaction.

“A prophet? First, you thought I was a healer, now a prophet? That seems so for fetched.”

“I admit that I saw you only as a spiritual healer for a long time. But the visions and this soul glaze you told me about earlier, those indicate a greater calling. I said prophet because I could think of no greater calling, but you are right, I am not sure where God is leading you,” Pastor Phillips said.

“Prophets in the old testament parted seas and resurrected the dead. That certainly isn’t me!” John said emphatically.

“Isn’t it? Some would say Rebecca was dead when she was shot outside of the university conference center last year when she was delivering the Gospel of Jesus. You brought her back.”

John’s mouth fell open in surprise. He had forgotten about that terrible ordeal. Rebecca had been dodging Black’s men and Homeland Security agents, trying to deliver a copy of the Gospel of Jesus to the Christian Discovery Conference so the spiritual work could be authenticated when she was shot by one of Black’s men.

Rebecca’s life had drained from her as John held her in his arms and prayed for her life. He knew that for a few seconds Rebecca had actually died, but prayer and God’s mercy had spared her and restored her to life.

“That…that was different,” John finally replied, not really believing his own words.

“Is it? Let’s examine the facts. You heal people, not consistently, but you do heal, you have visions, and you have brought someone back from death. I think the parting of the Red Sea may not be too far away,” Michael said with a smile, teasing John.

“You can make a joke about this, but I am scared to death. I don’t know where God is taking me,” John said, anger beginning to edge into his tone of voice.

“Then you should just relax and enjoy the ride. Times are changing. I can feel ominous things coming, and I think you were put here by God to meet them.”

“Me? I’m just an ex-cop trying to find a job,” John replied defensively, letting his anger slide away from him to be replaced by frustration at not finding a job.

“Speaking of which, I believe I have a position for you. The job doesn’t pay much, but you do get a small office.”

John’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What sort of job?”

“Pastor in charge of healing and prayers,” Michael replied.

“You just made that job up,” John accused Michael.

“John, you have to admit that things happen when you pray. I think my church needs a man like that on staff to help us grow spiritually as a church. Want the job?” Pastor Phillips leaned forward over his desk, eager for John’s agreement.

“I can’t exactly be choosy, can I? I don’t have a job at the moment.”

Michael smiled and leaned back, relief spreading across his face. “Then you will take the job?”

“Yes, I suppose, but I haven’t the slightest idea what my duties would be.”

“I’ll let God lead you in that matter. Let me show you to your new office.”

“You already have an office for me?” John asked, surprised that things were moving so fast.

“John, I have been planning this for months. I was just waiting for the right moment. I was afraid you would turn me down.”

“Maybe you should change my church title to prophet in waiting,” John chuckled for the first time, making a small joke.

“My thoughts exactly,” Michael replied, only he wasn’t joking.

 

 

 

Chapter 7

Detective Sergeant Bret Walker was short and lean with red hair, and he wasn’t happy. Another suicide had occurred on his watch. He glanced at his young partner, Detective Rachel Park, and wondered how something like this would effect her. Park’s hair was short and brown with matching brown eyes. She was taller than him which annoyed him a little. He disliked having to look up at her. She aught to be at the beach doing something fun. A young woman in her early twenties didn’t need to be neck deep in death.

He took a deep breath and reminded himself that she had asked to be assigned to the homicide division and so far had performed well, though she was a bit brash at times. He knew that she would get better with experience. He would also have to get use to looking up at her. She was his partner.

“I don’t like this one little bit, Rachel. I know Darken is responsible somehow for what is happening. I just can’t prove it.”

“If we could get a warrant for that satanic church of his…”

“Been there, tried that. It’s the religious freedom thing. No judge will issue a search warrant unless I can directly tie the church to public endangerment or menace. Darken has been careful so far to avoid any obvious ties to these suicides.”

Walker was very familiar with Darken’s satanic church, the Church of the Dark as Darken called it. There weren’t many members, thank God, but the ones that did belong seemed to be fanatics. Deacon Darken ruled them with an iron hand. Walker suspected more than a few crimes could be laid at the door of that church.

“What’s the coroner say?” Rachel asked.

“Same as last time. Overdose of sleeping pills,” Walker said.

“Strange that the other suicides were overdoses too,” Rachel replied.

“Yeah, and the pill bottles have no identification on them. Just like the pill bottles we found at the other suicides,” Detective Sergeant Walker said. “It’s all a little too pat. Repeating patterns like this usually mean a serial killer.”

“Then you don’t buy the suicide angle?” Park said.

“No, my gut tells me murder, but the drugs are the mystery. Where did they come from?”

“Street drugs?”

Walker shrugged and said, “Who knows where Brook got her drugs. This whole thing bothers me to no end.”

With a heavy sigh, Walker looked around the shabby one bedroom apartment where Brook had lived until her suicide—or murder. The apartment was located on the south side of town, peeling paint and torn carpet, but at least she had a place to live. Others were not so lucky. Too many people were living on the streets in these desperate economic times.

Everything on the south side of Gulfview was run down. It was where the homeless and the hopeless settled because no one cared what happened here, except for a few church missions and soup kitchens–and the police.

It was also where the Church of the Dark was located, preying on the people that society had rejected and enticing them to join a Satanic church that promised food and shelter.

This recession had only made a bad situation worse. More people were losing their jobs everyday, and now the homeless were beginning to overflow into the more prosperous areas of town, angering many store and property owners. His fellow officers were constantly arresting trespassers and panhandlers. The police department was being stretched to the limit. They weren’t set up to deal with the economic disaster that was looming over them.

Walker nabbed the coroner as he was leaving. “Anything?”

“No, fairly simple. Overdose just like the others. There were no pills left in the pill bottle. Same as the first suicide over on Sunset. I’ll run a blood analysis, but if the results are the same as last time, I would guess some form of barbiturate. It’s still the drug of choice for suicides.”

“Suicide note?” Detective Park asked.

“No, nothing. She also had an upside-down cross around her neck just like the other two.” The coroner paused a moment, then added, “There’s something strange going on here. Unlike the first suicide, you remember there was a single pill left in the bottle at the second suicide.”

“The one over on Fifth Avenue last week?”

“Yes. I was able to run an analysis on that pill. Got the result back this morning. That pill registered five times the strength I would expect. A couple of pills at that strength would be more than enough to kill a woman. In the first suicide, I assumed she had taken the entire bottle since the bottle was empty, but if those pills were of this same strength…”

“Then only a few pills would be needed to kill someone.”

He nodded and said, “But who would make pills so powerful and dangerous? It makes no sense.”

“Murder never does,” Walker said.

