(To make up for running so late with yesterday’s chapter, I’m posting earlier than usual today. I’ll also try to get tomorrow’s chapter — the final chapter — posted early in the day if possible.)
RACING TOWARD THE LIGHT
© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner
The following morning, the mayor of Hamsted called Noah. “I’d like a chance to talk with you about this whole witchcraft thing in some more detail, Sheriff. Would you have some time today?”
“I think so. When is the best time for you, Mayor?”
“Well, this morning is best for me, but I’ll work something out for later if we need to.”
“Not necessary,” Noah replied. “How about I come to you office in about an hour?”
“I’d be grateful.”
“See you then,” Noah replied and hung up. He immediately called Jim Carlyle and Serenity to ask them to pray, and when he arrived at the mayor’s office, he felt total peace about the meeting. Not knowing where the mayor stood on the subject, he’d decided to tread lightly until he was sure what the man wanted from him, and he was greatly encouraged to find that Chief Weston had been asked to join them.
As it turned out, the mayor shared with them, in confidence, about a family member who had been involved in some witchcraft activities several years ago, and he expressed genuine concern that they not let this problem go any further in Hamsted. “I’ve also spent some time on the phone with two of our school board members, and I can assure you that they are ready to bring a screeching halt to these programs in the school. They plan to bring up some suggestions for doing so at the council meeting.”
Noah and Art just looked at each other and grinned their relief. With the mayor and two school board members already on their side, the tide of battle was definitely beginning to turn.
That evening, however, in Adrian Parker’s apartment, the same five people who had met before were together again, but this time they were not calling on their inner guides. They were arguing and casting accusations and blame at each other for why their plans had been thwarted to such an extent. “There’s no question about it,” one of the men said. “If we’re going to succeed here at all, this resistance has got to be taken out!”
“How many people are actually leading this fight against us?” one of the women asked Adrian.
“Well,” she sighed as she answered, “I’d say there are only two real leaders. This Noah Bennett and Serenity Lawrence. But they have several parents on their side now, as well as the police chief, if I can believe the reports that came from our representatives at Monday night’s meeting.”
Another member of the group spoke up: “I knew I felt something definitely wrong when I first heard that Noah Bennett was in this area, but I had no idea it would reach this degree of danger for us. I think if we can take him out, the others will start to lose interest, and the whole resistance will lose momentum.”
“I’m not so sure,” Adrian answered. “That Lawrence woman and her friend Elizabeth Matthews have really been stirring up a stink about the work we’ve gotten established at the school. And if we lose that, we’ve lost completely. If we can’t get the minds of the next generation renewed to our level, we won’t get anywhere here.”
“I still say getting rid of this Sheriff Bennett is the first step,” another member of the group said. “And we need to do it before this town council meeting!”
The only one who hadn’t spoken yet was another man. He and Adrian Parker has been in an intimate sexual relationship for several years, but no one in Hamsted knew that. He spoke now in a soft voice as he perched against the back of the sofa behind Adrian. “I agree. That must be our next step.” His voice took on a beguiling tone as he slithered his lean body along the back of the sofa and ran a caressing finger slowly down Adrian’s arm, his warm lips against her ear: “Do you think you could take care of that situation for us, Adri?”
“Me?” she asked, turning slightly to face him, her eyes wide with shock.
He straightened immediately, lifting his hands, palms up, and shrugged his shoulders. “Well . . . this is your territory. It’s your spirits that rule Hamsted.”
“Yes, but . . . I . . . I don’t know . . .”
In another room of the apartment, Lacey had been working on some material she had received over the Internet. She was entering her second phase of training now and often spent many hours a week at Adrian’s apartment, learning from her. She had been listening to the conversation, and when the discussion turned to getting rid of Noah Bennett, her heart began to beat faster. That idea struck a chord deep inside of Lacey. After all, it was Noah who had been so mean to her about riding the horse. And now, he was about to destroy everything that was important to Lacey in this town. If he got rid of all the witchcraft and the people involved in it, she’d never be able to finish her training. She couldn’t let that happen. She just couldn’t.
So while the conversation drifted back and forth in the other room, with all five of the occupants still arguing over who should do what, Lacey began to form her own plan. She didn’t stop to analyze why she felt such an intense hatred for Noah over the decision he’d made about her riding Moondancer. It hadn’t occurred to her that those feelings were all out of proportion with the event itself.
