In the gray of the church, she stood on the rafters, wearing nothing but red in color. Spreading her arms like wings of a bloodstained dove, she gracefully fell from her perch, eyes closed, and a smile on her lips. Her body hurtled to the floor, crashing into the wooden pews, the snapping of her bones echoed through out the silence of the church. Her lifeless body lay there, eyes staring up; her blond hair fell around her head, while that grin stayed frozen on her lips. As if she had just pulled off the greatest joke in her young seventeen year old life. On the wall behind the altar, next to the large crucifix that hung there, was something written in her own blood. WHO DECIDES?
An hour later, Sheriff Hank Jennings arrived at the First Christian Church of Lincoln, which was just outside of town. The only thing that he had been told was that a suicide had occurred and that the person who found the body was Reverend Gary Lindsey. Hank knew him, for he had always been walking around the center of town with his group of brainwashed followers, preaching the bible to whoever would listen and protesting whatever he felt was immoral in his eyes. And of course Hank was the one who had to send the Reverend's group on their way. Lincoln was a quiet town that didn't need any sort of trouble from anyone, even from the reverend, if hang could help it. There was something of Reverend Gary Lindsey that brought about a bad feeling to his soul. Yet, he wasn't able to figure that out, at least not right away. Hank hadn't lived in the small town of Lincoln for too long but from being from the big city of Chicago, he knew when someone was hiding something. And he was determined to find out what it could be that Lindsey was hiding. As he pulled up in front of the church, he noticed a crowd already starting to form. But none of the curious spectators even tried to go inside. As if they knew something horrible had happened. Either that, or there was something in there that they were afraid of. Hank made his way through the crowd and then to the front door of the church. The thing, which he had found odd right away, was that not one person he passed said a word. They just stood there staring at him as he made his way by them. Hank just ignored it, as he tried to prepare himself for what waited for him. That was if there truly was any way that he could ever prepare himself for the sight of murder. For the eleven years that he had been on the force in Chicago, he had never been prepared to see anyone die before him.
When he got inside, he made his way down the large main isle, to where his two deputies and Reverend Lindsey stood. The air was filled with the scent of incense and burning candles, as the shadows in the church made the room seem ominous to him. Hank's eyes stayed on Gary, noticing the way he had such a cold, lifeless expression on his face. It might have been just shock, from finding the body, but there was something that made him believe that it was something more.
"What do we have here boys?" Hank said in a serious tone.
"You're not going to like the sight of this. The victim was a seventeen-year-old girl, who decided to take a swan dive off of one of the rafters. Broke just about ever bone in her body and killed her instantly. The creepy thing is that her eyes are open looking at you with this smile on her lips. Almost as if she had enjoyed doing it." the first deputy said.
"But not before the child defiled the walls of this church! Showing such disrespect to the church and the community!" Gary said in anger, as his eyes darted in rage.
It seemed odd to Hank that he would be more concerned about what happened to the wall of the church, rather than the dead girl whose body was splattered all over the place. Why was it that he was acting this way? His eyes glanced down at the white sheet that covered the dead girl's body. He had to see her face, had to know who she was. No matter what Gary would say in an angered objection, it was his job to know the girl's identity. Hank turned his attention to the deputy who had been standing next to the body.
"Alright, let's see her." Hank said .
"No! I refuse to let you show that heathens face in the house off God. That harlot is a sinner and should be covered to hide its shame from the world." Gary said.
"This is a murder investigation, which means that I am in charge. And I say that I need to see the body! So just stand aside and keep quiet." Hank said in a forceful voice.
Gary just stood there looking at him, knowing that there was nothing he could do to stop him. Hank noticed that he was nervous about it too, but figured it was just the fact that he found the dead girl's body. Still,. there was no way that he would let the body go to the morgue without knowing who she was. He watched as the deputy slowly moved the cover off of the girl's face. When he saw her face, Hank couldn't believe his eyes. The girl's blond hair, light colored eyes and that smile made it obvious who she was.
