The story so far:
The Picture of Father Preston lingered in my mind the remainder of the next day. I could only imagine where Paige was now. I tried and tried to wipe the thought of death from my mind, but I had the feeling that it was only a matter of time before she turned up dead. I thought to myself of all the things that could have possibly brought this on to Paige, or even myself. My thoughts fell dry; exhausted I drove to the office.
"Good morning," Mertha grinned holding out a cup of stout black coffee. I took the cup and motioned past her without a proper greeting. I could hardly look at her. My suspicion was that she knew about my daughter; that she was involved in the recent murders, but Mertha wasn't a killer.
I sat in front of my computer and checked my schedule. Blank. I was perplexed, so I buzzed Mertha.
"Mertha, did we lose some clients?" I listened for her usual quick response, but nothing came back over the intercom. "Mertha." I held my breath waiting for any kind of a response. I could hear my heat as it picked up pace. I knew something was out of place.
A crackle came over the intercom, and then shallow breathing. "Mertha," I called out, but still there was no response. I stared intensely at my desk waiting. Then a loud pop echoed across the office and the lights flickered. I picked up the phone to call for help, but the line was dead. I tried to peer through the frosted glass of my office door, but couldn't see a thing. I crept closer and closer bobbing my head hoping to gain a clear view through one of the clear letters that made up my name.
The office was quiet. The front was motionless. I could only see a part of Mertha's desk. A big silk plant blocked my view of anything else. My breaths grew shorter and I began to shake. I stepped a little closer to the door; almost putting my face to the glass. I opened the door slowly. My eyes darted back and forth scanning the room as the door opened. A dark stain on the carpet soon emerged into my sight. Chunks of white ceramic coffee cup were scattered across the floor. I moved forward a few more steps and stopped when I saw Mertha.
She laid face down on the floor twisted in an unnatural position. A pool of vomit surrounded her head. I hesitantly moved closer to her. I could not tell if she was breathing. I kneeled down to her trying to avoid the puddle of bodily fluids. That is when everything went blank.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The room was dim and clammy. Cold moisture from below the cobblestone floor crept though the cracks. Tall round stone pillars spanning the length of the room held the ceiling high above Paige's head. She sat in the center of darkness waiting for her demise. Her hands were tied firmly behind her and her mouth was bound shut with tape. The salty tears running down her face were beginning to chafe and burn. She had given up on trying to struggle free. Her strength had run out a day ago; she fought just to keep head held upright.
She could hear a quiet hum begin to echo across the dungeon. It was coming from another room, and sounded human. Slowly the sound grew louder as the procession came closer. The small barred window of the door that was in front of her began to flicker as men with torches came closer. The humming was now loud and audible.
"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaamennnnn," the group chanted in a low melancholy tone.
Paige watched as shadowy figures pass in front of the window. She began to tremble harder. Her throat tightened around her adams apple as she choked back her tears with short hiccup like breaths.
A loud clank came from the door as the rusty steel lock was unlatched. Paige gave a scream from under her tape, and began to struggle once again.
The door opened. Paige turned motionless as she watched the stone arched doorway light up. Slowly, one by one, robed men holding torches entered the room. The echo of their chant pulsated against the cold stone walls.
"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaamennnnn," they continued. The men formed a semicircle around the petrified girl and then turned towards the door way. The chanting slowly grew softer until all the cloaked men were silent. Motionless they stood like stone statues waiting to be given life. Two more men passed through the door way each holding one end of a large cross. They laid it at her feet and then joined the other dark figures.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Officer Bohac knocked at Audra’s front door and waited for a response. Franco eventually answered with a groggy, “Yeah.”
“I need to talk to Audra.”
“Oh, she left this morning for the office.”
The detective looked quizzically at Franco and then asked, “May I come in?”
“Did she say when she would be home?”
“No, that woman doesn’t tell me anything these days. To be honest with you officer, she has been acting awfully strange lately. She did leave this note.”
There are some things I need to take care of at the office. Try not to lie around all day. I will be home later in the afternoon. Call me if you hear anything about Paige.
Officer Bohac read the note and then set it down on the table. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed. He waited for an answer, but was directed to voicemail.
“Who are you calling,” Franco butted in.
“Audra. She’s not answering.”
“Did you try her cell?”
“and her office. No one is answering.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Slowly my vision cleared when I finally awoke. There was no telling how long I was out for. I was wearing a silk teddy and laying in a large bed coved in soft velvet. My head throbbed. I sat up and looked around the room. Two men in black robes stood at the door, large hoods concealed their identity. The door opened and a large man entered.
He was tall and fairly built. His face was rough like worn leather. His eyes were dark and wide. He was dressed different than the other two men. He wore a similar robe, but it was trimmed in scarlet and purple. He approached the bed and scanned over me with his frigid eyes.
“It time.” He announced. His voice was deep and gruff. “Come with me,” He said holding out his hand.
“Go to hell,” I snipped back.
The two men at the door immediately moved in and pulled me from the bed. I fought to free myself, but their grip was too powerful. Kicking and screaming they dragged me from the room.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The SUV came to a screeching halt in front of Audra’s office. Four men in suits jumped out and ran to the front door. Officer Bohac led the charge into the office. They found Mertha convulsing on the floor. The room reeked of burnt coffee and vomit. They checked the back room, but found nothing. One of the officers tried to rouse Mertha.
Mertha’s eyes fluttered and she tried to roll towards the voice. She coughed and tried speak, but her words were muffled by the floor. One of the officers turned her to her back and shook her until her eyes opened.
“Ma’am, are you ok?” the officer questioned.
“They… took… her,” mertha gurgled.
“Who, who took... Ma'am wake up!” Officer Bohac asserted giving her another violent shake.“Audra…, St… Stephen’s…” Mertha managed to get out as she lost consciousness once again.