Chapter 6: The Devil
Author's Note: This is a very short chapter. It's only one scene, and it's about 1/4 of what I'd normally put out in terms of word count for a chapter. But, at the suggestion of my editor, I am posting it on Halloween. We both think that it fits the theme. :-)
It was Wednesday and the end of the workday for most folks, though pastor David Rogers was just getting started. He had a sermon to preach at the Baptist Church in town. Only the truly dedicated showed up on Wednesday night services, and he tailored his sermons accordingly.
He knew that Huck would be there. David had an obligation to help keep Huck on the path. He needed to ensure the man knew that homosexuality was a sin and that what they did now for his son, Rayne, was necessary.
The discussion with Huck last night had been hard. It was apparent to pastor Rogers that the young father struggled with their plan. It had almost sounded as if Huck had second thoughts about the inherent damnation wrapped up in the gay lifestyle.
"I don't understand," Huck had said at one point during their talk. "If God made my son, then why would he make him so flawed? If being gay is wrong, why? Why would God do such a cruel thing to my sweet boy?"
Pastor Rogers knew what he needed to do. He had to reinforce during the sermon that homosexuality was a sin. It was Rayne's trial and a character flaw that had to be overcome. He would repeat it until Huck had no doubts, then maybe he could help pastor Rogers bring Rayne back to the light.
The pastor walked out of his front door. This time of year, the darkness came earlier and earlier, and though it was only a little after six p.m., the clouds overhead meant he had to squint in the garage light to find the key to his car. He finally found the key on the ring and slipped it into the lock.
David jerked in surprise. Someone stood in shadow on the other side of his driveway. The man had his arms crossed, leaning back against the maple tree that grew at the corner of their property.
How long has he been there? I didn't even notice him. Pastor Rogers swallowed nervously. "Uh, yes? Do I know you?"
The man took a single step forward. Now the light from the garage illuminated most of his body, though his face was still in shadow. "No. You don't know me." The fellow's voice dropped almost to a growl. "But I know you. And I have a message for you."
The hair rose on the back of preacher Roger's neck. The body language and tone of this man set him on edge. He surreptitiously unlocked the door to his car. "Oh? And what's that?"
The fellow cocked his head. "If you get into that car before I'm done speaking, you will regret it. I'm trying to do this the easy way. But things will get hard quickly if you test me."
There was a calm, clinical, assured tone in the voice. That unnerved David more than anything else. There was something predatory, dangerous, and yet, for the moment, something restrained in the man. Pastor Rogers released the key that was in the car door and nodded. "Okay. Okay. There's no need for threats. What did you want to say, then?"
The man leaned forward, putting his closed fists on the hood of the car. The light now illuminated his mouth and the stubbled skin of his chin and jaw. "You will stop preaching the sins of homosexuality, and stop counseling the man, Huck, concerning his son."
Though frightened, the demand brought an indignance and fire back to the pastor's eyes. "I can't do such a thing." He straightened, squaring his shoulders. "It doesn't matter what you do to me, I won't compromise the word of God. And I will continue to deliver His word."
The man slowly smiled, his teeth glimmering in the white light from the mounted LED lamps attached to the garage. "How marvelously convenient for you—to pick and choose which 'sin' deserves attention." The fellow took out a sheet of folded paper from his pocket. Unfolding it, he slid it across the hood of the car. The man seemed to have an awareness of where the light ended, and he never exposed his whole face to pastor Rogers.
Rogers looked down at the paper. He gasped. It felt as if an icy spear had been driven into his heart. "Wh—" Swallowing noisily, he picked up the printed photograph with shaking fingers. It clearly showed a carbon copy of his checkbook—the one he kept completely separate from all other finances. Biting his lip, he tore his eyes away from the sheet. "How did you get this?"
"That doesn't matter. What matters is, I have proof of a twenty-two thousand dollar check you wrote to Atlantis Casino, two weeks ago, in Reno, Nevada." He smiled, pure venom and bile in the expression. "Tell me—how long have you spent church funds on your gambling habit?"
He knows. Oh, God. God, save me. Pastor Rogers held up a quaking hand. "Now," he rubbed a sheen of sweat off his face, "now, just listen—"
"No." That cold, evil voice grew even deeper. "You listen. You will never, ever preach on the evils of homosexuality again." The edge crept back into the tone. "Or I will destroy your entire life. I will take it all from you by revealing your sins one by one." The shadowed figure cocked his head. "Do you understand?"
Pastor Rogers only hesitated a moment then nodded. "I understand. Yes."
"Good." The man stepped back until he was almost entirely obscured by the deep shadow near the fenceline. "I'll be watching you, pastor."
The man began to move away, and Rogers called out, "Wait!" His tormentor, only barely visible, turned to look at him. "Who—who are you?"
"Isn't it obvious?" The only thing the pastor saw for certain was the white of the man's smile as it glimmered in the blackness surrounding him. Then he took another step and was gone, swallowed up by the night.
The final words whispered from the impenetrable shadows sent chills down Rogers' spine. "I'm the devil."
Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts about the chapter at the following email address link. Wayne Gray
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