"Jody Lindsey. Gary, how could you say such things about your only daughter. Don't you care that she killed herself? Aren't you curious why she did it?" Hank said in a shocked tone.
"I do care, but she did this on her own accord. She is a sinner and has to pay the price for what she has done. Like it says in the bible, her soul is now condemned to hell." Gary said coldly.
Hank knew that he couldn't argue with him for the moment. for he had other things to worry about. Still he couldn't let Gary go free right now, till he found out what had really happened. And by the strange way he was acting, made him seem even more suspicious.
"Alright, have the body brought to the morgue for an autopsy and take the Reverend here to the station for questioning." Hank said as he looked at Gary once again.
" You want us to arrest a reverend? Don't you think that might bring about some violent aggression from the people outside. And anyway, what would be the charge?" the second deputy said.
Hank couldn't believe that he had asked him that. If this was the force that he had been on back in Chicago and he asked that, the guy would have been sent back to the academy.
"Suspicious of manslaughter. Is your squad parked out in back?" Hank asked.
"Yes it is. I had to move it so the paramedics would have room to get in here. " the second deputy said.
"Good. Take him through the back way and to the station. There are still some unanswered questions which I wanted to ask the good reverend." Hank said.
"You can't do this to me! I am the spiritual leader of the people in this town! I am an important person in Lincoln. My followers will not stand for this, you will see." Gary yelled.
"Tell it to the judge." Hank said sarcastically as he watched the deputies take him to the back way.
Then he turned and made his way out the front of the church. As he did, he started to think about the other murders that had happened in the last couple weeks. How a few people had disappeared and then ended up dead in some field outside of town. The one thing that bothered him the most was the way Gary had acted, making it seem as if he didn't really care about his daughter? Or that what pleased him had happened to her. Why would he show no remorse to her death? And why would he say that she deserves it? Hank knew that he could be heartless at times with people, but never thought he would be that way with his own daughter. He wasn't sure the reason yet, but he knew that he couldn't wait to ask him.
Later Hank arrived back at the station, as his mind kept thinking about everything that had come around. He knew that there had to be some connection with the murders that had happened so far. He went over to his desk where the files of the other victims sat on it. he was determined to find out what was going on and whom it could be that was doing these abhorrent crimes. There had been four victims that had been reported before the suicide of Jody Lindsey. Three women and one man that seemed to have been murdered all in the same fashion. The latest one had been a woman named Regina Calloway, a twenty-three year-old brunette, whose body had been found in a dilapidated old barn next to the new mini mall over by 95th street. According to the report she had been raped and strangled, then her body had been left there. There had been a strange tattoo found right above her right breast, one that seemed to appear to be that of a sideways cross. When Hank looked at the other reports, he had noticed that the same tattoo had been found on the women's bodies. Now all he could do was to wait and see if the autopsy report would show any sort of marking like that on Jody's body. He still couldn't understand how a girl who was getting straight A's in school, could do something like this.
It was then that the phone rang, and Hank sat there for a second looking at it, unsure if he wanted to pick it up. He knew that it would be the coroner wanting to report on what he had found from his examination. His hand reached over and picked up the receiver, ready for whatever or whoever would be on the other line.
"Sheriff Jennings? This is Tom West over at the morgue. You had told me that I should report anything suspicious about the body of the young girl that was brought in." the voice said in an uneasy tone.
"Yes. What do you got so far?" Hank asked.
"When I had the blood work done it seemed that this young lady had been under the influence of some sort of hypnotic drug. That could be why she had been up in the rafter, which the deputy had said when he brought her in. But there was something else that I found shocking." Tom said.
"What is it?"
"It seems that Jody was a month pregnant. You think that her father would have done something to help her out, rather than let her do something like what she had done." Tom said.
"Very interesting. Since I have you on the phone, did you happen to see any unusual markings on the body? You know birthmarks or maybe some sort of odd tattoo?" Mark asked.
"Yes, there was one. It was the image of a cross that was sideways, right above her right breast. Does that mean anything to you?" Tom asked.
"I'm not sure yet. But I'll let you know if it does. Thanks for your work so far, let me know what else you find when you finish the autopsy." Hank said, then hung up.
