Saturday, August 27, 2016

News at Eleven - A Novel (Copyright 2015 Doris Gaines Rapp - 18th Serialized Segment)

“Okay, Becca,” Clisty spoke into her cell phone as she made arrangements the next morning to meet Becca and Clint at the safe house. “It’s,” she checked her watch, “quarter ‘til ten. I’m ready, so why don’t you two stop by here and pick me up?”
“What about arranging a meeting?” Becca asked. “When do you want Faith and Emily to see each other again?”
“It’s not up to me. It’s up to Faith,” story or not, Clisty was certain of that point. “Faith will not be pushed into anything.
“I know ... but it would make great TV,” Becca said.
“Rebecca, that’s a terrible thing to say,” then, she laughed. “I know what you mean. Better yet, meet me at the Sterlings’ house. Say, about 10:30 am. That will give me a chance to break the news to Faith and the Sterling that we brought Emily Stratton back with us. Roma and Ralph lost a lot, too. Faith lost her childhood and her parents lost living that childhood with her.”
“Got ya,” Becca agreed. “Ten thirty it is.”

• • • • •

“Come in Clisty,” Roma opened her front door and gave Clisty a hug. “Ralph’s in the Kitchen getting coffee. You want some?”
“Sure ... always,” she said. She wanted to sound upbeat; after all, they had been to Illinois and back and had gathered a lot of information. But, she couldn’t set a positive tone with her voice.
“I have this small camera,” she said as she pulled it from her bag. “It will record sound as well,” she pressed the “on” button. “With your permission, and of course, Faith’s as well, I’d like to record our conversation. I have turned it on to record your answer to my request to film.”
“Yes, I suppose it’s okay, if it’s alright with Faith.” She stopped and studied Clisty for a second. “Has something else happened?” Roma asked.
“No ... yes, there could be,” Clisty said as she took the cup Ralph offered.
“What’s wrong?” Roma put her hand to her chest.
“Where are Faith and Pooky?” Clisty asked quietly, like she was sharing a secret.
“They’re in the back yard,” Ralph’s muscles tightened and he appeared tense. “It sounds like something’s going on.”
“Jake and the crew and I went over to Illinois yesterday,” she started.
“Yes, we saw it on the eleven o’clock news last evening,” he said, sat down and placed his cup on the table beside him. “What are you not telling us?”
“I’m not going to keep anything from you. Any secrecy you hear or see on the news, is so Faith and Pooky are safe. Any withholding of information is so the perpetrator can’t find out the details.” She sipped her coffee. “We found the Freedom Temple and ... we found Lady, the woman who acted as Faith’s mother. Her name is Emily Stratton.”
“Oh my goodness,” Roma gasped as she covered her face with her hands. Then, she snapped her attention back to Clisty, “And?”
“And ... she’s here. We brought her back to Fort Wayne with us.” Clisty tried to find a way to say it but the truth was all she had. “We had to. She wasn’t safe in Illinois,” Clisty paused and tried to carefully gather her next words. “Of course she wants to see Faith and Pooky, but it is entirely up to Faith.”
“No,” Roma stated fiercely, “it’s up to me.”
“Maybe—“Clisty tried to offer an acceptable scenario.
“I said no. That woman has had her for eighteen years. I only got her for nine.” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “No!”
“No what?” Faith asked as she and Pooky came in through the dining room. She looked at the three and grabbed the back of a chair and guessed, “Something’s happened.”
Roma looked at Faith’s fear-etched face. “You’d better tell her, Clisty. She’ll only retreat into her nightmares and constant vigilance if she doesn’t know what you found out.”
“Mama,” Faith grabbed Pooky and drew her close. “What’s wrong?”
Roma sat in a wing back chair and gestured to Faith. “Come Honey, you and Pooky sit down.”
Faith slowly sank onto the sofa and pulled Pooky down next to her. “What is it?”
“Faith ...,” Clisty began, “first of all, I have a camera turned on to record our conversation. If you don’t want me to record, I’ll turn it off. What I’m about to say, will greatly enhance your story as I report it on the Stories from the Heartland series, and it could help the prosecutor’s case.”
“Okay, then go ahead and record it. Can I tell you to stop later if I’m uncomfortable with it?” Faith kept her eyes on the camera.
“Yes, of course. You can get up and step out of the room if you need a break. Faith, you are free to do anything you want to do,” Clisty said.
“Then, let’s go. You three were talking when I came into the room. Something has happened. What?” Faith was quietly assertive and pointed in her question. She soon ignored the camera.
“Jake, Clint the cameraman, Becca and I went to Illinois yesterday,” Clisty began.
“Illinois?” Pooky grabbed Faith’s arm, squeezed her eyes shut and hung on. “My school was in Illinois.”
“Yes, Pooky,” Clisty said. “I know. We visited your school. Your principal, Mr. Mitchel, said he remembers you.”
“Clisty, why?” Faith questioned with an accusation in her voice. “Why did you go there?”
“Please, listen to me. You both need to hear it all.” Clisty explained the entire previous day, all that they saw and all they heard. “Faith, I don’t think Lady knew that you had been kidnapped. She told us she believed that Ezra had adopted you. She seems to believe everything he says.”
“Ezra?” Faith asked. She looked confused again. “Who is Ezra?”
“The Guardian, Faith. The Guardian’s name is Ezra Stratton.” Clisty watched Faith’s expression change from intent listening to confusion. “We snuck into the Freedom Temple and heard Ezra and a couple of other men, talking about the Freedom Temple’s crash and how everyone else had left the cult.”
“The Freedom Temple?” Faith asked.
Clisty tried to pull together all the details she had dumped on Faith. “Remember, I told you—“
“I know,” Faith admitted. Her eyes were down like she was escaping inside herself. “I just wish I didn’t know.” She looked up. “I’m not damaged, Clisty. I’m only confused because I’ve been isolated for so long. I knew nothing of the world around me or beyond my walls. A few times I saw the local news but usually, they cut off the electricity to my room during the news hour. I never knew why, until now.”
“Faith, we brought the woman, Lady you called her, back here with us.” Clisty watched as Faith’s face drew up in pain as the news of her own life wounded her over and over. “Her name is Emily Stratton. She’d like to see you and Pooky. I told her you would decide if you want to see her.”
