Winch-Hunt: Part 21 (Conclusion)
- Winch-Hunt: Part 20
The centuries old lighthouse holds the secret of the ages, and Tom Winch must solve the mystery before it destroys him. You won't believe the twist!
Well, we've come full-circle. It's been a long trip from the Midwest to Sandy Hill ,Maine. Along the way we've met Tom and Melanie Winch, Jeff Hunt, Mrs. Camp, Doctor Warren, a host of others, and of course, Ronald Barry, owner of the severed hand.
We've seen Tom's ministry grow to include a church plant in Sandy Hill as well as including his standoff with The Bendith Diafol, the Devil's Blessing..
I sincerely want to thank each of you who faithfully followed along. It is you that has made writing this so much fun. But now . . . now The Winter Solstice has arrived. It's time for the final act. The fight is on! Sit back and take a deep breath.
From Part 20
The Spirit of the Lord came upon him as he burst into the room.
“Hear the Word of the Lord. Your sin has found you out, and the cup of God’s wrath is full. In His righteousness, He must judge. Repent or you shall all perish this very night in this very place.”
That was the shortest sermon Tom ever preached, but it had the desired impact. God was in complete control, and with this final message, God allowed the hearts of the Bendith Diafol to be hardened for eternity.
The new Almighty Mother summoned the sacrifice. He was now in the room. The Pit to Hell had been bypassed. There was no more need for an offical presentation of the sacrifice. The group turned on Tom as he began to race to the ladder. His only hope was to beat them to the door.
Fortunately, Tom had studied the layout of the labyrinth and knew just where to go. The Bendith Diafol flooded the halls and rooms in an effort to stop him. Tom was almost clear. He reached the ladder and began a swift ascent.
Outside, the commotion was sensed by Jeff. He could hear the voices of an entire town as they raced after Tom. Although Jeff didn’t know what was happening, he knew something was – and it wasn’t good. He heard the now familiar clicking sound 50 yards or so down the beach. He watched as a man appeared out of the sand. He continued to watch as the man ran for the lighthouse door. Once the man was inside Jeff crept over to the first floor window. Reaching the top of the ladder, Tom had been cut off as the man barged through the door.
His hope was down to two choices. He could stop and surrender, or he could travel up the lighthouse steps in an effort to stall for time so that God could work.
Grabbing hold of the staircase rail, Tom flung himself around and started up the steps. Still trying to buy time he raced to the top of the lighthouse as it stood four stories in the Atlantic salt water air. Knowing Tom was running out of options, most returned to the main meeting hall and prepared for the sacrifice while a few continued to corner Tom on the top floor.
Tom was sure the five biggest men in the group were the ones behind him. Now at the top with nowhere to go, the men stood in front of the stairs, Tom decided to jump the rail and try to lower himself to the ground floor. Hanging to each protruding step, slowly he began to work his way back down the stairs. The distance between the wall and the steps increased from top to bottom. If Tom could just get down a few more steps, he would be free to jump without hitting the wall or steps.
The circular staircase was difficult to maneuver in such tight quarters, and the moving was slow. After getting past the first three steps, Tom’s belt snagged on an old, rusty nail. He wriggled to try to free himself without loosening his grip on the steps. Finally. Pop! – and he was free. He tried to move to the next step, but the distance was increasing the further down he descended. His arms were losing strength fast, and his knuckles were turning white as he held on.
A voice echoed up the wall of the lighthouse; the command given by the Almighty Mother, Doris Camp. “Ralphie . . . Ralphie Barster. Crush that man’s fingers!”
Tom seemed to be in a state of confusion. He looked up, not able to negotiate the move to the next step. In a slow motion instant, Tom saw the letters RB on the sole of a size 13 boot coming down to crush his tired, weary fingers. The fog in Tom’s mind cleared. He could let go, and hopefully grab something to hold on to along the way. If he failed certain death was waiting. That was a chance he would have to take. If his fingers were crushed, he might as well face the facts – he’s done.
As the heavy boot came down Tom let go, leaving Ralphie’s boot to clang against the metal step. Several feet down, Tom reached for a step, but missed. Fortunately, the grab slowed him down a bit, but he continued to fall three and a half stories until he was met with the tiled, concrete floor of the lighthouse. He lay motionless.
