A station-wagon of patchwork green and primer rolled to a stop in front of the church, riding low on its rear wheels, its cargo area and back seat packed full with boxes. Dave slid out the passenger’s door, turning to shake the proffered hand of the driver and accept the business card it held.
“Now you give me a call anytime,” the driver said. “You won’t be sorry.”
Dave smiled and waved goodbye, stuffing the card in his pocket. James “Jimbo” Reed had given Dave a ride without accepting financial compensation. Instead, the price of transportation this night required Dave to listen to a three hour sales pitch for AMWAY. As tedious as it had been, though, at least Jimbo had entertained no idea that he was, in fact, escorting a wanted felon to a murder scene in the middle of the night.
After clueless Jimbo’s taillights disappeared around a bend in the road, Dave turned and headed for the church. No lights were on, no candles twinkled behind the stained glass. The police had already taken down the yellow warning ribbon, as the site remained a functioning place of worship. The new priest, however, had taken to locking the doors at night, as Dave discovered when he tried the entrance. Dave cursed under his breath. He walked around, making use of the moonlight, until he located a rock large enough to serve his purposes.
“Sorry, Manny,” he said. Dave approached the tall, thin window to the left side of the doors, the archangel Michael slaying the Dragon in vivid color. Rather than throwing it, he wielded the pointed edge of the sandstone like a chisel. He pecked at the glass until it cracked, then worked the jagged pieces loose with his fingers. Dave had no idea if anyone might be inside, but he couldn’t risk being caught. Not now, at least. If the new priest had moved in already, it would be better to let him sleep. Dave would have felt bad about punching out a priest.
I could do it, too, Dave mused. He caught glimpses of himself reflected in the glass. He wasn’t sure he recognized the man he saw there. At one point, he stopped to examine his face in one large and clear shard. “I look twenty years younger,” he said, perhaps to Manny’s ghost. He shook his head, amused, and continued emptying the window frame. Then he climbed inside.
He found his way to the door leading down to the shrine by memory. This door had not been locked, thank God. Dave descended the steps in the dark. Once inside the cavern, he tore the business card into tiny pieces and bunched them in a pile, fired them with a cigarette lighter he had lifted from Julian Garnier’s home. He fed the miniscule bonfire with some twigs and strips of an old handkerchief. There were candles in ready supply in the shrine, most of them already burning. Dave lit the rest. He needed fire, the third Element, the one in deficit within the chamber.
By the illumination of the flames, he stripped down to his boxers, then climbed into the pool of mud. He crossed his legs in the lotus position, sinking a little in the mud, and began the process of meditation. As he relaxed, he sensed on the spiritual level the energies filling him. Dave had not separated his etheric body from his physical one in some time, and he would be projecting his consciousness far away, into dangerous territory. Dave intended to find Brian, even if that meant he had to pass through the valley of the shadow, brave the domain of purest evil. The Sacred Earth, coupled with Air, Fire and Water, would provide him with the most protection possible. Dave hoped it would be enough.
But he had his doubts.