Well, some of the little sub-plots I've sought to weave into the first seven chapters are pulled together in this chapter. 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>
I'd love to hear from you – tell me what you think of this story or Global Entertain. Just please put the title of the story in the subject box so that I won't delete your message along with all the spam I get. I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brenda Reed had spent Wednesday night tossing and turning after she left Sammy. She knew there was something horribly wrong with him. And that whatever it was had something to do with that Taylor Mountain place where he'd spent last weekend. She just didn't know what it was that was suddenly making him act so strange.
Sammy was always so attentive. He usually just followed her around when they were out – like a well-trained husband was supposed to.
Sure, he associated with those queers, but he wasn't one of them. She knew that for certain – no man could make love to a woman like Sammy did and be an abomination.
He had to make a living. And, as soon as she'd been sure that he wasn't queer and just – like – using her for cover, she'd swallowed her disgust and was nice to those sick men and women who were always condemning themselves to hell with their lives.
After all, she'd accepted him as her man almost from the beginning. She'd given herself to him the third time he asked her out and it'd been so good – she'd known right then that he was the one for her. He was just so much better than her boyfriends in high school and college had been. She'd done just what God wanted a good woman to do, too; she'd trained her man for holy matrimony and followed him – even when he went among those Philistines.
The one area they'd ever had disagreements was religion. Brenda wasn't sure that Sammy was even Christian. He didn't cringe when he saw the cross or anything, but he didn't want to talk about it. He wouldn't go to church with her and he'd never been willing to pray with her.
That had never made sense, though. She couldn't see what he had against prayer. It was so innocent. All a body did was kneel – and tell God their problems.
She'd finally decided that, sometimes, God wanted people to bring his preachers into everything in their lives – so, He didn't answer their prayers until they had a good God-fearing preacher to show them how they were blocking out God. Like those men her Daddy helped – the impotent ones who needed his healing hands and prayer to cast out the demons that possessed them.
What could Sammy possibly have against something as innocuous as prayer? And he'd been actually savage about it last night when she suggested it.
It had to be something on that mountain. It just had to be. Something evil. Like those charlatans who claimed a person proved his faith in God by handling snakes, poisonous ones at that. She cringed at the image her mind dragged up. It was so heathen.
Thursday morning, Brenda called in sick as soon as somebody was at the ad agency to answer the phone. She was sick all right – sick with fear for Sammy. She had to go to Taylor Mountain herself, there was no other way that she'd ever find out what kind of evil was sucking Sammy into its maw. She was going to give herself the weekend to find it and destroy it. She waited until ten, just to be in her apartment in case someone at work tried to check up on her.
She dressed simply. The people up in Tugaloo county were simply country people and she didn't want to show them up. A body should always dress down when she went out in the country with poor, dumb – but honest – people. Her Momma had taught her that.
She wanted to talk to those people up there, not make them hostile because she flaunted her wealth. She wore jeans and a halter, with a man's dress shirt open over the halter. She wore her hair in a ponytail because that was simple, too. She carried a windbreaker in case it got cold.
She almost fell asleep behind the wheel of her Mercury Marquis twice before she got to Seneca. But, her jaw set, she drove on to the little hole-in-the-wall Sammy had told her was near the mountain. She was halfway through Mountain Hollow when she had to stop for a red light.
She smiled when she saw the old railroad passenger car on the corner opposite her. It was quaint, about as lost back in the past as the rest of what she was seeing. But it offered coffee and eats. She figured she'd wake up and maybe even get some information at the same time. She figured that she might be in more than just one more of the little unincorporated farming communities she'd been passing through since leaving the interstate.
The coffee had little grease prisms in it, like wet oil spots on pavement. Brenda added cream and stirred, trying to ignore how dirty her coffee cup was. She and the middle-aged waitress were the only people in the diner.
"There's a place around here called Taylor Mountain?" she asked.
The waitress stopped wiping the counter and studied her.
"What do you know about it?" Brenda continued, unwilling to acknowledge the lack of communication the waitress' silence imposed.
