Part 10: The Second Death

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death.  Revelations 21:8


Maggie hurried back to the kitchen to get Lexie.  What was she going to do?  She had to tell the police about Catherine—but then they would know about Lexie.  She couldn’t just let a murderer get away, but neither could she let them take her young charge.  She wasn’t the same woman who went into the asylum.  That probably wouldn’t make much difference in the eyes of the law.  Maggie had to find some way to get away from Cascade with Lexie and still alert the police to Catherine. 


The kitchen was empty.  “Sister Marie?  Lexie?”  Maybe Marie had taken her somewhere else.  She went down the hall, calling out their names.  As she searched, her calls became more agitated, her steps more rushed. 


She bumped into a couple of nuns in the hall.  “Sisters.  Have you seen Sister Marie?  It’s very important.”


“Yes.  She’s in the secretarial office typing up some reports for Mother Agnes.”


She practically tripped over her own feet as she hurried off, a breathless thank you in her wake.  She opened the door to the office to find Sister Marie typing away.  “Thank goodness I found you.  Where’s Lexie?”


“I had some work to finish up here, but Sister Catherine was nice enough to take her to the beach.  You know, that wooded area with the little shack that Mr. Beumont left the convent in his will?  She said to tell you that’s where they’d be so you could meet up with them.  What’s wrong?”


She knew.  Catherine knew that Maggie had discovered her secret.  “Call the police, Marie!  Call them now!  Send them out to the cabin.  The serial killer they’re looking for is there.  Don’t just stand there!  Do it!”  Marie began to dial as Sister Maggie ran from the office. 


Maggie flew out the door of the convent and down the path through the woods that would lead her to the cabin.  She thought about Detective Ellison.  If she were a cop, she’d have the convent under surveillance.  “I’m sure you’re out there, Detective Ellison—I just don’t know if you can hear me this far away.  I know what you can do and you know I know it.  I need your help!  I can’t explain everything now, but Sister Catherine is the killer.  She’s at the cabin by the beach with a hostage—a hostage she wouldn’t have if it weren’t for me.  It’s all my fault!  God forgive me, I’ve been prideful and arrogant.  I thought I knew how to take care of everything!  There must have been another way, but I chose all the wrong ones, thinking too much like the person I used to be.  Now someone else may pay the price along with me.  Whatever happens, keep an open mind about Lexie.  You’ll understand when you meet her.  Hurry!”  She was at the door to the cabin.


Jim looked out of the truck towards the woods.  “We’ve got trouble, Chief!  I’ll tell you on the way!”


Maggie slowly opened the door, every part of her on alert.  She didn’t need to be.  Catherine stood calmly at the other end of the room next to Lexie.  The young woman was tied to a support post, but otherwise looked unharmed.  She was crying with fear. 


“It’s about time, Margaret.  I thought I was going to have to come looking for you.  But you’re finally here, ready to face your judgment.”


“My judgment?  What are you talking about?”


“You have been found wanting in the eyes of God.”


“In God’s eyes or your eyes?”


“It doesn’t matter.  He has given me my mission.  He has given me His blessing to pass sentence on those who would use His church as a shield for their unrighteousness.  You and the others, pretending to be His chosen...”  Her face became twisted with disgust, her voice rising in anger and madness.  “All the while you practiced your sin, hiding behind your habits.  ‘The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the sexually immoral, those who practice the magical arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of sulfur.’  That is God’s will!”


Maggie moved slowly, trying to draw her away from Lexie.  Catherine’s eyes had always been cold, but Maggie thought she was just a bitter woman.  She should have recognized the look in her eyes—she’d seen it before.  It was the look of someone who was twisted deep inside.  “If you’re going to quote the Bible at me, don’t you think you should at least be accurate?  That passage also mentions murderers.  You’ve killed three women and intend to kill again.  In the eyes of God and the laws of man, what does that make you?”


“My actions are pure!  I have been sanctioned to do His will!  Don’t try your evil spells on me.  You’ve fooled the others with your unholy power, but you can’t trick me, witch!  Soon the whole world will know what you are—it will be written on your face for everyone to see.”


“So that’s what you’ll carve on my corpse.  ‘Witch’?  What if you’re wrong?  What if my visions really are from God?  Can you take that chance?  And what about her?  She’s completely innocent.  How will you justify that?” 