“You think someone deliberately gave these women pills strong enough to kill them?” the coroner asked, disbelief showing in his eyes.

“It’s the only thing that makes any sense. Suppose someone made up a strong batch of these barbiturate pills, then told the victim to take a couple to sleep or feel better. The victim wouldn’t suspect anything, and the death would look like suicide.”

“Which is what we have seen in the last three deaths,” the coroner said, nodding in agreement.

“The tip-off is the unmarked bottle,” Detective Park interrupted.

Walker glanced at her and smiled. The kid was sharp. “Yes, that bothered me from the beginning. There are a ton of pharmaceuticals floating around on the streets. All you need is a prescription, and there are a lot of fake prescriptions out there. So why make a special batch of pills with an unmarked bottle when pills are already available on the street?”

“It wouldn’t make sense unless you were making a murder weapon,” Park said.

“All of these murdered women belonged to Darken’s church. So why were they killed?” Walker questioned.

“Darken’s church?” the coroner asked.

“The upside-down cross is a symbol of the Church of the Dark as Darken likes to call his church. The upside-down cross is a way for anti-Christians to show their disdain for Christians by taking the cross that Jesus died on and turning it upside down. Darken’s members are the only ones that would wear something like that.”

“I wouldn’t know about that–your department. I will have a full report for you in a couple of days if I’m lucky. Probably more likely I won’t have the full results until the end of the week. State cutbacks have really slowed down forensics.”

Walker nodded. So now they knew for sure: murder. Next stop would be Darken.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8

Ocean Front Church was quiet. It was early Monday morning. John had come into the main sanctuary to pray after his talk with Pastor Phillips. He had a lot to pray about.

John knelt at the prayer rail which was located in front of and below the church stage where the choir loft and pulpit were located. The church stage itself was three feet off the ground. In the front center of the stage stood the lectern where the pastor gave his sermons. Dominating everything was a floor-to-ceiling cross anchored to the back wall.

After a few minutes of prayer, a peace descended on John, washing his fears and apprehensions away. God would provide. If an assassin was coming, God and he would meet that threat together. And if he was turning into some sort of prophet, then God would see him through that as well.

John heard a noise behind him. He turned, and his eyes met a young woman who was carefully making her way up the red carpeted church aisle toward him, dragging her left foot behind her. She moved slowly, stopping after each step, to bring her left foot up even with her right, then she repeated the process. It was painful to watch.

Her eyes were fixed on him. He knew why she was here. The same reason they all sought him out–healing.He was slowly coming to terms with the healing abilitythat he seemed to have. He didn’t know why sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. He had struggled with that inconsistency, and finally decided to leave the matter in God’s hands. He would pray with anyone who requested healing, and he would deal with their disappointment and anger when that healing did not come.

He gave the woman a small welcoming smile. She seemed to draw encouragement from that smile. Her eyes were clear and focused, determined.

She finally stopped in front of him and said, “My name is Brenda. Can you help me?”

“How long have you been like this?”

“Since birth. I…I wasn’t suppose to come. My parents said you were a disciple of the Devil, that you supported a false gospel, but I have heard you speak on the radio, and I attended one of your revivals. I don’t think you serve the Devil.”

Her words gladdened his heart. So many hated him these days for his support of the Gospel of Jesus. Wherever he spoke, there were demonstrations and hecklers, but there also were large numbers of people eager to hear the words of Jesus.

“Brenda, can you kneel down with me at the prayer rail? Is that too difficult for you?”

“Nothing is too difficult if it means my leg can be healed,” Brenda said, hope shining in her eyes.

Awkwardly, and with help from John, she kneeled at the prayer rail. John kneeled beside her, putting his arm around her shoulders.

“Do you believe in God and Jesus as your Savior?” John asked, his eyes meeting hers.

She nodded.

John began to pray. The words came slowly at first, then faster, with more precision from somewhere deep inside of himself, somewhere not completely under his control. He felt a warmth began to rise within him, and a peace descend on him. Slowly that warmth spread out from his inner being to his arms and legs, to his fingertips. There it stopped.

“Believe, Brenda. Forgive anyone you have a grudge against, rebuke any hate, think only of the love of Jesus.”

John continued to pray, but the warmth advanced no further.

“I know it is hard, but you must seek forgiveness, Brenda. You must harbor no bitterness or hatred. You must let go of any negative emotions and let Jesus deal with them.”

Again, John bowed his head and continued to pray. Minutes passed, then slowly the warmth began to move from his fingertips into the young woman, flowing through her in ever increasing quantities. There was something about twisted nerves and dead pathways, bits and pieces of images flashed through his mind. Then suddenly, everything stopped. The healing warmth ceased as if someone had flipped a switch.

John opened his eyes and glanced at Brenda. She slowly opened her eyes. Fearing that nothing had happened, yet hoping that she was healed. Together they stood up, his arm still around her shoulder. She struggled to stand even with John’s help.

“I…I feel so strange, so at peace,” Brenda said.

“God heard you.”

“Am I healed?”

“Why don’t you take a step and see,” John said with a happy grin.

With John’s support Brenda took a short step and stumbled. John grabbed her and held her upright. Fear of failure flashed through her eyes.

“Your leg may still show signs of weakness, but strength is returning. Have faith.”

Brenda nodded and said, “My leg does feel stronger.”

“Try again.”

She nodded and took another step. This time, she did not stumble. She turned and smiled in triumph at John. Then she took another step and another. By the time she was halfway down the aisle, she was walking normally. She gave out a loud yell of joy and ran back to John. She hugged him fiercely.

“Thank you, thank you! My parents will never believe this,” she said enthusiastically.

“Thank God. He healed you.”

“Him most of all.”

She walked away with a smile on her lips, tossing him a hand wave as she walked out of the church.

John felt good about what happened. His spirit had been lifted up and refreshed by the healing power that had flowed through him, washing him clean of any anger or fear, renewing his faith. John felt that cleansing joy in every healing that occurred. It was a small gift God gave him as a reward, a renewing of his spirit.

John smiled. This time he had not failed.

 

 

 

Chapter 9

John heard a loud clapping of hands in the back of the church. He spied a short young woman dressed in a shabby long black dress with shoulder-length dark hair spilling down her back. There was a spiteful look in her eyes, one of intense dislike, yet he had never met this woman before.

She walked no further into the church, staying close to the doors of the church as if she might flee at any moment.

“An excellent performance, Healer,” the young woman scornfully said as she continued to clap. “Are all of your healings so artfully done? What is the trick?”

“No trick, just God at work.”

She stopped clapping and hissed, “So easy to say, but hard to prove.”

“Perhaps, Jesus then.”

