© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner



At 8:30 Tuesday morning, Serenity called the school office and asked if Miss Parker would be in that day. The secretary told her that Miss Parker didn’t come in on Tuesdays and asked if she could be of assistance.

“No, but if I can’t get in touch with Miss Parker, then I need to see Mr. Kelso sometime today. Would that be a problem?”

“Not at all, Miss Lawrence. May I ask what the meeting is for?”

“It has to do with some problems that have come up in the Library Club, and I’m not sure that I can send David back. I need to discuss the whole matter with Mr. Kelso.”

“Very well, he has time to see you late this morning, around 11:00, or after lunch at 1:30.”

“We’ll be in at 11:00 then. Mrs. Matthews, Trent’s mother, will be coming in with me.”

“Okay, I have you down for 11:00. See you then.”

“Thank you. See you at 11:00.”

When the two mothers sat down in Mr. Kelso’s office, they were still trying to decide where to start their explanation. They had prayed together on the way over, asking the Lord to give them the right words, and now they knew they just had to trust that He would.

“Miss Maxwell said there seemed to be some kind of problem with the Library Club that you needed to discuss with me, is that correct?” he asked, his features pleasant and his voice kind.

“Yes,” Serenity said. “And we want you to know that we haven’t come to you in order to go behind Miss Parker’s back. I did ask to meet with her, but she won’t be in today, and I intended to meet with you after I had seen her anyway, so . . . I hope it’s all right with you to do it this way instead.”

“Certainly. I want to know if we have a problem of any kind here.”

“Well, there are probably a number of parents . . . actually, there evidently are a number of parents who don’t think there is a problem, but for Elizabeth and myself, and our families, there definitely is. David and Trent always share with us what they’ve done each day, and it seems that both times they’ve come they have been subjected to long sessions of readings from books on witchcraft and demonic activity. Then they have been asked to pretend that they could become some kind of animal that could give them great power to do secret things. And in yesterday’s session, they were told to lie down on a mat, with the lights out in the room, and imagine that they had some kind of being coming from the inside of them that they could talk to and receive directions from.

“Now both of our families are strong Christian families, and all this witchcraft and sorcery teaching, as well as the imagination games, which are indicative of new age meditation techniques, go completely against what we believe and allow our children to practice. We’re wondering why those specific things are being taught under the auspices of a Library Reading Program.”

Mr. Kelso smiled at the two ladies. “I know the program you’re referring to, ladies, but I assure you that we are not engaging in some kind of sorcery or new age religion. Miss Parker explained to the board about how these games free the students to begin to use their minds more energetically and, as a result, enable them to get more out of their regular academic subjects throughout the year. The games also draw out the natural creativity in each child. And I can tell you first hand that last year some of our students who were quite shy and were underachievers, before being exposed to those games, became very extroverted and began to accomplish a number of tasks better after learning to play the games. And most of our students read more books during the year since Miss Parker has managed to introduce some of the more current and very popular books into our library.”

“But, Mr. Kelso, there are any number of games that will challenge and even quicken a child’s intelligence that don’t require them to practically go into some kind of trance and imagine they are speaking with another kind of being inside of themselves,” Serenity said.

“Are you sure the boys aren’t exaggerating just a little about what they’re being instructed to do? Sometimes children do that when the experience is totally new to them. And I think that would be likely with David especially, since you told me he had been through a traumatic year and had been home schooled as an only student during the last school year.”

“Mr. Kelso, each one of these boys is considered higher than average in intelligence, according to all of their test scores, and each one of them has had a great many experiences due to living in more than one place as well as traveling a good deal. I don’t think they’ve been so secluded or shielded that they would find it necessary to tell lies or exaggerate about their experiences here. Furthermore, each one of the boys told the exact same story to two different mothers at two different times. I think that alone makes their information more than plausible.”

Then Elizabeth spoke. “That’s right, and they didn’t exaggerate at all about what they’re having read to them for about an hour and a half each day, because I checked the content of those books myself. They’re horrid! And there are certainly hundreds of books on the market that are written specifically to interest children that don’t require them to study the science of witchcraft. Kids don’t have to read about a person turning into an animal, or possessing an animal’s body, or having body parts cut off and thrown into a boiling cauldron to effect some kind of spell in order to learn to love reading, surely!” Her voice had risen a little by the time she finished her statement, and Mr. Kelso lifted his hands in a motion that evidently was meant to calm her.

