Authors: Carrie Stuart Parks
I stowed my sketching supplies in the car. If needed, I could draw the faces of anyone attending services that looked suspicious.
The address on the pamphlet turned out to be a small strip mall just off the highway. I'd driven past it a number of times and never noticed the small, hand-lettered sign in the window. A used bookstore and a saddle repair shop bracketed the church. I parked around the side of the building between two oversize pickups. Waiting until a small group of people entered, I slipped
in behind them. An undersized lobby held a few chatting teens, but most of the congregation proceeded forward through a double set of open doors to the sanctuary beyond. A rack of pamphlets sat on a small table to my left. I recognized the one I'd received, but decided to wait until later to grab more.
My attire drew no particular notice. Fashions included jeans, T-shirts, dresses, and a sprinkling of camo. The church bulletin, handed to me by a smiling, plump woman, looked like the bulletin from my own church.
The room had no windows, with a small, raised stage in the front. Black fabric draped from the ceiling, forming a backdrop for the stage, and a large, hand-carved cross stood behind the podium. An American flag was attached to the wall on my right. I settled in the last row of white plastic lawn chairs nearest the exit.
The room soon completely filled. I kept my head down, fiddling with my Bible and the bulletin. The worship team entered the stage; three women and a man, each carrying instruments. Four songs, slightly off-key but sung with enthusiasm, followed.
So far, the American Christian Covenant Church was disappointing. Not a single “Heil Hitler” or cross burning, and the music wasn't as good as my own church.
Every chance I got, I checked out the congregation. I didn't recognize anyone. Paying particular attention to the men, I made sure I could recognize and sketch them later if needed. Finally a distinguished-looking man with blond hair took the podium as the musicians left. “Good morning,” he said.
“Good morning,” we all replied.
“A few announcements before we begin. Remember tonight is the torchlight parade.”
I sat up straighter and pulled a pencil out of my purse.
“We assemble at seven p.m. in front of the grocery store on Main. It should be . . .” He chuckled. “. . . an interesting night.” The people around me joined in as if all sharing an inside joke.
I shifted in my chair, then quickly looked down as a hot flash shot up my face.
“I want to thank the committee who came up with this event. I see some of you here.”
Some of you here?
That means members of the church were missing this service. Could my Lone Wolf be absent? I risked another glance around the room.
“Turn with me in your Bibles to Numbers 25:6.”
My suddenly damp fingers stuck to the thin pages.
“ âAnd, behold,' ” the pastor read, “ âone of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.' ” The pastor looked up. “We've studied this passage many times.”
I bet you have.
“But pay attention to the insight we have here. When Phinehas killed the man and woman, he was killing one of his own kind, a âman of Israel.' In the past we've talked about the true, literal, chosen people of Israel: the white, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic people.”
I glanced around. Heads nodded all around me.
“So what is God saying here? He's identifying race traitors. Those who destroy and betray their own race, and those who are creating mongrels.” He paused and looked at the congregation. “This is war, people!” His voice rose. “War! And what do we do with traitors during war? What did Phinehas do? He killed them. This includes anyone,
, who betrays us.”
I gripped my Bible so hard my fingers ached. There was the answer to the question Dave asked,
The Lone Wolf decided I was a race traitor for the work I did to identify his group and foil his plan.
The pastor jabbed the air with a finger. “Death is the only way to treat race traitors. Death in such a way so as to send a message to other possible defectors. Remember the Fourteen Words, âWe must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.' ”
The whole congregation chanted the words together, as if repeating the Lord's Prayer.
Sweat dampened the back of my dress. I could barely breathe.
The pastor's voice dropped, and he said quietly, “This is survival of the fittest. We must cut the chaff from us and their seed. You have a duty, a God-given duty, to seek revenge on those who have harmed our race!” He flung his arms out to the side, perfectly matching up with the cross behind him.
I glanced at the people around me. Their faces were blotched and red, jaws clenched, hands drawn into fists.
I had to get away from this man, this room, this vitriolic speech.
Slipping my pencil back into my purse, I pulled out a tissue, placed it over my mouth, and started coughing. Swiftly I stood, made an apologetic gesture, and continued my fake coughing
attack to the exit. A few heads turned, but most seemed riveted by the sermon.
No one was in the lobby, nor could I see anyone loitering in the parking lot. Before making my dash for freedom, I snatched a selection of pamphlets from the rack.
Once out of sight of the church and heading toward my rendezvous with Beth, I yanked off the wig and fluffed my hair. I didn't want anyone connecting me with the woman who had attended that church. After parking behind Nora's CafÃ©, I thought about the hatred I'd just witnessed as I finished my transformation back to my regular appearance.
I looked in the mirror to apply eye shadow, then stopped. The expressions on the faces of the congregation had looked familiar.
I'd seen it on my own face after my fight with Robert.
I dropped my hands into my lap and bowed my head. “Heavenly Father, I know everything happens for a reason. I know it was by divine appointment that I was at that church today. Please help me, guide me, and protect me through this time. In Jesus' name, amen.”
Someone tapped on the car window.
I jerked up my head. Beth and Aynslee were staring at me. I got out of the car and joined them. Beth looked ready to question me on my praying, but she didn't say anything.
I wasn't ready to share my moment of self-discovery.
The after-church lunch rush was in full swing, and we quickly grabbed the last empty table.
“Well,” Beth said. “How did it go?”
Before I could answer, the waitress appeared. “The usual?” she asked Beth and me. We both nodded. “How about you, hon?” she asked Aynslee.
