Ravens Cove – Chapter 17

Ravens Cove, An Iconoclast Thriller (Book 1)
The Spiritual Battle for a Small Alaska Town
By Mary Ann Poll
America’s Lady of Supernatural Thrillers

Chapter 17

Grandma Bricken hummed happily standing at the stove, cooking being her favorite past time. October meant time to finish canning the cranberries and blueberries collected and frozen during the August harvest. The tundra-like hills surrounding Ravens Cove abounded
with the wild, delicious berries.

A pressure cooker rattling on the cooktop made it almost impossible to hear normal household noises. She tilted her head and listened. Is that a knock? No one knocks in Ravens Cove.

She sighed, ran her hands down her apron, drying them as she took her time getting to the hallway. She listened again.

“Mrs. Bricken?” Ken called out.

Grandma Bricken stopped at the mirror. Strands of silver, some crow-black mixed in, managed to struggle free from the tight bun atop her head. She smoothed them as much as possible and continued to the door.

Alese Bricken opened the door to a tall, lean, and attractive young man. Even at her age, she appreciated this one. Movie-star quality, she thought.

“Mrs. Bricken?”

She stared into the handsome stranger’s face. “Who are you?”

“I’m Agent Melbourne.” Ken automatically flashed his FBI badge.

“I’m here to assist the sheriff in investigating the recent murders. Your name came up as someone who might be able to clarify a few things. May I come in?”

Grandma Bricken thought this over while looking deep into Ken’s eyes, searching him.

Ken had never felt so exposed nor had silence ever been so loud. This woman exuded a personal power he encountered only once or twice in his life. He stood waiting for the decision.

“How did you come to find me?”

Fair question. “Well, I went to the small church down the road,” he pointed south, “and the pastor, umm, Lucas I believe, told me where I could find you. This after Anita Conner referred me to you.”

Grandma Bricken stepped back from the doorway, allowing enough room for him to enter. She turned her back, walked down the hall and disappeared into a doorway flooding the entry with light.

Ken followed, unsure if he had been invited in or not.

The glorious smells assaulting his senses emanated from the kitchen. A bright, cheery room, in total chaos compared to the rest of the home. There were berries in strainers sitting beside the large, country-style sink—deep and single. Meat sizzled in a large Dutch oven. Potatoes, onions, carrots, and celery stood like a small mountain beside the stove, ready to be added to the meat, he surmised. His stomach growled in response to the smells.

Grandma Bricken’s eyebrows lifted.

A small flush rose up Ken’s neck. In a flash, he became a small child again, his mother reprimanding him for being underfoot at dinner time. His appetite was insatiable. His growing frame demanded it as a child and still demanded it to keep any weight on him at all.

“What can I do for you, Agent?”

“I’m hoping you will give me some answers about the history of Ravens Cove. It seems there is little written background on this town. And neither Sheriff Bart nor the librarian were helpful in giving me the information I’m looking for. The librarian pointed me in your direction.”

If fire could shoot from someone’s eyes, it would have from Grandma Bricken’s.

“That woman!” She headed to the stove and stirred the aromatic meat with fervor.

She turned back, spoon held high, waving it back and forth. “That woman, if it’s what she can be called, sent you to me, sir, because she believes you will not get any answers. And you may not. Her dislike for you, unbeknownst to her, works in your favor.

“She sent you because she knows the legends of my people, who were here before and after the white man set foot in Alaska, are not repeated on a whim. They are not shared with those who would scoff or make a profit from them. My people know these ‘legends’ and we treat them as a gift of knowledge, not a source of profit or ridicule.” She stopped her rampage, eyes wide and wild.

Ken controlled a need to squirm, then run as far as he could from this one. Eccentric, to say the least. Passionate would be a more politically correct term; but I have never been politically correct, so eccentric bordering on batty is my conclusion.

Ken waited. The spoon hung in midair, pointed at his head. Though it could do no real damage, it would hurt if it hit him. More, he didn’t want to arrest this old woman for assaulting a federal agent.

