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BACKGROUND

Greenwood, a long abandoned town stands to be exposed of its dark past when an unknown woman and two young girls mysteriously re-appear in this uninhabited place.  Mark Conners, a former resident of Greenwood, arrives shortly to rescue them.  The woman and two girls are killed in a car accident but Mark survives.

The caretakers of Greenwood, mortal men as well as invisible devilish beings, launch an attack against those who intent on opening up the town's past.  At the same time, heavenly beings who serve the Great King of the Universe, are also mobilized to protect those who are about to become new victims of the town.

Mark recovers in a hospital and unexpectedly reunites with a childhood friend, Nurse Ann Lloyd, also an ex-resident of Greenwood.  Unknown to them, invisible beings have also arrived at the hospital to take them down.

At the accident scene, LAPD police officer Sgt Paul Will believes this is not a typical car accident.  With the help of a good friend, Sgt Rick Blair, a LAPD Crime scene specialist, they start to uncover the real motive behind the accident, not knowing what they are getting into.

Can the four of them survive this attack?  The battle is made more complex by the fact that the faith of these four human beings determines the ability of the Heavenly beings to protect them and at the same time, they also have to contend against their own kind.

CHAPTER ONE


The chill from the damp tarmac road was gnawing at his body which added more discomfort to his painful wounds.  Physically, he was unable to recall how long he had been lying on the road.  His mind strained to remember what had happened but the throbbing pain in his head was making him giddy, almost to the point of passing out.  He began to shiver but he couldn’t find the strength to move himself to stay warm.  For that few moments, he was completely still and he let his eyes scan the surroundings.  Above him, the vast piece of dark sky remained unchanged.  He also caught something burning some distance away.

He was not aware that the fire came from a burning car which he was driving some minutes earlier.  It was lying on its top.  With some distant consolation, the warmness from the burning wreck brought some relief to his cold body.

He also detected blinking red lights at the other end.  He could see that it came from a red truck parked about thirty yards away.  It was the fire engine truck which had arrived some time ago.

A surge of piercing pain came from his knees when he tried to move his legs.  He was barely aware that both knees had been critically damaged.  The pain was also augmented by three broken ribs on his right chest and a large gash wound on his left lower abdomen.

He was slowly dropping into a state of shock.

He heard voices and footsteps around him but couldn’t make out what or who they were.  A face unexpectedly appeared directly above him.  He strained himself to stay awake and was able to make out a man’s face, blackened with dirt and smoke and he wore a black helmet labeled with a two-digit number in the centre.  He forced a smile to the friendly face above him before an oxygen mask was placed over his face and the fresh air brought some much needed relief to his body.

‘Fred, the ambulance is on its way.  Do what you can to keep him from going under.’

This man, a fireman himself, said and gave a tap on his colleague’s shoulder before walking towards the overturned car, which by then had been reduced to a smoldering piece of burnt metal.

‘C’mon, guys, let’s get this fire totally out and clear the traffic as soon as we can.’  The team leader among the firemen bellowed to his men as more cars were slowed to an almost irritating halt and inching their way through a single passable lane out of three.

With the fire put out, the firemen turned their attention to the traffic and wished the traffic police would arrive to take over soon.


* * *


Police Sergeant Paul Will, an African-American in his late thirties was on duty in his patrol car on the same road as the accident some distance away when he was interrupted by the slow traffic ahead of him.  Having served in the force for almost twenty years, Sgt Will’s instinct told him that something bad had happened.

Quickly, the six-foot-two officer endowed with boyish and rugged looks switched on the police siren and stepped on the gas to squeeze his way to the front using the road shoulder.  It took him a good fifteen minutes before he reached the scene of the accident. 

Parking his car on the road shoulder next to the woods, Sgt Will stepped out of his vehicle and studied the situation in front of him; an injured man on the road and a burnt car lying on its top.  He did not see any ambulance and figured that it would arrive soon.

‘Who’s in charge here?’ Sgt Will shouted above the honking din around him as he approached the nearest fireman who was squatting beside the injured man on the road.  He was greeted by the fireman team leader; Lieutenant Shawn Muck who walked to his position.

‘Lt. Shawn Muck.’  He introduced himself as his eyes met Sgt Will’s.

‘Hi, I am Sgt. Paul Will, can you update me on the situation?’

He asked the Fire Fighter Lieutenant while his eyes continued to study the wrecked car.

‘We have an injured victim who is the driver of the car.  We are also waiting for the ambulance to arrive.  Looking at the damaged front of the car, it looks like a head-on collision.  However, we couldn’t find the other car.  It is likely a hit and run case.’

Damn it, Sgt Will cussed beneath his breath, how can people be so selfish? If only the driver involved in the other vehicle had stopped to help, more victims could be saved though he wasn’t sure how many people were involved. 

Lt. Muck continued.

‘That’s the driver over there.’  He pointed to the man lying on the road. 

‘The car was lying on its top when we arrived.  He was still conscious when we pulled him out.  He has sustained some serious injuries though.’

Sgt Will walked towards the burnt car and was visibly distracted by what he saw inside; though it was all black and sooty, he could make out three charred bodies, one in front passenger seat and two at the backseat.  He froze for a few seconds.  Lt Muck continued his update as he stood a few feet behind him.

‘We could smell petrol leaking as we pulled him out and within a second or two, the car burst into flames and there was nothing we can do to save the other three passengers.’  He pursed his lips after he spoke those words.

‘One of my men was able to inspect the three bodies before the fire broke out.  The three dead passengers are a woman about thirty years of age and two young girls, probably aged four to six.’

Both their eyes met again.  There was an unmistakable sadness in their countenance.  Sgt Will shook his head in silent despair.

‘The three of them were confirmed dead before the fire erupted.  Their necks were broken and they have multiple head injuries.  That is why we pulled the driver out first since he was the only one alive.’  Lt Muck added, just in case Sgt Will thought that they were burned alive.

‘Is he aware?’ Sgt Will asked, referring to the car driver.

‘Nope, we have not disclosed anything to him yet.  I don’t think he is ready to talk to anyone at the moment.’

Paul wanted to puke because two kids had died due to someone’s driving mistake.  He turned to look at the injured man and wondered whether it was his reckless driving that caused the accident or the fault of the other vehicle.  He took his notepad out from his left breast pocket and scribbled something on it. 

He walked towards the injured man while Lt Muck followed behind.

‘What about this man? What do we know about him?’  Sgt Will asked.

The firemen beside the injured man stood up just as Sgt Will and Lt Muck reached his position.

‘I’ve his wallet here with me.’  He extended his hand to pass the wallet to Sgt Will.  A loose piece of paper fell out of it.

