The members of the Johnson's Mill Kindred sat around quietly talking among themselves as they waited for the meeting to begin. The Godi Peter Hansen, whose house the meeting was being held at, and the Godia Joan Bartlett, who was called Raven by everyone who knew her, had called the emergency meeting to discuss recent events that needed to be addressed. Peter and Raven could not have been more different in every way imaginable. Peter was an older gentleman of 53 years, layed back, and was a good listener. He never rushed to judge, or had a harsh word for anyone. He was well respected by the members of his kindred, but was considered a bit of an outcast in the Heathen community because his religious ideas were not mainstream. He believed in a fusion of reconstructionist and modern Asatru ideals, and that did not set well with groups that went one way or the other. Peter, however, was never one to dwell on the opinions of others, and always lived by a motto of " to each his own ". Raven was the other side of the coin. She was only 22, bossy, opinionated, and had a way of getting up in your face, and under your skin. She feared nothing, and no one, which often times got her into a lot of trouble. Peter and Raven did have one thing in common, however, and that was their love of the Gods and Goddesses, and a desire to bring back the old religion.
As Peter sat quietly waiting for Raven, he could not stop thinking of the reason for this emergency meeting. One of their members, a quiet young man named Richard Van Allen, had committed suicide, and now the kindred was having to deal with not only the loss of one of their members but also something that they did not want or need, media exposure. Everyone in the kindred knew that Richard was having trouble coping with the many problems that he faced in his life, and they tried to help him through his difficulties as best they could. Richard's mother was one of the richest women in America. After her husband died she had taken over Van Allen Enterprises, and turned out record profits every year. Her husband Jonathan, had gotten in at the start of the recycling craze and had cashed in on this new and lucrative business. After her husband died she turned her attention fully to her son Richard, and planned his whole life out for him. Unfortunately for his mother, Richard did not want the life that she was trying to force upon him, and he rebelled. Richard dropped out of college, and moved to this small town in the middle of nowhere called Johnson's Mill, where he was slowly building himself a new life. It was in this small town that he heard the calling of the Old Gods, and after a period of time joined the local Asatru kindred.
When his mother found out that he had left college and disappeared, she had a detective find him, and report back with his findings. When she found out that he was living in a small town and had joined a Pagan religion she became furious, and worried about what this would do to her good name. She hired a professional team of psychologists who specialized in interventions for those who became mixed up in cults. Richard was kidnapped right off of the street in front of his apartment and whisked away to a secluded location where he could be made to see the insanity of his choices. Day after day these " professionals " drilled into Richard's head that he had been brainwashed by a cult, and that these Pagans were evil, and not to be trusted. They played with his emotions, and only allowed him to rest when they felt they had reached their goal for the day. The de-programming put poor Richard over the edge. He had barely been able to handle his life before he had gotten to Johnson's Mill, but the life he had built for himself there had started to heal all of his mental wounds. The thought of having to go back to the life his mother had planned for him made him physically sick to his stomach. Richard became so terrified that his mind became muddled with depression, and desperation took over his thoughts. He became so distraught one night that he tied his bed sheet to the bottom of the leg on the bed that was closest to the wall next to the window, and tied the other end around his neck. With tears flowing down his face he sat on the window sill, looked up at the sky and apologized to All - Father Odin, and then jumped out. He fell about six feet before the sheet tore into his neck and mercifully broke it.
Richard was found hanging against the outside of the house the next morning. The local papers had a field day with the whole Pagan angle, printing headlines that read : ' Pagan Hanging ! ' and ' Another Cult Tragedy ! '. It was at this point that the Godi Peter Hansen decided that he had better call an emergency meeting of the kindred members. The kindred had tried to keep a low profile in the largely Christian community by meeting at a different members house each time, and not doing anything that showed them in a bad light. Now they were headlines news, and were fully outted in their community. The kindred needed to address these issues, and try to find answers.
Raven showed up fashionably late as always. She liked to make a grand entrance, and she was sure to walk around and greet everyone who had come to the meeting. Peter and Raven took turns speaking, and from time to time a member would make a statement, add a thought, or ask a question. As the meeting began to wind down Peter noticed a stretched limousine pull up in front of his house. As Raven spoke he watched as the driver got out, and quickly walked over to the rear door, and opened it for his passenger. Out of the limo stepped an older woman dressed in a black dress that even a novice fashion expert like Peter could see was made by one of those world famous fashion designers. As she walked away from the car Peter sensed an air of wealth and power that was projected just by the gate of her steps. He thought it was odd for someone like that to be visiting a little backwater town like Johnson's Mill. Peter considered it to be even stranger when she turned onto the walkway that lead up to his front door !
Just as Raven ended the meeting a knock came upon his door. When Peter opened the door and greeted them, it was the driver who spoke first.The driver, who was a huge man built like a weightlifter, looked at Peter and said in a gruff voice: " Elizabeth Van Allen has come to see Peter Hansen. " Peter looked first at the driver, and then over at the mother of Richard Van Allen, and his mind raced in all directions. Was she here to see him beaten up because of her son's death ? Or was she here to announce a huge lawsuit against him and his kindred ? Peter replied in a nervous tone : " I am Peter Hansen, how may I help you Mrs. Van Allen ? " Elizabeth Van Allen replied in a voice that was devoid of all emotion : " I wish to speak to you alone Mr. Hansen." Her tone did not allow Peter to say no, so Peter opened the door and invited them in. To Peter's relief Mrs. Van Allen told the driver to wait in the car for her. The driver nodded and answered : " Yes Maam", and went back to the car.
Peter showed Mrs. Van Allen into the living room, and seated her on his best chair, just as the last members were leaving. Raven saw something strange in Peter's eyes that she did not like, and asked if everything was alright. Peter assured her that he was fine, and thanked her for coming. As she left Raven took a second look at the woman, and then made the call me later hand signal to Peter. Peter nodded that he understood and gave her the sign of the Triad and said : " Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection." Raven nodded, and responded in kind. As Peter closed the door he looked over at Mrs. Van Allen and realized that he was actually afraid of this woman.
Elizabeth Van Allen and Peter Hansen stared at each other for several uncomfortable moments. When the silence became too much to bare for Peter he nervously asked Mrs. Van Allen if she wanted something to drink. Mrs. Van Allen shook her head no, and then spoke : " I have many things to say, and I would appreciate it if you would not interrupt until I have finished what I have to say Mr. Hansen." Peter's heart sank into his stomach when he heard her say these words. He took a deep breath, and answered as calmly as he could muster. " Of course Mrs. Van Allen. You go right ahead, and say what you have to say, I will not interrupt you at all. Please call me Peter, Mrs. Van Allen", he added trying to sound friendly.
Elizabeth Van Allen turned her eyes away from Peter, and stared directly at the wall as though she was trying to stare right through it. Then she put her head down a little, and began to speak in a slow and monotone voice. " I hated you, Mr. Hansen...... Peter. " she corrected herself without emotion. " I blamed you and your crazy religion for my son dropping out of college, and disappearing. I wanted my son to follow in the footsteps of his father and someday take over Van Allen Enterprises. When he disappeared I hired a detective agency to find out where he had gone, and what he was doing. I was shocked when I heard that he was living in some small town, in a tiny little apartment. I was appalled when I was told that he was working in a grocery store, and that he barely had enough money to buy food with each week. After my husband died I raised my son with so much care. I sent him to the best private schools, hired special tutors, and when he was ready I sent him to the most prestigious university in the Ivy League. I made sure he drove the newest sports cars, and that he had enough pocket money to buy anything he needed," she said, and then took a deep cleansing breath.
After a moment to gather herself she continued. " Yes, I hated you, and your religion, Peter Hansen, and that is why I had my son abducted and brought to a safe house to be de - programmed from what I saw as your cult. My son resisted; he cried; he yelled, and he even cursed ever being born the son of a mother like me. I should have seen that what we were doing was too much too soon ! But I was selfish, and wanted my son to come back to me, and be obedient. I wanted him to be happy, in the life I was preparing for him", she said staring straight ahead. She closed her eyes for a minute, and shivered as though a wind had blown up her spine. When she recovered her composure she went on. " When they found Richard hanging outside the house the next morning, I wanted you all to pay for poisoning his mind, and driving my son to kill himself. My anger knew no bounds ! I called some police contacts I have and asked what charges we could bring against you and your religion. I told my lawyers to be ready to prepare a huge lawsuit against you, and your people as well."
Peter wanted to say something, but could not think of a thing to say. His mouth was dry and his hands were sweating, but worst of all he was starting to feel a little sick to his stomach. He wanted to tell her how sorry he was that her son had committed suicide, and that his kindred had tried to help her son Richard deal with his problems. He wanted to tell her that their kindred had nothing to do with her son's death, but anything he said at this point would just sound like an excuse, so Peter thought it was better if he remained silent until she was done. He almost said something, but then Mrs. Van Allen began to speak again.
After wiping her eyes she started again: " I went to my son's little apartment, and saw how he lived. It was tiny but much cleaner and neater than I expected. I found on his desk the daily journals he kept, and thought that I should read them because they might be important in the lawsuit. I read page after page, Peter. I read for hours and hours, and learned the truth. I discovered that the son that I wanted so much for, despised me for controlling every aspect of his life. I read how everything I gave him just smothered him a little more until he felt that he could not breathe. I learned that his running away was like escaping from a prison where he had been sentenced to a life term. Richard spoke of how much he loved this little town, and that here he was accepted for himself, and not for being the son of wealthy parents. He talked of a calling from the Old Gods and Goddesses, and how they changed his life. He wrote often about you and your kindred also Peter. I learned that even though you Pagans were often ignored, or even hated within the Christian community, you were always nice to others. He was amazed at how even in the most intense moments you remained calm and collected. My son respected you, and your followers, because you followed your own path, and that was important to him. Richard wrote on and on about how you accepted him into you kindred even though he was an outsider. He commented repeatedly how you were all so nice to him. He loved his Gods, the people he met here, and his new religion. He was happy . Happy !" She shouted the last words.
Mrs. Van Allen looked up at Peter with watery eyes and said weakly; " Could I please have a glass of water. " Sure." Peter said quickly. As Peter walked into the kitchen he could not believe the change that had happened to Mrs. Van Allen. When she first came in she had an air of power in her stride, and in her voice. Now she seemed so weak and frail, as though she had aged right there in front of him. Peter did not know what to expect next, as he pulled the water bottle from the refrigerator. Normally he would just have handed the bottle to his guest, but because of who she was he poured the contents into a glass for her. " Here Mrs. Van Allen", Peter said as he handed her the glass. As she took a drink she looked at Peter and said : " Please call me Elizabeth. Richard would have wanted that. " Of course.....Elizabeth, " Peter replied.
Elizabeth took another sip and then set the glass down and continued : " You and your religious organization did not kill my son Peter. I killed my son ! I tortured him for twenty - five years until he could not take it any more, and then he killed himself because of me. " Peter looked at Elizabeth and said with sympathy: " Mrs.......... Elizabeth, somethings are just out of our control, and cannot be prevented." Elizabeth responded coldly: " No, Peter ! I killed my son, and I take full responsibility for his death. " Someday I will meet my God, " then she smiled, " or maybe your Gods Peter, and will be punished for what I did to my son. "
Elizabeth Van Allen took another sip of water, and then looked at Peter with a fierce and determined glare in her eyes. Her voice became clear and steady as she told Peter : " It is too late to help my son, Peter, but in his journal he had some things that he wished for, and I fully intend to make sure that his dreams come true. Do you know what my son wanted Peter? " She asked. " No Elizabeth, your son never confided in me such things," Peter said hesitantly. " Well, Mr. Peter Hansen, my son wanted you and your kindred to have a place of worship of your own, and I think I have found you one," She said in a determined voice. Peter replied with a smile: " Elizabeth, Johnson's Mill would never allow us to build a temple here. And even if we somehow could, without recognition as a religious organization, we could never get tax exempt status. " Elizabeth looked at Peter with a sly little smirk on her face that worried Peter, and said: " That is because you do not think like a business person Peter. The Dutch Reformed Church on Main Street has been abandoned now for several years, and I checked, it is still zoned as a religious house of worship." Then her eyes narrowed, and she said in a cruel voice: " If the town fights me on this I will have my team of lawyers come in here, and sue this little town into bankruptcy ! "
Peter had no idea what he should say at this point. Finally he offered clumsily : " That is a wonderful offer Elizabeth, but we could never accept such generosity." Elizabeth stared him down and then said roughly: " I don't think you quite understand me Peter. The deal is done. The property is now yours ! " Elizabeth looked down and picked up her handbag, opened it, and pulled out some folded papers. She closed her handbag, and handed him the papers. She then added: " My lawyers will be here for a few weeks, or as long as it takes, to make sure that your temple is up and running." Elizabeth Van Allen then got up and walked over to the door, and opened it. As she was walking out she said: " It was nice to meet you Peter Hansen. " Then her eyes narrowed and she said casually, but forcefully: " Make your temple a place of worship that my son Richard would have been proud of ." " Good day Peter, " she said as she walked down the walkway back to her waiting limo.
Peter just stood there with the papers in his hands. He muttered under his breath: " Good day, maam, " but Elizabeth was already out of earshot for his words to be heard. As he slowly unfolded the papers one word caught his eye immediately : ' Deed ' !