“Please don’t get so upset, Mrs. Matthews. I assure you we encourage our children to read all kinds of literature. This summer, Miss Parker is just centering her program on the Sally Stone books because they are so popular, and they lend themselves very well to rounding out the work with the mind-expanding games. Perhaps if you gave the program a little more time, you would begin to see the value in it for your boys.”

Serenity felt a knot form in her stomach. Something was terribly wrong that this man couldn’t see the harm in what was being taught in his school’s library. She felt a little sick at her stomach, and tried to tell herself that her feelings were not coming from fear. Finally, she spoke again. “Well, Mr. Kelso, as I said, our families are Christians— ”

“Oh, I’m Christian too,” he interrupted her to say.

“Well, that’s good to know, but the fact still remains that the things that are being taught in the Library Club so far are actually part of a religion. The games are the same things taught in Hinduism, and the sorcery books are basically teaching the satanic religion. So I have no peace about exposing David to that kind of influence, and I won’t be bringing him back.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Miss Lawrence,” he said, and sounded as if he really meant it. Then he looked at Elizabeth. “And do you feel the same way, Mrs. Matthews?”

“Definitely,” she said. “Mr. Matthews and I will be withdrawing Trent from the program too. I probably should tell you something else too. Trent has been having horrible nightmares since he started coming to these classes. He even had an experience when he was awake when he thought he was being visited by some other weird being. We even called our pastor and had him come over so that we could all pray until my son had peace again. He has never had any experiences like that in his life until he came to these classes, and now that he’s free from those horrible things again, I definitely will not expose him to any more of what caused them.”

Mr. Kelso shook his head sadly. “Well that’s very unfortunate, of course. I’m sorry you son had so much trouble. And I’m sorry the boys won’t be participating in the rest of the program. I’m sure Miss Parker will be sorry too, but I’ll explain it to her the way you’ve explained it to me. If she does have any questions, is it all right if she calls and talks to you?”

“Certainly,” Serenity answered, glancing at Elizabeth for confirmation, and her friend nodded her head as well. Then Serenity continued. “But there may be another problem, Mr, Kelso. I need to find out from you if the material taught throughout the year will also include this kind of thing, because if so, I can’t send David here to school at all.”

“I can assure you, Miss Lawrence, that this particular program is a specialized one and is used only as part of the library and reading advancement curriculum. Your nephew would not even be exposed to any of it in any of his other classes.”

“And would he be required to take part in it during their class visits to the library?”

“Not if you don’t want him to. He can always just go to the library and check out a book that he wants to read and sit at a table and read quietly while the other children take part in whatever Miss Parker offers that week. Would that be satisfactory?”

Serenity looked at Elizabeth and could see doubt in her eyes that matched what Serenity herself was feeling. “Well,” she finally said, “I need to talk this over with my grandfather, since he’s actually helping me raise David right now. I would certainly want his input before I make a final decision. Let’s just say that we’ll leave David enrolled for next year . . . at least for now . . . and perhaps I can talk with you again after I’ve had time to think it over and pray about it some more.”

“Very well,” he said, smiling again. “And you too, Mrs. Matthews?”

“I think that’s the best plan for us too, Mr. Kelso. At least until I have a chance to talk more with my husband. He may want to come in and talk with you himself.”

“Anytime,” he said and than glanced briefly at his watch.

Serenity took the hint and rose from her chair, as did Elizabeth. “Thank you very much for taking so much time to discuss this with us, Mr. Kelso,” Serenity said, extending her hand to shake his.

“It’s all part of my job,” he answered, turning to shake Elizabeth’s hand next. “Mrs. Matthews, tell your husband to feel welcome to come and talk to me if he needs to.”

The two women walked back into the main office. The secretary smiled at them from where she sat at her computer terminal. “Have a good afternoon, ladies,” she said.

“You too,” Elizabeth answered for both of them, and they started for their car.

Serenity and Clint invited Elizabeth and Lucas to dinner that evening so that the two families could discuss the pros and cons of leaving the boys enrolled in Hamsted Elementary School. Serenity had thought that if all four of them could share their thoughts and their hearts, they might be more likely to cover all of the aspects of the problem and reach a better decision.

She had wanted to invite Noah too, but she hadn’t asked Elizabeth about doing so, and they didn’t know him as well as she and Clint did. Besides, why should she put him in the position of having to hear all of their problems? He was here to get rest himself, and he’d be gone after August, so none of this would affect him at all.