“Faith Stratton,” she repeated slowly. “I didn’t know my name.” Her eyes filled with tears.
Roma wrapped her arms tightly around her own body and rocked back and forth. “You never knew your own name?” Roma choked between her tears.
“They said I wasn’t going anywhere so I didn’t need to have a second name.” Faith whispered.
“When you got married,” her father asked, “didn’t Steven tell you your name, or call you, Mrs. Somebody?” His jaw worked in anger; his fists clenched.
“He didn’t disobey his father ... ever. He wanted to be able to leave the house, go to work and school. Freedom would have stopped if he had done anything The Guardian forbad.” Tears rolled down her face.
Pooky started to smile, “Mama, I didn’t know we had another name.” Then, suddenly her joy fell to the floor and panic took over. Her gaze followed something that moved slowly outside, from left to right. Her eyes grew large and full of alarm.
Faith was not facing the front porch directly. She jerked around to see what had frightened Pooky and screamed a terror stricken sound that filled the house. Roma and Ralph jumped up, turned and looked to the front door. The beveled glass window could not keep out the evil that lurked there, as Ezra Stratton burst through, welding a Glock 27. He waved the firearm in the air erratically; the red laser dot flew from forehead, to wall, to floor. His eyes blazed with rage and then, Clisty remembered. She knew exactly who he was, even after eighteen years. He had stabbed a permanent tattoo of horror on her mind. She jumped to her feet.
“Sit down, now!” Stratton shouted, pointed the weapon at each one and took a few more steps into the house. “I said sit down—do it!” he growled again.
Clisty sat down, fearfully sitting on the edge of her seat. Each one never took their eyes off the raging bull in their midst. Clisty’s mind raced. How could she get word to Jake, to anyone? Becca and Clint would be there soon. They would be in danger, too. She felt her phone in her pocket. If she tried to save them all and pull it out, a bullet might be her reward. She caught Ralph’s eye but saw no remedy there.
“You have everything of mine!” he growled and paced back and forth. He grabbed the top of his head like he was afraid it would explode and waved the gun wildly. “You have my wife, my daughter, my granddaughter, and all of my personal papers, I want them  ... all,” he ordered. “Pooky, come over here,” he yelled and reached out an arm for her.
 “No, Grandpa! No!” she sobbed and buried her head in her mother’s shoulder.
“No, Guardian! You’re terrifying her,” Faith yelled back and clutched her daughter.
“This is your doing, Jocelyn!” he ranted, his large body puffed out and menacing. The gun wobbled in his panic-driven hands. “You were nothing but trouble from the day I brought you home.”
Pooky raised her head; her angry eyes flashed as she jumped up and lunged in Ezra’s direction. “Maybe she didn’t want to stay with you,” she screamed. “You’re mean!”
Ezra raised his left hand and, with a wide sweep, smacked Pooky across the face and knocked her to the floor. She flew across the tile, four feet away. Turning, he pointed the Glock at her, the laser beaded on her chest, “You little brat! Haven’t you learned anything yet?”
His frantic flailing about caused his entire body to follow his aggression. Faith jumped to her feet the minute Ezra’s eyes no longer locked on her. With his focus on Pooky, Faith picked up Roma’s heavy, leaded crystal vase from the table and swung it up the side of Ezra’s head. He fell to the ground like downed timber, cracking his head on a bookcase on the way down. Faith frantically stepped over him and picked Pooky up, soothing her hysterical sobs.
Faith!” Clisty shouted in fear and apprehension and pointed to Ezra.
“He’s still moving. Hit him again,” Ralph yelled and jumped up, his arm making phantom jabs in the air.
“No,” Faith refused, but could not take her eyes off him. “I’ll get his gun,” she said as she dropped Pooky in Roma’s lap and moved in Ezra’s direction. She let the vase fall to the floor.
“No!” they all gasped. “It’s too dangerous! Stay away from him.”
Clisty lunged, jerked up the vase and held it in striking position over him. “You better not move,” she hissed.
Faith yelled, “I am free and I’ll stay free!” She stepped past the moaning body of The Guardian and toward the Glock.
The gun, knocked out of Ezra’s hand, had slid across the entry tile. Faith dove for it, rolled on the floor, picked it up and shuddered. With trembling hands she pointed the weapon at her tormentor and captor, the laser focused a red beam on his head.
“I’ve got him, Faith,” Jake said firmly and calmly as he burst through the door. He took Stratton’s gun, slipped it in his belt and pulled out his handcuffs. They all watched in stunned silence.
“She was only protecting us,” they all said.
“These cuffs aren’t for Faith. They’re for Stratton,” Jake growled. He forced the man’s hands behind his back and slapped the cuffs on him. “We have many charges for this guy,” he said roughly and inspected Ezra’s head for the wound he had received.
“Some of us went over the files Emily gave us. This man will have a whole list of charges against him, some in Indiana and some in Illinois.”
As Ezra started to come to, Jake checked his pupillary reaction for responsiveness. “Ezra Stratton, you are under arrest for the kidnapping of Faith Sterling and the attempted abduction of Clisty Sinclair.” He got the man to his feet and continued. “And, that’s just for a start. You have the right to remain silent,” he continued quoting Stratton his Miranda rights.
Clisty saw Clint filming through the porch window and wondered how long he had been standing there. Becca waited beside him, her hand over her mouth, fear on her face. Squealing tires and the sound of pounding shoes on the porch announced a heavily armed police back-up force had arrived.
“Take him in,” Jake directed the uniformed officers. “He’s been mirandized. Do everything by the book.” He glared at Stratton. “You’re not getting out of anything.” The officers took custody of him and led him out of the house.
“Jake, how did you know?” Clisty jumped up.
“You told Becca to meet you here. They arrived in time to see Stratton burst through the door. Becca called me while Clint filmed.”

