This unique Christian literary thriller frankly addresses the ancient problem of violence and the hope of deliverance borne by the transcendent fire of faith.




 
Chapter 1

 Cold Summer Rain

© Michael C. Rudasill 2009

The cold summer rain did not fall lightly. It dripped dismally to earth, as if it oozed from a wound in the face of the heavens.

Ignoring the rain, the officer stared intently through the windshield and wiped away the fog, squinting at the object of her displeasure. Raked by the blue-disco swirl of her bubble lights, a battered pickup truck idled unevenly in the roadway, its flickering left taillight revealing the reason for the traffic stop. Pelted by water, it leaked erosive rivulets of rust onto the glossy pavement: fenders hunched against the gathering dusk.

She stepped out of her car and cautiously approached the truck with one hand resting lightly on the gun at her hip. Pausing at the corner of the tailgate, she carefully studied the two men in the cab. The driver faced forward; the passenger gazed pensively at her reflection in the large, rain-streaked mirror on his door.

She detected no signs of danger. To all appearances, the men did not pose any threat. But appearances could mislead, and they did not reassure her.

Something feels wrong, she informed herself cautiously. A faint buzz of electricity tingled her scalp. Her skin crawled with anticipation. What is wrong with this picture?

In the distance, the thunder rumbled uneasily. Is this how it feels before lightning strikes? She smelled a strong, musty odor: a distinctive bitter tang. What is that scent? In a flash, her mind connected the dots.

Cocaine!

Before she could duck, the rear window exploded outward. She glimpsed a fountain of spraying glass as a freight train smacked into her neck, stunning her soul and knocking her world out of kilter.

The officer flipped backwards as if cracked in the face by a well-aimed baseball bat.



She did not notice the secondary shock as her body hit the pavement. She felt no pain as her head bounced heavily against the asphalt. Softly, hypnotically, her consciousness began to fade. A call should have gone out, but her radio remained silent.

Officer down.

The rainfall segued from drizzle to downpour. Her eyes clouded over, wandering aimlessly behind fluttering eyelids.

Something had gone wrong, but she could not imagine what. Something had happened... something bad... something evil. She could not make sense of it.

A clamor of distant shouting drifted past her face like a wayward cloud trailing just beyond her reach. Muffled apparitions slipped through the grasp of her mind, sliding like smoke though her fingers. Wayward wisps of fear haunted the fringes of her awareness as she teetered at the edge of a deep, delicious sleep. And yet, for all that, she did not yield.

A trickle of consciousness began to seep back into her being. God help me. it hurts. What’s happening to me?

On the rain-slicked street, the view had turned grim. The fallen officer lay flat on her back with her head turned 45 degrees to the right, the bend in her neck partially compressing a gash that leaked warm blood onto the roadway. An unseemly crimson puddle pooled beneath her head as her blood mingled promiscuously with the pelting rain. The downpour increased, assaulting the earth in deadly earnest as the rain pulsed relentlessly from the swollen sky.

Her right eye stared dully at a huge drop of rain about to hit the pavement. For some reason, she perceived it with uncommon clarity. Encapsulated in its core, she saw a glassy piece of hail as smooth and misshapen as the clouds above her.

The solitary drop, magnified and captured in the light of her flickering awareness, struck the asphalt full force and exploded upwards. The sight seemed hypnotically intense: exotic and strangely beautiful. Like a passage from a cinematic poem, the raindrop rebounded from the blacktop in sinuous slow motion, shattering into splinters of light that unfurled delicate tendrils, like the petals of a flower. Softly, slowly, the petals lazily wilted back down to the surface of the glistening road.

Her vision faded. She could not awaken, and could not turn her head. But somehow, in spite of her wounds, the officer sensed that the worst was yet to come.

She moved her lips, but failed to utter a sound. A large red bubble emerged from her mouth and popped silently, punctured by the rainfall.

As the dark mist closed in, she struggled helplessly, her instincts warning of a greater danger. At the edge of her thoughts, a predator waited. Her mind tried to gather its strength as her consciousness drifted away.

With the delicate footfall of a hungry wolf, the killer began his careful approach.

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