Warning: If you are offended by same sex couples or sensitive about religion I would suggest hitting the back button now. For all of you who aren't, enjoy.

Canto II

The small jet cut through the sky towards Texas carrying the two detectives to their first case together. Soon, they would be landing in Dallas than traveling the last distance to Freemont on the road. There they would be investigating the claim that an apparition of Jesus appears upon a crucifix in the local church. The whole idea humored the both of them.

The flight allowed the two to chat about their lives. Their conversation was reminiscent of first date material. Ryan told of how he was the youngest of three boys. From his position in the family, he was able to get out of a lot of trouble, which he excelled in making. He had never done anything malicious, just more along the practical joke line. After high school, he attended college for forensic psychology then headed for the police academy. It was there that he was plucked and placed in Trent's hands.

Quietly, the silver haired man sat intently listening while he studied his new partner's face and mannerisms. The established detective found the boy to be quite appealing and attractive, both physically and mentally. In his mind he debated whether it was unethical to feel this way about a partner but he just brushed that thought away. He generally did what he wanted.

When the younger of the two was done, his elder gave up a little information about his past. Growing up, he was always ahead of the game. He graduated from high school two years early and headed straight into college. There he majored in both theology and forensic psychology. Before having a chance to attend the police academy, he was contacted by the Skeptics Organization to be a detective. Intrigued, he agreed.

As well as Trent, Carson did some studying of his own. The young man eyed his elder, trying to read his personality. The new partner had grown up to be a very forward and go getting individual so he wondered how this would affect their relationship. He was quite attracted to this accomplished detective. He made a note to check out the regulations of his new job.

After their plane landed, the pair headed straight for a jeep that had been waiting to take them the rest of the way. When they arrived, a small-framed man handed Trent a set of keys and a file contained in a manila folder. Keeping the keys he handed the file over to Carson.

"I'll drive, you read."

"What's this?"

"Standard file," Trent answered. "It's a history on the parish and the priest. That way we can see if there is anything fishy going on. We also get all the police reports since the start of the event."

Carson nodded looking in the file. He jerked back a little when Trent popped the clutch on the jeep and sped out of the parking lot. The younger detective smiled to himself. He saw that this might end up being quite an interesting partnership.

As he drove the last few hours towards the small town, the silver haired man stole glances at his new partner. As he read, the boy's soft pink lip found it's way between perfectly straight white teeth. He intently took in the contents of the file. After a bit of reading, Carson did something that intrigued his elder. Absentmindedly, he pulled out the gun that was holstered on his right hip and started to lazily spin it on his finger. The speeding jeep bouncing over the road seemed to make no difference on the circler motion of the weapon, which revolved flawlessly in the boy's hand.

"What the hell?"

Carson quickly looked up at his partner's explanation.

"Is everything okay?"

Trent pointed at the handgun twirling.

"You know that's loaded, right? What are you doing?"

His tone held more humor than anger at his partner's action.

"Oh that," He said as he stopped, "Sorry."

"No need to be sorry, I was just wondering if maybe you would feel more comfortable in the wild west or something."

Carson let out a laugh.

"Just something I picked up from my grandfather."

"Huh?"

"My granddad worked at numerous circuses and sideshows. He was a master quick draw and could do many tricks with guns. Since I was the only grandchild to show interest, he taught me what he could. Give me a couple of six shot revolvers and I'll show you something interesting."

"I have to admit," Trent said, "It's quite an amazing skill. Don't let me stop you."

Carson nodded and started twirling again.

"So what's that say?"

"Well, to start," Carson briefed, "the church St. John (huh, original name) has been in practice for a hundred and two years. Impressive."

"What about the priest?"

"That's actually quite interesting. Father Paul Francis, came to be the priest of this fine parish only two months ago."

He looked up at his partner.

"Two months? Gee, that's not suspicious."

"I know. Other than that, he's squeaky clean. He's been a priest for forty years, becoming a member of the clergy at the age of twenty-five. Since then he has preached at only two other parishes and is well liked. His only reasons for moving were to see different parts of the country."

"That's odd. Someone practicing for that long doesn't fit the profile to pull a scam."

"Maybe he's fed up with the wages?"

"Maybe," Trent sat thinking for a few moments. "What about the police reports? Anything suspicious?"

"Um," the younger detective scanned the file, "Normal domestic claims, a few noise complaints, and . . . huh. There seems to be a missing person reported. Marilyn Herrington, age nineteen. Reported missing by her mother. I guess they were both here to see the apparition. Black hair and, weird, red eyes. Red eyes? I don't think I've met anyone with red eyes before."

"Yeah," Trent said, "They're rare. Anyway, missing people aren't always that unusual. I've run into a few other cases where girls go missing. Usually they just find some religious guy and they head off together."

"Nothing like going to a religious experience to get some."

