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
PRAYERS AND PLOTS
Ken arrived at five-ten, allowing for differences in clocks. He knocked and sidestepped the second BC attack. He grabbed the cat in one arm, pulling just hard enough on the nape of his neck, like a mother cat carries its kitten, to stop the biting and clawing in its tracks. Subdued, BC lay still, except for the swishing tail.
“Enough, cat. Now off with you.” Ken dropped BC ahead of him into the cabin to give himself a head start if the cat decided to come at him again.
Kat favored Ken with a look bordering on respect. “No one knows how to subdue BC but me.”
She stepped out the door, closed and locked it.
“Darn.” She unlocked the door, swept BC into a kennel before he could protest and grabbed the overnight bag. Balancing the bag and BC, Kat squeezed through the door and kicked it shut.
“Kat.” Bart’s voice came from the gravel path doubling for a driveway.
Kat and Ken turned to watch his stocky frame come up the hill to her lawn.
“Where’re you off to?”
His eyes settled in challenge on Ken’s face. Possible friend or not, this guy is trouble where Kat’s concerned.
Ken returned the glare.
“We’re going to get Grandma and take her to church.”
Bart turned surprised eyes to Kat. “Since when do you go to church, especially the holy rollin’ one?”
“Since Grandma wouldn’t take no for an answer and was going to go by herself after dark. No choice.”
“Stubborn. We do come by it rightly, now don’t we?” he chuckled.
“We?” Ken asked.
“Well, not because this is any of your business either, FBI, but we’re related. This man is not just our town’s fine sheriff, he is also my first cousin.”
Relief and understanding flooded Ken. He mistook family protectiveness for male competition.
“I’ll walk with you.”
“That’s not necessary. One escort is more than enough,” Kat answered.
“Probably right, KittyKat. But, we got the autopsy results and some information on the John Doe from yesterday. I want to go over them with Melbourne.”
Ken lost interest in the family relationship and turned his full attention to Bart. “Listening.”
“Seems our John Doe is, or was, a Mr. Theodore Dank, a homeless man, residing in and around Anchorage. Has a record for panhandling, petty theft, nothing big. Don’t know what brought him this way, but I’m assuming he was looking for a warmer climate to spend the winter.
“The autopsy results were a little odd. The black stuff coming from his eyes was sulfurous in nature; the purple is some kind of plant or herb not known to Ravens Cove or even Alaska from what the ME said.
“He could have died from a variety of things, most of which seemed to occur at the same time. Among them, he had a heart attack and a both lungs were punctured by broken ribs.”
“But the medical examiner could not explain the absence of skin or blood from the body. They are still looking for a reason. No immediate signs of burning or bloodletting; they are thinking acid was used to remove the skin. They’ll get back to us.”
They stopped at Grandma Bricken’s house.
“You look beautiful!” Bart said.
Grandma Bricken beamed, then looked at the three young people standing on her porch. “My escort has increased, I see.”
Kat deposited BC and her bag in the entry. With the knowledge of a frequent visitor, she grabbed a white ceramic bowl from the upper cabinet in the kitchen, filled it with water and set it on the floor.
“There, BC, you’re set ‘til we get back.”
Grandma Bricken’s warm eyes followed Kat throughout the routine. Her granddaughter’s depth of love extended well beyond family to all she felt needed her. An admirable trait, although one which got Kat hurt on more than one occasion.
“Well let’s be off then.”
The quartet arrived at the small house-turned-church well after dark. It was a little before six.
Floor lamps and some yellow-tinted bulbs in the ceiling fixtures gave the place a warm glow. The small room smelled of fresh paint.
Grandma joined her long-time friends at the front of the building.
Kat surveyed the room and its occupants. There were new faces, too. At least ones Kat did not see when she accidentally showed up at one of her gram’s many home Bible studies.
If there were twenty people, though, she’d be surprised. Still, the peace and lightness in this building made up for the sparse gathering. A feeling of security, of protection, overtook her senses.
Paul Lucas stood on the low, hand-built stage and smiled out to his flock. He took hold of the small wooden box in front of him.
“As you know, my friends, our town is under attack. Two people have lost their lives in just as many days. It is urgent we pray for our town and the safety of its residents. The Lord has told us
where two or more gather in His name, He will be among them. And He has promised to answer our cries. Let us cry out to Him. He is our salvation.”
A different type of meeting took place at the Congregational Alliance. A combined memorial service for Miggie Salisto and pep talk by Reverend Plotno.
Reverend Plotno considered it time to confront and disassemble the congregation of Paul Lucas. He could not do it himself, but he was sure some of his people would want to. All he needed to do was push them in the right direction. Earlier, he insisted Anita go to Lucas’s church and do some snooping. She was peeved; but like a good servant, went anyway.
“I’m surprised I miss my most adoring fan,” he mumbled. He wanted to see her love-struck eyes while he delivered his fiery and enlightening speech. He comforted himself knowing he would catch up with her in private, later.
“My friends, we have lost a dear brother. This, as you all know, is the second murder in two days. There is one they say who is jailed and suspected of these horrific crimes. And do you know where he was before he went to jail? Visiting Paul Lucas!”