Catherine fingered the knife in her hand convulsively.  She moved closer to Maggie.  “Oh, I have no plans for her.  After you have felt God’s hand upon you, she will be free to go.  I’m sure seeing the work of God will be uplifting for her.”


Lexie started straining against her bonds, screaming at Sister Catherine.  “You’d better not hurt her!  She’s my friend and I won’t let you hurt her!”  Catherine turned to look at her strangely.


Maggie tried to get Catherine’s attention back on her.  She could see in Catherine’s eyes that she was ready to complete her ‘mission’.  She was going to hurt someone in the next few minutes.  If you’re out there, Detective Ellison, hurry!


Jim and Blair stood in the middle of the woods.  Jim was listening intently for anything out of the ordinary.  Blair was talking quietly in the background to Simon on his cell phone.  Someone suddenly yelled nearby, sending Jim to his knees.


“Jim!  You ok?”


“Yeah.  Just took me by surprise.  It was her, Chief.  It was Alex.  I heard her scream.  I’ve never heard her like that.  She was afraid, but not for herself.  For Sister Maggie.  Sister Catherine is going to kill her.”


“Alex Barnes worried about someone else?  I’ll believe that when I see it.  Which way?”


Jim took off running.  Blair was right behind him.  He briefly wondered why Alex would care what happened to Sister Maggie before he turned his attention back to his partner.


Catherine advanced on Maggie, the knife held higher in her hand.  “You’re evil must be destroyed before it can infect the others.  You must face judgment!  I am His instrument!  I will bring His wrath to the liars, the thieves, the harlots, the witches…”  She lunged at Maggie, knocking her against the wall.


Maggie was ready for her and grabbed her wrist.  But she realized everything they said about insane people was true—their madness gave them a strength they normally wouldn’t have.


Lexie was screaming at Catherine, pulling at the ropes tied around her wrists until she bled.  The bad lady couldn’t hurt Sister Maggie.  She couldn’t!


Catherine slammed a fist in Maggie’s face.  Her grip on Catherine’s wrist slackened for a moment.  The insane nun jabbed at her, slicing into her arm.  Maggie heard the door burst open.


“Cascade PD!  Put down the knife!  Now!”


Catherine swung Maggie towards Jim and bolted out the back door and into the woods.  Jim quickly checked the injured nun’s vital signs.  She was bleeding freely, but she was ok.  Jim caught Sandburg’s eye.  He had to go after Catherine, but someone needed to patch up Sister Maggie and keep tabs on Alex.  After what Alex did to him, would Blair be ok staying here with her?


Blair knew what thoughts were running through Jim’s head.  He nodded for him to go.  Blair went over to Sister Maggie’s side as Jim took off after their killer.  He took off the flannel shirt he had on over his t-shirt and used it to stop up the bleeding on the nun’s arm.  The dazed woman was slowly getting her wits about her, trying to sit up.


“Mister?  Hey, Mister?  Is Sister Maggie ok?  There’s lots of blood and it smells really bad.  Is she ok?”


Blair ignored her.


“Mister?  Can you untie me?  I wanna see if Sister Maggie’s ok.  Please?”


“Yeah, right!  Do I look that stupid to you?”


“Why are you mad, Mister?  Did I say something wrong?  You shouldn’t be so mad.  It makes your face all wrinkly.  Do you want a cookie?  They’re chocolate chip.  I dropped them on the floor over there when Sister Catherine grabbed me, but they’re ok.  Sister Marie says chocolate always makes her happy.”


“Stop it.  Stop it!  What kind of game are you playing?  Stop acting like…like this!  Like you don’t know who I am or what you did to me.”


Lexie shrunk into herself, scooting away as much as she could while still being restrained.  Her eyes filled with tears.  “I’m sorry.  Please don’t yell at me.  Whatever it was I did that was so bad, I won’t do it again.  I promise.”


Sister Maggie got up and went over to sit next to Lexie.  “Don’t yell at her, Mr. Sandburg.”


"You’re trying to make me out to be the monster here.  She’s the real monster.”


Lexie burst into tears.  Maggie scooted closer, trying to comfort her.


“Don’t even think about untying her.  She’s staying right where she is until the police get here.”


“I don’t want you yelling at her.”  She put a gentle hand on Lexie’s head.


