What happened now? The church was being accused of murder. Divine Fury. Chapter 52

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A VG Serial: Divine Fury

Chapter 52

EVEN WHILE BUD Walters’ attorney was haggling over the details of the Salinas grower’s deal with Bobbie Connors and the San Francisco DA’s office, the lawyer was sending the latest informational bulletins along the attorneys’ informal hotline to the Soldiers of Christ Ministry’s lawyer in Los Angeles.

It didn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce from the Connors’ questions and the documents Walters was being asked to sign that a search warrant of SOCM’s offices was in the works.  For Brent Daggart, the warnings that flowed down the attorneys’ channel just confirmed what he already suspected from his inability to contact the Terminator over the past couple of days.  Daggart had the Terminator pegged as the type with many talents but none better than protecting his own hide.  He’d smell any trouble early that was heading his way.  The fact that he’d gone silent was ominous.

Rev. Jimmy Burgess’ Tuesday broadcast session was finished at noon and Brent Daggart waited impatiently in the SOCM’s offices to meet privately with him to decide how to deal with the looming confrontation

Daggart had already mapped out a strategy in his head – accuse law enforcement from the land of the left-leaning loons of misusing their powers to assist the Harper campaign by persecuting supporters of his Republican opponent.  Left versus Right.  The California version of the Civil War – North versus South.  Evil versus Good.  He could see this escalating into a very public Holy crusade of the type he had envisioned from the outset.

But Burgess’ door remained closed and Daggart could see from the phone system lights  that he was on a call, one that went on for 30…45…60 minutes.  Daggart kept one eye on the button for Burgess’ line as he quickly skimmed the files in his office, removing evidence of his involvement with the Terminator, La Vista Security or anything else suggesting the church’s activities went beyond the normal support for a candidate for California’s governorship.  He put it all in a cardboard box and added his laptop computer.  By mid-afternoon, he wanted it all safely locked up in a public storage unit in Long Beach that he’d rented for cash the day before, paying for six months in advance.

The phone button light went out and Daggart stopped what he was doing and walked over to Burgess’ office.  He knocked.

“Come in,” said Burgess.  The preacher, still wearing his dark suit from the broadcast, massaged his forehead as if he were in pain.  Daggart sat in the chair opposite the desk.  After their years together, he knew when Burgess had something important to say.  He waited for the preacher to work up to it.

“We’ve been through a lot together, Brent,” said Burgess finally.  “But I don’t understand how we’ve gotten to this point.”

“Well, I suppose I see it as the logical conclusion of the things you say every day,” said Daggart patiently.  “If you’re fighting for God…if you’re fighting for what’s right, you don’t do it by half measures.  You don’t win a Holy War by sitting on your hands.”

“But Brent,” said Burgess.  “The police are involved.  Bud Walters…I don’t know if he’s been arrested exactly but he’s saying we asked him to…to endanger those people in Salinas.  And, the reporter.  He says we’re involved in…in an actual murder.  Murder!  Are we?  I mean what exactly is happening?”

“Listen, Jim,” said Daggart.  “I’ve told you that I don’t know anything about that…a murder.  And, the guy who might know about it.  Well…he’s disappeared.  I can’t find him.  I can’t even ask him what’s going on.  And, besides.  Who cares what some reporter is saying?  Who is he anyway?

“But even that is beside the point if you ask me,” he continued.  “You’ve got to think of this…well, it’s a war.  They’re attacking us and we need to fight back.  I’ve got this strategy mapped out.  We can actually escalate this thing and…”

“No.  No.  No,” Burgess interrupted.  “You’re losing touch here, Brent.  You’re risking the ministry…everything.  Everything we’ve built.  This stuff will destroy us.  We’re a church!  We can’t be accused of this kind of thing!”

“Don’t you see that the church doesn’t matter!” said Daggart abruptly.  “Don’t you see that? We’re just tools of God!  We’re just weapons!  We’re all expendable.  The church is expendable. We’re like a hammer!  Or a sword!”

Burgess shook his head.

“I can’t accept that,” he said.  “This whole thing, Brent.  I don’t know.  It’s just out of control.  It’s crazy.  And I’m not going to let you drag me and the church down with you.  Not if I can help it.  I’ve spent the last hour talking to our directors.  All of them said they support me if I need to let you go.  It’s up to me.  And…and…I’m sorry.  But I’m making that call.”

Daggart was incredulous.

You let me go?  You let me go?” he said.  “I created you.  How can you let me go?”

Burgess stared at Daggart in silence for a few seconds.  Then he picked up his telephone and dialed a number.

“Just watch,”  he said.  Then Burgess said into the phone, “John.  I need you now.”

“Building security is sending a team,” said the televangelist after hanging up the phone.  “They’ll escort you out of the building if they have to.  You can take anything out of your office that you want.  But don’t touch anything else.  Maybe you did create me.  I certainly wouldn’t have gotten this far without you.  But I’m the face of this church…this ministry.  Without me, there is nothing.  No one disputes that.  Not the directors.  Not the millions who watch me every week.  Not even…building security.”

Burgess settled back in his chair.

Daggart fought to control himself.  Part of him was seething.  The other part was thinking hard – planning…analyzing.  If he could only take what was in his office, what was left?  Checks written to the Terminator and La Vista Security.  Computer backups.  All his files…all his email was backed up on the servers.  He was implicated in all of it.  And if Burgess was tossing him out, he’d be blamed for everything.  He had to move.  He wasn’t going to sit still and let everything come crashing down on him.  Maybe he had a day to get prepared, make some arrangements.  Then, he’d disappear.

He ran his finger along the ridge of his nose, back and forth over the raised spot from the old injury as he thought.  He wouldn’t have the ministry’s millions of dollars and millions of followers…its clout.  But he wasn’t finished.  He was capable of great things.  He was an impact player.  He would show Burgess, show the church…show God.  He was just getting started.

Daggart leaped out of his chair so suddenly that Burgess pushed back from his desk, a little afraid Daggart might take a swing at him.  But Daggart spun quickly and was out the door.  In less than a minute, he was in his car leaving the SOCM parking lot with the box of files in the back.

 

Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

You can learn more about Divine Fury on Amazon.

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