The next morning Peter was drinking his coffee and answering his e - mails on his lap top when he heard a loud knock at his front door. It seemed rather early for visitors, but the past few days had been crazy so just about anything seemed possible at this point. When Peter opened the door Godia Raven was standing next to a man who was wearing a very expensive suit. Raven, never one to be at a loss for words, looked at Peter with questioning eyes and asked forcefully, " What the hell is going on Peter ?! This man....this lawyer, woke me this morning and said he has the keys to our temple." Her voice rose in tone even more as she added: " What the hell is he talking about ! What temple ! " Peter looked at Raven, shook his head, and with a bewildered smile replied, " It seems my friend that we now own the abandoned Dutch Reformed Church on Main street. " Sir", Peter asked the lawyer, "I take it you have the keys to the church? " The lawyer who looked very prim and proper replied with a slight British accent, " Yes, I have been asked by Mrs. Van Allen to escort you and your friend to the temple, and show you the layout of the building. " Well then ", Peter said, "Let me change out of my pajamas and we will go over and see the place." While Peter was changing Raven called both Ulf and Hakon and asked them to meet her at the Dutch Reformed Church. She wanted the priest's bodyguards to be there when they arrived, just in case there was some kind of funny business. Raven tended to trust very few people, and this whole situation just did not seem credible to her.
As they parked the car in front of the old church they were approached by two very large men. Ulf was the first to react, stepped foward, and demanded to know who the suit was, and what he wanted with the Godi and Godia. Peter smiled his familiar,' everything is just fine smile', and explained to Ulf and Hakon that the lawyer was here to show them the layout of their new temple. Ulf looked first at Raven, who just shrugged her shoulders, and then back at Hakon who did almost the exact same thing. Ulf and Hakon then moved to the side and allowed Peter and his new friend to pass and unlock the door. One of the first things that Peter noticed was the sign which read : ' Dutch Reformed Church : Established 1845 '.
The church had a typical layout. There was a small foyer which led into the main hall of the church. There were benches for approximately 200 people, and three steps that led up to the pulpit. On either side of the pulpit were the choir benches, and on both sides of the church there were four stained glass windows, which depicted typical scenes from the bible, and allowed in some light. As Peter turned he saw that the front of the church also had two stained glass windows, which in his excitement he had missed from out in front.
As Peter, Raven, and the two bodyguards looked over the church, Peter told them what had transpired between himself and Mrs. Van Allen the other night at his house. Peter was very thorough in his examination of the old church. He checked the bathrooms, cloakroom, offices, and even the basement. Everything looked as though it was in pretty good shape. A little maintenance here, a little painting there, and it could work very well as an Asatru Temple. Peter could not help thinking it to be ironic that they, the Pagans, were taking over an abandoned Christian church. History had seen much the opposite. As though she was reading his mind Raven blurted out : " All the Christian motifs have got to go ! " Ulf overheard her and chimed in that the stained glass windows had to go as well. Hakon, as always took everything in but said very little. Mostly he simply nodded in agreement with what was being said. Ulf who was exactly the opposite added: " It is going to be very expensive to make even the minor changes that we are talking about. Do we have that kind of money ? " Raven who was still taking everything in replied : " Last time I checked we only had about 300 dollars in our expense account. " Peter shook his head, but in a cheery tone said : " It will be difficult, but if we all chip in and do the work ourselves it will cut the costs down immensely. " " As for the windows", Peter continued, " I think that is way out of our budget, and will have to wait. " Raven sounded angry as she said: " Well, we can't hold Pagan rituals with Christ and Abraham looking down upon us ! " Peter, who was used to Raven's outbursts smiled and calmly replied : " We could cover them with heavy curtains, Raven. " Raven frowned but seemed in agreement when she replied : " Yeah, that might work.
From the entrance way the lawyer called out to Peter: " Mr. Hansen that will not be necessary. Mrs. Van Allen has set up an expense account for you and your kindred. " Raven yelled back: " Yeah, how much ! " The lawyer slowly walked over to Peter and handed him what looked like a credit card before saying : " Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. " Peter looked at the card, and then up at the lawyer, and actually stuttered a little as he said : " How....how much ! " The lawyer repeated the amount as Ulf and Raven jumped up and down screaming for joy. Even the stoic Hakon had a broad smile on his face when the shock wore off. Peter took the lawyer to the side so they could talk privately, and asked the lawyer why she had given them so much money. The lawyer looked Peter right in the eyes and said in an un-emotional tone : " The cost of the church, and the $250.000 dollars together make up the amount Mrs. Van Allen was going to sue you for when she thought you were responsible for her sons death." Then with a slight narrowing of his eyes the lawyer added : " By the way, I would not try to give the money back to Mrs. Van Allen. She wants...., no, .... she expects this temple to be a monument to her son, and she will be back to see how it turns out. " Peter, still a little stunned, assured the lawyer that they would do their best to make the temple a place that would please Mrs. Van Allen, and honor her son's memory. The lawyer then said as though his interest had waned: ' I wish you well, but I must be going now. Here is my card. If you need anything call me at once. Mrs. Van Allen has retained me to represent you for one year. " The lawyer shook Peter's hand and left the church. Peter looked down at the card which read : ' Mortimer L. Johnston - Attorney at Law ". It was at that moment that Peter realized that he had been rude, and had not bothered to ask the lawyer his name. Peter thought to himself: " Well with everthing that was going on it was no wonder he had forgotten . "
Raven ran over to Peter, and in an excited voice cried out : " We can afford to have this old church turned into a beautiful temple ! We can hire painters, carpenters, and plumbers. We can make it perfect ! " Ulf then added : " Yeah, now we can get rid of these horrible windows ! " Hakon who stood off to one side by himself quietly stated : " We should still do most of the work ourselves. " Raven shot back a dirty look and asked, " Why ? " Peter ignoring Raven's question said in agreement : " Yes, this is going to be our temple. We should do as much of the work ourselves as is humanly possible." Raven and Ulf reluctantly agreed.
They spent the rest of the day making notes on what needed to be done to the church to transform it into their temple. They slowly put together a plan that they could show the members at the emergency meeting that they were going to call to announce all that had happened. Peter warned Ulf not to tell anyone the real reason for the meeting because he wanted it to be a surprise. Ulf and Raven called everyone in the kindred, all fourteen other members, and told them of the emergency meeting. Most agreed to come, but a few did not see the need for another meeting just a few nights after the last one. Ulf and Raven simply told the ones who said they were not sure they could make it that they would be very sorry if they missed this meeting because they had some incredible news. In the end everyone agreed to attend.
The kindred members sat listening to Peter and Raven in total shock as they heard the incredible story that they had to share. They went to work at once and decided what changes would be made. They all agreed that all Christian symbols had to be removed, including the windows. Raven came up with the idea of not replacing the windows at all, but instead had seen a church a few towns over which had its windows filled in with stucco, and had crosses engraved into the stucco. She thought it would be great if instead of crosses, symbols like runes, valknut's, and Thor's hammers could be engraved into the stucco. Most wanted the Christian symbols destroyed, but Peter was adamant that they should ask at other churches to see if they wanted them, including the stained glass windows. Peter wanted to show a spirit of cooperation with the Christian community, and wanted to start off on the right foot, and not offend anyone.
The meeting also decided the interior layout of the temple. They agreed to leave some of the benches at the back of the temple to allow newcomers and visitors a place to sit and observe, but not participate in their rituals, blots and sumbels. In the center of the temple there would be benches that ran in a perfect circle, a little like King Arthur's round table. These benches would have two openings on either side to enter or exit from, but otherwise would be enclosed. In the center of this "circle of friends" would be placed three statues : Thor in the center, with Freyja and Odin on either side. There would be two altars, one on each side of the statues. One was for the Godi, and one for the Godia. Some wanted a firepit next to each altar, but they eventually agreed that this would probably be against local fire laws so the idea was dropped. Where the choir had once sat would be a series of shelves that would have statues of each of the fifty or so Gods and Goddesses, and some Viking artifacts like swords, knives and shields. They all decided on a name for their temple as well. It would be called ' The Temple of the Triad '.
Peter and Raven agreed to speak to the lawyer and see what types of permits they would need to get this work started. They decided that cleaning was the first priority, and then they could progress to painting. As the meeting broke up everyone was so excited that they all decided to meet the next morning at the Temple of the Triad to get a first look at their new home. When everyone had left, and Peter was alone, he suddenly felt the great weight of the responsibility that had been thrust upon him. He wondered if he was up to the challenge, but then he said to himself that the Gods would not have given them this wonderful opportunity if they could not handle it. Starting tommorrow they would have their chance to prove their worth to the Gods and Goddesses.
The repair work became a joint effort with all of the kindred members joining in. Some of the members came to the old church, now renamed the Temple of the Triad, before they went to work, or directly after they finished their shift at work. On the weekends a few of the members even brought their sleeping bags and stayed over night. Only in their wildest dreams could they ever have imagined that they would have a temple of their own to honor their Gods and Goddesses in. Peter and Raven were always running around the temple directing the renovation activities. And faithfully standing by their sides were Ulf and Hakon who were now being used for more than just protection. Their brute strength was a much needed help in moving, and removing, heavy objects. Ulf and Hakon did not mind a bit, they fully understood that they had special attributes, and were more than glad to help out in any way they were needed.
The members did all of the minor work such as scraping, sanding, painting, and even some minor cosmetic repairs, but Peter and Raven had to concede that plumbing,electrical, and some of the concrete work was beyond their skills, and had to be done by contractors. Peter was also smart enough to know that the contractors would be able to deal with the town's inspectors much more efficiently than his members could. Peter did not want to ruffle anyone's feathers before they had a chance to open their new temple. They wanted to keep quiet what they were doing as long as they could because down the road they knew that the townspeople would not be happy that a Pagan temple had suddenly opened in their little town.
Unfortunately for the kindred the road to that knowledge was not a long one. During the construction a lot of waste material was generated that needed to be disposed of. On the side of the temple, in their driveway, was placed a large open dumpster to throw away this refuse. One day, long time member John Svensen, was throwing away some of the rotted pieces of wood when a woman walked by and asked if they were going to re - open the Dutch Reformed Church. John innocently answered that the church had been purchased by the Johnson's Mill Asatru Kindred, and was being made into a Pagan temple. The woman looked stunned as she listened to what John had to say. Debbie Mortensen, the town busy - body, had been a member of the Dutch Reformed Church before it had to close because of low membership. She had since joined the First Presbyterian Church in town, which was just down the road from the Reformed Church. As she walked briskly away from John, she pulled out her cell phone, hit the speed - dial, and waited for an answer. A cheery voice popped up on the other end of the line and greeted her. " Hi Debbie, how are you ?" the voice said. Debbie did not answer her question but instead replied: " I need to speak to you at once Reverend Decker ! We have a big problem ! " Debbie said with some urgency in her voice. Reverend Decker who was concerned by her tone replied : " I am at the church Debbie. Why don't you stop by, we can talk there. "
Debbie knocked on the rectory door, and heard footsteps as the reverend came to open it. Reverend Decker met Debbie with a warm smile and invited her in to the waiting room. Caroline Decker was 40 years old, stood 5 foot 6 inches tall, had a slim figure, beautiful red hair, and a few freckles, which actually enhanced her beauty instead of detracting from it. Although she was considered very pretty by most men, it was her smile that captivated you first. I was just so very genuine and warm. She had several chances in her life to marry, but her devotion to Christ had always gotten in the way, or in several cases scared men away. Recently she had celebrated her 40th birthday, and she had begun to think that maybe it was time to share her life with someone. Debbie dispensed with the usual normal pleasantries, and before they even had a chance to sit she blurted out that the Old Dutch Reformed Church had been taken over by a hoard of Pagans, who were in the process of renovating it, and were turning it into an unholy Heathen temple. Debbie talked so fast that Reverend Decker was having trouble keeping up with everything she was trying to say. Finally, Debbie ended by asking the reverend a slew of rapid fire questions : " How could this happen right here in Johnson's Mill ? Where did these Pagans come from ? What are we going to do ? "
When Reverend Decker sensed that Debbie was finally done, and felt that she could get a word in, she replied : " What can we do Debbie ? " They bought the old church outright, and they now own it, and the adjacent property. " Debbie stared at Reverend Decker with a look of astonishment on her face. " Caroline you knew about this ? " Debbie's voice rose as she spoke. Reverend Decker frowned for a second, and then she smiled as she replied : " Yes I have a friend on the city council who told me about the Pagans purchasing the property. " And This doesn't bother you ! " Debbie shot back. " I am a little concerned ", Reverend Decker explained, " But I have not met these people, and I would rather reserve my judgement about them until I do. " Debbie looked a little annoyed at her answer and said : " I think we need to do something Reverend Decker. We can't have these people dancing around a pentagram drawn on the floor, and chopping the heads off of animals right here in Johnson's Mill. " Reverend Decker chuckled a little, but stopped when she saw Debbie was serious, and that she actually believed in what she was saying. The Reverend answered her in a firm but gentle voice: " I do not think that people from Earth religions do things like that Debbie, but if it will make you feel better I will meet with their religious leaders, and talk to them about your concerns. " Debbie smiled for the first time and said : " I think that is a wonderful idea reverend. Should I come with you ? " The reverend thought for a second or two before answering : " I think it might be better if I went to see them alone Debbie, but I promise you I will tell you everything that is said. " This seemed to satisfy Debbie who left a few minutes later.
The next morning Caroline Decker put on a pretty, but conservative dress, and walked the 6 blocks to the Old Dutch Reformed Church. She could hear construction noises coming from inside the church as she approached, so she decided to knock on the large white front doors. The first time she knocked there was no response, but when she knocked the second time a little harder the door slowly opened. In the doorway stood a giant of a man in overalls who asked her what she wanted. " I am Reverend Decker of the First Presbyterian Church, and I was wondering if I could speak to your leader ? " Hakon looked down at the Reverend and replied : " That would be our Godi, Peter Hansen, maam. " He then motioned for Reverend Decker to follow him. Peter was standing in the center of the temple admiring the new round benches that had arrived. Raven was squeezing one of the soft cushions that came with the benches, and showing it off to Peter when she spotted the reverend coming towards them. " Hakon " ! Raven yelled, " What the hell is she doing here Hakon ?! " Hakon who was never intimitated by anyone, or anything, replied calmly : " She is here to see the Godi. " Raven angrily shot back : " She is here to spy on us ! That is what she is here for Hakon ! " Raven gave an angry glare at the reverend which terrified Caroline, and made her look away. Peter put his hand gently on Raven's shoulder and said quietly, but sternly, : " That is enough Raven ! All are welcome to visit the Temple of the Triad." Then Peter looked Raven in the eyes and continued : " We must treat strangers as kindly as we would like to be treated by those that we have not yet met." Raven looked annoyed but didn' t say another word. Over the years she had learned to respect Peter's decisions, and decided to let this drop, and go back to work.
