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
DARK AND LIGHT
The Right Reverend Plotno hummed a happy tune in his grand church, his kingdom, as he liked to think of it.
“I’m on the right track. The elation I experienced on the way into the church proves it.”
To make the day even better, he heard from his favorite parishioner, the delectable Anita Conner.
Stop, Plotno. You are a married man! he thought. As if such a small fact would keep my libido in check.
Anita reported to him on the dreadful Paul Lucas. “He’s wearing down, Right Reverend. I went to one of his services, as you requested.”
She smiled wickedly and continued, “So few in attendance. The ones who were there are ancient and can’t even stand up for the worship songs.”
Plotno took the opportunity to pull her into his arms and hold her just a bit longer than needed. “Paul Lucas, and the days of his nightmare of a church, are almost over!”
Anita nodded. “How I hate the place! His sermons make me feel guilt and shame!”
Anita didn’t tell Plotno there were a few new faces in church on Sunday, younger ones, with small children playing at their feet or in the chairs next to them. Such information would only upset him. And she wanted nothing to upset him.
Plotno released Anita.
“Lucas is a fanatic and a danger to my people,” he said while pacing back and forth in front of the altar.
He stopped … and turned blazing eyes to Anita. “All he does is make people feel guilt and shame over accepting each other’s actions. So what if people embrace adultery and worship angels or nature? Jesus was a wise man, well-known for His radicalism 2,000 years ago. What
makes our congregation’s practicing what used to be taboo and is now tolerated, even accepted by society, any different?”
“I know,” Anita answered. “Jesus’s message of the consequences of sin and the need for repentance are outdated. Love means acceptance. It means complete tolerance. Love always feels good because pleasure and love are synonymous.”
Plotno touched her cheek. “Correct. So, as you know, sin does not exist.”
“He’s getting what’s coming to him. Lucas doesn’t look like he’s sleeping well, Reverend. Big circles under his eyes and deep lines on his young face.” Anita’s voice fluctuated in a mock tune. “Can’t be good.”
“His comeuppance can’t come soon enough.”
Anita raised smoldering, hooded eyes to Plotno’s cold, grey-black ones. She longed to bury herself in his arms and watch those cold eyes turn warm as she nibbled his neck.
Plotno held her gaze for a moment, then turned his eyes to the stained-glass window sending rainbows of color into the sanctuary.
“Seminary taught me to forgive, but there will be none for Paul Lucas! He teaches the wrong message, one which will destroy any tolerant, progressive church. ‘All are saved by faith not by works.’ Horrible thinking! Lucas quotes nonstop from the Bible. He’s just as outdated as it is!
“Why would people attend a church, except to ensure salvation? They only need to attend church services every Sunday and Wednesday and give as much money to the Congregational Alliance as they can. And, most importantly, listen to my instructions because I am their spiritual guide. Then, they will be saved.”
He turned his attention back to Anita and caressed her arm. “Such good news about the horrid little church.”
A thrill coursed through her body, bringing instant color to her cheeks.
Reverend Plotno brushed back a stray hair sticking to Anita’s eyelashes.
She shivered in response.
He smiled into her love-struck eyes, and then released her gaze. “You are a true asset to this congregation.”
Plotno turned to the altar to review his notes for Wednesday’s sermon.
He turned back. “One more thing. I know how much you hate going there and listening to the blather Lucas is spewing. But, dear one, I need you to go again.”
Anita deflated like a balloon.
Plotno lifted Anita’s chin, fixing his eyes on hers. “Be strong, and you will be rewarded!”
She touched his arm. “Not again, please.”
His heart quickened in response, thinking of what would come. “Yes, again,” he whispered as he bent to her ear, “this time, and anytime I ask you to. You know obedience is as important as tolerance.” He nibbled her ear.
Anita’s knees weakened from his touch. She surrendered and hung her head. “All right.”
“Good girl. Now off with you, I must plan for tonight’s study.”
Anita Conner turned, not sure if her unsteady legs would hold her weight. She tried a step. Reassured her limbs were okay, she strode to, and out, the heavy, carved wood doors.
“This day is feeling fantastic,” the Right Reverend mused, “fantastic, indeed.”
The church door swung open for the second time.
Plotno spoke without turning. “What is it now?”
An unfamiliar voice boomed through the silence of moments before. “Your destruction is imminent. Stop now, for your sake and the sake of your congregation!”
Martin Plotno whirled in response, holding a candle extinguisher like a sword, ready to confront the intruder.
A thin, white-haired, unshaven specter of a man stood before him.
Lowering his weapon, Plotno said, “There is a soup kitchen down the street, old man. They can help you. There’s nothing for you here. Come back when you clean yourself up.”
“I am sent to help you, sir.”
“Really? Who thinks I need any assistance you can offer? More to the point, which congregant put you up to this?
“I know—Erwin! Go tell him I preferred the stripper in the birthday cake.”
“The God of Jacob and Isaac sent me, Martin Plotno, Who says to you, ‘Stop using Me and my Christ to lead others astray. Obey Me. Worship the one true God.’
“You are in a teacher’s position, pretending to be a man of God, and woe to you!”
“What would you know about God? You don’t even know enough to take a proper bath!”
“God spoke through James in the New Testament, Mr. Plotno: ‘Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.’ Change, I plead with you, or your destruction is imminent.”
Anger rose in Plotno’s throat. “How dare you—an example of bad hygiene and a disciple of the streets—speak to me in such a way!
“Do not step any farther into this sacred place, you sick old man. Get out! We don’t allow your kind here!”
Josiah held his ground. “I am a servant of the one true God, sent to give you this warning. May God have mercy on you!”
Josiah turned, cocked his head as if listening to an unseen voice and turned back to Plotno. “I have been instructed to clear something up for you. Whether you believe it or not, there is a Hell and not all go to Heaven, even though our God does not will any to perish. You are deceived and, again I say, repent!”
Josiah marched to the back of the church, lifting his hand, waving it back and forth to part the black mist covering the door.
It shot to one side before he walked through, a dark curtain blown by an invisible wind.
The dark mist, Atramentous by name, vibrated with hatred, then fear at what he saw. An angel of God stood beside this man.
The angel turned and nodded. “Atramentous.”
Atramentous bent his head to avoid the blinding light. After they passed, he raised his head, formed an invisible mouth, a deep red chasm where the black mist had been. A guttural, gurgling roar spewed out to sound the alarm, sending sleeping birds flying into the sky crying in terror.
“Now what?” he pondered.
A cunning demon, Atramentous carried out Iconoclast’s orders with ease. His ability to plan, though, bordered on nonexistent. After a laborious mental exercise, a vicious smile broadened the black line of a mouth.
“I know how to warn Iconoclast, and receive a commendation for my abilities to devise a strategy.”
Atramentous slid from the church door and retraced his earlier path up Main.