Pregnant. Why wouldn't Gary say anything to them about that to them, no matter how embarrassing it would be? It seemed that the further the investigation started to proceed, the more questions he found himself asking. Like, how could a seventeen year old girl, whose father is a reverend, be pregnant and on drugs? He knew that Gary always kept a close watch on his daughter, making sure that she would not get involved with any man or be pressured into doing anything that the other kids were into. Even though he didn't know all the facts yet, he knew the person that could give him it.
Hank stood up and made his way to the interrogation room. He knew that Lindsey knew more than he was letting on to know. The only thing he had to do was to get him to tell the truth. That was if he would be able to do it. When he walked into the interrogation room, Gary say at the end of the table looking at him with the same stern expression on his face. The deputy continued to question him about his daughter's death, but of course, he didn't say anything at all in response. Hank made his way over to the table, not responding at all to the glare that he gave him.
"Sorry Sheriff, he doesn't seem to want top talk." the deputy said.
"Well, I might be able to make him talk." Hank said.
"Be my guest." the deputy said.
"Gary, I have something that I think you never thought would be found out…." he started to say.
"If you are going to address me, you must call me by my real name, Reverend Lindsey. And anyway, I don't think there is anything that you can say that will shock me." Gary said abruptly.
"Oh no? How about the fact that the last four murders were in the class in the Christian College that you taught at. And even became members of that brainwashed group that you call your followers, at the time. Then there is what we found out about your daughter. Like the fact that she was one month pregnant and that she was on drugs." Hank said as he glared at him in anger.
"She was a disappointment to me, to the church and to God. I tried to protect her from the evil of man's lust." Reverend Lindsey said.
"You didn't seem to do a good job at it." Hank replied in a sarcastic tone.
"What do you mean by that?" Reverend Lindsey said defensively.
"I mean, you tried to keep her away from such evil. Any yet she found herself becoming pregnant and hooked on drugs. The thing is, how could she get pregnant, when you her away from all the boys. The truth seems to be pointing to a direction that I really don't want to make obvious to you. But I think that you can get the picture. " Hank replied.
The stern look on his face had suddenly changed to a fiery rage. His eyes glared with a sudden hostility that Hank had never seen before, as his hands clutched tightly into fists. Then slammed then onto the table as his breath started becoming heavy.
"How dare you infer that I had done something like that to my daughter. It is immoral and sick, and am repulsed at the idea that you could even think of such a thing. I am a man of God, I wouldn't think of anything like that! I think that I had enough of these false accusations and am leaving before you make me really angry." Reverend Lindsey said.
"And what would you do to me if that does happen. Tell me good reverend, what would you do. Would you kill me, just like you did the others? " Hank said suddenly. "Tell me, I know that you were involved with their deaths as well as Jody's."
Reverend Lindsey said nothing, just continued to glare at him with that same evil look as he stood up and made his way to the door. The deputy was gong to stop him, but Hank just motioned for him to let him go. Never had he seen the reverend act that way before, as if he really did want to kill him. Because of it he knew that he had to be more cautious around him. In a way Hank blew up because he knew that Reverend Lindsey had something to do with the deaths of the four people ever since they had found the first body. Yet, he had no way to really prove it, at least not yet. He remembered how a lot of the townspeople would act as if they were afraid of him when he would walk by. In fact they wouldn't even mention his name, thinking that one of his followers might over hear. He knew that they couldn't keep him behind bars, because the evidence wasn't hard enough to get a conviction on him. Even if there was, the reverend knew a few of the judges and the mayor that would help him get out of it. The only thing he could do was to catch him in the act, that way he wouldn't be able to find a way to talk himself out of it. But since he would be free to go about his business, Hank would be able to follow him, to find out what he was really up to. Even though he hated doing it, he had no other option.