“Don’t speak that name to me,” she shouted angrily.

“Who are you?”

“Your enemy,” she replied.

“How can that be? I don’t even know you,” John said as he started walking down the aisle toward her.

“Stop,” she shrieked. “Come no closer. He said you would try to approach me, even lay hands on me. I can not permit that.”

“Who is he?”

“The deacon of my church,” she replied firmly.

“What church is that?” John inquired as he stopped halfway down the aisle, studying her. There was something peculiar about the woman, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. She sounded odd, as if her words weren’t quite her own and out of sync with her lip movements.

“The Church of the Dark, the only true church.”

“You worship Satan?” John said, not believing what he had heard. Who in their right mind would worship Satan–the avowed destroyer of mankind?

“The only true god.”

“Satan is a false god; an angelic being cast down from heaven,” John said.

“Lies. I do not believe your Bible. It is full of lies,” she smirked.

“Again, why are you here?”

“Deacon Darken sent me. You may have heard of him.”

“Can’t say that I have, but then I don’t travel in your circles.”

“I am here to warn you. You are upsetting the balance. You must leave and never darken the door of a church again. Perhaps then, you will be spared.”

“What balance?”

“The balance between my god and yours. Darken says your one of the First Ones that was foretold. You will not succeed in opening the Gates of Heaven.”

“Gates of Heaven?”

“Have you not read your own Bible? Your own Gospel of the Hated One? They both talk of God descending upon Jerusalem and a new age beginning, a new earth and a new heaven. The Gates of Heaven must be opened before God and his heavenly host can descend upon the earth. That was always the plan.”

“The plan?”

She gave him a wicked grin. “I suppose you don’t even know about the Day of the Red Dragon when Satan will rule the world? It is coming, very soon.”

“I don’t understand any of this,” John said quietly. “But what I do understand is that Satan lies and deceives mankind so that he may control them, just as he is controlling you now. Repent of this wickedness and be free.”

“Never!” she screamed.

“Jesus Christ is the answer. Salvation can be yours if you repent.”

“Lies, all lies. Once we serve Satan there can be no salvation. Our souls are his.”

“That is what he wants you to believe, but it is a lie straight from hell. Jesus can save you, but only if you will it.”

“I don’t so will it,” she spit the words out. Then suddenly laughed. “Trying to convert me? Don’t waste your time. You have little of it left.”

“What does that mean?”

“You are doomed. Deacon Darken is coming for you.”

“What is your name?”

“Why do you want to know my name?”

“Afraid?”
“Of course not. My name is Bane.”

“Is that your real name?”

“It is the name that Darken gave me so it is my name now. All I was before is dead.”

“Bane, God can help you. You can throw off this web of lies and deception. Embrace Jesus and be saved.”

She laughed. “Always preaching salvation, you Christians. Where were you when I was starving in the streets? Only the Church of the Dark gave me food and a place to live.”

“At the cost of your immortal soul!” John shouted, trying to break through to the young woman.

“My soul is just fine, Healer,” she shouted back

“Don’t you see that only hell awaits you?” John said in a calmer voice, restraining his emotions that kept threatening to break out at any moment. How could he reach this woman who was enslaved by Satan?

“I eagerly await that destination for that is where my master dwells.”

“Don’t say that,” John said, horrified by her words.

“Do you grow irritated with me? How wonderful to irritate a servant of God.”

“God will not be mocked,” John said as he once more advanced.

“Stop!” she shouted, fear in her voice.

“If your god is so powerful, why are you afraid? Is it that Satan fears God? Your lies betray you. It is you who is afraid? Do I bother you that much or perhaps it is this church that bothers you. You are standing on sanctified ground.”

“To stand upon sanctified ground is to burn with pain,” she said, fear touching her voice for the first time.

“You burn because churches are holy and holiness cannot abide evil. Evil must flee or parish.”

She laughed, ”Fool. Not all churches are holy, only a few. We have seen to that. You Christians are so easy to lull to sleep, and you are so obedient to the laws that Satan has passed, restricting the worship of God. It is almost laughable.”

“Then why do you burn here in this church?”

“This church is filled with the power of God that flows through you. That power fills the walls, the floor, the pews, the very air you breathe. Most churches have little of the power of God in them. A state we find most enjoyable, at least until this New Christian Movement started. They are trying to stir up the world, to evangelize everyone. That will not be tolerated.”

“Because if the world were truly saved by the grace and power of God, then all of the earth would be sanctified ground. You would burn with pain everywhere upon the face of the earth. There would be no place for you and your kind or the evil that you serve. Isn’t that what you really fear?” John said, righteous anger filling his voice.

“That will never happen! We will see to that, Healer.”

“You are in pain now because evil can not stand before God. Renounce your evil ways and know the joy of salvation.”

She laughed again, “Still trying to convert me? I am long past any salvation you might offer. Now leave as I have warned you or suffer the consequences.”

“I think not. Evil must be confronted and destroyed so let me warn you, as you have warned me. There is no place for your kind in this town.”

John moved closer. The woman screamed an obscenity at him and fled. She was through the door and gone in an instant.

John shook his head, trying to remember everything that had been said. There was so much. What did she mean by First One? And what was this balance she referred to?

But what she said about the Gates of Heaven bothered him most of all because those words reminded him of his vision. It was too much of a coincidence.

He needed to study the Gospel of Jesus in more detail. He needed an explanation for what had just happened.

 

 

 

Chapter 10

John knocked on the pastor’s door and then entered the study. Pastor Michael Phillips looked up from some papers he was reading, surprised to see John back so soon.

“Sorry to bother you, Pastor, but something just happened that I need advise on.”

“Please, come in, John. You know that you are welcome anytime. How do you like that new office of yours?”

John sat down and said, “I really haven’t spent any time there. Something unusual just happened to me. I just encountered someone from the Church of the Dark.”

Pastor Phillips leaned slowly back in his chair. His expression growing concerned. “Here, in this church?” Surprise was in his voice.

“Yes. What exactly is this Church of the Dark and who is Deacon Darken?” John asked.

“You have probably guessed that the Church of the Dark is an imitation of the Christian church dedicated to Satan, and Darken is Satan’s servant. I would advise staying as far away from both as possible.”

“You have encountered this Darken before?”

“Only briefly. He sent chills up my spine. Evil radiated in waves from the man. Never have I felt Satan so close as the day I met that man. He came to stand at the door of my church. I rebuked him and told him to leave.”

“Darken actually set foot in this church?”

“No, I met him outside, on the church steps. I still can’t believe the gall of the man, to attempt to enter a holy church.”

“Why did he come?”

