Night skies arrived. Streets fell silent. News crews are gone. Natalie opened her eyes. Still inside her car. Thinking. What will be her next move? Don’s family. They had to know. Will they even care? No. Don’t lose focus. First, get Strutter and then bear condolences. Was that thug telling the truth? Can there be another witness? Perhaps a member of the church? There’s got to be more. She had to know. For Don’s sake.
What was that? Sounds like screaming coming from afar.
Natalie got out of her car and paced toward the alleyway. Was someone in trouble? A woman. She looked down the deathly darkness and saw no one. Was she hearing things? Nerves might be messing with her mind. Overwhelmed by too much death.
CLANG!! CLANG!! CLANG!! CLANG!!
Garbage cans tumbled out to the sidewalk and a blonde woman collapsed
in front of her, panting and pleading for help. “Are you okay? Natalie consoled, offering to help her up. The woman then intently grabbed her arm, squeezing so tight that her nails nearly tore through the private eye’s coat. So strong. Natalie couldn’t pull away. Blonde hair plopped to the ground as the woman revealed her grueling demonic face with sunken red eyes and an alligator mouth. She growled like a mad dog as flesh melted over her skull like candle wax.
Echoes rang in her ear as Natalie jumped up from the driver’s seat. Imprints from the car horn branded on her forehead. Worriedly, she checked her arms for claw marks. Nothing there. It was just a nightmare. But it felt so real. A face-
to-face meeting hasn’t happened yet, but Natalie knew in her heart what Cat
Strutter looked like. She ran her fingers through her hair and took deep breaths,
regaining composure. The sun dipped lower into the horizon. Arthur Avenue had cleared out. Groggily, she stepped out of the car and stretched the tiredness out
of her body. Time to get back to work. Lives need to be avenged.
Walking toward the front steps of the church, she approached a plain- clothed older man sweeping the walkway. “Excuse me?” she asked. The man turned around with a welcoming smile. “If it’s not too much trouble, may I ask you a few questions about the robbery last night?”
“Are you a reporter?” the man asked. “No-no. You look more like a person who fights for people, not ratings. I am the head pastor of this institution of worship. My name is Matthew Goode. And you are?”
“Natalie Mercedes, private detective. Nice to meet you.”
The pastor climbed up the stairs and held open the door. Natalie took a peek inside and thought the church looked in great condition despite just being vandalized. Rows of padded seats filled the auditorium. Musical instruments decorated the stage, replacing the traditional setup of pews, organs and an altar. She was taken back by its wholesome presence, seeing it as a haven.
“Now young lady, what is troubling you?” the pastor asked while escorting her inside. He then offered her a seat in the front row. “You claim to be here in regards to last night’s robbery.” He tightened his eyes. “I sense, however, that your concerns are more personal, am I right?”
“You read me like a book,” Natalie admitted. “Are you psychic? Hold up. I didn’t mean that. Psychics and tarot card readers usually possess demonic traits and stuff like that, right?”
“In most cases, it’s probable. However, God does sometimes bless people with special gifts to help certain destinies to be fulfilled, even if not their own. God has a plan for all of us. And those plans are meant to give us hope. We
all have a destiny Ms. Mercedes, but only the ones with a willing heart will have the chance to experience the wonder of God’s power, enabling you to do amazing things in your life.”
“With all due respect pastor, but that’s not for everyone. My cousin gave ten years of her life to serve justice and help people - all this while enduring
a terrible marriage - just to be brutally murdered by a psychopath. Was it her destiny to die for doing the right thing? How can you explain that?”
The pastor concentrated on using the rights words to help her understand. “This may not be what you want to hear Ms. Mercedes, but by your cousin’s act of courage and heart of righteousness, God has already rewarded her in the Kingdom of Heaven. However, the enemy is powerful in this world. I can see she carried a string of emotions like a noose around her neck. The enemy will do whatever it takes to tear you away from your faith, then use every resource possible to destroy you.” He sighed. “Don Crass drowned in guilt for being
a dirty cop. He thought he lived a meaningless life and was destined to die a failure. And then, he met you.”
Natalie was shocked. How could he have known about the both of them? And so well? “You showed Mr. Crass that there are still trustworthy people left
in this world, which reminded him of why he became an officer in the first place. He didn’t want to die a criminal. The robbery was his swan song. Although tragic, he died a happy man.” She gasped. “And as for Ms. Combs. She was dripping with God’s favor. A true child of the light. Losing custody of her son made her also lose faith. Her light then faded. Instead of honor, her job became
a burden. A workaholic, sounds like alcoholic, correct? Both use an excessive amount of substance to mask their pain. I’m sure you’ve noticed her change in demeanor after speaking to her for so long.” She regrettably nodded. “Martha was an open target. It wasn’t until she crossed John Hart that the enemy knew of her existence. However, I do believe that God used her death to give birth to a divine movement. A change is coming. Both you and I are about to witness a miracle.”
Natalie froze. Under the span of a minute, Pastor Goode knew everything about her. She even blinked a few times from believing in seeing a faint glow around his body.
“Find peace in knowing that Ms. Combs did God’s work to the best of her ability. She’s now in a better place.”
“Then it’s only a matter of time before death comes for me,” she worried. “You’re a warrior Ms. Mercedes, respectfully, much stronger than your
cousin. You are about to do something great. Monumental. Just stay on the path,
keep your eyes and ears open and remember this conversation whenever you feel like straying away. I wish I can give you exact details about last night’s robbery, but we both know who’s responsible for Don Crass’ murder, don’t we?”
“How do you know these things?”
“Angels watch over all of us, Ms. Mercedes. Please stay faithful. When they
find you - and they will eventually - you’ll have all the power you’ll ever need
to confront them. You’re one of God’s warriors now. They don’t stand a chance. Remember that.”
“I will pastor.”