People would say it’s a shame the priest was trapped in the blaze. Cleansed by Fire.

More chapters from Cleansed by Fire

A VG Serial: Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 30

Ward pulled a lighter from his pocket.

“Stop!” Sammie yelled, his eyes like saucers. “You can’t burn my church.”

“Watch me.”

And Ward touched the flame to the diesel he had poured on the floor. In an instant, the flames skipped along the diesel puddled along the vinyl tile between the rows of pews. Ward’s eyes reflected the orange tongues of energy, and a sneer formed on his lips.

Sammie ran the few steps to Father Frank and began pulling on him.

“Help me, Ward. Help me pull him out.”

“Sure, I’ll help you.”

He picked up the two-by-four he had used on Father Frank, swung it around and cracked Sammie on the side of the head. The teenager fell in a heap. He lay motionless. Even his chest did not appear to move.

“You two can pray together.” He tossed the two-by-four down on top of Sammie.

Ward picked up the diesel can. He checked the fire. It wasn’t burning as vigorously as he wanted. He swung the can back and started to throw more fuel on the blaze. But he stopped the can, poised in mid-swing.

Hold it. Remember what’s important. This church isn’t it. Get the next Baptist church and finish the job. Besides, the firemen can’t handle two fires at once. Both of ’em will burn to the ground.

The diesel remaining in the can was all he had. He didn’t have any more at the house either. The next church was the important one. It would complete his plan. Did he dare risk stop­ping by a service station and buying more diesel tonight? Maybe not. With two churches burning, police would be all over the gas stations. Someone just might remember him. So far, he’d been able to stay under the radar. A little bit of diesel from the car­wash every day and nobody had a clue.

He looked back at the fire. The flames licked at the back pews. It wouldn’t stop now. And nobody would notice until it was too late.

He glanced at Sammie. The scrawny kid looked like a popped balloon. He ain’t gonna cause any trouble now. Ward shook his head. He was a good friend. My only friend. But he’d gone soft. And the way he was talking, he might’ve gone to the police. It’s the way it’s gotta be.

Ward looked at Father Frank. He ain’t moving. Probably dead already. The fire’ll clean things up. No one’s gonna figure anything out.

He moved to the door, cracked it a few inches and peered out. No one in sight. He eased out and quickly shut the door. He stood as still as a post. Nothing moved. Even the pine needles on the trees were motionless. The sliver of moon hid behind a cloud. No security lights. He walked across the parking area at a normal pace and disappeared into the trees.

Now, to finish the night’s work. Then the fires would stop. No more churches would burn. And no one would ever fig­ure out why they started or why they stopped. The police will claim their increased patrols prevented any more. Good. Let them think that. Others will say it was a shame the guy got trapped in the fire.

In the dark, no one could see the smirk on Ward’s face.

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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