And although she knew she had a spirit guide and was often asked to do unusual things by that guide, she didn’t yet understand enough about demonic possession to realize that she had actually been taken over totally by the spirit that pretended to guide rather than control. Nor could she have known at this point that it was the same spirit that had been defeated by Noah Bennett almost a year ago. All she knew was that she had to be the one to destroy this man who belonged to a source of power that threatened everything she wanted.
She didn’t say anything to Miss Parker or her guests. She just continued to work in the back bedroom until they had all left. When Miss Parker came to check on her, she was just closing down the program she had been using, and Miss Parker, who seemed very jittery and distracted, suggested that Lacey go on home. So wishing her tutor a good night, Lacey left the apartment and walked to her home, continuing to plan the execution of her archenemy. And she knew exactly where she could get a gun.
Two days later, Lacey knew what she was going to do. She’d been listening to the voice inside her head for the last forty-eight hours making the plans for her. She had hardly slept or eaten. She just concentrated on that voice, and finally, when she knew it was time, she moved to carry out the plan. She knew her aunt and uncle would be shopping in Barclay most of the day, and that they always left an extra key under their planter by the back door. So she sneaked in and went straight to the master bedroom where she knew the gun was hidden.
Several months ago, when she had been baby-sitting her younger cousins and playing hide and seek with them, she had hidden in the bathroom that was attached to that bedroom, and she had seen her uncle come in from his target practice and reach up into the top closet shelf for the gun case. She could see everything he did clearly. He was putting the gun in the case and returning it to the shelf for safekeeping, but because he was very conscious of gun safety, her uncle had also emptied all the ammunition out of the gun before putting it in the case, and he had put the ammunition in its own box in another place on the shelf.
She had no clear understanding of how to load bullets into the gun, but she knew that she felt driven to get her hands on that weapon and do something to stop Noah Bennett from causing so much trouble. She’d figure out how when she got her hands on the gun. She and her family had a picnic planned on the beach that afternoon, and this was the perfect day to destroy this so-called “Man of God.”
A few hours later, as she approached Noah’s cottage, everything was quiet. She stepped onto the porch, but she still didn’t hear anything. She opened the door slowly and looked in, but she could tell that no one was there. So she walked around the side of the house and looked in the corral. Moondancer was gone too, so she guessed Noah was riding. She’d have to wait.
So she went back to sit on the porch, still hiding the gun in the straw beach bag she carried. She had been sitting close to thirty minutes when she finally saw David returning to the corral on Moondancer. Okay, she thought, maybe she could get rid of this crybaby too. That would be almost as much fun as killing Sheriff Bennett.
David dismounted, sliding off of Moondancer’s back onto the raised step Noah had made especially to make this maneuver easy for him, and as he did so, he spotted Lacey coming into the corral. At the same time, Moondancer became agitated, much as he had the last time Lacey had been there, but before David could think what to do, Lacey was standing in front of him, pointing the gun at him. He froze, too shocked to be consciously aware of anything else — even fear. He didn’t say anything. He couldn’t.
Then as he transferred his vision to the area behind Lacey for just a second, he saw Noah running toward the corral. He had been visiting the neighbor in the first cottage, and had been walking back when he realized what was happening right before his eyes, in his own corral. The sand muted the sound of his footfalls as he ran with all his strength, and as soon as he was close enough to be sure David saw him, he put his fingers to his lips to ensure his silence.
But the moment he stepped inside the corral, Lacey swung toward him, her eyes filled with hate and her hands, as they held the gun, shaking with rage. The demon within her had sensed Noah’s presence and turned at once to defend itself against this man of God. Noah’s voice was deadly quiet as he spoke: “David, step inside the shed right now.” David immediately backed his way into the shed, and, at the last minute, took hold of Moondancer’s reigns to try to quiet the horse, which was stamping the ground and snorting in a way he never did under ordinary circumstances.
Lacey laughed a fiendish laugh. “Let him go. It’s you I came to destroy,” she said in a voice much deeper and more gravely than her own. The laughing intensified. “You, Man of God!” she said, her tone of voice mocking that title now. “Others may call you a man of God, but there is no god but Lucifer. You’re a fool! That’s what you are, and I’ll soon be rid of you!” she shouted now, motioning the gun toward him. “You drove me out once, but not this time. This time, I’ll drive you out! I’ll send you to your God, such as He is,” she added, her demented laughter growing ever louder.