“That will be our News at Eleven,” Clisty said. “Maybe not tonight, but it will make the cut for the full story in the news magazine.” It didn’t matter to Clisty if they held the video for several days or used it that evening. Stratton had met his match. She and Faith were no longer two little nine year old girls, but independent women who had waited eighteen years to capture the monster of their nightmares.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Writing Challenge for TV's Criminal Minds

As an author, I have a writing challenge for the television show, Criminal Minds. With the shuffle and discard of primary characters on the show, what if  Shemar Moore were to return to the BAU? That's not the hard part. The real challenge would be to shape viewer's thinking about the balance the character could have with his career and family. The writers and producers could give families in their viewing audience the privilege of watching Derek make his career and family work - rather than killing them off or split them up as has been done in other shows. Young adults need to know that they can have a career and a family and succeed at both. They can learn how to respect each other's time at work AND time at home. They can learn to love their job and love their family, with so much love it spills all over them and fills their shoes. As an author, I know it would be difficult to write against type - successful police, doctor or lawyer equals a lonely, self-centered professional. It would be a challenge to write from a mature point of view, but what a blessing to others to see it work!

Friday, August 19, 2016

News at Eleven - A Novel (Copyright 2015 Doris Gaines Rapp - 17th Serialized Segment)

“Let me out!” Emily Stratton yelled as we cleared the corner, her hands shaking as she reached for the handle of the van door.
“Emily, wait,” Clisty soothed intently. “Becca will hold your hands until we stop. It could be dangerous if you opened the door while the van is moving.” She looked at Clint. He was filming it all.
“Ezra will see that I’m gone! I shouldn’t have left,” Emily sobbed.
“I’ll pull to the side of the road so we can talk,” Jake offered in a smooth strong voice. “But, remember, the Freedom Temple has fallen. Ezra’s scheme he worked to build so hard over the years, is crumbling around him. He may be in a rage, looking for whom to blame. Our head start is to our advantage. Are you sure you want Ezra to catch up to us?”
“No, no, drive on!” She rubbed her hands across her eyes and buried her face in the palms. Her head suddenly popped up. “He’ll search the house for me first, in the kitchen, upstairs in our bedroom, in Joslyn’s room. He knows how much I’ve grieved since Joslyn and Pooky left.” She looked at Clisty with fear in her eyes. “He won’t have to go in the office though. When he sees I’m gone, he’ll know. With the Temple abandoned, he’ll be in escape mode.”
“There weren’t any other cars in your driveway at your house. There was no one else around,” Jake observed. “Where were you supposed to meet him? How would you get there?”
“Ezra told me to put the files in a wheeled suitcase, but that was upstairs. So I took the valise. I know I did wrong,” she sobbed. The others waited until she could pull herself together. “I was to walk to the Metro line, take the train into Chicago and meet him at the station there.”
“So ... maybe he’ll go to Chicago first before starting a search elsewhere,” Jake thought out loud.
“It will never occur to him that I won’t be at the station,” she said weakly. “I’ve never disobeyed him before.” She wiped some more tears from her eyes. “It was poor Joslyn who got all the beatings for disobeying The Guardian.”
Clisty’s voice caught in her throat. “She was beaten?” Anger and grief rose up inside her.
“Many times,” Emily whispered.
“Why didn’t you stop him?” Clisty demanded. She tried very hard to not let her anger come through her voice. She was sure Emily would not cooperate with them if she became critical. Clisty suspected the woman had been criticized enough to last a lifetime.
“How could I stop him? He thought I rebelled one time because I had protected Joslyn. He twisted my arm until it broke.” She rubbed her upper arm as pain-memory seemed to return. “He’s big and he’s strong.”
“We can put you in a safe house. We’ll make the arrangements when we get home,” Jake assured her.
“Where? Where is home?” Emily had turned again, her eyes fixed on the empty street behind them.
“Fort Wayne, Indiana,” Becca said.
“Fort Wayne?” Her eyes brightened; her body straightened. “Will Joslyn and Pooky be there? Ezra adopted Joslyn in Fort Wayne and brought her home to me after our Rosie died,” her eyes glazed as though she had drifted into her memories. “Ezra prayed and prayed that Rosie would live. When she didn’t, he was never the same. He became mean and controlling. Why did God take her?”
“He didn’t take her, Emily. He welcomed her,” Clisty assured her with words she believed. As she thought, some pieces fell into place. “So ... you didn’t know how Ezra came to adopt her?” she asked as she continued to build the news story and Jake’s case.
“No,” Emily whispered. “He said he called a friend in Chicago to go with him to Indiana because a little girl was ready to be adopted.”
“It sounds like he was going to pick up a puppy,” Clisty quipped sarcastically.
“Was his name, Melvin Dean Fargo?” Jake asked as he gripped the steering wheel.
“It’s been so long ... he was a childhood friend of Ezra’s. But, yes, I think that was his name.”
“Do you know if Ezra has heard from Fargo in the last few days?” Jake asked.
“Yes and ... I thought it was strange. I don’t think Ezra had heard from him in years. Melvin did call. He said he was in jail in Fort Wayne. I forgot that,” Emily reported.
With fear and foreboding, Clisty watched dark clouds gather in the east, “Then, Ezra knows where Faith is.”

• • • • •

They pulled into the parking lot of WFT at 5:30 p.m. Clisty had prepared for the six o’clock news before she left in the morning. A dress shirt, suit jacket and makeup kit waited in her office.  “Becca, Clint,” she said as she hopped out of the van, “we made it in time.”
Jake got out and came around to Emily’s door. “Mrs. Stratton, if it’s alright with you, I’ll take you with me to the police station where I will arrange a safe house location for you.”
“Will Joslyn be there?” Emily asked.
“At police headquarters?” Clisty turned before going into the TV station.
“No,” Emily said. “Will she be at the safe house?”
Clisty looked at Jake for an answer. The wording had to be right. “She is safe someplace else,” Jake explained. “We will make arrangements for you three to get together tomorrow, if Joslyn and Pooky want to see you.”
“Why wouldn’t they want to see me? She’s my daughter and Pooky’s my granddaughter.” Emily’s expression was confused. She seemed to be totally unaware of what Ezra and Fargo had done eighteen years ago.
“It isn’t you, Emily. Fa— Joslyn has been very stressed emotionally for the last few days.” She looked at Jake. “Emily, Joslyn had been held captive, as a hostage, by a bank robber during a standoff with the police. She was in the hospital for several days.”
“Oh dear God!’ Emily gasped.  “Is she alright?”
“Yes, well ... she’s improving,” Clisty said. “I have a newscast to report right now. Jake can take you to the safe house, and then pick me up after the program and we’ll come over and see you.”
“You can watch Clisty’s broadcast at the station while we set things up for you, if you want to,” Jake offered.
“That would be nice. While we’re at your police station, can you find a place to safeguard Ezra’s papers? He wouldn’t want me to lose any of them,” she said. “If I can leave them with the police, that would be great.”
“Jake and I will read them over and see if we can figure out what happened at the Temple,” Clisty said casually. But what she felt inside was a mixture of excitement and revenge. Mixed together, they frightened her.

• • • • •

“Today, the Mayor announced a new schedule for a vital spot in our community,” Clisty spoke into the camera toward the end of the broadcast. “Beginning May 1, the Historic Old Fort will be open every Saturday from 2 pm to 4 pm through July. An influx of volunteer re-enactors and requests from the community, have made it possible.”
“Any additional volunteers should contact the Historical Society,” Dan Drummond added.
Clisty continued. “We are continuing to gather information regarding the suspect and the circumstances around the robbery of Fort Wayne Bank. The news crew and I traveled one-hundred sixty miles to investigate other threads to the story that began at the bank. As you know, there was a possible witness to the crime, who Melvin Dean Fargo later held as a hostage. The network has asked me to pursue the details and history of this young woman. That is what we began today. I will bring you her story when we have all the facts collected. In the meantime, we will protect the identity of that woman and the people around her. I am happy to say, she is home and safe. We continue to uncovered important leads in the case and will report them as it is safe for all those involved. Be sure to tune in each evening. As we find information, we will bring it to you. Catch the first glimpse of our research on the News at Eleven. Thank you for watching. That’s the early news from the Fort.”
“Good job everyone,” Becca announced. “Thanks for another great newscast.”
Dan paused at the news desk. “Do I have to wait until eleven to hear what you found out today, too?”
“Yes,” Clisty teased, “but that’s only because we haven’t planned what to say first, and on what kind of schedule we’ll release it. This whole thing has grown far beyond what we knew we would find so quickly.”
“You had a three hour drive back to Indiana. Did you all sleep?” he joked.
“No, we had someone with us. The wife of the man who kidnapped Faith was in the car during the entire trip. It appears she didn’t know anything about the whole thing. She thought her husband had come to Indiana, all those years ago, to adopt a girl to replace the daughter they had just lost. I don’t know what kind of person she was before she met Ezra Stratton, but, right now, she is an empty shell. She only does what he tells her to do and only goes where she has asked permission to go. She doesn’t drive. She doesn’t even answer the phone at home unless the caller ID shows it’s her husband.”
“What? How can that be?” Dan shook his head. “What century does she live in?”
“Emily lives in the Century of Ezra and Ezra’s whole world is about him.” Clisty removed her lapel mic and stood up. “She is so fragile we couldn’t discuss the case in front of her. Becca is coming over to my apartment and we’ll write the news story for tonight.” She stopped and turned back to Dan. “There are many twists in this story and we’ve already turned a very dangerous corner. Please ... say a prayer for us.”

