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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Retreat (as in quiet time away) (08/01/05)

TITLE: The Case of the Clover Creek Cult
By Anthony Tophoney


Joe Loftus scratched his balding scalp and frowned. “Okay, Mr. Gregory, maybe you should just describe the suspicious activity.”

The scrawny man squirmed impatiently. “That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do Detective Loftus.”

Joe sighed. As a member of the Cult Crime Task Force, he’d heard his share of stories. A few of them turned out to be legitimate leads but too many were of the ‘Illuminati are tapping my phone lines’ variety. He sincerely hoped he hadn’t been called in on a Saturday morning to deal with the latter.

“So, you were cabin-sitting for a friend out by Clover Creek…”

“That’s when I saw them, Sir.”

“The cult members?”

“Yes!” The aged man beamed at Joe from across the desk.

“And exactly what gave you the impression you had encountered a cult, Mr. Gregory?” Joe was determined to maintain his professionalism.

“Well,” The thin man leaned forward intently. “They were gathered in the forest like Druids.”

“About how many would you say?”

“More than fifty. Maybe a hundred.” He nodded emphatically.

Joe scrawled notes on a pad next to the pitifully incomplete case file Briggs and Carter had left for him. He was going to have to do something really special to repay them for this one.

“Mostly boys,” the old man continued, “But a few adult men too.” He raised a spindly hand to the side of his mouth and whispered, “No women!”

Joe cocked an eyebrow. “Really? Go on, Sir.”

“It was near dusk but I could see them quite clearly from my vantage point.”

“And what were they doing?”

“They set up a stage and gathered around it. Then, a large dark man took the platform. He must have been their leader because they all got quite when spoke.” Mr. Gregory’s eyes were wide and wild inside their sunken sockets.

“Continue,” Joe was patience personified.

“Well, before I knew it, the dark man was leading them in a chant. I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying because their heads were bowed and they were all mumbling over each other. It was definitely of some religious nature though.”

“Uh-huh.” Joe paused. “What happened after the…religious chanting?”

“It only got worse!” The man’s thin limbs were tight and trembling. “A group of long-haired hooligans in ripped jeans took the stage with musical instruments and began playing rock music! Singing about our Lord like that Jagger fellow sings about women. Shameful, I tell you!

Joe thought he heard a muffled snort coming from the next room.

“Did you see anyone get harmed in any way Mr. Gregory?”

“Well, not physically. But many in the crowd raised their hands and swayed like they were intoxicated. And at one point, a few of them staggered forward and fell to their knees at the leader’s feet. Just witnessing it was enough to make my skin crawl!”

“Alright, I think I’ve heard enough.”

“Not nearly, Sir!” the old man said. “The next day, as I was driving back to the interstate, the dark man himself drove past me. I trailed him to this very town, Detective!” He grinned proudly. “I distinctly remember his license plate read Mark 7:15.”

Now Joe was sure he heard a stifled chuckle come from Carter’s darkened office.

“Thanks for coming in Mr. Gregory.” Joe rose to show him to the door.

“But, aren’t you going to see who this Mark person is and look into what he’s doing in the woods with those boys?”

“No need.”

“Why ever not?” the man demanded.

“Because, Mr. Gregory, Mark 7:15 is a Bible verse and the man you followed is Pastor Byron Marshall of the Grace Evangelical Church, a Christian church here in town.”

“Christian! But…”

“What you witnessed was a worship service at Clover Creek Christian Retreat.”

“What kind of Christian would have young men kneel at his feet?”

Joe’s patience wavered as he pulled the old man toward the exit by one bony arm. “It’s called an ‘altar call’, Sir. Those boys were accepting Jesus Christ.” He opened the door and strategically placed Mr. Gregory outside. “And, for the record, my son was one of the long-haired hooligans in the band. I was swaying in the audience that night. You have a good day, Mr. Gregory.” The closing door cut off the old man’s next protest.

Joe walked to the nearest phone and paged Carter’s office on intercom. Laughter blared from the crackling speaker.

“I’m blessed,” he said through a reluctant grin, “Truly blessed.”

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This article has been read 906 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Crista Darr08/08/05
A fun read! Great work.
Tesiri Moweta08/08/05
Very nice.I'm still laughing...
Lynda Lee Schab 08/08/05
LOL - I loved this! Too much fun. Great story telling and creative angle on "retreat."
Well done!
Blessings, Lynda
janet rubin08/08/05
Oh I can't stand it! That was great- wish I wrote it! (Just this week-end I was watching long-haired hooligans and swaying outside!)
Dixie Phillips08/08/05
My great-grandmother used to tell me how her people called her a holy-roller after she was converted. I only wish she could have read your story! What a hoot!
Kristin Slavik08/09/05
This was FUN! I loved the take on retreat! Blessing to you.
Beth Muehlhausen08/09/05
Fun and delightful! I loved the allusion to Druids - funny! Good job.
Theresa Kissinger08/10/05
Good story...good contrasts, sad and funny at the same time.
Debra Brand08/10/05
This one left me chuckling, too. Good job.
Shannon Redmon08/12/05
I loved this! Creative from a great angle!

Sandra Petersen 08/12/05
I enjoyed this entry. Some of what goes on in charismatic churches is considered strange by outsiders. And anytime the church moves outside the four walls it is regarded with suspicion. The dialogue was very plausible, and I could almost see a Don Knotts type individual playing the part of the person reporting on the 'cult'. I was trying to figure out if the main character was called in to take the report because his coworkers wanted to rib him about being a Christian. Great job!
Maxx .08/13/05
this was a funny read. The things that the world just doesn't understand! Great writing!
Shari Armstrong 08/13/05
LOL -Awesome!!! A very clever story :)
Val Clark08/16/05
fun read! How it helps to have a sense of humour and proportion in the work place!