“In a word? Intimidation. Darken is all about intimidation, forcing his will on others. The evil that surrounds him and his satanic church wants to control this town. My church and others like it, prevent that from happening.”

“The woman that came into the church said that I upset the balance and must leave. What do you think she meant?”

Pastor Phillips shook his head and let out a deep breath. After a moment, he said, “I am sorry to say there are those that believe that a balance has been struck between Satan and God, an understanding if you will, that each side will abide by an unwritten rule not to interfere with the other. Sort of a truce. Such people claim that evil and good must exist side by side. That good can not be understood unless evil is also encountered. They claim that such balance is the natural order of things. That there can be no black without white, that both always must exist. At times, one side or the other may gain ascendancy, throwing everything out of balance. When evil is too strong, we have wars, recessions, hunger, plagues, and other terrible atrocities, but when good triumphs, we have peace, prosperity, health, and plenty. Duality, these small minds shout must always exist and balance.”

Pastor Phillips stopped for a moment, rubbing his brow with his right hand, and said, “Mind you, I don’t subscribe to that theory. I think that is an idea straight from a devil that is trying to limit the power of God, but far too many that should know better do believe in this duality.”

“So this woman thought that I and the New Christian Movement would upset the status quo,” John said, puzzling over the statement that Pastor Phillips had just made.

“Apparently there is a growing fear in those that follow Darken that you might upset things and put Satan and his evil bunch on the defensive. If that is the case, then John, I say go to it.”

“Do you know anything about the Gates of Heaven?”

“Gates of Heaven?”

“Yes,” John said.

Pastor Phillips thought a moment, then shook his head. “No, never heard the term.”

“This woman claimed that the Gates of Heaven must be opened before God can descend upon the earth and establish a new Jerusalem.”

“You are talking End Times?”

“It would seem,” John replied.

“Revelation does talk about a new heaven and a new earth, of a new Jerusalem, but I have never heard the term ‘Gates of Heaven’.”

“Neither have I. She also spoke about the reign of the Red Dragon.”

“Which can only mean Satan,” Pastor Phillips said. “Some think Satan has already began his rule with all the evil and war on the earth.”

“You think that the time of the Red Dragon, Satan, is already here?”

“No, not in the sense this woman thinks. A time when Satan has utter control of the earth would see unimaginable evil spread everywhere. We don’t have that, at least not yet.”

John nodded in agreement. “This woman, Bane, didn’t say that the reign of the Red Dragon was here, but that it was coming, and somehow I was standing in the way of that coming reign.”

“Well, thank God for that,” Pastor Phillips said with a smile. “We need Christians standing in the way of Satan.”

“I agree, but I think there was something more in her statement, something in particular about me being a hindrance and needing to be dealt with quickly.”

“That doesn’t sound good, John.”

“You think Darken and Bane would resort to violence?” John asked.

“I think Darken and his crowd are capable of anything. Be careful, John.”

“You are talking to an ex-cop, Michael. I can handle myself.”

Pastor Phillips frowned, then said, “John, you have never fought anything like this. Pure evil is a supernatural force of devastating strength. Normal human tactics and methods won’t work against such onslaughts. You are talking about spiritual warfare.”

“What exactly is spiritual warfare?” John asked, curious about the expression. He had heard the term before on several occasions but had never understood the term.

“That’s when you fight with spiritual weapons–God’s word and the Bible. Your material weapons do not work in the realm of the spirit.”

“Like my dream of the red lion and my dagger with the name of Jesus inscribed on it,” John said, remembering that dream vividly even after a year.

“Exactly. The battle can be fought in dreams, visions, and even real life. Be on guard.”

“Doesn’t sound like anything I need to be involved in,” John said, feeling a little anxious.

“We all become involved to some degree. Simply praying against evil and malignant events is a form of spiritual warfare. Every time you pray that the plans of Satan will be defeated, you are engaging in spiritual warfare.”

“But you are talking about spiritual warfare at a higher level, aren’t you?” John said.

“Indeed, I am, and I hope you are never exposed to that kind of attack, but then again a prophet of God may not be able to avoid such an encounter,” Pastor Phillips said with a small smile, making John feel a little uncomfortable. He didn’t think he was a prophet of God.

John looked away for a moment, then back at his pastor, a serious expression on his face and said, “I will do whatever God commands me to do.”

“As will we all. Now, let’s say no more about it. Perhaps this was a one time event.”

“I hope you are right, but I have a feeling that trouble is coming my way.”

“Then you had best do some hard praying so you will be ready for it,” Pastor Phillips said.

John nodded and stood up to leave.

“John, if you need to talk again, don’t hesitate to see me. You are not alone.”

“Thanks, I will remember that,” he said as he walked out of the pastor’s study.

 

 

 

Chapter 11

The Church of the Dark was a building painted black with red stained windows. A gloomy, evil looking place that depressed the human spirit as it was meant to do.

Walker could feel the heavy weight of evil pressing down on him as he walked into the evil stained building. Some would say that feeling was his imagination, but Walker knew better. He couldn’t begin to imagine the evil that must be performed in this church, all in the name of the Devil.

Darken stood at the front of his little church facing Walker, behind him, nailed to the back wall was an upside down cross. On each side of Darken, stood an athletic, well muscled tall looking man: his body guards. He never went anywhere without them.

“Good afternoon, Walker,” Darken said in a pleasant voice.

“That’s Detective Sergeant Walker to you,” Walker said with barely controlled anger in his voice. He detested Darken and this church.

“So formal today. Ah, I see you have brought the delightful Detective Park with you. Welcome to my church.”

“You know why I’m here?” Walker said.

“Has there been another death?” Darken said, his fake sounding surprise irritated Walker. “This is getting to be rather monotonous, isn’t it? After every suicide you seek me out. Let me repeat what I have said numerous times before to you: I had nothing to do with any suicides.”

“I know you are involved in this somehow,” Walker said.

“That would require proof, my dear detective,” Darken replied with a knowing smirk.

That smirk on Darken’s face told Walker that Deacon had murdered the women and was daring him to prove it. Overconfidence, that would be Darken’s downfall. But at the moment, Walker had no proof.

Walker had come here to confront Darken and see how he reacted to his accusations. He read body language fairly well. Every good detective did, and Darken’s body language said he was guilty as hell.

“I believe Miss Brook went to your church. When was the last time you saw her?” Walker asked.

“It must have been all of two days ago, Saturday night I believe, when we held our church services. It was a wonderful service.” His oily smile and smug expression made Walker want to grab him and wring his neck. He kept reminding himself that he was a police officer first and held to a higher standard of conduct.