Peter turned and looked at the reverend for a few seconds before introducing himself. " Hello Reverend Decker, I am Peter Hansen." He extended his hand to her and continued with a warm smile, " Welcome to the Temple of the Triad my friend ! " As she shook his hand, Reverend Decker was caught totally off guard by his mild manners, and his friendly smile. His eyes were what really caught her attention. They seemed to reflect an image of a man with a strong will, but also a man who was very gentle. He was losing a little hair, but he was not bad looking either she thought. Then she realized that Peter had said something that she had completely missed while she was examining him. Please, Reverend Decker have a seat ", Peter repeated. Flustered a little she said nervously : " Oh, thank you," and then sat down.
"What brings you here this morning Reverend Decker ?" Peter asked as he gazed into her jade green eyes. The reverend thought quickly and replied : " I thought it would be nice to come over and say hello. " Peter examined her pretty hair, and then said : " We in the Asatru religion believe in total honesty Reverend Decker. Why are you really here ? " Caroline squirmed in her seat a little before answering : " Some in my congregation are concerned about you, and your temple, Mr. Hansen, and wanted me to come over and meet with you. " After she finished she was surprised at how honest she had been. For some reason she trusted this man. Peter laughed, a genuine laugh, and then replied: " Then Raven was right you are spying on us, reverend " Then Peter asked the reverend is she knew what they did to spies ? She shook her head no, and held her breath waiting for his answer. " We serve them coffee and doughnuts my Christian friend." Peter said, as he pointed at Ulf who had just walked in with several huge boxes of doughnuts, and a dozen coffee box containers on a flat bed. Reverend Decker finally exhaled as Hakon handed her a cup.
Peter and the reverend talked for well over an hour. Hakon who was standing just off to the side of them could not help but notice that the tone of the conversation became more and more friendly, and even a little flirtatious, the longer it went on. Hakon also saw something he seldom saw in Peter any more. The Godi was always very self assured of himself, but as he was speaking to the reverend he seemed a little nervous and shy, and yet they spoke to each other as thought they had known each other for many years. When the reverend got up to leave she shook Peter's hand, and they looked deeply into each others eyes. Hakon was caught by surprise when he saw that there was a spark of passion between them that was impossible to miss. Hakon studied Peter closely as he watched the reverend walk all the way to the front doors of the church. Peter sensed that he was being watched, and turned to face Hakon. Hakon just smiled at Peter and went back to work.
The renovations continued for months, and were actually progressing much faster than Peter expected. On a beautiful fall morning, as the last of the construction was being done, a delivery truck pulled up in front of the temple. Ulf opened the temple doors, and ran to the box truck at full speed. The driver slid out of his seat, looked at Ulf, and said matter of factly : " Got three for you buddy. " Ulf shouted back at the temple: " The statues have arrived ! " These three statues of Thor, Odin, and Freyja were literally the centerpieces of the temple. In the beginning the kindred had met several times to decide what they should look like, and how they should be made, but it seemed as though most of the ideas, though well thought out, would take a long time to get the finished products into the temple. Hakon, however, had mentioned that a few years ago while he was on vacation in Vermont he had seen a man making beautiful eagle statues out of wood with a chain saw. He showed the members a picture he had taken, and everyone was very impressed with both the quality and the realism of the statues. The very next weekend Peter, Raven, Ulf, and Hakon drove up to Vermont and met with the man whose name they learned was Val Zimmerman. Peter showed the drawings of Thor, Odin, and Freyja to Val that they had sketched, and asked if it was possible for him to make something that complex. Val studied the drawings for a few minutes, and then looked up at Peter and said confidently: " Yeah, I can make them. " Raven immediately asked: " We would like them sanded , and finished in a polyurethane as well, can that be done ? " Val thought for a moment before replying : " That'll cost you a little more little lady. " Ulf then asked cautiously : How much more. " " I could do all three statues for thirty thousand dollars. " Val answered scratching his head. Val was surprised that no one complained about the price, and was later sorry he did not ask for more. Hakon asked how long it would take, and they were all surprised that it would only take about two months. Peter gave Val a check for ten thousand dollars, and told him the rest would be paid upon delivery.
As all the members of the kindred streamed out of the temple to see the statues, Val climbed out of the passengers seat, and shook hands with everyone. Val felt a little like a celebrity as he boasted that it was the finest work that he had ever done. Raven rolled her eyes, and hoped that it was not just bravado. These statues were the most important components in the final layout of the temple. They had to be perfect ! Ulf and Hakon helped the driver place the crates on a dolly, and they wheeled them into the side door which had a wheelchair acessible ramp. The unpacking seemed to take forever as anxious hands carefully pulled apart the packing materials. When they had finally cleaned off all the packing materials everyone just stood back for a few minutes and gazed upon them. Val was right ! They were exquisite ! Peter smiled with pride as he looked the sculptures over. He thought to himself that this man should be making art for museums, not carving eagles out of tree trunks. A few of the female members actually began to cry a little, and even a few of the male members became a little glassy eyed. Raven looked around and said bluntly : " O'k enough of that ! Lets move them into place ! " Hakon and Ulf picked up the statues, and one by one placed them in the center of the circular benches. Peter hugged Raven, and whispered in her ear: " Now the temple is complete. " All of the members sat around the statues admiring the great works of art, while Peter gave Val his check for twenty thousand dollars. Val told Peter, before he left, that if he needed anything else made he would be more than happy to do it for them. Peter and Raven walked Val out to his truck and waved as he drove away.
It was decided that the temple would officially open on a thursday, Thor's Day. Some of the members invited guests, and Peter in a gesture of goodwill invited Reverend Decker. Just before the members and their guests arrived Hakon and Ulf put up the last two items to finish off the temple renovations. A plaque was placed on the outside of the temple which read : THE TEMPLE OF THE TRIAD : ESTABLISHED 2012. The second plaque was placed in the foyer . This special plaque was dedicated to Richard Van Allen, and included a picture of him.
Just before seven in the evening Raven and Peter stood nervously in the foyer , and waited anxiously to greet their members and guests. They greeted each person as they entered, and handed out a commemorative pamphlet for the opening. Peter became a little worried when most of the members had arrived, and Reverend Decker was not among them. Hakon noticed that Peter was peering out of the open doors quite a bit while he was greeting the guests. He was about to make a comment to Ulf about it when two women suddenly walked up the steps, and into the temple. The reverend had showed up wearing a very pretty , though modest red dress, that showed off her features quite nicely. The other woman was smaller and was slightly overweight. Peter was talking to a guest, who had just introduced himself as Jonathan, when he caught sight of Caroline Decker. He stopped talking in mid - sentence, and walked over to the reverend and her friend. Raven quickly jumped in, and finished greeting Jonathan.
" Hello Reverend Decker ", Peter said with a broad smile, " nice of you to come ! " Reverend Decker smiled back at Peter and replied cheerfully : " Thank you for inviting me Mr. Hansen, your temple looks very nice ! I can' t believe that you were able to renovate it in such a short time. " Then Reverend Decker felt an elbow in her side, and received a quizzical look from her guest. " Oh ", Reverend Decker said apologetically, " This is one of our church elders, Debbie Mortensen. " Peter extended his hand to Debbie and said : " Nice to meet you Debbie ! " Debbie nodded politely, but refused his hand. Raven then interrupted Peter to tell him that everyone was ready, and the ritual was about to begin. Peter nodded and said " Well, here we go ! " He showed Reverend Decker, and her friend Debbie, to the guest benches, and walked with Raven to the circle of friends.
Reverend Decker was impressed by how much work had been done to the interior of the Dutch Reformed Church. She had half expected it to be dark and sinister looking, but this was bright and open, and pleasant to look at. The floors had been refinished and were deeply polished to a fine shine, as though they were brand new. The walls were painted an off white, with a trim of medium blue. The back of the temple had rows of benches where guests were seated, but from there the temple opened up into the center of the floor where circular benches surrounded some idols of what she figured were their Gods. Both the Priest and the Priestess had their own altars, which had items on them that she wasn' t quite familiar with, though she thought one of the items was a drinking horn. Behind this area steps led up to another altar which stood before a wall of smaller statues, which she also presumed were Gods. Swords, knives, shields and other weapons were also on these shelves.
Reverend Decker did not understand much of what was going on, or being said, but she did like the part where the Priest and Priestess passed around the horns, and the members each honored someone, or something. She assumed that they were honoring their Gods, but many of the names did not sound familiar to her. Debbie , who sat next to her, was getting madder and madder. During the ritual Reverend Decker noticed that Debbie was text messaging furiously. Then before the end of the ritual Debbie motioned that she wanted to leave. Reverend Decker shrugged her shoulders to signal, " why ", but Debbie grabbed her arm and partially lifted her out of her seat. When they reached the sidewalk Debbie started right in on the Pagans. " Reverend Decker we have to do something about these evil, godless people ! " she said with a growl. Trying to be funny, Reverend Decker replied : " It seems to me Debbie that they have quite a few Gods ! " Debbie gave her an angry look, to show the reverend that she was not amused. " Debbie they are harmless, " the reverend continued, " Just because they have different Gods, and rituals, doesn' t mean that they are ev........ " Debbie cut her off in mid - sentence. " These Pagans have to be run out of our town one way or another. " Then she added with a sly smile: " And don't think I did not notice the way you were looking at that Gooti, Caroline. " Reverend Decker took a deep breath, and calmly replied : " First of all it is Godi, not Gooty, and second, I will not allow the First Presbyterian Church to be part of any " witch hunt " against the Temple of the Triad, or these people." Debbie turned and looked Reverend Decker in the eyes, and with bitterness in her voice said : " Then I will do it without you, or the church, Miss Decker ! " As Debbie turned and walked away, Reverend Decker called to her but she did not come back. Reverend Decker was so upset that she left and walked slowly back to the rectory.
Debbie Mortensen spent the rest of her day making phone calls to everyone she knew. And the next day she made good on her threats against the Pagans. At around noon the first of a dozen or so protesters showed up in front of the temple. Within just a few hours this number had risen to almost fifty. They carried banners that read: ' One World, One God ', and ' Paganism isn't a Religion '. They sang hymns, and recited from the bible verses against the wicked non - believers. Peter had expected some type of protests, but not this many, and definitely not this fast ! Then he noticed the woman who was leading them. Now he understood why she would not shake his hand at the opening ritual. " What was her name again ? " Peter thought to himself. Then he remembered that it was Debbie something or other. Then a sickening thought popped into Peter's head. " Did Reverend Decker bring that woman to the temple to spy on them ? " He looked around but did not see the reverend among the marchers, but the thought remained with him. " Did she betray him ?
The protests went on day after day, rain or shine. The marchers were for the most part peaceful, though every once in a while one of them would start cursing at those who were entering or leaving the temple. Ulf, under orders from Peter, had to restrain Raven several times when the protesters made comments about her as she walked by. Raven was quite strong for a woman, as Ulf had discovered several times in the past. It was also what Ulf liked most about her ! Peter went to the police station to ask about the protesters, but he was coldly told that the marchers had the legal right to be there because they had applied and received a permit to demonstrate. Peter also complained that the protesters had done some minor damage to the temple, but because Peter had no proof of who actually caused the damage they said that they could not do much. Peter and Raven decided to have an alarm system put in the temple, but that would take a few weeks. Peter gave up on going to the police for help, and started having Ulf and Hakon patrol the grounds in shifts. This seemed to stop the vandalism, at least for the time being.
Reverend Decker wanted to go and see Peter, but she was embarrassed by what Debbie and her protest marchers were doing. Debbie had not only recruited people from their Presbyterian Church, but also from the Baptist Church, Catholic Church, and even a few Methodists came out to march on the demonstration lines. Reverend Decker felt she had an obligation to her church, and her congregation, to remain neutral and not get involved in what was happening. Peter, on the other hand, had become more and more disheartened as the days went by. He constantly worried about the temple, and the safety of the kindred members. He also saw Reverend Decker's silence as an indication, that although she was not participating in the demonstrations she was condonning it with her silence. He thought it quite a shame though, because he thought that Reverend Decker, Caroline, was a very nice person, and someone he very much would have liked to have gotten to know. Under the circumstances, however, that was out of the question !
Debbie Mortensen also became more and more frustrated. It seemed no matter how many protesters she added to the picket line, it did not seem to affect the goings on in the temple. And that damn lawyer for the temple blocked every legal move that they tried to make with an injunction ! After about a month they really had not accomplished much of anything, so Debbie decided to hold a meeting to plan further action against the Pagans and their temple. She invited everyone to her house that saturday night to discuss what other options were available to them. She invited not only the protest marchers ,but also a lawyer and two members of the town council to speak.
Debbie was beaming when she called the meeting to order. She was filled with fire and brimstone as she spoke about the evils of these godless heathens. She went on and on about how these Pagans were a cancer on their little town, and that like a cancer they had to be removed. Here, at her little podium, actually it was a portable bar, she was the center of attention, and everyone hung on her every word. When she would quote a line from the bible to emphasize a point, everyone would give her a hardy amen in return. Here, on this night she held the power, not Reverend Caroline Decker, and she was making the most of it !
