His black robe cascades across the altar as the bishop's outstretched arms engulf his clergy in what seems to be a spiritual embrace. He smiles as they all look at him with utter awe and amazement because he is the only true man of god in their eyes. It is a small church with worn down pews and floor boards that needed to be fixed, but no one minded. They were there for one thing and one thing only bishop Cornel and his word for the week. Scary enough someone might have believed they worshiped Cornel himself. Although he probably wouldn't have cared much himself. As two deacons began to wrap up the cups used for the holy communion Cornel began to talk to the clergy.
"This has been a wonderful and gracious service and another blessed Sunday that the lord has given to us," he said grinning while he looked across the sea of faces. "I thank you all for coming out to another service at St. John's Church on the Lake and have hopes of seeing you all next week." He stepped off the altar and headed toward the crimson red doors before anyone bothered to move, maybe in fear of being scolded. When he reached within arms length of the red gate ways they glided open and on cue the clergy rose to exit the church with their bishop waiting to send everyone home with a special farewell. Continuous good afternoons and have a blessed Sunday and rest of the week continued on for the next several minutes until Bishop Cornel was left with just his two presiding deacons and the hollow luxury hut that he called a church house. After a sigh of relief he went about the post service procedures of cleaning the pews of and checking everything on the altar as to make sure everything was in its place.
"Goodnight Bernard….Whitney,"said Cornel as he pulled his wool coat over his back and trudged out into the bitter cold of Gordansville winter. He took a deep breath of the winter air mixed with the scent of a fresh water lake, but found it rather odd that the lake was still unfrozen this time of year. He felt the cold air hit his wrinkled old body and quickly put the thought out of his mind turned and walked briskly to his four door Honda Accord immediately turning on the heat. A sigh of relief sent a visible breath of air hurling into the front view mirror of the car and Cornel gazed off into the sky reminiscing about what he believe to be a powerful sermon on life's changes. He smiled shook his head and put the car into reverse pulling off into the town's streets.
Bouncing off the gravel of unpaved streets and new snow he passed through Main St. of the little town where all the shopped were closed. A smirked found a way across his face as he knew that everyone had come to hear the word and choose to give their entire day to him. He finally came to a small house hidden behind a good amount of foliage where an axe lay embedded in a thick wooden block and parked his car beside it. Quietly he ran jogged inside and shut the door only to be met by an eerie darkness, but remedied the situation be lighting a fire that illuminated the house showing how little he possessed.
Next to the fireplace he sat in a wooden chair with a pillow laid on it for comfort in his old age. He laid a steaming glass of lemon tea on a polished oak coffee table. The tea had been poured into a gorgeous china cup with Celtic design and as he sipped from it he smiled and let out a large ahhh. Old reading glasses, reminiscent of those from revolutionary times, were perched on his nose and just before bed he read two chapters from the bible like he had done every night just before going into his room for a night of sleep.
Morning came and awoke him with the sun's rays warming his old cold blood. He headed to the bathroom and took care of his hygienic duties before dressing himself in the latest fashions of elderly wear and heading to the car for a trip into town. Parking onto a side street he came out and went straight into a electronics store and was immediately greeted by a young man in his late twenties.
"I see you're up and about once again Bishop," said the young man extending his hand for a handshake. Cornel smiled and welcomed his gesture.
"Yes you know I do come out other than on Sundays Bruce, to show this town the right way of life," said Cornel looking at the bundle of cellular phones. "What is with this generation and these devices anyway?"
"Oh you mean cell phones? Well they are the only way to reach anyone anymore. Plus these are top of the line phones really hard to break unless you try and do it on purpose. Why were you thinking of buying one Bishop?" said Bruce as he fiddled with a busted DVD player.
"No son I have a perfectly good phone at home and if I'm not there then everyone in town knows where to reach me," said Cornel
"Yes Bishop, at the church. I'm surprised you haven't just put up a cot there to sleep all the years you've been there," said Bruce.
"You're about three years late with that idea my child," said Cornel and they both shared a quick laugh before Cornel left and continued on to the flower shop. As an electric alert went off a red head with blue circular rimmed glasses glanced up with a grin to see the Bishop.