• • • • •

“Come in Becca,” Clisty said. “Jake will be here in a few minutes. We have to know what we can report before Ezra is caught. We can’t accidently give him information that would aid him in finding Emily, Faith and Pooky.”
“Clisty, that’s right. We have to balance our news story with the prosecutor’s ability to nail this guy.”
“We’re investigating the story and have every right to report it. But, Becca ...” Clisty wrung her hands, “I want him caught so bad I can’t stand it.”
The door buzzer rang. “If you’ll make some coffee, I’ll get Jake,” Becca offered.
“Sure,” Clisty agreed and had the pot on by the time Jake had his jacket off. “Go ahead and sit down. I’ll be right over,” she said.
She got some mugs out of the cabinet and smiled. Her dirty cup from breakfast and cereal bowl still sat on the black granite. A week ago, she would not be able to tolerate dirty dishes anywhere. Something or someone was freeing her from her obsessions. “You like a little milk in your coffee, right?” she asked Becca.
“Hi Babe,” Jake went over and kissed Clisty on the neck while her head was down preparing the cups.
“I’ll spill this stuff if you keep that up,” she laughed.
“I’ll clean it up,” he joked. “It’ll be worth it.”
“Hey you two,” Becca teased, “save the play for later.”
Clisty was embarrassed and felt her cheeks grow warm. Carrying Becca’s cup to the conversation area, she tried to shake off her self-consciousness and nearly spilled the coffee. “Here,” she handed Becca the cup. “Let’s get busy. I’ll get you a napkin. I splashed a little.”
“That’s okay. Oh, I forgot, you don’t want a drop on your table,” Becca apologized.
“Don’t worry about it,” Clisty said as she wiped up the spot and left the crumpled napkin on the table. She looked at it there on her high-shine polished table and laughed to herself.
“First, how long do you want the segment for the eleven o’clock news?” Jake asked. “And, do you plan to use any of the video Clint shot today?”
“Let’s back up,” Clisty began. “I was thinking about all of this in the van on the way home. There are several stories here that are interconnected. There’s the bank robbery; Faith’s kidnapping; Fargo’s connection to Ezra; the abuses at the Stratton home; and the corruption at the Freedom Temple.”

Jake took out his small notebook and pen. “Actually, there are only two cases we have jurisdiction over. The bank robbery and Faith’s kidnapping. The other offences will be charges in Illinois since that is where they happened.”
“I hadn’t thought about that,” Clisty whispered.
“First, we have to keep Faith, Pooky and Emily safe,” Jake began. “For now, Emily is being settled into a safe house. She’ll have an officer with her at all times. Faith and Pooky are at the Sterlings’ home.” He thought for a moment and then added, “I would think it best for you not to show pictures of Ezra or Emily. I can’t tell you what to do, freedom of the press and all. Maybe Ezra will think that our case is still about Fargo, his bank robbery and holding Faith as a hostage at the time of the police standoff.”
“Okay,” Clisty processed, “If we focus on Fargo for tonight’s broadcast, we can use the pictures of Chicago Clint took as we drove through. We can ask questions more than give answers for tonight’s broadcast.”
“Right,” Becca agreed and opened the e-tablet she had brought. “Why was this Chicago resident, Fargo, in Fort Wayne?”
“Did he know the woman he held captive before coming to Indiana?” Clisty added to the list.
“Was there any connection between Fargo and Faith’s abduction eighteen years ago?” Jack offered.
Clisty looked up from her thoughts, “Will that jeopardize your other charges and investigations?”
“No,” he answered, “We already know he’s connected by helping Ezra abduct her so long ago.  You don’t have to get ahead of the story. You can ask the question.”
“That helps Jake, thanks,” Clisty said. “We can show the clip of Fargo coming out of the house behind Faith. Becca, please write this down. ‘We went to Chicago seeking information about the bank robbery suspect, Melvin Dean Fargo.’ Then, we show the clip of the city and some of the scenery from Fort Wayne to Chicago. Next, we ask our questions. That’s a beginning.”
“Great,” Becca continued to enter data and smiled. “The video showing the burning of the Freedom Temple that came in from the NNC station can wait for the entire News magazine story to be completed.”
“That sounds good,” Clisty began, and then slowly formed a new thought. “Jake, Indiana can’t charge Stratton for crimes in Illinois, but can we dig up the information and present whatever we find in the final broadcast?”
“If you’re careful, you don’t want to taint the jury that will hear the case over in Illinois. If you document all your findings I would think that would be alright.”

“I didn’t think about that,” she drew out slowly. “We have all of that material that Emily had you lock away in the police station. We’ll comb through any of that and develop a second Heartland story, centered on the charged in Illinois.” She jumped up and paced back and forth. “We haven’t even started yet and we already have two great programs for Stories from the Heartland.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

News at Eleven - A Novel (Copyright 2015 Doris Gaines Rapp - 16th Serialized Segment)

