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Chapter Four: Checking Out The Church

Xavier and Liam pulled into the church parking lot the next day around eleven in the morning and were surprised to see a bustle of activity, a disorderly coming and going of cars.

"This is a little odd." Xavier pulled the Toyota to the side of the street outside of the parking lot. "Too soon for a funeral" he said. "Let's get out and see if we can find out what's going on."

As they climbed out of the pickup, they were approached by a pretty young woman who had been standing at the parking lot entrance flagging down cars as they drove into the church parking lot.

"Excuse me, can I help you with something?" She pushed a lock of her wavy blond hair off her forehead as walked toward them. Upon seeing her face, Liam felt a shock of recognition. Although he had never seen the face of anyone in treh dream - Liam suddenly felt sure this was the girl who was threatened by the demon. He struggled to compose himself before speaking.

"I think so" Liam glanced at his father. "We're here to investigate last night's murder -"

"Are you with the police? I've already talked with a detective from the County."

"Well, no, we aren't with the police."

The young woman squinted at them. "So, are you state detectives?"

"No, not that either" Liam smiled. "We're private investigators."

"Oh, I see, so the family hired you?"

"Well, not that either actually. We work for an organization that provides investigative service free of charge in certain cases."

The young woman cocked her head to one side and looked at them with a doubtful gaze. "That sounds a little odd to me but whatever." Then as if on inspiration, "Do you have any ID that would verify any of this?"

"Yes we do as a matter fact" said Xavier.

He stepped forward as he pulled a pocket book sized wallet from inside his jacket. He flipped it open and handed it to the young woman.

"Gaurdians International." She read, and then glanced at the two of them before continuing. "Expert investigative and security service" she paused and drew the wallet nearer. "What state is this seal from?" She handed the wallet back to Xavier.

"Actually it's what's known as a universal seal, representing the SOM international guild of investigation and security" said Xavier as he placed the wallet back in his pocket.

The young woman shook her head and started to speak but was cut off by Liam.

"By the way, my name is Liam Warden and this is my father Xavier Warden."

He reached out to shake her hand. After a moment's hesitation she quickly shook hands with him the two of them.

"I'm Connie Alderson."

"The reason we're here" he continued, "is because we've been commissioned to look into the murder that took place here last night."

"Beverly Slater."

"Of course, Mrs. Slater. Were you acquainted with her?"

"As I told the County detective, I think I was the last person to see her alive," she hugged herself as if suddenly cold, "except for the murderer that is."

She abruptly turned to look behind her at the cars milling about in the parking lot.

"Look, I really need to get back over there. We were going to have a women's luncheon today but of course it's been canceled." She began to walk back to the parking lot entrance "everything happened so suddenly we couldn't get a hold of everyone to let them know that the luncheon had been called off."

"So you were appointed to act as the gatekeeper to be here and tell everyone" said Liam as he fell into step beside her. Xavier brought up the rear with a slight smile on his face.

"No, I wasn't appointed" she waved down a car as it pulled into the lot. "I volunteered." She shrugged. "Someone had to do this and I thought it may as well be me."

Liam and Xavier stepped back and let Connie resume her duties. As soon as she was out of earshot, Liam turned to his father.

"Dad, I think that is the girl in my dream."

"The one attacked by the hostile?"

"Right."

Xavier looked toward the young woman a moment and then back at his son.

"You've always said that you couldn't tell what the victim looked like - or the hostile for that matter."

"I know. I still can't say what anyone or anything looks like. It's just an impression."

Xavier stood silent for a few seconds, rubbing ht back of his neck. "Well, I think we should keep this to ourselves for now." He raised a hand as Liam began to speak. 'I'm not saying we should ignore your intuition, just not say too much to Miss Alderson at this point." He looked at his son and smiled. "You can keep an eye on her, though."

"Okay, I agree - it probably isn't the best time to spill the beans," he glanced at Connie as she flagged down another car. "But I think it is significant that she was in the vicinity when the other woman was killed." He held his father's gaze. "It might have been Connie the demon was after."