"Gwentye how are you darling?" asked Cornel. She strolled over to him and embraced the Bishop in a hug. "Must we go through this every week," as he chuckled.
"I'm sorry Bishop it's just that your message yesterday was so uplifting I just didn't know how to sleep because it made me so happy," said Gwentye with tears running down her eyes. He forced her to calm down and she finally released her claws from his old brittle waist. She returned back to her post and asked Cornel if there was anything else that he needed.
"No darling you just have a blessed day," he said, as he was about to exit she quickly yelled stop. "Yes my child?"
"I had almost forgotten, there is a new family that has just moved in on Govert Pl.," said Gwentye, "I think you should go invite them to the church and show them how tight this community is," with a smile she went back to her book keeping and left Cornel to tend to the new towns people. As he drove down Govert he saw an unfamiliar SUV parked next to a small red house and parked on the street opposite of it. As he strolled up to the door the idea of another lost soul he could mold made his old heart giddy with excitement, and he knocks vigorously with excitement. A man in his thirties comes to the door and peers looking the alien visitor up and down.
"How can I help you sir?" he asked. Cornel straightened up and extended his hand with great pride saying, "I am Cornel Tolle the Bishop of St. John's church on the lake."
"Oh that's nice, but sorry for asking why are you at my home?"
"Well Mr. Adams I have come to extend to you and invitation to come to Sunday service. Everyone in town enjoys the word on Sundays it makes them feel clean. I mean everyone in town is there just to maybe catch the word of the lord our God," he said boastfully. Content with his performance he stood there and waiting for Mr. Adams answer.
"Yes, Bishop but my family and I won't be attending your church services," said Mr. Adams simultaneously Cornel seemed to be drained of all his enthusiasm and his smile became a confused squint.
"My I ask why you're choosing not to attend church. Do you and your family not believe in God?"
"Yes we do, but we don't believe that we need to validate our faith by attending a service which is suppose to make us better Christians,"
"But…but Mr. Adams the service can make you a better Christian there are some things that people miss interpret about the bible that I help clarify," said Cornel trying to regain his composure after being knocked by the previous statement made by Merrick.
"Bishop who is to say your interpretations are correct though?"
"But EVERYONE attends my services!" Cornel quickly snapped back almost reaching through the door to grab Merrick's sweater. Adams took a step back and peered into the old man's eyes and for the first time in the conversation saw that he had humanized him. "Everyone comes to my services."
"Mr. Tolle my family and I won't be coming to your services, said Merrick but as he was closing the door his five year old daughter pushed herself in between the two men and stood with her mouth open looking into the Bishop's flaccid gray eyes.
"Daddy, who's the old man?" said asked
"Just a visitor that was about to leave and let us go on with our days," said Merrick. As he pulled his daughter away from the door Cornel grabbed for her.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" said Merrick but Cornel ignored his boasts and focused on the child's attention.
"Hey sweetheart don't you want to go to church a praise the lord God in worship….so that you will go to heaven to be with god?" he asked in desperation, only to be stared back at wide-eyed. Her lips began to quiver and tears rolled down her face in fear of the old man's lust for conformity. Snatched up and out of his site Merrick tossed her gently into the house to deal with Cornel separately.
"Mr. Tolle do not put your hands on my child again. My family and I will not be attending your church services and please don't contact us ever about the matter again," said Merrick. Cornel smiled and reached into his pocket for a business card and politely placed it into Mr. Adams's quivering palm.
"You can contact me then if you'd like," he said and turned to leave.
"Hmmm…Mr. Tolle I'm very serious if you try to connect me or invade my privacy and more I will have to take actions into my own hands," said Merrick as his assailant continued to show his back to him and hop into his car.
Disturbed by his day Bishop Cornel threw himself into his sermon for the Sunday coming, and with a hollow optimism forced himself to believe that the Adams family would come to the service. Why he believed this not even he knew but as the weeks trudged on his enthusiasm for Sunday grew and by service morning he had already had a welcoming speech for his new arriving members. As people filled the pews he prepared his stand with his bible and notes for the sermon of the morning.
