02 From Fort Worth with love

The sun was standing high in the Texan sky, causing the people who weren’t close close to an air-conditioning system to perspire. People largely stayed indoors if they didn’t have a perticular task to do in the heat. The grass was turning brown after a long period of sunshine. The flowers were drooping, and so were the people who had ventured outside on this scorcher of a day.

At Hope Baptist Church, several men were up on the roof, changing insulation and tiles after the last huge storm that had blown through the city like a vicious and foaming woman. It had taken everything loose with her, including most of the rooftiles at the church. The following rain had caused the insulation to get wet and ruined, and volunteers had started on the work as soon as the sunny weather had returned to Fort Worth. At midday, no more than five men were working away on the roof, holding a hammer or a rooftile in one hand whilst wiping their brow with the sleeve with the other hand. A policecar came slowly up the drive towards the church, stopping on the church parkinglot. A man in a suit stepped out of the car, shielding his eyes from the sun with his right hand.

“Reverend Larry Hawkins?” he shouted to the people on the roof.

All the men stopped and turned towards the man. A young, but heavy built man in a red-checked shirt, dark short hair and a thick black caterpillar on his top lip raised his hammer high.

“That would be me!” he called down.

“What can I do you for?”

The man in the suit took out a badge from his inner pocket.

“I am inspector Wells from the Dallas P.D.” he said, waving his badge.

“I would like too ask you a few questions, if I may!”

Hawkins smiled.

“I will have to get closer to see that badge of yours! Let me come down to you!”

The young Reverend put his hammer down and made his way down the closest ladder before he finally stood next to the inspector.

“Rev. Larry Hawkins!” he confirmeded again, holding out his hand.

“Inspector James Wells!” the inspector replied, shaking the reverend’s hand.

“Would you mind stepping into the policecar?”

Hawkins bit his lower lip and wiped some sweat from his forehead.

“Only if you have air-condition!” he replied with sigh.

The front window was open, and the engine was still running.

“But, off course…” the inspector smiled, opening up the backdoor for the reverend.

They both got in, and Hawkins could tell that it was much cooler inside the car than out in the scorching heat-wave. The windows were closed, making the air-conditioning work better, and providing privacy inside the car. The inspctor turned towards the reverend, raising his eyebrows.

“Reverend Hawkins!” he said. “Are you familiar with someone called Thomas Galveston?”

Larry Hawkins felt a sting in his heart as he heard the question. His dream from last night came clearly back into his mind.

“I do!” he answered. “Tom and I went to Bible college together. Why do you ask?”

The inspector breathed hevily.

“I am afraid your fellow student has died.”

Hawkins felt his stumach tighten.

“Oh no!” he bursted out. “Poor Nora!”

He grabbed the inspector’s hand.

“How is Nora taking it?” he asked.

Inspector Wells looked at the reverend as he tried to find the right words.

“I am afraid that Mrs. Galveston has also passed on…”

“WHAT?” Hawkins shouted.

“What happened to them? Was it a car accident? Please tell me!”

The inspector leaned back now, looking straight at the reverend.

“I am afraid it’s no accident, reverend! We were wondering how well you knew them.”

“I… well… we were friends… met up normally at the week-ends… But this is terrible!”

The inspector wiped his grey hair out of his face.

“We have not been able to find any relatives. Do you know of any?”

Hawkinss had a confused look on his face.

“Relatives?” he repeated. “No, his parents died when he was young. I think he grew up with his auntie, but she has passed only two years ago…”

The young reverend tried to gather his thoughts.

“WAIT!” he exclaimed. “He had a sister… Kathy I think. She lives in New York, I believe…”

The inspector pulled out a notepad and wrote up the information.

“Do you know if she’s married?” Wells asked.

“I don’t think so,” Hawkins replied. “She is studying there, I think!”

“At New York Uni?”

Hawkins nodded.

“I believe so!”

“When did you last see your friend and his wife?”

Hawkins sighed and looked up into the ceiling.

“Saturday evening,” he replied.

“They had taken over a local church in the Dallas area, but they didn’t know too many there. We normally spent Saturday evenings at each others houses, playing games and eating some good food.”

The inspector started writing again.

“So,” he bit his pen, “you haven’t seen Rev. Galveston since Saturday evening?”

Larry Hawkins smiled sadly.

“They left about two o’clock in the morning… no, wait! It was three o’clock.”

The inspector tilted his head and gave the reverend a strict look.

“We finished playing Risk at two o’clock in the morning, and we stood up for themto leave, but it took an hour walking from the livingroom to the front porch. It was a bit late, but at that time of night they could easily make it home in half an hour.”

Wells nodded. He too had had visitors that was leaving, but they just couldn’t finish talking. One time they had said “good-bye” about ten times before they actually left.

The inspector cleared his throat.

“Did Rev. and Mrs. Galveston have any marital problems – as far as you knew?”

Hawkins was outraged.

“Absolutely not! They met in Bible college and got married last year. They were still very much in love! Anyone could see that!”

Wells scratched his ear with his pen.

“Do you know if they had any enemies who would like to hurt them?”

“Why? Did someone kill them?”

The inspector sighed.