Xavier nodded but did not reply. The two of them stood in the background for the next forty five minutes while Connie repeated again and again that the luncheon had been called off because of the death of one of the ladies who was a church member. She always told the inquirer's who had died but not once did she say that Beverly Slater had been murdered right there in the church parking lot. When it was clear that the last car had come and gone Connie turned back to Liam and Xavier with a weary sigh.

"I'm glad that's over."

"It is not too much trouble could we go ahead and have a few minutes of your time now?" asked Liam.

"Well, I don't really feel like talking much." Her eyes strayed to the corner of the parking lot where Beverly Slater and her child had been murdered. Although the haz-mat team had cleaned the area it was evident that there had been a large amount of blood. "as I told you earlier, I've already talked with the County detective and I really don't feel like talking about it anymore if I don't have to."

"When did you talk to the detective from the County?"

"About nine this morning." She caught herself as her gaze drifted toward the scene of last night's murder. "I mean, if this isn't official or anything I'm not sure I should really give you more information."

Liam nodded as he spoke "We can understand that Miss Alderson, but we assume you would like to help in any way you can."

"Of course I want to help. It's just that I've never heard of the, the ‘Gaurdians International'" she made finger quotes around the words, "and, well, I don't know," her voice trailed off and she offered a small shrug of her shoulders. "Who exactly would I be helping?"

"Mrs. Slater's family, your community, other towns where this murderer may travel." Liam gestured palms up. "For that matter you would be helping yourself, protecting yourself and others." He looked toward the place where Beverly Slater had died as he continued to speak. "You see Connie, we specialize in this sort of thing -" he looked back at her. "How much do you know about this?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, are you aware of how she died?"

"She was murdered."

Liam nodded. "Yes, but I guess what I'm asking is if you know how she was killed?"

Connie looked at him for a long moment and tears began to roll down her cheeks. It was evident she was struggling to control her emotions.

"Yes - sort of - I mean, I didn't see anything." She sniffed and began to search the pockets of her jacket for a tissue. She located one and placed it to her nose before she continued. "I came back here just as the sheriff deputy arrived. He kept me away from the scene but I did see past the patrol car enough to know that Bev's body was laying on the ground next to her car with a lot of blood all around." She shook her head. "I wish I hadn't seen that."

"Came back? You mean you were here earlier?" asked Liam.

"Yes. We were setting up for the ladies' luncheon. Bev and I were the last to leave." She shook her head. "Actually Bev was the last - I must have left a few minutes before she did."

"Did you see anyone or anything?"

"No. Just that Beverly's car was parked at the far corner of the lot." She made a quick gesture toward the distant corner of the parking area.

Xavier stepped forward as he spoke. "Miss Alderson, what made you come back here?"

"Greg - Beverly's husband - had called a few of the ladies because she hadn't come home when he expected. One of the other women called me since she knew I had stayed late to help Bev finish up."

"And so when Mr. Slater called, you came over to make sure everything was alright." Xavier said it as a statement not a question.

"Yes. But Greg didn't call me - someone else told me he was looking for Bev. Greg had called the sheriff's office too. That's why they showed up just a few seconds before me."

"Why didn't Mr. Slater come over here himself?" Liam frowned. "It seems like that would -"

"He was watching the kids. And besides, who would expect something like this to happen in our town - let alone in the parking lot of a church? I imagine he wasn't really worried, just annoyed."

She shook her head as if to drive away the dark thoughts of the night before.

"Look, like I said, I don't know if I should be talking about all this to you." She looked up at them with teary eyes. "I think I should clear it with the police or something - shouldn't I?"

Liam cocked his head to one side and back. "If you want." Her hesitated a moment before continuing. "I'm curious what it is that makes you reluctant to talk to us about this?"

"Well, maybe your really just newspaper reporters - or maybe you're weirdos who collect stories about the macabre, I don't know - just that you're not, official, I guess."

Liam's face showed a slight smile. "If by official you mean a government organization, then no, we aren't official. We're part of a private group. But that's our real advantage. We only investigate certain events."

"You mean, just murders?" asked Connie.

"No. Events, phenomena - things the police won't be able to solve."

"That's what this is?" She looked incredulous.

"That's what we're trying to find out. That's why we would like to ask you a few more questions."

She gazed at Liam for a long time, her arms crossed across her breast. She seemed to suddenly make up her mind.

"Have you had lunch yet?"

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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