Instinctively, Sgt Will bent down to pick it up from the ground.  The three of them didn’t feel any better with what they saw.  It was a colored photo of a pretty woman in her early thirties and two young girls aged around four to six. 

Sgt Will flipped over the picture and saw a handwritten note innocently scribbled with the following words:

‘Hi Dad! Remember us when you travel around the country.’

It was signed off as Kate and Dawn.

The three men stood speechless as those words sunk into their hearts.  If they could read one another’s thoughts, all of them were lamenting the death of this man’s family members.
Paul snapped himself out of his thoughts and pulled out the driver’s license. 

The injured man’s name was Mark Ryan Connors, age thirty six and an American citizen living in Los Angeles.  Paul also found a business card inside the wallet.  Mark Connors was working in Home Décor Corporation as Director of Sales. 

Lt Muck was well acquainted with this company which was the local version of the Swedish company IKEA.  They were the largest in the country, producing and selling home furnishing products.  He also recalled that his current home of five years was largely furnished with Home Décor items.

Even though Paul had been involved in many traffic accident deaths, he could still feel the ache in his heart over this particular one.  He assumed that this must be the man’s family who had just perished in the car.  The bodies would be sent to the city morgue to confirm their identities. 

He wrote Mark’s particulars on his notepad and returned the wallet to the fireman.  They could hear the faint sirens of the ambulance from a distance.  Both Lt Muck and Sgt Will continued to exchange information with each other while the rest of the firemen, using electric saws and cutters, pried open the jammed car doors and carefully removed the three charred bodies from the smoldering car.  They placed them into three body bags on the ground.  When they were about to move the car from its position, Sgt Will suddenly shouted at them.

‘Stop! Don’t move it yet.’  He urgently ran towards the firemen.

Lt Muck was taken aback by the police sergeant’s action.

‘Sgt Will, with all due respect, but I believe I have the jurisdiction here.’ Lt Muck said respectfully.

‘No.’ Sgt Will abruptly replied him.

‘What do you mean? This is a traffic accident.’  Shawn retorted with a little upset tone.

‘No… Yes… What I mean is it could be a premeditated collision with a motive to hurt or even kill.’  Sgt Will replied, who was also surprised with himself by what he had just said. 

Any police officer could easily see that this was a typical hit and run accident.  However, for Sgt Paul, he felt that there was something more except that he didn’t know what it was at that moment.

Lt Muck by then was getting very concerned with the traffic piling up endlessly from where he was standing.  His immediate task was to move the wrecked car to the side and free up the other two lanes.  He was about to give further instructions to his firemen when he heard Sgt Will speaking into his two-way radio inside his patrol car.

‘Metro, this is Sgt Will from patrol 2157, over.’

‘Go ahead, patrol 2157.’

‘Traffic accident suspected foul play… Request for immediate assistance, over.’
‘Roger, 2157. A CSI team will be dispatched to your location ASAP. Out.’

Lt Muck was taken aback by the police sergeant’s quick decision.  He was not so sure about foul play.  It looked perfectly like any other traffic accidents which he had seen throughout his ten years’ experience as a fireman.  The second vehicle may have some premeditated motive but no one will know until the driver was found, he thought, provided they can find him in the first place.  In any way, he was relieved that as soon as Sgt Will requested for Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) backup, the accident was out of his hands.  He would be taking instructions from the police instead, not that he minded in the first place.

Knowing that the car would not be moved until the CSI team arrived and possibly towed away to their crime lab, Lt Muck informed his colleagues about the latest development. It was approaching nine in the evening and many frustrated drivers were eager to go home, honking their way through the passable single lane. 

At least the traffic is moving though rather slowly, he consoled himself.


* * *


There were some observers looking at the scene.

None of the firemen or Sgt Will knew they were there because they were invisible to them.
Situated directly above the wrecked car, these onlookers had the likeness of human beings but without physical bodies and they wore glistening white robes.  Two of them were smaller in size compared to the third one.

The three of them were engaged in a discussion about the accident and the fate of the injured man on the ground.  Their faces reflected a certain degree of sorrow.  They watched a lone fireman applying first aid to Mark.  They saw the firemen tirelessly directing the traffic. 

A few moments later, they were joined by another being.  This being had the appearance of a man and he was also invisible to the human beings. 

Strapped to his girdle was a menacing huge sword which gleamed like amber.  This celestial being was comparatively larger than the other three.  He stood behind them and placed his hands over their shoulders.  The four of them exchanged words with one another for a while.

When the discussion was over, the four of them started to ascend towards the sky and away from the accident scene.  The last thing that they saw was the arrival of the ambulance and the CSI team.

Three paramedics in navy blue uniforms got out of the ambulance and approached Mark’s position.  They did a quick check on Mark’s condition before they transferred him from the ground to the gurney.  One of the paramedics took out some bandage and sealed the open wound at Marks’ lower left abdomen.  They also saw the victim’s knees which were in very bad shape.  Another one made a phone call, presumably to the nearest hospital and within seconds, they wheeled Mark inside the ambulance and sped away to LA City Memorial Hospital.

Five CSI personnel unhurriedly stepped out of their black van and prepared their crime scene.  One of them set up the mobile spotlights which lit up the area of concern.  Each of them had a standard test kit that came in the form of a metallic briefcase.  They wasted no time and commenced their work immediately, knowing well that it would keep them busy for 
the next few hours.  One of the CSI personnel, a woman by the name of Chris, used the Canon DSLR camera strapped around her neck and started taking pictures of the car exterior as she moved around the wrecked vehicle.  She also snapped shots of the interior, paying special attention to the damaged front dashboard area.  Two CSI personnel used a special torchlight to check for unusual marks around the car.  They scraped some samples from selected parts of the car and secured them in evidence bags.

Sgt Rick Blair, the CSI team leader studied the wrecked vehicle.  Despite its burnt condition, Rick was able to identify it as a Ford Taurus, possibly a 2003 model.  

While his team worked on the car, he moved a distance away.  Using his special torchlight, he studied the tire marks on the road.  It was no easy task as there were plenty of them.
Just minutes earlier, he had been updated by Lt Muck and Sgt Will on the possible hit-and-run case.  He studied the road in front of him; it was a two-way road with three lanes on each side.  There were no buildings on both sides except thick greens and trees.  A white dividing line separated the two opposing roads.  He walked away from the wrecked car and started looking for unusual tire marks. 

He checked his watch; it was just after nine in the evening and there were fewer cars on the road then.  

After thirty minutes, he found nothing that warranted his attention. 

Sgt Blair then requested two firemen to assist him; he walked along the dividing line, away from the accident scene while the two firemen redirected approaching vehicles away from him.  After walking for about a hundred yards, he still found nothing.  Undaunted, he continued to walk further away and at the same time, carefully scanned the road with his special torchlight for unusual tire marks. 