Lexie’s eyes were red and puffy.  “I was so scared.  I thought she was going to hurt you really bad.  I wanted to help, but I couldn’t.  I’m sorry.”


“Shhh.  It’s ok.  She cut my arm, but it’s not too bad.  I can hardly feel it.”  Lexie wrinkled her nose and tried to block it against her shirt.  “Remember what I told you about making your nose stuffy?  Do that for me now, ok?  That should make some of the smell go away, right?”  She smiled as Lexie relaxed against the post and nodded.


Blair was confused.  What was going on here?  “So if you don’t want me yelling at her, maybe I should be yelling at you for helping her escape?  You’re a nun.  I can’t believe you did that!  Or maybe the government needs a psychotic killer like her and found just the person to help them get one.”


Maggie stiffened.  Lexie cringed.  The nun quickly turned to Lexie.  “Don’t listen, honey, ok?  Pretend everything’s real quiet and you can barely hear.  I’ll help.”  She didn’t know how far Lexie could turn down her hearing so she put her hands over the young woman’s ears to help.  “Young man, I would thank you not to say things like that in front of her.  Alex Barnes may have been what you say, but that person is dead.  This woman doesn’t remember anything from before the time she woke up in the asylum while I was visiting her.  It’s like someone turned back the clock inside her.  Her feelings, reactions, and intellect are all those of a little girl so you’d better start treating her that way.”


“Did you ever think this might be a con on her part to get you to help her?”


Maggie shook her head vehemently.  “There’s no way she could have faked the child-like innocence I’ve seen in her.  This is no act.  And there’s no way she could’ve faked the guardian angels—the bear and bobcat that we both saw in…”  Maggie stopped.  Perhaps she had said too much.


“You saw the bear and bobcat?  Jim and I saw them in a dream, but…”


He didn’t think she was crazy!  He’d seen them, too.  “That’s where I first saw them.  They told me to go help her.  I thought they wanted me to take her away from there, but now I’m not so sure.  I was certain that was the best way to save her from jail or some government institution.  Now here we are, both in trouble and her no better off.”


Lexie looked up at Sister Maggie.  She turned her hearing back up a little to find out why her friend was frowning.  “Don’t be sad.  Maybe a cookie will help.”


Maggie laughed.  “I’m going to have a talk with that Sister Marie.  I want to know what she’s putting in her batter that’s turned you into such a cookie fiend.”


Lexie looked at Blair suspiciously before turning back to the nun.  “Is he still mad?  I don’t want him to yell at me anymore.  The jungle man said the wolf guy was going to be our friend, but I don’t think he likes me.”


Maggie rolled her eyes.  “The jungle man again?”


Blair’s curiosity got the better of him.  “Incacha?”


“Uh, huh.  I can’t ever remember his name.  It’s too weird.”


Maggie was now looking at Blair intently.  “Well now we have a name for our mysterious ‘jungle man’, but who’s the ‘wolf guy’?”


Lexie looked at Blair.  “Him.  ‘Cause he’s got a ghost wolf.  Oh, look!  It came to visit, too!”


Blair glanced over to where Lexie was staring to see his spirit guide letting a bobcat playfully swat at its tail.


“That’s so neat!  My kitty’s playing with your wolf.  I didn’t think they’d be friends ‘cause wolves are like dogs, right?  And cats and dogs always fight and…”


In the woods


Jim had Catherine cornered.  She had run up to the edge of a steep ravine that led down to a dry, rocky, riverbed.  There was nowhere left for her to go.  “Give it up, Sister Catherine.  It’s all over.  Come with me quietly and we can get you some help.”


Catherine laughed, the wind whipping her clothes furiously.  “I don’t need anyone’s help.  ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me’.  My only regret is that I did not get to finish my work for Him before my time.  But He is wise and knows best.  He will find someone else to take up my task.”  She moved back a bit.


“Sister Catherine.  Please.  Move away from the ledge.”


“I have done His will and I’m ready for my reward.  God is generous to the faithful and merciless to the unrepentant sinner.  Remember that when evil tempts you.  Accept your humble servant into Your house, my Lord.”  She spread her arms wide and fell back into the ravine.


Jim ran to catch her, but he was too late.  Her body lay broken at the bottom, a mass of black and red against the grey of dry rocks.



Part 11