The Night Patrols had a reason to keep a closer watch on the Priest. Cleansed by Fire.

More chapters from Cleansed by Fire

A VG Serial: Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 19

As soon as Father Frank arrived back at the rectory, he put in a call to Mike.

“The overweight man who likes to play with fire is still around,” the priest said.

“You been back to The Corral?” Mike’s tone of voice showed his disapproval.

“No, I did not go to The Corral.” Father Frank didn’t bother to say where he had been. “I was driving back into Pine Tree, on the old milk plant road, when a pickup ran me off the road. Guess who the driver was?”

“Were you hurt?”

“No. I’m fine. He forced me into a ditch, then came and yelled at me for getting the police on his case.”

“In a ditch. Was your car damaged?”

“No. It’s a shallow ditch just beyond the Exxon station. I was able to back out with no trouble. Far as I can tell, no damage to my car at all.”

“What did he do? I want to know exactly what happened.”

A loud clatter came through the telephone, and Father Frank moved the hand-set away from his head for a moment. When he pressed it to his ear again, Mike was talking.

“Sorry about that. Dropped the phone trying to get my notebook open to the right spot. Okay. What happened?”

“I was driving about the speed limit. He passed me, and cut across in front of me so sharply I had to swerve into the ditch to avoid hitting him. He jumped out of the truck and came pounding on my door.”

“What kind of a truck?”

“I don’t know. A big truck, extended cab. Red. Covered with mud.”

“So asking for the license number is a waste of time?”

“’Fraid so. Truth is, I forgot to look. I guess I was a little keyed up.”

“Okay. What’d he do next?”

Father Frank tried to reconstruct the tirade, and his res­ponses. He ended by saying, “The important thing is, he said maybe the churches deserved it, and maybe more would fry. I think that’s the word he used, fry. Said maybe my church would be next, and that would teach me a lesson.”

All Father Frank heard was silence for a minute. Then Mike said, “Okay, I think I got most of that down. Do you want to come down and file a formal complaint, so when we catch up with him, we’ll have more to keep him on?”

The priest thought about that for a moment. “No. No harm, no foul. My car wasn’t hurt, and he didn’t touch me. But his threat against Prince of Peace sounded sincere. Can you keep a closer look out for him? And patrol our area a little more?”

“Yes. I’ll put out the word that this guy is still in the pic­ture and beefing up his role. I’ll get the night patrols to loop by your place more often.”

“Thanks.”

“I still think you ought to come down and file a formal complaint. Get it on the record.”

Father Frank thought about that for a minute. “No. At least not yet.”

He hung up the phone and sank down on a chair. Until he reported what the man had said, the priest hadn’t given much credence to the man’s ranting about Prince of Peace church being a target. Now, his stomach roiled. Father Frank remembered how he felt watching the other churches burn. He could only imagine how much worse it would be watching his own church going up in flames. Maybe he should have filed a police report on the incident.

Why don’t I have a nice watch dog, maybe a German Shepherd? Or a pit bull.

***

POPsters rehearsal started at 7:00, but by 6:45 when Georgia and Phyllis arrived, almost all the teenagers were al­ready there, chattering away.

“It’s so sad,” Hillary was saying to the group. “They don’t have a church. They don’t even have songbooks.” She turned to Georgia and Phyllis. “Isn’t there anything we can do to help them?”

“By ‘them’, do you mean one of the Baptist churches, or do you mean all three?” asked Georgia.

“I guess all three,” answered Hillary.

“What did you have in mind?” Georgia’s brain was al­ready working on the problem.

“I don’t know. A bake sale, maybe?”

One of the boys chimed in. “How about a raffle?”

A girl with pink ribbons in her hair said, “Why bother? Those wouldn’t raise enough money to even notice. We had a cake sale at school and raised a hundred and thirty dollars. That was good for the Spanish club but wouldn’t help the churches any.”

For a minute, no one offered any more suggestions. Then Georgia said, “How about a benefit concert? You’ve already got a concert planned. Why not turn it into a benefit?”

A number of the choir members liked the idea but then the girl with the pink ribbons spoke up again.

“So we raise three hundred instead of one thirty? Still won’t make any difference. And even if we fill the hall, we’re not gonna make three hundred dollars after paying for stuff.”

Georgia held up her hand until everyone was silent. “First, we name it a benefit concert and raise the price of tickets. Then, we get sponsors.”

Hillary looked confused. “What good do sponsors do?”

“They pay to be sponsors,” said Georgia. “And we go after the businesses in town. Get as many as possible to kick in, and we’ll list them as sponsors in the program. The more they contri­bute, the bigger their name in the program.”

Phyllis stepped forward. “We don’t have a program.”

“We do now,” said Hillary. “I think it’s a great idea. My Dad owns the tire shop. I can get him to be a sponsor.”

“Won’t the program cost a lot?” asked Phyllis.

The ribbon girl raised her hand. “Maybe not, Mrs. Traynor. My next door neighbor has a printing shop. I could ask him to donate the programs. I bet he’d do it. He goes to Pine Valley Baptist. He was pretty bummed when it burned. I’ll ask him.”

Phyllis nodded. “Okay. How many want to try this?”

A chorus of “Yeah,” “Let’s do it,” and “Go for it,” re­sounded in the small room.

“Can we sell enough tickets at higher prices?” she asked.

“We’ll sell more’n we can get in,” one of the kids yelled.

Phyllis looked at Georgia, and then back at the kids. “Can you sell enough to fill the hall two nights? Friday and Saturday?”

“Count on it,” the kids yelled back.

Once Roger arrived and was filled in, he was as excited as the kids, and immediately started them on a new song.

“Will you help?” Phyllis asked Georgia.

“You know I will. Why don’t we meet tomorrow morning and put together a plan.”

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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