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Rebekka Franck - 03 - Five, Six ... Grab Your Crucifix, Page 3

Willow Rose

  “The … girl,” he whispered as life slowly oozed out of him.

  But no one heard the last words the Priest spoke. They were drowned in Latin phrases and commandments telling the devil to leave this body now.

  The last thing the Priest saw was his own crucifix lying on the floor in front of him, smeared in blood.

  Then the good Lord finally had mercy on him and took him home.

  Chapter 5

  When the screaming finally stopped I found it hard to fall asleep. The eerie feeling inside wouldn’t go away. As the morning approached hours later I finally managed to get a couple of hours of sleep before Julie woke me up. Her eyes looked tired. I helped her pull out the earplugs. She smiled then kissed me.

  “The screaming stopped,” she exclaimed.

  I nodded, and then put my head back on the pillow. “I’ll just take half an hour more,” I grumbled.

  Julie shook me. “No Mommy, we have to get up. I’m hungry. Tobias is awake too,” she said and pointed at Tobias lying in the bed next to ours.

  His eyes were open and he looked at Julie with a huge smile. “Let’s go downstairs,” Julie said and jumped out of the bed.

  I put the cover over my head. “I’ll be down later,” I growled.

  I heard them leave the room then walk downstairs. My dad was awake; I could hear him say a singing “Good morning” to the kids. Apparently he hadn’t been awake like I had. I turned onto my side and tried to fall asleep again. It was after all vacation so I was allowed to treat myself. But much to my surprise I couldn’t fall asleep even if I felt like I needed it so badly. The screams had somehow burned themselves into my brain and wouldn’t leave again. I kept hearing them over and over again and it gave me the chills.

  The door to the bedroom opened and I felt someone crawl into my bed. I opened my eyes and stared into those of Sune. He was smiling. His Mohawk was messed up and lay flat on top of his head. I touched his face gently.

  Sune crept under the covers to me and held me tight.

  “I can’t stop thinking about those screams,” I said.

  He kissed my neck. “Me either,” he said. “I keep wondering what it was. What could make a person scream like that?”

  “Pain,” I said. “Excruciating pain. Unbearable pain.”

  Sune lifted his head and stared at me. “What are you thinking?”

  I shook my head. “I have no idea what it might have been. All I know is that it was something serious. Something awful.”

  I turned and grabbed his face between my hands. Then I pulled him closer and kissed him for a long time. Feeling him, drinking from his lips.

  “Well a good morning to you too,” he said with a huge white smile when I let go of him.

  “Do you want to get some breakfast?” I asked.

  “I’m starving,” he exclaimed and patted his stomach. He hadn’t put on a shirt yet. I loved to look at him. He was very tall and well-built. He leaned over and kissed me once again. Then he got up from the bed. “Are you coming?” he asked.

  “I’ll take a shower first.”

  Once I came down after my shower I couldn’t find any of them in the kitchen. They were all sitting in the living room by the TV watching something. It was the News, the 24-hour news channel. They had breaking news to report. I crept up behind Sune and hugged him from behind.

  “What’s going on?” I asked.

  Dad looked at me. “The screaming last night …”

  “So you did hear it,” I said. “I thought you slept through it all.”

  “No it kept me up all night. Haven’t closed an eye since it started. Once it was over I thought I might as well get up. Couldn’t fall asleep again.”

  “It was Anders Granlund, better known as the Priest,” Sune said. “You know, the leader of that sect.”

  “The Way?” I asked.

  “Yes. You know their camp is located pretty close to here,” Dad said.

  “Yes. We drove past the entrance yesterday on our way here,” I said. “Was it him? What happened?”

  Sune shook his head. “He died last night. They believe it might be some sort of strange disease. He fell ill during the night. Then he had sort of a seizure. Could have been an allergic reaction or something. He was throwing up and had diarrhea for hours apparently before he died.”

  “A disease?” Julie asked with frightened eyes. “What if we get it?”

  “They don’t know if it is a disease yet. You heard what Sune said. It might have been an allergic reaction,” I said to calm her down.

  “But when will we know?”

  I saw anxiousness in her eyes. I walked to her and hugged her gently. “They’ll find out soon and then they’ll tell us we don’t need to be afraid.” I looked at Sune. “Has anyone else fallen ill in the camp?” I asked.

  “Not to their knowledge,” Sune said.

  “There you go,” I said. “It’s nothing to be afraid of. They keep to themselves up there and don’t have much contact with people around them so even if they do have some virus up there - which I don’t think they do - it’s highly unlikely it will spread.”

  Julie looked at me with a smile. “Now turn that thing off,” I said to Dad who held the remote. “You’re scaring the kids. Plus we need to get something to eat.”

  Dad prepared a huge meal for breakfast. But none of us ate that much. I kept thinking about the Priest and what could have possibly made him scream like this. I found my purse and retrieved my phone. I sighed and held it for a while in my hand almost like I was feeling its weight. Then I turned it on. I knew I never should have. Twenty-five voicemail messages. All from my editor Jens-Ole. I knew what they were about but listened to one anyway.

