I probably should point out that I'm not anti-religious -- every modern religion teaches peace and love, and the repudiation of hate. Unfortunately, there are preachers, rabbis, and imams who claim hate and fear to be the message of their god; and, even more unfortunately, there are people who believe them. So, I'm nowhere close to repudiating the God of Christianity in this story; but hate-mongers who claim to speak for Him are fair game.
This story is gay fiction. It is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced in any medium without my express permission. If you are a minor in your country of origin, don't read.
I have two other series running on Nifty: GLOBAL ENTERTAINMENT appearing in the Incest folder and ILLUSIONS in the Beginnings folder. If these two stories don't give you enough hot vampires and mortals, Starbooks has just released my LOVERS WHO STAY WITH YOU, and that has 28 tales that'll have you offering your neck to the next guy who offers to lick it. <G> It'd make a great stocking stuffer too. You can help Nifty by using its link to A Different Light Bookstore when ordering this book.
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I was not a happy camper Sunday morning. The GBI office in Dahlonega was closed. The State Patrol barracks in Seneca didn't believe me and only agreed to send a prowl car out when I threatened to call the governor Monday morning. I understood that the girl on the phone thought I was a nut but that didn't help my equilibrium any.
I'd just watched my property rights, and everybody else's on the mountain, trampled into the mud. My right to the pursuit of happiness had been replaced by somebody else's right to call me names and hold a revival next door to me as a threat to me. The Constitution of the United States of America and the rights it promised were only as real as a policeman's willingness to defend them for me. I was the little boy learning that there isn't a Santa Claus for the first time. There was suddenly nothing inalienably true about my right to freedom any more.
Seething, I drove up the access road to the longhouse and pulled into the small parking lot beside it. I had fifteen minutes to spare before the family council.
Fortunately, I'd put the car into gear and was turning off the ignition before I actually looked out the windshield. Otherwise, I would've probably driven right onto the playground and probably into the pool under the waterfalls, I was so surprised. It felt as if something the size of an elephant had just slammed into my chest. As it was, I sat back in the seat and stared, my mouth gaping as I tried to suck air into my lungs.
Every window in the longhouse had been busted. The door lay broken on the path leading up to it, pulled from its hinges.
'Faggots get out!' was spray painted in large lime green letters across the front of the log building.
The grounds in front of the longhouse were in even worse shape. Each picnic table had been broken in the center, their benches broken as well. Lilac and rose bushes had been trampled. The soccer nets in the cleared field further out had been pulled up.
The landscaping efforts of at least two generations of Taylors had been destroyed when the Tugaloo Baptist Sanctuary invaded Taylor Mountain.
Ralph was sitting on the edge of the parking lot, his head in his hands. Henry was snapping picture after picture of the destruction.
"What the fuck!" I growled and climbed out of the car to stand on desecrated land.
Paul stepped through the gaping doorway and saw me. "You should see the insides of this place, Sammy," he called. "Better still, maybe you shouldn't see it." He started along the path toward me.
I realized that I was hearing cars pull into the parking lot behind me. Paul stopped as he reached Ralph.
"Did you call the cops?" he asked looking past me.
"I called the State Patrol," I told him and turned.
Men sat behind the wheels of their trucks and cars staring at what they could see of the longhouse and grounds. None of them made a move to get out. They were in as much shock as I'd been when I arrived. Paul's buddies from Atlanta trooped up from the waterfalls, the bald, hairy man with the gut leading them.
"Let's get out and talk about this," Paul said, projecting his voice across the lot.
"Just stay on the asphalt here," he continued. "This is a crime scene, folks, so we've got to be careful not to touch anything. The State Patrol's already been called."
Henry came jogging up from the ball field and stopped beside his dad. He reached out a hand and Ralph took it. Henry helped him to his feet; Ralph had a far away look and his eyes were red.
He focused on Paul and the men beginning to leave their cars and trucks and form a knot at the edge of the parking lot. "It's just destroyed," he mumbled as he reached me. "Just like that. They didn't even care." He looked over his shoulder at the grounds. "Beauty meant nothing to them."
I didn't see old Mr. Euston and thought that maybe it was a good thing that the old man didn't see what the people of the hollow had done to his father's mountain. I approached the knot of men.
"I've called the State Patrol," I told them. "They promised to have an officer come over to talk to us about the trespassing." I looked at the longhouse. "Tomorrow, I'll have our attorney sue the church that did this and the sheriff's department for letting it happen."