“You wouldn’t happen to know where she got the drugs to commit suicide?” Walker asked. He had decided not to mention murder yet. Let Darken think that the police still thought the deaths were suicides. Darken might get careless.

“I have no idea,” Darken replied.

“I thought you used drugs in your so-called worship services,” Walker pressed.

“Sometimes, but I assure you, nothing harmful,” Darken replied. “Now, I have answered your questions and been most cooperative. Get out.” There was a hard note to his voice mixed with scorn.

“Not yet. I thought I might have a look around.”

“This is private property. You need a warrant to search this church.”

“Yet here I am,” Walker said as he walked toward Darken’s office.

One of Darken’s bodyguards moved to stop him, but Darken waved him off. Too bad, if the bodyguard had tried to stop him, he could have nailed them all for obstruction of justice and dragged Darken and his bodyguards in for questioning, but Darken was too smart for that.

“Look for anything in plain sight that might help us. Don’t open any drawers,” Walker cautioned Park as he entered Darken’s office.

Walker knew that if he found anything incriminating, he could not legally use it in a court of law, but he was desperate and needed a lead, something to assist his investigation, but he found nothing after a general search. Walker and Park were careful not to open drawers, looking for anything in plain sight. They might get away with evidence found in plain sight in a court of law, if there had been something to find. With a deep sigh of regret, Walker left Darken’s office.

Walker still had nothing on Darken. He could run him in and interrogate him at the police station for a while, but his lawyer would have him out within a few hours–a waste of everyone’s time. But he was tempted. Finally, he turned away and walked out with Park following behind him.

“Leaving so soon?” Darken said, arrogance in every syllable he uttered.

Walker ignored him.

“Why don’t we arrest him just for the fun of it? We might be able to sweat the truth out of him,” Detective Park said, anger in her voice.

Walker shook his head as he exited the Church of the Dark. He was glad to be out of that   wicked place.

“No use wasting our time, at least not yet. Arresting him now with no evidence could lead to charges of harassment and lawsuits. Darken always has a lawyer at hand. I think he is sued on a regular basis for one thing or another, none of the lawsuits ever stick though. He is a slippery customer.”

“You know he had something to do with the suicides, probably supplied the drugs,” Park said, frustration evident in her voice.

“Yes, but we can’t prove that.”

“So now what?” Park asked, disgusted with the situation.

“We keep digging and hope for a break.”

 

 

 

Chapter 12

The two American newsmen stood outside of a large hotel in Tel Aviv, Israel, with their bags and camera equipment piled up beside them on a warm, dusty Monday morning. They had traveled half way around the world to arrive at this destination and neither of them wanted to be here.

“At least it’s spring. The weather is not too bad in the spring. On the other hand, the summers are brutal,” Charlie said, looking up at Tony.

Charlie was only five feet, seven inches tall and found he was usually looking up at someone. He was forty-five years old and a veteran news reporter. His blue, intense eyes missed little which made him an excellent reporter.

“Stop trying to cheer me up,” Tony said, picking up their equipment.

He was the camera man and official porter for the news team. He stood six feet, six inches tall and had the strength of an ox. His long brown hair hung down to his shoulders, and he had a broad, but lovable face.

“I mean the last time I was here the heat was horrible. I had the misfortune to draw a news assignment here right in the middle of summer. The humidity was so high you felt like you were walking around in a bowl of soup,” Charlie said as he brushed his blond hair back out of his eyes.

“You are just trying to make me feel better. You know I don’t want to be here.”

“Luck of the draw,” Charlie said.

“I still say Dave sent us on this assignment because of Charlene,” Tony said, his lower lip protruding in a mild pout. “The way she kept smiling at you and giggling every time you talked to her was bound to get us in trouble. Dave noticed, and he is not a forgiving kind of guy.”

“Charlene isn’t Dave’s girl,” Charlie defended himself with a frustrated sigh. Tony had been pushing this conversation ever since they left New York.

“Does Dave know that? I don’t think so. They have been on a couple of dates, you know.”

“A couple of dates doesn’t make her his girl.”

“Okay, then why were we sent to Israel? We were suppose to go to Paris to do a news story there, not Israel. Why the sudden change? I will tell you why. Because Dave is in charge of overseas news assignments, and he was getting even. Who wants to know about Israel anyway?”

“Regardless, we are here, and I have got to come up with something for the morning news cycle back in the states. There is a seven hour time gap so we need to find something in the next few hours to talk about for five minutes over the national news.”

“Let’s check in first. I need to dump some of this equipment. I feel like a pack animal loaded down with all of this stuff,” Tony complained.

Charlie smiled and walked toward the hotel doors. Tony was probably right. Dave had shafted them. Well, what else was new? His career wasn’t exactly headed for the top.

Thirty minutes later, Charlie and Tony sat around a small table in their hotel room. Tony was cleaning his camera equipment.

“Sand gets into everything around here,” Tony complained.

“It’s the Middle East. What did you expect?”

“I tell you what I expected–Paris. That’s what I expected.”

Charlie just shook his head. Tony needed to find a new song to sing. This one was getting old.

“I was talking to a few of the hotel staff. They said things are pretty tense between Israel and Iran at the moment. United Nations negotiations broke down again. Everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Charlie said.

“Another reason to be in Paris,” Tony grumbled.

“Anyway, one of them said some of the Tel Aviv residents are leaving town.”

“Why is that?” Tony asked, looking up from his camera, suddenly interested in what Charlie was saying.

“If Iran strikes, Tel Aviv will be one of the first targets hit.”

“What a comforting thought since we are in blooming Tel Aviv,” Tony said, shaking his head and frowning.

“I was thinking about doing a few ‘man on the street’ type interviews, then maybe relocating south of here. Hotel clerk said there was a pleasant little inn on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. That would be close enough to come into town for some interviews, yet far enough away to survive in case things go south between Israel and Iran.”

Tony carefully laid his camera down and leaned back in his chair, crossing both his arms. He glared at Charlie. “Okay, out with it. What aren’t you telling me?”

Charlie shrugged and said, ”Just a rumor.”

“What kind of rumor?” Tony pressed.

“The hotel porter said that Iran not only has a nuclear bomb, but more nuclear material than anyone thought. He said an Israeli spy got the information out of Iran a couple of days ago. Since then, the prime minister and every minister of government have been locked up in a meeting.”

“They don’t seem to keep secrets too well around here,” Tony said.

“You know how it is. Someone’s brother or aunt or cousin in an important position talks and rumors are born.”

“You think the rumor is true?” Tony asked, concern creeping into his voice.

“Who knows, but one fact does stand out. The porter says military troops and armor are headed south out of Tel Aviv.”

“Man, that can’t be good.”