Down the beach about a half a mile, Gloria Dillard was becoming anxious as she looked at her watch and realized her daughter had been gone close to an hour now. She had told Lacey that they would be eating in thirty minutes, and it wasn’t like her to miss their picnic meals. She was half afraid that something had happened to her — and half afraid that she was causing trouble somewhere. She had been so weird lately, and not at all obedient.
She turned to her husband now. “Carl, I think we need to go see about Lacey. She was supposed to be back in thirty minutes, and it’s getting closer to an hour. I’m worried.”
“Well, we can walk that way and see what’s going on then,” he answered and got up from his lawn chair as Gloria did the same. They started down the beach in the direction Lacey had gone, and when they finally came near enough to Noah’s cottage to see what was transpiring in the corral, they froze in shock. They didn’t notice Serenity and Elizabeth coming from the other direction, with Trent holding Elizabeth’s hand.
They too had stopped dead still, paralyzed momentarily by the horror of the scene being played out before their eyes. “Mommy!” Trent squealed, looking up at his mother, petrified, and Elizabeth quickly covered his mouth with her hand, admonishing him as gently as possible to be quiet for safety’s sake.
Serenity whispered to Elizabeth. “Run back to the Bishop’s cottage and call Chief Weston, and then call Pastor Carlyle. If he isn’t in his office, try his home number and . . . and . . . maybe the nursing home . . . or anywhere else you can think of.” She spoke hurriedly, her confused thoughts resisting rational, orderly processes, but Elizabeth was able to understand and took off running with Trent to the cottage they had just passed a couple minutes ago.
Serenity’s heart was about to beat out of her chest as she watched Noah facing this death trap. She had spotted David hiding just inside the shed door, holding fast to Moondancer’s reigns, but she didn’t want to say anything or make any noise that might send Lacey over the edge of her apparently fragile sanity. It seemed as if time itself froze, and then when she did realize that she heard talking and saw some movement, everything seemed almost to be in slow motion.
In actual fact, the Dillards had stopped only a fraction of a second before Gloria let out a piercing scream that should have drawn Lacey’s attention, but didn’t. Lacey’s glazed eyes never wavered from Noah, and she took a step closer to him, holding the gun with both hands, aimed straight at his chest. When she didn’t even flinch at her mother’s scream, her father, now frightened beyond anything he’d ever experienced before, yelled her name. “Lacey!” He stepped closer to the corral. “Lacey, for God’s sake! What are you doing!”
Still the girl never moved a muscle of response to her father’s words or his voice. She stared at Noah, the fiendish look still on her face and the bizarre laughter escaping her intermittently. Noah had raised his hands in a sign of surrender only to make sure she wouldn’t be pushed over the edge by thinking he was going to go for a weapon of some kind himself. He tried speaking to her in a quiet voice. “Lacey, listen to me —”
“She can’t hear you!” screamed the deeper voice coming from Lacey. “She’s under my control now. She will hear only me!”
Noah tried again. “Lacey, I’m speaking to you, not the demon.”
“Shut up! She won’t listen to you. She’ll do only what I tell her to do, and you’re going to die!”
By that time, Gloria, who was almost demented herself, was running toward the gate of the corral, intent on grabbing her daughter and forcing her to listen to reason. “Lacey, no!” she cried out, coming through the open gate. “Stop this!” was all she got out before her husband, who was right behind her, grabbed her and pulled her back.
“No, Gloria. She can’t hear you! She’s beyond that now. She’ll kill you if you go any closer!”
Serenity was praying with everything in her for the Lord to intervene. Noah was praying under his breath, for intervention, but also for God’s wisdom. He knew he had to hear from the Holy Spirit if he were going to handle this right. Elizabeth prayed as she made the calls, and then she left Trent in the safety of the Bishops and returned to Serenity’s side.
“Chief Weston is on his way and so is Pastor Carlyle. He said he’d have his wife call the prayer chain and get immediate back up.”
“Thank You, Lord,” Serenity whispered now. “Thank You for Your protection, and for Your own angels fighting for Noah and David now. And please, Lord . . . please deliver Lacey from this horrible thing that has control of her.”
Inside the corral, Noah slowly lowered his hands and then began speaking in a strong voice. “In the name of Jesus Christ, no weapon formed against me shall prosper!”
“Shut up! Don’t say that name!”
“In the name of Jesus Christ and by the blood of Jesus Christ, I have power to tread on serpents and scorpions -—”
“ . . . and power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall, in any way, harm me!”