A cheer went up from the men, and Mrs.Camp squealed with delight, “Let’s go join the others and get ready for the sacrifice. Diafol will be pleased. We’ll come back later to get Winch for the sacrifice.”
Jeff couldn’t believe what he had just seen. In his bewilderment, a movement from behind a nearby rock startled him. Still, he remained calm. Quietly and nonchalantly he wandered around the lighthouse and came full-circle behind the rock. Quietly drawing his gun, he ordered, “Don’t move. Turn around very slowly with your hands on your head.” A frightened Mel jumped.
“Mel, what are you doing here? You’re next on the list. Now I have to help Tom, and watch after you at the same time. You promised me you’d stay put.”
“I most certainly did not.”
“Did too. Look, forget all that right now. Get yourself together. I have to go help Tom. He just fell from the top of the lighthouse. Mrs. Camp, Doc Warren, the whole church is part of this nutzo group. Anyway, Mel don’t you go anywhere – anywhere do you understand? I’ll bring Tom to you. Mel, do you promise?” There was no immediate response. “Mel, do you promise?”
“Yeess. I promise.”
“Okay, stay here, and I’ll be back with Tom as soon as I can.” Mel ducked down behind the rock, and Jeff carefully approached the lighthouse. The door was open. Tom was lying facedown on the cold, hard floor. Jeff quickly checked for any broken bones. As far as he could tell there weren’t any. “We’re going to get you out of here, Bro,” he muttered as he bent over and carefully threw Tom over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry. While the group was preparing and celebrating, the sacrifice was removed.
Mel sat on the cold, winter sand as Jeff placed Tom on the ground, his head in Mel’s lap. Blood trickled from his nose and mouth. His breathing was shallow. In the full moonlight, Tom’s twisted face looked up at Mel.
“I love you. Don’t you ever forget that.”
“Shhh. Don’t talk. Just rest. We’re going to get you out of here.”
Jeff cut in. “Mel, we need to hurry. When they discover their sacrifice is missing, they’ll be madder than a hornet. We have to move fast.”
Tom’s breathing continued to be labored. He looked at Mel, then at Jeff – “fire from Heaven.” His last words were spoken.
Jeff and Mel looked at each other in unbelief. Mel was the first to speak. “You lied to me. You lied to me, Hunt. You said God would bring him safely home. You lied. He’s gone!”
A tear trickled from the corner of Jeff’s eye; then another, and another. He didn’t say a word, and they both sat in silence. Finally Jeff spoke. “Mel, I didn’t lie. Tom didn’t lie. God didn’t lie. He’s safely home in the arms of Jesus.”
Jeff looked over at the orange glow rising up from within the lighthouse. “Mel, we can’t let Tom’s death be in vain. I’m going in.”
“No, no you’re not. You’re staying right here and helping me take care of Tom. They’ll kill you too. No Jeff . . . ”
“No, listen Mel. It’s going to take some time to move him – time we don’t have. I’m going in and replace the floor grate. It was made to only be moved from the top. By the time they free themselves, we’ll be long gone.”
“Okay, but please be careful. If anything happens to you, I can’t move Tom myself, and there’s nobody else to help – Jeff, please be careful!
Jeff eased his way toward the lighthouse door. It was then that he realized Big Ralphie Barster had come to get the sacrifice. Of course, Tom was nowhere in sight. Ralphie began to climb the stairs, no doubt to get a better look down the beach hoping to see Tom.
Jeff muttered a quick prayer. Obviously at this point he couldn’t enter the lighthouse. He also knew he needed to stay close by the door. If he chose to run for it, he would clearly be seen from Ralphie’s look-out atop the lighthouse. On the other hand, if Mel was spotted he needed to be nearby to interfere with Ralphie’s pursuit.
As Ralphie made his way higher up the spiral staircase, Jeff slowly cracked the door open to get a better look. A gust of winter’s wind blew the door from Jeff’s hand and slammed it against the inside of the lighthouse wall. Ralphie turned at the sound just in time to see Jeff’s shadow disappear from the first floor’s light.