"We've got pictures, Sammy," Paul said. "Henry's taken them of the grounds and inside the building."
"That's good," I told him. "I just hope a lot of you have photos of what it looked like before."
Several men raised their hands.
"What difference does it make?" Ralph groaned. "If Mr. Sam hasn't killed those preachers already, these bastards will back tonight to finish destroying everything we've built the last fifty years."
I really didn't want to think about Sam killing anybody. Especially not how a vampire could go about killing somebody. I also didn't know what Sam wanted done. He was seething after I'd come back from the longhouse. He'd left the house with Ralph a little after midnight last night and hadn't come back.
I knew, though, that the only way we were going to stop the destruction we were seeing was to make the bullies masquerading behind their religion pay for what they'd done.
In the short term, we had to protect our rights ourselves. I'd seen last night the local law side with the bullies and blame the Taylors for what had happened to us.
"Gentlemen, Ralph's probably right," I said to the assembled Taylor men. "We only have to ask your kids what kind of shit these fuckers have been putting out about all of us the past couple of weeks. The only way to stop these -- these ..." I couldn't think of a word that even came close to expressing how I felt. "We're going to have stop them before they can get up here and finish the destruction they started. We stop them down where the access road turns off of Route 28."
I'd offered them an action they could take; they weren't going to have to lie down and submit to the bullying. Ralph took over immediately.
"We're not going to let them on our property again," he shouted at them. "This council's got to decide that before we can do anything to stop them." He looked from man to man. "A motion's been put forward, cousins -- is a there a second?"
There was -- and a third and ... Every man there agreed.
"Every one of you -- and your oldest boys too," Ralph told them, "You meet me down at Route 28 tonight at seven o'clock." He met the gaze of every man there before continuing. "Bring your rifles and shotguns -- just in case."
"In case of what?" a new voice demanded.
We all turned to look at the newcomer, push into our group.
He was a middle-aged man dressed in the uniform of the Georgia State Patrol. Most of us could make out his prowl car down on the road blocking the parking lot.
I took a deep breath and stepped up to the trooper. "This is Taylor Mountain, officer," I told him. "It's private property, including the access road."
"Okay, so what? Someone up here called in a complaint, I'm here to investigate it." He saw the grounds of the longhouse then. His eyes widened a little, but he made no other sign of recognition.
"We were invaded last night. Some church in Mountain Hollow brought their people up here -- and did this. A sheriff's deputy prevented me from entering."
"Did any of you people tell this church they could come up here?"
I looked over to Ralph. He was local, and I figured he had a lot more authority than I did, even if I was the Taylor family financial advisor. He shook his head.
I saw a lot of signs alongside of 28 as I was coming here," the cop continued and pulled a notebook from his shirt pocket. "They weren't exactly nice -- the gist of their messages was that this mountain was a homosexual haven."
I saw red. "Officer, it wouldn't matter if everybody up here was queer. They -- we -- are supposed to have rights -- including property ownership."
"Most of these men right here live here," I continued. "Most of them are married and have a kid or two in school. I don't know what makes a man gay to those bullies who trashed this place last night, but where I come from a married man with children doesn't have to prove how straight he is."
A grin started to grow on the cop's face.
"The attorney for the family council will be bringing charges tomorrow against them." I looked back at Ralph. "As soon as this officer finishes his investigation, you and some of the others need to go down and collect some of those signs for evidence," I told him. "Take Henry and his camera along with you. We're going after them for libel and slander, along with trespassing and vandalism -- and we need all the proof we can get."
"Gentlemen," the cop said, raising his voice so everybody could hear him. "Getting your lawyer on this is the way to go. You go to court and nobody gets hurt -- and your rights are protected." He looked at Ralph. "You standing down at the road armed to the teeth is an invitation for a shooting and somebody getting killed."
"Have you looked at what those bastards did to this place?" I demanded. "They trashed it. The council's just voted to keep them off the mountain. We're going to do that. What's the State Patrol going to do to protect us while we stand up for our rights?"
"We'll have men up here," he told me.
"Doesn't it take an officer to make that kind of decision?"
He laughed then. "You have more guts than most men I've met when I'm wearing this uniform."
"I don't know about that, but I do know how lines of authority work," I said, not yet ready to be mollified.
"I'm in command of the Seneca barracks. I'm telling you that I'll have a squad of men up here this evening -- and another one in reserve if I need them."