“The porter agrees. Government authorities have said the military is simply going on normal maneuvers, but no one really believes that.”

“Getting the hell out of Dodge, you mean. I’m beginning to like that idea of moving south myself. That inn sounds like a good idea.”

“Fine. Grab the camera and let’s get some interviews. We can upload the data by satellite later.”

 

 

 

Chapter 13

A few hours later, Tony dumped his camera equipment on the hotel table and collapsed into a nearby chair.

Charlie had a bucket of ice he had gotten from an ice machine down the hall and was busy pouring the ice into a glass and adding some bottled water. He was sweating from the long walk around the local area. He drank the entire glass quickly, enjoying the feel of the cool water on his parched throat.

“We must have walked a hundred miles,” Tony complained, taking his right shoe off and rubbing his foot.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Charlie said, pouring himself another glass of water.

“You weren’t lugging around all the equipment.”

“I think we have enough interviews to send back to the states,” Charlie said.

“And then some. I will set up an upload link and transmit our stuff back to the states via satellite. Then we can get something to eat. I am starving.”

“You are always starving,” Charlie said with a smile.

“Not so, but I do need to eat regularly which is damn difficult to do since I have been hanging out with you. How about passing some of that water over here?”

Charlie passed the ice bucket and a bottle of water to Tony, then said, “Let’s upload our stuff, then we can go downstairs to the hotel restaurant.”

“Now you are talking.”

After the upload to the satellite, they were about to leave when a knock at the door got Charlie’s attention. He walked over and opened the door to find Bill Wilson standing there, one of his news competitors, but a nice guy all the same.

“Heard you guys were here,” Bill said, waltzing in with a smile on his face. “Hi, big fellow.”

Tony nodded and waited, obviously anxious to be on his way. His stomach was already growling.

“So why are you here? I thought only fools and the troubled were sent here,” Charlie said.

“I have been doing a tour of the trouble spots in the Middle East. Planning on doing an entire series of stories dealing with the Middle East and its problems. I spent a week over in Iran, then Iraq, and now here. I want to tell you that every hour I was in Iran, I expected to be dragged off to jail. That is one terrifying place. They don’t like westerners much either.”

“So what did you find out?”

“Nothing. That place is locked down tight. No one is talking. But I got the feeling while I was there that something big is brewing. One of their important mullahs went on a tirade at one of the embassy galas that I attended. Talked about how Israel was about to be wiped off the face of the earth.”

“They have been saying that stuff for years,” Charlie said.

“I know, but this time, I believed him.” Bill leaned in closer to Charlie and said, “Don’t quote me, but I think Iran is going to attack Israel and very soon. No hard facts, you understand, just a feeling I got from all those Iranian officials I chatted with. It was like there was this giant secret that everyone was dying to tell, but couldn’t.”

“You really think so?” Charlie asked, amazed at the news.

Bill shrugged. “Just a hunch. Hey, want to come to an early supper with me? I got an interview set up with one of the military public relations officers. To show you my heart is in the right place, I will share the interview with you. You can even bring gruesome over there.”

“Sure, when?”

“Right now. I am going over to pick her up now. We can meet downstairs in the hotel restaurant,” Bill said as he walked to the door. “We probably won’t find out much. These Israelis are as tight lipped as the Iranians, but we might get lucky.”

As Bill walked out the door, Tony said, “I’m not gruesome.”

 

 

 

Chapter 14

Sebastian Black knocked on the hotel room door and waited. He had only recently found out about Sharp being in town. One of his contacts at the Order had come through for him.

Sharp was part of an Order assassination team. Their forte was natural looking deaths or accidents with no messy police investigations or questions that might lead back to the Order. The only question was whether Sharp was here to take out Arrowsmith or somebody else.

The door opened slightly the second time he knocked and dark eyes stared out at him, followed by a puzzled expression. “What are you doing here, Black?”

Black put on his best friendly smile and said, “Heard you were in town. Thought I would drop by.”

Sharp opened the door and let Black in, still wearing a puzzled frown. “We aren’t exactly friends, Black. This seems damn strange. The Order send you?”

“Just professional curiosity, and no, the Order did not send me. Sorry to hear about Lari.”

“Yeah, we were together a long time.” He shrugged and said, “She got careless, and her target killed her. It happens.”

“Who is your new partner?” Black asked.

“You know better than to ask that. My partner always stays in the shadows, anonymous. Besides, she is working now. Once the target is locked in, it’s hands off until the job is finished.”

“Sorry, didn’t mean to give offense,” Black said with a small grin. “By the way, your target wouldn’t be John Arrowsmith, would it?”

Sharp clenched his jaw, anger sliding into his eyes. “I don’t know what you are talking about, and you know better than to ask a question like that. Targets are confidential. Only the Order handlers know the identity of the target. This is damn suspicious. I will have to report you to the Order.”

“Be my guess, but wouldn’t they frown on unnecessary communications at a time like this?”

Sharp hesitated, uncertainty edging into his face. “I can do it later, but rest assured I will report this infraction.”

Black had a problem. He had hoped to find out the identities of the assassins, then neutralize them, but he had only half the team, the unimportant half. If anything happened to Sharp, the female assassin would be alerted that something was wrong. He definitely didn’t want that. No, best to just keep an eye on Sharp, and hope for a break.

“Well, I suppose I had best be going. Despite our differences, why don’t you call me? We can get together while you are in town, maybe have dinner.” Black gave Sharp his business card. Sharp took the card and nodded.

“Maybe. It does get damn boring waiting around,” he replied reluctantly.

Black left and rode the elevator down to the main floor in deep thought. Sharp hadn’t meant to, but he had given away a few things. He said his partner was already working. And the way Sharp reacted when Black mentioned Arrowsmith’s name told him his hunch was correct: Arrowsmith was the target.

The other thing Sharp had given away was the gender of his partner: a woman. Sharp usually worked with women partners, although he had been known to work with male partners on occasion. Their weapon of choice was exotic poisons that couldn’t be traced in an autopsy. Their clients wanted a natural looking death. No questions asked.

That meant the woman assassin had to form some sort of relationship with Arrowsmith and work him into a position where the poison could be easily administered, in a drink or on food. He would have to talk to Arrowsmith and see if any new women had turned up in his life lately.

Black didn’t know how much time he had to prevent Arrowsmith’s murder, but he figured it wasn’t much. He would have to work damn fast.

 


 

 

Chapter 15

Charlie sat down at a table in the hotel dining room along with Tony and waited for Bill to show up with the Israeli public relations officer. Tony scanned the menu.

“I’m starved.”

“We should wait for Bill and the Israeli PR officer before ordering,” Charlie said.

