Thursday, September 16, 2010

Friday Fiction for September 17, 2010

Christina is hosting the Linky tool for Friday Fiction this week, over at With Pen In Hand. If you haven’t been there already, please be sure to click over and check out the other wonderful stories for your weekend reading pleasure.

It’s tough sometimes, with a story such as Precocious by Consent, to shine some light in the middle of a series of dark events. This week’s chapter takes the reader back to small town USA, and those that have to wait while others work in harm’s way.

Chapter 24

Wednesday night

Gary Duddeck carried the guitar through the nearly deserted parking lot, and loaded it into the back seat of his car. On the surface, the Wednesday evening service had gone fine, but he couldn’t escape a feeling of misgiving about the gathering. Folks in the congregation kept asking about Katya, and despite knowing how vital it was to maintain the cover story, it felt wrong to lie to them about where she was and what she was doing. Most accepted the explanation that her grandmother lived in a very rural area of Russia, and did not have internet or a phone line, but a few people were starting to get suspicious. Asher and Gosia had already squelched a couple of rumors that had started, but more such speculation was certain to happen the longer she was gone.

He closed the passenger side door and leaned against the car, folding his arms on the roof and resting his forehead on his arms. He wanted to tell the church the truth - that Katya was acting as bait for a serial killer, and needed their prayers for her safety. He’d been assured by many of their friends that prayers were being said for her safety in Russia, but those prayers didn’t carry the same feeling of urgency his own did. She was teasing a predator, and that was a far more dangerous game than a simple journey to visit family.

A hand alighted on his shoulder and gave a gentle squeeze. “Are you all right, Gary?” Asher asked.

For most people, he would have simply said ‘yes.’ “No, not really,” he said, without lifting his head.

“You want to go inside and talk about it? Normally, I’d ask if you wanted to go get some coffee, but I’m guessing this won’t be something you’d want to discuss in a public place.”

He nodded, and followed the minister back inside the building, to one of the small counseling rooms off the side of the sanctuary.

Asher held the door open for him, and slid the “Occupied” sign into place before following him inside and closing the door.

Gary sat down in one of the padded chairs, and leaned forward. With his elbows on his knees, he held his head in his hands, looking at the floor.

The pastor pulled another chair to closely face his, and sat down. “Has there been any word?” he asked.

“Not from Katya,” Gary replied. “I’m not sure what’s worse, though – the news I don’t get, or the news I do hear. Lloyd was hurt this week.”

“Your detective friend? What happened?”

“Yeah, the detective. I don’t know what happened. I only know he was injured in the course of the investigation, and they’re not releasing any details.”

“Maybe it was just a simple accident.”

“No; if it had been just some routine accident or fall, I doubt there would have been any hesitation to say what had happened. This has something to do with the killer, and if he can get to someone like Lloyd, how are they going to keep him from getting to Katya?”

Asher considered the question for a moment, and then opened his Bible. “Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place,” he read. “No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.” He turned the Bible around for Gary to see, and pointed to the passage in Psalm 91. “Human authorities and methods can only do so much. You have to trust that God is watching over Katya, and to get to her, the killer has to get past God first.”

He glanced at the text, and then looked away. “He got past God to get to Lloyd.”

“No, Gary, he didn’t. We don’t get past God that way. We can’t feint our way by Him, and we certainly can’t muscle our way through Him. I don’t know why God allowed whatever happened to Lloyd to happen, but this I do know – it didn’t just slip by Him. He wasn’t tricked or caught by surprise. Whatever it was, happened because God allowed it to happen, for His purpose.”

“What if He allows something to happen to Katya?”

“I know it’s not easy to accept, but if He does, then He has a reason for it, and we have to trust that He knows what He’s doing.”

“I wish it were that easy to trust.”

The gentle hand was on his shoulder again. “Gary, just remember that, as much as you love Katya, God loves her even more. You know that, don’t you?”

He nodded. “Yeah, I know that.”

“And He has everything under control.”

“Yeah, I know that, too.”

“Now, how are you holding up in her absence otherwise? I know when Gosia is away, the nights can seem awfully lonely, and it gets very tempting to surf the internet for some kind of diversion.”

“I never figured you for having a problem with that, Asher.”

“I’m a man, just like you are, Gary. The ease of access on the internet, coupled with the illusion of secrecy, has resulted in an almost epidemic number of ministers who admit to either indulging in, or struggling against, viewing porn. The temptation can be strong any time, but when we’re alone, it’s worse. It can be so easy to think of it as a harmless outlet, because no one ever has to know, and then we won’t share the struggle with anyone else because we’re ashamed to admit we might have a weakness, and need help.”

“That’s the way my life was before – horrible desires that I was terrified someone might discover about me. If you’re an alcoholic or drug addict, and join a support group, people applaud your efforts to overcome the problem, but who would want to admit they belonged to something like Pedophiles Anonymous?”

“Is it still a struggle for you?”

He covered his eyes with his hands and sighed. “I think it will always be there, Asher. It doesn’t have the hold on me that it had before, but you’re right. With Katya gone, it’s worse at night. We have software on the computer that blocks the porn sites, but I know how to defeat it if I want to. When she’s home, I can tell her when I’m having a difficult time, and she can help me through it, but right now, I can’t even send her a text message or call her.”

“I understand, Gary, and I want you to promise me something. Promise to call me when you’re struggling, no matter what time it is. Give me the chance to encourage you and to pray with you, instead of thinking you have to face this alone. Will you do that?”

He closed his eyes and considered the request for a few moments, before slowly nodding. “I will, Asher, and thank you.”

“Would you like to take some time to pray now, before you go home?”

“Would I like to? No,” he said. “Do I need to? Very much so right now.”


Unknown said...

You make some really great points in this section. Lots to think on. Well done!

Catrina Bradley said...

This is one of my favorite pieces of your writing. The dialog is so real, and the comfort from scripture the minister gave, and his advice, made ME feel better. (Maybe why it like it so much.) Wonderful writing, Rick.