Suddenly the gravity of that knowledge hit her with a jolt. He would be gone. And she most likely would never see him again . . . unless his sister and brother-in-law took the cottage another time, and he came for a visit. But that wasn’t likely with Keith and June having a new baby now. There was a deep sense of emptiness inside as Serenity contemplated her life without Noah in it. And wasn’t that silly, she told herself. She hadn’t really even known the man before four weeks ago. How could she feel an emptiness at the thought of his being gone from her life again?

Well, she didn’t know how; she just knew it was so. But she could shake off that feeling surely. Their relationship hadn’t moved into anything intimate, after all. Even after Noah had hinted several days ago that he wanted to take her some place romantic, nothing had developed. She got up now from where she’d been sitting on the porch looking at the ocean. She needed to get the meal started and get her mind out of this depressed train of thought.

Their meal progressed cheerfully. The boys always had fun together, and the four adults were beginning to feel as if they had been life-long friends. When they sent the boys out to play and finally began to discuss the school and its difficulties, they found that all four of them were on exactly the same wavelength. It looked as if they were all leaning toward the idea of sending the boys to the Christian school at Barclay or home schooling them both.

“If we pooled our knowledge and resources,” Elizabeth said now, “we could teach both of them at the same time and share all of the work load . . . maybe even alternate days, so that neither of us had to be tied to it every day.”

“That would make it a lot easier,” Serenity said. “Especially when I’m trying to meet a deadline from time to time,” she added chuckling. “I’m notorious for barely making it under the wire most of the time anyway.”

“Well, let’s all pray together right now,” Lucas said, “and then we can continue to pray the rest of this week and see what the Lord will show us.”

“Sounds good,” Clint said and reached out his hands to either side, indicating he was ready to join hands and hearts in that prayer. After that, they called the boys in, since it was getting dark, and Serenity insisted that they stay for her to put on a fresh pot of coffee and serve another piece of pie all around. Lucas said he just couldn’t resist another piece of the strawberry rhubarb pie, so they stayed. When they were walking to their car to start home, Noah came riding along the shore toward the lighthouse, so they waited to speak to him before they left.

After bidding the Matthews goodnight, Serenity turned to Noah, who had dismounted and was standing holding Moondancer’s reins. “There’s strawberry rhubarb pie left, Noah, and plenty of coffee. Would you like some?”

She could see interest flicker in his eyes, but he asked, “Are you sure you’re not too tired for more company?”

Serenity laughed. “Not at all. All we did tonight was talk and eat. Come on in. I’m sure Gramps will join you for coffee at least.” So they all trouped back into the kitchen, and Serenity told David that he needed to get his bath and prepare for bed.

“Oh, Aunt Serie, can’t I stay up and talk to Noah?”

“You can come and talk just a few minutes after you get your pajamas on and brush your teeth.”

“Okay,” he said, showing a definite lack of enthusiasm, but he obeyed just the same.

“Let’s sit in the living room this time,” Serenity said. “We’ve been sitting around this table for hours. We had so much to discuss that we just got right into it after dessert and never moved from our spots.’

“Problems of some kind?” Noah asked.

Serenity told him as simply as she could about her and Elizabeth’s visit to Mr, Kelso that morning and the results. Noah listened attentively enough, but at the same time, he seemed distant somehow . . . almost as if he were in his own world while he was listening to her tell about the events of the day. But when she had finished, he responded immediately.

“I think you and Elizabeth are very wise to take the boys out of that, Serenity. Most people don’t recognize how dangerous some of that stuff can be,” he said, letting his eyes stray from her face and focus somewhere off in the distance, as if he were seeing something else. It was a most unusual feeling that Serenity had as she watched him, and yet she felt sure that he was really paying attention to what she said to him.

Finally, she asked him. “Do you know a lot about this kind of thing, Noah?”

He lowered his eyes, staring down at the floor for a few moments, but eventually answered her in a very quiet voice. “I know enough.” Then he looked back to her face. “But it isn’t something I really want to discuss. Let’s just say that I know enough to tell you that you did the right thing taking David out of the program.”

“Well, now what we have to decide is whether to leave the boys enrolled there for the regular school year or not.”

“Where would they go otherwise?”

“Well, we’ve contemplated home schooling again . . . or possibly the Christian school in Barclay . . . but it’s so far . . . about a forty-five minute drive both ways.”

Noah nodded. “Yes, I’ve been over there a time or two since I’ve been here. Well, are you leaning toward one of those solutions more than the other?”

“Maybe,” Serenity answered, saying the word slowly. “But it’s early days yet.”

“Well, I’ll be praying that the Lord will give you clear answers,” he said, setting down his empty pie plate. “And now I’d better get going. The pie was absolutely delicious. Oh, and by the way, I never got back to you about our unfinished plans that we discussed on the phone the other day. What do you say to a nice, quiet, candlelit dinner one evening this week?”

