Just Sit Back and Read :)

For fun this week, I thought I’d let you all have a look at the first part of my short story published in the anthology Out Of The Storm.

Fire in a Storm

USSR, 1934

The stained glass shattered as the brick met the image of Christ, his hand raised to calm a storm. Shards sprayed the air, and Pavel Kozlov stepped back, wiping the mud from his palm. Lightning illuminated the century-old church, followed almost instantly by thunder. Pistol gripped, he mounted the steps. The large double doors at first refused him and he fired several rounds into the lock, leaving only twisted metal and splinters. He pushed his way in, his commander in his wake. Two other officers were stationed near the door at the rear to make sure no one slipped out.

Pavel’s boots echoed as he walked to the center of the Nave. The vast space was illuminated only by the flickering of several candles on the altar. He removed his cap and mopped the water from his face. Why did they have to do this tonight? Not that there was any option but to follow any order given him. His father’s connections had placed him among the NKVD, the Soviet Union’s secret police, and he had yet to prove himself.

“Perhaps they’ve already left.” His voice resonated off the vaulted ceiling.

“There’s one way to be sure.” Kupiev, his commanding officer, strode to the front of the chapel and took a candle. Then leaned it into a gathering of velvet drapery. The flame took to it, racing up the fabric.

What are you doing? Pavel clenched his hands. They were doing what was necessary. He had to learn to distance himself from sentiment. This wasn’t simply an architectural masterpiece, it was a symbol of organized religion and not worthy of remorse. Still, he hated fire.

Somewhere in the church, a door creaked. Father Anitoly Veselov appeared in the shadows, his priestly robes draped across his shoulders. “We have done nothing.”

“You’ve done enough,” Kupiev said. “We’re here to arrest you and your son.”

“But to destroy the church?” His face reflected the glow of the flames as they lapped at the pillars. Perspiration shone on his brow.

Kupiev’s retort was silenced by the crashing of an object through glass. There were more footsteps in the hall. Pavel darted past the priest, who leapt at him to cut him off.

“No!” Veselov’s cry shortened to a grunt as a shot rang through the church. He crumpled to the floor.

Pavel glanced back to Kupiev who was returning his gun to its place. “We have our orders,” he said. “Go.”

Yes, they had their orders, but they hadn’t included killing an old priest. Pavel swallowed back the distaste in his mouth as he continued on his course, reaching the hall just as a shadowed figure threw itself through a broken window. He choked on smoke. It seemed their men had torched the back door, and the flames were spreading quickly. Several more shots cut the night, followed by the deep rumble of thunder.

Pavel vaulted through the gap in the window, one hand pushing off of the heavy woolen coat that had been placed over the shards of glass. He met the ground as one of the other officers raced past. The man jerked, bringing his weapon to bear on Pavel.

“Avoid shooting just anyone, please,” Pavel grumbled, pushing him aside. “Where did the other priest go? That was him, wasn’t it?”

“I think so,” the officer nodded. “He disappeared behind the church.”

Pavel sprinted to the back of the building. Shivering as moisture ran down his neck, he pulled his coat’s black leather collar tight. The hiss of light rain meeting fire did little to hinder the growing blaze. He scanned the narrow canal and the aspen grove beyond. Seeing nothing, he crouched to examine the bank. The ground had been disturbed, a hint of grass ripped — probably by a shoe sliding downward. Straightening, he followed the canal to a rotted footbridge, fallen in halves to the bottom. He jumped in, sending up a spray of mud and water as his boots sank into the shallow stream. Pistol ready, he pulled up one side of the waterlogged structure. There was a feminine gasp.

“Anything?” An officer called from the edge of the grove.

I’m afraid that is all the publisher will let me share here, but feel free to visit amazon for the full book. There are some other great stories included. My favorites are The Grumpy Chronicles (an entertaining spin off of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), Dorthy’s Carol (just a sweet story), and Husband Hunting (western Romance).

Also, feel free to visit my pinterest board for some of visuals 🙂 and mood music!

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