Another one hundred yards away, he finally found something. 

This particular set of tire marks was unusually wide in size and it crossed the dividing white line to the other side of the road. 

‘Hey, Chris, come over here.’  Rick requested his female colleague with the camera to his position.

She scampered towards him with both hands on the camera.  Rick shone the torchlight and pointed the tire marks for her to see. 

She placed number markings beside it and took a few shots. 

‘Hmmm, huge and wide tires, consistent with a large tractor or a trailer.’  Chris commented while her eyes still regarding them.

‘Yes, I would like you to trace them further down the road.  I suspect it might have come from the other side.’  Rick said.

‘You think this vehicle has deliberately crossed to the wrong side of the road to collide with our wrecked car?’  Chris asked and looked at Rick at the same time.

‘Check it out for me, will you?’

‘No problem, boss.’

Chris walked forward with both eyes and torchlight focusing on the road.  If Rick was right, she would find this set of tire marks crossing the white dividing line.  She called out to two firemen standing a distance away and requested their help to redirect the cars away from her.  She didn’t want to become the next accident victim that evening. 

Rick continued to study the tire marks at the spot for a while; he took out a more powerful torchlight and scanned the area around him.  He had found another important clue. 

There was debris around this part of the road, more than the usual circumstances.  He summoned his whole team to his position to check on the debris.  He looked down and his eyes caught a shard of broken glass just beside his feet.  He bent down to pick it up. 

It looked like a broken piece belonging to the front headlights of a vehicle.  Rick was pretty sure that it came from either the Ford Taurus or the unknown vehicle.

‘Hey, boss.’  One of his men approached him.

‘Don’t tell me, the debris looks like parts of a vehicle, right?’ Rick added for him.

‘Yup, there was also a complete piece of a front grill that definitely belonged to the burnt vehicle.’  Rick’s colleague commented.

‘You know what to do.  Bring them back to our lab.’

‘OK.’  He walked off and approached the other two agents.

Rick turned to the direction of Chris, who by then was about a hundred yards away.  Though he couldn’t see her clearly in the dark, he could make out the camera flashes from his position.  He knew she had found something too.  He unhurriedly jogged towards her.

Chris heard footsteps behind her and turned to see her boss approaching her position.

‘You are right, boss.  I found the spot where this tire marks crossed from the other side to this side of the road.’  Chris updated Rick.

Rick looked at what Chris had found.

‘So what do we have here? An unknown vehicle that has crossed over to this side of the road which is against the traffic, moved for another hundred yards, hit the car before moving back to his lane again on the other side.’  Rick summarized their findings so far.

‘Pretty much pre-meditated if you ask me.  The tire marks were also straight on its course and without any signs of going left or right.  This also strongly suggests that the driver knew where he was going or what he was doing.’  Chris added.

‘Except the pre-meditated part; it is still too early to say.’

‘Yes, Boss.’

Both of them walked back to the same spot where they suspected the collision had taken place.  Rick looked at the burnt vehicle which was about two hundred yards away from their position.

‘If the collision occurred here, either one or both vehicles must be moving at a very fast speed in order to throw that vehicle to that distance.’  Rick said.

‘With this kind of impact, survival is next to zero.  The driver must be extremely lucky to be alive.’  Chris added her comment.

With all the collected information, Rick knew that he would be able to put together a possible scenario for his report. Rick continued to let his team work on while he walked towards Shawn and Paul.  He shared his initial thoughts on the accident with them. 

He also knew that this should be the work of the traffic police investigation team.  Through the conversation, he discovered that it was Paul who requested the CSI backup.

Both Rick and Paul were good friends; they graduated together from the Academy many years ago and they had worked together long enough to understand and trust each other.  With Lt Muck returning back to his men and Rick alone with Paul, the muscular CSI Sergeant asked his good friend what prompted him for CSI assistance.

‘I had a hunch, brother.’ The African-American police officer replied.

Rick looked at his friend for a few seconds.  He knew there could be potential trouble for him.

‘So far we have found nothing to suggest anything other than a hit-and-run accident, Paul.’  Rick told him.

Paul did not reply.  He wasn’t sure what to say. 

Rick continued.

‘My team will work through the night and will let you know if we have something.’ 

‘OK, thanks.’

Both of them continued to exchange more information with each other for a few more minutes.

Unknown to those working at the accident scene, there was a man hiding behind a tree about one hundred and fifty yards away.  He had been observing the whole incident for some time.  He could see three body bags on the road but was disappointed that Mark Connors was still alive.  He let out a curse but reminded himself that there would be more opportunities to take the man out in the future.

He removed his mobile phone from his pants pocket and made a brief call.  He was visibly angrier finishing the call.  He checked his black duffel bag, ensured that everything was inside before annoyingly zipped it up.  He flung it over his shoulders and disappeared into the bushes behind.

* * * End of Chapter One * * *

CHAPTER TWO

Dr. Nick Baine was abruptly awakened in his sleep.  With half-opened eyes, he stared at his watch; he had only slept for one hour and it was nine thirty in the evening.  He mumbled some annoying words before he became conscious of nurse Ann Lloyd standing in front of him.

He sat up on his bed and used both hands to wipe his face, hoping to rouse himself for his next job.


‘The ambulance will be arriving in ten minutes.  Car accident victim is a male driver; broken ribs, open gash wound, broken legs and probably bad concussion.’

Nick nodded to her and wearily made his way to the washroom while Ann left his resting area.

‘By the way, I brought you a cup of tea.’  She reminded him before disappearing out of the room.

Without looking back, he simply waved his right hand as a gesture of thanks and closed the washroom door behind him.

Nick splashed some cold water on his face from the basin; that woke him up a little.  He took the towel from the hanger and firmly pressed it against his face.  He studied himself in the mirror in front of him; wrinkles and some light creases had appeared around his eyes.  He realized he had aged substantially even though he was only in his early thirties.  The work at City Memorial Hospital was what he had always wanted before he graduated some years back, he recalled, but the stress and demand of A & E work could sometimes be so overwhelming that he often wondered if there were any other alternatives in his profession.  He had been on duty since seven in the morning and it had kept him busy with many emergency victims coming in until about eight in the evening.

Nick sported short light brown hair, brown eyes and standing at six feet in height, he could pass as fairly attractive, at least to the ladies in the hospital.  He knew he was a good doctor; he could tell from the nurses who worked with him.  They regarded him as smart and diligent.  However, beneath the hard working nature, Nick was also frustrated because he felt that he was going nowhere as far as his career was concerned. 