The next day, Hank followed Reverend Lindsey from the church and into town. From the way he was driving, he could tell that Gary was in a hurry to get somewhere. Even though everyone knew that he had a lead foot when it came to his driving. Wherever it might be, he was going to make sure that he didn't lose him. His hands gripped the steering wheel, while he thought about how Gary had acted at the station. The way that he came closes to becoming violent with him, as if he would have jumped across the table and attacks him. At the time he didn't know why he had been acting that way. Now, he was going to find out what Gary was hiding from everyone.
He had followed him through town, driving his normal car, so that way the reverend would knew that he was following him for what it felt like an hour to him, it had only been a couple minutes. No matter what though, Hank was going to find out Gary's secret.
A while later he had followed Gary to the outskirts of town, where a large abandoned farm house4 stood next to an empty field. Hank knew the place, (almost everyone in town did), it said that the barn that was haunted. The legend of it was that there had been a brutal murder there back in the forties an since then the spirits of the dead haunted it. Anyone who would be brave or stupid, (maybe booth) would go in there, would never come out. To Hank it was nothing more than a story to scare people away. Which of course was perfect for whatever Gary was doing. The one thing that he wondered about the people who had entered into the barn and what could have happened to them. That was the one thing he had to find out.
Hank parked a few feet away, behind a large bush, so that Gary wouldn't see him. Yet, he could see the good reverend as he got out his car and walked to the bar. Now, he knew he would find out what was really going on. Once the reverend entered the barm, Hank got out of the car and made his way over to it. He could feel his heart racing slightly, as he pulled the revolver from it holster. When he got to the door, he could hear the muffled voice of the reverend coming from inside. He didn't know what was being said, but knew that it couldn't be good.
"Alright Hank, lets just do this. You have to find out what he's up to." he said under his breath.
His hand reached up and carefully pushed the door open, so it wouldn't make a sound. The air inside the barn smelled from rot and also of death. Whose death he was not sure, but knew soon enough he would find out. The inside of the barm was dark, except for the light from a small bonfire in the middle of the room. Hank moved closer to the flames, hiding himself within the shadows. He could hear Reverend Lindsey saying something in Latin, which he didn't understand. Yet, that didn't matter right now, all that did was to catch in the act. Not only had he heard the reverend's voice, but the muffled sound of a woman's voice, but couldn't see her yet. He hid behind a pile of baled hay, staring at him around the corner of it. The reverend stood there, raising his hands over his head as his voice started to become louder. There was a sense of pride flowing through Hank's veins as he hid there watching him. So many times before in the past Reverend Lindsey had always been able to get away from being arrested because of whatever he had done. But not now. If he was going to do what Hank thought, he would be able to nail him because of it. And there was no way that he would be able to weasel his way out of it.
When he turned away, Hank could see a woman who looked about the age of thirty-eight, heavy set, that was tied up to a beam with a gag in her mouth. This was the reverend's next victim, but why was he going to do it? He wanted to know the reason that Gary had for doing this, no matter how absurd it could be. Gary moved over to a large crate that sat a foot away from him, then picked up a large dagger. The soft glow from the flames glimmered off the steel of the blade. Then turned and made his way back to the heavyset woman.
"Now, you will pay for your sins. You have sinned against the church and against this society. Because of your loose ways with the men with the practitioners is something that can never be forgiven." he said.
Hank couldn't figure out who the woman was at first, for the dim light from the flames made it difficult for him to see her identity. When the Reverend Lindsey reached the woman, he pulled the gag out of her mouth. When Hank heard her speak, he knew exactly who it was. The woman's name was Joanne Wills, a nurse at the Sunnyvale Nursing Home right off of route 66 and in the choir at the church that Reverend Lindsey had ran. He never thought that she could have done anything that could be so terrible that the reverend would want to kill her for.
"Why are you doing this to me? I haven't done anything to you. Why are you doing this to me?" she said in a terrified voice.
"You are a sinner and I must make you pay for the sins that you have done." the reverend said calmly.
"How can you say that you are the one to decide who lives or dies. Tell me…. who decides?" she said.