"Nothing much," the woman answered finally, her accent thick. "Those Taylors keep to themselves pretty much. Their kids go to the county school down in Seneca like the rest of the kids around here, and they shop at the Piggly Wiggly down there, too. Other than that, we don't see much of them."
"Are they good people?"
The waitress' eyes hooded. "I reckon so. They stay out of trouble."
Brenda sipped from the mug and looked through the windows. "Do they go to church around here?"
The other woman chuckled. "Honey, they keep to themselves. They even warn people away from that mountain. They don't come to town for much of anything but to get over to Seneca. They're strange people, those Taylors on the mountain."
"Do they have a church there then?"
"I wouldn't know." The waitress moved down the counter, away from Brenda.
"You said they were strange – what do you mean?"
The waitress looked up, Brenda was sure that she was looking at something on the wall behind her. "There are tales, girl – from almost a hundred years ago right up to a couple of years ago. Ain't nobody from these parts about to go up on that mountain after dark." She nodded as if she was satisfied with what she'd said. "Folks around here figure that the Taylors take care of themselves and don't want anybody sticking their nose into their business."
The woman was confirming what Brenda'd already guessed about Taylor Mountain. The people there had turned away from God. Enough of them had anyway that they could infect Sammy in just one weekend.
"Does Mountain Hollow have a Baptist church?" she asked, knowing that she needed more information before she'd understand what had happened to Sammy. Who else understood the ways of evil than a man of God like her Daddy – and how to fight that evil.
The waitress gave her directions and Brenda finished her coffee in silence. She couldn't understand it. She'd seen nothing about Mountain Hollow or even Seneca that would interest Sammy. From everything she'd learned about him in almost a year, he lived and breathed Atlanta.
But this was hayseed all the way. Worse. The people in Brunswick and south Georgia might be hayseeds, but these people were hayseed-chewing rednecks. They acted downright backward and were, from the looks of it, poverty-stricken. Progress hadn't moved north from the interstate.
It was as if time had stopped here somewhere around the sixties and just stood still from then on. She hadn't seen anything since she passed through Gainesville that would remotely appeal to Sammy Taylor. It was just farmland or dirt poor hillside – or miles and miles of kudzu that had killed everything it came across. There was nothing that would get Sammy's blood flowing. The women even looked plain.
She turned down the oak-lined street behind the diner and saw the flashing neon-sign proclaiming JESUS. Then, there was the sprawling one-story brick building that she'd been told was the Baptist church in town. As she drew closer, she saw the large paved parking lot.
She smiled. The Tugaloo Baptist Sanctuary, at least, was doing something right. Maybe the people here in the northeastern section of Tugaloo county were better off than she thought – at least, they knew how to glorify God.
Brenda drove her Mercury Marquis into the lot and around to the back of the church. She pulled in beside the Buick that was the only other car there.
As she opened the car door, two men came out of the backdoor of the church and started along the path to the parking lot. One was bald and wore jeans. The other one was a mountain of a man, tall and big. She figured him for the custodian.
"Is the pastor in?" Brenda called to the men as she got out of the car.
The short, bald man turned to look at her, studying her as he moved. "I'm Philin Phredd, the pastor of Tugaloo Baptist Sanctuary," he said when he was nearly to the car. "And this is our deacon here," he pointed to the big man. "Brother Zachariah Butts. What can I do for you, young lady?"
"I'm Brenda Reed, Reverend and..."
He shook his head and smiled shyly at her. "I know it's impossible but you wouldn't be any relation to Rastus Reed down in Brunswick, would you?"
Brenda wasn't surprised that the preacher knew of her father. She was used to that, even in Atlanta. "I'm his daughter."
Reverend Phredd smiled then and hurried up to her. "You sure have grown up, Brenda." He saw her confusion and smiled. "I met you and your folks at the convention in Dallas – what? – ten or eleven years ago. You were a pretty little thing then in your pigtails, but you've sure grown up to be a fine looking young woman."
"Thank you." Brenda accepted his compliment at face value but wished she remembered something about him.
"I'll see you later, Reverend Phredd," Brother Zack called and started walking around the back of the church.