"Good morning my children how are you this fine morning. I would like to start this service off a little differently but extending a special welcome to our new neighbors the Adams family, please stand for everyone to see you," said the Bishop. Everyone turned up and about looking for the Adams family but no one was standing, it was then he realized that he never checked to see if they were even there. He felt stupid and confused about what had gone wrong even though Mr. Adams made it clear that church was never an option.
"Um well I guess they could…um make it," said the Bishop he proceeded to go through one of the most awkward services of his career. After the service was over he walked toward the two doors and didn't wait for anyone to come so that they could be sent off personally, but went storming down into his office. He grabbed his jacket and ran out the door to his car driving recklessly through the building snow of the winter months. As he approached the familiar red house he sat and peered at the house hoping to get a glimpse of someone inside to talk to.
His mind was racing with explanations for why they didn't come to church. Maybe they got into an accident, maybe they got there too late and I missed them, etc. All but the simple reason Mr. Adams had given him only days prior. The house lights were on and a woman with dirty blonde hair walked around with a TV dinner headed for what seemed to be the living room. Cornel got out of his car and was immediately pressed up against his car by a stern forearm to the chest.
"What are you doing near my house?" asked Mr. Adams glaring at Cornel.
"Why weren't you at church this Sunday my child?" asked Cornel with and oblivious smile. Merrick jammed his arm farther into Cornel's chest and came close to his face. His heart racing and a ringing sound in his ear only made it harder to hear what Merrick said.
"Stay away from my family please…if you don't respect my wishes I will have to take things into my own hands," said Merrick before releasing him and walking back toward his house. So bewildered by what had just happened Cornel stumbled into his car and scraped another as he pulled off. When he got to his house he bust through the door and threw himself onto his bed wide-eyed and distorted. Thoughts raced through his mind of Mr. Adams and his insubordinate and how much he wished that he would leave the town and that his utopia would return. Mixed emotions of anger and sadness filled his heart causing him to shake through most of the night. At around 5am he reached an epiphany and immediately got dressed and hopped into his car. Down the dark unlit streets he sped swerving until he reached the block of his only nemesis. He turned of the light and parked on the corner he got out his car and ran into the backwoods that face his house and waited. Cornel waited until the morning when the family got up and got their daughter ready for pre-school and he watched. He kept watching until they left on their daily work schedules and then got back in his car. He continued to do this for the next several days out of some type of comfort. Neglecting everything and everyone who he had become friends with and helped he became obsessed with the Adams family.
On the second Sunday after he had begun his escapades he began his sermon with a note that the church secretary had given him. "Good morning my children, first off I would like to send my condolences to the Meyer family for their loss of Bru…Bruce Meyer. A beloved son and father of an unborn girl, Stabbed to death in his home," said the Bishop almost whimpering as he read the last words. People in the congregation held their heads low as the Bishop held the podium for support and some women began crying. After about two minutes he regained his composure and returned to the planned service but headed right now to the central office of the church.
"WHEN DID HE DIE WHY HASN'T ANYONE TOLD ME THIS PRIOR!" yelped Cornel. Frightened by his sudden outburst the secretary slammed her chair into the wall of the office.
"What are you talking about…Mr. Meyer died two days ago we've been trying to reach you for days now and you're never home to answer your calls," she said. Unable to take any type of answer she gave he stormed out the door and went to his car where and man in a tan tweed suit.
"Good afternoon Bishop, I'm Detective Shaw and I'm here on an investigation," said Shaw. Cornel shook his hand reluctantly but still looked at him strangely wondering why he was there. "I'm here because of the strange things going on around town and sudden three murders that occurred one right after another…,"
"Yes, three murders Sophia Gardner, Drake Roberts and the most recent Bruce Meyer," said the detective before looking into Cornel's cold dead eyes with tears streaming down his neck and his knees shaking. "Are you alright, Bishop Cornel?"
"Y…yes I'm fine I just can't believe it they were good people, but what does the have to do with me?" asked Cornel. Shaw sighed heavily before looking down into his notes and back at the Bishop who was trying his hardest not to fall on himself.
