Chelsea slid the key into the lock and opened the door quietly before glancing back at Silas and Tara and whispering, “It looks like we’re good. I was worried that the key wouldn’t work.”
“Me too,” Silas said with a chuckle. “But it looks like Pastor Gregory was sincere about helping, though we really should try to be quick about this. Where’s your dad’s office?”
“Follow me,” Chelsea whispered and stepped inside of the church. Silas followed immediately after her and then stepped to the side to let Tara pass him. He then turned around to shut the doors and locked them.
“Why’d you do that?” Tara asked.
"I don't want anyone coming to the church and finding it unlocked. Then they'll know that something is up," Silas explained. "Now come on, let's get this done quickly. The sooner we're gone, the less likely anyone will know that we've been here."
With the nearly full moon outside Silas hadn’t needed to worry about his vision, but the moon was at an angle which failed to let any light in through the stained glass windows that normally kept the room illuminated. The pulpit in the distance seemed ominous in the clinging shadows, a fitting companion to the man who normally stood behind it.
He followed Chelsea closely as they skirted around the outside of the pews, aiming toward a single wooden door that allowed entrance to the basement level of the church. Chelsea opened it carefully with the same key that opened the front door, and then stepped inside, flipping on the light switch that lit up the hallway on the other side.
"My father's office is the second door on the left," Chelsea said as she started down the hallway. "Do you think we should start there, or should be look in one of the store rooms on the right side? The last door on the right is the janitor's closet, and I doubt we'll find anything useful in there."
"What's in the first door?" Silas asked and then looked at the sign next to the door that indicated it was a restroom. "Never mind. I guess I'm not quite as focused as I need to be."
"It's okay," Chelsea replied. "It made me smile, and I could use more of that tonight. It's not every day that you try to find proof your dad killed someone."
"Are you sure you're all right with doing this, Chels?" Tara asked.
"Yeah. It needs to be done, besides," Chelsea paused and lifted her arm to show her cast, "I've come to realize that he deserves it."
"The last door on the left is a small meeting room," Tara explained. "It's where the church council meets, and it's also where the choir directors gather sometimes to discuss performances. I've only been in there a few times, back when I was in choir, but last I checked it was pretty sparse."
"Yeah, it hasn't changed much," Chelsea said with a shrug. "There is a filing cabinet in there that houses a lot of the church records, but I don't think we'll find much there."
"Let's start inside of his office, then," Silas suggested. "I bet that if he kept any evidence then it would likely be in a place he'd have easy access to. He'd want to be able to dispose of it quickly if he thought that he was in any danger."
"I agree," Chelsea replied, walking down the hallway and opening the second door on the left. "I'm glad that the spare key that Pastor Gregory held on to was a master key, or we'd be stuck right now."
"I brought along some makeshift picks even if the key didn't work," Silas said with a shrug. "I wasn't going to waste the trip, even if we had to make it look like a burglary."
"Well, aren't you just full of surprises?" Tara laughed. "Well, what are we waiting for?"
Chelsea pushed the door open wide and then flipped the switch on the wall to her left, bathing the office in a low, yellow light. A large desk dominated one half of the room, with an array of bookshelves behind it, all supporting various religious titles. A small row of old VHS tapes lined one shelf at the bottom, depicting various titles of religious import. The tidy desk was not the only prominent feature in the room, as a set of comfortable chairs sat around a coffee table and were angled toward an old boxy television set with a VCR and DVD player set underneath it.
"Where would you like to begin?" Chelsea asked.
"The desk, I suppose," Silas said with a shrug. Chelsea nodded and all three of them descended on the desk, each one taking a drawer and searching through the contents. Silas quickly determined that there was nothing of importance in the drawer he was searching in and tried the middle drawer, only to find that it was locked. He reached into his pocket to retrieve the lock pick and tension bar and slid them into the keyhole while the others continued looking through the drawers in front of them.
"I don't see anything hear except for church records, most of which are financial," Chelsea said as she raised her eyes and saw what Silas was doing. "I thought you were kidding about the lock picks. I didn't think you were a thief, Drake."
"Adelaide got taken to the pound once," Silas explained as he continued feeling for the pins inside of the lock. "I didn't know how to pick locks before then, and I had to ask someone else to help me get her out. I didn't really enjoy trading the favor I had to do for him in return, and in order to avoid having to do it again I decided that I'd pick up the skill. It's pretty easy to find someone to teach you if you know the price they want."
"What did you have to do?" Tara asked.
Silas sighed as he managed to pick another pin and then turned to Tara. "The first guy made me suck him off. I may be gay, but that doesn't mean I don't have personal tastes. This guy wasn't terrible, but I would have preferred just paying him. At least he had bathed within the last month."
"And what did you give to the second one?" Chelsea asked, pausing her search to listen to Silas with full attention.
"Well, I scored a bottle of whisky from someone else as a reward for a job well done, and it was an easy trade to get the old geezer to teach me how to pick locks. He's also the one that taught me how to make the tools I needed," Silas explained. "Now, are you going to help me look for what we're here for, or am I the only one that's invested in this?"