  “I know you must have heard about the death of the sect leader by now. You’re in the area. Call me.”

  I looked at my family sitting around the breakfast table. Then I sighed and called him back.

  “Where the hell have you been?!” he exclaimed.

  “On vacation. Where do you think?”

  “I know. But you’re the only one right now who is close to the scene. Could you look into the story about the Priest?”

  “I’m here with my family. I’m supposed to relax, doctor’s orders remember?” I said.

  “If I say please?”

  I sighed again. Sune looked at me. Our eyes locked. He knew what was going on. I knew he had brought his camera as well. Just in case. This was that kind of case. I was intrigued enough to look into this story.

  “Just one article about the Priest, his death and the place up there and then I’ll let you off the hook,” Jens-Ole pleaded.

  “You know they’ll never let us in,” I said.

  “I know. Take some pictures from the outside and then talk to the locals about them. Could you do that? Please?”

  I exhaled. “Okay. But just the one article.”

  “I promise. Cross my heart and all that,” Jens-Ole said. “I’ll leave you alone the rest of your vacation.”

  “Yeah right,” I said with a smile. Then I hung up.

  Sune approached me. “Let me guess. Jens-Ole?” He whispered.

  I nodded. “Just one story,” I said.

  Sune sighed deeply and shook his head. “I thought we were here so you could relax.”

  “I know. But aren’t you intrigued? Just a little bit?”

  “Of course I am. But we are just doing a portrait thing right?” he asked.

  “Yes,” I assured him. “Just the story about the Priest seen from the eyes of the locals and then pictures from the place, probably just be the fence and the ‘keep away’ signs.”

  Sune looked at the children. They had found a video-game and plugged it into the TV. They would hardly notice we weren’t there once that thing had started.

  “Okay,” he said. “I’ll grab my camera.”

  Chapter 6

  As expected the place outside the camp was swamped with people when we arrived. TV cameras, journalists, photographers swarmed around the
fence, peeking in, waiting for the sect members to show themselves and maybe give a comment. Just a picture of someone walking behind the fence would make the front page.

  I greeted the few that I knew from earlier in my career, then joined them waiting. Sune started taking pictures of the fence, the signs telling people to stay away and that this was a private property. He had a way of making himself almost invisible, able to sneak around unseen and take the best photos. He would never just stand in a crowd to get the same picture as everyone else. I studied him as he slowly moved further and further away from the crowd and into the forest while following the fence. I knew he was trying to get closer somehow and maybe be able to zoom in close on the camp through the trees. Maybe he would catch a glimpse of someone in there, maybe one of the young persons that the sect was suspected of brainwashing. While Sune disappeared I wondered what it was like to live like that, in a camp with people telling you what to think and what to do. I could vividly imagine how it would be appealing to young people with many problems. Kids were so fragile at that age, so easy to manipulate. That they exploited their weaknesses made me sick to my stomach.

  Before we left the house I researched a bit on what had been written over the years about the sect. And I didn’t like what I had seen one bit. On more than one occasion they had been investigated by the police, but never charged with anything. The media reported that their leader the Priest was simply too smart to get caught doing anything illegal. One person who had managed to get out after five years in the camp had in the one and only interview he had ever made ten years ago, told that the Priest deliberately targeted young people who had run away from home or were living in the streets. He lured them to the camp with promises of a better life. Then he used them for labor, cultivating the fields on the estate, caring for the sheep and cooking and cleaning. They weren’t to have any contact with the world outside and were told to never contact their families again. They told them that they didn’t know what was good for them; they would never understand or accept their new way of living. The other sect members were their family now. The Priest would tell them how to think, what to think and what not to think. That was the difficult part for me. The brainwashing part. They were so impressionable at that young age.

  The man who had escaped said that once they arrived at the camp the first thing they would do to them was to have a “cleansing ceremony” which was just another word for an exorcism during which the Priest and his followers would clean the newcomer of all the bad things and evil demons that possessed them. If a person got the bad thought patterns back they would do another ceremony. When he was asked about how the ceremonies were performed he started crying and ended the interview.

  That was the closest anyone had ever come to learning what was going on behind that tall fence I was staring at right now. Where the sect had all its money from there were many guesses. Some said that they had a huge billion-dollar donation back in the nineties, others that they had inherited the money from an old member of the sect who had died a few years ago. Others speculated that people had to donate all of their money to the sect once they joined it and more than one millionaire had joined them over the years. Most famous was one of this country’s biggest movie-actresses Isabella Dubois who was known to have given up her entire career and donated all of her money to the sect. She had never commented upon the matter to the press.

  Suddenly I noticed Sune; he was walking fast along the fence towards us. A few seconds later he was running. When he approached me he leaned over and whispered:

  “Someone is coming out now, I got a picture of someone getting into a car and driving towards the exit. Better get ready when the gate opens.”

