Wednesday, January 29, 2014

34. Demise of Solar Cross II

The Reverend Robert Lowry did not take too much time in overcoming his fears.  The next day, while Trevor was at school, Mark and Shannon paid Lowry a visit, and was amazed to see a tall scaffolding having been erected in front of the church.  It was covered by blue tarps to screen the church from the road.  At the same time, the Pittsburgh media outlets as well as a few small local newspapers received a press release announcing the unveiling of a new and greater Solar Cross at a media conference on site at noon on Sunday.  

The next morning's newspapers ran articles with titles like [CHURCH RESURRECTS CROSS] and [CHURCH DEFIES CROSS-BURNING].

"Well, well, well, looks like the Catholic Church just declared war on the Southern Baptists," said Mark, "and we have a front row seat to the action to come."

"When, do you think?" asked Trevor when he read the articles after school.

"Could be as soon as the KKK built another cross to burn," Mark answered.  "Probably the next couple of weeks to a month."

"That's a lot of time to ask you to stick around for," said Shannon.

"I'm writing a book.  I could use the quiet time at your farm to work on it," Mark said.

"You can stay for as long as you want.  Make yourself at home," said Shannon.

"Thank you.  And of course I will help defend you in light of the death threat."

The church was no more than ten minutes from the farm, so there would be ample time for Mark to respond if and when anything happened.

For the entire day when the newspaper articles came out, Mark sat in the car across the street from the church observing the passing traffic.  Some time in the late afternoon, a van pulled over and two men came out, who proceeded to take pictures of the church and it's environs, and used a long tape-measure to size up the front parking area.  Mark took telephoto pictures of them.  When they were done, Mark followed them in his car with the dash-mounted video camera's "Record" button toggled on.  And they led him to a farm house about 30 miles down the road.  Mark took pictures of the house, the mail box, the men, and the vehicles in the parking area, all with license plates mounted.

On the day of the news conference, three TV cameras showed up, and a few reporters toting cameras of their own.  The place was crammed full of the cars of those worshippers who stayed behind after the morning service to watch the event.  At noon, Rev. Lowry gave a brief statement to the crowd and TV cameras.  When he was done two men on the top of the scaffolding cut a ribbon and the blue tarps slid to the ground, revealing a tall, free standing blue cross, the Solar Cross II.  

Mark did not pay much attention to the ceremony, but scrutinized the crowd.  Sure enough, the two men were there, this time taking pictures of the cross, as well as the back of the church building.  Mark watched them like a hawk.  When they left, Mark tailed them again with the video camera recording, to the same farm house.

The next week, Mark switched rental cars to a black one, one with dual head lamps, the inner one for low beam and the outer one for high beam.  He put silver duct tape over the low beam lens as well as the front signal lamps.  And not a moment too soon.  

There was urgency in the reverend's voice when he called.  "They're here!"  It was 2:30 am, Wednesday.  

Mark quickly got out of bed, put on black ninja clothing, complete with black ski-mask, and tapped lightly on Shannon's bedroom door.

"What is it?"  Shannon opened the door, sleepy-eyed, tussled hair, bathrobe clad, feet bare. 

"Rev. Lowry just called.  They're there.  I'll be back ASAP."

"Wait!  I'm coming with you!"

"What about Trev?"

"He'll be okay.  He's been home alone before.  I'll leave him a note.  Give me two minutes."

"Okay, but 2 max.  Dress in dark clothing, with a dark ski mask if you have one, or at least wrap a silk scar around your face, dark glasses.  Bring your shot gun."

Even from a mile away, they could see a red glow reflected off the bottom of the low overcast.  Mark kept the high beam off while he drove the rest of the distance in semi-darkness.  When they saw the burning KKK cross, Mark stopped the car and pulled it on to the shoulder.  They went the rest of the distance on foot, Mark carrying the camera equipment and Shannon the shot gun.  Then they saw a second KKK cross, with the Rev. Lowry crucified on it.

Then three men secured a cable from a winch of a tow truck around the crux of the new solar cross, and cranked the winch until the cable was tight.  The leader gave the order, the tow truck rolled forward and, with a thunderous crack and a shattering crash, Solar Cross II was no more.  There were about twenty white-clad, dunce-capped figures silhouetted against the fire.  There was no visible police presence.  The whole time, Rev. Lowry was groaning in agony.

Mark had the whole proceeding recorded on his video camera set in the night-mode.

"Let's go!" the leader shouted, and their five truck convoy rolled out, with the tow truck bringing up the rear.

"Could you stay here and look after the reverend, please, Shannon?  I'll be back soon,"  Mark said to Shannon, then sprinted back to his rental car.  Seconds later, it streaked by, head lights off, tail lights on.  Shannon watched the string of tail lights recede into the night, and rushed to Lowry's aid while pulling out her cell phone.

Mark remounted the video camera on the dash of the car, kept it recording, and chased after the string of red lights ahead.  They did lead him back to that same farm house.  He arrived just when the men were removing their white robes.  He crept on foot as close to them as he dared, bringing with him the video camera which had remained on "Record" the whole time without a break.  He zoomed the camera in to the faces of the men, and captured the souls of each and every one of them, in HD.

Back at the churchyard, he saw an ambulance, two police cars and three TV cameras.  The TV camera's were all aimed upward at the man on the cross, and the three paramedics who were trying to extricate his extremities from the spikes. He did not scream, partly due to the local anesthetics, and partly due to his will.

Half an hour later, with his hands and feet bound in bandages, he said to the TV cameras, "The Solar Cross shall rise again.  Stay tuned for SC3."

When he saw this on TV, the Reverend Jeremiah Smith uttered under his breath, "This time, it is Robert Lowry himself who will fall."

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