“The Underhand is getting out of hand, Charlotte.”
“I am well aware of it, Judith.” Charlotte Ames said wearily. “First, Reverends Alan Carthur and Caleb Mutkin, but now our very own Jack Polister.”
“What are we going to do? It is hard enough with The Oppression.”
“Maybe there’s a contract.”
“You know. Perhaps the church can come together and-”
“And what? That’s a lot of money, Charlotte.”
“And a lot of money is not worth one life to spread the word of God?”
Judith looked away. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Charlotte smiled faintly. “Thank you.”
2 Days later.
“Where are you taking me? I asked, stumbling blindly behind my captor. I, Reverend Alan Carthur had just been kidnapped. Or pastor-napped. Whichever you prefer, I wish it was neither.
I never even got a glimpse at the fellow who jumped me and now, no doubt, was leading me blind-folded to my death.
I winced at the thought, sending a prayer upwards. My footsteps echoed oddly as I was pushed forward and then down to indicate I was to sit. I did.
It felt like a wooden crate, I could feel rough wood and bent nails. The perfect ingredients for splinters and possible rips in my new trousers.
The blindfold was suddenly ripped off and I wished I’d had a warning or sunglasses. I was sitting right in front of a window, facing a building with a silver roof. The sunlight bounced off of it like a mirror, effectively blinding me for a few seconds.
My feet were quickly tied in the moment it took me to recover. A piece of tape was slapped over my mouth and I caught a glimpse of my captor for the first time.
A black suit, like the kind in my son’s ninja game, a fully loaded utility belt, masked face and a white handgun at the ready. All on a very womanly figure.
Amber eyes fastened on me as if analyzing my every breath before she spoke. “The Underhand hired me to get rid of you. You’re a very valuable man.” Her head tilted sideways. “The biggest one this month.”
Biggest?! I felt my face turn red with embarrassment, visualizing my skinny suited self. I wasn’t that big.
“Your friend, the dear Reverend Jack Polister was last week.” She toyed with the trigger. “Your congregation thinks a lot of you. They matched and exceeded The Underhand’s offers.”
Relief-flooded me like I had never imagined. I wasn’t going to die after all. The relief faded with her next words.
“Now I have to get rid of you.” She aimed and fired.
Images of my life swirled in tandem before my eyes. I didn’t even feel a thing as blackness claimed me.
2 DAYS LATER
Fuzzy figures fluttered about through my blurry vision. I forced my mouth open, grateful for the cool liquid poured down my throat.
I ached all over, in every fiber of my being. “Alive?” I choked out.
“Just barely.” The nurse standing over me, clipboard in hand, seemed amused. “Considering you were declared legally dead the day you were dropped off here and the antidote you came with nearly killed you, you’re very lucky to be alive.”
“Blessed.” I managed, drifting back into blissful sleep.
4 WEEKS LATER
“You don’t know how glad we are to have you, Alan.” Charlotte Ames repeated for the third time that morning. “Have you met the Duke and his wife?”
“Not yet.” I managed, shaking hands with my new congregation as they filed past me. “I’m still trying to meet everyone as it is.”
“Never mind. Here he comes.” She whispered, straightening. “Your grace.”
“Mrs. Ames.” The duke greeted, offering his hand to me, cool gray eyes sizing me up in a glance. “Reverend Carthur. Quite a sermon today.”
“Thank you.” I said, uncertainly.
“Have you met my wife?” He asked, leaning backward to look for her in the sea of faces. “She’s become quite a fan of yours. Dasha? Dasha! Come up here for a moment, dear.”
A tall and stately woman glided over, her simple elegance carrying a strangely familiar air. She stared down at the floor until her husband introduced us.
“Pleased to meet you, Lady Dasha. I hope you enjoyed the sermon.”
Familiar amber eyes flitted up locking onto mine. Her lips curved into a polite smile. “Very much, Reverend.” She murmured. “Very much.”
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