The front door opened, breaking the stare-down.

Ken turned, letting his breath out, thankful for a diversion.

Kat skidded to a halt in the kitchen entry, unhappy to see Ken standing at her grandmother’s table.

Okay, two people who scare me. This one may be scarier than Mrs. Bricken, Ken thought.

“What the he… heck are you doing here?”

“Good catch, Katrina. I’d hate to wash your mouth out with soap at your age,” Grandma said.

“You wouldn’t!” Kat answered.

“I might.”

“Fine. Why are you here?”

“I. . . well, the librarian . . . “

“I’ll answer for him. As the cat,” Grandma chuckled at her pun, “seems to have gotten his

The play on words did not get lost on Ken, and he felt the embarrassing flush rising up his neck again.
How humiliating! Control yourself, Agent Melbourne, he told himself. Didn’t help at all.

Kat didn’t seem to notice.

A smile playing on the corners of Mrs. Bricken’s mouth said she did. She didn’t say anything.

Kat shot a look of challenge to her elder, then thought better of it. She turned her full attention to Ken, her silence demanding an answer.

These two are carbon copies of each other, just decades apart. “You’re related?” Ken asked.

“Not because it’s any of your business, FBI, but yes.”

The Ice Queen’s jabs were bad enough. Now her genetic and, most likely, environmental creator, witnessed the ridicule in Kat’s tone. The indignation rose. I’m done!

Ken turned steady, nonblinking eyes to Kat. “Whether you feel it is or not, Ms. Tovslosky, is of no consequence. Whether you like me being in Ravens Cove or not, I am. These murders are quite the puzzle, and your sheriff has asked me to help.” A little bit of a stretch, but I’m not getting into semantics right now.

“I want to find the murderer, or murderers, before someone else dies. I need to know the legend everyone is referring to. I may not believe in folklore, but I do believe there are some sick puppies in the world who would grab a story and run with it to get away with murder.”

Ken inhaled, then let out a slow, steady breath. I’m getting loud. Not professional. This woman brought out the most unprofessional parts of him.

He looked into Kat’s eyes. Deep, deep green someone could get lost in. He refocused to the point at hand, forcing his immediate and physical attraction to the background. This Ice Queen is more trouble than it’s worth.

Kat and her relative both turned matching green eyes on him.

The elder spoke first. “I’m not sure I can help you with what you seek. There is no explanation, at least mortal explanation, for these murders.”

“There is always an explanation.”

“Yes, but not always a natural one, young man.”

Although she sounded crazy to him, when he looked in her eyes, they were sincere and sane.

“Then tell me so I can make some sense of it. We do have a man in custody who may be the murderer, but we need to build a case against him to keep him behind bars.”

Grandma Bricken glanced at Kat, asking permission with her eyes. She felt in her heart Kat had deep feelings for this man, albeit unconscious, and she didn’t want to risk embarrassing her.

Kat, on the other hand, thought she did not like this man at all. He brought out every angry and nasty part of her nature. But she trusted him. She didn’t understand why, yet she did. She gave a slight nod.

Grandma Bricken turned and cut two thick slices of bread from her sourdough loaf and poured two aromatic cups of coffee from the pot simmering on the back burner. She sat the bread and cups on either side of the round kitchen table, and motioned for them to sit.

“Thank you.” Ken eased his weight into the comfortable, oversized oak chair.

Kat hesitated, then sat. She faced Mr. FBI and wished she were anywhere else.

“Do you believe in good and evil, Agent Melbourne? More to the point, do you believe in God and Satan?”

Ken sighed. Before answering, he picked up the cup, blew and took a tentative sip.

“In my line of work, ma’am, I have seen a lot of evil. So, I believe in what evil man can commit, yes.

“Do I believe in the battle described in the Bible between God and Satan for men’s souls—no. I think we humans must have an explanation for everything, even when there is none, enter God and the Devil. How can we describe it otherwise?”

