Augusta walked through the silent vestibule and remained motionless at the back of the church. Great pools of darkness lay ahead. A flash of a streetlamp peeked in from the broken stained-glass window. The colored light was casting shadows on the statues, making them look like wax figures, figures who might suddenly come alive.

God will protect me, Augusta told herself. But she wasn't sure if that was even true because maybe God didn't like what she was doing.

She quickly dipped her hand in the holy water, and when she remembered that there wasn't any, she blessed herself anyway. Then she genuflected and promised God that once she had the confession, she would do the right thing. It gave her a small tingle of pleasure to think that if she did do the right thing, everyone would notice. And instead of achieving notoriety as an outcast, she would be a hero.

She started walking toward the first confessional.

She tried not to think about the fact that someone else might have found the confession first. Someone who knew about the stone. Someone who was after her.





Augusta heard a noise from way above, coming from the choir loft, a sinister sigh and a sound like a chuckle.

She didn't dare look up. Instead she stood stationary, her eyes darting back and forth. It seemed to her that the statue of St. Jude was moving, just a little to the right.

I'm either going to do this or I'm not, she told herself. And I better do it now.

The problem was that there were four confessionals. The first two were right up ahead, but what if she had to search the others? They were located up the long, dark, narrow aisle of the church near the altar.

She heard the noise again, and then Augusta realized what it was.

Someone's cell phone was ringing.

And it wasn't hers because Augusta didn't have a cell phone. The ring was creepy, like a tune in the movie Friday the 13th. Someone had lost their cell phone, left it in the choir loft.

Or someone was hiding upstairs. Maybe behind the organ. And maybe that someone was peering down at Augusta right now.

With a firm resolve that she didn't feel, Augusta approached the first confessional and put her hand on the knob. She whipped the door open as she held her breath.


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