"I'm sure that you didn't come all the way to Mountain Hollow so I could talk your ear off," Phredd said, cutting to the chase. "What can I do for you?"
"Oh, Lordy!" Reverend Phredd groaned. "Who is he? Someone in my church?"
"No, sir." She looked around them, taking in the deserted parking lot and church. "He's from Atlanta; he's a stockbroker there."
"And you live in Atlanta too?" Brenda nodded. "And you came all the way out to Mountain Hollow to talk to me about him?" the preacher asked, his suspicion palpable.
"He just inherited a place around here, and his family here are investing money with him."
"Where's his place?"
She looked down at her feet. "On Taylor Mountain. His Daddy was killed in one of those airplanes the terrorists hijacked."
She sensed the divide growing between them before she looked up at the preacher's face and saw it.
"I'll bet he's the latest Sam Taylor, too," he grumbled.
"Is that bad?"
"You said he's your boyfriend?" She nodded. "Do you love him or do you still have your wits about you?"
"I love him, he's a good man ... I don't understand. What's wrong with his people?" she asked, looking at the preacher.
He sighed and she watched him force himself to relax. He smiled at her.
"I think we ought to go back into the church," he told her and took her arm to lead her onto the path. "This is going to take us a while."
* * *
Brenda sat facing the preacher across his desk in the pastorum.
"Honey, I'm going to talk to you like a daddy would with his daughter. I have the greatest respect for the work that Rastus is doing with his television ministry."
Brenda nodded and leaned closer to the desk.
"First off, those Taylors – not a one of them – are Christian."
"It's true. There's none of them that belong to my church here. And they don't go to the Methodist church, either. They don't even go to the pentacostal church out on the edge of town."
"Maybe they have their own church?"
"No, Miss Brenda, the only public building on that mountain is the longhouse by the falls – and that belongs to the Taylor family, just like the whole mountain does."
"Maybe they go to church in another town?"
"Mountain Hollow is the closest town to the mountain. They'd come here – if they were coming. They don't. Me and the Methodist minister have talked about it. We even asked that holyroller once to see if they went there." He took a deep breath. "They even perform their marriages out there in that longhouse, without the benefit of God's blessing. One of them is a justice of the peace – he ties their knots for them and it's legal."
Brenda sat back in her chair, trying to imagine a whole community that didn't fear God.
"The second thing about all those Taylors is that they're just about communists."
"What?" she cried and leaned forward again. "God got rid of them ten years ago, Reverend Phredd. The Soviet Union's gone."
"Not really. Those godless heathen still rule Cuba and China – that North Korea too."
"But Taylor Mountain?"
"That mountain's a commune, girl. They've got a foundation that owns everything – the whole mountain. Every square foot of it. Every man, woman, and child works for that foundation. It tells them how much land they can plant and even what they can plant."
"That's horrible," Brenda groaned. "Those poor people. They probably come down to town and beg for hand-outs then – or steal."
"No. That's part of the strangeness of it all, young lady. They've got money. And they take care of their own as long as they behave and do what their foundation says to do."
"The woman at the diner says that nobody ever goes up there."
"They don't and that's a fact, honey." Reverend Phredd sat back in his chair. "There have been some wild tales about evil doings up there happening to strangers. People in this part of Tugaloo county know to stay away from up there and most of us know better than to have anything to do with any of those Taylors. They pay their taxes, send their children to the county's schools, and keep to themselves."
"What kind of evil doings?" Brenda asked, hoping she'd hear something that would make Sammy's recent behavior make sense.
"The worse one happened back when Georgia still had chain gangs. A white boy escaped from one near here and several god-fearing folks swore they saw him near or on Taylor Mountain. A week after he escaped, they found him near a backroad up in North Carolina. He was naked, and his body was drained of blood. His throat had been slit and he'd been sodomized. But they didn't find blood anywhere. Most folks figure he was found by some of those Taylors and done in, the bad way."
Brenda felt clammy. "The poor man was – was raped?" she forced herself to ask, although she already knew the answer.
"He was that, Miss Brenda. I checked the police report myself after I first heard about it."