Naperville lay in front of them, a sprawling extension of Chicago along the Burlington North Santa Fe Metro line, just thirty miles west of the city. Clisty could easily see it was no longer the sleepy college town her grandmother had told her about when she met her grandfather there as a college freshman. As she watched the sprawling city stretch out its new streets, she wondered what it was like back when her grandparents knew it. Now, red brick sidewalks and streets were enchanting, like something out of an old movie she had seen on TV. Quaint old buildings with overhanging bay windows blended with new stores like Barnes and Noble Booksellers and a fancy Pizzeria with a festive red awning for dining on the sidewalk. She took out her e-tablet and cleared her head by typing in the mental notes she had taken earlier. There was no time for reminiscence.
“Who knows something about Naperville?” Jake asked as he slowly wound through the city streets.
“Nothing really,” Clisty said as she watched for directional clues she knew would never appear. “Faith never left the house and Pooky was outside for only two weeks.”
“We’re wasting a lot of time wandering around. We might not get back to Indiana by the six p.m. news,” Becca reminded them. “I called North Central College on my cell and took them up on their offer to let us use their studio. If we shoot a segment there, they can send it on to WFT, and the station will air it when the six o’clock news hour comes around.”
“Well, okay, maybe,” Clisty grinned broadly. “But they’ll have to take me without professional makeup on.”
“You are beautiful all the time,” Jake patted her knee.
“I have a little blush in my purse and I’m sure you have lipstick,” Becca offered.
“Where is the college, Becca?” Jake asked.
“Well, it’s one-hundred-fifty years old … so it would be in the original part of town,” she offered as she continued to watch out the window. “They gave me the address and I wrote it all down,” she watched the passing street signs. “Here … turn here, Clint. This street sounds right. Let’s hurry. We don’t have much time.”
They stopped in front of the building that housed the television station and all four hurried from the van. Clisty buttoned her jacket as the April breeze caught it and blew it opened. Hurrying in, Becca led the way and introduced the entourage to the station manager who was waiting for them.
“I’m so happy you could help us today,” Clisty said as she followed the man into the studio. She whipped out her lipstick and swished the brush to Becca’s blush across her cheeks.
As they approached the door to the studio, the phone on the station manager’s desk rang. “Yes?” he asked into the receiver. “Oh, no.” Then he placed his hand over the phone and spoke to Becca. “I am so sorry. There is a huge breaking story that will have to take your spot in the studio.” He listened again and then spoke into the phone, “Okay, we’ll send a crew out immediately.”
“What happened?” Clisty asked.
“There is a cult on the north side of the county, the Freedom Temple. Someone is actively setting fires out there. According to witnesses who happened upon the compound, new fires continue to ignite. They’re in various parts of the temple and out-buildings.”
Clisty looked from Jake to Becca. “The Freedom Temple is burning. The Guardian’s Lady could be in danger. We have to get to her right away.”
All four of them put their jackets back on and started for the door. Becca turned to the manager, “Thank you so much for your generous offer. We certainly know how quickly the news changes. The fire at the Freedom Temple may have put someone else at risk. We’ll have to get to her fast. Please, feed the video you have of the fire to our studios in Fort Wayne. We’ll share our information about Naperville’s connection to Fort Wayne when we have it compiled. Okay?”
“Absolutely,” the manager said as he shifted into breaking-story mode and notified his people just as Clisty and the group went out the door.
“Okay, people,” Jake announced. “Now where?”
“Pooky said she watched children as they walked home from school. If that’s the case, we’ve gone too far into Naperville,” Clisty began to realize. “We need to be on that north side again.” Clisty touched her cell phone screen and brought up a map of the north side. “We got detoured by our concern over the early newscast.”
“That’s right,” Becca agreed. “The house can’t be too far from the school. Finding the Freedom Temple out in the country led us away from the residential areas.”
“Somehow, I thought the house would be an old Victorian because of the size,” Clisty felt energized by getting back to the facts of the case.  “But, it wouldn’t have to be.”
“That Temple is a mansion. Why can’t The Guardian’s house be a large, new home in one of the northern suburbs?” Becca jumped into the excitement of the hunt.
Clisty searched the passing streets for a clue to the location. “It’s hiding in plain sight.”
Jake coasted the van up and down neighborhoods on the north side of town. They trolled from street to street and subdivision to subdivision. “I hope no one reports us for stalking,” Jake cracked.
Clint offered a plausible excuse. “You can call it surveillance.”
“I could if I carried a Naperville Police badge,” Jake said and then slowed to a stop. “Look up there in the next block.”
“Where?” Becca reached for the back of the front bucket seat and searched the block ahead of them.
“Right there,” Clisty whispered. Her voice caught in her throat. She wasn’t sure if she was the hunter or the hunted. She had the persona of a victim hidden in the secret corner of her mind. Most of the time she had been able to keep it locked away from view. Faith’s return, the presence of the bank robber, and the voices of the men at the Freedom Temple were too much for the guards at the gate of her secret thoughts to keep her fears at bay.
Ahead and to the right, a mammoth black stone edifice rose up out of the ground like an ancient giant, imposing and menacing. The windows had some sort of opaque coating that glowed black in the high day sun. Window wells beneath the foundation revealed the obvious presence of a basement. “Complete with dungeon,” Clisty gasped.
“First and second floors, plus an attic,” Jake ticked off the enormity of it. “I’m surprised it sits as close to the sidewalk as it does. Mansions usually hide from traffic, back long paved driveways. This one would invite visitors if it weren’t so menacing.”
“Jake, look,” Clisty pointed. “Along the front fence at the end of the sidewalk, there’s a rock garden, all polished and sparkling. Pooky said, ‘She would leave a note for me under a rock near the end of our sidewalk.’ Jake, she gave us a clue she wasn’t aware she had.” Then Clisty began to remember something else as she pulled another fragment from what Pooky had said. “Leenie Lambert, 1221 W. Benton Avenue.”
“The cross street we just passed was W. Benton,” Jake said with a thumb pointing back over his shoulder.
“What?” Becca asked. “Benton and the rocks?”
“The rocks at the end of the sidewalk. I have to investigate.” Clisty turned and looked through the back window. “The coast is still clear. We’d better hurry though. The Guardian can come at any time. He’s burning all bridges behind him. His Lady may be his beloved wife, but my guess is, she’s totally expendable.”
“The Guardian could get here as quickly as he set those fires. He may not even know that we found him there. But, he seems to believe his cult-kingdom has been threatened with exposure and he’s blaming his home situation,” Jake warned.
“Clint, you get out and get your initial shots of the house from up the street at our present location. Use the zoom lens in case there’s a chance of finding someone in an open window or at the door,” Becca started setting camera angles immediately.
Clint got out and shouldered the camera. “The street is clear,” he observed. “You guys get closer and I’ll start shooting from here. I’ll be able to capture your approach to the house.”
Jake rolled slowly toward the house, watching in every direction, windshield, back and both side windows. He parked in front, where a short wrought iron fence identified the property line. At the corner, the rocks piled on both sides, inside and outside of the marked off area. “I know we look obvious from inside. Even the neighbors can read our station number and logo plastered on the side of the van. We can’t help it. If we have to run to the van, some of us may not be able to keep up.”
“Hey, Detective Skinny,” Becca corrected, “I can run just as fast as the rest of you. I’ve been working out, ya know.”
“I’ll jump out and check the rocks.” Clisty had the door open before anyone could respond. She quickly looked up and down the rock garden that sparkled with an occasional quartz stone. Bending down, she hurriedly lifted a three inch round stone and slowly pulled a small piece of paper from beneath it, careful to touch only the extreme corners.
Becca and Jake had gotten out and had gathered around her. “What does it say?” they asked in unison.
“Where are you Pooky?” Clisty read. “Are you OK?” She handed the paper to Jake. “For the evidence bag.”
Jake pulled a small zip lock plastic bag from his shirt pocket and held it out for Clisty to drop the paper in. “Good start,” he said but kept looking out the back for any signs of danger. “Keep your eyes open.”
As she watched Jake zip the bag closed, she thought about Leenie Lambert, who had wondered where Pooky had gone, just as she always wondered where the kidnapper had taken Faith. “I don’t think I’ll close my eyes again until this whole case is solved,” she pronounced.
