Chapter 6 Part 4

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Cassie led them to the elevator. She turned a key, and to Guyton's surprise, the elevator ascended another floor.

"Ah," he chuckled, doing his best old-money imitation. "Offices in the penthouse."

"The High Priest feels closer to the Master when he is closeted in his chambers," Cassie explained. "He says he can hear the Master speak when all else is silent." The doors opened with a chime. "And here we are."

A large man in a tailored suit stood across from the doors. "This is Tony," said Cassie. "Security for the administrative floor."

"Sinners try to take out the High Priest, once in a while," said Tony. Guyton barely heard the words for the soulburn smell. Damn, he thought. Things just got complicated.

Then Guyton got another whiff of soulburn, from the woman next to him. "I understand," said Andrea. "I've been after Ron to hire someone. You can't be too careful, you know. Maybe you can help us out?"

"Uh..." Tony's bushy eyebrows shot up. "Uh, yeah, maybe I can do that. Cassie, my gut says they're okay. Why don't you take them in, and I can call some friends of mine? They won't be no trouble."

Guyton took Andrea's hand and squeezed. Birch, Astin, he thought, I hope you just saw this. There were still no guarantees—but thanks to his soulburn companion, a very problematic variable had just removed itself from the equation. This just might work after all.

Cassie tapped at a door at the end of a hallway. After a moment, she heard something Guyton and Andrea could not, and opened the door. "High Priest? Your visitors are here." She turned. "Follow me."

"Ronald, Patricia, welcome to Great Redeemer," said Della Verne. Up close, he was less imposing than his stage presence—a short, stocky man in an expensive suit—but even Guyton felt a part of himself dazzled by the soulburn. "Cassie, why isn't Tony..."

Again, Guyton smelled Andrea's own soulburn. "Ah. Tony's gut feelings, right? Cassie, you can step out and attend to anything you need to. We'll get along fine." He watched the assistant close the door behind her. "This room," he said, "is very well soundproofed and shielded from listening devices. The words we speak are between ourselves and the Master." He glanced piously toward the ceiling. "How shall we start?"

"We've done our due diligence," said Guyton. "We know what you offer, but what I don't personally understand is how."

"Wonderful. I can save the boilerplate part and get right down to brass tacks. Saves us much time, and time is money.

"So," Della Verne continued, "you know what I offer, but perhaps not all of it. You spoke with Mr. Mitchell, and you know how valuable such private contacts can be. But there are business contacts, and political contacts. Since you spoke with Mr. Mitchell, I can safely assume you intend to invest in local real estate. But what good is a plot of land, if you cannot develop it the way you wish? This ministry can put you in touch with the right people, who can help you grease the wheels of your projects, guaranteeing both a successful conclusion to your plans and better results all around.

"But there is a third leg to the stool. The people can oppose anything for any reason, and who's to say why? I help to keep them quiet—here, and worldwide via radio and satellite. Now, I've done a little due diligence myself. You would do well to start in what we on this floor call Gold membership. You will have access to Gold and Silver members at any time, both here during our services and in special retreats. We have one higher level, but at this time, you will certainly find Gold membership well worth the price. And since your membership is considered a contribution, it's fully tax-deductible. So what do you think? Would you like to join our little ministry here?"

Guyton struggled to right his mind. It was almost if he could hear his long-gone tormentor, but speaking different words: Join in. Become wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. What is there to lose?

The voice cut off, realizing it had overreached. Guyton shook off the spell, but smiled. "I believe this might be just what I was looking for."

"Excellent!" Della Verne reached across the desk, and Guyton drew his weapon.

Della Verne's alarmed shout stayed within the soundproofed office, but he moved fast—faster than anyone Guyton had ever seen. His hand came around, grabbed Andrea by the arm, and the High Priest jerked her across the desk. Andrea shrieked, first in alarm, then in pain as Guyton heard a bone snap.

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