|Piercing the Darkness|
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Sleepy little Bacon's Corner seems like a picture-perfect farming community. But appearances can be deceiving. An attempted murder, a case of mistaken identity, and a ruthless lawsuit against a Christian school are tearing the town apart as angels and demons battle for victory---and the soul of young loner Sally Beth Roe. 544 pages, softcover from Tyndale.
It could have begun in any town. Bacon's Corner was nothing special, just one of those little farming
towns far from the interstate, nothing more than a small hollow dot on the AAA road map, with exit signs
that offered gas, no lodging, maybe a little food if the place was open, and little more.
But it began in Bacon's Corner.
It was a normal Tuesday evening. The workday was over, supper was on in most of the homes, the
stores were locking up, the tavern was filling up. All the employees at the Bergen Door Company had
clocked out, and the security guard was checking the locks. Mr. Myers's son was bringing all the lawn
mowers and tillers in for the night at the Myers Feed and Farm Store. The lights were winking out in the local
mercantile. Two retirees sat in their chairs in front of the barbershop, putting in their idle hours.
The fields and farms right across the Toe Springs-Clayton- ville Road were getting warmer and greener
with each day, and now the evening breeze was carrying a lot of mid-April smells_apple and cherry
blossoms, plowed dirt, a little mud, some cattle, some manure.
It was a normal Tuesday evening. No one expected any- thing unusual. No one saw or heard a thing. No
one could have.
But the commotion started behind a dismal little rented farmhouse just south of Fred Potter's place_a
flapping, a fluttering, a free-for-all, and then a cry, a long, eerie shriek, an echoing, slobbering wail that raced
into the forest like a train whistle through a town, loud, muffled, loud, muffled, moving this way and that
through the trees like a hunted animal; then a flash of light, a fireball, blinking and burning through the
forest, moving with blinding speed, right behind that siren, almost on top of it.
More cries and screams, more flashing lights! Suddenly the forest was filled with them.
The trees ended abruptly where the Amhurst Dairy began. The chase broke into the open.
First out of the forest came a bug, a bat, a black, bulb-eyed thing, its dark wings whirring, its breath
pouring out like a long yellow ribbon. It just couldn't fly fast enough, but clawed the air with its spidery
arms, desperate for speed and shrieking in total panic.
Right behind it, so close, so dangerously close, the sun itself exploded out of the forest, a brilliant comet
with wings of fire tracing a glimmering trail and a sword of lightning outstretched in burly bronze hands.
The black thing and the comet shot into the sky over Bacon's Corner, zigzagging, shooting this way and
that like wild fireworks.
Then the forest, like a row of cannons, spewed out more hideous creatures, at least twenty, each one
fleeing in utter panic with a dazzling, flaming figure tenaciously on its tail, scattering in all directions like a
crazy meteor shower in reverse.
The first demon was running out of tricks and maneuvers; he could feel the heat of the warrior's blade
right at his heels.
He spit over his shoulder, "No, turn away, I am going!"
The fiery blade cut an arc through the air. The demon met it with his own and the blow sent him
spinning. He corrected with his wings, turned and faced his assailant, shrieking, cursing, parrying blow after
blow, looking into the fiery eyes of more power, more glory, more holiness than he'd ever feared before. And
he could see it in those eyes_the warrior would never turn away. Never.
The demon withered even before the blade struck its final blow; it slipped from the earth, from the world
of mankind, into outer darkness, gone in a tumbling puff of red smoke.
The warrior turned and soared higher, spinning his long sword above his head, tracing a circle of light.
He burned with the heat of battle, the fervor of righteousness.
His fellows were consumed with it, striking demons from the sky like foul insects, vanquishing them with
strong swords, relentlessly pursuing them and hearing no pleas.
On the right, a long, slithering spirit took one more swipe at his heavenly assailant before curling tightly
in anguish and vanishing.