As Debbie was speaking two young men in the back of the room were whispering to each other, and nodding in agreement. Richie Benton and Donald Vindor were life long friends who had been in and out of trouble with the law most of their young lives. Richie Benton was a large and powerful man who had a terrible temper, and absolutely no common sense at all. He had been in and out of jail several times, mainly for assault and battery, and drunk and disorderly charges. Jail had simply made him more bitter towards society as a whole, and taught him how to be a better criminal. Donald Vindor was the more sensible of the two. He had stayed away from hard time, but had several misdemeanors, and a breaking and entering conviction on his rap sheet. Donald's personality had also been hardened while he spent time in the county corrections facility.
Richie looked at Debbie and shook his head in disgust. He turned his head towards Donald and whispered, " Talk, talk, talk, all we do is talk ! We need to take some real action to get these devil worshippers out of Johnson's Mill. " Donald nodded in agreement, and then shot back : " Yeah ! I am getting tired of protesting ! All we do is carry signs, and chant slogans. Man, those Pagans probably think we are all a bunch of wimps, and are laughing at us in their temple! " Richie smiled and said with an evil look in his eyes : Don't worry Donnie boy, I have a plan that will have them on the next stagecoach out of town." "Lets go to my place after this snoozefest and I' ll lay it out for you . " Richie added.
Richie and Donald didn't even wait for the lawyer, or the councilmen to speak, but sneaked out during a break. They walked from Debbie's house the 3 blocks to Richie's house. Richie lived in a small apartment over his parents garage. It was cramped and hotter than hell in the summer, but his parents didn' tcharge him any rent, which made it bearable for him. After they grabbed a few beers from his mini - fridge, Richie got down to business, and laid out his plan for Donald. He started out slowly, but as his anger and excitement began to rise he talked faster and louder. " First, Richie said with a grin, " I need you, my cat burglar friend, to steal a few things from the Pagan temple." "What do we need from in there", Donald asked frowning. Richie looked him dead in the eyes and said: " Debbie mentioned to me that they have quite a few weapons hanging on the back wall of the temple. " He then added with an evil laugh : " After you steal them, I am going to attack one of those Pagans with one of their own weapons and leave it at the scene. " He finished by saying: " The beauty of the whole thing is that if you wear gloves, and I wear gloves, the only fingerprints on the weapons will be those of the Pagans, so they will get blamed. That should close that damn temple ! "
Donald always became a little frightened when Richie got all worked up like this. His eyes would get really wide, and his face would get bright red. Donald did not mind stealing the weapons from the temple, but he did not want to be the one who hurt someone. It wasn't that he was afraid to do it, he just did not want to go back to jail. Donald was also afraid that Richie would go to far as he often did, and the whole situation would get out of hand, and blow up in their faces. Donald liked Reverend Decker, and wanted to help get rid of the Pagans, but at least at this point he did not want to do anything drastic. Donald agreed that the plan sounded solid, but he told his old friend that he didn't want to be the one who attacked one of the Pagans. Ritchie said that he understood, and that he didn't mind injuring one of these poor Pagan bastards. Richie also told Donald that no one would get killed, but Donald did not like the evil look in Richie's eyes.
After Donald left, Richie sat staring out the window in the direction of the Pagan temple. From his garage apartment he could see only the top of the steeple where the cross had been. " Those bastards took down the cross, and they will pay for that," he said as he pounded the window sill. Then he smiled and whispered : " And if one or two of those bastards have to die..... oh well, no one is going to miss them ! "
Donald Vindor waited until two o' clock in the morning before heading over to the temple. He wore blackface, a black knit hat, a black shirt, and black pants. He would still have been easy to see if he walked to the front of the temple, which was well lit, but he walked through several people's backyards, climbed a few fences, and wound up behind the temple where it was much darker. The Old Dutch Reformed Church had been built in 1845, and had rather odd large windows that looked into the basement. They were perfect for what Donald was going to use them for ! Donald used a special glass cutter to cut the glass along the edges, and then pulled out the glass with a rubber suction cup. Donald just barely fit through the window, and fell a few feet to the floor once he got through. He walked cautiously up a flight of stairs that lead to some offices at the back of the temple, and then through a short hallway, and into the main part of the temple. Donald smiled from ear to ear, the swords and knives were right where Richie said they would be ! Donald grabbed two swords, and two strange looking knives and threw them into the sack he had brought to help carry them . Donald then retraced his steps back downstairs to the basement, where he used a crate to raise himself up to the level of the window so he could crawl back out of the temple.
Richie was waiting for Donald on the side of his garage. He thought this was best because he did not want his parents to accidently see Donald in his black garb, and call the police. Besides, his parents were already suspicious of everything that he did, and he did not want to give them any more reasons to watch him more closely. Just before dawn Donnie slowly made his way through Richie's neighbors backyard, climbed over the fence, and carefully made his way around to the side of the garage where Richie had told him to meet him. Just as he turned the corner Richie jumped out in front of him and shouted in a loud whisper : " Boo " ! Donnie jumped back, and dropped the sack with the swords on the ground. " What the hell is wrong with you man ! " scolded Donald. Richie laughed so hard that he had to lean up against the garage to keep from falling down. When they both composed themselves they carefully made their way up to Richie's apartment, where Donald changed into more suitable clothing. Richie examined the two Viking style swords, and the two huge knives, like an art critic examining a painting. Finally Richie looked over at Donnie and said : " These will do just fine ! " Donnie saw the look in Richie's eyes, and just knew that whatever was going to happen was not going to be good !
At nine o ' clock that morning Peter received a frantic call, at his real estate office, from Raven. In between the curse words Peter made out that someone had broken into the temple via the basement window, and made off with several of the Viking weapons that Peter had given to the temple. Peter told Raven that he would come after work to see the damage for himself. They discussed calling the police but decided that it might be better if the police, and especially the press, did not know that they had weapons at the temple. Christians would never understand the significance of these weapons in their rituals as symbols of an age gone by, and would probably think that they were used in some blood sacrifice, or worse. Raven said she had already spoken to one of the contractors who had worked on the temple renovations, and he had promised to come out and replace the broken window.
Late that afternoon Peter came to the temple, and surveyed the damage. He was actually surprised that more wasn' t taken, and that the temple had not been vandaliized in any way. All things considered they got off pretty lightly he thought. Ulf suggested that he and Hakon should stay in the temple the next two nights to make sure there were no more break - ins. On Friday the Shield Alarm Company was coming to install the new alarm system, so Peter and Raven thought it a good idea that they have someone on the premises until then.
All day saturday Richie had been very nervous. He felt like he had consumed about a dozen energy drinks, and at times he felt as though he would jump right out of his skin if he did not keep busy. In a few hours he was going to deal the Pagans, and their god - awful temple, a mortal blow. Once the Pagans were accused of attacking someone they would surely be shut down, and run out of town. He had decided to wait across the street from the temple and pick out a victim as they walked out the front doors. At about ten o' clock a female walked out of the temple alone, and walked away from the center of town. Richie followed her as quietly as he could, being careful not to draw attention to himself. When she reached a darkened area near the park entrance, Richie decided it was time to strike. Just as he was going to make his move, a man came out of the shadows, kissed the woman, lifted her up, and twirled her around. They walked past the park, and into the distance. As Richie was cursing his luck, he noticed another woman entering the park. He decided to follow her. When she stopped to light a cigarette, he decided to pounce on her. Richie jumped out of the shadows, and was going to strike at her when he realized it was someone he knew. Diane De Carlo said in a questioning voice : " Richie ? " Richie had only a split second to decide what to do. In a moment of panic he thrust the sword into her chest as hard as he could. Diane was so caught by surprise that she could not even scream, but managed only a gurgling gasp before she fell. Richie, who was now in full panic mode, fled the park as fast as he could.
At 6 A.M. William Johnston was jogging in the park when he discovered the murdered girl. After becoming physically ill he used his cell phone to call the police. The black and white came within minutes, and sealed off the area with yellow caution tape, and began to search the area for evidence. A few minutes later a white unmarked police car pulled up to the entrance to the park, and two detectives got out, and strolled over to the murder scene. Detective Catherine Steele, known to some as " Cat ", swaggered up to the first officer she saw and in an angry voice asked : " What the hell do we have here officer....." she looked at his badge and then finished, " Donovan ". Officer Manny Donovan looked at Detective Steele, and replied matter of factly : " One hell of a mess detective. " Steele shot back in an angry voice : " Officer, I only got four hours of sleep last night before getting called here, so I would appreciate it if you could be a little more specific ! " Detective Robert Moore stood behind Catherine Steele with a wry little smile on his face. He had only been a detective for a short time, but he had worked with Cat long enough to know that she was a no nonsense police officer, who had absolutely no sense of humor. Officer Donovan looked uncomfortable as he replied : " Um ,sorry maam ! What we have here detective is a young white female, approximately 25 years old, who was stabbed in the chest with some sort of ornamental type of sword. " Detective Steele shook her head and then asked : " Has the weapon been sent to the lab to check for prints ? " Yes maam, and the body is in the ambulance ready to go to the morgue, if you want to see it detective . " Manny said in as professional a tone as he could muster. " No we will see it at the morgue Officer Donovan. " she replied.
As Detective Steele walked over to the chalk outline on the ground she shook her head in disgust. Detective Moore walked up behind her and said : " How could something like this happen in a peaceful little town like Johnson's Mill ? " Cat looked at him and replied sternly : " I don't know Bob, but I am going to nail the asshole who did this, and put them away for the rest of their life ! "
At the small backroom of the morgue that acted as the town's crime lab, Detectives Steele and Moore were informed by the Coroner, Dr. Jeff Johnson, that the murder weapon was identified as a reproduction of a 9th century Viking sword. His assistant, Donna Weingartner, had told Dr. Johnson that it looked like one of the weapons she saw on the wall of the Pagan temple. The Coroner also mentioned that there were only one set of prints on the sword, and that they did not match anyone in their data bank. Dr. Johnson looked at Detective Steele and said in a professional tone : " The victim was killed last night between midnight and 2 A.M." " It is also my professional opinion that the individual who killed the victim was a very powerful man, judging by how far he was able to thrust the sword through her. " he added. Detective Steele looked over at Detective Moore, and said with a smile: " Let's go pay a visit to our new Pagan friends, Bob." Detetective Moore smiled and replied : " Yeah, I think we may find a few answers to our questions there ! " Before they left they picked up a picture of the sword, a copy of the prints, and a portable fingerprint kit.
The detectives pulled up in front of the temple at just past 8 o' clock that night, and entered through the large front doors, which made a loud bang as they closed. Ulf, who was closest to the doors, turned around and asked firmly, but politely, if he could help them. Detective Steele pulled out her badge, and asked to speak with the priest. Detetective Moore stood a little back of her, and had his hand near the butt of his gun. Both Raven and Peter heard the detectives announce themselves, and went over to speak to the officers. Detective Steele spoke first : " My name is Detective Steele, and this is my partner Detective Moore, we would like to ask you a few questions in connection with the murder of a young woman in the park last night." " Did either of you know the woman in this photograph ? " she asked as she showed them the photo. Both Peter and Raven said that they did not recognize the woman. Then the Pagan priests were shown the picture of the sword. Peter was shocked when he saw the picture ! Peter quickly replied : " That is my sword detective . It was stolen off of the temple wall several nights ago. " Detective Moore asked in a stern voice : " Did you report the theft sir ? " " No ", answered Peter, " I thought it might cause us even more problems if I reported the robbery. " Then Peter added : " I am Peter Hansen by the way, and this is Joan Bartlett. Everyone calls her Raven . " Well Peter Hansen " Steele said with an air of professionalism " would you mind if we take a set of your fingerprints. " Cat then added sarcastically : " Or we could do this down at the station ! " Peter did not like her tone, but reluctantly agreed.
After about ten minutes of checking, and double checking the prints against those from the murder weapon, the detectives came back and asked Peter if he could prove his whereabouts last night about midnight. Peter, who was starting to get worried, told them that he was in bed asleep at that hour, and that he lived alone so he had no one to verify that. Detective Steele then said in a tone that reverberated all around the temple : " Peter Hansen you are under arrest for the murder of one Diane De Carlo." Then she added angrily, as she turned Peter around to cuff him : " Detective Moore read this Pagan Priest his rights. " Detective Moore stepped foward and recited : " You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to consult an attorney...... "
That was all that Peter heard before Ulf stepped foward, and Raven started to scream obscenities at the officers. Peter who felt dizzy and a little sick, yelled at Ulf not to do anything foolish, as both detectives drew their weapons. Then Peter said in a calm voice to Raven : " Raven, I will be O' k, this is just a misunderstanding. " Then he looked at the detectives and said in a apologetic tone : " Officers please lower your weapons. My people are just upset, they mean you no harm ! " Then he directed his attention to Detective Steele and said : " May I please speak to my friend Hakon for just a minute. " Steele, who had a hold of his cuffed hands pulled them up a little and replied : " One minute only priest ! " Hakon stepped over to where Peter was being held and bent down a little so that Peter could speak discreetly in his ear. Peter said calmly, but firmly : " My friend, I need you to keep Raven and Ulf calm. I am depending on you. Our temple depends on you my friend ! "
As they were taking Peter away, Raven and Ulf tried to follow the detectives, but Hakon stood in their way. Raven yelled at the top of her lungs : " Hakon, Get the hell out of my way ! " Hakon stood firm, and then said to an equally angry Ulf : " The Godi wishes us to remain calm, and not do anything foolish. Do you understand Ulf. " Ulf nodded in agreement. Ulf respected the Godi' s decisions, and trusted his old friend Hakon without question. Raven was another story, and it took both of the big bodyguards to stop her from chasing after the detectives.
