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Chapter One: Slaughter In The Churchyard

She was alone in the church. But she had an excuse for being the last one to leave; somehow the table centerpieces for tomorrow's luncheon had become her responsibility. She didn't mind. She was good at that sort of thing. Her husband had told her often enough, always suggesting she start a business "or something." She smiled as she thought of Greg. He hadn't been overly enthusiastic about watching the kids, but he had kept the grumbling to a minimum. The chocolate cake she baked that afternoon had helped. She glanced at her watch: ten o'clock. It was late.

There was another reason for taking so long to finish the table decorations. She was eight months pregnant, and at that point in her pregnancy everything went a little slower. She walked to the exit, pausing for a final glance over the tables that filled the fellowship hall before she turned of the lights.

Connie had told her the door was locked from the outside so all she had to do was pull it shut when she exited the basement. Once outside she gave the door a tug to make sure it was closed and locked. She sighed as she slowly made her way up the stairs leading from the basement to the church parking lot. She was surprised to see that her car was at the far end of the lot, but remembered she had arrived a little late and slipped into the first empty space she could find.

The church property was at the edge of town and bordered by a thick stand of trees. A paved walkway ran from the basement stairway and along the parking area. The wooded lot crowded the walkway and cast the far end of the parking lot in deep shadow. She hadn't noticed before that the light at the end of the lot was burned out and she felt a faint sensation of fear as she made her way toward her lonely car. But then, why worry. She had been at the church after dark many times. Besides, it was a church parking lot. There's nothing to worry about in a church parking lot. At first she thought she had imagined the sounds. She stopped walking and held her breath. Nothing. See, she had imagined it, a sound of something moving through the trees off to her right. She turned and looked into the wooded lot. Nothing. Of course there was nothing. She was just feeling a little spooked by the stupid story Sandi had been telling, something about a couple unsolved murders up state somewhere, or something, she couldn't remember exactly.

She turned away from the trees and began to move down the walkway toward her car - and again the sound of something walking in the darkness, this time accompanied by the sound of a quiet breath, a sigh. She didn't stop; she felt a prickling sensation crawl up her neck and scalp and she tried to quicken her pace. She stepped off the walkway, circling away from the trees, trying to put distance between herself and the deep shadows, wanting to approach her car with the dark woods in sight rather than behind her.

Then she saw something at the edge of the wooded area. It was tall and misshapen a ragged form, gaunt with gaping mouth and eyes. It breathed an inhuman presence. It remained still, watching her. She stopped, unsure what to do. Every step toward her car brought her closer to the thing at the edge of the wood. She thought about running the other direction, and stole a glance toward the church. The locked church. All at once she began to run toward her car. If she could get inside she would be okay, she thought. If she could get in and lock the door and drive away, just drive away, to her family, to safety.

Instinct stormed against her running toward the thing that stalked her and instinct should have impelled her to the passenger door, keeping the car between the entity and herself. But her terrified mind had fixed on driving away and she ran around the car, fumbling in her purse for the keys. She glanced toward the woods - and the creature stood directly behind her.

The creature remained still, yet sharp claws dug into her neck and she was twisted toward the demon. She tried to scream but no sound came from her mouth. The eyes of her tormentor were a black void yet she could feel its stare, it seemed to reach within her, hurting her, violating her as a sigh escaped its ragged lips. She was held there in its power. Suddenly she felt red hot pain drive through her eye, ending as she died, the talon bursting though the back of her head, puncturing the metal roof of the car. Her body quivered while the creature held her there, suddenly relaxing as the killing presence wrenched sideways, severing the top of her head just above her eyes. Yet it was not finished. With one swift movement the fiend slashed downward, eviscerating her belly. Then the creature released its hold and stepped back. The woman's lifeless body dropped to the ground, her blood flowing outward to cradle her dying baby in its warm embrace.

Chapter One: Slaughter In The Churchyard
Chapter Two: The Guardians
Chapter Three: The Detective
Chapter Four: Checking Out The Church
Chapter Five: Lunch With Connie
Chapter Six: Back To The Scene Of The Slaughter
Chapter Seven: Suspects In View
Chapter Eight: An Unbelievable Story
Chapter Nine: The Suspects Disappear
Chapter Ten: A Plan Of Action
Chapter Eleven: Lily's Help
Chapter Twelve: Another Victim
Chapter Thirteen: The Briefing
Chapter Fourteen: Attack On A Guardian
Chapter Fifteen: The Fury Of The Fiend


THE END WAS NEAR
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