On the left, a loud-mouthed, boasting imp cursed and taunted his opponent, filling the air with
blasphemies. He was quick and confident, and just beginning to think he might prevail. His head went
spinning from his body while the proud sneer still twisted the face, and then he was gone.
There was one left. It was spinning, tumbling on one good wing.
"I'll go, I'll go," it pleaded.
"Your name?" ordered the angel.
The warrior swatted the demon away with the flat of his blade, and it fled, gone, yet still able to work
And then it was over. The demons were gone. But not soon enough.
"Is she all right?" asked Nathan the Arabian, sheathing his sword.
Armoth the African had made sure. "She's alive, if that's what you mean."
The mighty Polynesian, Mota, added, "Injured and frightened. She wants to get away. She won't wait."
"And now Despair is free to harass her," said Signa the Oriental.
Armoth replied, "Then it's begun, and there will be no stopping it."
Sally Roe lay in the grass, clutching her throat and gasping for air, taking long, deliberate breaths, trying
to clear her head, trying to think. A raw welt was rising on her neck; her plaid shirt was reddened from a
wound in her shoulder. She kept looking toward the goat pen, but nothing stirred there. There was no life,
nothing left to harm her.
I have to get moving, I have to get moving. I can't stay here_no, not one more minute.
She struggled to her feet and immediately rested against the farmhouse, her world spinning. She was still
nauseous, even though she'd already lost everything twice.
Don't wait. Go. Get moving.
She staggered up the back porch steps, stumbled once, but kept going. She wouldn't take much with
her. She couldn't. There wasn't time.
Ed and Mose were quite comfortable, thank you, just sitting there in front of Max's Barber Shop right on
Front Street, which is what they called the Toe Springs-Claytonville Road where it passed through town. Ed
was sixty-eight, and Mose wouldn't tell anyone his age, so nobody asked him anymore. Both their wives
were gone now_God bless `em, both men had pretty good retirements and Social Security, and life for them
had slowed to a comfortable crawl.
"Ain't bitin', Ed."
"You shoulda moved downriver, Mose. Downriver. They get cranky swimmin' clear up to your place.
You gotta catch `em in a good mood."
Mose listened to the first part, but not the second. He was staring at a green Plymouth hurrying through
town with two upset children in the backseat.
"Ed, now don't we know those kids there?"
"Well, why don't you look where I'm pointing?"
Ed looked, but all he could see was the back end of the Plymouth and just the tops of two blond heads
in the backseat.
"Well," he said, shading his eyes, "you got me there."
"Oh, you never look when I tell you. I know who they were. They were that schoolteacher's kids, that
. . . uh . . . what's his name . . ."
Irene Bledsoe sped along the Toe Springs-Claytonville Road, wearing a scowl that added at least a
decade to her already crinkled face. She kept her fists tightly around the wheel and her foot on the gas
pedal, spurring the green Plymouth onward whether Ruth and Josiah Harris liked it or not.
"You two be quiet now!" she yelled over her shoulder. "Believe me, we're doing this for your own
Bledsoe's words brought no comfort to Ruth, six, and Josiah, nine.
Ruth kept crying, "I want my Daddy!"
Josiah could only sit there silently, numb with shock and disbelief.
Bledsoe hit the throttle hard. She just wanted to get out of town before there was any more trouble, any
She was not enjoying this assignment. "The things I do for those people!"
Sally stepped out onto the back porch, still trembling, looking warily about. She'd changed her shirt and
donned a blue jacket. She gripped her wadded-up, bloodstained plaid shirt in one hand, and a paper towel
dipped in cooking oil in the other.
It was quiet all around, as if nothing had happened. Her old blue pickup was waiting. But there was still
one more thing to do.
She looked toward the goat pen, its gate swung wide open and the goats long gone. She took some
deep breaths to keep the nausea from coming back. She had to go into that little shed once more. She just
It didn't take long. With her heart racing, her hands now empty, and her pockets stuffed, she got out of
there and ran for the truck, clambering inside. It cranked and groaned and started up, and with a surge of
power and a spraying of gravel it rumbled down the long driveway toward the road.