  I nodded and placed myself strategically right in front of the gate so when the car approached and the gates opened I had the best spot. The other journalists didn’t suspect anything was going on until they saw the black car and then they started swarming it. The gate opened slowly and the car tried to press its way through the crowd, but they were too many and the driver had to slow down in order not to hit anyone. I knocked on the window in the backseat. Nothing happened. The many photographers blocked the car while shooting pictures, trying to capture whoever was behind the black windows. I knocked on the window again and suddenly it moved. Through a small opening a set of eyes stared at me. I recognized them immediately as those belonging to Isabella Dubois.

  “Care to comment on the tragic death of your leader?” I asked.

  Isabella’s eyes were moist when much to my surprise she spoke: “It is a very great loss not only to our Church but also to the rest of the world.”

  I felt the other journalists push up behind me forcing me closer to the car. I tried to stand still but it was hard. Sune stood right next to me, shooting picture after picture.

  “Do you know who will be the next leader of your Church?” someone yelled behind me.

  “Who will take over?” another asked.

  “Who’s in charge now?” a third person yelled.

  “Will you release the members to their families?” I asked.

  Isabella Dubois shook her head slowly like she couldn’t believe us. Then she rolled down her window further. A great wave of silence washed over all the journalists. It may have been her beauty or her astonishing authenticity that had once spellbound so many from the movie screens all over the country for years. Isabella sighed deeply before she spoke:

  “Anyone who comes to our camp comes here by his or her own free will. And they are the lucky ones. What happened last night marks the beginning of the end. Evil will rise all over this land and you will all end up burning in hell.”

  The journalists stared at her, speechless. I could tell by the look in her eyes that she truly believed what she had just told us.

  “Are you saying that the death of the Priest wasn’t an ordinary death?” I asked.

  “You all think I’m crazy. I know that perfectly well,” she said. “But we have known this was coming for years. We have been waiting and preparing for this. Don’t say you weren’t warned.”

  “You didn’t answer my question,” I said.

  Isabella looked at me with her icy blue eyes. “No it wasn’t an ordinary death. And neither will yours be.”

  “Was that why you didn’t call for an ambulance?” I asked. “The call didn’t come from your camp, did it? It came from one of the neighbors.”

  “You’re focusing on the wrong thing,” Isabella said.

  “Then what is the right thing we should focus on in your opinion?” I asked.

  “That this land is damned. We should all be preparing for the end. If that demon can take the Priest it can take anybody.”

  On that word Isabella rolled her window up and the car started moving down the road. Photographers followed it some of the way taking more pictures. Then it was gone. A journalist approached me. He was an older guy, kind of old school with a green vest, beard and a very laid back attitude.

  “Can you believe that story?” he asked. Then he looked at me. “Great questions by the way.”


  “Well no use in staying here,” the journalist said. “There is a story to be written and they have shrimp and fish filet in the cafeteria at the paper today. Wouldn’t miss that, huh?”

  I smiled. Knowing his type, he would have a couple of snaps with that as well.

  Sune returned just as the journalist left. He handed me his camera. I flicked through the pictures on the display. They were great. He had even captured Isabella in the camp just before she got inside the car. She was talking to a couple of other church members looking serious.

  “Perfect,” I said and smiled.

  Chapter 7

  Next stop was the local people. Arnakke was a very small town of mostly a lot of houses and summer residents. We chose the closest neighbor to the sect’s camp and knocked on the door. An elderly woman opened. She introduced herself as Esther, smiled widely and invited us in for coffee. We sat on the couch
in her living room that reminded me so much of my grandmother’s. Heavy curtains, carpeted floors, old naturalistic paintings on the walls and the windowsills packed with trinkets, birds and small rabbits made in porcelain. The old lady was still smiling when she brought the coffee. She poured some in our cups and offered us Danish butter cookies to go with it.

  “I guess you’ve heard about what happened last night at the camp?” I asked and sipped the coffee. It even tasted like my grandmother’s used to. I took in a deep breath and remembered her for a second.

  “Oh, yes. Wasn’t it awful? Horrible. If I didn’t know better I would think he was being tortured.”

  I nodded and ate my cookie. “Actually we heard it too,” Sune said.

  “We are here on vacation with our kids and have rented a house on the other side of the big road,” I said.

  Esther nodded. “Well it wasn’t the first time that kind of thing happened, but it was definitely the most horrific one of them.”

  “What do you mean it wasn’t the first time?” I asked and sipped some more coffee. After standing outside for hours in the snow it felt good to get warmed up again.

  “Well, we do hear occasional screaming from up there. I don’t know what they do to each other. But it doesn’t sound nice, that’s for sure.”

  “So you’re saying that you’ve heard it before?” I asked and noted it on my notepad.

  “Well not quite the same. Last night was worse than any night I have ever heard, but yes I hear screaming from up there every now and then.”

  “Do you have any idea what causes it?” Sune asked.

  Esther shook her head. “No. But I have called the police more than once. But once they arrive at the camp to check it out they never can find anything, they tell me. Screaming is one thing, but if nobody is hurt or hospitalized then they can’t do anything. The Church members tell the police that the screaming is part of a therapy they offer the young kids in order to get rid of their rage.” Esther stopped and looked at the window. It was snowing again. “But the screams I hear aren’t screams of rage,” she said with a small still voice. Then she looked at me. “It’s of pain and deep suffering.”