heard a click and the phone went dead. Macie had sounded so scared.
Phil grabbed the phone. “Mace...Mace...”
He looked up at Abraham. “She’s gone.”
hung up. She said they’ll call again, soon, to give me directions. They wantthe notes by .” Abraham sighed. “ Old men, cold men. I haven’t even got the fire to be angry. To fight.”
she say anything else?” Phil settled in the chair opposite Abraham , leaning forward, searching the old man’s face.
said you should shut off her organ...it might overheat. In all this time she has worked for me, I never knew Macie was a musician. And she said something about
your cat...in the basement furnace
sat quietly, studying his hands, folded on the table. “Macie’s tone-deaf,Doctor Sorkin. And we don’t
have a cat...or a basement. She was trying to tell us something. To give us a clue to where she is.”
McKenzie coughed. Abraham looked up and the young man met his gaze, his eyes blinking furiously. Stone sat, his brow furrowed.
Maxine smiled at Abraham, reached up and cupped his grizzled face in her hand.
forgot to shave.”
Avrom, I was just thinking you’d be handsome in a beard.”
ancient mantle clock ticked loudly, Conley’s finger drumming the doorframe in time.
music.” McKenzie erupted. “Like this morning. Loud organ music. Loud enough to be heard in a basement. Maybe even
over a running furnace.”
church?” Abraham saw Conley grin at Ron. “You are speaking of that Tabernacle place? Makes sense. But you were
just there. You didn’t see her.”
stepped forward, tapping his keys against his thigh, the other hand held to his mouth as he bit his thumbnail distractedly.
“But that doesn’t mean she wasn’t there. And Ron recognized someone he had seen with Paige, tearing out
of there like he was running away. I think we should go back to that church. Search it.”
well what if they don’t let you? You can’t just barge in there and demand to storm their altars.” Phil sounded
they did, Abraham thought it needed to be done fast; they couldn’t afford wild goose chases. And if they waited too
long, the police would be involved. “What if that man you saw was just late for golfing or something?”
was running from us. I’m sure of it. And it’s not their altars I’m concerned about. It’s their basement...their furnace room.”
McKenzie already was halfway out the door when Phil stood to follow him. “Wait. Someone needs to be here when they call
back. We can’t all go.”
wife is out there too.” The door thumped closed behind McKenzie.
Pete took Stone’s vacated place at the table. “You two go.”
was already half out the door when Pete finished. “I’ll wait here with the doctor and Maxine.”
stood and went to the window, leaning to look between the blind slats. Ron stood beside Phil Stone’s car.
rode with Pete,” he yelled. “You drive. That way I can be your navigator. It’s tricky getting into that skinny side street where the church
Stone pulled into the gravel parking lot of Hope Tabernacle. There were seven or eight cars sitting in front of the building. Phil craned his neck, trying
to see around the building’s
side where a red convertible might be parked. Ron opened his door and stepped out.
pursed his lips, then sighed.
car is at home. We found it at a service station where she’d left it so I wouldn’t know she was still in town.”
were you going to share that little tidbit with us?”
it matter? I mean, we know Paige is involved.”
forced his clenched fists to relax. When they reached the church door, he yanked it open, stepped back and allowed Ron to enter first. Loud moaning mixed
with the drone of several voices,
and someone was clapping his hands. A woman shouted,
their prayer time for the evening service. Not a lot of people, but they’re sincere...At least most of them.” Ron nodded toward the front, where gold-robed
Leonard Soudo strutted between
kneeling men and women, pausing to lay his hand on their heads, pronouncing loud “amens” to their prayers. As they watched, the pastor prostrated
himself on the carpet behind the pulpit
and began to groan loudly. After a minute or two, he stood and resumed his blessing routine.
nodded ceremoniously when he saw the two men standing at the rear of the sanctuary, and smiled. He raised his hands, with their flashing gold and diamonds, in mock
blessing. Phil tugged on Ron’s windbreaker sleeve and they retreated to the narthex.
the right there was a flight of blue -carpeted stairs. Ron, who had been on the lower floor once before, led as they started down. After ten steps, the staircase
turned at a tiny landing, and
descended another four feet. Ron paused at the landing, putting his hand on the overhanging ceiling and peering into the room at the bottom. Then he motioned for
Phil to follow him.
stairs led to a fellowship hall flanked by a row of doors on one side and several metal banquet tables on the other. At the
far end, a folding partition was pulled to the side, revealing a kitchen where several women sat talking. The smell of fresh
coffee and cinnamon rolls snaked to the men on the current of air from overhead vents. Phil’s stomach lurched and growled
opened one of the doors, felt for the light, and flicked it on. It was a Sunday School room, a round table in the center circled by tiny plastic chairs. On
one wall, a bookcase sagged under
a mountain of children’s books . Nothing sinister. He switched off the light and backed out, pulling the door closed again.
had wandered closer to the meeting. He stood surveying the kitchen as thechurch women discussed their burgeoning food pantry. Two large stoves filled one wall,
a refrigerator and upright freezer
the other. A door to one side stood open. Phil craned his neck to see inside, but just then a large woman, in a flowered dress, emerged holding a tape measure.
feet, seven inches by twelve feet. That’s all the room we have, ladies.”
door obviously led to the pantry in question. As his gaze swept the room again, he noticed another door, beyond the circle of chattering women. Ron came up behind him tripping on an extension cord stretched
across the floor, attached to an old Kirby vacuum.
Ron grunted as he fell forward into Phil, and the ladies hushed their conversations, looking up at the intruders.
we help you?” One of the women, an older sister...evidently the group’s leader, stood and walked to the counter separating the kitchen from
the rest of the fellowship hall.
She rested her hand on the open partition and peered at them.
I think we’re lost. Sorry to interrupt your meeting,” Ron sputtered.
grinned broadly at the woman.” Actually, sister, we were just taking a look at the facility. This is my first time here. We’re moving to Denver this summer, bringing the business
here. Our families will be out in a couple of weeks. We’re kind of scouting a church home...Nice kitchen.”
walked around the partition and entered the room through a side door. The women were smiling now, glad to show off their culinary castle. “Phew.” Phil
whistled at the gleaming tile
floor. “You ladies sure know how to keep a place sparkling. Maybe after they come, you can give my wife some cleaning tips?”
pantry committee tittered its approval.
is that,(Phil pointed to the closed door) the pantry I heard you all
no. I only wish it was.” A tiny wizened woman in a blue lace dress stood to greet him. “No, that itty bitty room over there is the pantry. This
door goes down to theold basement. It’s just the furnace and old classrooms. No one but the janitor uses it much any more.
And he hasn’t been down there in a couple of weeks now, I think. Harold had a knee replacement.”
I see.” Phil stopped, listening. Someone had coughed. Maybe someone behind that door. The women didn’t seem to hear it and were again absorbed in matters
of food storage.
elder sister clucked her tongue. Her fingers rattled the wooden divider slats rhythmically. Finally, she spoke.” Is there anything else I can do for
but we’re very impressed. Wait ‘till we tell the girls about this place.” Phil turned to his companion. "Come on, Ron. We don’t want
to be late for the service.”