He had given his best years of his life to this job but somehow no one had seemed to have taken notice of it, especially his boss.  He had also written to several well-known hospitals but without the official recommendation or referral, it was almost impossible to relocate with a better career package.

Perhaps his boss was wary of his potential, Nick brooded over his predicament.

There was a knock on his washroom door.

‘Dr. Baine, you are taking too long.  We have been informed that the ambulance would be here any minute now.’ 

He could hear Ann’s lovely voice on the other side.  It produced a frustrated smile on his face.  That was another thing that was going nowhere as well; his interest in his senior nurse, Ann Lloyd, who had made it very clear that she preferred to separate work and social life in the hospital.

Ann was twenty eight years old, medium length black hair and a pair of beautiful blue eyes that never failed to make men’s knees go weak. 

She was also gorgeously slim, a strict combination of regular workouts and a healthy diet.  Naturally, she was the hottest topic of the hospital’s gossip, and rumors about her being single had inspired many doctors and male nurses to pursue her but none had succeeded, including Nick who being her boss had a slight advantage over the rest of his competitors.

Ann was distinctly different from the rest and it was not difficult to see why.  Ann had a religious side of her that you either liked or hated. Although she had not mentioned it before, it was clear to all that strangely, she did not indulge in any casual relationship.  She could be categorized as those ‘Churchy’ people though she hardly propagated her belief except only to her closest friends.

Nick was taken aback when the washroom door suddenly opened by itself.  He got a fright when he saw Ann standing at the door.

‘I need more…’ Nick wanted to ask for more time but was curtly cut off.

‘I think you better come out now, otherwise there will be no one to receive them.  The ambulance is now at the lobby.’  Ann extended her hand and firmly pulled Nick out.

‘Ok, ok… I am just coming out.’ 

Nick said, enjoying Ann’s touch on his arm and remembering that Ann was also a little assertive, something that he found sexy.

Both of them hurriedly walked out of the doctor’s rest area.


* * *


Nick met the paramedics with Mark on the gurney in the emergency admissions area.  They wheeled Mark straight to him.

Nick made a quick visual examination on his patient: A man probably his age or slightly older, broken ribs on his left chest, a gash wound on his right abdomen and a pair of badly broken legs at the knee joints which disturbed him a little.  He would know very soon after studying the X-ray result.  Overall, it was not too bad, he thought, except for the knee joints.  He then examined closely Mark’s eyes with his penlight before scribbling something on the clip file given to him by Ann.

‘Take him to radiology.’  He told Ann. 

The other nurses in attendance took over from the paramedics and wheeled Mark into a waiting elevator.

‘Gosh, I don’t believe it…’ Ann said.

Nick looked around Ann and realized that she was talking to herself.

‘Are you OK?’ Nick asked.

‘I know this guy! And what a terrible way to see him again.’ Ann lamented audibly and shook her head at the same time.

‘A friend of yours?’

‘Yeah, but I haven’t seen him in years! He looked so different now.’ Ann spoke, her eyes still fixed on the elevator.

‘Your ex-boyfriend?’

‘No! He’s married and I was told by one of the paramedics that his wife and two daughters died in the car crash.  And they have not told him yet.  This is so cruel!’  Ann said.

‘Wow… that’s tough.’

Nick commented, realizing that the man would wake up to a whole new world of pain and anguish.

Ann volunteered a little more information.

‘We grew up together in a small town. He was my next door neighbor too.  He’s kind of weird when he was young, always getting into trouble with the school teachers.’

‘Yes! I remember now… I attended his wedding.  His wife’s name is Pam but I didn’t know he has two kids.  Time travels fast.’  She added.

By then, Nick had left to prepare for his emergency operation on Mark Connors.  What he was not aware was that Ann was still enthralled by the arrival of Mark Connors.

Ann did not know what she should be thinking at the moment.  Here was a man probably ten years her senior and she used to have a crush on him!  Admittedly, Ann had never forgotten Mark even though he had married and moved on.  Of course, she wasn’t a jerk to pursue somebody’s husband but that did not stop her from thinking of him once in a while. 

It was in this state of unthinkable craziness that she deliberately stopped contacting Mark after his wedding.  She remembered that lovely evening for Mark and Pam, and half way through the ceremony she had to rush to the woman’s washroom to secretly cry her heart out after hearing Mark said ‘I do’ to Pam.  That was almost eight years ago and she still felt silly thinking of it but in her heart, she never forget him.  And that evening, the only man whom she still allowed a big place in her heart had entered the hospital and presumably single again.

What was she gonna do? Ann asked herself. She was still not sure what to think at the moment.

‘Hey, Miss Lloyd, are you going to help me in the operation or should I get someone instead?’ Nick jokingly called out from a distance away.

Ann shook herself out of this awkward situation. 

‘Of course, you need me!’ Ann humorously replied and briskly walked towards him.

Her last thought in her mind was whether this was an opportunity for her after holding on to him all these years.

‘Ann, you are such a complicated girl! Do you know that?’ Ann told herself and raised both hands in despair at the same time; loud enough to make Nick turned his head to look at her.


* * *


It was almost midnight when Rick and his CSI team finally completed their work at the accident scene.  It had been renamed ‘crime scene’ until someone higher in the echelon thought otherwise.

Overall, it was not a complex case but still, it would take the rest of the night and possibly the following morning to process what they had found.  Rick knew that it was not their call to decide whether there was foul play, at least not until their results were out in the next forty eight hours and their findings to be handed over to the homicide division to be decided from there. 

They noted that so far there had been no evidence suggesting anything other than a traffic accident. 

However, they took special note of the unknown vehicle which had collided with the Ford Taurus.  Their enhanced image digital equipment in their lab would be able to provide more details when they got back.

The traffic had almost disappeared save for a few cars coming through every now and then.  They began packing their equipment into their van and one of them let out a sigh to express his relief; one more job completed. 

They switched off the mobile spotlights and suddenly the place became dark again, consistent with the midnight hour.  The only light came from two dimly lit street lamps eighty yards away.  There were suggestions by one of them to go for some supper before heading back to the station.  None of them suggested going to any pub for drinks since they were still on duty.

The fire engine truck together with the firemen had left some time earlier.  The coroner had also taken the bodies back to the city morgue.  A police tow truck had also arrived twenty minutes before and removed the wrecked car back to the CSI lab.

With nothing left to examine or work on, a disposal truck arrived with two crime scene cleaners to clear and remove any remaining debris so that the closed road could be opened for traffic again.

It was a good time to call it a night, except for two police officers who were still talking beside Paul’s patrol car.

