"The Elements Fight For the Virtuous"
I am happy to announce that I have finished Part XIII, "The Elements Fight For the Virtuous", of From Darkness Into Light. Just to tantalize you, here is a sample.
Bernie turned around and looked up at the choir loft. He almost expected to see the four missing girls there – but instead, he saw four very old women in habits – one at the organ, the others clustered directly behind it.
It was a gorgeous experience to hear. Their plain, youthful voices were so perfectly balanced with each other it might have been one rich voice chanting alone. When it was over, the three went up to the choir loft and greeted the sisters.
"We live next door," the sister at the organ told them after they had introduced themselves. "We're so glad Father still permits us to live there, and to come here to do our Office! So few people come any more, even during Lent... We're glad you stopped in; you must have a great devotion to St. Joseph." She shut off the organ, then slid off the bench and turned – she was a very small woman, even shorter than Marty. "I'll come downstairs and let you out..." She signalled the other sisters to remain, then led the way to the other door.
The three followed her down the old wooden stairs – but at the bottom Bernie said, "But Sister, these doors weren't locked..." He looked, but to his surprise, they were now closed securely.
"Certainly they are; we've had to be so careful, as we've had some strange visitors here recently..." Her face was stern, and Bernie expected her to ask how they had gotten inside the church, but instead she lowered her voice. "We found threats against the Blessed Sacrament..."
The three looked at each other anxiously. "Threats?"
"Yes." From a pocket she took out a sheet of paper around which she had wrapped her rosary, and handed it to Bernie. "This one was taped to the altar today..."
Carefully Bernie untwisted the paper and opened it. Greg Weller gasped when he saw the bright red symbol – the double-loop with its eight trigrams encircling a five-pointed star –
the same symbol that had marked the destroyed furnace at North Belloc Steel. Bernie and Marty stared at each other. «We've come to the right place», Bernie muttered.
"You've seen such a thing before?" the sister asked.
"Yes, though it hadn't been done on a color printer like this. They're terrorists, they caused the destruction of a furnace over at the Steel recently. And now..."
As he looked again at the wrinkled paper, he saw something was printed at the bottom...
(Bernie would never repeat its exact words; he only said it was "something vile against the Eucharist.")
Bernie could see Greg's muscles flexing as he read the terrible words; Marty almost swelled in size as if he was mobilizing himself to action. "What can we do, Sister?" Bernie asked confidently.
She turned a very sad face to them. "We can offer no physical defense, of course, but we are steadfast in our prayer. Obviously our presence next door is a deterrent..."
She got no further. There was a sudden loud thump on the main doors, and they shook as some outside force battered upon them.
Then they heard a man outside – his voice had an oriental accent and a powerful carrying quality: "Bernie – Bernie Brown – we know you're in there – we saw you enter. We'll soon have these doors open, and then..."
(There was more to the statement, but this too Bernie would not repeat.)
The doors shook again – then they heard a similar noise from somewhere at the other end of the church.
Bernie turned to the sister, who had turned pale. "Quickly, Sister! Go back to your convent and lock your door. We'll defend this place...
"But... Bernie, if they enter... the Sacrament..."
"Go! We'll do what we can. Call the police."
"But the priests aren't here, they're on retreat, they won't..."
"The police," he repeated clearly. "Please go!" Gently he pushed her towards the stairs – then, as the doors shook again, and that ugly voice called another vile threat, she ran.
"Well?" Marty asked, his cellphone in his hand. "No signal – they must have some sort of jamming device..."
The door shook a fourth time, creaking ominously.
"I don't see how we can keep them out," Bernie said. "Those doors won't last much longer. The most we can do is delay them – and hope the police get here quickly."
"And pray that the convent still has a land-line!" Greg added grimly.
[don't you just hate it when they cut it off at the exciting part?]