Excerpt from BLOOD SACRAMENT
(from the Prologue...)
The people in the village who hadn’t run were gathered in the church built only two years ago with their own hands. Father Peter Sewell, known by most of his flock as Father Blondy, looked out at all the dark-skinned people kneeling with bowed heads. Many of the women chanted a Hail Mary or an Our Father in their crisply accented English. Some spoke in their native slang, and the good Father wondered what they were chanting. He knelt before them and joined in as they attempted to pray the danger away or at least into abeyance.
Their attempts failed.
Truck and Humvee engines roared outside the building, then cut off. The priest raised his stern, determined face. He rose to his feet and stepped down the center aisle to the open doors.
So-called soldiers of the Equatorial Freedom Army, though really just a loose collection of hoodlums in black berets and camouflage and jackboots, leaped from the vehicles and formed a perimeter around the church. Each held a Russian AK assault rifle with bayonet attached to the end of the barrel. Twenty yards before the church’s front doors—the structure’s only entrance and exit—one man broke from the circle and stepped forward. Instead of an automatic weapon, he brandished a machete in his left hand, and instead of the other men’s grim expressions, he smiled and displayed a set of bleached-white, perfect teeth.
Well-known in the region, Timothy Makabu, self-proclaimed Colonel of the Equatorial Freedom Army, tilted his head back and measured the blond priest through his dark sunglasses.
Father Sewell stepped off the porch to the dirt. “Is there something you need here?”
Makabu’s smile widened. “Yes, Father, I suppose you could say that. First let me introduce myself. My name is— ”
“I know who you are, Makabu. We all know who you are.”
The smile drooped slightly. “You will show me the respect that I show you, Father, and call me by my proper rank.”
“As you wish, Colonel Makabu. Now I ask you again . . .Is there something you need here?”
“If our freedom campaign is to succeed, we will need more fighters. We will leave here with all able-bodied males between twelve and forty years old. These men will be clothed, fed, and trained, and the families they leave behind will be cared for to the highest standards.”
“You will leave as you came. On your vehicles with none of our people.”
“I warn you, Father . . .Do not resist us.”
“And I warn you, Colonel!” Raising a wooden crucifix in his right hand, the priest stepped toward the rebel leader. “Do not try to resist the power of Christ!” He continued walking forward.
Colonel Makabu raised his free right hand and waved forward. A rebel soldier stepped before his commander and thrust his weapon toward the priest. The bayonet impaled the priest’s hand. The bloodied crucifix dropped to the dirt, and Father Sewell’s eyes bulged. Though he didn’t cry out, his vision blurred and he fought his body’s surrender to unconsciousness. The soldier yanked back on the weapon pulling the bayonet free.
His knees weakening, Father Sewell turned and staggered back to the open doors. Like bread crumbs from the fairy tale, a trail of blood drops from his hand marked the way from Colonel Makabu to the house of the Lord. The priest faced the rebel leader and placed his hands on the door frame, both to steady himself from keeling over and to block the doorway with his body. He jutted out his chin defiantly. “Colonel, you will leave this place now.”
“Father Blondy, you are the one who must leave. And we will help you.” Makabu held out a beckoning hand. “I will let you ride with me in comfort, and I will take you personally to the nearest airport. Your time here is over, and you must return to your people.”
“These are my people! And in the name of the Blessed Virgin, I order you to leave this place now!”
Makabu sneered. “The only virgins that interest me are inside, right behind you.” He turned his face to the left and right, addressing all his men. “You will enter the building and bring all out. Anyone who resists, you will kill and carve up for hungry jackals. Any male between twelve and forty who refuses to enlist, likewise. Any females you wish to have, have. And if you enjoy, you may bring them along as well.”
Father Peter Sewell gripped the door frame with both clean and bloody hand. He gritted his teeth and hissed, “Makabu, you will touch none of my children . . .You will have to kill me first!”
The Colonel shrugged. “As you wish . . .Father Peter.” He nodded to a soldier, who raised his weapon and fired a round.
It felt to the priest as though his head had exploded. The world became a white-hot light, then quickly faded to gray and black.