Down at the station, Detectives Steele and Moore placed Peter into an interrogation room, and then let him sit for almost an hour. It was a technique they used to make the accused become more and more nervous, and hopefully more talkative. When the hour was up the detectives walked into the room with several files, and the sword, which was wrapped in an evidence bag. " For the record Detective Moore will you read the accused his rights, " Cat said mockingly, " that is since you were so rudely interrupted the last time. " She added sarcastically.
After Detective Moore finished, Cat set the sword in front of Peter and asked : " Can you identify the item in front of you Mr. Hansen. " Peter nodded in the affirmative, and then added : " Yes, it was stolen from the temple a few days ago . " Ah, Yes ! " Detective Steele shouted, " How convenient was that for your litttle alibi. " Oh, thats right my Pagan friend, you were what,.... sleeping at the time of the murder, so really you don't have an alibi. " she added angrily. Peter stared at her with a questioning look and then replied : " I work all day, and have my duties to perform at the temple at night. Why wouldn't I be asleep at midnight, maam. " Well maybe you had a liitle midnight rendevous that night that interrupted your sleep Mr. Hansen ! "Cat shouted back. Detective Moore asked in a much calmer voice : " How do you explain that only your fingerprints are on the sword, Mr. Hansen ? " "I honestly don't know", Peter responded. " It was my sword so naturally it would have my prints on it. " Peter continued. " You know what I think Mr. Hansen, Cat asked, not really looking for an answer, " I think you decided to kill one of those Christians because they have been protesting outside of your temple for the past week ! " Peter was deeply offended by what the detective had said, and with the way she had said it, but decided it was better not to get angry, or to escalate the situation, so he said nothing.
Peter then remembered something Elizabeth Van Allen's lawyer had said when he gave Peter his card. " Call me if you need anything." Peter sat up straight and said quietly : " I will not answer any more questions until I have called my lawyer. " Peter pulled the card out of his wallet that read Mortimer L. Johnston, attorney - at - law. As he dialed the number his hands were shaking, though he tried not to show it. When the attorney heard what had happened he told Peter not to say anything until he got there. Peter then politely told the detectives that he had been advised not to answer any more questions until his attorney arrived. After an officer took Peter Hansen to a holding cell, Detective Moore said to Cat in a questioning voice: " Didn't the coroner say the assailant was a fairly strong person ? " Detective Steele looked at her partner and replied : " Yes he did . Yes he did ! " Then Bob said in a low voice, almost like he was trying to hide something : " Cat, I think you could probably beat that guy up ! " Catherine Steele just looked at her partner, and nodded with a perplexed look on her face.
While Peter Hansen was incarcerated, and awaiting to be formally brought before a judged and charged, things began to get out of hand at the temple. The protesters became louder, and more violent. They carried signs that called the Pagans murderers, and devil worshippers. They threw eggs and bottles at those who tried to enter or leave the temple, and threatened them with bodily harm. Mortimer L. Johnston would have none of this, and threatened with legal action the police department sent officers to maintain the peace. Mortimer was very impressed by Peter's insistance that he protect the temple, and the kindred members, before he investigated Peter's alleged crime. The town council also made attempts to close the temple, but Mortimer was always one step ahead of them with an injunction, or some other legal manuever.
Late one morning, Reverend Decker was walking down Main street on her way to get a cup of coffee, what she called her one sin, when Raven spotted her from across the street. Raven ran across the road, and came up behind her. " Are you happy now Decker ! " Raven shouted. " You Christians have done everything you can to close our temple, and now Peter is in jail on murder charges. How can this be ! What did you do you stupid bitch ! " she screamed. Hakon, who was supposed to be watching Raven, had stopped for a soda when he heard the screaming. Hakon ran across the road and picked up Raven from behind, and told her to calm down and go home. After a little staring match Raven turned, still fuming , and walked away. Before going after Raven, Hakon turned to Reverend Decker, and said in a sad voice: " Godi Peter Hansen is the finest man I have ever met. He would never hurt anybody, and never a woman. Freyja does not allow violence again women, and the Vanir Goddess is one of Peter's favorite deities. " Then Hakon looked Reverend Decker right in the eyes and said quietly : " I am disappointed in you reverend. Our Godi....... Peter, is very fond of you, and you abandoned him ! " As Hakon walked away Caroline Decker put her hands over her face and cried. She felt as though her world was coming apart, and she was helpless to stop it.
The interrogations continued for a few more days while they were awaiting the court date to formerly charge Peter with first degree murder. Detective Steele became more and more abusive as the days went by, but still she hadn' t gotten a confession, or even solid information from Peter, and the evidence just was not adding up ! Detective Moore tried to calm her down, but she wanted, no, she needed, to find a reason for this Pagan priest to have killed a young woman, and when she couldn't, she took out her anger and frustration on Peter. Peter's lawyer, Mortimer Johnston was always there to threaten her with legal action, which didn' t help her disposition any. The one thing that bothered her most was that the killer, according to what the coroner had said, was a powerful person who had thrust the sword all the way through the victim. And she kept hearing the words of her partner run through her mind : " Cat you could probably beat up Peter Hansen ! " He just did not fit any of the profiles that she had made for the killer and it frustrated the hell out of her !
Richie Benton could not believe what was going on ! The Pagan priest was being held for the murder of Diane De Carlo, but the temple was not going to be closed ! " How could this be ! " Richie said out loud. Richie was starting to work himself up again into a psychotic frenzy. He thought to himself : " O'k if one murder was not enough, then maybe if there were two they would surely close down the temple, and run these Pagans out of town." At first Richie was angry with himself for killing Diane because she was a Christian, but when he saw how much anger it released against the Pagans he felt it was the right move after all. This time, however, he would kill a Pagan to make the murder tie directly to the Temple of the Triad. In Richie's demented mind his plan made perfect sense.
Caroline Decker thought long and hard about what she was doing, but walked into the police headquarters anyway. She asked the officer at the desk if she could see Peter Hansen. The officer on duty said it would be alright, but only for a few minutes. As she walked into the room she was surprised the room was so simple. There was no double room with plexi - glass seperating the visitor from the prisoner like you see in the movies, just a room with a table and several chairs. The officer stood by the door as Reverend Decker sat across from Peter. Although Caroline Decker had come to see Peter, it was Peter who spoke first. " Why did you abandon my temple and my people ? he asked. Remaining silent was just as good as a vote of confidence to those protesters. " Peter said bitterly. Reverend Decker lowered her head and said slowly : " At first I was trying to protect my church, and then things just got out of hand. And now you are in jail charged with murdering a young woman. I don't know what to think any more Peter ! " Peter thought for a moment and then said : " If you don't believe in the right of our religion to exist, then you can't believe in me ! " Peter then got up, and asked the officer to take him back to his cell. Caroline Decker waited until she arrived back at the rectory, and then broke down in tears.
That night Richie Benton waited outside of the grocery store for Patty Anders to go home after her shift. At eleven o' clock Patty emerged from the store, and started to walk home through a patch of woods that acted as a short cut to the back of her house. Richie slowly worked his way around to the front of Patty and waited behind a large tree. Just as she passed he jumped out and stabbed her in the back with one of the large knives that Donald Vindor had stolen from the temple. Patty spun around and looked Richie right in the eyes as he stabbed her several more times. After she hit the ground he left the knife in her, and ran back to the grocery store, and from there walked home.
Although Patty was stabbed multiple times, and was bleeding profusely, she somehow got up, and staggered the hundred yards to her house. As she was losing conciousnous she pounded on the door as hard as she could, and then collapsed. Her father got to the door first, turned on the light, and saw his bloodied daughter lying on the ground by the door. Jon Anders yelled to his wife to call 911, but Doris Anders came out to see what was wrong first before running back to the phone.
The paramedics, and police, arrived within minutes, and Patty was stablized, and put in the ambulance as fast as the paramedics could work. Patty was rushed into the emergency room for some triage, before being rushed into surgery. As soon as the surgeon was scrubbed and ready, he began at once to stop the bleeding, and to sew up her many wounds. It took almost 6 hours of surgery, but miraculously none of her wounds were life threatening. Doris Anders who even though she did not believe as her daughter did, gave a little prayer to Eir, the best of all physicians, to heal her daughter . When Doris and Jon Anders were told that their daughter had been taken to the Intensive Care Unit they were terrified. Seeing the fear in their eyes, the surgeon assured them that their daughter had a very good chance for a full recovery. Jon held his wife as she broke down in tears, and thanked both her God, and her daughter 's Gods.
When Detectives Steele and Moore arrived at the hospital they briefly spoke to the parents of Patricia Anders, and took down their statements. Then they went to see the surgeon, and asked him a few things before retrieving the knife, and placing it in an evidence bag. Bob Moore looked at his partner Detective Steele and said : " Looks Viking to me Cat ." Detective Steele looked at the knife, and then at her partner, and stated something that they both were thinking : " We have an innocent man locked up in jail, Bob. " Detective Moore was not used to hearing remorse in his partners voice, and he could see that now Catherine Steele regretted the things that she had done and said to the Pagan priest. " Yeah and I bet only the priest's prints are on the knife, Cat. " he said matter of factly. Detective Steele looked at her partner and said quietly : "We need to start looking for a large, powerful man who has a grudge against the temple, or Peter Hansen. " Moore replied: " Maybe we should start with the two big guys we saw at the temple when we arrested the priest ! " " First lets get an innocent man out of jail, Bob. " Steele said as they left the hospital.
At 6 A.M. an officer came to Peter Hansen's cell, and told him that as soon as the paperwork went through he was going to be released. When Peter asked why he was simply told that the charges had been dropped against him. As Peter was signing some papers to leave, and was getting his wallet, and other personal belongings, Detective Steele walked up to Peter and asked if she could talk to him for a moment. Peter agreed reluctantly, and was shown into the same interrogation room he had sat in while being questioned days before. This time however, Detective Steele was polite, almost shy, in her use of words. " Mr. Hansen is this one of your knives, sir. " she said as she placed the knife in front of him on the table. " Yes " , Peter replied, " That is called a Dirk and was used by both the Vikings and the Celts. " Mr. Hansen there has been another crime committed using one of your weapons, this weapon, sir. The victim this time was a girl named Patricia Anders and....." Detective Steele didn't get a chance to finish before Peter got up and yelled : " Patty ! Why would anybody want to hurt little Patty ! " Detective Moore quickly jumped in and told Peter that she was in critical condition, but was expected to pull through. Detective Steele could see that Peter had had enough and decided to end the questioning there. " Thank you for your time Mr. Hansen, and I am sorry for any inconvenience we have caused you. " Detective Steele said apologetically. Peter just looked at the detective with a blank stare and said : " Just catch this lunatic before he kills again ! "
That morning as the protesters marched up and down in front of the temple, one of their own was missing. Debbie Mortensen had skipped the protest today and had gone to the public library instead to look through some old records from the 1800's . A friend of hers had mentioned that it was surprising that the Pagan Temple had been allowed to open because she thought that their was a minimum number of members that were required to be recognized as a religious institution in Johnson' s Mill. Debbie sat in front of the microfilm machine for hours and hours going through film after film. The 1810's, 1820's, 1830's, and then right around noon she threaded the 1840's microfilm into the machine, and there it was. An obscure township law that stated that to be legally recognized as a religious institution you had to have at least 50 members. Debbie clapped her hands as she said to herself : " Got you now ! "
Peter did not go to work that morning, but instead went to the hospital to see Patty Anders. Peter could not believe that anyone would want to hurt little Patty ! She stood only about 5 foot 2 inches tall, and weighed maybe 90 pounds, and was always so cheerful. " Why would anyone want to hurt her ? ! " he kept saying to himself over and over again. Peter was only allowed to see her for a few minutes because she was still in the I.C.U., but he was horrified by what he saw. Patty had bandages over most of her chest and stomach, and had tubes in her arm, and a breathing tube inserted into her throat. The nurse who was attending to Patty saw the concern on Peter's face, and assured Peter that she was going to be fine. She even added that the respirator would be coming out later that day.
Peter didn't want to go home so he decided to go to the temple instead. At least at the temple there would be someone to talk to, and he desperately needed to talk to someone... anyone. Peter met Hakon, Ulf and Raven in the foyer of the temple, and they talked for almost an hour about what had happened over the last few days. Just as Peter was turning to go back to his office Detectives Steele, and Moore walked into the temple. Peter shook his head and said : " What do you want from me now officers ? " Detective Moore quickly replied : " We are not here to see you Mr. Hansen. " Then he pointed at Ulf, Hakon and Raven, and continued : " We are here to ask these three a few questions. " Peter was too tired mentally and physically to argue with the detectives, and slowly made his way back to his office.
Detectives Steele and Moore interrogated Ulf, Raven, and Hakon individually for about an hour each. What they discovered was that no one in the kindred disliked Peter Hansen. Raven cursed the detectives after every answer she gave. But when she was asked about Peter she put her head down and said : " Peter is to me the father that I never had. No father could ever have treated me with more kindness and understanding than he has shown me over the years. " Then Raven added that she would kill both detectives if they tried to hurt Peter in any way. Detective Steele reminded Raven that she could be charged with making death threats against the officers. Raven simply gave them a snotty look and said " Whatever ! "
Ulf was as belligerent towards the detectives as Raven, and asked if they had questioned anyone outside of the Pagan Temple members. Detective Moore told Ulf that he was not at liberty to discuss that, but Detective Steele felt uncomfortable with that lie. Ulf, when asked about Peter Hansen simply said " He is the kindest man I have ever met. Who else would put up with me and Raven ! " Detective Steele looked at Moore, and had to stop herself from laughing when Ulf made the remark. She thought to herself " The man must be a saint ! "
Hakon impressed the detectives the most. He had a quiet air of dignity about him, and said only what he truly meant. When Hakon was asked about Peter he simply smiled and said ; " Not only would the Godi not hurt a fly, he would protect the fly from a spider. ", Then Hakon added : " If Gods really do speak to us Midgardians they would surely speak to Peter Hansen first ! "
As the detectives were driving back to the station Detective Moore shook his head and said with a laugh : " Well, that was a waste of time ! " Steele looked over at her partner and replied : " Yeah, but I think Ulf was right . We need to look outside of the Pagan Temple for the killer. "
Richie Benton had reached the end of his sanity. He had killed one woman, and almost killed another, and the Pagan temple was still open. Richie decided that a special sacrifice was needed to rid the town of these Heathens. He looked over at a cross he had on his table that depicted the cruxification of Christ. In his twisted mind he watched as the image of Christ slowly turned into Reverend Decker, and knew who had to be sacrificed next. He picked up the final knife that Donald Vindor had stolen for him, and decided that tonight he would finish things, and then get out of town for a while. He started laughing uncontrollably as he stabbed the table over and over again with the knife.