The congregation gasped in unison.
“We have known, and I’ve told you for a long time, Lucas’s assembly is bad for Ravens Cove! We must do something to shut it down! Any of you could be next!”
The threat of bodily harm primed them.
“I am praying, and ask you pray, for the church’s destruction so no more harm will come to this town! We are in peril; I feel it!” He paused so his next statement would have its desired effect.
Atramentous was standing behind Plotno, whispering into his puppet’s ear. He left his position at the door, knowing this was where he needed to be right now, no matter what Iconoclast said.
Because he left his post, he did not notice Uriel slip into a pew in the back.
“My guide has told me this!” Plotno shouted.
The rumble of belief affirmed his ploy worked.
Uriel left and flew to the man who occupied the town’s lone jail cell to warn him.
Sheriff Bart left the service at Paul Lucas’s church, puzzled at the hatred felt for this man by most all of the town, at least those who attended the Congregational Alliance.
“He seems harmless enough.” Bart shook his head. “I’ll never understand people.”
Bart arrived at the office.
Josiah sat on the edge of his bed, head bent, and deep in thought.
“Here’s the Bible you requested.” Bart handed it through the bars.
“Thanks much.” Josiah gave an appreciative smile.
Bart made sure Josiah had water and blankets for the long night ahead, and headed out the door and onto the street. A large black lump caught his attention.
Who the heck left their trash in the street? Some in this town can’t seem to get with the program. I’ll have to issue another warning in the morning. He walked toward the trash to pick it up and throw it in one of the cans behind the building.
But it wasn’t trash. It was a flock of ravens, dead in a heap, right outside the Trash Bin, the adult store. He leaned over and touched one. Still warm.
“Who would do such a thing?”
Maybe the murderer? he answered himself.
But if my prime suspect is in jail, my theory doesn’t hold water.
“Not the murderer,” Bart said aloud.
Bart headed back to the office for trash bags, cleaned up the carcasses and, an hour after he planned to, started for home.
The Northan twins were taking a walk on the path leading to Ravens Ravine.
“Those ravens won’t be making any noise or stealing our food anymore,” Jonathan said.
“There’ll be more of them.”
“Then, we’ll do it again. It’s a community service—right?”
“I guess so.”
Joseph looked down, saw a pretty arrowhead, and snatched it up, hoping Jonathan didn’t notice.
“Let me see!”
Joseph opened his hand; the pretty thing was pulsing in colors.
“I want it!”
They got into one of their regular fights and, before they knew it, tumbled into Ravens Ravine. A victorious growl resounded throughout the surrounding countryside. Every canine, every wolf howled. Blood red-smoke streamed upward out of the ravine.
Josiah’s head shot up from his Bible. “The fourth victim has been taken!” How? There should be just one a night.
“Only one left then, only one day, before Iconoclast is released to destroy Ravens Cove and its people.”
“God help them, and God help me!” He prayed.
Kat, Ken, and Grandma Bricken stopped when they heard the rising chorus of canine voices.
Grandma’s spirit became troubled. “I’m not sure what has happened, but it is something awful. The howls are a sign of unrest and precede imminent destruction.”
As soon as Grandma Bricken opened the door, BC launched himself off the entry hall table. He landed in Ken’s arms.
Grandma turned the lights on.
“What a sight!” She couldn’t help but smile, even knowing a supreme evil was present in her town and wanting to destroy it.
There sat BC. Curled up and holding tight to Ken’s right arm, looking like a hairy football with claws. And he showed no signs of letting go.
“What the he—” Ken remembered Grandma’s earlier warning about foul language.
BC’s green eyes were as large as saucers, trumped only by the size of his tail, which was returning to its normal size as he relaxed. He cuddled deeper into Ken’s arm. Without giving it a thought, Ken encircled BC with the other arm, comforting the very being who tried to maim him for life a few hours earlier.
“Give him to me,” Kat said and reached for BC.
Black Cat left the safety of Ken’s arms for hers. His nose and eyes disappeared into the crook of her arm.
“I’ve never seen BC afraid of anything,” Grandma said.
“Did you notice,” concerned she was seeing things, Kat hesitated.
“Notice what?” Ken asked.
“The weird, red fog coming from the ravine?”
Her question got both Ken’s and Grandma’s attention.
“Yes,” they said in unison.
Relieved, she had not been imagining things, “Well, I’m still not saying the ravine legend is real, but the howling, the red fog, and a fearful BC, has me wondering. I feel a need to talk to Mr. Josiah Williams.”
“I’ve had a hard time convincing myself he acted alone,” Ken responded. “If he didn’t commit the murders, he sure knows a lot about them. And, how would he—unless he knew who committed them?”
“The jail is locked up for tonight. But I happen to have a key.” Kat reached into her purse and produced it.
Ken made a grab for it and missed.
“Not without me, FBI.” Not waiting for permission, Kat slid an unhappy BC into her grandma’s arms.
“You’ll be safe with BC.”
“We’ll be fine. You do what you need to and do it fast! We have twenty-four hours to find a way to stop this thing.”