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"Good afternoon, everyone," Andrea said to the crowd of reporters. This is Pastor Guyton, and I am his wife, Andrea. I am going to read a prepared statement, then we'll try to answer some of your questions."

Andrea looked down at the tablet on the podium, and read:

"On the afternoon of April 18, shortly after the Sunday service, the administrative staff reported that a security guard on duty that day ran to the office of High Priest Marcus Della Verne, and forced his way in. But when the staff went to see what was going on, neither the High Priest nor the guard were anywhere to be seen. The guard's family has asked that we keep his name private, and all of us request that the press honor their wish.

"The next day, our Chief of Finance discovered a large sum of money was missing from our accounts. He ordered a full audit, which has confirmed the discovery. We do not know if the two events are connected, nor do we intend to speculate.

"Three days later, which was yesterday, the administration elevated us. We were looking forward to joining this ministry as associate pastors, and learning what the High Priest could teach us, but now the main services are our responsibility. We have asked the membership to join us in a day of prayer and fasting tomorrow, so we can hear God's will for the ministry going forward.

"We are excited to begin our new lives this Sunday, and we invite all of you to join us, of course," Andrea concluded. "Now, do we have any questions?"

"Any thoughts on Dellacourt's whereabouts? Has he fled the country?"

They're already starting to forget his name, Guyton thought. "The police are investigating this as a high-profile missing person case at the moment," he answered. "Let me stress that no criminal intent has been alleged, let alone confirmed. If anything turns up, we'll be the first to know. Next?"

"Do you plan any changes?" another reporter shouted.

"We've only had a day to contemplate the responsibility we've been given," Andrea replied. "Everyone has their own style, and their own ideas of how best to serve. But we'll start by learning about the many ministries this church has taken on over the years, and seeing how we can best put our efforts into fulfilling them."

"What about allegations that most of your ministries are shams?"

Guyton had expected this question—he had guessed that most of Great Redeemer's "ministries" were only further lining Della Verne's pockets, and a cursory check with Finance had proven him right. "You're always going to hear things like that about any large enough institution," he said, repeating the words of a police chief at a far less-welcoming press conference. "But a church should always be above reproach. If we haven't been as effective as we should have been in the past, we'll make some changes.

"It's like when you buy a house. You saw the good things about it, but after you move in, you might notice things you'd like to fix. And sometimes, you just want to paint a wall a different color, or replace old carpeting with hardwood. So just like that, we'll leave the things that are working well alone, fix the things that need fixing, and maybe update the style a little. Next?"

The questions went on, until Andrea called time and dismissed the reporters.

"Do you think we'll keep any of the premium members?" Andrea asked, riding the elevator back to their office.

"We'll get along well enough without them," Guyton replied. Della Verne had pocketed nearly all the three million a year that "ministry" took in. "It'll take time to replace that network. It was all about access. But yeah, in a couple years we'll be able to open all that up as balcony seating."

He puffed his cheeks and blew out his breath. "We've got our work cut out for us. Birch said he'll get a hunter over here to root out any other soulburns."

"If they haven't already cut and run," said Andrea. "You don't lose three in one day without the rest getting skittish." She grinned. "Yup. I would know."

"But you're not a soulburn anymore. And I'm not a hunter. I guess we're a couple of janitors, trying to clean up a H—huge mess."

The elevator dinged and opened. "If you want my opinion," Cassie greeted them, "that went well."

"Off to a good start, then," said Andrea. "Maybe with God's help, we'll finish well."


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