Peter sat at his desk getting angrier and angrier. How could the First Presbyterian Church do this to his temple ! And more importantly to Peter, how could Caroline Decker do this to him. When he first met Caroline he could feel that there was something between them. He could see it in her eyes, and in her wonderful smile. He also knew that even though he tried to hide it Caroline Decker had seen the same things in his eyes and in his mannerisms. " How could she betray me ! " ran through his mind over and over all day long, and ate at his insides like a cancer. By the evening he had decided to confront Reverend Decker and get some answers to ease his mind.
Richie Benton opened the front door to the rectory as quietly as he could. Reverend Decker was a trusting soul and seldom locked the door. Richie was all dressed in black, and carried a large knife that was very sharp, and rather ornate. His mind had snapped, and he no longer could control his rage, or even have rational thoughts. His mind was set on one goal, and that was to kill Reverend Decker, and have it look as though the Pagans did it. As Richie walked through the waiting area and entered the hallway he began to smile from ear to ear. He had begun to enjoy killing, and could feel the adrenaline starting to flow. It was better than any high he had ever experienced. Then as he started to walk by the offices he saw a woman's shadow up ahead. He ducked into one of the offices until she passed, and then turned to face her. His mind screamed: " Time to die ! "
When Peter reached the rectory he began to calm down, or chicken out as Raven would say, and he was going to leave when he noticed that the front door was slightly open. Peter slowly pushed open the door and walked in. As he walked into the waiting room he saw Reverend Decker walking backwards until she ran into the wall which stopped her. Peter heard her speaking to someone, and as Peter got closer he heard her say : " Please Richie you don't have to do this ! I can help you ! " Against the far wall to the right of Caroline, Peter saw a shadow of a man with his hand raised to strike. Peter looked around in desperation for something, anything, to use as a weapon. On a small table in the hallway was a brass candelabra type candle holder. In one swift motion Peter picked up the candle holder, and ran around the corner and swung the heavy brass candelabra with all his might.
Richie was staggered by the first blow but the wall kept him upright. Peter then swung the candle holder again with both hands as hard as he could . This time the weapon made a dull thud against Richie's skull, and he collapsed in a heap on the floor. Peter was shaking from head to foot as he kicked the knife out of Richie' s unconcious hand, and then retreated up against the wall with Caroline. As he slid to the floor he noticed that it was his ornate seax knife that he had given to the temple that Richie had tried to kill the reverend with. The thought of his weapon almost killing Caroline made Peter feel sick to his stomach.
After a few moments Peter pulled out his cell phone and tried to dial 911. It took him four attempts to get it right because his hands were shaking so badly. As he dialed Caroline collapsed on the floor next to him, and started crying uncontrollably. Peter was just about to console her when Richie moaned and twitched a few times. Peter picked up the candelabra, and was preparing to swing it again but to Peter's relief Richie slipped back into unconciousnous. Peter dropped the candle holder and hugged Caroline as tightly as he could, and repeated several times: " Its over, Its over ! "
When the officers arrived at the rectory Peter and Caroline were still sitting on the floor, and Peter was trying desperately to get Caroline to stop crying. The officers cuffed Richie, just to be safe, and then called an ambulance. As the ambulance was leaving Detectives Steele and Moore pulled up in their white unmarked police car. As they entered the rectory waiting room they saw Reverend Decker with a blanket over her shoulders. Peter Hansen had his arm around her, and was telling her that it was all right , and that no one could hurt her now. Seeing that the two victims were distraught the detectives went over to an officer who was writing up the report for details. After the officer gave them a full description of what had happened Steele and Moore decided to go over to the hospital and see if they could get a statement, or a confession from the attacker. As they were leaving Catherine Steele wanted to apologize to Peter, or at the very least thank him for preventing another murder, but she didn' t feel she had the right to say anything to the priest.
Peter made Caroline call one of her friends to see if she could stay with them for the night. The friend, Peggy Thompson, was more than glad to help the reverend. Peter then called Hakon, and explained what had happened, and asked if he would mind coming down to the rectory and pick him up. Hakon was running out the door as soon as he hung up the phone. Caroline's friend Peggy, and Hakon, arrived at almost the same time. Peggy ran over to reverend Decker and asked what happened, and if she was alright. After telling Peggy the whole story, Peter mentioned that it was getting late, and that they should probably leave. After Peggy had helped Reverend Decker into the passengers seat, she turned and looked right at Peter. Peter recognized her right away as one of the more vocal protesters who had marched outside their temple. Peggy looked Peter in the eyes and said with conviction : " Thank You Mr. Hansen for saving the life of our reverend. I am very sorry for the pain that we have caused you, and your temple goers. " She then walked around and got in the drivers seat and drove away. Hakon could not help but notice that Peter watched the car until it disappeared. Hakon smiled and said quietly : " Love knows no boundaries ! " Peter was surprised that someone knew his feelings for Caroline, but he didn't say anything to Hakon.
That sunday during her sermon Reverend Decker pulled the microphone out of its stand, and stepped away from the podium. She spoke of Christian values, such as : Love thy neighbor, and the brotherhood of man. And then she shamed her congregation for the way they had broken these Christian values, and turned their backs on their neighbors in the Asatru religion, who had through their own will and determination opened a temple of their own. She went on to say that they did not have to believe, or even agree with their religion, or their ideals, but should respect them for who and what they are. She told them that the saddest thing for her to understand was that the Asatruar had done nothing to be disrespected for. She ended her sermon by telling her congregation that she was going to invite the Asatru Godi, and Godia to next weeks sermon, and that she hoped that they would all come out to meet the man who had saved her life. In the front row sat Donald Vindor and he was mad as hell ! After hearing that the Godi and Godia were going to come next week he got up out of his seat and walked out of the church. As he was walking away Reverend Decker said to him, and her whole congregation: " Turning our backs on these people will not make them go away. To understand them we must get to know them and open up a dialogue with them ." The Episcopalians, Methodists, and the Baptists all had similar sermons that sunday. Only the Catholics did not listen to Reverend Decker' s plea for understanding and harmony.
On monday morning as Peter and Hakon rounded the corner onto main street, and the front entrance to their temple, they stopped dead in their tracks. As they looked around there were no protesters, no marchers holding signs, and no one was out there singing hymns, or quoting from the bible. There was just the noise of the traffic, and the chirping of birds. Peter and Hakon looked at each other and smiled, but did not say a word as they entered the temple.
Around noon Hakon came into Peter's office, and with a big smile informed Peter he had a visitor. A few seconds later Caroline Decker walked through the door . Peter could not help but smile when he saw Caroline. She was wearing that pretty red dress, and had obviously made an effort with her hair and her make -up. Peter could not keep his eyes off of her as he said : " You look very nice Reverend Decker . How may I help you ! " Caroline surprised Peter with her reply : " Peter, in private you should call me Caroline. " Peter could feel his cheeks blushing. At 53 years old Peter never knew that he could still feel this way. " The reason I came to see you this morning was to invite you, and the priestess, to my sermon next week at the Presbyterian Church. " she said with a pleasant smile. Peter's eyes widened as he replied : " Why in the world would you want to do that Caroline ? " The reverend giggled a little, which Peter thought was the most wonderful sound he had ever heard, and then said : " I want my congregation to meet you both, and see that you are just regular people who pray to different Gods than we do. " " Then she grinned and added : " I also want to show off the man who saved my life ! " Peter blushed again, and to change the subject he held out his hand to Caroline and said politely : " Would you care to go and get a cup of coffee reverend ? " Caroline looked at him crossly and replied : " Aren't you going to answer my question Godi Hansen ? " I will say yes only if you have a cup of coffee with me ! " Peter shot back. Caroline smiled and took his hand . Hakon shook his head, and smiled as they passed by him holding hands.
Reverend Decker had given hundreds of sermons, and never felt as nervous as she did this morning. She felt flushed, and her stomach was a little queasy as she read over her sermon. Caroline had worked on the sermon, in one way or another, since she left Peter at the coffee shop. Normally she hand wrote her speeches, but this one had so many corrections that she typed it onto her computer, and printed it out. No matter what she said, or which way she said it in the the sermon, she felt that it just wasn' t perfect. She wanted this speech to be the first step in mending not only the relationship between the Pagans and the Christians, but also to help mend the town, which had been torn apart by a murder, and two attempted murders.
Caroline was terrified as she peaked out from behind the curtain. The sermon was scheduled to start at eleven o' clock, and it was ten thirty and Peter and Raven had not yet arrived. There were also only a few people in the pews, but Caroline had never really taken notice of what time her congregation arrived, and wasn' t really sure if this was normal or not. While Caroline was taking a second look to see if more people had arrived, she heard a familiar voice behind her say: " Are we playing peek - a - boo Reverend Decker ? " Caroline spun around , and after composing herself replied : " I was just seeing how many of my congregation will show up today, Peter " Reverend Decker then looked over at Raven, and saw that she was bracketed in between Ulf and Hakon. " I am very gad they you've come Raven. " Caroline said hesitantly. Raven, who Peter had spent the whole day before convincing to come, looked at Reverend Decker with a fake smile and said : " Thank Peter, not me ! This place gives me the creeps ! " Caroline thanked her again anyway, and noticed that Hakon had placed his hand on Raven' s shoulder, presumably to let her know that the way she was acting was unacceptable.
When the organ music started to play, Reverend Decker solemnly walked to the podium, bible and sermon held firmly in hand. She had asked Peter and Raven to wait behind the curtain until she introduced them. When Caroline reached her stand she adjusted the microphone, and then smiled broadly when she saw that there were actually more people than usual in church that morning. Some of the people she recognized as being Baptist, Episcopalians, and one she knew for sure was a Catholic. As Caroline started her sermon she did not notice the young man, who although the church was air conditioned, was sweating profusely. Donald Vindor had come early to make sure that he was able to get a seat in the front row. Under his arm he was hiding a large Buck knife which he was waiting for the right moment to use. Donald had come to the conclusion that to kill the Pagon dragon he needed to chop off its head. Donald saw Peter Hansen as the head of the Pagan dragon. Lop that off and the body would die !
Reverend Decker was surprised that when she mentioned the Pagans in a positive light some in her congregation politely clapped. She then led into her introduction, and asked Peter and Raven to step up to the podium. Hakon and Ulf stayed behind the curtains, but watched the proceedings closely. They felt that this was the priests moment and decided to stay out of sight. Reverend Decker announced in a proud voice : " I introduce to you Godi Peter Hansen and Godia Joan Bartlett, the priest and priestess of the Heathen Temple of the Triad. " Raven looked over at Peter and whispered : " Joan Bartlett? " Peter smiled and whispered back : " Yeah, I gave Caroline your real name ! " As the congregation politely clapped Donald Vindor got up out of his seat, jumped onto the podium, brandished the knife, and drove it into Peter's chest. Raven tried to stop him, but she was taken by surprise, and was too late. Hakon and Ulf had seen the man jump onto the podium, but could not reach Peter in time to stop his attacker.
Ulf reached Donald first, and stopped him from stabbing Peter a second time. As Peter collapsed onto the floor, Ulf started to beat the man unmercifully. Peter who was being attended to by Hakon gritted his teeth from the pain, and told Hakon to stop Ulf from killing him, and to just hold the attacker until the police arrived. " Do it ! " Peter said with a hoarse voice. Hakon who seldom yelled screamed over to Ulf : " Stop it Ulf ! The Godi demands that you stop, and just hold him for the police. " Ulf looked up from the now bloodied and unconcious attacker with a look of disbelief on his face, but he complied at once. He rolled Donald Vindor over and pulled his arms back in a hold so that he would not be able to move, that is if he regained conciousnous !
Raven, seeing that Hakon had taken off his shirt to stop Peter's bleeding, snapped out of her daze and went ballistic ! Every other word was "F " this and "F" that as she cursed Reverend Decker, and as Raven put it " Her flock of murderers ! " Raven went over to Reverend Decker who had collapsed onto the floor in shock, and started to blast her with insults. Hakon was too busy with Peter to do anything about Raven because Peter was starting to lose conciousnous. If the reverend had not collapsed onto the floor Raven probably would have hit her, but in her condition Raven just cursed her out.
Several of the more lucid in the congregation pulled out their cell phones, and dialed 911, almost as soon as it happened. In the third row, however, sat a reporter for the Amalgamated Press, who calmly called the story in to his editor, amongst all the shouting, and the screaming. The quiet little town of Johnson's Mill was no longer an unknown village in the middle of nowhere. The next morning they were on the front page of every newspaper in the country. The headlines read from coast to coast : ' Christians Attack Pagan Priest ! '
The police arrived rather quickly as did the ambulance. Detectives Steele and Moore had heard the call, and with siren blaring, rushed over as fast as they could. They arrived just as Peter's stretcher was being placed into the ambulance. Before getting into the ambulance herself, Raven ran over to the detectives and screamed at the top of her lungs : " This is all your damn fault ! You helped these freaking Christians to do this ! You bastards are even worse than they are ! " Raven then ran back to the ambulance just as the paramedic was closing the door, and getting ready to leave. She stopped him and jumped into the back. Detective Steele knew that Raven was just upset, but she also knew that there was some truth in what she said, which made her feel guilty. Detective Moore just looked at his partner, and shook his head in disgust. This whole investigation had not gone well, and now this..... well, it was just too much !