Aynslee pointed to the menu. “Pancakes, eggs over easyâ”
“I'm buying,” Beth said. “So go ahead.”
I gave her a grateful smile. “You are absolutely the best friend and partner.”
“Do I get that badge?”
“How about a shiny belt buckle?”
“You said that before.”
After Aynslee placed her order, she popped in earbuds, closed her eyes, and tapped the table lightly in tune with her phone.
“Did anyone recognize you?”
“No. I got a good look at the men. I'll sketch them this evening.” I finished quietly updating Beth on my church visit, then placed the selection of pamphlets on the table.
Beth unfolded each one.
We both spotted the Phineas Priesthood symbol on the third pamphlet. Across the top was a quote. “It is our God-given duty to execute righteous judgment.”
“Wow.” Beth dropped it like it was on fire.
“So, this is what I think we're dealing with. I think this killer evolved to what is called a thrill-oriented serial killer,” I said. “Looking at his actions in Spokane, he started by bombing and killing people, using the philosophy of the Phineas Priesthood as his reason. Then his buddies are caught or died, so again using the Christian Identity as a justification, he embarked on revenge.”
“Rather a common theme, using religion as a rationalization for amoral behavior.”
I nodded. “He may have used revenge as an excuse, but he found he craved the excitement of killing. When his second
victim escaped, the killer chased him, but failed to catch him. That hunting of another person was immensely satisfying, a total adrenalin rush.”
Beth placed her fork on the table and pushed away her salad.
“Serial killer Robert Christian Hansen,” I said, “murdered between seventeen and twenty-one women in Alaska, many of them taken to a remote region, allowed to run for their lives, hunted down, and killed. I think the bodies in the grave were killed like that.”
“He must have given them a head start, then caught up with them at the McCandless farm.”
“What about the body in the cow pasture?”
“She also ran. I think they all were given a map, maybe a compass, but the Jane Doe in the pasture probably couldn't read it. She ran the wrong way, and the wolves found her instead of the killer.”
“I thought about her. She's really the key. It was raining that night.”
“Rain. That's why he didn't make Mattie run. He'd lose her in the downpour.”
Beth leaned closer. “Did her juvenile arthritis have anything to do with it?”
I glanced around the restaurant. “I suspect he chose his victims based on both a resemblance to Aynslee and . . . their having âundesirable' traits. Like Hitler killing disabled and mentally handicapped people.”
Beth took a sip of water.
“The Lone Wolf's intention was to sustain his own fantasies and to exact revenge on me as a race traitor. I was
to find the girls, adding another layer to his experience. But I didn't, at least not for a time. He got tired of waiting. When he picked up Mattie, he decided it was time for me to discover his plan. He could have lost her in the deluge, so he simply took her to where he'd killed and placed the other bodies, tortured her, left the clues, then lured Winston to the site.”
Beth didn't talk for a few moments. “You said this man is the perfect storm. Both a serial killer and a violent white separatist.”
“But he waited, what was it, five years to go after you.”
I leaned my elbows on the table. “He's tying up loose ends. I assume it was because the case is finally going to trial.”
“But everything was so planned out. Every detail.”
“Ooookay. Where are you going with this?”
“What if, once the last of the ârace traitors' are murdered, he decides to go back to his original plan?”
“Derail a train carrying deadly chemicals.” I thought about the railroad tracks running alongside of the highway. I was pretty sure it went right through Missoula. I finally shook my head. “He had three other men helping him with that plan. It would be something else.”
Beth pulled a purple notepad and lavender pen from her purse. “Like what?”
“Um. Well, it would probably need to be on the nineteenth or twentieth. If he thinks he might die in the attempt, it would be the nineteenth.”
Beth started the list. “Hate would be involved. That seems to be a theme.”
“Destruction, death, maybe a bomb and shooting. Hitler? Swastika, something that would sear into the American conscience. I don't know.” I leaned back.
Beth leaned back also and stared at the ceiling. “Something maybe like Germany's
, the night of broken glass. Pre-war, maybe 1938 or '39, when civilians and the military attacked Jewish templesâ”
“Yes! A Jewish target,” I said.
Aynslee pulled out the earbuds. “Battery's dead. I heard all that. I know what date he's going to strike. And what time. You might have figured out where.”
“What do you mean?” Beth asked.
“Your list,” Aynslee said. “April 20, eleven a.m. The anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School.”
I STARED AT MY DAUGHTER.
“We read about it in school,” she said. “The two boys that did it really got into Hitler and the Nazis. They wore swastikas and did the âHeil Hitler' thing. They were going to blow up the school and shoot anyone who tried to escape.”
“So maybe a school?” Beth said. “Rather than a Jewish target?”
“Give me a minute.” I jumped up from the table and headed outside. Once there, I quickly called Dave. It went to voice mail.
I checked my watch. Dave usually didn't turn on his cell until well after church. I left a message for him to call me.
Beth and Aynslee joined me.
“We have a possible day and time, but not an exact target,” I said. “Mattie is the key to finding this guy quickly. We'll go to the hospital, get that composite, and turn it over to Dave. He'll yell and squawk at me, but then we can step back and let him handle it.” I forced a smile.
Aynslee smiled back. “Don't worry, I'm not afraid. You'll keep me safe.”
We stopped at a grocery store on our way to the hospital and purchased a bouquet of flowers and glass vase. I parked my car in the visitors' parking lot and turned toward Beth, seated beside me. She was almost hidden by the flowers. “I know this hospital rather too well,” I said.
“Because of all your surgeries and cancer treatments, I would imagine you would.”