“Stop it!” Lacey screamed and raised the gun higher and pulled the trigger. Noah had been shot once before in the line of duty, and he remembered the searing pain as the bullet had torn into his flesh — but this time he felt nothing. By the time he realized the bullet had missed him, Lacey had fired again. Over and over, she pulled the trigger, screaming in that hideous voice, “Die, you son of God! Die in the name of Lucifer!” Noah’s dazed mind could hardly credit the fact that all the bullets had missed him, but now he was hearing only the click of an empty chamber.
He stepped closer to Lacey, and commanded, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I command you to come out of her now and be gone from here!”
“We have a right to be here!” the spirits spoke through Lacey. “She invited us in, and now she belongs to us!” Lacey was now shaking so violently that her hands dropped the empty gun.
Noah had suspected that there was more than one demon involved, but he knew by the Spirit of God that the same demon of sorcery that he had cast out of the witch in his home county was the one ruling Lacey and her life. When he got rid of that one, the rest would have to leave also.
He spoke again, his voice strong and unrelenting. “Jesus Christ came in the flesh and died for Lacey and rose again and is now Lord of all. He has come to set her free, and you cannot resist Him! Nor His blood!”
By this time, Serenity, who had finally realized that the gun was indeed empty, was at his side, praying in support of Noah as he followed the leading of the Spirit. They could hear the sirens cut off as the police pulled up on the road that ran behind the cottages. Pastor Carlyle’s car was right behind them, and he had no trouble keeping up with the chief and his two officers as they ran toward the group at the corral.
Although unseen by any of the human beings, an army of angelic hosts had filled the corral and stationed themselves around it as well. Naam had been standing tall at Noah’s right, almost touching him, his golden sword held out horizontally, creating a fiery shield across the front of Noah’s body. Another angelic warrior stood on Noah’s left, and as the unfurled wings of the two beings touched over Noah’s head, they had formed a solid protective canopy around the rest of him during the whole encounter.
Each person there was being watched over by at least one member of the Hosts of Heaven, and David was shielded totally by the wings of his own guardian angel. Even Moondancer was covered by the wingspan of one of the mighty warriors. Two angels walked beside each of the law enforcement officers, and as Pastor Carlyle came on the scene, ten more heavenly warriors were marching with him, ready to add their holy strength to the fight.
The detachment of the Hosts of Heaven that were standing in a circle around Lacey had their wings furled and their swords sheathed, but each one had his hand firmly on the handle of his sword, waiting. When the final command was given in the name of the Lamb of God, Jesus, they would be free to draw those swords with the speed of a lightning bolt and use them to literally drive every last demon from this place. Their eyes were on the man of God — their ears attentive to the Word of God, which they had been created to obey.
Noah spoke again: “The blood of Jesus Christ is against everyone of you demonic spirits —”
“Nooo!” Lacey screamed again, falling to the ground and crouching over with her hands over her ears. “No, No, No!”
Noah ignored the pleas as he continued to speak. “The blood of Jesus is against you, and in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I command every one of you to come out of Lacey right now and be gone from this place!”
Screaming, Lacey bent over farther, until her head touched the ground, and then suddenly, she fell limp and lay there with her eyes closed.
In the unseen realm, hideous black beings screamed as they were forced by an invisible power to pull their talons out of the girl and let her go. As they emerged from her body, trying to hold on, but inevitably losing their grip, they came face to face with the Hosts of Heaven. Jehovah’s warriors glowed with the splendor of His holiness, and the demons, their screams of terror increasing, fled before the fire of those holy swords.
Not only did they flee, but as they moved over the town of Hamsted, they were joined by several of their cohorts who had been wreaking havoc all over town. Those lesser spirits now realized that with the defeat of this spirit who was second only to the strongman over Hamsted, they were better off leaving as well. Of course not all of the demonic hosts in the town were that smart. Several tried to hold onto the ground they had taken, but the Hosts of Heaven concentrated only on the evil forces they had been assigned to deal with by Noah Bennett’s words. The rest would have to be dealt with as Jehovah instructed at a later time.
However, as all of that activity transpired in the realm just beyond man’s perception, Lacey’s mother tore loose from her husband’s grip. “Lacey!” she screamed as she ran to kneel beside her daughter. Carl followed instantly, and as he knelt down, Lacey finally opened her eyes and looked at him. She seemed once more to be the same little girl he had always known, and he reached out and took her into his arms.
“Daddy,” she said, her voice choked with tears, as she wound her arms around her father’s neck. “Daddy . . . what happened?” She was crying now. “What happened?”
