We are rapidly approaching completion of the first draft for Salome’s Charger, the Christian suspense novel that Celeste Perrino-Walker are eager to share with the world. It will be out later this summer. In the meantime, here’s another peek:
The last of the daytime staff were just leaving when Ezra’s cell phone chirped. Lost in thought about his next piece, he didn’t even look up from his laptop screen when he answered.
“Huddleston,” he answered abruptly, still staring at the screen. “What have you got?”
There was a pause, and Ezra almost hung up. But then a voice he recognized came onto the line.
“It appears you survived the fire.” The voice was deep, smooth and totally devoid of emotion. “That is unfortunate.”
Ezra cleared his throat and summoned up his courage.
“No thanks to you, Mr. Brassard. You know the police are looking for you.”
“Let them look,” Brassard replied coolly. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. They won’t find me.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure. So why are you calling me?” Ezra said, his heart thumping loudly in his chest. Pull it together, he told himself, remembering the torture this man had already put him through.
“It seems we have some unfinished business,” Brassard said, his voice like butter. “I can’t just let you walk around and tell others about me. By the way, I didn’t care for your last article. That was quite unflattering.”
“Didn’t like that, huh?” Ezra blustered. “Well, there’s more where that came from. You can’t stop me from writing what I’ve seen, what I think…what I feel.”
“Oh, I think I can. I think one visit from me, one bullet in the right place, will silence your pen.”
A sudden rage came over Ezra, canceling out his fear. “Oh yeah? Well, if it’s that easy, why aren’t you down here? You know exactly where I am, don’t you. I’m at work, the same place I am every day and every night. Why don’t you come down where we can talk about this, face to face?”
There was a pause. “If…no when… I come down to see you, it won’t be to talk. I’ll be seeing you soon, Mr. Huddleston.”
The rage exploded into flame inside Ezra. “Well, I’ll make it easy for you and wait right here. But you’d better call all your buddies to come with you, big shot, because I’m going to be ready for you. You hear that, you bragging, self-righteous, bag of…”
Ezra heard the other end go dead, and he was alone.
What have I done? Ezra thought as soon as he shut off his phone. He had the feeling that he had just signed his own death warrant. He had known fear before; the situation in the apartment with the lye and the fire had been more frightening after the fact than during. His rage helped rid him of that fear. At the same time it had gotten him in over his head more than once.
His heart pumping wildly in his chest, he felt panic for the first time in a great while. Investigative reporting often called for nerves of steel, but his steely nerves were fast disappearing. He willed himself to pause, take deep breaths, and try to slow his racing heart down. Let’s be logical about this, he thought. So far, this was all going as planned. Wasn’t it?
Shaking his head to drive out the panic, he dialed a number. It rang twice and a familiar voice answered.
“It’s on,” Ezra said. “I’m at my office.” His hands shaking, he shut down the phone and turned back to his laptop, then paused. Without thinking, he pulled the drawer open and looked down at the automatic pistol that lay there. He stared at it for a long while, almost but not quite reaching for it. Was it the right thing to do?
And then he felt words come into his head, soothing him with their familiarity and power.
Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.
He paused for a long time, then responded.
“Arise, O Lord, in thine anger,” he said aloud. “Raise thyself against the rage of my enemies.” He waited and was not disappointed. Again words came into his head as if they were being spoken.
A thousand shall fall by thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand: but it shall not come nigh thee.
The presence he had felt over his shoulder for so long, the God he had rejected and scorned for two years, became Someone that he suddenly wanted to be with. He remembered the bond he had had with God, a feeling that Darcy had shared with him, the thing that made them feel their love was only a reflection of God’s love and would transcend time and space. But he had wandered so far. Could he come back now? He lifted his head speaking Scripture again, like the prayer of the lost man he was.
“Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.”
He listened intensely and the more he listened, the more he felt his racing heart slow down and panic leave his body. He moved away from the pistol and closed the drawer. He felt, rather than heard, the response in Scripture:
When you pass through the waters I will be with you, and when through the rivers they will not overwhelm you; when you go through fire you shall not be scorched; or through flames you shall not be burned.
Ezra had hundreds of scriptures in his mind to respond with, but more than anything, he felt he needed to convince himself of the surrender that was lying right in front of him.
“So that we may say boldly, the Lord is my Helper, I will not fear,” he said, mostly to himself. “What can man do to me?”
Vengeance is mine. I will repay.
For the first time in two years, he let Scripture, verse after verse, flow over him like a waterfall. And, tears in his eyes, he felt peace.
Come now, and let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool.
“Yes, Lord,” he breathed. “I want to come home. Save me, tonight and forever.”
And the response came:
Be not afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine.