The Tenth Circle

The Tenth Circle by Jon Land

Book: The Tenth Circle by Jon Land Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jon Land
was kneeling on the raised dais at the front of the church, covered in a thin carpet that was still damp and rancid after the last hard rain had soaked it.
    “You mean my men, don’t you?”
    “Who were serving me at the time. Who died for nothing less than devotion to the cause and my protection.”
    “Sacrifices to a greater cause to which they gave their lives.”
    “I wish no more to perish in service to me. I have the Lord to protect me, Colonel. If His plan is for the next attack to succeed, then so be it. I want your men gone. I will not have the peace of my sanctuary or my faithful disturbed by such distractions.”
    “My job is to keep you safe, Reverend, so our plan can reach fruition, so the country can be saved. We’re just days from the finish now. You should keep that in mind.”
    Rule had adopted Blountstown, nestled within Florida’s northern Panhandle, as his home because it felt right. He liked the fact that it was bracketed by water, rivers specifically, with the Chipola to the west and the Apalachicola to the east. So too it featured majestic limestone bluffs that he saw as sentinels standing brave and strong to ward off evil, to shield the town from the miseries of the outside world. Blountstown actually boasted its own rich history and tradition, including the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, an impressive collection of original and replica structures featuring nineteenth-century log cabins, a farmhouse, and a school. There was also a working farm on the grounds that produced its own sugar cane and syrup. And the settlement’s annual quilt shows and peanut boils took Rule back to simpler times long before he’d kicked a dog and beaten a boy to death to complete his transformation and begin his true mission. So enamored was he by the settlement’s ambiance that he’d had his church constructed to jibe perfectly with the nearby settlement, its leaks, uneven flooring, and patchwork roof replicating olden times perhaps a bit too much.
    Turwell took another step forward, stopping even with the front pews that wobbled a bit thanks to the church’s uneven settling.
    “You lost men in Afghanistan, too,” Rule said, still not regarding him.
    “As necessary then as it was today, Reverend.”
    “Your superiors didn’t see it that way, though, did they, Colonel? You faced an Article Thirty-Two hearing and accepted what was termed a ‘non-judicial punishment’ once you agreed to resign your commission.”
    Turwell came all the way around and stepped upon the dais, placing himself between Rule and the altar. “And are you without sin?”
    “Any man who claims to be stands as a liar.”
    “Three convictions for fraud,” Turwell continued, “taking money from your followers under false pretenses.”
    Rule stiffened and finally met Turwell’s gaze. “I was a different man then.”
    “Two, apparently, based upon the names under which you were convicted. I believe the second time involved you convincing the gravely ill to change you to the beneficiary of their life insurance policies in return for entrance into Heaven. That is what you promised them, isn’t it?”
    “They were sorely in need of spiritual guidance, Colonel. I was doing the work of the Lord, following His word.”
    “Just like I was doing the work of my country in Kandahar Province, Reverend.”
    “The very work we are both doing today.”
    “Then we are both imperfect men joined together by pursuit of the same goal. I’d recommend we leave things there.”
    “It’s not that simple, Colonel. That’s what I wanted to talk with you about. I need to see .”
    “See what?”
    “The means by which we will inflict the tenth circle of Hell onto the world.”
    Turwell stiffened just enough for Rule to notice. “That’s not your concern.”
    “The Lord feels otherwise. He wishes to see the great weapon of change through His servant’s eyes. He instructs that I must see what I am praying for. He who has walked in the darkness has

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