She couldn't believe her ears. The preacher was saying there were abominations on the mountain where Sammy had stayed the whole weekend. Abominations who were his kinfolk.
"Do you think the creature who did that is still up there – alive?" she asked hesitantly, looking anywhere but Reverend Phredd. She wasn't willing to meet his gaze. Brenda just knew she'd tell everything about her relationship with Sammy if she let him see into her soul. And she didn't want anybody ever to know that she'd been a bad girl with Sammy.
The preacher leaned closer. "There ain't no way of telling, young lady. But it's a sure bet that the murderer was a Taylor – one of those living on Taylor Mountain. One or more of them. There ain't no telling how many of them was in on it." He studied her meaningfully for a minute. "Or if they still practice abomination among themselves."
"Oh no!" Brenda cried as she finally began to comprehend the full extent of the evil that had once existed on Sammy's mountain and still might.
It sure would explain why he'd practically lost it while he was diddling her Tuesday night. And, of course, he wouldn't want to pray with her – nobody in his right mind was going to confess something like that to God. God just might strike him down with a bolt of lightning or something just as final. Her Daddy had always said that was the way of abomination – God finally just got tired of it and zapped it where it hid.
But she still had to find a way to save Sammy! She loved him. And, besides, his money would go a long way to spreading the fear of God throughout America.
She sniffed and forced herself to look over at the preacher. "You've got to do something to get the word of God to those people, Reverend. You've just got to."
"The church's doors are open every Sunday and Wednesday evening, Miss Brenda. I can't hold a gun to their head and make them come to hear the Word."
"Maybe you can have a revival and shame the people on that mountain to come. Or even take it to them by holding it in that longhouse of theirs that you mentioned."
He studied Brenda for several moments. Finally, he said: "It'd take a real strong preacher to do what you're saying. Those people are set in the way of godlessness at least, probably murder and, even, abomination." He nodded. "Yeah, it'd take a preacher a lot stronger than me – someone as full of God as your Daddy could maybe do it."
"Rastus Reed is a real strong hellfire and brimstone kind of preacher, Miss Brenda. It'd take someone like that to root out evil that strong. And there is that kind of evil up on Taylor Mountain. I can smell the sulfur some nights, it's so strong."
She nodded and tried to think. Her Daddy hadn't been very happy with her since she started seeing Sammy. He'd even stopped coming by and seeing her on his once-a-week trips to Atlanta. But he'd become happy enough fast if Sammy married her and got religion too – especially if he started helping her Daddy save the people of south Georgia.
"I'll call him tonight and get him to be your evangelist, Reverend Phredd. When would you have this revival?"
"That'd depend a large part on Rastus' schedule," he said, "but the sooner the better. Every church in Tugaloo county will want to be part of a Rastus Reed revival. We'd have the turn out even if we only have a week to get ready." He chuckled gleefully. "I'll bet even the Methodists would come."
"I'll get Daddy to come, Reverend Phredd," Brenda said, feeling a thread of suspicion tickling her brain, "but you've got to promise me that it'll be aimed at saving those people up on that mountain." She sat back in her chair and watched him.
He swallowed the grin that had begun to spread across his face. "Of course, it's going to be aimed at them, little lady," he told her. "We're going to put God on that mountain again with this revival."
"Now that's understood, I'm going to have to find a motel around here."
"I'm staying here in Mountain Hollow for a couple of days. I'm going to find out just how bad Taylor Mountain really is. I want to know what happened to my boyfriend. And Daddy's going to need to know exactly what he's getting himself into."
"There's just the one on Route 28, on the other side of town," Phredd told her. "You'll be close to Taylor Mountain there, too."
Brenda's eyes felt like they were going to bulge out of her head. "You think I ought to go up there?" she asked timidly.
"There's never been anything happened to anybody up there during the daylight, Miss Brenda. You'd be safe driving up and looking around." He leaned toward her conspiratorially. "And I'll find out everything I can too. We can compare notes tomorrow. And you'll have to join the wife and me for dinner tonight."
"I couldn't impose."
He raised a brow and studied her theatrically. "You're coming to dinner tonight, Brenda Reed. I won't hear another word about it."
