Revenge of Montezuma
Pastor Griffin was dead.
Detective Mendoza went into action. He called in a report to dispatch then took steps to secure the scene surrounding the body. While he waited for reinforcements, he directed the deacons to herd the congregation inside the church and to insure that everyone was accounted for. Whether they liked it or not, they were all now potential suspects and witnesses.
Ethel Mae and Mama Lou took charge of the hysterical Delilah, ushering her into one of the Sunday school classrooms just off the vestibule. Agnes Bradshaw was tasked with organizing a small group of women to take the food into the church, equally for the distraction and comfort of the members as they individually and collectively began the grieving process.
Many were in shock as they stumbled towards the church. Pastor Griffin had generated lots of emotions among the group – betrayal, misplaced trust, anger. The discovery that one’s spiritual leader had feet of clay was a bitter pill to swallow. As Ethel Mae scanned the faces before her, some tearful and openly weeping, others dry-eyed and stony, she knew that it would take more than food to help this congregation snap back . . . if they ever would.
Murder? Ethel Mae shook her head. There was nothing natural about a knife in the back, a fact which further ruled out a credible conclusion of suicide. The pastor’s attempt to steal from the church, to use them for his own personal gains was unforgivable, but had it been enough to drive someone to murder? Or were there other factors she was not yet aware of. Regardless of the motive, there was a killer scattered somewhere among them.
Mama Lou pulled Delilah closer to her. The girl’s body was racked with violent shivers, though her screams had been reduced to breathy pants. She kept wiping her hands on the hem of her dress as if to clear them of Pastor Griffin’s blood. Mama Lou whispered words of comfort in her ear and gradually, the younger woman relaxed against her.
“My children,” Delilah whispered. “My babies. Where are my babies?”
For an unforgivable moment, Ethel Mae had forgotten about Delilah’s five kids. They were probably as hysterical as their mother by now, given how unsettled the other adults around them were. Ethel Mae stepped to the doorway of church sanctuary and looked inside. It took several frustrating moments before she spotted them. They had formed a circle in the back of the sanctuary, near one of the usher’s station. Quanisha Jones sat in the center of the circle, with the three year old tucked in her lap while she read a story. Ethel Mae caught her eye for one brief moment before the young woman smiled slightly, a minuscule movement of her lips that never reached her eyes. She nodded as if to say that the children were okay and safe with her.
Ethel Mae turned and was startled by a commotion and scuffle from the entry doors to the church. Kieran struggled against Uncle Frank’s hold on his arm. He was wild-eyed and screamed expletives better suited for the sewer than a place of God.
“Where she at?” He screamed. “Where that bitch?”
Ethel Mae closed the doors leading to the sanctuary. “Deacon Kieran?” she said. “Whatever is the matter with you. This is neither the time nor place.”
“That bitch killed him,” he continued screaming. He seemed unaware of anyone or anything else except for the demons in his head. Mama Lou poked her head out from the classroom and Kieran zeroed in on her. With an unexpected surge of strength, he yanked away from the restraining arm and ran towards the classroom. Mama Lou stepped aside but then stretched out her cane just as Kieran crossed the threshold. The young man went tumbling head first into a group of child sized desks.
“Lord, forgive me,” Mama Lou whispered. She crossed over to Delilah, who had plastered herself against the wall at the intrusion.
Kieran remained in a sprawl on the floor, his head now cradled in his arms. His loud sobs echoed off the tile floor. “Why did you kill him?” he said. “He was all I had. All I ever wanted.”
His despair was a tangible thing and for a moment, Ethel Mae could not determine if he were talking to God or Delilah. But then he lifted his head and glared at her, “Why did you kill him?”
“I, I . . . I didn’t,” Delilah pressed her head into Mama Lou’s shoulder. “I found him.”
“You’s a lie!” Kieran shouted. “I saw the two of you together. Watched you throw yourself at him, day after day. Kissing him. Twisting your butt in his face every chance you got.” Kieran pushed to his feet, but his eyes never wavered from Delilah.
“You knew he wanted me and you couldn’t take it,” he said. “So you killed him.”
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