Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)
TITLE: Of Great Price
By Jeffrey Snell
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Worn walnut floors, burgundy walls, grill aromas and rustling conversation welcomed him. Resisting the urge to sit and sip his worry away, Dinsmore weaved past the counter patrons and scanned the back. A stocky employee stacking mugs, white sleeves rolled up, noticed him, and Dinsmore stared back. The man immediately stepped for the backroom. Dinsmore followed quickly.
"Jackals smell the nest," he murmured shortly as the man closed the door.
His friend's stubbled face grew ashen. "God 'elp us."
"He will. He will, but quickly."
Dinsmore's companion rubbed his cheek. "Right. You 'ave it?"
Dinsmore breathed the sodden air, exiting an alley. Darkness attacked swiftly, but he prayed the light would shine through and reclaim the day.
From behind, a gravelly Texas accent assaulted his hope. "A pub...." Crushing footsteps splashed closer, and a huge man stood at his side. His face tipped downward, a conspicuously large forest green Stetson shadowing a menacing smirk. "Now, as I recall, you gave up drinkin'."
"I 'ave it. I put it in one o' the secure places." Conall coughed away from the receiver, listening. "Oh, Lord. Ya sure they got 'im? Well I canno' come back--if they're in the pub, I'm done. Now what?"
Conall slipped surreptitiously from the market payphone. He snaked from shop to shop, exiting to a back street two blocks south. A compact brown sedan idled across the way, and he climbed in.
The woman driving frowned. "Still have your apron on. Dinsmore?"
Conall shook his head once and stared forward. "Done." Christine gasped and gripped the wheel, eyes clenched in prayer.
"Luv, grievin's gonna 'ave to wait. We got to meet the others. We're bein' hunted, an' I do no' wanna be caged."
She nodded, wiping tears, and sped north toward the main highway.
"Sure they won't find it?"
"Ya. Gotta get out now an' fetch it later."
Christine merged with the flowing thoroughfare traffic. "With Dinsmore, they may--I mean, what if he--"
"Stop!" Conall pounded the dash. "He'll never give anythin' to that... that...." He removed his apron and thrust it out the window. "He'll not tell the man anythin'."
Minutes later, he reached over and rubbed Christine's shoulder. "Sorry, Luv. Truth, I'm worried as well. And... as I'm sittin' here escapin', I'm only sensin' God's Spirit callin' me to--"
"Go back now," she finished incredulously. He nodded, and in grim agreement, they turned around.
Midnight passed. Conall and Christine hunched ten blocks east of the thoroughfare, peering over the dash at their goal a hundred feet to the north.
Presently, he stirred and opened the door.
"Careful. Please," she whispered. "I love you."
He mustered a small grin. "Me as well, Luv. But wha' else is worth my life, if this is not?"
Hastening to a factory building's corner, he discarded caution. If anyone saw, well, it would end swiftly. Trusting God's protection, he embraced clarity from the Spirit and sprinted west across the dirt road.
Conall scurried behind a ten-foot-high pumphouse and quickly found the loosened cinder block. His calloused fingertips painstakingly worked it outward. Eighteen minutes had drained away since leaving Christine when he finally pulled it free and reached into the dark abcess behind.
Christine grew nervous. Too long.... How could it come to this, Lord? How could those who'd sung and prayed with them now be hunting them, as Conall said? How long before--
Conall burst into the car and slammed the door, nearly forcing a scream from her throat. "I 'ave it! I 'ave it!" He whispered hoarsely. "Go! Go, Luv!"
She fought the urge to gun the engine and rolled back toward the thoroughfare. Conall reverently opened plain brown wrapping.
"Truly of great price," he murmured, their friend in his thoughts. He lifted the lid, and both gasped sharply at the sight. Christine began to cry again. Even Conall sobbed in spite of himself at the worn treasure in his lap--the last Bible in Marymoor County.
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