"Sorry," Chelsea replied with an embarrassed grin. "I just like hearing about how you survived. It makes me want to write it all down."
"Oh not you too," Silas said with an exasperated groan. "Remember how upset I got about the song getting written about me? I really don't want my story plastered everywhere, either."
"You know that we're just interested in your because you're our friend, right?" Tara asked. "It's not like we're trying to get you into trou . . ." she paused and pulled her phone from her pocket and then looked up at Silas and Chelsea. "It's Adam."
"Then answer it," Silas suggested as he returned his attention to the lock.
"Hello?" Tara said as she pressed the speaker phone button.
"Hey, you guys have got to get out of there. I tried calling Chelsea first but she didn't answer. Someone just drove up the driveway to the church," Adam said with urgency in his voice. "With how dark it is I don't know for certain, but I'm pretty sure it was Pastor Simms in the driver's seat."
"Shit," Silas said as he picked the last pin of the lock and slid the drawer open. "How long ago was that?" As he waited for an answer he surveyed the contents of the desk, the only notable objects being a handgun and a monogramed bible.
"A minute at least," Adam replied. "Did you guys find anything?"
"No, nothing yet. I mean, there's a gun in here but that's about the only thing that even indicates he might be ready to kill someone. Shit, what the hell is he doing here?" Silas growled as he shut the drawer in frustration.
"My dad liked to take late night walks by the lake," Chelsea offered. "Maybe he stopped by here afterward?"
"Enough talk, let's go," Silas ordered. "Adam, if we don't see you at the bottom of the driveway in five then make sure you call Ian and let him know what's going on. If we're still safe but had to go into the woods, then we'll text you."
"Sounds like a plan," Adam replied, and then there was an accompanying bark. "Addy is getting anxious. You guys better get out of there."
"Will do. Bye," Tara replied and then ended the call. She returned the phone to her pocket and helped Silas and Chelsea return the desk to its original state before they hurried toward the door to the office. Chelsea opened the door and then quickly closed it again and shut off the light. She then locked the door and put her back to it.
"I heard voices," she whispered. "Two of them, my dad and a woman."
"Great," Silas muttered. "What are they going to do if they find us here?"
"I don’t want to find out," Tara replied. "Let's hide."
"Where?" Chelsea asked.
"Behind the chairs," Silas directed. "That way we can make a run for it if they come inside. They'd be more likely headed for the desk."
Chelsea and Tara heeded Silas' direction and crouched together behind the chair closest to the door. Silas took the other chair, knowing that it was more important that the girls get to safety than him, considering that the Pastor knew both of them personally. They heard the door at the end of the hallway open and two people walk inside.
"Pedro?" Pastor Simms called down the hallway. "Pedro, are you still here?"
"Why would someone be here this late at night?" the woman asked. Silas was sure he had heard the voice before but he couldn’t quite place it, though when he glanced over at Tara and Chelsea he saw that they had both paled completely. "I'm sure he just left the light on when he left. You have to admit that even for a janitor he always seems to make a mess of things."
"Well, Sheryl, I'd like to make a mess of things with you right now," Pastor Simms said in a sultry voice. "Step into my office so that we can make this a night to remember."
"Oh my, you are horny tonight, aren't you?" Sheryl asked and then giggled. "Lead the way, pastor."
Silas prepared his legs to run as a hand rested on the doorknob and it started to jiggle, as if someone where placing a key inside of the lock. The jiggling stopped for a moment as the door shuddered under the weight of something heavy hitting it. Loud smacking sounds reverberated through the door as the two people on the other side began to make out with each other.
"Oh, you know how to make a woman hungry for sex," Sheryl said, and there was another loud thud as a body slamming against it. "I want you to take me here in the hallway."
"I was hoping for something a little more comfortable," Pastor Simms replied as he returned his hand to the knob and started turning. The door opened just a crack and allowed a sliver of light to travel inside, revealing the entangled couple. Silas nearly gasped as he recognized the woman in the pastor's arms as Officer Higgins.
"Well then, how about the table in the council room?" Sheryl Higgins suggested with a wide smile. "You know I love it when I see their smug faces on Sunday at the council meeting, not knowing how we made love where they're handling church business. I used to love the naïve look on Gregory's face whenever we met down there."
"Whatever you want, my dear," Pastor Simms replied. "You want it hot and hard on the table, you've got it."
Pastor Simms and Officer Higgins continued down the hallway until another door opened further down. The sound of them kissing continued to fill the corridor, and Silas cautiously rose and approached the crack in the door, listening carefully. He couldn't tell if they were inside the council room or not, and he slowly began to open the door further, hoping that it wouldn't creak on its hinges.
When the door was open wide enough that he could hear better, he determined that they were inside of the room, and with a deep breath he took a step into the hallway and looked toward the meeting room. He could see the feet of the pastor in the doorway as he lay on top of Officer Higgins on the floor. Silas waved Chelsea and Tara forward and then stepped to the side in order to let them pass. He brought up the rear and continued looking over his shoulder as they moved, making sure that the pastor didn't see them leave.