“Now what?” Clint asked as he walked up beside us as we stood by the rock garden.
“Put the camera in the van and take the segment inside the house, if we can get in, on your smaller one.” Clisty suggested. “You’re a great cinematographer. You would be able to get great video with a child’s toy camera.”
“Amen to that,” Becca agreed. “We can’t waste any more time. The neighbors will start wondering what a TV crew is doing on their safe, quiet street. Soon, the Lady inside will see us and might even call her husband. She doesn’t know that things have changed.”
“Okay, let’s do this.” Clisty squared her shoulders, “We aren’t going to doubt ourselves, or be nervous about anything. We’re the news and we’re getting our story. We’re going right up to the front door,” Clisty stated with determination.
They all approached the home in silence as they surveyed the house with the heavy eight foot front door. Clisty took the lead and lifted the brass knocker. Each looked at the other as they waited with rehearsed calm, trying hard to control their impatience.
“Yes?” a tired looking, middle-aged woman said when she opened the door a few inches.
“Good afternoon,” Clisty began slowly as she thought fast. “Is Joselyn home?”
The woman’s eyes grew large as she closed the door to a crack. “How do you know Joselyn?”
“We talked one day ... in the back yard ...,” Clisty stammered as she tried to find an answer that would sound plausible to the woman. “Ah ... I’m Amanda Lambert. We talked about my daughter, Leenie. She wants to find a time to play with Pooky.”
“Pooky?” the woman asked and opened the door a little more.
“I’m in a bit of a hurry. My friend and I would love to come in your lovely home. I ... ah work for a TV station and we’ve considered a show in which we would tour beautiful homes in the Midwest. Perhaps you would allow the cameras in here. May we come in? I’d like to take a few notes, in case you think you might be interested in the near future.”
“Well, I don’t know,” she hesitated but slowly stood back and let them in. “I am very proud of our home. But, I don’t know what my husband will say.” The entry and grand staircase in front of them had flooring and treads of the same marble that graced the floor of the Temple. A crystal chandelier hung suspended over the foyer from the ceiling and reached the full height of the two stories. Clisty marveled at the polish and shine on every surface, free from dust and smudges.
“Come into the parlor,” the woman said. “You’re not going to film anything now are you? I’ll have to ask my husband first.”
“Clint left the big TV camera in the van,” Becca told her. “He does have a very small one with him and he’ll probably get a few shots.”
Lady, as Faith had called her, directed them to the large, thickly carpeted room to the right of the entry hall. “Please take a seat,” she offered as she sunk heavily into an overstuffed chair beside the fireplace.
“I’m Clisty Sinclair,” she introduced herself, “and this is my producer, Rebecca Landers. Clint usually handles the camera, and this is my friend Jake Davis. I’m sorry, Ma’am,” Clisty began as she sat on the sofa. “I have forgotten your name.”
“Emily Stratton. That’s okay, I forget a lot too.”
“You and Dave have lived here ... “Clisty laid out a prompt for the next answer.
“No, Ezra,” she corrected. “Not Dave.”
“Oh, my goodness, I forgot again.” She apologized. “Of course ... Ezra. Is he home? I haven’t met him yet.”
Emily’s eyes darted back and forth, frightened, tense. “No, he’s not here. You can’t meet him.”
“That’s okay,” Clisty quickly answered and smiled calmly, hoping Emily would catch a little of the peace for herself. “We first stopped at the Temple,” she began cautiously, with no seeming concern.
“You got inside the Temple?” the woman questioned. “How is that possible?”
“Everything seemed fine to us,” she turned to the others. “Didn’t it? Calm, mostly quiet.”
“Oh yes,” Jake said casually, “the front gate was open and welcomed us. The front door, too.”
Clisty continued as if there was no cause for worry or fear at all. “No one seemed to be around though. At first we thought the place was empty.”
“Empty?” Emily asked again.
“Then, we heard a man talking, two others referred to him as The Guardian. They sounded really angry. We didn’t stay long enough to hear all of what they were yelling about,” Clisty said.
“You said no one else was around? But, there should have been hundreds, all over the church, the school and the grounds—janitors, secretaries, teachers ... and all the children.” Emily’s brow creased in worry.
“I remember, one of the men was shouting something about his wife leaving and taking his son,” Becca offered.
“Which one?” Tears formed in Emily’s eyes. “Oh ...” she moaned like one in grief. “It’s all falling apart isn’t it?”
“What Emily? What’s falling apart?” Clisty hoped she wouldn’t frighten her. She needed a lot more information.
“Everything. Ezra said it might happen someday. He said ... if someone escapes ... if the truth gets out, it’ll all fall like building blocks.” Wiping tears from her eyes, she asked, “Who, who got out?”
What should she say? Clisty had run out of pretenses. “Emily ... Joselyn got out.”
“You know where Joselyn is?” The woman drew her shaking fingers to her lips. “Tell me. I won’t tell Ezra.”
“We can take you there if you want to go with us,” Jake offered. “But, we’d probably better hurry. Clisty has a deadline.”
“I’ll have to call Ezra and ask permission to leave the house,” she responded with a timid, mousey voice. “I don’t go anywhere without asking first.”
“Would you like to see Joslyn and Pooky?’ Clisty asked.
“Pooky too? Yes, yes!”
“I’m sorry, Emily,” she added. “Joslyn and Pooky don’t want to see Ezra, absolutely not!” She looked into Emily’s eyes with a firm and resolute gaze. “And, we‘d better get going.”
“Alright, yes,” Emily rattled on excitedly yet confused. “Let me remember. Ezra said if there’s ever any trouble, I should get out and take all the papers with me.”
“What papers?” Jake asked. “Are they easy to get to? We’ve gotta leave.”
“They’re in Ezra’s office, in his safe.”
“In his safe?” Clisty asked. Her eyes flashed to Jake’s for silent confirmation. “They must be really important.”
“Yes, they’re the Temple records, financial papers and our own personal finances,” she shared openly as she led the way into the office. “He said no one should get their hands on any of it.”
The large black safe sat inside a closet in the walnut paneled office. Everything about the room revealed Ezra’s desire for control and power. Emily spun the dial carefully to the right and to the left several times, then pulled the handle down and opened it. The black, heavy steal-plated box was stuffed full of folders, portfolios, record ledgers, and papers. She pulled them all out, handed the tall stack to Jake and then reached to the back of the safe.
“Ezra said to be sure that I take every piece of gold and silver, every bank account book, and each off-shore banking record. My jewels are in the back.” She pulled it all out. “I can’t forget all of our credit cards and the passports.” She grabbed a large black leather valise from the cabinet next to the safe and piled it all inside.
“Let’s get out of here now,” Jake ordered.
“Wait, I’d better count,” Emily said as she reached into the case. “Ezra would be furious ...” she looked at Clisty, “... and he could be dangerous if I don’t have them all.”
Clisty smiled and tried to move her along with her hand to Emily’s elbow. “I understand. Let’s hurry.”
Emily pulled out five passport folders, and double counted. “Yes, three for Ezra and two for me.”
Clisty and Jake just looked at each other, nodded and helped Emily with all the materials. Move, move, move, Clisty kept repeating to herself.
Becca picked up an armload of ledger books and as many loose papers as she could hold. “I’ve got these,” she spoke out loud to those around her.
“Lock the safe again Emily,” Clisty reminded her. “Straighten everything up quickly.”
Emily closed the safe, made sure everything was off the floor, and double checked again. When she seemed satisfied that she had taken care of everything as her husband would want her to, they all hurried out the front door and onto the porch.
“You’d better lock the door,” Jake warned. “You can’t be too careful.”
Clisty knew the closed safe and locked door would slow Ezra for a few minutes. Perhaps he wouldn’t suspect anything if all seemed in order. At least, it might stall him long enough for them to get out of sight before he realized what had happened.
Hoping to seem causal, Becca opened the double doors in the back of the van and all the papers were quickly stowed. They walked around to the side doors and piled in. Jake drove; Clisty rode beside him with the other three in the back. Jake didn’t slam the van into gear or squeal the tires as he pulled away from the curb. He wanted no eyes on them. He turned the key in the ignition, looked over his shoulder and slowly eased the van into the street. To anyone who might have seen them, it would look like a small group of friends on an afternoon outing—no hurry, no worry.
Once the van began to roll, every head inside the vehicle turned and watched the street behind them. Jake drove the speed limit and watched for anyone in the rearview mirror. Hushed tones revealed the tension in the van that no one admitted. As they slowly turned the corner onto W. Keystone Avenue, at the next cross street, an expensive SUV drove rapidly into the Stratton driveway. A man jumped out and nearly stumbled as he hurried toward the door. He didn’t test the doorknob first. He tried to jam the key in the lock with shaking hands. Then, he dashed inside.

