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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Easter (05/30/05)

TITLE: Through the Back Door
By Kyle Chezum


Matt waited outside the back door, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up around his face against the bitter wind that swept in over the parking lot. Night had come thick and heavy with the storm, and it would stay a while.

He kept his flashlight low, his hand covering the beam. The church grounds were deserted at that hour, but the street beyond the fence was not. More than one set of headlights had gone by over there in the past few minutes. It would do no good if someone saw him.

So he kept the light hidden, and waited. Rain dripped from the eave above him to patter along the pavement in the shadow of the church building. It was a forlorn, wandering sound, a quiet chaos, and Matt could feel it raging around him. He had been there a long time.

The place was empty. Across the lot, a dead tree raked at the wind beneath the sputtering glow of a single streetlight. The church itself was dark, austere and grim in the shadows. Empty, like him.

Ryan showed up a few minutes later. He came from the street, through a rent in the fence, Stacie following close behind. They stole past the light and into the darkness near the church. Ryan had the bolt cutters and another flashlight, which was shut off.

Stacie slumped against the wall and wiped her face on her sleeve, brushing away rainwater and tears. “Please Ryan, let’s just forget it. This isn’t going to work.”

Ryan leaned on the doorframe, catching his breath. “We ran into a cop at the edge of the city. Stacie’s a bit shook up.” He grinned. “Just what I’d expect from a city girl.”

Stacie pouted. “I wouldn’t expect a bum like you to care.”

Matt gestured toward the church. “How much do you think is in there?”

Ryan shrugged. “It was Easter yesterday, and everyone goes to church on Easter.”

Wind tore across the yard. Matt uncovered his light. “Let’s get this door open, then.”

The padlock snapped instantly between Ryan’s bolt cutters. He swiped it aside, then turned on his flashlight and kicked the door inward. Cobwebs swayed along the ceiling in the hallway beyond.

Matt peered into the darkness. “Looks like no one comes this way any more.”

Ryan brushed past him and disappeared inside. Matt turned to Stacie. “You coming, or do you want to wait out here?”

She sniffled. “I’m coming.”

A door at the end of the hallway led into the sanctuary. Rows of empty pews sat with a kind of stern regularity, an abandoned order. Ryan moved toward the pulpit at the front of the room, his flashlight cutting huge swaths in the silent darkness. “It’s got to be up here somewhere.”

Stacie seemed confused. “What?”

“The offering money. This church rakes in big bucks every Easter.”

Matt left them and strode to the line of windows that arrayed the far wall. In the distance, the city skyline was nothing more than a scatter of stars groping upward into that furious barrier that was the storm. It was just another kind of chaos, like the aimless rain outside the church—

There was a car in the parking lot.

Matt ducked, hiding his flashlight. Someone must have arrived while they were in the back hallway. “Ryan,” he whispered, “there’s someone—”

The ceiling lights came on with a blinding, condemning brilliance. Matt shielded his eyes, heard Stacie scream. A gunshot echoed from somewhere behind him, once, then twice. Matt glanced over his shoulder. Ryan stood on the stage, staring toward the front door, gun in hand. Matt turned just in time to see an elderly man fall to the floor beneath the light switch.

Ryan was swearing, stammering, his face pale. “I—I thought it was the cops—”

Matt moved forward, toward the man who lay bleeding on the cold linoleum. He was dressed in casual clothes, as though he had just been heading to a friend’s house. His eyes were wide open, startled, but somehow peaceful and willing. There was nothing of anger on his face. Even dead, everything was in order and as it should be.

Stacie was trembling, her face wet. “We killed him.”

Ryan tried to shrug but couldn’t feign the indifference. “It was a mistake—he was innocent—”

Matt knelt in the spreading blood, his head in his hands. “Ryan, we are in serious trouble.”

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This article has been read 1017 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Amy Michelle Wiley 06/06/05
Very interesting story--you kept my interest through the end. I want more! LOL You could bring one of their fathers into the continuation of the story and have a great one for next week's challenge! :-D
darlene hight06/06/05
Great storytelling!
Helga Doermer06/06/05
Certainly an element of Easter I hadn't considered. A smooth execution.
Maxx .06/07/05
This is excellent execution. Obviously an outstanding talent here. The title caught me right off so I had to read this one first. I'm very glad I did! The expression on the face of the victim is such a powerful message. Perfect delivery. :-)
Anthony Tophoney06/07/05
Great pace and prose. Impressive.
Karri Compton06/07/05
This really belongs in a longer piece - I don't think it works by itself. But you have a great scene to build a short story around. Well done.
Leslie Lamb06/08/05
This is skillfully written, and the fact that we join the trio already in the midst of their plan works for me! I think that your talent speaks for itself in this piece. Well done.
dub W06/08/05
Very well done, could be part of a major work. Professional presentation.
Sally Hanan06/08/05
Gritty, realistic writing that deserves to be a 2-3,000 word story.
Sandra Petersen 06/09/05
Excellent! I loved the imagery of the rain being a quiet chaos, and then the repetition of that same thought later. Good work!
Shari Armstrong 06/09/05
Wow - I had no idea where you were headed with this. Powerful lesson, and a harsh lesson for those young people.
Debbie OConnor06/09/05
Awesome writing! Powerful message. My favorite line

"In the distance, the city skyline was nothing more than a scatter of stars groping upward into that furious barrier that was the storm. It was just another kind of chaos, like the aimless rain outside the church—"

Val Clark06/10/05
Such a sad world we live in. So much ignorance, suffering and violence. (sigh) A well told story, not quite resolved for me, but I expect that was the author's intention.
Joanne Malley06/11/05
Masterfully crafted--flows perfectly. Loved the descriptive writing!
Lynda Lee Schab 06/11/05
What I love about your writing, Kyle, is your ability to effortlessly pull in the reader. The dialogue is always real and believable. The message I got from this piece was a comparison of the victim that was shot to Jesus, who also was an innocent man murdered by people who didn't know what they were doing.
As always, brilliant writing.
Blessings, Lynda
Pat Guy 06/11/05
Ok so I'm glad I found you - and Yes, I was rivoted till the end, and if you don't have a second piece about redemrtion we're comin after ya!
Delores Baber06/12/05
Great writing! You hooked me, so don't leave me dangling. I've got to have the whole thing. This was like a single sample of Godiva chocolate and then the store locks itself behind the one who knows he wants more.
Linda Germain 06/12/05
Excellent writing chocked full of lessons and meaning. Very well done.
Jessica Schmit05/23/06
Kyle, I'm going to go through some of your work and I stumbled across this one first. Amazing. Your style (and word choices/pattersn) is quite similar to Maxx's writings. Beautiful job building the suspense and setting the scene. I loved the ending. "The ceiling lights came on with a blinding, condemning brilliance" this was one of a few perfectly constructed sentance. Great writing.