“Please answer the question, Rev. Hawkins!”

Hawkins turned his mind inside-out.

“No!” he said promptly. “I do not know anyone who would do that.”

“Do you know the congregation well at their church in Dallas?”

Larry Hawkins shook his head.

“I have preached there a couple of times, but I only know the name of a few of them.”

The inspector jotted down something on his pad.

“Have you talked to any of the Galvestons after Saturday – or, Sunday morning?”

“No” Hawkins answered quickly.

“That is, I talked to Tom yesterday evening to find out how their services went. We used to call each other in the evening to see how our meetings went.”

“Did Rev. Galveston ever mention to you any problems with his congregation or with any problems he might have encountered in his ministry – or with family for that matter?”

“Sorry,” Hawkins said. “I know he was doing councelling to five different people these days, and he was preaching on the armor of God on Sundays. At midweek service he was doing first John. Other than that, I don’t know much about what goes on in the congregation.”

The inspector leaned closer.

“Reverend, I do admit I have little to go on here, so I would like for you to give me the names of those five who were doing councelling. It might be a place to start.”

Hawkins sighed.

“I don’t know if I should give you those names – and that is if I am able to recall them in the first place…”

The inspector started klicking off and on his pen. On and off. On and off…

“Surely you don’t want to hinder a police investigation!” he hissed. “You can be arrested for that!”

Rev. Hawkins sniffed.

“I will try to remember their names for you. Can you please tell me what has happened to Tom and Nora?”

Wells gave a big sigh.

“I suppose we can help each other! If you know how they died, maybe you could find out for us who would have the psyche to do something like this.”

Hawkins bit his lip again.

“How should I be able to help with that? I told you I hardly know the people there…”

The inspector smiled.

“Oh, but you will! I talked to their decon Abraham Harrison. The congregation wants to know if you are willing to take over the congregation untill a new pastor can be found. And we, that is the police, wants you to say yes to their request, then you can help us find the murderer.”

Larry Hawkins couldn’t believe his ears.

“Don’t I get a say in the matter at all?”

The inspector hit him on the back in a hard, but friendly way.

“You get to say yes!”

Hawkins sighed. He DID want his friends killer to be found, but he didn’t plan on being in the middle of this.

“Okay!” the young reverend sighed. “I suppose I’m in! How did they die?”

The inspector leaned back in the carseat.

“Mrs. Galveston was found at church with a stabwound in her chest. The stab itself didn’t kill her straight away, but she must have bled out quickly. Then there is Rev. Galveston…”

Wells sighed, moved uncomfertably in his seat, then sighed again.

“We found him at St. Augustine Catholic Churc in the graveyard. His body had been cut up into many small pieces and hidden round the churchyard.”

The inspector turned against the reverend.

“We are dealing with a very dangerous person here!” he determined.

“A psychopath or just a crazy person… I don’t know, but whoever dismembered the reverend must have hated him very much…”

Reverend Larry Hawkins stormed in the door at their four room appartment in Fort Worth. He and Catherine had no children yet. They had been married almost three years now, and they had started family-planning some time ago. Catherine was a bit short, slim, had long beautiful blond hair and the prettiest blue eyes that could swollow you whole like a deep well. As the young reverend called out for her,  Catherine appeared out of the bedroom with a bunch of towels in her hands.

“Catherine!” Hawkins practically shouted, allthough out of breath.

“It’s terrible!” he added quickly. “Tom and Nora are dead! I just found out!”

Catherine’s mouth went wide open. The towels tumbled down to the floor as tears started running down her face.

“Dead?” she whispered.

“When? How”

Larry Hawkins threw his arms around his wife, and they stood there for quite some time – crying quietly. Then Larry lifted up Catherine’s head and wiped some of her tears away.

“Police says they have both been murdered,” he moaned.

“And the congregation apparently wants me… us… to take over till they have found a new pastor.”

Catherine got out a hankerchief and blew her nose.

“And… what did you say to that?”

Larry sighed.

“The police wants me to do it and help them somewhat with the investigation.”

Catherine’s deep blue eyes opened wide.

“What? Do they think it is someone in their church who did it?”

Larry rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“They have little to go on, and they would like for me to get to know some of the people there and see if anyone could fit the description of the killer.”

“Wait a bit!” Catherin called out.

“Couldn’t that be dangerous?”

Larry grabbed Catherine in his arms again and kissed Catherine on the forehead.

“Lightening rarely strikes the same place twice…” he tried to comfort his wife.

Catherine picked up the towels again and went into their bedroom. Larry picked up his mobile and a piece of paper with Abraham Harrison’s phone number. Quickly, he dialed the number and waited. The phone on the other end rang five times before someone answered.

“Hello?”

“Is this Abraham Harrison?”

“Yest it is! Is this Rev. Hawkins?”

Larry cleared his throat.

“Please, call me brother Larry!”

“I am so relieved to hear your voice, brother Larry! I wanted to call you as soon as I found out what had happened, but the police didn’t want me to. I think they wanted to see your reaction when they told you what had happened…”

Larry thought for a while. How had he reacted? Could the police possibly suspect that HE had done it? He shook his head in disgust.

