In the distance, he saw flames leaping higher into the night sky. Cleansed by Fire. Chapter 4

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A VG Serial: Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 4

Each night, Father Frank spent at least forty-five minutes reading from the Bible. Though he had worked late tonight on plans for the fall program of instruction for elementary students, he still kept to his habit of Bible reading. The clock in the living room chimed midnight. As always, he felt refreshed and peaceful after his time with the Bible.

He had just started for his bedroom when he heard the sirens, and they sounded close. He walked onto the front porch. Directly in front of him, not more than a few blocks away, he could see flames leaping into the night sky. He reached back and closed the door and headed for his car.

It took barely two minutes. Four blocks away, Father Frank saw the yellow trucks and the fire fighters working to control the flames. His pulse rate jumped and his throat went dry. He dreaded to see any fire in the community. Now, an added pressure gripped his heart. To his horror, a raging inferno was consuming Calvert Road Baptist Church.

A dozen people stood at a distance watching the spec­tacle, while others arrived by car and on foot.

Father Frank turned off his car and surveyed the scene. Three police cars fractured the darkness with red, white, and blue strobe lights. Blue bubbles on other vehicles signified volun­teers had joined the small group of professional firefighters Pine Tree supported.

The men moved quickly, grim expressions on their faces, focused on trying to minimize the disaster. Orders were shouted out and obeyed with quiet efficiency.

The fire was winning.

The flames lit the area, spotlighting a black Trans-Am with dark tinted windows lurking at the edge of the parking lot. Maybe now was a good time to find out why the driver was hanging around Pine Tree. And the teenagers. And a burning church. The priest started toward the car.

“Can I help you, Father?”

Father Frank cut his eyes right to see a man coming toward him. About six feet tall with broad shoulders, and dark, wavy hair, he wore plain clothes, but his manner and carriage said policeman.

“I’m just going over there to talk to someone,” the priest said.

“We’d really like to keep the crowd to a minimum. And we’re restricting the movement of civilians around the fire. You need to stay back.”

“But …” Father Frank started to object, then stopped.

It was too late anyway. The car with the tinted windows backed up, cut its wheels and drove away. There would be no confrontation tonight. He looked back at the policeman.

“I’m Father Frank from Prince of Peace. I don’t believe I know you.”

“Probably not,” the policeman answered, but his atten­tion was focused on the fire.

When he said nothing else, Father Frank decided to be more direct.

“And what is your name?”

“Detective Mike Oakley.”

“How long have you been on the police force here?”

“Nine years.”

“Are you from here?” the priest continued to pry.

“No. Hickory Ridge.”

Father Frank opened his mouth to ask another question, but at that moment, a uniformed policeman approached. In the poor light, Father Frank could only make out the last name. Turner.

“Need you over here, Mike.”

Mike Oakley abruptly turned and left without a word.

Father Frank continued to watch the flames consume the church. He tried to think of the flames as the power of God, doing something only He could understand. But instead, they looked like the fires of hell, trying to dissuade people from God, destroy­ing a temple erected to give praise to the Lord.

The priest’s breathing accelerated. He felt he could see the devil in the flames, lashing out at God, thrashing the people who worshiped in this house of the Lord.

The church served as a gathering place for people to publicly show their devotion to the Almighty. It brought people together for Christian fellowship. The church shone like a beacon, inviting people to come and share in the love of God.

Now the beacon was being reduced to a pile of cinders.

Chapters of the serial are published on Monday, Thursday, and Sunday.

You can learn more about Cleansed by Fire and other James H. Callan novels on his Amazon Author Page.

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