“Well, Agent, you are wrong. Telling this tale is going to be a lot harder because of your disbelief.”

Grandma Bricken closed her eyes, deep in thought or meditation, Ken couldn’t tell which.

She seemed to come to a decision, and took in a deep breath. “I will tell you anyway because, whether you want to be or not, you are now a key player in the real-life legend unfolding in Ravens Cove. And you will be staying to the end, good or bad. I can feel it.”

Kat knew her grandmother’s intuitions well. They were never wrong. The odd new pastor called her a prophet. He said a true prophet’s predictions always came true. He described Grandma Bricken to a T. She never, never voiced an intuition which did not come to pass. Although Kat did not often agree with Pastor Lucas, she did about her grandmother and her intuitions.

“The man you have in custody, Agent Melbourne, is not your suspect. Unfortunately, I believe it will become clear by tonight.”

“He is the prime suspect. He . . .” Ken stopped in midbreath. He came close to launching into elaborate details about the two murders, including the little-known fact they both occurred after
dark. He knew confiding in her could jeopardize the investigation and his career. Her ability to rein in the Ice Queen had increased his admiration for her, which, in turn, increased his comfort-level with her. As a result, he dropped his guard and forgot his first priority—never let your emotions overtake your logic.

Grandma waived a hand in front of his far-off eyes. “Are you with me?”

Ken blinked a couple of times, smiled, and nodded.

She searched his face. Satisfied, she continued, “What you are looking for is older than the beginning of time. It is of eternity. It has visited Ravens Ravine since being thrown from heaven along with its leader, known as Lucifer, or Satan, or Beelzebub, or whatever name you wish to call it. When it is in residence, it has the power to destroy anything or anyone who comes into the ravine. To date, it has not reached its full power. It works in secret to build its strength. But I
need to go backward not forward.”

This story sounded all too familiar. “Has Josiah Williams been here?” Ken asked.

“Never heard of him. If he knows of this legend, it is not from me!”

“Sorry, just needed to check the facts.”

“This thing, Lord I pray your protection now, Iconoclast by name, has been given power over this area to destroy. Any people who dare to live around the ravine are in jeopardy.

“The good news, if there can be good news, is Iconoclast has a limited time to complete his plan. If he succeeds, he reigns and has authority to kill all who come through here for five years.

“If the Lord allows it to prevail, and if the people of Ravens Cove do not turn to God for help, this will be a wasteland within two weeks. It will take the people first, then the animals. It will tear all living things limb from limb and snack as it wants. The screams of those souls, animals too, will make this place uninhabitable for centuries. It will be known as haunted—a cursed and desolate place.”

Grandma Bricken sighed. “This beautiful town will be given over to darkness, not a sunrise again for centuries. Only blackness will cover it.

“There may be a way to block Iconoclast from ever again returning to Ravens Ravine, but none have been able to succeed. So until the end of the age of grace we now live in, until our Lord returns, or until a person or persons can be used by Jesus to defeat this horror, he has the ability to destroy and take souls for his ruler. Come Lord, Jesus.”

Grandma continued, “Iconoclast needs five victims to have enough power to overtake and destroy the town and all its inhabitants. The recent deaths, and the manner in which those poor souls died, have confirmed what I already knew. Ravens Cove is in Iconoclast’s territory.

“Two souls have been taken, and already the evil individuals in this town are becoming more brazen, hoping to help this malevolent force, not knowing their own destruction will come first.” She shook her head.

Kat took a deep breath and exhaled. She heard the legend many times. If her grandmother had an odd, obsessive side, this was it. To her it was a truth, and no one could convince Grandma
Bricken otherwise.

“So, why didn’t this happen before?” Ken asked with a tone of puzzlement, not the disbelief of other outsiders.

“In 1778 a crew member of the HMS Resolution was found murdered in much the same way as you’ve seen here. His shipmates left him where they found him on what we now call Corpse Mound. By the time the Denali found him, Iconoclast had left the area. Since then, no one lived near Ravens Ravine until recent decades.