Brenda lay against the backboard of the bed in the motel room and tried to find a place on the mattress where she'd be comfortable. The Mountain Hollow Inn certainly was no Howard Johnson's and she wished she had enough nerve to demand a better mattress. It would be just her luck to kicked out by that greasy fat man in the turban who claimed to be the owner. And there wasn't another motel around unless she drove all the way back to Seneca.
She needed to be close to the mountain. She'd come so close to losing Sammy and not even knowing it. The evil he'd gotten himself into last weekend would have cut him off from her and she'd never have seen it coming or knew what had happened.
She was going to see some of the faces of the evil on the mountain. She could figure out what had happened to him then. And she'd find a way to help him cleanse his soul. When he was again right with God, she'd make him happier than he'd ever been before. She'd let him marry her.
She guessed Sammy looked at her as little more than a fuck most of the past year. That was the way it was with boys. Whatever they used for brains was right there in the head of their dicks. It was as her Momma was always telling her – men were wild animals. They had to be tamed before they could be allowed into marriage. And taming them meant using both the stick and the carrot.
She'd always been worried about letting a boy take what he wanted. She'd prayed about it every time she did it the last two years of high school. But she'd liked a dick sawing in and out of her pussy. It'd taken living in a dorm her first year of college to learn what was what about sex. And it'd taken her Catholic roommate to explain it to her, of all people. Sex outside of marriage was fornication – as long as neither of you were married. That was only a minor sin. Something God just overlooked. A girl just had make sure the boy was wearing a rubber when he put it in her unless they were married.
She'd wanted Sammy the first time she'd seen him and he hadn't disappointed her. He knew how to make her feel good all over.
She was sure they'd gotten past it being just sex between them by now – even if he didn't realize it yet. They had grown together in so many ways. They'd make a good marriage as soon as Sammy learned to bend his knee to God.
She was also glad that Reverend Philin Phredd knew his limitations. She was sure he was a good man and would help her and her Daddy out by being a storehouse of information. But it was going to take Daddy to smoke out the evil of Taylor Mountain and save Sammy for God.
Daddy was going to do it, too! He had a week free in three weeks and he could head up a revival if she thought it was necessary. She'd swore that it was. There was a whole mountain to be saved, after all But she hadn't told Daddy that. She'd just called Reverend Phredd and told him he'd better start setting things up.
Brenda felt in her bones that Sammy'd be up on that mountain again this coming weekend, surrounded by all that Satanic stuff those Taylors did. She'd have to go exploring up there in the morning and find out whatever she could before he got there.
She closed her eyes. She could sleep now that she'd started the ball rolling that was going to save Sammy and give him to her.
She smiled at that and let sleep come. She'd be brave tomorrow and see first hand the evil that was trying to take Sammy away from her. There was no way Satan was going to have him. Sammy was hers. She'd spent the last year taming him.
* * *
"Zachariah Butts," Ralph Taylor said as he and Henry entered the small trailer that was the office of Butts Pulpmillers in Mountain Hollow Monday afternoon.
The deacon of the Tugaloo Baptist Sanctuary looked up from his comic book and nodded to Ralph. "Have a seat, boys," he offered.
"You still willing to pay top dollar for that timber up on the mountain?" Ralph asked as he took the chair directly in front of Zachariah's desk.
"It wouldn't matter if I was," Deacon Butts grumbled. "You ain't ever going to get that family council to approve cutting it."
"We've got a new Sam Taylor sitting on the council now, Zachariah." Ralph grinned. "He's young and he's smart. He won't be siding with old Euston most of the time, like his daddy did."
Henry continued to stand and was quiet. He didn't feel comfortable with talk about cutting down the trees on Taylor Mountain. Not since old Mr. Sam had ridden him a new butthole last night. They didn't talk about it while they were fucking; but, ever since, it seemed sort of wrong talking about cutting down the mountain's forest. He knew better sass his Daddy, though.
He just listened as Ralph and Deacon Butts talked business. He had the idea that Mr. Sam or maybe Sammy would want to know particulars when matters came to a head. He'd be able to tell either one of them what he'd heard.