Lt Jack Brown was the investigation officer on duty when Sgt Paul Will requested for assistance earlier that evening.  The duty procedure required for Lt Brown to appear at the crime scene, except that it wasn’t much of a crime scene based on his initial opinion.  Wearing a cheap-looking brown jacket over a white shirt and beige tie, Jack arrived just as the CSI team was about to leave.  He looked a little annoyed, apparently with Paul for acting based on very little or no evidence to suggest foul play and dragging the whole CSI team down to the accident scene.  Jack was a newly promoted Lieutenant and transferred to the homicide department and was made an investigator three years before.  He was not exactly smart or sharp but he had a reputation for giving patrol officers a hard time for any wrong doing.  Needless to say, most of them did not like him but like Paul, they knew better than to argue with him.  The two cleaners who were taking their time in their cleaning work could hear Jack’s tactless voice from their position, a good fifty yards away.  Though it was none of their business, they could make out that the non-uniform policeman was reprimanding the one in uniform.

Jack had also spoken to Sgt Rick Blaire before he left; no crime evidence, weapons or anything that pointed to any potential crime.  He was hoping to spend that evening in his office watching some movies on his newly bought portable video player but clearly the police sergeant standing in front of him had frustrated his plan.  He dreaded having to write the report upon reaching his office later on but he knew there was no way of avoiding it.
When he realized that the CSI team had left, he took out a cigarette and enjoyed a quick puff while looking closely at Paul, who stood beside his patrol car and apparently not saying anything, which was wise of him.

Jack had already explained to Paul, no, he had yelled at him, that what he had done fell way short of his expectation as a police officer of his experience.  The Lieutenant’s frustration, as Paul was roughly able to discern, was more of missing his secret entertainment in his office rather than the alleged mistake that Paul had made, which he so sadistically repeated over and over again.  Paul also felt that even if this was really a mistake, it did not have to be so exaggerated, as this officer was doing.

‘I am afraid to say that what you have done will not look good in my report’, Jack remarked with a little threat.

‘I did what I thought is right for the case; to ensure that nothing vital gets away, Lieutenant.’  Paul finally spoke.

‘Apparently, it looks like there’s nothing vital, Sergeant.’

Lt Brown sternly responded, throwing the cigarette butt on the ground.

Paul took a few seconds to calm down before speaking again.

‘With all due respect, Lieutenant, Sgt Blair from the CSI team thought that the tire tracks look interesting and suspicious.’ 

‘Well, they can say what they want but the main investigation is not their jurisdiction.  I will look into it tomorrow and decide on the verdict.’  Jack emphasized the ‘I’ word to let Paul know that he was in charge.

The unpleasant exchange went on for another ten minutes before Jack decided to call it a day.  A car soon appeared and stopped in front of Jack.  It was a non-labeled police car and had specially come to bring Jack back to the station.  Paul watched him step into the car and it disappeared down the road.

Paul made a few lousy remarks under his breath; he probably had asked a hundred times that evening as to why he had made that call.  He knew that he would have another round with his own Lieutenant in the morning, something similar to what he had with Jack.

But like any experienced police officer, he had a hunch.  However, a hunch was never fully appreciated until it was backed up with relevant information.  His good friend, Rick had found none so far but that was not the end of the story as far as he was concerned.  He trusted Rick had adequately done his job but there should be something more.  He decided to linger on for a little while.

He watched the two cleaners as they did their work, who were apparently not too happy with Paul watching over their shoulders.  Paul was not interested in what they were doing.  He needed to find what it was that triggered him to suggest foul play.  He knew he was not an investigator though sometimes he wished he was, and with that night’s so-called blunder, he thought, it could blow any opportunity to become one.

To hell with the investigator stuff, he told himself. 

He felt bad for swearing, especially using the ‘hell’ word which his Reverend during the previous Sunday service had preached against using.  He took out a mobile torchlight from his patrol car and started looking around the accident scene.  Again, his logical mind reminded him that he was no investigator and definitely had no reasons for staying on.  Paul also did not know what he was looking for.

But he had a hunch; his better part of him reminded him again.

Unknown to Paul, the hunch that kept coming back to his mind was due to the presence of a celestial being that stood a few yards away from him.  This celestial being was the one who ascended with the other three beings earlier on and he was back to do his job; to guide Paul accordingly.  He placed his invisible hand on Paul’s back and led him to the woods beside the road. 

Paul was not aware of his presence but his mind was telling him to look around. 

He walked towards the direction of the two cleaners who by then had almost completed their work.  They were carrying the trash bags of waste into their truck.  One of them jokingly asked him whether they were able to smoke.  He ignored them and continued to shine the torchlight on the ground in front of him.  He heard the striking of matches and smelled cigarette smoke coming from the two cleaners. 

Paul made his way to the nearby bushes but found nothing unusual. 

By then, the cleaners had left and he suddenly realized that he was all alone.  At that moment, goose bumps started to appear on his arms and his back.  Of course, he wasn’t afraid and did not believe in demonic activity even though his Reverend had many times preached about the existence of demons in this world.  He reprimanded himself for thinking such thoughts and was also surprised to feel a little cold and fearful.  He responded by directing his torchlight at the nearby bushes as he walked along.  He found no one or… demons, he chided himself again for bringing up that word.

As much as Paul was heading towards the right direction, there was danger awaiting him too.  A green creature, unseen by him, was hovering above him in the trees some distance away.  It was fuming as though something or someone had antagonized it.  It had been there since Paul arrived at the accident scene.  Paul also did not know that the cold and fearful sensations had been transmitted from this creature. 

The green creature was certainly not human and resembled a four-legged animal.  It was 
looking down at Paul like a predator stalking its prey.

Paul continued to walk into the bushes towards the direction of the green creature.  Finally, he came to an insignificant large tree and using his torchlight, he found cigarette butts at the foot of the tree.  At the same time, the creature started to make disgruntled noises as though it was unhappy that Paul had found the cigarette butts.  It then shifted into an attack position when Paul was just directly below it. 

Strangely, a transparent membrane began to appear just in front of the creature.  There was a slit opening like a door in the middle and the creature pushed its way through to enter into the human world.  If Paul had looked up at this instant, the creature would be so real in his eyes.

It happened so fast; the same celestial being who was with Paul all this while appeared from nowhere, and with his sword, decapitated the creature’s head just as it was stepping out.  The headless creature was able to let out a brief high-pitched cry before collapsing.  The celestial being, using his other free hand, quickly sealed up the slit opening and instantaneously the membrane door disappeared together with the slain creature.  The faint sound from this fleeting conflict prompted Paul to look up.  If he had looked earlier, he would be able to see the entire encounter.

Paul returned his attention back to the cigarette butts.  He squatted down and putting on a pair of hand gloves, he picked one of them and brought it near to his nose; it was still fresh and warm, apparently it had just been used.  Thinking that it might be connected to the car accident, he kept them inside an evidence bag.