Trent shook his head and drove on.

-----------

The green jeep arrived into town mid-afternoon. The Texas sun beat down upon the plethora of visitors who came to see the apparition. For once, small Freemont was seeing a booming business it could barely contain. Both motels proudly displayed neon says stating 'No Vacancy'.

"Where are we going to stay, Trent?"

The silver haired man gave a large smile.

"I called ahead, we have a room."

The young man gave a sideways glance.

"Just one?"

-------------

"We have some time to kill before we head up to the church," Trent said as he pulled his luggage into the small room.

Carson followed behind, looking around at their current establishment. The room hadn't been renovated or updated since the seventies. Drab discolored wallpaper hung upon the paper-thin walls. An old barely color television sat on the lone dresser. Two chairs were placed around a tiny round table. The only light source came from a lamp placed on the one end table.

"Not bad," Carson sarcastically replied, "looks like the 'Bate's Motel'."

He threw his bag on the bed then checked out the bathroom. As with the rest of the room, it was the size of a closet.

"This is what you get," Trent replied sadly, "When a town is in poverty. Did you bring the file in with you?"

"Yeah," Ryan called from the bathroom, "It's in the outer pocket of my bag."

The taller man grabbed the file and stood reading it while he sipped upon some tar the corner store said was coffee. The new detective came out and plopped himself on the bed.

"Should we go up and check out he church ahead of time?"

"No," experience talked, "I don't want to tip off who-ever is pulling the scam. If they are, Jesus just might decide not to show up tonight and we won't be able to prove it false."

Ryan nodded and looked about the room with a contemplative stare. Just as Trent was taking a sip of his brew the man spoke.

"I bet your rough in bed."

It was all the tall man could do from choking on his coffee. After a fit of coughing he swallowed and looked up wide-eyed at his new partner.

"What?"

"Oh," he replied nonchalantly, "I was just thinking. You seem like the type that would like it rough. I don't know. I just get that vibe."

Trent was astonished at his new partners statement. There was no anger in him, only surprise and intrigue. He did find the boy quite attractive and a comment like that might show his returned interest. He wasn't quite sure, though, how to respond. Thankfully the new detective had a sense of humor so if it wasn't a 'come-on' then it was just a joke.

Trent finally just shrugged.

"Maybe you'll have to find out."

--------

Around sunset, the pair headed up towards the church, lost in a sea of other observers.

"The truck should be getting here soon."

Ryan looked up at his partner.

"Truck?"

"Remember how you asked about our office? Well we have a mobile one. It looks like a big tractor-trailer and inside is basically a mini-crime lab. It has a crew and all. I'll introduce you to them later. Right now, we have a service to attend to. Oh yeah, by the way, I almost forgot."

He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a card.

"This is your identification card. Nice picture."

Trent gave a little laugh as Ryan snagged the little plastic card from his hands. A younger yet familiar face beamed back at him.

"How did you guys get this picture?"

"From the academy. You looked cute when you joined."

Ryan shook his head and blushed.

They continued on reaching the small parish in only a few minutes. People were flooding into the cramped room, all trying to get a glimpse of their savor's image upon the cross. The two detectives shuffled into the back where they stood and waited for the event.

"Doesn't it seem a little odd that it comes at the same time everyday?"

"It would seem, Ryan, that the scammers aren't very bright."

They quietly laughed together.

Up in front of the room of worship stood velvet ropes partitioning off a section in front of the large wooden cross. Hundreds of people kneeled, staring up in amazement at the supposedly haunted cross. The foggy air contained the strong smell of incense.

From a side door, Father Francis stepped out, wearing his priestly robe. A white beard hung close-cropped upon his wrinkled face. He opened his arms wide and spoke in a booming voice.

"Children of God, I welcome you here today in modest reverence of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The pair of detectives quickly covered their mouths to hide the laughing that tried to escape. The theatrics of church seemed to be a source of amusement to the athiests. The father folded his hands as he spoke on.

"Soon, we shall be graced with the presence of the holy ghost. He shall soon come into our lives."

The pastor paused, overacting, and stared interested at the cross.

Ryan leaned into his partner and spoke quietly.

"Are these people really buying this?"

"You'd be surprised. Most of these people are just looking for an excuse to believe in something higher. The hope for a better life causes people to ignore. That's exactly why we're the ones doing the investigating."

"Look," the minister said in the same overacted tone, "Our lord."

The room was plunged into blackness, causing the crowd to gasp. Upon the cross, an illuminated savoir faded into view. The figure seemed to have a strange three dimensional substance to it, giving the appearance of a real entity. The two detectives tried hard not to laugh. They could easily spot it was a fake.

"I feel like I'm in a mystery cartoon," Ryan whispered, trying not suppress a chuckle, "I'm just waiting for the stoned talking dog to show up."

