RITES OF REVENGE
A Father Flenn Adventure
By Scott Arnold
Rites of Revenge
Rites of Revenge
Copyright © 2019 Scott Arnold
All rights reserved.
Rites of Revenge: A Father Flenn Adventure –– 1st edition
1. Fiction-Thrillers-Espionage. 2. Fiction-Crime
United States of America
And in our sleep, pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
Sarah Coverdale spoke slowly and distinctly into the phone. A life hung in the balance. “How much do you know about Predator drones?”
“I’ve been trained in the basics,” answered Zack Matteson. “Why?”
Coverdale ignored the question. “Good. How familiar are you with Hellfire missiles?”
The CIA operative had seen the aftermath from the Assassins of the Sky many times. “They have a kill radius of fifteen meters,” he answered, “and a wounding of twenty. Again, ma’am, may I ask why?”
The director for the Measures of Effectiveness Office for the Central Intelligence Agency skirted the question a second time.
“Zack, there won’t be any time to waste. I would have called you earlier, but I just had it confirmed. Eric Scudder is going to strike tomorrow, March third! He probably thinks of it as poetic justice; it’s the anniversary of his arrest.”
Zack Matteson took a breath. “So, it’ll be on three-three? Then, I’m guessing, at 3 p.m.?”
She hesitated. “I hadn’t thought of that. Zack, you’ve got to get to Honduras before then!”
“Yes ma’am, but, let me ask again… what have Hellfire missiles got to do with all this?”
Zack thought he heard a slight tremor in the director’s voice, “Because I just found out Eric Scudder has four of them and intends to use them to kill Scott Flenn!”
Children’s laughter filled the air as the tall priest with wavy brown hair jumped for the soccer ball. Kids scrambled like puppies after a stick as Father Scott Flenn kicked the ball a good 30 feet across the churchyard. The ball sailed past the community fire pit toward the only road which led down the mountain to San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras.
The children were accustomed to foreigners; missionaries came once or twice a year from Mexico or the United States, often bearing gifts. Dour evangelicals usually brought Bibles, along with words of hellfire and judgment. The children shied away from them. They did like the other visitors though—especially those who had helped maintain the chapel at San Jose de la Montaña (Saint Joseph’s of the Mountain). Those missionaries always brought medicine––and toys!
Their parents had told them stories about how the chapel was built two decades ago, when Americans from someplace place called Alabama had worked alongside workers from San Pedro Sula. A large Honduran man wearing a purple shirt and a white priest’s collar had come nearly every day to oversee the project. The man in purple had been Juan Almeda, who was still the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras.
Teams from Alabama had visited every year at first, but then they just stopped coming. No one in the village knew why. Surprisingly, last year, a priest from Birmingham showed up, along with an interpreter from Bishop Almeda’s office. He had played with the children during the day, and at night met with their parents and grandparents. The villagers had showed the priest where repairs were needed in the chapel. The padre had left the village the next morning only to come back two days later with a team of carpenters. Many still spoke about how the priest had rolled up his sleeves that week and joined in the restoration. Within a few days, the chapel had looked better than ever.
Each evening, after all the work was done, Padre Flenn had sat in the small market across the road and chatted with the villagers through his interpreter. He had asked them about their hopes and dreams and what they considered to be their biggest needs. No one had ever asked them that before; the missionaries usually deciding for themselves what the villagers needed.
The residents had told Padre Flenn that they had more than their share of Bibles and religious tracts; what they needed most was a water purification system. (The owner of the market had asked for a new electric generator, but he’d been outvoted.) Water-borne illnesses had plagued the community for decades, and a purification system, they had told Flenn, would dramatically improve the health of their village. It wasn’t six weeks before the priest had returned with a skilled team from the United States and a state-of-the-art water purification system—as well as a new generator for the storeowner.
Three days ago, they’d welcomed Padre Flenn back with cheers and hugs. His Spanish had improved since last year but he still relied on an interpreter from Bishop Almeda’s office.
The priest had news! He told them that the bishop of Alabama had sent him here to assess their ongoing needs. The village was still buzzing with excitement. Flenn didn’t tell them that he’d been the one who’d approached Bishop Morrison, or that the money was coming out of his own pockets.
The church had been packed last night, but the meeting with Padre Flenn and his interpreter hadn’t taken long. It had been unanimous. What the villagers said they needed most was a school. Flenn was met with thunderous applause when he told them he thought there was a good chance that his bishop would sign off on the project. In truth, he knew Tom Morrison would approve it since Father Flenn would be the one paying for it. Not only was Flenn a former operative for the CIA, he was also from one of the wealthiest families in New England. Flenn Industries had been worth billions when his father, David, had passed away and left it to Scott Flenn and his brother. David Jr. ran things now, but Flenn had managed to tuck away a fortune to prevent the CIA from ever seizing his assets and trying to force him into some unknown future assignment.
When Flenn had left the CIA, he’d told his supervisors it was for good. It was a tough argument at first, but Flenn had been determined. In the end, the one who’d had the hardest time with his leaving had been his former partner, Zack Matteson. Zack could no more fathom walking away from the CIA than a bee could leaving its own hive. Scott Flenn, however, had no interest in the CIA, or the family business. Instead, he had found contentment as an Episcopal priest.
Saint Ann’s parish in Birmingham, as small as it was, managed to keep him plenty busy. Unfortunately, Zack had a habit of popping in and out of Father Flenn’s life—usually at the worst possible times. (Just last Christmas, Zack had solicited his help to stop Iran and two psychopaths from hijacking the upcoming presidential election.)