"Thank you, officer," I told him, feeling my ears burning.
"It's just part of the job. Let's look over this mess somebody left behind."
Paul grabbed my arm. "I've call my boys in Atlanta, Sammy," he told me. "They're on their way up here."
I stared at him.
"We'll get this mess cleaned up for you." He glanced toward the men he'd brought with him for the weekend. "They've got their own landscape service -- they'll get this place looking better than it did yesterday."
"We've got all these men and women," I mumbled.
"Sammy!" Paul growled and glowered at me.
"You don't clean up the mess some burglar leaves behind; you call in professionals." His gaze followed the State Patrolman for a moment. "That way, you guys can cut down on the amount of feeling violated you feel."
I could appreciate that. Just seeing the outside of the longhouse, I knew what feeling violated felt like. "Do it," I told him as a new thought struck me. "You and these landscapers, too. You'll get paid, just make sure we have your invoices." I grinned. "That's something else this fucking church can pay for."
I glanced over at the five men Paul had brought with him. The bald, barrel-chested guy turned to look at me. "Get with the members of the council," I said to him. "Tell them what you and the others need to get the grounds looking like people use this place."
"You're going to put us to work?" he asked.
"Yeah. Just figure a fair price. We'll pay whatever you bill us."
* * *
When Philin Phredd arrived at the church, he couldn't understand why Brother Zack hadn't already opened it up. The deacon was supposed to unlock the church and get things ready every Sunday by eight. He'd been supposed to meet with Rastus and Phredd at nine to go over the plans for the second night of the revival. Zacharias Butts was always on time, no matter what it was he was doing.
Except he was nowhere to be found today. Nobody answered the phone at his house, either. Phredd had had to go back home and find his own keys to open up, leaving Rastus standing beside the locked church doors. He knew he had to look bad to such a well-known pastor as Rastus, as if Phredd was just some backwoods country preacher.
By the time he'd found the keys and opened the church, there wasn't time to discuss how they were going to handle the coming night, much less where they would meet.
Rastus just took over -- right there at Phredd's own church.
Phredd watched Rastus as he greeted folks arriving for Sunday School as if it was his own church. He watched him move from room to room, oozing charm to the teachers. He retreated to his study and tried to pretend that Rastus Reed working his church didn't matter to him.
He ignored Rastus' moving around the church and his whispered discussions with most of the deacons during his sermon. He was glad when Rastus told him that he wouldn't be coming back to the house for lunch. His anger grew as the afternoon edged toward night and Rastus hadn't returned.
* * *
How far is it from Seneca to Mountain Hollow?" Paul asked from the back seat.
"It's about twenty -- twenty-five miles," Henry told him over his shoulder. "And it's all two-lane." There was a snide undertone to his voice.
"So give them about thirty minutes to make it and that's fast."
"They called from this side of Seneca twenty minutes ago," Paul announced.
"Then we have plenty of time still," I told him, feeling like I was babysitting two bickering children. "We'll just park out in front of the diner and wait for them."
Paul had been professional the past four hours, before we started for town. He called his Monday morning customers and juggled schedules. Henry had waited until the man had worked his crew's schedule around until they'd have no down time the rest of the week. Then, he'd started up about Paul's other business.
I learned a lot about my next door neighbor as he and Henry bickered and picked at each other. I just wondered how my young, country cousin had found out all the shit that he had. I had thought him rather naïve about such things; it turned out that I was the naïve one. I still wasn't comfortable imagining Paul's dungeon when we reached Highway 28 and turned toward Mountain Hollow.
The signs caught my attention immediately. Spaced maybe fifty yards apart, each one carried part of a message. "Homosexuality is alive and well on Taylor Mountain" one read, followed by another proclaiming "God hates abomination". Others claimed that the only way to receive divine bounty was to rid oneself and one's community of sin. There were a few that made it pretty plain that if people didn't clean up their communities, they were condemned to the fires of hell. Passers by were invited to the revival at the Tugaloo Baptist Sanctuary -- to destroy the abomination on Taylor Mountain.
"Looks like there's enough there to get these fruitcakes for libel," I told Henry and Paul when the messages began to repeat themselves with the next sign.
"Inciting to riot, it looks like," Paul said from the back seat, a strain in his voice.
"Where do they come up with this shit?" Henry grumbled.
"Warped minds with too little to do," I suggested.