Peter wasn't in the emergency room for long before he was prepared, and wheeled into surgery. The X - rays showed that the knife had missed Peter's heart by inches, but there was still massive internal bleeding that needed to be stopped. Ulf and Raven paced back and forth for hours in the waiting room while Peter was being operated on. Raven who was almost always talking said very little during what seemed like an eternity to her. Hakon just sat there silent as ever. In his mind, however, he was begging the Goddess Eir to help Peter in any way She could. Hakon made a pledge that when the Godi got better he would never again leave him unprotected. " Never Again ! " He repeated softly to himself.
Just before six in the evening the surgeon came out, and told them that Peter had been moved to the Critical Care Unit where he would be monitored for a few hours before being brought upstairs to a private room. Raven, who didn' t care about all that, asked bluntly : " Is Peter going to make it ?! " The surgeon who was as cocky as he was skilled, said confidently : " Of course he will ! There was a lot of damage, but I am a hell of a surgeon. No one dies on my watch little lady ! " Raven, out of character hugged the surgeon, which shocked him a little. He patted Raven on the back and said quietly : " You can see him in the morning. Why don't you go home and get some rest ? " " I promise you that he will be fine ", he added to re - assure them. Ulf took Raven home but Hakon refused to leave. When they moved Peter up to his private room, Hakon stood guard outside the door. Normally the hospital would never have allowed this, but with everything that had gone on they decided it would be alright just this once. Besides, no one really wanted to try and throw out Hakon, because of his size.
The reverend had collapsed at the podium, and was carried back to the rectory. A doctor who had helped Hakon stem the flow of blood, used smelling salts to revive Caroline. Caroline wanted to go to the hospital and see Peter at once, but her friend Peggy Thompson told her that she had a friend at the hospital who would call her as soon as there was word on Peter's condition. Around six - thirty Peggy received a call from her friend that Peter was stable, and would be moved out of the C.C.U. early in the morning to a private room. When Peggy asked her friend if the reverend could see Peter, her friend told her : " Not until the morning. "
Caroline Decker did not sleep much that night. She kept hearing Raven screaming at her that this was all her fault. In some ways she was responsible ! She felt that she should have spoken out more in the beginning, and it was her idea to invite Peter and Raven to her church so she could introduce them to her congregation. First thing in the morning, as she was dressing to go down to the hospital she had trouble putting on a little make -up because everytime she thought of Peter she would start crying. Finally she gave up, and just combed her hair.
Ulf decided to go down to the hospital early to relieve Hakon who had stayed all night with the Godi. He greeted Hakon, who was standing like a soldier in front of a guard post, and then tried to enter the room. Hakon put his hand on Ulf's chest to stop him which startled Ulf. " What ?" Ulf said in a surprised tone. Hakon looked Ulf in the eyes and told him that the reverend was in there with Peter. Ulf said loudly : " What is that bitch doing here ?! " Hakon who was tired and not in the mood for any crap, stared deeply into his old friends eyes, and said very sternly : " Peter and the reverend are in love with each other, and you WILL respect that Ulf ! From this moment on we are no longer responsible just for protecting Raven and Peter, but the reverend as well. " Then Hakon looked angrily at Ulf and said with the voice of a drill sergeant : " Do you understand me Ulf ! " Ulf, who had learned over the years that when Hakon occassionally opened his mouth and spoke, that he should listen, said meekly : " Wow ! I had no idea ! Yeah sure Hakon ! I will protect her as if she were the Godi himself . " Hakon then slumped a little and said : " I am exhausted, and I am going home. " As he was walking away he said : " Remember Ulf , Var hears our pledges and expects us to keep them ! " Ulf just smiled.
About an hour later Raven showed up and tried to walk into Peter's room. When Ulf stopped her she was not as kind as Ulf had been to Hakon. She stepped back and yelled : " What the hell are you doing idiot ! " Raven questioned. " There is something that you need to know before you go in there Raven. " he said. And then he explained to her what Hakon had told him. Raven became angrier and angrier with every word. She then tried to pass Ulf again as she shouted : " I am going to throw that bitch out on her ear ! " Ulf picked up Raven, and pinned her up against the far wall. " No you will not Raven ! " Ulf said with anger in his voice. Raven had never been spoken to this way by Ulf before, and it took her by complete surprise. Ulf then put her down and asked her a simple question : " Haven' t you ever felt sorry for the Godi ? You know he has been alone since his wife divorced him over his choice of religion. We need to support him as he has always protected and supported us. Don't you want him to be happy Raven ? " Ulf asked. Raven gave Ulf a bitter look but did not answer. Then Ulf borrowed what Hakon had said, and demanded : " If you want to go in that room you have to make a pledge to Var that you will not say anything bad to the reverend ! " Raven, still a little shaken, answered Ulf in a restrained tone : " Ah, yeah..... O'k Ulf. "
As Raven opened the door Ulf followed closely behind her. Raven saw that the reverend was holding Peter's hand, and that Peter was still asleep. Raven looked at Ulf, and then over at the reverend, and nodded a hello to her, before taking a chair, and sitting on the other side of the bed. For hours they sat in silence, the monitors making the only sounds, as they waited patiently for Peter to awaken.
Peter slept most of the day, and only managed to stay awake for short periods that evening. Raven and Caroline did not speak much to each other, but Raven kept her promise and did not give the reverend a hard time. When Hakon came back at 7 P.M. Raven, Ulf, and Reverend Decker decided to leave. Before they left Hakon informed them that the town had become a media circus. He told them that there were vans all over the town with satellite dishes from all the major networks, and so many cars had poured into the town it was actually causing traffic ! Hakon stayed by Peter's bed that night instead of out in the hall guarding the door. Hakon looked at Peter, shook his head, and wondered how a person who always tried to be unassuming, and who stayed out of the limelight, had managed to become nationally known in just a few days.
When Raven and Ulf came back the next day Reverend Decker was already there. Hakon greeted them, and then went home for some much needed sleep. Although Raven did not like the fact that she was a Christian she did admire the care and attention that Reverend Decker showed to Peter. " I guess if she can make Peter happy I can live with it, " she thought to herself. Raven and Ulf were keeping a secret from Peter, who was now fully awake, but in some pain. Raven had met with some very special people that morning who had come to town. They gave her information that kept her looking at her watch for most of the day. Peter actually told her at one point that if she wanted to leave it was fine. She insisted, however, that she was not checking her watch for that reason. All day Ulf kept giving Raven secret glances, which made Reverend Decker a little worried because it was becoming obvious that something was up.
At 6:45 Hakon came back to the hospital to stay the night with Peter. When he told everyone they could go home and get some rest Raven shook her head no and replied : " No Hakon I think we will stay a little longer. " Then Raven looked over at Reverend Decker and said : " I think you should stay as well reverend. " At 6:55 Ulf got up and asked Hakon to help him get Peter into the wheel chair. Hakon who did not like mysteries asked : " Why ? " Ulf simply said : " Trust me just this once old friend. " Hakon helped Ulf put Peter into the wheelchair, and then Ulf brought Peter over to the window. Raven pulled out her cell phone, made a call, and said just one word : " Now ! "
The little group just stood there looking out of the window as one by one little lights appeared on the hill outside of their hospital window. Within 10 minutes the entire hillside was twinkling in little points of light. Peter looked over at Raven and asked in a raspy voice : " What is it ? " Raven looked over at Hakon and asked : " Do you remember all those cars you saw coming into town this morning. " Hakon replied : " Yeah. " They were Pagans coming in from all the surrounding towns, and states, to support Peter, and our temple. " she said with teary eyes. " These candles that they are lighting are the well wishes from Asatruar, Celts, Druids, Hellenes, and Wiccans, some of whom came hundreds of miles to be here. " she said and then looked at Peter. " They came for you Peter ! " she finished as she reached out and held his hand. Caroline Decker broke down in tears as she said : " It is beautiful ! "
With tear filled eyes Peter asked Ulf and Hakon to wheel him downstairs because he wanted to talk to these wonderful Heathens. Everyone in the room protested at once ! Caroline kneeled down on one knee and said : " Peter you are in no condition to go outside ! " Then she looked over at Hakon and begged : " Please Hakon don't take him ! " Peter spoke calmly and softly to Hakon in response to everyones fears : " I promise I will not get out of the chair. Please take me downstairs . " Hakon then took the chair and wheeled Peter out the door, and into the elevator. Raven, Ulf, and Caroline followed right behind. When they reached the ground floor entrance doors a guard was reluctant to let Peter outside, but the reverend comvinced him that it would only be for a few minutes.
Outside the hospital Hakon wheeled Peter on a sidwalk which eventually ran along the base of the hill. When they were in the middle of the hill Peter asked Hakon to stop, and to shout to those on the hill what he was about to say. In a raspy voice Peter started : " I would like to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart for coming out and supporting our temple tonight ! " Then he waited for Hakon to repeat what he said before continuing. " I have never felt so honored in my entire life, nor so happy as I am right now. You have made an old Pagan proud of our Heathen religions, and I know that your ancestors are proud of you. " Peter again waited for Hakon to finish. " I wish that I could say more, but I am feeling a little tired right now. " After Hakon repeated this Peter asked that they help him up. Hakon gave Peter a cautionary stare, but Peter responded with a plea of : " Please Hakon. " When Ulf and Hakon lifted Peter into a standing position, Peter performed the sign of the Triad, as he said : " Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection ! " Hakon repeated the sign and shouted out the blessing to the crowd on the hill. After Peter sat back down, and Hakon started to wheel him back, the Heathens on the Hill, as they were later known, shouted back in near unison : " Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection ! " Then they started cheering, and did not stop until Peter was back in the hospital.
Two days later Peter was sent home, and everyone from the kindred, as well as many of the visiting Pagans, came over from time to time to see how he was doing, and to help him. Peter was glad to see them but too many visitors made him tired. Caroline was with him everyday, which was now something that Raven was starting to accept. After a few days the visiting Pagans who had arrived in Johnson's Mill began to filter back to their home towns. Before they left, however, they held a huge rally in the park, which included a ritual for the first victim Diane De Carlo . The papers made sure to menion how these mistreated Pagans showed no prejudice in honoring a Christian.
After a week of being homebound, and carefully watched by others, Peter decided that he wanted to go to the temple by himself. His left arm was still in a sling, and he did feel twinges of pain from time to time, but he needed to get out of his house for at least a little while, and see the world. The walk down to the temple was invigorating, and made Peter feel alive again. It was nice to have a little alone time, even though he knew that Hakon was shadowing him on the other side of the street, like an inept detective. When Peter reached the block before the temple he yelled across the street for Hakon to join him and they walked into the temple together.
Peter would have been better served to have stayed home. He was only in the temple for about fifteen minutes when Debbie Mortensen walked in with a very official looking man. Debbie boldly walked up to Peter and said in a rude tone : " You have ten days to comply with this court order, Mr. Hansen. You and your kindred are breaking the law, which states that all religious institutions in Johnson's Mill must have at least 50 registered members. " The lawyer who was with Debbie then handed Peter the court order to close them down. Debbie then looked at Peter and asked sarcastically : " By the way, how many members do you have Mr. Hansen ? " Peter replied : 18 regular members and 3 new members. " Well then Mr. Hansen you had better get recruiting, or you will be legally shut down ! " she shouted as if Peter was hard of hearing. Peter noticed that Debbie actually swaggered a little as she left.
Peter felt that he had been stabbed in the back when he read that the court order complaint was in the name of the First Presbyterian Church. Peter called Raven, and asked her to round up everyone for an emergency meeting . Peter kept asking himself the same question over and over again. " How am I supposed to get 29 new members in ten days, when it took ten years to get 21 members?! " He also decided to confront Caroline about the complaint against their temple, and find out why it was made on behalf of her church.
Raven was what Ulf called : " Crazy Angry ", at the meeting. She cursed the Christians, blamed the police department, and called the courts of Johnson's Mill a joke. Peter sat by unusually quiet as Raven went on a long tirade about how she was not going to allow these Christians to tear down everything that they had worked so hard to build. Peter didn't try and stop her this time because she was saying everything that Peter was thinking and feeling. John Svensen asked Peter why they couldn' t just call some of the Pagans who had come to support them, and ask them to become members. Peter pointed at his lawyer Mortimer L. Johnston who replied: " There is a stipulation on line 12 of the 1840 code that states that members must reside in Johnson's Mill. John just shook his head and said sadly : " Well, that's it then ! We can' t possibly get enough members in just ten days . " Peter stood and said quietly : " I think that our ritual next thursday will be our last in the temple.....at least for a while. We may have to close down for a while until we can find a way around this. " he added then ended the meeting.
On saturday morning when Caroline Decker heard about the court order she was horrified ! Debbie Mortensen had no right to use her church's name on the complaint, which to Caroline's dismay was signed by several from her congregation. Caroline took her sermon that she had worked on for four hours, and threw it away in the garbage. She would not need a script to say what she had to say tommorrow. Caroline Decker was not a person who was normally filled with anger, but right now she was furious, and she was going to use that to fuel her words during her sermon.