“The original settlers, my people, the Denali, respected the legend and did not settle here. The white settlers who did come, respected the Denali cultures and did not go near the ravine—it being sacred ground. Then, as is human nature, people decided there is no threat and settled here. My people included.

“The first white settlers came and stayed because they could easily sustain an existence on the abundant fish and game. Missionaries followed. They converted many of my people; my direct ancestors among them. In the past fifty years or so, people have lost their fear of the evil foe. Not so much the Denali but the whites who came to settle.”

Kat blocked the tale and instead studied Ken for a reaction. She noted he was either a talented actor or his respect was genuine. Different from any other man she had known. Any suitor who she ever showed a romantic interest in ran, as if the house were going to collapse, when Grandma launched into this tale. Kat knew it was Grandma’s way of producing a shotgun to make sure the prospective man in her life would treat her well. There have been no prospects for
a long time, Kat mused.

And this man, Mr. Ego-driven from the big city and the Lower 48, is the one who passed the test. Of course, he did! The very one who repelled her as if she were a mosquito, and he was bug spray.

Kat realized she had been staring at Ken. She averted her eyes to her grandmother’s face. Too late, Grandma and FBI saw it. It was her turn to blush.

Grandma Bricken leveled her gaze on Ken. There was something going on here between her beloved granddaughter and this stranger. Something they didn’t even know about yet.

“Agent Melbourne, there will be more murders,” she repeated, lifting her ample bulk from the chair to get the coffeepot. Kat took a full cup.

“Just half, please. I’m not much for caffeine.”

Ken’s job alone kept him so alert there were many sleepless nights without an added stimulant. Add a spooky story, and he might not sleep for weeks.

Grandma Bricken smiled as she poured. She liked someone who knew his own strengths and weaknesses. She looked at the clock over the sink.

“Oh, look at the time. I must get ready now. Church service this evening.”

“Grandma, not again,” Kat said. She felt disturbed by how much time her grandmother spent with those Bible thumpers at the new church.

“Yes, again. Tonight is a special prayer service. These murders have the town so on edge. Among other things, it is my duty to pray, with my brothers and sisters in Christ, for God to give peace and strength to each townsperson.”

“How much good can a couple of old people praying do, Gram? I want you to stay home. There is a murderer out there. In fact, I will go get BC and stay here tonight.”

Grandma Bricken’s countenance softened. “Katrina, I am fine.”

She reached down and cupped Kat’s chin in her hand, lifting her face up until their eyes met. “I am so blessed to have you and your love in my life.” She released Kat’s chin and stroked her cheek with the back of her rough, brown hand.

Kat grabbed it and looked into her beloved grandmother’s eyes. Her love, more her loyalty, yelled, Protect her!

Grandma took Kat in when her mom ran off with some angler from Oregon. And she didn’t hesitate to make Kat her own after Kat’s dad, a sailor, was killed in some far-off port by some far-off enemy.

“Please Grandma.” Kat forgot Ken was in the room witnessing this tender moment.

Ken felt a tug on his heart. A need to shelter Kat overtook the desire he had felt.

Emotions are dangerous. Ken brought himself back to reality, filtering the conversation and actions of these two.

“If it makes you feel better, come and stay, Kat.”

Grandma couldn’t say the same for the beast Kat kept with her. It was the nastiest thing Grandma Bricken had ever seen called a pet. But it loved Kat and so Grandma accepted it, spiteful disposition and all. “And, of course, bring BC.”

“I don’t want you out after dark, Grandma!” Kat was insistent.

“Well, as you know, there is more dark than light this time of year. And, it is more important than anything else for me to get to church tonight.”

Kat began twisting and untwisting her paper napkin, just as she did as a child when something troubled her.

“I’ll tell you what, Kat, you and Agent Melbourne come with me; then you can see I’m okay until I get home.”

“I don’t like this idea at all! I do not want to go to church.” And I surely don’t want to go with Agent Melbourne, Kat thought.