“How can I be of assistance, brother Abraham?”

“Well,” the voice at the other end hesitated.

“We would really appreciate if you and your lovely wife could come down and run the church untill we have found a new pastor.”

“I think that can be arranged,” Larry agreed.

“Would you be interested in candiating for us to become our next pastor?”

Larry bit his lip.

“That would require some prayer on my part – and Catherine’s. I would definately be willing to sit on the pulpit committee when you have some candidates if you want me for that…”

There was a small pause at the other end of the line.

“We would appreciate that you would be one of the candidates yourself, pastor Larry. We think that you and pastor Tom are quite similar, but off course I can’t speak for the entire congregation…”

Larry thought.

“I will prayerfully consider your proposal with my wife,” he said.

“But for now, we will concentrate on running your church up till those decitions will be dealt with. We will like to meet with the registered members for a businessmeeting on Wednesday. Then we will make some plans for the near future, and together decide how to go about things. Okay?”

“Thank you very much, pastor Larry! Maybe I could come and visit you before that even…”

“Sure!”

Larry hang up.

“I love brownies!” Abraham Harrison exclaimed.

He sat down in the Hawkins’ livingroom with a cup of Starbucks coffee and Catherine’s newly baked brownies. Abraham had thin, blond hair and a small, blond mustache to go with it. He was very tall, and behind his sunglasses there were some small, green eyes who sparkled. His had a big, warm smile, and he had a high pitched voice that could cut through glass. Larry thought he would be a fabulous tenor in a church choir. He had broght along his wife, Susan. She was about Larry’s height, dark, long, curly hair and almond brown eyes. She had on a top to tow dress in sparkling blue colours. Abraham had on clean looking jeans and a blue-checked shirt. They were all sitting in the sofa enjoying some coffee and cakes.

Larry had on a short sleeved flowery shirt and brown trosers whilst Catherine had a white blouse with laces, and a dark-blue skirt partly covered by an apron. Larry smiled to Abraham.

“Who was getting councelling from Tom? I believe there were about five people.”

Abraham took a whole brownie and shoved it into his mouth.

“Me and Susan were getting discipleship from Tom and Nora,” he said with his mouth full.

“Danny Clarke was getting some councelling, but I don’t know what about.”

He sat there thinking, chewing with his mouth open. Susan broke the silence.

“I have heard that he had problems with needs of the flesh…” she said eagerly, leaning forward.

“You know… with the “s” word…”

Catherine went red. Larry broke in.

“How do you know that this Danny had problems with… sex? Who told you that?”

Susan grinned.

“It’s all over church, pastor Larry. Common knowledge… at least with the ladies…”

Larry sighed and shook his head slightly.

“Who else?”

Abraham looked lost in thought. Then he grabbed another brownie to feed his brain some more energy.

“That teen-ager… Clareese,” he suddenly shouted.

“She was given councelling, but that was with Nora. It was probably… you know… women stuff!”

Susan bashed her coffeecup hard down on the table.

“Mr. and Mrs. Edwards both saw pastor Tom… I saw them myself,,, on Tuesday evenings…”

Larry glanced quickly at his wife, then sipped at his coffe.

“That’s six all together. Any more?”

“Not that I can recall…” Abraham mumbled.

“Okay, then! Moving on… Did Tom finish the armor of God on Sunday mornings?”

“I think so…” Abraham hesitated.

“What about 1 John on Wednesdays?”

“Oh, now!” Susan grinned. “I don’t think he ever meant to finish that. He only did one or two verses each week…”

“Do you still lead the service, Abraham?”

Abraham smiled widely.

“Yepp, I sure do!”

Larry leaned back in his chair.

“Have you talked to the other members in the congregation about the future without pastor Tom? He will have to be replaced if the church is to continue…”

“Not so much, but we can all talk on Wednesday…” Abraham eagerly spat out, along with a few brownies crumbs.

“Well, Abraham and Susan! I have a job for you two!”

“Really?” Susan was all ears.

“Yes,” Larry confirmed. “I want you two to spread the word about what has happened to Tom and Nora, then ask all members to meet at the church on Wednesday. Okay?”

“We sure can!” Abraham nodded.

“Thank you for visiting us!” Catherine said.

“We will meet again tomorrow, okay? Try not to be too downhearted? Trust in God, he will comfort you in your sorrow.”

Abraham and Susan stood up.

“Well, yeah, I guess so,” Abraham muttered. Then he turned to Catherine.

“Could I please take a few brownies with me… you know… for the road?”

“Please,” Catherine nodded. “Help yourseslf!”

Abraham grabbed the rest of the brownies and started towards the door.

“We should do this again!” he said, the mouth full of brownies.

No one understood what he was trying to say.

The two visitors left, leaving Larry and Catherine standing by the front door. They looked at each other for a while, then they burst out laughing.

“Larry,” Catherine sputtered out, trying to contain herself.

“It’s not nice to laugh at people.”

“Excactly!” he comfirmed. “So why are you laughing?”

“Because I prefer laughing to crying!”

Larry stopped  laughing.

“Let’s get ready to go to Dallas…” he said.

“We got some serious praying to do…”

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