“You wait,” Tony waved a waiter over and pointed a finger at an item on the menu that he couldn’t read. The waiter nodded and left.

Charlie smiled and said, “You just ordered roast goat with potatoes.”

Tony shrugged and said, ”Maybe I will like it.”

Charlie sipped some wine he had ordered and waited for Bill to show, wondering if this was going to be another one of those pointless meetings.

“So, you think there will be war?” Tony asked.

“It’s only a matter of time. You heard what Bill said.”

“The military leaving Tel Aviv didn’t exactly inspire confidence in me that things were going okay. So how do the Israelis survive a nuclear attack?” Tony asked.

“Disperse, get away from any obvious targets.”

“Which seems to be what the military is doing now? What about everybody else?” Tony observed.

“There’s the rub. I think they have some fallout shelters, but other than that, I don’t know,” Charlie said.

“As usual, the civilians get the shaft. Think anyone other than the military will be leaving?”

“They could move the government to Eliat in the south on the northern tip of the Red Sea. That might be the safest place in the country right now,” Charlie said.

“Is that because the rest of the country will be toast if war breaks out and Iran zaps Israel with nukes?” Tony asked with a frown.

Charlie shrugged. Who knew how bad it would get? But he felt Israel would survive.

He said, “Probably not, but the destruction could be very bad. Depends on how many bombs and missiles the Iranians launch and the size of the nukes. Most everyone agrees the Israelis have bigger and more nukes than the Iranians. In any exchange the Israelis would be hurt bad, but the Iranians could be wiped out.”

“And radiation burns for everyone else,” Tony said, shaking his head.

“You’re right. The radiation poisoning could be the worst part of this war. No one knows how many deaths could result from that or how much of the Middle East would be lost due to radiation poisoning.”

“Gloomy picture. Sounds like you have given this some thought,” Tony said.

“A good reporter does his homework.”

Charlie saw Bill and a slim attractive woman with long dark hair walking toward their table. The woman must be the Israeli PR officer. She wore no uniform so she obviously was a civilian working with the military.

“Well, I see you guys actually showed up. I’m surprised. This very pretty lady is Sarah, the most informed person I know,” Bill said.

“You are very kind,” Sarah replied in a husky voice with a slight accent. Her English was very good, which Charlie expected in a good PR officer.

“Sarah, this is Charlie and the big guy is Tony. Charlie is a reporter and Tony is the camera man,” Bill said, making the introductions as they both sat down at the table.

“I am pleased to meet you,” she said with a polite smile.

The waiter brought Tony a large plate of meat and potatoes. Tony smiled and said, “Sorry folks, I was hungry.”

“You are forgiven,” Sarah said. “A man as big as you must eat.”

Bill motioned for the waiter, and they all ordered items off the menu along with drinks. Charlie stuck with the wine, Bill ordered a beer, and Sarah decided on coffee.

When the waiter left, Charlie leaned back and said, “So what can you tell us about the current situation in Israel, Sarah?”

Sarah smiled and said, “You don’t waste any time, do you Charlie?”

“I always seem to have these pesky deadlines to meet,” he replied.

“What would you like to know?”

“What the rest of the world would like to know. Is Israel going to war?”

“Not unless provoked,” she replied.

“Does Iran possess nuclear weapons? That is the main question. Most of the nations in the world do not think so, not yet,” Bill said.

They stopped talking for a moment when the waiter brought their drinks. Then continued when the waiter left.

“But what does Israel think?” Charlie pressed Sarah.

“We keep our opinions to ourselves,” she replied with a smile.

“Which means you know Iran does have nuclear weapons,” Charlie said.

She turned to Bill and said, “Charlie is very quick.”

“That’s Charlie. That is also a question I wouldn’t mind hearing answered.”

“We believe that Iran has nuclear weapons, but we have no proof. And without proof, who will believe us? Our official position is Israel must defend herself against any and all threats. We will not start a war, but we can be provoked.”

“And what is the unofficial position?” Charlie asked.

“The same,” she smiled.

“Congratulations. You are just as tight lipped as the other officials I’ve met,” Bill said with a smile. “Can’t you give us a little hint?”

“Off the record?” she asked.

They all nodded.

“Let’s just say if I were you gentlemen, I would get out of Tel Aviv.”

“Why is that?” Bill asked.

“Because that will be the first target the Iranians strike.”

The waiter brought their food. They ate quietly with some minor chitchat. Charlie noticed that Sarah smiled a lot, but gave nothing away about what was really going on in Israel. Charlie admired her PR skills.

After lunch, she said her farewells and Bill walked out with her. Charlie thought Bill was taken with her a little.

Charlie turned to Tony and asked, “How was the goat?”

“Okay, bit of a tang, but not bad. Now what?”

“You heard the young lady. Now we pack up and move south.”

Tony smiled. He liked that idea a lot.

 

 

 

Chapter 16

Mackay stood in front of the American embassy where he had gone after landing at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. He had needed the embassy’s secure communications to put the final touches on the Stein evacuation plan and to verify the arrival of the C-130 cargo plane at the Stein warehouse on Wednesday.

Mackay motioned with his hand at the small car that was coming down the street. He recognized Simon Stein behind the wheel. Simon noticed Mackay immediately and stopped in front of him.

“I can’t believe you called me,” Simon Stein said as Mackay got into Simon’s car.

“You were the most logical one to call since we have met before.”

“When you saved me from the feds last year, you never identified yourself. I never knew your name until now.”

“I thought it best at the time to remain anonymous. However, recent events have changed everything.”

Simon offered his hand and said, “I’m glad to meet you again, Mack Mackay. I wasn’t in very good shape the first time we met so my memory is a little vague, but I remember your face. I owe you a great deal.”

Mackay shook Simon’s hand. “Glad to have helped. We had best be on our way. There is lots to do and not much time.”

Simon put his car in gear and drove away. As he drove, he listened intently and in growing surprise as Mackay explained the reason he was here and the importance of moving the scrolls.

“You can’t be serious,” Simon Stein finally said, disbelief obvious in his voice as he shifted gears, his small car picking up speed. They were heading west to Isaac Stein’s warehouse where the scrolls of Jesus were kept.

“Dead serious,” Mack Mackay said, watching the Tel Aviv scenery slide by.

“How do you know the threat is genuine?”

Simon was having a hard time wrapping his mind around the coming attack. To destroy the scrolls of Jesus was unthinkable, even by Iran. Jesus had hand written those scrolls; they were his gospel and unique. Simon nervously pushed his brown hair back off of his left eye.

“Eighty percent certainty. Never can be 100% sure, but in my business you treat eighty percent and above the same as certain.”

“How will the attack come?”