“All or nothing, Kat. It might not be safe for just the two of us, either. I would feel better knowing we have such a strong escort.”

Grandma smiled. “And I do believe he must carry a gun. Right, Agent?”

“Certainly do, ma’am.” He patted the belt under his coat and over his right hip.

“Do not encourage her!” Kat shot psychic darts at him, eyes flashing.

Ken caught her gaze and held it. “Your grandmother needs to be escorted. You yourself said she should not be out alone after dark. I agree. And either we both go or she’s going by herself. Did I get your wishes right, Mrs. Bricken?”

“Indeed you did. Indeed you did.” She winked at Ken out of view from Kat.

Kat knew she was fighting a losing battle. “Fine. I’ll call Bart and tell him I won’t be back this afternoon. I’m going home to pack, grab BC, and I’ll be back here before you want to leave. What time is this service?”

“Six o’clock.”

“Don’t look so pleased with yourself, Grandma. You either, FBI! I don’t like this one bit.” Kat pushed back from the table, picked up her purse and headed for the door.

“We’ll be here by five forty-five,” Ken said. “Do not leave without us. I mean it, Mrs. Bricken. Your granddaughter is right about the danger everyone in town is facing.”

“Call me Grandma, Agent Melbourne, everyone in town does.”

She knew this man was the one for Kat and would be a part of her family. She felt good about it this time. All those others Kat brought to her home—few and far between as they might be—were wrong for Kat.

This one was strong and just as hardheaded, but more levelheaded and possessed a capacity for great love. The right combination for Kat, as soon as they both came to Christ. Without God’s blessing, nothing would come of the relationship.

Ken never knew either of his grandmothers because he was a late-in-life baby. This woman spoke to a hole in him he didn’t know existed. He cleared his throat. “Grandma.” He felt ridiculous for the third time in this woman’s home.

An extreme urge to catch up with Kat overcame him. He wanted to walk her somewhere, anywhere as long as he could talk to her.

“Go. She isn’t but a few feet out the door by now. She’s still fuming, though, so be careful of her temper, or you’ll be left in the smoke of her tongue.” Grandma giggled like a schoolgirl. “Go.”

Ken rose and hurried for the door. He turned back. “Thank you.” He flashed a conspiratorial grin at her. He didn’t know why, but he knew he just made a great ally in this aged, wise, and wonderful woman.

Grandma Bricken smiled. All was going to be okay for Kat. A burden she had long carried, Kat being orphaned and alone, lifted. Alese walked to the stove and stirred the simmering meat.

A vision of Kat’s mutilated body, lying on Corpse Mound, flew into her mind. Terror and despair flooded her soul.

You aren’t going to be there to keep her safe. You won’t keep your promise, old woman. Prevaricator’s evil, malevolent laugh echoed through her mind.

“Not while I’m alive, you horrid being, not while I’m still breathing. Jesus! Take my thoughts captive now, Lord.”

Prevaricator, a great deceiver, smirked. He watched his lies do their work. He felt the old biddy’s faith weakening under the strain of doubt.
He relished the red and black colors snaking from her being. He opened his mouth and inhaled. Her terror tasted sweeter than any he could remember.

Alese’s back straightened. “The Lord Jesus Christ rebuke you. Be gone, evil one!”

The lies flew back at him like kitchen knives.

Prevaricator somersaulted backward through the wall. He hurtled into the presence of his ruler. He quaked when it dawned on Iconoclast the mission had failed.

Enraged, Iconoclast stomped on his thin, stringy neck.

Prevaricator yowled. The yowl was decibels above the threshold of human hearing, but not above the birds. They shot into the air in search of safety.

Peace returned to Grandma Bricken. “Thank you, Lord, thank you.” She checked the stove and left the kitchen to prepare for the evening service.

Mary Ann Poll, America’s Lady of Supernatural Thrillers, is the award-winning author of the Iconoclast series. Mary Ann draws from her real-life experiences, as well as her imagination, to create supernatural thrillers