When the organ music started to play Reverend Decker walked over to the podium, and ripped the microphone out of the holder, which caused a momentary feedback that reverberated throughout the church. She then went flush with anger as she began : " I am ashamed to be in the same room as some of you who are sitting out there this morning. And you know who you are ! " she said with fury in her voice. " You people went behind my back and signed a petition, which asks the court to shut down the Pagan Temple of the Triad. " she continued. Then Reverend Decker got really mad and spewed out : " What ?! It wasn' t enough that you marched in front of their temple ! It wasn't enough that one of our members killed a young woman, and injured another ! A member of my own congregation tried to kill me, and another almost killed Peter Hansen, but even that was not enough ! No, no, no, you had to take it all the way, and kick these mistreated Pagans while they were down. Well I have had enough ! I will not be a part of these un - Christian activities any longer. " With tears rolling down her face Reverend Caroline Decker placed the microphone on the floor, and then took off her collar and laid it next to it. Then she walked right down the main aisle and out the front doors of the church. Her congregation just sat there in stunned silence.
When Peter arrived home he was already in a foul mood. Caroline came over a short while later, and told Peter what had transpired at the church. She had expected him to be sympathetic, or maybe even happy, but instead Peter became very, very angry. " How could you turn your back on your whole congregation just because of a few rotten apples ?! " he said in a mean tone. " But most of all how could you turn your back on your God at the moment he needed you to be strongest. " Then Peter said something that he would later regret: " You Christians are so damn weak ! You tell your people to turn the other cheek to those who hate you, but you don't have the strength to reach out to those you dislike, and work with them to resolve your differences ! Your concepts are flawed; your ideals are flawed; and your religion is flawed as well ! " Peter yelled at her. Caroline broke down in tears and ran all the way back to the rectory, and laid in bed crying the rest of the afternoon. Peter, who rarely acted this way, stood there, and wished he could take back everything he said . He knew in his heart that the best thing that had happened to him in years had just run out of his life.
Detective Moore could not believe the memo he received from his captain. One officer had to be assigned to watch the registration of members at The Temple of the Triad on thursday night to make sure that there was no cheating, and that there was no trouble. Furthermore, it stated that unless the Temple of the Triad achieved fifty members they were to padlock the temple by court order. Detective Moore showed the memo to Catherine Steele who read it, and handed it back to Bob . Cat pounded her fists on her desk and said angrily: " Why the hell can't they leave them alone ! " Catherine looked at Bob and asked : " Do you think they have 50 members? " An officer who was standing by the copier waiting his turn broke in : " A friend of mine says that they only have about 20 people. They are gone for sure ! " Detective Steele looked at the officer and asked : " What are the requirements for official membership ? " The officer just laughed and said : " As far as I know all you have to be is a resident of Johnson's Mill. " Steele looked at Bob Moore and said with a determined look on her face : " Let's go for a ride Bob. " " Where are we going Cat ? " Bob shot back. " To see Reverend Decker. " Catherine replied.
Raven was very angry that Peter allowed the media in to see their final ritual. She felt it would turn their last moments in the temple into a freak show. The cameras started rolling anytime one of the members signed the " official ledger", that would be brought to the court to prove to the judge that the temple did not have enough members. Debbie stood behind the table in all her glory. Every time the cameras turned on she smiled and posed as if she were a celebrity on the red carpet. Standing next to her was a court appointed official, and a police officer to keep the peace.
All 18 of the original members and 3 new members signed in early so the media had turned off their cameras, and were just waiting for the ritual to start, when Detectives Steele and Moore came into the temple. All eyes were on them as they walked over to the sign in table, and asked Debbie for the sign in book. Debbie looked at them and said sarcastically : " The registry book will be taken to the judge by this court official after this godless ceremony, not by the police department Catherine ! " Catherine Steele gritted her teeth, and said in a low growl : " I want to sign in as a new member, not take your precious book Debbie! " Debbie raised an eyebrow and replied " What ! Do you feel sorry for these people, Catherine ? " Detective Steele looked Debbie right in the eyes, and in a raised voice said : No Bitch, I feel sorry for you ! Now give me the damn book ! " Debbie, who was obviously offended, looked a the police officer and asked ; " Did you hear what she said to me ? " The officer, looked at Detective Steele, smiled, and then replied : Sorry maam, I didn't hear a thing. "
After Steele and Moore added their signatures to the new members list they walked over to Peter and Raven to say hello. Even before they reached them Peter put his hand on Raven's shoulder as a warning. Raven by now was used to this, and knew to behave herself. Peter thanked the detectives for coming, and for trying to help, but Peter added : " I am afraid it will not be enough. " Detective Steele looked at Peter and smiled as she said : " I don't know much about your world of Gods, but here on Earth we can perform a few miracles ourselves. " Just as Detective Steele was finishing Peggy Thompson walked in with Reverend Decker, and went over to the sign in table. Reverend Decker asked for the ledger but Debbie pulled it away from her . " You can't sign this book you are a Christian minister. " Debbie said with an angry tone. Detective Steele excused herself from the company of the Pagan priests and walked over to the table. She looked directly at the police officer and shouted : " If this woman denies the right of anyone to sign this book tonight officer I order you to arrest her. Do you understand me officer ! " " Yes maam ! " the officer replied. The officer looked at Debbie and said in an official sounding voice : " Maam you will give them the book to sign or I will place you under arrest ! " Debbie placed the book on the table as the court official tried to hide the fact he was laughing.
After Peggy and Caroline signed the court book they went and sat down at the back of the temple on the benches provided for visitors along with the detectives. Peter then looked at Raven and said sadly : " Well four is not going to change anything, so lets start the ritual. " Raven in a rare moment on speechlessness just nodded. Together they walked back to the circle of friends, and turned to face their guests. Just as they were about to start a few more people walked into the temple. They were followed by several police officers and the mayor. As they were signing in Hakon pointed out that more people were coming into the temple, including the Baptist minister. Within minutes the temple was filled with what seemed like the the whole damn town ! One by one they filed past the table, and signed in as new members, as Debbie stood behind the table in shock. Then the court official looked down at the book and shouted : " That makes 50 members ! " The media caught all the drama of the signings, and then switched over to the temple members who were congratulating each other. In the center of the circle of friends Raven carefully hugged Peter, who's shoulder was still not healed, as cameras flashed one after another.
When the court official tried to take the book the people in line refused, and said that they all wanted to sign. After the 18 regular members, and the three new members of the Johnson' s Mill Kindred, there now were 96 other signatures. After the last person in line signed, the court official called to see if there was anyone else. When no one else spoke up, or stepped foward, he took the book and was about to close it when he pulled out his pen, and proudly signed in the new member section. The courts would record that Dennis Helmond was the last to sign the registry book. He then gave Debbie a dirty look, and went over and sat in the visitors section. No one even noticed Debbie leaving the temple, or cared for that matter.
Peter and Raven tried to keep it together during the ritual, but several times they had to stop and compose themselves. Many of those who sat there that night realized that it was a momentous occasion, and that they were living a part of history. And through the media, tommorrow the world would know how a little town put aside its prejudice, and came out to help those who they did not necessarily believe in, but supported because it was the right thing to do.
After the ritual Peter and Raven were mobbed by the media as were the kindred members. Many of the guests were interviewed as well as to why they helped this tiny band of Pagans. As Reverend Decker got up to leave, Peggy cornered her with a few others from their congregation. Peggy reached into her pocketbook and pulled out Reverend Decker's collar. " You must have dropped this on your way out of church last sunday Reverend Decker. " she said matter of factly. Then Peggy reached out and took Caroline's hand, and placed the collar in it. " Please come back Caroline ! We promise we will make you proud of us." Reverend Decker looked at the collar, and then at the members of her congregation, and said with tears in her eyes : " I will see you all on sunday then . "
The next day Peter was in his office when Hakon told him that a visitor had come to the temple to see him. Peter half - hoped it was Caroline, but was disappointed when he heard it was the town's mayor. Hakon told Peter : " The mayor wants to speak to all of us. " Many of the kindred members had come back to tidy up the temple because of the large number of people who had come to their "final ritual" the night before. Peter came out and they all gathered around just outside of the circle of friends area. Peter had a bad feeling as he stood there, and wondered what was going to happen next to his temple or his members .
Mayor Charles Barnett started out by saying how sorry he was about many of the things that had happened over the past weeks and months, and that he wanted the temple members to know that they were absolutely a part of their community. Then the mayor surprised everyone when he said : " As you know this sunday in the park we are having our annual picnic and fireworks. I just wanted to come here and personally make sure that you understand that you are more than welcome to attend. As a matter of fact, I am asking you as a personal favor to me to come to the picnic. " Raven stepped foward before Peter could even react and said clearly : " Sure mayor we will be more than happy to come ! " The mayor then thanked them and left. Peter looked over at Raven and said with a big smile: "My little girl is growing up so fast ! " Raven smiled back and replied : " I have learned a lot from you Peter, I am going to try to be more like you in the future. " Peter started to laugh as he said " No Raven, I like you just the way you are ! "
Later that day, as Peter was getting ready to go to lunch, he saw a stretched limo pull up in front of the temple. When the driver rushed around and opened the passenger's door Mrs. Van Allen stepped out. Peter noticed that she was wearing a designer dress and enough jewelry to finance a small country as she walked up the steps. Peter met her at the front doors, and politely invited her in. Before Peter could even say hello to Mrs. Van Allen, she asked : How is your shoulder, Peter. " Peter smiled and said : " It is starting to heal now. " Then Peter said in a sincere voice : " It is so good to see you again Elizabeth ! " Peter then asked if she would like to take a tour of the temple, but Elizabeth Van Allen had already caught of glimpse of the plaque that hung on the wall in her son's honor. As she reached out and touched her son's picture she answered slowly : " Yes I would Peter, Yes I would. " Peter took her through the temple and explained what they had done, and explained the purpose of many of the things he showed her. He tried not to look at Elizabeth directly because every time he did he could see that she was crying. When they finished with the tour Peter asked if she was staying for a while. " Why do you ask, Peter ? " she replied.
" Tommorrow the town is having their annual picnic and fireworks, and I just thought if you were not doing anything you might want to stop by. " Peter said but then stopped. Well, it is only hot dogs and hamburgers, I guess you would not be very interested in such things. " he said apologetically. Elizabeth Van Allen looked at Peter and asked : " Would Richard have gone to this picnic ? " Peter nodded and said : " Yes ! " Elizabeth then smiled and replied : " Then I believe that I will stay an extra day here in Johnson's Mill, Peter. " She shook Peter's hand and started to walk back out of the temple, but stopped at Richard's plaque and kissed it before leaving.
The picnic was a huge affair for the whole town. All the citizens and local businesses chipped in either food or money for the event. There was music, dancing games, and lots and lots of food. Everyone was having a wonderful time ! Peter, however, was tired, in pain, and felt very very alone. Instead of joining in the festivities he had walked over to the small lake at the edge of the park, and sat down on the benches to watch the swans that were swimming in the lake. Mrs. Van Allen did not stay long at the picnic, but the fact that she came at all was a testament to how much she loved her son. Peter thought of Richard and wished he could have lived to see the temple . He thought of little Patty Anders as well, who was doing much better, and who would be coming home soon from the hospital. Peter worried more about her emotional scars than her physical ones. The temple would stand behind her and help her in any way they could. Peter felt old, tired and wished he could sleep for a month as he sat there alone. Understanding that Peter needed to be alone, Hakon watched him from a distance, like Heimdall watches the Rainbow Bridge, he was always there to protect his Godi and friend.
Reverend Decker was making herself a plate of food from the huge buffet that was set up on tables under a grove of trees. Every time she put something on her plate she glanced over at the lake to get a glimpse of Peter. She did this about half a dozen times, before she sensed that she was being watched. Raven who was standing a few yards in back of the tables suddenly asked : " Do you love him ? " Caroline almost dropped her plate on the ground when she heard the question ! She turned around, looked at Raven and said slowly : " Yes. " " Then what the hell are you standing over here for ! " Raven said angrily. " Do you have any idea what he has been through over the past months ! He is in physical pain, has suffered through stress and mental anguish, and now feels totally alone ! So let me ask you once again Miss Caroline Decker. Do you love him ! " Caroline looked at Raven and said more forcefully : " Yes ! " "Then go to him and be happy. " Raven said with a pleasant smile as she spoke. " Thank You !" Caroline managed in a meek voice. Then Raven added : " Heh, bring the guy a plate of food, he hasn' t eaten all day.
Caroline made up a plate of food for Peter, and then walked across the park to the lake. When she reached the bench that Peter was sitting on, she took a deep breath before saying ; " I thought you might be hungry. " as she handed him the plate. Peter and Caroline sat eating but did not say a word to each other. When they were done Caroline reached carefully across his bad shoulder, and took his plate to the garbage can. She wasn' t even sure she should go back to him, but she did anyway, and quietly sat next to him. Peter then got up, which made Caroline gasp a little because she thought Peter was leaving her. Peter didn't leave, but instead sat down back down on the other side of Caroline. Confused Caroline asked : " Why did you move ? " Peter looked at Caroline and said softly: " Because I can't put my bad arm around you . " Peter put his arm around Caroline's shoulder, and with a tearful smile she put her head on Peter's good shoulder.
Back at the tables, Ulf came up behind Raven, who was watching Peter and Caroline and said : " That's nice ! That's really nice ! " Raven looked at Ulf and replied : " Yeah, yeah, yeah ! A beautiful moment ! " Then Ulf looked at Raven and playfully asked: " Why don't we find a bench of our own Raven? " Raven frowned and said " Be serious ! " Ulf then pointed to the closest unoccupied bench and said with a flirtatious smile : " I' ll be right over there if you care to join me. " Startled, Raven glanced over at Peter and Caroline, thought for a moment, and then yelled to Ulf : " Heh ! Wait up you big lug ! "
( Or maybe just the beginning ! )
- Glenn Bergen, Copyright, 2012.