"Well I want to know where you've been at while these murders occur apparently no one can get in reach with you these past couple of weeks to talk to you about anything. Is there anything you want to tell me about your whereabouts for the past couple of days?" asked Shaw. His throat went dry at the thought of answering the question and he immediately straightened up.
"Mr. Shaw I appreciate you trying to find out my clergy members killers, but do you think I would even dream of hurting someone who attends my church. Now please excuse me so I can have some time to mourn my good friend Bruce before I have to bury him," he said as he rushed past him and into his car. The detective watched him as he drove off and turned the corner toward his house.
Into his house he ran throwing over the kitchen table in frustration and slamming himself into the cupboards where he sat down on the kitchen counter weeping onto the floor. He turned to see that he had over dozen messages in his inbox and pressed to listen to them. The first couple were just messages about the services for the week and some of his clergy wondering where he had been since they missed his visits, but one came from a voice he didn't recognize, at first.
"Hello Bishop, hey its Rodney Nixon I'm calling to tell you that there's some strange guy roaming around your car on Govert Pl. just thought I should tell you," said Mr. Nixon before the animated voice came on to tell him the message came in five days ago. Hey sprinted back out the door and into his car adrenalized his age had no factor in how he gunned the car out of the drive way and down the street headed toward Govert Pl. As he approached the red house he barely took off the engine before hurrying out the door and up the stairs. Ironically Mr. Adams stood at the window watching him and came to the door as he was about to knock.
"What did I tell you about coming to my home Bishop Cornel," said Merrick as he placed his coffee mug down on small table near him.
"Why did you do it you bastard?!" yelped Cornel before jumping on Merrick and choking him and throwing them both on the floor. Fighting to get his wrinkled clamps off of his neck Merrick banged on his forearms until he let go and pinned him up against the wall.
"What are you doing?! You come into my house and attack me!" yelped Adams while Cornel gasped for air. He turned blue before kicking Merrick in his chest sending him over the couch and regaining his breath. As he looked over the couch he saw that Merrick had been knocked unconscious, but in his fierece rage he wanted more and headed to the kitchen for a six inch steak knife. He crept over to Merrick and laid on top of his still body and began to whisper to him.
"You have been a pain in my ass ever since I met you. I only wanted one thing and that is for you to hear the word of the lord. The good message…you know what fuck it I'm gonna cut the bullshit. I wanted you at MY church because this is my fucking town! I run the shit hole and it's the only thing of significance I will ever do! You come into here and try to take over what is rightfully mine. Nope, I worked too hard to have these ignorant inbred bastards to believe anything that comes out of my mouth. I'm not giving that up even if you did kill some of them…," said Cornel as he raised the knife and was immediately shot in the side. Toppling over in pain he saw three officers from the sheriff's department rush in and over his body before blacking out.
The next couple of sites were only pieces in a puzzle he never quite figured out. As he awoke the first time he was in a hospital with Merrick and two men standing over his bed before losing consciousness again. The next time he awake he was laying in a different hospital bed but could retain his consciousness long enough to ask a nurse where he was at.
"Pedia Prison Hospital Ward," was her only answer. Cornel immediately shot up out of his bed but quickly became light headed and collapsed. Apparently he had been charged with attempted murder and his case was being looked into about the murder of the three other members of his clergy. The attempted murder charge got him seven years in prison and at his old age he doubted he would live to see the light of day ever again. The people of the town left in shock couldn't believe it at first but with his disappearances during the murders he was the only logical answer. Whenever he was questioned about the murders he would only reply by saying Come join our clergy.
------------------------------------------- 2 months later ----------------------------------------------
As the service commenced at St. John's Church on the Lake a previous deacon had taken over as the bishop. Though less people came to church there was still a large come out for the service. As the Holy Communion ended the crimson doors slid open and in walked a average build man in a black suit with new leather shoes the shined as the lights hit them. Standing at the back of the church he waited until the service when the bishop approached him.
"How are you my child?" he asked smiling at the young man. He smiled back before tapping him on the shoulder.
"Psh…bishop you're a sweet man. I hope you stay that way," he said before walking out the door and down the steps. The new bishop stood bewildered by what happened but continued as people said their farewells for the end of the service.