Irene Bledsoe was speeding, but there were no cops around. The speed limits were inappropriate
anyway, just really impractical.
She was coming to a four-way stop, another stupid idea clear out here in the middle of nowhere. She
eased back on the throttle and figured she could just sneak through.
What! Where did_?
She hit the brakes, the wheels locked, the tires screamed, the car fishtailed. Some idiot in a blue pickup
swerved wildly through the intersection trying to avoid her.
Little Ruth wasn't belted in; she smacked her head and started screaming.
The Plymouth skidded to a stop almost facing the way it had come.
"Be quiet!" Bledsoe shouted at the little girl. "You be quiet now_you're all right!"
Now Josiah was crying too, scared to death. He wasn't belted in either, and had had quite a tumbling
"You two kids shut up!" Bledsoe screamed. "Just shut up now!"
Josiah could see a lady get out of the pickup. She had red hair and a checkered scarf on her head; she
looked like she was about to cry, and she was holding her shoulder. Bledsoe stuck her head out the window
and screamed a string of profanity at her. The lady didn't say a thing, but Bledsoe must have scared her.
The other driver got back in her truck and drove off without saying a word.
"The idiot!" said Bledsoe. "Didn't she see me?"
"But you didn't stop," said Josiah.
"Don't you tell me how to drive, young man! And why isn't your seat belt fastened?"
Ruth was still screaming, holding her head. When she saw blood on her hand, she went hysterical.
When Bledsoe saw that, she said, "Oh, great! Oh, that's just terrific!"
Cecilia Potter, Fred's wife, was glad that one of those fool goats wore a bell. At least she was able to
hear something and run out into the yard before they ate up all her flowers.
The two kids bolted and ran back toward the rental home. As for the doe, she thought she owned
anything that grew, and she wasn't timid about it.
"You, GIT!" Cecilia shouted, waving her strong arms. "Get out of those flowers!"
The doe backed off just a little, but then lowered her head, giving Cecilia a good look at her horns.
"Oooh, you're really scary!" said Cecilia. She ran right up, clamped an angry fist around the doe's collar,
and lifted the doe's front legs off the ground in turning her around.
"You're going back where you came from, and right now, and don't you think you can scare me!"
WAP! "And you lower those horns right now!"
The doe went with Cecilia, mostly on four legs, but on two if she even dared to hesitate, and got more
than two earfuls of sermonizing on the way.
"I don't know how you got out, but if you think you're going to run rampant around here, you've got
another think coming! Sally's going to hear about this! She knows better! I'm really surprised . . ."
She crossed the field between the two houses and then saw the goat pen, its gate wide open.
"Sally!" she called.
There was no answer. Hmm. The truck was gone. Maybe Sally wasn't home yet. Well, she was late then.
She always came home from work before this. But how did that gate get open?
She dragged the doe alongside her and through the gate.
"Back where you belong, old girl. No more of this free and easy stuff_"
Well . . . who was that in the shed?
The doe, suddenly free, walked out through the still-open gate. Cecilia didn't follow it.
She was looking at the body of a woman, thrown down in the straw like a discarded doll, limp and white.
She was dead.
Nathan, Armoth, and the other warriors made a low, slow pass over the farmhouse and saw a distraught
Cecilia running from the goat pen. Nathan gave the others a signal, and with an explosive surge of their
wings they shot forward, etching the evening sky with streaks of light.
The fields below them passed by with the swiftness of a thought, and then the green canopy of the
forest swallowed them up, the leaves and branches whipping by, over, around, and through them. They
rushed through shadows and shafts of fading light, through tall trunks and thick, entangling limbs, and
finally reached the clearing where the captain was waiting.