They walked quickly but cautiously, doing everything they could to make as little noise as possible until they were outside of the church. Silas led them toward the nearby woods to get out of sight and then allowed the girls to stop so that they could catch their breath.
"That was the most frightening experience of my life," Tara breathed, "Other than Chelsea nearly dying."
"I've had worse," Chelsea muttered, "But that was a close third."
"We need to get back down the driveway and get to Adam," Silas interjected. "I'm sure he's worried about us. Do you want to try texting him?"
"No, I want to get out of here," Tara said, glancing back at the church. "Do you think that they heard us?"
"I doubt it," Chelsea said. "They were too busy sucking each other's faces off. Gross, my dad and Sheryl Higgins."
"Come on, let's get down there," Silas said with a worried glance at the driveway. "I think we already used up our time, and Adam probably called Ian by now. That means we're going to have some explaining to do when we get back."
"I think that was already going to happen," Chelsea said as she held her phone up and showed it to Silas. "You're not going to like this, but it seems like I didn't do that good of a job at sneaking out. Jenny called me six times, Amy three times, and your brother called me twice."
"I don't have any calls from either of them," Tara said. "I'm surprised that they didn’t call me if it's about you missing."
"Do they have your number?" Silas asked.
"No, I guess not. But that means," Tara paused and looked at the phone in her hands as it went off. "My parents are calling me. Should I answer or should we just go home?"
"Let's get to Adam first," Silas replied. "I don't like the fact that we're still this close to the church. It makes me nervous as hell. Besides, If Adam already called Ian then Ian will be able to tell everyone what we're doing."
"I'm going to answer the call, Drake," Tara said, shaking her head. "Do you really want everyone coming up here? Then the pastor is going to know that we were here for sure."
"Fine," Silas replied dismissively. "But Chelsea you need to text Adam right now and let him know we're all right."
"Why don't you text him, Silas?" Chelsea asked.
"I forgot my phone, okay?" Silas said with a shrug. "I'm still not used to carrying one around, and that means you have to do it. Tell him to call Ian back and explain that we'll be home soon, okay?"
"You've got it," Chelsea said. "But now we're really in trouble. My mom is calling me."
"Shit. Do you think that Jenny called her?" Silas asked.
"Hello, dad?" Tara said. "Oh yes, Chelsea is with me. What? Didn't I tell you?"
"Answer the phone, Chelsea," Silas said with a frustrated groan. "We can't afford to have your mother knowing about us being up here."
"Understood," Chelsea said as she put the phone up to her ear and pressed the button to accept the call. "Mom? What are you doing calling at this time of night?"
Silas returned his attention briefly to Tara's conversation with her father. "Yes, everything is all right. Like I said, Chelsea, Silas, and I are out looking at the moon. Silas said that the moon was particularly bright tonight, and so we decided to come check it out. I thought I texted it to you. Here let me check," she pulled the phone away from her face and looked down at it momentarily, though she didn't press any buttons. "Oh, I'm sorry. It looks like the text was saved in my drafts and I forgot to send it. I thought that Jenny would have known, since we had the conversation at the diner. Sorry. I'll be home soon, okay?"
"Mom, what are you talking about?" Chelsea said with a touch of awe. "Are you telling me that you're planning on leaving dad?"
"What the hell?" Silas asked as he turned to face Chelsea.
"Thanks, dad," Tara said. "Don't worry, we're all okay. Love you, bye."
"Mom, you've got to lay low for the moment. If we run then they're not going to be able to build the case against his abuse," Chelsea said with an exasperated sigh. "Just don't do anything drastic, okay? We need to stay together if we're going to get through this."
"Tara, start texting Adam," Silas said with impatience. "We need to make sure Ian doesn't call your parents and blow this whole thing. Nice save by the way."
"Thanks," Tara said with a nod. "What's going on with Chelsea?"
"Her mom called," Silas said with a shrug. "Don't ask me."
"Mom, just be careful, okay? We can plan something for the next time dad goes out for his walk," Chelsea urged. "We can't leave yet. I'm not ready. Okay? I love you, and I'll talk to you soon."
Chelsea ended the call and looked up to her friends and said, "Let's go. Don't worry, Jenny didn't call her. My mother was thinking of running away from my dad while he was out of the house."
"Isn't that a good thing?" Silas asked as he started down the hill and toward the bottom of the driveway where Adam would be waiting for them. "I mean, she's in danger too if we're right about your dad."
"No. If she leaves then my dad might make a run for it," Chelsea replied. "I don't want him to run, I want him caught. Daniel deserves justice. I deserve justice."
"Then let's see this through," Silas said with an encouraging smile. "And then maybe you'll be able to patch things up with her. Who knows? Maybe putting your dad away will be the best thing for everyone?"
Author's Note: Pastor Simms and Officer Higgins. What a mess the teens have gotten themselves into!
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