Emily stared out the window and gasped loudly as she and all those in the van disappeared around the corner. “He’s back!”

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Future Awaits

In my Length of Days trilogy, the citizens of our great country in 2012 to 2114 are "taken care of" by the ruling elite who drug their water. With no energy to care about the needs of the least around them, or insight to challenge the corrupt government, the Age of Silence halts all debate. Political Correctness is out of control.

Everyone is subject to termination when they reach their Length of Days as prescribed by their worth to society. Christiana and Jason, detoxed due to their privileged status as inheritors to seats on the Council of Elders, awaken to the threat. They cross closed zone borders to get signatures that will get a citizens' referendum on the next ballot to overturn the Length of Days Law.

Christiana's grandfather agrees to run for president, the first such free and open election in over one-hundred years. Will he win? Will the future bring freedom again?

Length of Days trilogy, by Doris Gaines Rapp: All three are available in paperback and eBook at and Barnes and, as well at
Length of Days – The Age of Silence   (© 2014)
Length of Days – Beyond the Valley of the Keepers  (© 2015)

Length of Days – Search for Freedom  (© 2016)

Friday, August 5, 2016

News at Eleven - A Novel (Copyright 2015 Doris Gaines Rapp - 15th Serialized Segment)

“Becca, everything is stowed.” Clisty said as she slapped the back door of the closed van. She slid into the second row of seats beside Jake.
“I am so ready for this, I can’t catch my breath,” Clisty rubbed her hands together, like she was ready to tackle a two-hundred-fifty pound football player. “Do you know how long I have wanted to get that guy who took Faith?” She stopped and thought. “I know, eighteen years. But, for me it seems like a lifetime.”
“It has been,” Jake fastened his seatbelt and sat back. “It’s been your whole adult life. You finally got to the age that you felt strong enough to confront your nightmares.
“Jake, how did you know?” Clisty was amazed.
“When kids have been traumatized and made to feel they are helpless to do anything about it, they say, ‘I’m a weak and awful person.’ Or, they say, ‘No, they are wrong and will be punished.’ They bring their monster to justice, within what their moral fiber tells them, and their mental health tempers their revenge.”
As the motor hummed, Clint slowly pulled the van out of the school drive. Jake reached out, took Clisty’s hand and squeezed it. Clisty smiled, watched the world out of her side window, and then gently squeezed his hand back.
Jake pulled his cell phone from his pocket and texted, “Does your hand say we’re still talking?”
She felt her cell vibrate, fished in her pocket and smiled as Jake’s name appeared on her screen. She texted, “Yes–we’re still talking. I just talked to you.”
“Is there a problem?” Becca asked from the co-pilot seat.
“No, we ...” Clisty stopped when she saw Becca smile and glance down at Clisty’s phone. “No, no problem. Mom texted a question about the trip.”
“Your mom? Texted you?” Her smile took on an impish expression.
“Why don’t you take nap, Becca.” Clisty shooed her hand and dismissed her friend from the conversation. “It’s five miles to our first turn.”
While Becca turned around and snuggled into her pillow, Clisty ran her fingers over the touch pad. “Is the NY job a deal breaker?” she texted.
“Job? No.” Jake texted. “NY not a prob.”
“Then, what?”
“Hon, it’s the distance that’s the prob,” his fingers entered into the text message.
Clisty put her phone in her pocket, grabbed Jake’s arm and pulled him to her so she could whisper in his ear. Cupping her hand, she said, “As long as I don’t have to choose between us and the job, we’ll figure out the rest of it.” She caressed his cheek and lingered there, close, like someone warming themselves by a fire on a cold winter’s evening.
Clint said nothing as he drove. To Clisty, he seemed relaxed, but suddenly, his hands tightened on the steering wheel and he pulled himself up straight, to military attention. “Five miles—this is our first turn,” he announced. Everyone in the car tensed.
Clisty tried to prepare herself mentally. They were going to try to get in the Freedom Temple, a place so secret, no one seemed to know exactly where it is. “It’s broad daylight,” she thought out loud. “We can’t sneak through an open door. They would see us approach.”
Clint pulled over. “Don’t you find it a little strange that we hadn’t thought this through first? The TV camera and van have WFT-TV on it. They might easily put Fort Wayne with WFT.”
“Especially if The Guardian has been to Fort Wayne before,” Jake added.
“Well,” Clisty snapped, “I know he has.”
Clint drove several more miles, turned south, then west. “Have a look at that.” His voice dripped with awe.
Out in front, a high, wrought iron fence stretch along the left side of the road.  Since it was April, the trees weren’t in full foliage; they could see a massive structure in the center of an English style garden.
“Amazing!” Clisty slowly found words to express what the other stunned crew did not say. “There’s no sign, no boastful declaration that you have arrived at the Freedom Temple. But, this has to be it. What else could it be out here?”
“Will you look at that?” Jake pointed to the gate while everyone else focused on the house. He started to open the van door.
“Where are you going?” Clisty asked.
“The gate ... look ... it’s not locked.” He jumped out and pushed the tall, heavy black decorative iron open. It swung heavily, like an entrance to an evil mansion in a horror movie. Clint pulled slowly through the opening and stopped to pick Jake up on the other side.
A densely wooded area stood on the right of the acreage and also the far left. In the center of the compound, down a slight hill, a castle style building rose up from the basement, to what appeared to be an attic with four dormers. A wide porch stretched across the full expanse of the front of the building. Cement steps, that resembled those of a county courthouse, gave a false message of welcome. There was no welcoming vibration coming from the place at all.
“We’re in; now what?” Becca voice shook with excitement.
“Why isn’t anyone around?” Clisty asked; her eyes vigilant. Lights were visible through sheer curtains at windows to the right, the only clue that there might be people inside. Three cars sat alone in the V.I.P. marked parking spaces. The rest of the massive lot was empty.
Becca placed her hand on the dashboard and looked as far in every direction as she could twist. “I thought this was a secure compound. I don’t see guards or even people outside enjoying the day.”
Jake searched the surroundings with a detective’s eye. “Will you look at that,” he whispered. “That front door isn’t closed either,” he searched with intent surveillance. “Be very careful, everyone. There’s something strange here. There is something going on.”
Everyone in the car adopted a stealth mode. Ducked heads and whispered voices plotted out their next move.