Trent just nodded for fear that he would laugh too loud if he opened his mouth. The "apparition" stayed for a few more minutes before fading back out of existence.

Trent leaned in close to his partner, speaking quietly into his ear.

"This is when he solicits everyone for money."

"Now my children," The preacher spoke, as if on cue, "I know everyone here is overwhelmingly generous. So many people have been generous, but I must ask you."

"Here it comes," the elder said.

"Please do not give us any money. God knows that you wish to, and that is all that is needed."

"What?"

Ryan looked over at his flabbergasted partner.

"This," Trent said, "Doesn't make sense. If it's not for money, then what?"

"Now everyone," The Father announced, "I must ask everyone to leave. It is late and I am very tired. Please, go home and pray."

"I've never seen a priest kick anyone out before," Ryan spoke out of the side of his mouth.

"I know," Trent nodded his head, "We're staying and having a little chat with Father Francis."

The pair of sleuths watched as the people filed out of the parish, murmuring phrases of astonishment at the nights proceedings.

"Do you know how that was done?"

Ryan felt like he was being quizzed but he didn't hesitate to show off his deduction skills.

"Simple. It was a projection."

"But how did it appear three dimensional?"

"A clear molded body is hanging on the cross. When the image is projected upon it, the projection is given depth. This low light makes the body impossible to see, but I bet if we cross those ropes and get a closer look we'll see it as plain as day."

Trent gave his partner a sly smile.

"I knew there was a reason we picked you."

Father Francis finished conversing with the departing people and turned to find the two detectives standing in the middle of the room.

"Can I help you?"

"Yes, Father Francis," Trent spoke in a professional voice. He pulled out his ID. "We are with the Skeptics Organization. Have you heard of us?"

The Priest was visibly worried. His eyes darted from left to right.

"Yes," He said quickly, "I do believe I've heard of you. What is it that you want?"

"We were sent by the church," The experienced one answered. "We're here to investigate the appearances."

"I, um, didn't expect the church to be here so soon."

"Well," Ryan smirked, "I guess we're good like that. Do you mind if we look at the cross?"

"Actually," The minister answered, "I would. I'm very tired and would like to get some rest now. Could you come back in the morning?"

"We'll only be a few moments," Trent coaxed, flashing a smile.

It wasn't hard to see that if they left for the night then something would be covered up. More than likely the whole scam would be packed up without a trace.

"Well," he stammered, buying some time, "I guess I could let you have just a little look."

He turned to lead the way than spun around with a gun in his hand. Quickly, Ryan reacted, performing a judo move, easily disarming and taking down the old man. Trent looked impressed as they pulled out their pistols.

"Did your grandfather teach you that one too?"

"No, my sensei did," Ryan replied.

They turned their attention back to the priest on the ground just quick enough to watch as he plunged a large knife deep within his stomach, turning and moving it before pulling it back out.

"Jesus," the younger one replied.

The old man ran his tongue over his teeth, licking clean the blood that had moved into his mouth. He let out a laugh.

"Soon you too will be tasting your own blood. The apocalypse is nigh and Satan is coming."

The two detectives exchanged a quick glance that could only be interpreted as "Crazy".

"My life," He went on, "has been martyred for my lord Lucifer."

If it hadn't been for the man lying dying on the floor in front of them, they would have let out a laugh at the man's words.

"The troops are marching," The old priest said. He than let out a cackle that turned to coughing. He spat up blood on the spot of the floor that his face landed on.

"What the hell is going on?"

Trent just shook his head at his partner's question.

"Be careful," He warned, "There may still be some hostiles here."

Ryan nodded then carefully walked forward towards the only door that didn't exit the building. He pointed his gun at the door as Trent kicked it in. They were greeted by stairs.

The younger one quickly went down, making sure to keep his guard up. Another door lay at the bottom of the stairs. This one opened out not it, preventing a forceful entry. Ryan tried the handle.

"Locked."

Trent nodded shooting out the locking mechanism. He grabbed the handle and pulled the door open as Ryan went through.

"Oh Christ," the black haired detective let out as entered the room.

A white sheet stained red covered a lump upon a wooden table. Ryan looked up at his partner.

"Has anything like this happened before?"

"No."

Ryan carefully snatched the sheet away. There on the table was the mutilated body of what could only be discerned as a woman. A knife protruded from both eye sockets and slashes covered her whole body.

"I think we may have found our missing person," Trent said as he let his guard down. They were the only two people left alive in the church.

Author's Note

Sorry about the delayed updating. I've been kind of busy. From here on out the series is going to start getting a lot more bloody and a lot more sexual so I hope you all enjoy. I also want to say thanks to my lone reviewer. You were the reason why I picked the story back up again.

Chapter reviews are greatly appreciated. I would like to know what I'm doing right and what's wrong. Please let me know.

F.L. Tybush