Across the street from us, five people were putting papers on windshields in the parking lot of the diner. I didn't pay them much attention.
"Isn't that Brenda?" Paul asked, sitting up in the back seat and pointing at the diner.
It was. I was shocked. What the fuck was she doing here?
She saw the car then and shouted to the others putting flyers on the windshields at the diner. "That's him!" she shouted. "The queers from Taylor Mountain! All of them."
I continued to stare at her in shock as she started into the road toward us, four men following her. One of them had picked up a metal bar.
"Get us the fuck out of here, Sammy!" Henry cried. "Now!"
"Come to us, Sammy," Brenda yelled at me. "If there's still any man left in you, come to us and let us save you!"
My hands were frozen on the steering wheel. I stared at Brenda and tried to understand why and how she could be in Tugaloo county.
"Looks like a street mugging to me," Paul grumbled. "Get us out of here."
"Sammy?" Henry growled.
Brenda had reached the centerline of the street. Her troop were right behind her. Paul's open hand slammed against the back of my head.
"Pull yourself together, Sammy!" he yelled at my ear. "Get us out of here. Now!"
I realized I was just sitting there, letting Brenda charge me.
I gunned the engine and turned onto the cross street, leaving rubber behind.
"Come back, Sammy!" Brenda screamed as I turned at the next intersection, fully intending to get back onto Highway 28 and out of town.
We passed in front of the Tugaloo Baptist Sanctuary and turned at the end of the block.
"Crazy ass bitch!" Henry mumbled, finally getting his voice back.
I turned left onto 28, nearly cutting off a slow-moving pickup. I floored the accelerator while the farmer vented his rage at me by sitting on his horn.
"Do you have a map in the car?" Paul asked.
"For God's sake! Why?" I demanded.
"I don't want my boys to drive through that shit. Do you have one?"
"In the glove box," I told Henry. Paul had already pulled out his cell phone. Henry gave him the map. We left the last of Mountain Hollow behind us.
I started to shake then. My teeth chattered and I couldn't keep my mouth closed.
"Get a grip, Sammy," Henry said quietly, his hand on my arm. "It's over."
"She -- Brenda -- I've never seen her like that," I mumbled. "She was crazy."
"Have you ever been to a revival?" he asked, his voice softly stroking me.
I glanced over at him and laughed. "No, and I'm not going to, either." The shakes were gone -- so were my chattering teeth. Just like that. I turned my attention back to the road.
"I went to one a few years ago -- over in Pickens county in South Carolina. Dad took me." He chuckled. "Most of us on the mountain went." He saw me glance at him questioningly. "Old Mr. Sam wanted us kids to see mass hypnosis at work -- so, the mountain went in three shifts."
"What's the point?" I asked.
"Sammy, that girl coming toward the car is seeing boogey men under her bed -- and everywhere else she goes. She's got it good."
"Then, why did it feel like she was leading a lynching party?" Paul asked from the back seat.
"It's good versus evil to them -- them versus everything else." He looked from me to Paul. "It's their good -- anything else is evil. And they believe it, too -- that they're good and they have to destroy evil."
"And this evil is anything that doesn't agree with them?" I asked.
"Yeah. Believe like I do or I'll beat your brains in," Paul said from the back seat.
"Yeah. They do become bullies," Henry agreed.
I thought about that for a moment as we drove out toward the access road. Every time I'd encountered a born-again I'd felt vaguely intimidated. I even felt that way the one time the two clean-cut and well-behaved Mormon kids had appeared at my door.
Telling them that I didn't want to hear about Jesus was like telling the school yard bully that I wasn't giving him my lunch money. I wasn't beat up -- by the born-agains or those Mormons --- but I'd been left with a gnawing feeling that my days were numbered. That someone or something was going to get me because I wasn't going along with the program. Maybe that was half of this hypnosis Henry was talking about.
I wondered if Sam had been able to inoculate the Taylor kids against that.
"Did you get your maids on the phone?" Henry asked Paul.
"Yeah. They were just at the edge of town."
"Did you find a way for them to avoid downtown?" he asked.
Paul laughed. "I didn't have to. One of my guys used to live on the street to hear him tell it, and he is damned good at avoiding traffic jams back in Atlanta. He said he'd find a way through that kept them away from the diner." He turned to me. "We're going to have to wait out at the Taylor Mountain Access Road, though," he said to me. "To lead them in."