“Before we get to the Temple,” Becca said as she started setting up camera angles, “Clint, you hop out and start filming the building and area. I want the woods, the empty parking pad over there, the front door partially open, and finally, the three of us planning our strategy.”
“Got ya,” Clint shouldered the TV camera and spanned the full scope of the compound. The sky was blue and provided a counter-emotional backdrop for the scene. “Dark clouds or lightning bolts would make a more accurate depiction for the shot,” he protested. “I guess it does show how deceptive it is.”
Clisty itched to have her first look inside. “Let us know when you have what you want, Clint. Then, Becca, let’s all get out and approach on foot.”
“The elevation slopes slightly,” Jake pointed to the terrain. “Once Clint has the camera shots he needs, Clisty and I will get out here. Becca you allow the van to coast as far as it will move. Our escape vehicle will be closer if we have to make a quick exit.”
“I like that idea,” Clint agreed as he leaned into the van window. “I have some great footage. You can move.”
Clisty and Jake got out. Those on foot waited while Clint positioned the camera again and took some shots of the wooded surroundings and then panned to images of Clisty, Jake and the moving van.
Clisty looked at the mansion and shook her head. With its open door, it looked like a surprised giant with a gapping mouth. Becca put the van in gear and coasted toward the building. Clint attached a microphone to the camera and checked the connection.
Not knowing how hostile those inside might be, Clisty and Jake walked behind the van, using it as a shield until it stopped rolling. Once Becca was as near to the Temple as she could get, she put the van in park, stowed the keys in her zippered side pocket, and followed the others as they approached the front door on foot. Up the steps, tread by tread, like a conquering army, they cautiously entered, with camera aimed. They slipped through the door and assessed the interior.
The floor was glowing, white marble. Light coming through the windows, danced off the recrystallized calcite, and sparkled beneath their feet. White columns rose from the floor to the second story balcony above. Through tall, heavy open doors to the left they could see a huge gathering room. Clisty took mental notes of everything she saw. One might call the room a large sanctuary, if there were anything holy about the place.
Jake put his index finger to his lips and pointed to the right. Angry, muffled voices came from a room with the door ajar. Clint aimed the camera and it’s microphone toward the door.
“What happened, Guardian?” One angry, frightened voice demanded. “They are all gone, even my woman. She took my son,” his words spit out like rounds from a Gatling gun, fast and furious. “My son!”
“Where’s Emily?” another voice demanded.
“Don’t you ask about my Lady, Mister.” A third voice ordered. “She’s at our home where she belongs. She hadn’t asked to go anywhere this morning, so she’s there.” His words were those of authority. “I’ve trained her proper!”
“That doesn’t tell me what happened!” the first one shouted.
“It’s Jocelyn,” The Guardian accused. “She escaped when we were at Steven’s funeral. She took the kid, too.”
“Jocelyn, who is Jocelyn?” one of the men questioned.
Clisty cringed. She knew full well who Jocelyn was. Now, The Guardian was blaming Faith for whatever happened to jeopardize his control over the people. The fear she felt for Faith’s safety had grown to near panic. People with so much power, based on some twisted self-created religious conviction, were not only irrational, they were extremely dangerous.
The other one threw in a hostile accusation, “What happen to your clan, Guardian? Didn’t you train them properly?” The anger in his voice frightened Clisty. She knew how volatile people can be when someone challenges their delusions. Her heart pounded wildly. Those inside the adjacent room could erupt into a violent brawl at any time, or even a battle if they were armed.
“Jocelyn is his daughter,” one said with disgust.
“Your daughter?” The other questioned; the pitch of his voice approached rage. “Why has she never been at the Temple? Why have we never seen her?”
“She’s been rebellious since we adopted her,” The Guardian stated with anger, but with less conviction.
“Tell him about Pooky,” the first one insisted with venom in his words.
“What’s a Pooky?”
“Pooky is a who, not a what.” The volume in the accuser’s voice rose again. “Go ahead,” he shouted, “tell him about Pooky.”
“Shut your mouth,” The Guardian demanded, but his voice had lost its edge of authority. “Pooky is my granddaughter, Steven’s son.”
“What!” one of them roared? “Where have they been ... locked up in your house? Have you held them captive? What if someone saw them?” The questions fired like an assassin’s bullets.
“We’d all be at risk,” the other one gasped.
“No one knows where I live,” The Guardian insisted. “We live on a quiet, shady street like any respectable neighbor. I have been very careful.”
“Are you crazy, or what?” One asked accusingly, his voice cracked with anger. “Everyone knows where the ‘scary man in the black house’ lives!”
Clisty’s eyes snapped to Jake’s. He gave a wind-up gesture with his finger in the air, and all four of them silently backed out of the house. They had a lead, enough to continue the search in town. Now, they had to move. Clisty was giddy with excitement and nearly overwhelmed with fear.
Without a word, they all tiptoed back to the door, down the front steps and out to the van. Jake got in behind the wheel and Clisty took the co-piolet seat. Becca pulled the key out of her pocket and handed it to Jake from the middle row. When he put the key in the ignition, the engine seemed to roar, but he had to start it. There was no way to coast up hill. A fast escape or a slow one would create the same noise once the van started and speed was their only means of success. They all slammed their doors closed in union while Jake made a one-eighty in the wide drive. Inside the van there was breathless silence however, until they passed the open gate at the entrance. The danger was too great to talk about it until they were on the road again.
“We’re all safe,” Jake reminded them. “Now breathe slowly and your heart will stop racing.”
Clisty thought of the prayer angel on her mantle. She had prayed for Faith and her grandmother had prayed for her. Peace settled in like the sunshine brings joy on a rainy day. She was ready for the next step in their quest. “A single black house on a Naperville street,” Clisty finally announced with determination.  “Lady, here we come.”
“I hope we’re the only ones heading to that house,” Becca announced as she turned and searched the empty road behind them through the rear mirror. “They’re not back there yet, but they certainly heard us when we left. There was no way to move the vehicle without starting the motor. They may follow and they’ll get there first since they know where they’re going.”
“Then we have to get there fast.” Jake said.
“Are you armed?” Clint asked.
“Of course,” he said and patted the right side of his jacket.

“I hope it doesn’t come to that,” Clisty whispered. “We came to rescue the lady, not get her executed.”