Perhaps Rick could check it out, he thought.

He used his torchlight to check the surrounding area.  Although the light wasn’t very bright, it was not difficult to discover that the cleared grass patch beside the tree was an obvious clue that someone had been there for some time.

He looked at his watch; it was almost one in the morning.  He quickly walked back to his car, not conscious of the fact that his fear and cold had completely disappeared.

* * * End of Chapter Two * * *

CHAPTER THREE

Mark Connors was finally wheeled out of the surgery room; four hours after Nick started treating his wounds.  He was placed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), a restricted area on the 8th floor consisting of thirty single rooms with round the clock surveillance by doctors and nurses on duty.

He would be sleeping for a while until the anesthesia wore off, Nick told himself as he stood at the door of Mark’s room, looking at his unconscious patient lying peacefully on the bed.

He regarded the entire operation for a while: there was no serious concussion and x-ray had revealed no injury to the skull or any internal hemorrhaging.

That was a relief, Nick thought and took a deep breath, or else it would really complicate the entire surgery process. 

He remembered the gash wound on Mark’s abdomen, it was not serious either; thanks to the quick thinking of the paramedics who had done a great job closing up the wound to prevent further bleeding as well as shutting out bacteria.  He made a mental note to contact the paramedic and commend him for his great efforts.

The damaged knee joints were a serious problem, he sighed, as it was so badly smashed that he had to insert metallic rods to strengthen the joint mechanism.  Both knee caps had to be replaced with artificial ones, which was a difficult job but it went well. The nurses were diligent, as usual, and always knew what they were doing.  Sometimes he wondered whether his job would be just as effective if he had incompetent nurses. 

He was glad that Ann was there as well.  She seemed exceptionally calm, Nick noted, and there was a subtle euphoria about her not seen before. 

He left the place just as a duty nurse walked in to check on Mark.

Nick looked at his watch; it was almost six in the morning.  It was time to leave.  There could never be a happier time than this; to be relieved of your duty.  A surge of strength came upon him as he looked forward to go home and take a well-deserved rest.  He thought of Ann and felt the urge to ask her to join him for breakfast, but he knew it would be turned down. 

He took the lift down to the second floor where his office was situated, met a couple of doctors on the way and exchanged some information with them. 

He walked straight to his office and never in his dream did he think he would find the woman whom he fancied inside; Ann was standing beside the edge of his desk and her back was facing him.  He was even more elated and charged up; perhaps God really had plans for him to have breakfast with Ann, not that he really believed Him in the first place.

He regarded her for a while; she had changed to a white Esprit Tee combined with a pair of tight fitting blue denim jeans which lusciously revealed the contour of her curvy rear.  A light green ‘Crumpler’ bag was casually slung over her left shoulder.  She looked like an alluring college girl waiting for her date. 

She couldn’t be more beautiful, Nick thought. 

Ann turned to face him when she heard him came in.

‘Well, well… God must be looking down favorably on me today.’  Nick kicked off the conversation with a slightly spiritual note.

Ann disregarded his words and continued reading the file in her hands.

‘Nick, before you let your mind wonder off to some fantasy land, I have some bad news for you.’

Nick walked to the side of his desk and tidied up a few files in front of him.

‘Nothing is bad enough to spoil my day.  Why don’t you give me a few minutes to change and we can talk about the bad news at the WENDY restaurant over a sumptuous American breakfast? Or do you prefer some Chinese Tim sum?’

Ann passed the file which she was holding to him.  She explained.

‘I was about to walk out of this place when Sue stopped me at the entrance.’  Sue was the head Nurse and immediate supervisor of Ann. 

Ann continued.

‘She handed this file to me and said that the police will be here at nine this morning,’ she looked at her watch, ‘which is about three hours from now…’

Nick was already reading the file when Ann spoke.  Nick knew what it was and he didn’t have to wait for Ann to finish her story.  Both he and Ann had to remain in the hospital to meet the police at nine in the morning.  Since they were the ones treating Mark, the police had some questions for them.  Nick could see his anticipated breakfast with Ann or his well-deserved sleep thrown out of the window.

‘And you have to stay behind too?’  Nick asked.

‘Yes, but it’s not a problem for me.  I wanted to go for a run but it can wait.’

‘Going for a run? Do you ever need to sleep after being on duty for twenty four hours? I am totally washed out.’  Nick blurted out and sank to his chair.

‘You still have three hours to take a quick nap. I can wake you up at eight thirty if you want.’

‘And I suppose you will also do the same thing?’  Nick asked.

‘Well, I need to change first and check on Mark after that.  Catch you later.’

Nick felt a little disappointed when Ann had to leave his room.  He wished he could just chat normally with her without the hospital stuff.  He closed his eyes and heard the door close.  He thought about his situation at the moment.  There were times when he wished that they were not colleagues so that he could seriously go after her.  Perhaps she thought that he was not religious enough for her?

Nick brooded about it for a while.  In this modern day and age, religion seemed to be getting irrelevant, as least that was what he thought.  Like many of his peers, he was brought up in a religious home; never missed a single church service on Sunday, reciting grace before every meal and learning the Ten Commandments in Sunday school.  All these were thrown out of his life when he entered college and he was not surprised because he never  believed in them in the first place.  He had met many wonderful girls who were deeply religious like Ann 
but many of them also lost their zeal after they started work. 

Well, Ann seemed to be holding on well to her faith, Nick thought, but he believed it would fade away once the reality of life set in.

Nick was snapped out of his thoughts by the opening of his door.  He wasn’t pleased with people entering without knocking.  Any upset feeling in him immediately disappeared when he saw that it was Ann.  She had changed into her hospital uniform.

‘The police have arrived?’ Nick asked, knowing full well that it was a stupid question.

‘Nope, but I would  like to buy you breakfast at the staff canteen if you are interested.’

The words caught Nick by surprise and he almost fell off his chair.

‘And what is the special occasion for this blessedness?’  Nick asked and stood up at the same time.  He wished he had time to shower first.

‘I thought you did a great job with Mark,’ she casually replied and gave an innocent smile to Nick.

Nick was a little taken aback.  It was the first time that Ann thanked him personally for doing a job that was expected of him as a doctor.  More importantly, it was a job saving a man’s life; Mark Connors.  It was so unlike Ann, Mark thought, and he wondered who Mark was to her.

‘Are you accepting my offer or do you prefer to sleep till the police arrive?’  Ann asked again.

Nick couldn’t refuse his senior Nurse’s invitation.  Besides, he was hungry.  Although breakfast at the staff canteen wasn’t the most ideal place to eat, having it with the most gorgeous girl in the hospital was a totally different thing.