“Fighter jets most likely, quick in and out. There will be nothing left standing when they are done.”

“Can’t someone do something? Can’t your government do anything?” Simon asked, concerned about the possibility of the scrolls being destroyed.

“Ha! We have been talking to Iran for years and accomplished nothing. We aren’t exactly on the best of terms and haven’t been for some time. No, you will get no help from anyone. The best we could do was arrange for a C-130 to sit down by the warehouse late Wednesday afternoon and start loading the Jesus scrolls for evacuation to Britain.”

“You can’t be serious. That doesn’t give us nearly enough time,” Simon objected.

“That isn’t the half of it. C-130s are rarely on time,” Simon said with a deep sigh.

“What if there isn’t enough time?” Simon protested.

Mackay shrugged and said, “Save what you can then. Come dawn Friday morning, there will be nothing left to save.”

Simon frowned, frustration and fear mixing on his face. “I need to call Rebecca. I will need all the help I can get to convince father. He will be reluctant to move the scrolls. He has grown rather attached to them.”

Mackay nodded and glanced at his watch. It was early Tuesday morning, still dark outside. It had been a long plane ride plus the seven hour difference in time zones–all of which had tired Mackay out. He was looking forward to taking a nap.

The C-130 cargo plane would be here Wednesday afternoon, if it arrived on time which, unfortunately, rarely happened. There were always hang-ups, unexpected delays, in an operation like this. They would probably have to work through the night and try to launch before dawn on Thursday. That still gave them an extra day before the Iranian jets hit–if the intelligence held.

“Rebecca? Is that you?” Simon said over the phone.

Mackay reached over and put his hand over the phone. “Don’t mention the attack over the phone. There is a lot of monitoring of the airwaves in this part of the world. Just tell her to meet you at the warehouse.”

Simon nodded and continued to speak to Rebecca. Mackay hoped that Simon and Rebecca could convince Isaac to move the scrolls, else all of this effort will have been for nothing.

They pulled into the Stein warehouse compound just as the sun came up. They had stopped for breakfast and a break, then continued driving until they reached the Stein compound.

Mackay was exhausted. He hadn’t slept a wink on the flight over, too busy going over operational plans. Then there was the stop at the embassy and now this long car ride to the warehouse–all of this activity was catching up with him.

Mackay got out of the small car and stretched his legs, massaging his back to get some of the kinks out. He hated small cars. He was stiff from the long ride. He glanced at the large sheet metal building standing in front of him. The guards had waved Simon through the chain link gate that led into the compound and phoned ahead to his father.

Simon started walking toward the large two story building, aiming for the open twin metal doors that led inside. Mackay followed.

Isaac Stein met them at the entrance. He was a slightly overweight man of average height with graying temples and a receding hairline, but a ready smile. Mackay found that he liked him.

“Welcome, son. And who have you brought with you?”

“This is Mack Mackay. The man who saved me from the American authorities last year.”

Isaac stepped up to Mackay and shook his hand vigorously. “I can’t thank you enough for saving my son. He means the world to me.” Isaac smiled at his son and continued, “Please, come inside. I have some refreshments. The sun is just now coming up and while it is comfortable now, it will get a lot hotter.”

Mackay followed Isaac to a small office inside the building. He couldn’t help but notice the rather large steel vault that occupied most of the inside of the large metal structure, dwarfing the small office that sat in front of it.

“That where the Jesus scrolls are kept?” Mackay asked, pointing to the closed steel vault doors.

Isaac nodded. “Indeed it is. That is a solid tungsten steel vault. A bomb could go off, and it wouldn’t crack that vault,” Isaac said with a confident grin.

Mackay and Simon glanced at each other. If Isaac only knew.

As they entered Isaac’s office, Isaac sat down behind a small desk littered with stacks of paper. “Please have a seat and rest. I know you have had a long journey, Mr. Mackay.”

“Mack is fine.”

“Mack it is. Call me Isaac.”

Mackay sat down in a straight-back wood chair in front of the desk. Simon ignored the other chair and continued to stand, preparing himself for the difficult discussion to come.

“Father, we have some very disturbing news.”

“Which we can discuss after we have had some tea,” Isaac said as he placed three cups on the desk, pushing aside a stack of paper.

He produced a tea pot from behind him and poured the tea, handing Mackay and Simon a cup. Then Isaac leaned back in his chair and sipped his own tea, a pleasant smile on his face.

“Ah, that is good. Troubling news is always best faced with a cup of tea in hand. Now what is the news? I suspected that Mack was not here for a social visit.”

“Friday, sometime after dawn, Iranian jets will strike this warehouse and destroy everything in it,” Simon said. He gave the news to his father straight and hard, knowing his father didn’t like dancing around bad news.

“Impossible!” his father whispered in astonishment, taking another sip of his tea and shaking his head. “I have some rather good contacts myself in Iran, and they have mentioned nothing about an imminent attack. Sure, there have been speeches and threats concerning the Gospel of Jesus, but nothing firm. I’m afraid your information is bogus.”

Mackay frowned. This was going to be harder than he expected. “My information is very reliable, Isaac. Fighter jets are going to bomb this warehouse come Friday morning and destroy the scrolls.”

Isaac shook his head stubbornly. “I simply don’t believe it.”

“I have a C-130 coming in Wednesday afternoon to take your Jesus scrolls to safety,” Mackay said, leaning forward in his chair. “You must load the scrolls aboard and get out of here.”

“I’m afraid your C-130 is making the trip for nothing,” Isaac replied, setting his tea cup down. “I know you mean well, Mack, but your CIA has been wrong before, and I think they are wrong again.”

“Then you aren’t going to move the scrolls to safety?” Simon asked, incredulous that his father would not listen to reason.

“They are safe already. They do not need to be moved.”

Mackay shook his head and stood up.

“I need to get some sleep. If you two will excuse me.”

“Of course,” Isaac said. “There is a barracks not far from the gate you drove through. I am sure you can find some accommodations there.”

“Thank you,” Mackay said as he moved to the door of the small office.

He needed a break from this deadlocked discussion and some place to sleep for a few hours. He was exhausted after the long plane ride and drive here. This was not going well, and if Isaac didn’t change his mind, come Friday, there would be no Jesus scrolls. The warehouse and scrolls would be blasted into oblivion.

Continued….

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Text-to-Speech and Lending: Enabled
Here’s the set-up:
Ominous forces are gathering to destroy the Gospel of Jesus scrolls, a recently revealed divine revelation that could bring new faith and hope to a world that is slowly sliding into darkness. A handful of brave souls are fighting to preserve that precious document, but they are being overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the forces arraigned against them.
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