In his hurry to follow the shadow, Ralphie’s size 13 boot caught on an old, rusted staircase brace. Stumbling forward to the next step, Ralphie began to feel a strange sensation. The centuries old brace broke, leaving a 300 pound Ralphie swaying four stories up. Gently he took the next step – and the next. Then it happened.
The staircase collapsed sending twisted metal, and Ralphie to the ground. Mel, back out of sight heard the crash and felt a slight tremor in the earth as Ralphie fell to his death. Jeff took a moment to recover. After getting his bearings, he crept close to the lighthouse door. The staircase had effectively blocked the opening to the pit. Screams from the trapped Bendith Diafol could be heard echoing through their underground grave. Panic overtook the minds of the group as the devil’s blessing was scattered throughout the underground cavern.
Sophie spoke up. “Almighty Mother, Doc Warren, Charlie Moore; come with me.” She took six others as she moved toward the elevator. “It will be slow moving. The elevator only holds ten at a time, but we’ll all get out okay. There’s no way Winch survived. We’ve accomplished the blessing of Diafol. We finally have our freedom. Come on now. Let’s hurry.”
Had Jeff known about the elevator, he would have made sure it was inoperable, but he didn’t. That was one of the secrets Tom took with him.
From a distance a squeal of brakes was heard. Up on the hill behind the lighthouse car lights could be seen weaving in and out on Pier Point Drive. Someone was obviously under the influence. Where was Officer Moore when you need him most? As an afterthought, Jeff realized Charlie Moore would be no help to them anyway.
Mel and Jeff sat stunned as they watched the car – no, a truck – coming around the curve at the top of the hill. The driver failed to negotiate the curve and headed straight down Sandy Hill’s south bank behind the lighthouse for several feet before coming to a stop on the hard sand.
Jeff ran over. The driver was sound asleep, and very much alive as evidenced by his snoring. “Mel, hurry up! Help me get this guy out.”
The two carried him a distance, and struggled to get him to sit up beside a large rock. The fresh salt air would help to revive him, and Jeff covered him with an old blanket he brought with him.
Out of the corner of her eye Mel saw a sharp movement further up on the hill. The full moon glanced off someone’s back as they were making their way down the hill. He – or she made no effort to conceal themselves. Jeff was wary as he slowly pulled out his .22. He aimed the gun at the figure and barked, “Identify yourself!”
There was no answer. The intruder kept inching his way forward with his hands in the air. Jeff let out a chuckle. “Mel, I’d like you to meet my brother, Ronald Barry.”
“Oh wow! It’s so nice to meet you, Ronald. The pleasure is all mine.”
“Ronny, how did you get here?” Jeff asked. Ronny began going through a stack of three by five cards with pre-written comments on them. He found the one that read, “I borrowed the security guard’s bicycle.” He continued through the pack of cards until he found the answer to Jeff’s next question, “Won’t you be missed?” “No, everyone from Shady Rest is here for the sacrifice.” The next card he pulled up read, “I’m not going back.” Jeff gave him a big hug.
Then – out of nowhere, Jeff heard the clicking sound. His natural instinct was to look down the beach to where the “ghost” rose from the sand. What he saw was a truck bouncing up and down as the top of the elevator attempted to open. The truck came to a stop directly above the elevator.
The clicking sound began to strain. The three turned their attention to the truck. The weight of the truck kept the elevator’s horizontal door from opening. The truck bounced violently as Sophie worked the up button repeatedly. Finally the door inched opened, and stopped. Sophie hit the up button again. The door moved slightly. This would be a long process, but at least some progress was being made. If the door would open another six inches, freedom could be reached even though there would be low clearance directly under the truck.
Sophie hit the up button – nothing. She hit it again. The door jerked partially open as the rear wheels slid off allowing the back end of the truck to fall into the opening. All ten people hit the floor in an instant.
Something wet fell on Charlie Moore’s head. He looked up and saw a steady stream of gasoline leaking from the truck. Within seconds the elevator was filled with gasoline fumes as the gasoline began to leak faster from the truck.
Even though the elevatoor door was partially opened, the elevator would not ascend the shaft. Doc Warren suggested they take a break and get some fresh air. He opened the door leading to the hall and stepped out. Fumes were everywhere. The truck’s full tank of gas had leaked out, and the cold, December air forced the fumes out of the elevator and into the underground. The circle of light sucked up the fumes, as each candle made contact with the fumes.