“It’s all right, Honey,” he said, holding her even tighter, as Gloria gently smoothed her daughter’s long hair away from her face and caressed her face with loving fingers. “It’s all right, now,” Carl spoke again. “You’re going to be all right now.” He was gently rocking her back and forth as they knelt on the ground.
Chief Weston, with long years of experience behind him, had sized up the scene in a matter of moments, and having determined to his own satisfaction that no one’s life was in danger any longer, motioned for one of the officers to retrieve the gun while he talked with Noah. Pastor Carlyle had stopped to get more of the story from Serenity, and now he moved up to where Noah and the chief were conversing. Art Weston, who by now was convinced that this whole situation was as much in the domain of the church as it was in that of the police department, shifted his position to include the pastor in the discussion.
Once Pastor Carlyle had confirmed that he had the right understanding of what had transpired, he immediately turned to Lacey and her parents. Serenity moved over to them then and introduced her pastor. “He can help you understand what has been happening to Lacey and how to help her get back to normal,” she told Gloria and Carl.
Gloria had tears streaming down her face, but she couldn’t seem to speak. She just looked at Jim Carlyle for a long time, and he looked back with the love of Jesus in his eyes. Finally, he saw a glimmer of hope light up Gloria’s brimming eyes, and he smiled at her. “We’ll get through this,” he said, patting her on the shoulder and squatting down between her and Carl.
“We don’t understand all of this,” Carl said to him now, “but since what Sheriff Bennett told us about is what really has come to pass, we’re ready to say that you obviously know something we need to know.”
Pastor Carlyle gripped Carl’s shoulder. “That’s a good enough place to start,” he said and then looked at Lacey. She had stopped crying now, and was sitting on the ground between her two parents. She looked up at him, and he realized that it was the first time he had looked at the child and not seen hatred in her eyes. He spoke directly to her now. “Would you like for you and your parents to spend some time praying with me, Lacey, so that you can get to feeling better and be more like yourself again?”
She nodded her head at first and then finally spoke. “Yes, sir,” she said, in little more than a whisper, but that was all Pastor Carlyle needed to know. That simple agreement cleared the way for him to be able to minister to this child and her family. And when they were delivered and healed, he was almost sure the rest of the people who had been equally deluded and ensnared would follow suit.
“Thank you, Jesus,” he said out loud now, as he smiled at Lacey and rose to his feet. Lacey and her parents did likewise, and the pastor asked them. “How about if I come home with you for a while and we’ll pray, and then we can make arrangements to meet again after you’ve all had some rest.” They agreed readily, and as they turned to leave, Pastor Carlyle stopped to confer with the police chief.
“Is there any necessity for you to take anyone into the office now, Chief?”
“No, I don’t think so. Since the gun was already on the ground and Lacey was bowed down and screaming when I got close enough to be sure what was going on, I can’t consider myself an eyewitness to an actual crime. So my legal options are limited unless Noah wants to press charges, and Serenity and Elizabeth are willing to give a witness account.” He smiled at the pastor. “And, under the circumstances, I don’t think either one of those things is very likely, do you?” Jim shook his head, smiling at the chief, grateful that Art Weston had turned out to be a man who could recognize when God was the only real answer.
“However,” Art continued, “I will want to talk with Lacey’s parents about how she managed to get a gun without their knowledge and what we need to do to make sure she’s under better supervision.” He glanced at Carl and Gloria, who had stopped to listen to what he had to say. “But I’ll give you a call later this evening, and we’ll arrange a long talk.”
Carl held out his hand to the chief. “Thank you, Chief Weston. We’ll be available to talk whenever you want,” he said and then turned, with one arm around Lacey and one around Gloria, and started toward the section of beach where his family had left all their possessions.
Chief Weston gripped Noah’s shoulder. “You all right?” he asked, his eyes boring into Noah’s. Noah laughed out loud, at the same time reaching out to put his arm around David, who had come to snuggle up beside him. His eyes took in Serenity’s beaming face before he looked back at the chief. “For the first time in about a year, Chief, I believe I’m really and truly all right.”
Art nodded and stooped down to talk to David. “And you, David?” The boy nodded his head. “Yes sir. Noah knew what to do, and God sent us his angels.”
“I just believe you’re right, Dave,” the chief answered and stood up. “Noah, I’ll give you a call in the morning and give you an update.” He turned to his officers. “Boys, let’s head for the office.”
Don’t forget: Final chapter tomorrow.