The one thing, which stayed locked in Hank's mind, was those two words she had said. Who decides. The same words, which Jody had, wrote on the wall of the church with her own blood. That was what Jody had tried to tell whoever would find her body. It was enough for him to be convinced that the reverend was guilty. But before he could even move toward them, the reverend shoved the dagger into Joanne's chest. Then again and again, in wild maddening swings, as her blood splattered everywhere.. Her screams echoed everywhere for a brief moment, then was silenced as her heavy body became limp. Her head fell forward, her long brown hair galling down on both sides of her head. Then Hank moved from the spot that he had been hiding, the revolver pointed in front of him as he made his way toward him.
"Alright Reverend Lindsey, it's over. There is no way that you are going to get away with this. I saw everything and you are going to pay for what you did." Hank said.
"You really think that anyone is going to believe you. You are just a cop, but I am the spiritual leader of this town. You are never going to make the charges stick with me." he said as he turned toward Hank.
"It will, you don't have to worry about that. Now, put the knife down and put your hands on your head. You are under arrest. " Hank said.
The reverend made his way over to the crate again and placed the dagger back on it. The whole time Hank kept his eyes on him, making sure that he wouldn't do anything funny. He had no problem putting a bullet in him,, if he tried to attack him.
Reverend Lindsey stood by the crate, his eyes staring at the bloody dagger he had put down. There was no way that he was going to let Sheriff Jennings put him in jail for this. If he did, it would ruin the reputation he had worked to hard to get. His eyes glanced over at Jennings, seeing that revolver pointed at him, knowing that he would fire if it came to it. It was then he heard the sound of a voice echoing in his head. The same voice that he had heard so many times before, telling him what to do.
"Don't let him arrest you. You have worked to hard to cleanse this town of such evil. Don't let him stop you now." the voice said.
Gary wasn't going to let him do that, especially after everything that he had done for this town. He was going to reach for the dagger again, when he suddenly heard the strange sound of something speaking from the shadows of the barn. He instantly looked around him, wondering what it could be. It had been muffled, but within seconds it started to become clearer to him. The sound of it, sent a chilling fear down his spine that he had never felt before. He turned to his right and saw the silhouettes of things that started to approach him. As they did, he could hear their voices speaking in synchronicity.
"Who decides? Who decides? Who decides? ………." their voices said over and over again.
When they reached into the glimmering light of the fire, Gary found himself frozen his horrid shock. For standing there was the images of the dead, their rotted arms reaching out for him. He had no idea what he had to do now, for he never thought that he would be facing something like this. As they got closer to him, the smell of death filled the air around him, so strong, the odor of ancient death that no one had ever probably smelled before. Gary grabbed the dagger, pointed it at them as his eyes widened in such terror. By now the dead had surrounded him in a large circle, slowly closing in on him.
"Stay away from me! Stay away from me! I'll kill you all! I will, don't make me do it!" he said in a terrified voice.
Hank stood there wondering what it could be that Reverend Lindsey was doing, for he couldn't see anyone around him. Was it that he had finally gone mad? That somehow what he had been doing had finally consumed him with guilt? Or was it just that he was a madman to begin with. Whatever the truth could be, he wasn't going to take the chance. The reverend was holding the dagger with both hands, whipping it around him wildly, as if something had surrounded him and he didn't know who to stab
first. Hank had to try and find a way to calm him down, from whatever it could be that he was going through now.
"Gary, put the knife down. You have to put the knife down before you hurt someone." Hank said in a calm tone.
The only thing was, the only people that he could hurt was either Hank or himself. And he had a feeling that he wasn't going to take the chance on trying to take Hank's life, considering that he had a gun . It seemed that Gary didn't hear him, as his wide eyes continued to dart around him, so panicked that Hank thought that his head was going to whip all the way around. Just like Linda Blair in the Exorcist, but Gary wasn't going to spit out pea soup. Or at least he hoped he wouldn't.
"Can't you see them. The souls of the damned have come for me. You have to help me, before they get me. Help me please." Gary begged in a panicked tone.
Souls of the dead? Hank had no idea what he was talking about, because he didn't see anything around him. The only thing that was there, besides them was the fresh dead body of Joanne Wills, whose blood still was flowing down from the wounds..