“Uh . . . well . . .”

“She says ‘Yes,’” her grandfather answered for her, grinning. When she opened her mouth to say something, he wagged his finger at her. “I’ve told you, young lady, it’s time you gave yourself as much consideration and care as you do others.” He looked at Noah. “She’ll go. Just tell her what night to be ready.”

Noah laughed and looked at Serenity, his eyes twinkling. “Well, Miss Serenity Lawrence, it seems you’re going to dinner with me, so we might as well make it as soon as possible. What about Thursday?”

Serenity smiled at him. “I would like to go to dinner with you, Noah, and Thursday’s fine.”

“Good. We’ll go into Barclay, so I’ll make some reservations for 7:00, and I’ll pick you up about 6:00, how’s that?”


Just then David came bouncing in and ran to sit on the footstool by Noah’s chair. “Aunt Serie said I don’t have to go to that dumb old Library Club anymore, Noah.”

Noah reached out his hand and pinched him lightly on the nose. “I think you have a very smart aunt, David. I hope you’re giving her lots of hugs and kisses to show how much you appreciate her.”

David nodded his head vigorously. “I do. I give her lots of hugs and kisses, don’t I, Aunt Serie?” he asked turning to her now.

“You certainly do, Sweetheart, and they’re what gives me the energy to keep going. Now Noah has to leave, so tell him goodnight and go hop in bed. I’ll be in before long.”

Clint got up and reached his hand out to David. “How about Gramps reading the bedtime story tonight, Cowboy?”

David jumped up. “Great!” he said, and then turned back to Noah. “Goodnight, Noah. I’ll probably see you tomorrow.”

“For sure,” Noah answered him and watched as he kissed and hugged his aunt and started for the bedroom with his great grandfather. Just before they turned down the hallway, David turned back to Noah.

“You should give Aunt Serie hugs and kisses too, Noah, to show her how much you liked her pie,” he said innocently and then was off to bed again. His great-grandfather chuckled and just continued down the hall with David without saying a word.

Noah looked at Serenity, a smile on his face, and when he saw the blush that covered hers, he said. “Please don’t be embarrassed. It’s a thought I’ve had a number of times myself . . . but . . . well . . . I’ve learned that it’s not always good policy to follow through on every impulsive thought.” He rose then and so did Serenity as she answered him.

“Yes, I’ve learned that lesson too,” she said and smiled as she led the way to the door. They stepped out on the porch into the moonlight, and Noah turned to her and reached up his hand, touching her cheek as gently as a feather with his fingers.

“I’ve got a lot to work through personally right now, Serenity. I’m not sure exactly what my future holds at this point . . . for a number of reasons . . . except that I’ll most likely be leaving here after August.”

“Noah, you don’t owe me any explanations,” she said hurriedly.

He dropped his hand to his side and thrust both hands into his jeans pockets. “I know,” he said, looking out toward the ocean. “I know I don’t owe you any, but I’d like to give you some. I just don’t know for sure how to do that right now.” He looked back at her, a smile on his face again. “Well, it’s late. Maybe we can finish this conversation Thursday . . . that is if you’re still willing to go out to dinner with me?”

“I’m willing,” she said grinning, a teasing light in her eyes. “I think I’ve taken bigger risks in my lifetime.”

Noah chuckled, as she had meant for him to do, and then he stepped off the porch and headed for his horse. She walked out that direction part of the way, and as he mounted Moondancer and turned him toward home, he said, “Goodnight Serie. Sweet dreams.”

“You too. Goodnight,” she said, and then walked back to the porch and sat down, watching him ride along the beach as far as she could before going inside.

When Noah got home, he took a shower and got ready for bed. Then as he stretched out on the bed, he picked up the Barclay paper that he’d bought that afternoon. Hamsted’s paper was just a weekly affair, and Noah liked to keep up more than that, so two or three times a week he bought a copy of The Barclay Chronicle. He hadn’t taken the time to read it yet, but since he was too keyed up after his visit with Serenity, he decided the paper would provide a way to shift his thoughts and, hopefully, shift gears in his emotions. The two front-page articles had something to do with national politics, and Noah just scanned them, having heard most of the information on the TV earlier. But when he turned to the first inside page, he came face to face with a scene right out of his own memory.