With wings snapping full like opening parachutes, they came to a halt and settled to the forest floor with
the silence of snowflakes. The moment their feet touched down, the lightning glimmer of their tunics faded
to a dull white, their fiery swords cooled to copper, and their wings folded and vanished.
Tal, the mighty, golden-haired Captain of the Host, was waiting, his fiery eyes burning with expectation,
his face tight with the tension of the moment. Beside him stood Guilo, the Strength of Many, a dark,
bearded, massive spirit with thick, powerful arms and a heart yearning for a fight. They were dressed in dull
white as well, and wore formidable swords at their sides.
Nathan called his report even as Tal and Guilo were stepping forward to greet them. "All the demons
were routed except for Despair."
"Good enough," said Tal. "Let him carry word back to his comrades and then continue his work. Any
other spirits from Broken Birch involved in this?"
"Several. Formidable, but defeated for now. We didn't see Destroyer anywhere. He sent his lackeys and
stayed out of it himself."
"Of course. Now what of Sally?"
"Sally Roe is fleeing. Her truck is several miles down the road, heading south toward Claytonville. We
sent Chimon and Scion to follow her."
"The assassin?" asked Tal.
"Slain, by our hand. We had no choice. Sally was close to death."
Guilo rumbled his approval of the action.
"How is Sally now?" Tal asked.
Armoth reported, "A minor throat injury, a welt on her neck, a shallow knife wound in the shoulder. No
immediate physical danger."
Tal sighed just a little. "No, not immediate anyway. What about the near-collision with Irene Bledsoe?"
Nathan and Armoth looked toward Signa, and the lithe Oriental smiled. "Successful, but by a hair. Ruth
Harris suffered a small injury on her forehead, but Sally was clearly seen by everyone in the car, and she saw
them just as clearly."
Armoth picked up from there. "And now Mrs. Potter has found the assassin, and she is calling the
Tal had to take a moment just to shake his head at the immensity of it all. "Just that is news enough."
Guilo expressed his anxiety with a gravelly chuckle. "Captain, we have never before hoped for so many
things to go right . . . that can go so wrong!"
Tal looked toward Heaven and smiled a cautious smile. "We can hope for them all to go right as long as
the saints are praying, and they are."
There was a mutter of agreement from all of them. They could feel it.
"So," Tal continued, "if all goes well, this time we advance, we conquer, we set
the enemy back . . . We purchase just one more season of restraint."
"One more season," they all echoed.
"Sally should arrive in Claytonville safely enough with Chimon and Scion as escorts. The demon Terga
has much to answer for now; I expect he'll send some spirits after her to tear her down. Even so, Chimon and
Scion have orders not to intervene unless absolutely necessary."
"More pain, captain? More destruction?" Guilo blurted in anger. "One would think
these wretched spirits can never inflict enough suffering!"
Tal looked into those dark eyes, so full of the fire of battle, and yet so tender toward God's elect. "Good
friend, we all hurt for her. But her suffering will bring about God's purpose, and you will see it."
"May it come soon," Guilo said, gripping the handle of his sword. He looked at Nathan and prompted
sarcastically, "I'm sure you have more joyful news?"
"Yes," said Nathan. "Of Tom Harris. He is at the police station now, trying to do something to get his
children back, trying to reason with Sergeant Mulligan."
At the mention of Mulligan's name, Guilo laughed a roaring, spiteful laugh, and the others made a
distasteful face. Nathan only nodded with resignation. They were right.
"So now comes the testing of Tom's faith, a real trying of his commitment," said Tal.
"I'll be watching the saints," said Guilo. "I'll see how they handle this one."
Tal touched Guilo's shoulder. "This will be one of those things we hope will go right."
"Oh, may it go right, may it go right."
"For Tom's sake," said Nathan.
"For everyone's sake," said Armoth.
"Which brings us to Ben Cole," Tal prompted.
Nathan responded, "He's about to walk into it right now."