The ten ran for the elevator as the cavern was set ablaze. Sophie hit the button again. The last push sent a fireball into the sky that Jeff was sure could be seen from miles around, and the boom echoed out over the waves.
It was over. Jeff, Mel, and Ronny sat back and watched the burning. “It’s over, Mel. It’s over. God sent His fire from Heaven to purify the land . . . Mel, I’m here for you. Whatever you need, just let me know.” He looked over at the empty shell of a body that was once his friend lying in the sand. “He taught me so much, Mel. I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for my Bro. He was one of the biggest blessings in my life.
“Oh, by the way, what did you find out at the doctor’s today?”
Mel began to cry. She tried to hold back the tears, but she couldn’t. Jeff just sat and allowed her to cry. Finally, she spoke. “It wasn’t hypotension for sure. It wasn’t anything serious; just some things I’ve never experienced before. I’m pregnant . I’m going to have a baby boy!”
“Aw, Mel. That’s wonderful. After this night, I’m sure you’re going to name him Thomas Charles Winch, Jr. Right?”
“No actually, I decided to name him Thomas Jeffery Winch. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Wow! No Mel. You can’t do that. His father gave his life for these people.”
“It’s Thomas Jeffery.”
Fast Forward: SANDY HILL, MAINE, 2043 – The sun shone brightly on the sandy hill where a small church stood. A sea breeze blew gently across the parking lot where swirls of sand once formed. T. J. Winch stood reading the stone monument that stood in the left corner of the church yard.
It read, In memory of Thomas C. Winch who fell to his death from the Sandy Hill Lighthouse while serving his community as keeper of the Light, December 21, 2013.
He liked the way the capital “L” stood out in the word Light. T. J.’s eyes were tearing up as he tried to imagine the night that God sent fire from Heaven. The struggle of the centuries had long been over, and now T. J. had the blessing of becoming the pastor of the newly formed Lighthouse Memorial Church.
From his vantage point high up the hill, T. J. looked out to sea; the ocean breeze rustling through his short cropped hair. The fresh smell of salt water, and the golden sun dancing on the waves invigorated him. He almost felt as if he were in Heaven. He could see the same rocks where a boating accident had taken the lives of several men 30 years earlier as he stood on the very spot where the lighthouse once stood.
He only heard the stories, and so in many ways he was detached from the events of that night, but yet a part of him could see it all. In his mind’s eye he could see the lighthouse ablaze with the glory of God as the purifying flame of God’s vengeance and righteousness destroyed the town in a single night. He could feel the pain of his father as he was betrayed by the very ones God sent him to serve.
He was proud of his heritage, and thankful for the opportunity to serve God in the same community as his ancestors. The town of Sandy Hill was small. It was still growing from the total destruction of the town given over to the occult. The people of the town realized the significance of this day as well. They would soon be flooding the parking lot to take their place in what had come to be known as The Crown of the Town – the new Lighthouse Church. It wouldn’t be long until the parking lot would be full of vehicles, and the pews filled with souls – souls for whom Jesus died. T. J.’s anticipation was growing. He took one more look out to sea.
He headed back to his office to pray. He sat down and pulled out an old, worn photograph of his father – a man he never met, but yet seemed to know very well. Another tear dropped from his eye. T. J. reflected on the ministry that God had given his dad; the struggles, the joys, the hopes, the dreams. They would now be his as T. J. undertook the ministry to the people of Sandy Hill.
The townspeople were all present for this magnificent day. The choir finished its special number, and filtered back to places in the pews. T. J. rose to speak.
“Before I bring today’s message I have some opening remarks. Most of you know the history of Sandy Hill. You can read about it in the library. There have been recent news reports regarding the tremendous history that brings us together this morning. If it weren’t for the workings of God in past events and days gone by, this meeting would never be possible. God alone deserves the praise for this day.
“I myself was not around for those events, but we do have some visitors here today who were. They were eye-witnesses to the destruction of the Sandy Hill Lighthouse. All the way from Indiana, I’d like to introduce my dear mother Melanie Winch, and my good friend and mentor Jeff Hunt. Would you folks come and share with us this morning, please?”
© 2016 William Kovacic