Both of them left the room and proceeded to the staff canteen at the basement.

‘I wanted to tell you something about Mark.’  Ann said as they entered the empty elevator.
That sentence brought a feeling of jealousy in Nick…


* * *


The LA Memorial hospital staff canteen was designed to serve more than five hundred of her staff but the physical size of the place would tell you another story.  Whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner, you would find the place overcrowded and noisy.  However, the hospital management took this as a sign of positive demand and hence, there was no plans for expansion.

Nick and Ann found themselves at the end of a rather long queue but the consolation was that it was moving faster than expected.  Many of the canteen patrons were starting their day and hoped to snatch a quick bite before disappearing to the wards and offices upstairs.  Unlike Nick and Ann, most would rather leave the hospital and find a more appealing place to eat outside, at least this was what Nick thought as he waited impatiently for his turn to collect his food.  Ann was standing in front of him and he saw it again; she was unusually tranquil and happy.

He also realized that this was his first time having a meal with her alone.  Usually, if they ever had meals here, it would be with their colleagues and that, Nick thought, was different.

Finally, after about ten minutes, they reached the food shelves.  Nick grabbed a bowl of potato salad, two pieces of toasted bread, an apple, a bottle of orange juice and a cup of coffee and placed them in the aluminum tray.  Ann had a bowl of green salad and a glass of apple juice. 

It must be very trying to stay in shape by starving, Nick told himself while looking at Ann’s tray.

He allowed Ann to pay for their meals since it wasn’t that expensive.  It was not his policy to let his staff pay for his food but he would allow himself to violate it just once.
It took them another few minutes before they found an empty table at the far corner just next to the vending drink machines.

Thankfully, Nick thought, they did not have to share the table with others, perfect for his first ‘date’.

Nick started to remove the plastic wrapping from his potato salad and began eating them.  Then he saw Ann close her eyes and remained silent for a few seconds before opening her eyes and started drinking her apple juice. 

Oops, Nick thought, he should have waited.  Ann seemed to be able to read his mind.

‘It’s fine.  Please go ahead.  You don’t have to wait for me.’

Both of them started with the usual hospital talk regarding work, patients and a little gossip about who’s with who and who’s after who.  Nick was surprised that Ann knew a lot that was going on in the hospital.  They chatted for about five minutes before Ann started to change the subject.

‘I know Mark Connors.’  Ann told him.

Nick did not reply, thinking that this could be a good opportunity to find out about this man who had somehow bedazzled his senior nurse.

‘We grew up together in Greenwood, a small town about two hundred miles from here.  We were in the same school and  we lived next to each other.’

‘Ah… I see, childhood friends?’  Nick said.

‘Mark was the only son of Ian Connors who ran a convenience store at the town center, next to the post office and a tavern Inn.  Mark’s mother died three years after he was born and father and son took care of each other.’ 

Ann finished her apple juice and started to eat her salad.  Mark was still savoring his potato 
salad.  It wasn’t great but at least it filled his empty stomach.  He did wish they were eating Tim Sum. 

Ann continued.

‘The town had a small population, about 1500 at that time.  Many of them worked at the fields or factories nearby.  There was a public school for the kids of the town.  Mark and I attended that school.  Every day, people would get out of bed before the sun was up and leave for their workplace.  During that time, I would still be in bed but I would hear trucks, cars and vans moving out of our residential neighborhood. By 6.30 am, the town would be relatively quiet and around seven the kids would start making their way to school.  Most of us cycled to school but Mark would walk instead.  His Dad by then had already left the house for their convenience store.’

Ann took another spoonful of her salad, wiped her lips with the serviette before continuing.  Nick wasn’t sure where she was taking him in this conversation.  It had no start or end, to say the least. 

However, since Ann had asked for this breakfast together, he was enjoying his companion seated across him.  He couldn’t help but admire the gorgeous face in front of him.

‘Mark was obviously my senior.  The silly thing was that I was hopelessly infatuated with him.  He was not exactly a popular boy in school but I adored his gorgeous short brown hair and blue eyes.  I know, it sounds so silly.’

Ann shook her head and laughed at herself.  Nick had never seen Ann laughed in this rather teasing manner. 

Ann continued.

‘Mark was not a smart kid.  In fact, he frequently got into trouble with the teachers for not handing up his assignments on time.  They would make him stand outside the class as a punishment.  I could see him from my classroom and would sneak out and meet him at the corridor.  However, each time I walked past him, he would look at me, give me that irresistible smile and utter some strange words to me.  I would just stand there and look at him, totally mesmerized by him.  Yes, I know, it was so silly.’

‘What did he say?’ Nick asked.  By then the twenty four hours’ duty had hit his body  and he felt sleepy but  was trying hard to pay attention.

‘They are here.’  Ann said.

‘Who are here again? Aliens? Predators?’ Nick teased her without any point in mind.

‘Yup, that’s what I thought during that time.  But as a eight-year old girl, I did not understand what he was saying.  But each time I walked near him, when he was standing at the corridor, he would say the same words.’

‘It seems to me that Mark is a little weird.’  Nick added.

‘I thought so too  and so I decided to find out more.’

Ann finally finished her last piece of salad.

‘I haven’t told you or anyone else about my childhood days.’

Ann paused for a couple of seconds to gather her thoughts before continuing.

‘I never knew who my parents were.  I was raised by my Aunt, Ms Rose Wang. She is half Chinese and half American.  How she came to Greenwood town I did not know and I didn’t ask.  She loved me a lot and took care of me.  She showered me with a lot of things in life.  Aunt Rose made her living by doing contractual cleaning jobs in people’s homes; she was an excellent cleaner and she had this cupboard full of special cleaning fluids and cleaning equipment.  She could clean sofas, pianos, book shelves, floors, walls and anything in the house.  It was hard work for her.  Every day she would leave the house after I left for school and she would not be back until six in the evening.  By then, I was already home.  I could see that she was totally tired out.  However, instead of resting, she would go straight to the kitchen and prepare a meal for both of us.  I  found out later that people in the town recognized her cleaning ability and they were paying good money for her cleaning work.  From this, I knew that we weren’t poor though we were not exactly wealthy either.  Every now and then, we would have beef steak or lamb chops for dinner, very rare for most of us in that town.’

‘You never knew your parents?’ Nick asked.

‘Nope and probably never will.  I was very privileged to have her love and many of my friends in school who had parents at home never even came close to what I had benefitted from Aunt Rose.  One day, I asked her about Mark and she told me that Mark was not an ordinary boy.  I didn’t understand exactly what she meant.  One particular night, after she came home and over dinner, she told me something happened to her while cleaning Mark’s house.

