During his tenure as a priest, Father Julian Tuck had seen his share of difficult times. None were anywhere near as trying as the fiery ordeal his flock was dealing with since their city had been taken over close to a month earlier. Tuck, the rector of Sacred Heart Church, had a large congregation of over one hundred families. Some of his counterparts in the other Christian churches in the city had been apprehended and taken away. Tuck wondered when it might be his turn. At least thirty members of Sacred Heart had been detained.
Tall, with a full head of salt-and-pepper hair, the veteran priest didn’t look like he was about to turn sixty. The former abbot of a Trappist monastery in Ontario was an avid cyclist and hiker. He lifted free weights two days a week. His home was on a spacious acreage just outside of Kamloops where he operated a small business raising bees and selling honey.
Tuck had been in the parish office all morning catching up on paperwork. He heard somebody walking inside. Tuck stepped out into the foyer to find Barbara Hunt standing there. Barbara was in her late fifties, had auburn-colored hair and a pleasant face. She and her husband, Robert, were devoted members of the congregation. The long-married couple had two daughters-Molly and Rachel-that lived in Vancouver. She was obviously very worried and anguished.
“Good afternoon Barbara,” Tuck greeted her warmly. “How are you today?”
“We’re hanging in there, Father,” she replied with a weak sigh.
“Please, come into the office.”
Barbara followed Tuck into his office. She took a seat on the plush couch. Tuck sat behind his desk.
“How’s Robert these days?”
“Tense, as usual. Molly and Rachel are never far from our thoughts. We haven’t had any luck trying to reach them by phone or email. I’m worried. I truly am. There’s a family that lived next door to us. Robyn and Mike Johnson. They have three children. Last week, the entire family was arrested. Another neighbor of mine disappeared a few days before that. My God, I hope that we’re not going to get targeted.”
“God will protect us all,” Tuck stated. “Mike and Robyn Johnson-I don’t believe they are members of Sacred Heart.”
“They weren’t really religious from what I can see. Mike was the regional director of some national gun rights organization. I know he was very outspoken.”
Tuck was aware that some men and women who attended mass on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings were not practicing Catholics but were in fact government agents spying on and reporting individuals heard expressing subversive opinions. It was quite similar to the Stasi in the former East Germany, or the Soviet KGB. The church building could be bugged. In any event, Tuck prayed solemnly that the Lord would protect his flock from the evil that surrounded them.
“It’s heart-wrenching what happened to Bill and Francine Clare,” Barbara said.
“There was nothing left of the bodies to even give them a proper burial. Were you aware that their daughter and granddaughter are locked up in the former jail?”
“No.” Barbara was quite shocked.
Barbara leaned in closer as if somebody was standing there listening to their conversation.
“Father, I’m about to reveal something that cannot leave this church.”
“Anything you tell me is strictly confidential.”
“Bob knows a guard who works at the prison. Young fella. Hasn’t been there very long. There are several new guards on staff, many of whom are from the U.S. About Nicole and Arielle, have you seen them yet?”
“Not yet. I will have to go through the bureaucratic process of getting a pass. And I don’t expect that to be a walk in the park.”