Apart from the occasional chaos caused by Zack Matteson, Father Flenn enjoyed a simple life in which he chose to spend his time, and his wealth, on charitable causes––which was why he had travelled to the village of San Jose de la Montaña; although calling this tiny hamlet a village was an overstatement. Less than a hundred of the poorest of the poor lived here. The only permanent structures were the church and a small open-air market, which sold beer, sodas, and limited sundries. Lean-to shanties, made of sticks and pieces of tin, surrounded the church and market. Families slept under the stars or, when it rained, under scrap metal and bits of corrugated plastic. Most of the men and older boys hired themselves out as day laborers down in the city, but seldom earned more than four hundred lempira a week, about $15 in American money. The women spent their days cooking, sweeping the dirt around their meager huts, and having babies. Children gathered fruit and brought water from a nearby stream to help their mothers.
Today, however, their mothers had released them to go play with the tall priest.
Flenn pretended to miss a kick and came down with a thud. About a dozen giggling boys and girls pulled him back to his feet. “Padre!” they shouted. “Juega con nosotros!” Flenn’s Spanish was spotty, having spent his days in the CIA studying Korean, Farsi, and Arabic, but the children didn’t care as they continued to babble on about a new game they wanted to play. They took him into the middle of the village and instructed him to observe. Grasping one another’s hands and forming a tight circle they began to chant a song in which they called out a child’s name, followed by a command to dance.
“Diana, Chippy, Chippy,” they sang out, and the first little girl stepped into the circle and began to do an impromptu jig. Everyone laughed, especially as the next child, a lanky boy with no sense of rhythm, jumped up and down and then did a handstand. Somewhere, off in the distance, Flenn thought he heard a small engine making its way up the mountain.
After Diana and the boy finished their dances, the children began to chant yet another girl’s name, and that child jumped into the circle and came up with a silly routine. Flenn laughed heartily until two seven-year-olds grabbed his hands and brought him into the middle of the circle.
“Padre, como su nombre?” one of the children asked. The sound of the engine grew louder.
“Me llama es Scott,” he replied. The children exchanged puzzled looks, so he said it again. They tried pronouncing his name, but it was difficult to form the word, which to them seemed harsh and abrasive. One child’s eyes brightened as he came up with a substitute.
“Escota!” he cried.
Flenn knew escota meant sheet, and it pained him to know that a sheet was only a word they had heard, never experienced. None of these children even had a bed.
“Escota, Chippy chippy!”
What is a chippy, anyway? No time to ask—only dance; so, with great fanfare, the tall, handsome priest with green eyes and an infectious smile, bowed ceremoniously and broke into his best imitation of a Michael Jackson moonwalk. The children held their sides as they howled with laughter, as did some of the adults watching from the shade of the market across the road.
The sound of the engine grew louder by the second, competing now with the children’s song. Flenn watched as a motorcycle rapidly made its way up the dirt road. A pale-skinned cyclist, with a backpack strapped behind him, was heading straight for the village. Odd, thought Flenn, another white man coming here? The children stopped singing and eyed the stranger as he suddenly leaped from his motorbike, without even turning the engine off. The man was running straight toward them!
Flenn quickly shooed the children behind him and spread his legs apart, ready to knock the stranger on his backside if it came to that. Some of the adults in the market started toward them. The crazed man was within 10 yards when Flenn recognized him.
No, it can’t be.
Not him! Not here!
Flenn signaled to the adults and the children that everything was okay. Zack had spotted Flenn––not hard to do in this crowd—but instead of slowing down, Zack reached out and grabbed Flenn by the arm and pulled him along as he continued running. “Come with me, now!” Zack shouted.
Twelve years of placing his life in this man’s hands kicked in and, without thinking, Flenn found himself half running and half being pulled behind his old friend toward the jungle.
“Zack, what the hell… ”
He’d no more than gotten the words out when they were both thrown violently to the ground. An instant later, he heard the explosion; a second after that, his left shoulder felt as if it were on fire.
Reeling from the blast, Flenn managed to right himself and look toward the village. The spot where he and the children had been playing was nothing more than a huge crater! Dust and debris were falling from whatever had just pounded the village. Torn bits of clothing and tiny bodies littered the landscape.
“OH, MY GOD, THE CHILDREN!” Flenn screamed as he struggled to his feet.
“Flenn, no!” Zack grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him deeper into the jungle just as another blast hit the ground nearby. Dazed, Flenn fell to his knees, then tried to get up, only to fall again. He felt his shoulder, which was covered in something thick and wet. “The children! I must get to the children!”
“Stay where you are!” Zack shouted. You’re wounded!” Zack pulled a tee shirt from his backpack and pressed it hard against Flenn’s left shoulder. “We need to get out of here, now!”
The pain was excruciating, still the priest tried to pull away. “I’ve got to save those kids!”
“You can’t save them.” Zack was doing his best to hold the makeshift bandage steady while keeping his friend from breaking away. “We’ve got to go, Flenn! It’s you he is after. If you go out there he’ll see you, and he’s got two more of those damned things!”
“Who will see me? What things?”
What in God’s name was going on? Flenn tried to stand but his knees buckled, and he found himself falling again, only this time into a blinding light.
He heard a voice calling his name over and over, but he was unable to respond. The voice became fainter and the light brighter as Flenn slipped into unconsciousness.