Ann took another sip of her apple juice before continuing.

‘After Mark’s mother died, Ian Connors contracted Rose to clean their house.  Being next door neighbors and knowing that the convenience store was not exactly Wal-Mart standard, she charged a minimum sum.

By then, Nick was a little more interested.  He sat up on his chair and leaned towards Ann.

‘That afternoon, Aunt Rose was at Mark’s house.  She was standing on an old wooden stool to reach a high window glass panel when the stool gave way.  The window was situated on the second floor, next to the stairway and Aunt Rose fell twenty five feet to the ground floor and landed on the living glass table.’

Nick felt a little uneasy with that part of the story and his eyes revealed some sympathy for the next part of the story.  Ann knew what he was thinking and smiled at him.

‘You are thinking that something bad happened to her, right? Like she died or suffered some serious injury.’

‘My dear, I am a doctor and I know such fall would cause very serious injury unless there is a miracle.’

Ann continued.  She smiled a little.

‘A miracle indeed happened; if what Aunt Rose said was true.  She told me that when the chair gave way, she became very afraid and thought that she was going to die.  Just before she hit the glass, she felt something, like a few pair of hands grabbing her body and she landed on the glass table like a baby gently placed on the cot.  She didn’t feel any pain nor was she hurt at all.’

Nick was certainly disturbed by what he had just heard though he tried not to show it.  He didn’t know whether to believe her or dismiss her story as some movie script.  He wondered whether Ann’s religious behavior had anything to do with this story.

Ann continued.

‘When she landed on the glass table, Aunt Rose thought that some people had broken her fall and she started looking around but no one was there except her.  She knew something was there but she didn’t see anyone.  The touch was so real and strong that he never felt so peaceful in her life before.  She rested on the glass table for a few minutes thinking about God.’

‘That’s an interesting way of getting religious,’ Nick commented.

Ann became quiet and enthralled in her own words as though she had heard it for the first time in her life.

‘Was Rose as religious as you?’ Nick had to ask and again he tried to sound as non-critical as possible.

‘Let me finish this part of the story first.  After what seemed like ten to fifteen minutes, she got up and finished the remaining work.  Just before she left the house, Mark came home and they met at the door.  Mark simply smiled and nodded at her and she reciprocated back.  She saw Mark walked up the staircase and was about to close the front door when she heard Mark said to her, ‘Remember to thank them for what they did.’ Then Mark disappeared into his room.’

‘So what did Rose do? Went home and light candles to honor these invisible beings?’ Nick teased her again.

‘That’s not even funny.’  Ann remarked.

Nick didn’t reply but simply grinned at her.  Ann continued.

‘Before that incident, Rose and I attended Greenwood Community Church every Sunday.  It was the only Church in that town.  Every Sunday, it was quite common for people to dress well to meet in Church and listen to the Reverend preach the Word.  After that incident, Rose became more serious in her faith and started to pray more and read more.  She also met up with some women in the Church to do the ‘The Lord’s work’; they met every Wednesday evening to pray and during the weekends, they would go to selected houses and clean up their homes by removing things like display objects, reading materials and personal items considered ‘unclean’.’

‘This is a free country and people are free to keep or do what they want as long as they do not break the law.  How could Rose and the rest do such things?’  Nick asked with a disagreeing tone.

‘Nick, I am not here to ask you to decide whether it is right or wrong or to take sides in anything.  You must know one more thing.  Every house they went, they never once met any resistance or hostile people.  It seemed that they knew where to go.’

‘So what happened to those people whose things were removed from the house? Did they regret after that?’  Nick asked.

‘No. According to what I heard, these people were generally happier and more at peace with themselves.  I was also told that some of them who were physically sick found themselves well again after the cleansing process.’

Nick remained quiet with Ann’s answer.  He could sense the skepticism rising up inside him.
Ann continued again.

‘But that is not the reason why I share this story.  As a young girl, I was obviously curious.  One Wednesday night, I took my bike and secretly made my way to Church.  I wanted to find out what went on in those meetings.  I sneaked in and hide in one corner and heard lots of voices.  Many women were kneeling down and praying; the usual religious stuff.  Then the praying suddenly stopped and I heard a voice speaking to them.  It was the voice of a man.’

‘I bet you are going to tell me someone from Heaven came down and say Hi to them.’  Nick said with a chuckle.

‘You are so skeptical,’  Ann told Nick and laughed at the same time.  Ann shook her head and leaned back on her chair before continuing.

‘It was Mark, the sixteen old year boy standing at the front and instructing them specifically which homes to go to and then he left as soon as he came.’

Nick kept silent for a while.  He wasn’t going to believe this ridiculous story.  Ann continued nevertheless.

‘Nick, this is the important part.  While I was there, hiding in one corner, I felt that there were unseen visitors inside the Church.  I don’t know how to describe but it was something tangible and comforting at the same time.  I didn’t see any extra-terrestrial or non-human species.  But I believe it was Mark who brought that feeling or the presence of the unseen visitors to the Church.’

‘You really believe such a story, Ann? Life is complicated enough and we do not need such crazy things to worsen it.’  Nick added in a cynical tone .

Ann was not affected by what Nick had said.  She just wanted to finish the most important part of the story.

‘Nick, during Mark’s operation in the surgery room, I felt the same presence.  They were there, the same unseen beings that were in the Church!’ Ann said with youthful excitement.

Nick looked at Ann, wondering why and how people would believe such things.  It was Ann’s right to believe, he figured.  He shook his head in disbelief.

‘OK, I know I have said a lot regarding this experience.  Right now, I’d like to ask you something.  Did you feel anything different inside the surgery room?’  Ann asked.

‘The only thing I felt was the sleepiness that kept coming back to torment me.’  Nick said in a serious tone.

‘Ok… OK… I shall not pursue this with you.  I thought you may want to know this since you are also in the room.  I will ask the other nurses later.’

‘You are not trying to convert me to your religion, are you?  Nick asked.

‘Well, if you believe, why not?’ Ann replied.

‘Never mind… It’s almost nine.  Let’s go.  I want to clean up a bit before we meet the police.’   
Nick stood up, put the plates back in the tray and without waiting for Ann, was about to walk away when Ann also stood up and grabbed his arm to stop him.

‘Nick, Aunt Rose and  most of the women in the Lord’s program died mysteriously and I still do not know how she passed away.’

It was the first time that Nick knew her Aunt had died.

‘I am so sorry about your Aunt but I really do not want to hear about them now.’  Nick said and walked away.

Ann wasn’t discouraged by Nick’s less than positive response.  She knew that she had more reasons to connect with Mark.

* * * End of Chapter Three * * *