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Chest of Hope Ch.17

Pastor Miller and his wife were counting the collection plate offerings for the second time. “Only two hundred dollars and some change. The entire church was only half full. What's going on?” Mister Miller asked. “I've noticed that the congregation has gotten smaller since that O-something moved in, and had his hired help working on Sundays. How long will this be going on?” She continued, as her husband recounted the money again. “Not for much longer, I can swear to that my dear. By next Sunday, the whole church will be filled with pious worshipers and our offerings will be coming in, just like before.” Pastor Miller said, with a broad smile. “How can you say that? Is there something I should know about?” She turned and asked. “There’s nothing for you to worry about my sweet wife. As you know, the Lord moves in mysterious ways. Sometimes, he needs a little help on which way to go.” Pastor Miller said, as he put the bills in his metal lock box.

Charles opened the door to Hart manor and bid Bill Gentry to enter. “The Judge is in the study. This way, please. Would you care for any refreshments, sir?” Charles asked, as he received Gentry's hat. “No thank you, Charles, maybe later. The Judge sounded apprehensive on the phone. Do you know what's upsetting him?” Bill asked. “No sir, but the doctor arrived a short while ago, and the judge had his television and tape recorder in the center of the study. You should ask them directly. I'll be in shortly, if you gentlemen need anything.” Charles answered, and proceeded to open the study door for the District Attorney and motioned for him to enter, where his host waited. “Good you're here. Sit there and let me start the tape.” Judge Hart said, as he waved to a vacant chair. Moments later, the viewing screen went from grey to black, then the image of the French doors appeared. “What's this all about, Judge?” Gentry asked perplexed, trying to figure out the answer to the Sunday afternoon meeting. “You'll see in a minute. This was recorded last night about ten. Right there! At the door, do you see him?” Judge Hart said, as he came around his desk and pointed to the screen.

On the monitor, a shadow appeared at the French doors, and then heard light rapping coming from the speaker. The men watched, as a man appeared in the picture, and the door was opened. Charles's face appeared as his voice was heard. “May I take your coat, sir?” With a quick shake of his head, the offer was declined by a small man, who was now approaching the Judge's desk. “Very good, sir. Judge, would you or your guest care for anything before I depart?” “No Charles, leave us to our business. If we need anything, I'll buzz you.” Announced the distinct reply of Judge Hart's rough voice. The camera showed Charles exit, and the small man standing at the edge of the desk. “Did Mister Odhinsunar send you here?” The Judge asked. A sharp nod indicated yes. “You don't speak?” Another sharp nod was seen. “What time were you at the Duck ‘N’ Buck, today?” The Judge asked and watched closely. The small man turned to the right, then left. He saw the camera and heard the motor turning the tape. A smile almost parted his lips and his eyes were caught momentarily in the lens. They were of an unusual golden-reddish hue. The small man went over to a clock. With his left index finger, he flipped the hour hand around to mark eleven-forty. The judge quickly rose, as the doctor and D.A. watched him rewind the tape. “Watch that guy's hand, again. Notice the clock hands!” Judge Hart said, and pointed to the corner of the screen. As the three watched, Bill noticed the speed that the hands revolved around the clock face, and the video tape counter clicking off the numbers. “So, he has fast hands. What's the point, Judge?” Bill asked, as the tape was placed on a pause. “Fast? You don't know the half of it. The doc and I timed that little trick and we calculated it to be about six hundred miles an hour!” The judge burst out. Bill Gentry eased back in his chair and wondered, how fast did his hand move? “That would explain the wounds on the bodies, but not the other thing.” Doc Holiday answered. “What other thing?” Bill sat up straight, again. “Wait. There’s more. Sit and watch this damn thing.” Judge Hart said, as he pressed play. The tape began turning again. They watched as the little man answered the Judges questions about the deaths of the two men. He stopped the tape after most of the questions were fielded by the man. “What do you think, Gentry? Do you have cause to prosecute?” The judge asked. “By his, er, testimony, I see a clear cut, self-defense plea being entered here. Along with that statement from Mister Holland and no other living witnesses, proving different would be hard.” Bill said, and went over for some water, from the cart. “That's how I see it also, Bill. I'm calling off the police search for this guy, based on the evidence.” The judge echoed, and poured a drink from a decanter on his desk. “That's fine and dandy for you two. However, Paul, how did he do it?” Doc Holiday asked, and was seemingly disturbed that his glass didn't also get a refill from the decanter. “I was saving that for now, Doc. Get yourself a drink, while I turn it back on.”

