The following is another excerpt from my work in progress, Jen McDowell—Private Eye; Business is Booming, a Jen McDowell Series. This is a draft. I’m at 71k words now and still writing. If you want to catch up, order the novella The Throuple Private Eye—Hate Crimes, on Amazon ($2.99). The link is https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084LTTHGN. Enjoy.
THE SNAKE BIT CASE (Part 4)
“Mostly rat poison. Dad mixes it up himself. He won’t let me or anyone else help. Won’t tell me the formula. He says if anything happens, he alone will be responsible.”
At that point, the pastor motioned for Isaac to come up front. “Time to put the snakes to bed,” Isaac said. “Oh, look at the time.” As he glanced at the back wall. Jen thought he was looking at a clock high on the back wall. When she turned to follow his gaze, Isaac slipped Matthew the snake around her neck. She froze. She was afraid that if she moved, the timber rattler would bite her. She tried in vain not to shake. Tears started to form. She tried to remain calm, but she was hyperventilating. If she didn’t gain control quickly, she could have a panic attack or a flash back.
A young woman not much older than Isaac approached Jen. “Here, let me take Mathew from you. You look terrified.” She was much taller than Jen, taller than Isaac. She wore a simple dress. Her long blonde hair hung down around her shoulders. As she draped Matthew around her own neck, the snake disappeared under her curls.
“I am terrified,” Jen answered a little too loudly.
“I saw my brother do this to you. He does this all the time. He thinks it’s funny. This is why he has no girlfriend. I’m Sarah, Isaac’s older sister. Welcome to our church. Can I answer any questions… other than how to kill my brother?”
Jen took a deep breath as she tried to stop her hyperventilating. “I’d like to talk with Pastor Falk if I can,” she finally answered still out of breath.
“I can take you to his office, but let’s wait a minute. The service is ending, and Pastor Walt will want to say goodbye to his flock.”
“Walt?” Jen asked.
“He prefers to be called Pastor Walt—less formal.”
As they talked, Pastor Walt walked down the aisle. He paused to touch Sarah’s shoulder. He looked at Jen. Sarah attempted to make introductions. “Walt, this is…”
Jen took the cue, “My name is Ms. Jennifer McDowell. If I may, I’d like to talk with you. It won’t take long.”
Walt smiled. “Very well. We can talk in my office in a few minutes. Sarah will show you where.” He nodded his head and walked outside as people began to file out. Sarah and Jen waited near the door until the crowd thinned out.
“I’ll take you to his office now,” Sarah said as the last person walked by. “Follow me.” Sarah started walking and Jen followed. Jen expected her to head toward the front of the church, assuming the pastor had an office somewhere behind the altar. Instead, Sarah walked out the front door. Once outside, Jen saw Pastor Walt talking to people, shaking hands and saying goodbyes—without a mask. He towered over his congregation. She took out her cellphone to take a picture. Sarah called her father, and he turned his head toward her voice. “Turn around,” Sarah yelled. Walt turned to face the camera as Jen took the picture. Sarah turned back to Jen. “This way.”
Sarah led Jen behind the church. In the back was a large shed attached to the rear of the church. As they entered Jen saw Isaac putting snakes into glass cages. As Sarah approached, Isaac looked up. “Oh, there he is.” He held up his arms around Sarah’s neck. “Come to poppa.” Matthew the snake slithered from Sarah’s neck and wrapped around Isaac’s outstretched arm. Isaac gently placed the snake in a glass cage.
Sarah glanced at the cages. “There’s Ham, Abraham, Noah and Jacob. I don’t see Rachel. You better go finder her before she goes outside.” Isaac ran inside the church. Sarah led Jen into a small office somewhere behind the main church. She motioned for Jen to sit in a chair facing the desk. Jen looked around to make sure she wouldn’t sit on a snake. The office wasn’t airconditioned and even in May, it was hot. Sarah turned on a rotating desk fan.
“Dad will be here shortly,” Sarah said. “Meanwhile, I’ll keep you company and answer any questions.” Sarah walked over to a small refrigerator and took out a cool bottle of water and handed it to Jen. Jen noticed that the glass pitchers of poison and milk were now in the refrigerator. “This will help you relax.”
Jen opened the water bottle and took a long drink. The cool water did help to calm her nerves. Her mouth was parched after the incident with Matthew. “I noticed that no one was wearing a mask.”
Sarah smiled. “It would be silly to come here to handle snakes and drink poisons and then wear a mask, don’t you think?”
Jen laughed and nodded her head. “I doubt the mayor would agree. She has shut down all church services.”
“I doubt she cares much about a poor church like ours.”
“Maybe,” Jen agreed. “Isn’t handling snakes and drinking poisons just a literal interpretation from the Bible?”
“Perhaps,” Sarah said. “Did you know that Catholics believe that wine is turned in the blood of Christ? That a literal interpretation from the Bible too.”
Jen realized that she wouldn’t win an argument with Sarah. She was very smart and obviously used to handling these issues. Her answers seemed rehearsed. Jen changed the subject. “Where is your mother?”
“She was called to be with her Lord about five years ago. The cancer took her.”
“Oh, I sorry,” Jen replied. “So, that left Pastor Walt alone to raise two children by hisself.”
“Three kids, actually. I have another sister who is thirteen. We are raising Dad, not the other way around,” Sarah said with a chuckle. Just then a young girl entered the office carrying a cross, linen cloths and other items from the altar. “Speak of the devil. Here’s my sister now.” The younger sister was also very tall for her age, nearly as tall as Jen. She also wore a simple dress matching Sarah’s dress and had thick curly black hair.
“This is my kid sister, Ruth,” Sarah started to make introduction. “This is Ms. McDowell. She’s here to talk to Walt.”