There was a picture of an obviously very worn wooden floor with a pentagram painted on it in black paint. Several candles were scattered around the floor, all well used, some of them completely burned down to the holder. But most captivating of anything in the picture were the large, dark stains on the floor in the center of the painted symbol. The article identified them as bloodstains, coming from the blood of the animal that had been slaughtered right at the scene sometime within a twenty-four hour period prior to the picture being taken.

Noah snapped his eyes shut, shaking his head as if he could shake the picture out of it. It was like having a flashback – or having the dream again. He’d had so many during the last several months, and only since coming here had he thought he might be rid of them. But as he sat there with his eyes closed, the headline flashed onto the screen of his mind. His eyes had simply skimmed over it on the way to the picture, but evidently it had registered. “IS SALLY STONE RESPONSIBLE FOR SLAUGHTER OF LOCAL ANIMALS?”

Noah opened his eyes and looked at the article again. As he read down the columns, he discovered that this kind of crime had been discovered twice since the newest Sally Stone movie had come to the Barclay area. A few inhabitants had suggested that these crimes indicated that there really was such a thing as witchcraft, and that people shouldn’t take it so lightly. But in the interview with the county sheriff, the reporter got a lengthy quote discounting that possibility.

“That’s nonsense,” the sheriff was quoted as saying. “These two crimes were obviously perpetrated by some kids or some weirdos who got ideas when they saw the movie and then went out and acted out exactly what they saw. As near as we can tell, the two situations we’ve discovered are identical to the two such events in the movie. Somebody is out to play a mean joke on the public,” he said. The article continued for some length, but Noah let the paper slip from his fingers as he closed his eyes again.

“No,” he whispered. “No,” he said again, a little louder. Then he bounded out of his bed, shouting, “No! No! No!” He put both hands up to his head, holding it as if it hurt, but it wasn’t physical pain that was tormenting him. He paced back and forth across the room a couple of times and then walked back to the bed and picked up the paper. This time he concentrated on the picture of the sheriff. “You idiot! It is real! . . . very real!” Noah gripped the paper as if he were gripping the shoulders of the sheriff whose likeness he was staring at. “Don’t be a fool and wait too long the way I did!” he shouted at the photo and then threw the paper down on the floor with a despairing groan.

He paced back over to the bedroom window and slammed his open hand against the window frame as he looked out. “Lord, don’t expect me to do anything about this. I’ve done my part, and I wasn’t any good at that! You should have gotten someone else . . . You should have made sure someone else became sheriff in that last election because You knew what was coming and that I’d bungle it.”

He looked out at the night sky and tried to take a deep breath to settle himself, but it didn’t work. The thoughts came to him hard and fast about all that he’d learned during the last year as a sheriff facing the kind of spiritual warfare his church hadn’t prepared him for. Yes, he’d learned — finally —  and the decent people of his county had won in the end — but at what cost? He shook his head. “No,” he spoke aloud again and then turned and moved across the room in a flash. He pulled on his blue jeans and then grabbed the paper, almost running outside to the barrel where he burned items from time to time.

With a thrust of his arm, he made sure the paper was securely stuffed as far down as it would go and put the lid on the barrel. “This time it’s somebody else’s problem. They’ve got the Bible. Let them learn to study it the way I did. Let them learn too, Lord. Maybe they’ll even do a better job than I did. And don’t ask me to try to help. They’d only consider it interference.” He turned to walk over toward the corral. “Besides, I’m not their savior . . . You are,” he added, opening the corral gate and reaching up to pet Moondancer, who sensed the chance for another ride in the moonlight. He saddled the stallion quickly and then mounted and took off. He let Moondancer have his head. He needed to run like the wind himself . . . to get away.

So they ran, Moondancer trying to race with the moon, but Noah just trying to race away from the darkness. But where was he going? What was he racing toward? Just running away without some destination at the end of the race was no good, and he knew that, but he kept running. He had to have some relief, the kind he’d found before on the back of this magnificent stallion that the Lord had provided for him. God had truly been good to give him a horse this special. He knew that, and he was grateful with his whole heart. But he couldn’t let himself think too much about the Lord right now. He knew where that could lead him, and he couldn’t bear the thought.

So he raced through the night . . . and the Hosts of Heaven watched . . . and the hosts of hell watched . . . and His Eternal Father, Jehovah, watched . . . but as Jehovah watched, He smiled. He knew what was really in the heart of this son of His, this warrior of the kingdom who had proven himself so faithful in the past. And He knew that Noah would do the same again this time. So even while Noah ran, Jehovah smiled. It wouldn’t be long now, and Noah Bennett would turn and begin to race straight toward the Light again — and then the battle could begin.

Find Chapter Nine her tomorrow.


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