The judge walked over and pressed play, as the doc filled his glass. On the screen, the diminutive man was seen again. Hart's voice could clearly be heard on the tape asking, “Did you see any others around when you did this?” The man stood there and didn't make a move. The Judge’s voice erupted from the speaker, “Who else did you see there?” The man didn't move a muscle. His head tilted and viewed the study. On a wall, out of camera range, hung a photograph of the last City Fathers Day gathering. The man went off-camera, and returned with it in his hands. As the camera told the next actions, the doctor let out a gasp and Bill Gentry stood up straight from his chair. “My God! Play that back! Do you have slow speed?” Gentry said, astonished. “What do you think Doc?” The judge asked his oldest friend, with a half smile. “That would do the trick, all right!” Ben Holiday answered. “What trick? Rewind that damn tape Judge. It has to be a glitch of some kind.” Gentry's voice echoed in the study, and its tension was well understood by the others. “Look at this, and tell me, it was a glitch.” The judge said, as he handed Bill the framed photograph from the wall. Bill Gentry took the photo and studied it from all sides. He recognized the two men, with holes bore through them, as Jake Thomas and Arnold Johnson. Then he returned to the picture frame. The holes were completely through the entire object. No cracks appeared around the smooth bored holes in the glass, and Bill had to tap on it, to assure himself, that it was indeed glass, not plastic. He placed the photo on the desk and turned to watch the television again. The judge adjusted the tape tracking to its lowest speed. Viewing the actions of the man, frame by frame, as he held up the photo and pointed to it twice, with his right index finger. Even at this subdued speed, his hand was just a blur in the tape. One frame became clear, as the finger was extracted from the photo’s frame. A glint of silver showed the two-inch nail, attached to the finger. “That's how their spinal cords were severed. As clean as if a scalpel was used. Not even a nick to the bone was found.” Doc said, addressing Bill. “Their spinal cords? I thought you said their throats were cut.” Gentry replied. “I didn't want to set off a panic, Bill. The truth is, both men had their throats ripped out and their spines cut, in one smooth motion. How would that sound to the tax payers around here?” Judge Hart said, making his point. “I've seen every damn chop-suey movie ever made, and that move was never shown, or even talked about. I called a guy down in New Orleans yesterday. He said, no punch of this kind existed, in any karate or kung-fu training. He thought, maybe a ninja would be taught this, but nobody has the speed or accuracy to preform it. Once would be plain luck, but to do it twice, would be impossible.” Doc Holiday stated, frankly. “What would he say about this tape?” Judge Hart asked. “Something you'd hold him in contempt for, if you had him in court.” Doc said, smiling. “So what you are telling me is, this guy is an oriental ninja, who happened to be behind the Duck ‘N’ Buck, when two guys were about to kill Luke Holland.” Bill said, and sat back in the chair. “Officially, that's about the size of it. Unofficially, not for the public, I'm not even saying this guy is human.” Judge Hart said, as he finished his drink. “What?” Gentry asked, opened mouthed. “The judge is right. The human body can't move that fast, and a finger nail can't go through a pane of glass like that. I have to side with him on that. I don't care how many years you train. It just can't be done.” Ben Holiday said, and reclaimed his seat across from the D.A. “What would move that fast?” Bill asked in a level tone. “Some snakes, mongooses, maybe a cat, but that’s only our best guess.” Judge Hart rattled off the top three possibilities, discussed earlier by the pair. “Wait a minute. You're trying to tell me, I've been watching a snake with a hat and coat, that simply grew arms and legs. Only, to talk to you, Judge?” Bill asked in disbelief. “We're telling you that we don't know what that guy was or how he accomplished what he did. We think. He’s not what he appears to be. That's all.” Judge Hart answered, as he walked to the study doors. “When he left last night, I walked over here to see him go. In the time it took me to move from there too here, he was gone. Look. There’s nothing to hide behind between the doors and the hedges. That's a good twenty-five yards. So, where'd he go?” Judge Hart said, opening the doors for the men. “What about that?” Gentry asked, as he pointed to an oak branch, that hung over the manor wall. “That's got to be eighteen feet in the air. Are you thinking this guy can fly now?” Doc Holiday asked, as he looked up. “A moment ago, you were telling me this guy wasn't even human. You figure it out.” Bill Gentry snapped at them. “A good point, Bill. Let’s get out of this heat.” Judge Hart stated, as he started to close the door and glanced back at the branch.