Before Hank could say another word, Gary started to fire the gun out into the shadows of the barn. While he did that, he screamed in a maddening terror as Hank moved so that he wouldn't be cut from the dagger with his maddening swings. Of course he found out that was something that was more difficult than he thought.. Hank was behind him, the flames of the fire raised up behind Gary as he turned to him with the dagger pointed at him.
"Don't do it. You aren't going to win." Hank said.
But Gary didn't seem to hear him. His eyes wide with madness as the sweat rolled down his face and his body shook.
"You brought them. You knew what I had done and sent them to get revenge. Well, once I kill you, they will go away and never bother me again." Gary said in a crazed tone.
Hank had no idea what he was saying, but wasn't going to try to think about it. He had thought about how he would have loved to put a bullet in him yesterday by the way he acted, so uncaring about his daughter's death. But now, this was self-defense.
"Don't do it Gary. You know that you can't win. Don't…."
"Don't call me Gary! You call me Reverend Lindsey!!!" he yelled as he shoved the gun in front of him.
Before Reverend Lindsey could lunge at him, he suddenly started to swat his arms in front of him. As if there was something flying in front of his face, which he was trying to push away. As he did that, he started to back away, as he grunted in fear and frustration. Hank didn't feel to safe, for he was still holding that gun in his hand. And with his luck it would go off and probably hit him. He had stopped in front of the bonfire, then stopped his swatting actions. Then he pointed the dagger back at Hank. His eyes burned with madness. Hank knew there was no other way that he was going to get away from this situation.
Before reverend Lindsey could attack , Hank shot at him. The bullet hit him in the forehead, then he fired again and again. Hank wasn't going to take any chances. Reverend Lindsay's body fell backwards into the monstrous flames of the bonfire. He had expected to hear him scream in agonizing terror, but he was dead before the fire had consumed him.
Hank moved toward the fire, the sudden smell of burning flesh started to fill the air, almost making him sick from it. He stood a couple feet away from the blaze, staring at it as he lowered the gun to his side. He couldn't believe that Gary (Reverend Lindsey), had been responsible for the murders that had come about. He had killed the one thing, which he wondered was how many people, before he had been caught. And how could it be that the people in this town could just ignore it, pretending that nothing was happening. It was then that he had a strange feeling that there was someone near him. Yet, he knew to well that he was alone. Or was he. Did he have another victim hiding in the shadows, waiting for their moment to be killed by him? Hank knew that he had to turn and find out if there was someone there. When he turned, he saw the silhouette of a woman a few feet from him. Or at least he thought that it was a woman.. When the person walked into the light, Hank could feel his heart suddenly stop in terror, not believing what was before him.
Standing a foot away from him was Jody, wearing red, as her eyes stared at him, with that same grin on her lips. He wanted to talk to her, to find out if what he was seeing was real. But the only thing that he could there was to stand there in silent awe.
"Thank you Sheriff Jennings. You have set our souls free. You have saved us from the horror that Reverend Lindsey had put us through. I wished that he hadn't killed me, so my child could live." she said.
"Who was the father of your unborn child?" he asked, knowing that he had to know.
"It was the reverend. He loved me more than a father and daughter love. Now I am glad that he is dead. So that way he pays for the horror that he has done. I knew that you would figure out the message that I felt before I died." she said.
"Who decides ?" he said in a soft voice.
"It's the dead who does. The dead of those who had their lives taken away from a bastard like him." she said, then her image slowly started to fade away.
She faded away like the way cigarette smoke slowly disappeared in to the air. The last thing, which he had heard, was her soft voice that hung in the air. "Who decides…….Only the dead." After that he made his way out of the barn, to call this in. Unsure of how he was going to explain this, but he would think about something. The only thing that he was going to make sure was not to reveal the truth. The truth of what he found out would stay locked in his mind for the rest of his life. Out of the respect for the dead. Still, he kept thinking about what the spirit of Jody had said to him, repeating over and over again in his brain.
"Who decides…….Only the dead."