Crimson Dawn (Part 2): Revelation
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The room was bright and dark at the same time, but silent more than anything. In front of Patrick Evans was a giant mirror where he could see his disheveled hair, muddy face, and shirt inflated from bandages wrapped around his body like a mummy. He tried not to look at it. He had a wrenching feeling that he was without a doubt in trouble. Through a small square window in the door, Pat watched as Mayor Vicky Stevens jabbed her finger at Detective Walters and screamed something inaudible. The policeman was in trouble too.

After a while, the door opened and the detective entered the timeout room and took a seat. Pat didn’t look at him and kept his eyes trained on the metallic table between them. “Can I get you anything, Patrick?” Buck asked.

Pat didn’t answer. He knew better than that: timeout isn’t for talking.

“Pat, it’s alright,” the detective reassured in a calming voice. “You can talk to me. I just want to know what happened.”

Pat glanced up to the detective with a relieved sigh. “We’re not in trouble?”

Buck chuckled. “You saw all that? I’m in a lil bit of trouble, yeah. Mayor Stevens wants me to figure out what’s going on in this town and I ain’t got the first clue. But you ain’t in trouble. Don’t worry about any of that. I was just hopin’ you could help me get out of my trouble.”


“Sure,” Buck said. Pat noticed his fingers shaking, folded together but twitching in and out of each other. “How would you like to play cop for a day?”

“Okay,” Pat weakly replied.

“So Mom’s told me you’ve been goin’ out at night to hang with some new friends.”

Pat nodded.

“Do you mind telling me who those friends are?”

Pat hesitated, shimmied in his seat. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

Pat didn’t reply.

The detective sucked in his lips. “Son, whatever your new friends told you don’t matter right now, okay? We’re gonna keep you safe. Don’t you worry.”

“You can’t,” he mumbled.

The detective leaned in. “What? Can’t what?”

“Keep me safe. They’re dangerous. They’re very bad men.”

“Then why do you hang around them, Pat? Bad men aren’t your friends.”

Pat stammered. “A – at – at first, they were nice. They told me they’d be my friends. The bad man told me I’d be saved and my life would be cooler and better if I was friends with him. But…” He trailed off.

“Are these friends your age?”

Pat shook his head.

“Are they adults?”

He nodded.

“Do you know which adults?”

Pat nodded again.

“Who then, Pat? Who did this to you?”

Pat Evans shifted again in his chair. He looked around the room, then at the mirrored wall. He’d seen crime shows before with his mother; he knew there were people on the other side watching. “You…you promise you’ll keep me safe, right?”

“Yes. Of course.”

“Can I write it?” he whispered.

Buck nodded and reached into his jacket pocket. He pulled out his notepad and pen and pushed it across the table to the boy. Pat looked back at the mirror and bit his lip. He breathed purposefully, and scratched a name onto the pad.

Buck stepped out of the room after around thirty minutes of talking to the boy and found his distressed mother, Deidra nursing a steaming cup of coffee. He turned the notepad around and showed her. She scanned it, confused, then grabbed it with both hands and held it close to her face. “This is Pat’s handwriting,” she exclaimed.

“Any idea who he’s talking about?”

Deidra read it over again, maybe a dozen times more before answering. She finally shook her head. “No.”


Father Jonathan finished wiping the worn golden chalice clean, then placed it gently back in the tabernacle and closed the tiny door. He turned back to the detective and put his reading glasses on, then finally took the notepad in hand. “Little Pat Evans wrote this?”

“Yes, Father,” a sleep-deprived Buck confirmed.

“Interesting,” the priest said.

“Any ideas?”

“Well, that’s nobody’s name from Perching Tree, but I doubt Malachi is a real name.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because it’s not even presumed as real in the Bible. It means ‘messenger’,” he said, handing the notepad back to Buck. “The Jews believed that Malachi’s true identity was Ezra the Scribe, but his true identity is still unknown. The name is most prevalent in the Book of Twelve where Malachi has a somewhat…dark influence.”

The detective’s eyebrows raised. “How so?”

Father Jonathan explained. “Well, the Book of Twelve refers to twelve minor prophets, the last of which being Malachi. And the main themes of Malachi’s writing are anger and wrath, mainly directed towards the relaxed social behaviors of the Israelites. He advocates heavily for punishment, exile, and most importantly…sacrifice.”

“Sounds pretty standard,” the detective replied.

The priest clicked his tongue. “No, not exactly. I know you don’t attend mass, detective, but Christianity doesn’t promote sacrifice. And there is another layer to it.”

“Which is?”

“A Greek copy of the Book of Twelve was found in a cave in Israel near the Dead Sea in 1960, often associated as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. And this particular cave, is known as the Cave of Horror.”

Buck shuddered. The priest saw it in his shoulders. “Cave of Horror?”

“Yes. Forty skeletons were found along with the book. Men, women, children. And then there was one female child, mummified, estimated to be between six and twelve years old. And upon a CT scan, they found something drawn into her back. I’ve heard that little Pat Evans was found with a star carved into his back, wasn’t he? And that boy is what, eleven, twelve now?”

“Twelve,” Buck replied.

“And there was a star carved into that goat on Mr. Booker’s farm too, correct?”

“What are you getting at?”

“Tell me, detective,” Father Jonathan sounded condescending now, “how was the star drawn?”

The detective shook his head, confused.

“Was it drawn with the main point faced down? Upside down?”

“How did you know that?”

The priest shook his head. His voice dropped to an annunciated whisper. “That is what we call a pentagram – the symbol of Satan. The same symbol found on the girl’s back in the Cave of Horror.”

The detective squeezed his eyes shut and grabbed at his nose with two fingers. “So what are you telling me? We’re dealing with a Satanic cult here?”

“Not necessarily. The invocation of Malachi is the work of a specific cult: The Crimson Dawn.”

“The Crimson Dawn?”

“Yes,” the priest elaborated. “The Crimson Dawn is a group that believes, similarly to the Book of Malachi, that prayer, confession, and virtue alone will not get you into the desired afterlife. In our case that’s Heaven of course, but with them…well, I’m not sure. But the Crimson Dawn believe that, through the blood of a child and their own ritualistic suicides, a portal to that afterlife can be opened. And I feel obligated to tell you, detective, there’s a pattern to the Crimson Dawn’s progression. They start with meetings, gathering a following. Not until then do they make themselves known. Then, once they’ve amassed enough of a following, they’ll start with sacrifices, claims of resurgence, rebirth…”

Buck paced about the nave, taking in the scent of the church’s old musty carpets as the threads wove together.

“Then they’ll begin to look for a child that closely matches the description of the little girl from the cave – six to twelve years-old, preferably female, though some are less picky. But once they’ve found that child, they’ll mark him or her with the pentagram, then wait for the right moment to initiate the sacrifices. Until then, they’ll make increasingly aggressive public displays to demonstrate their resurgence. And just before the final stages, you may notice strange phenomena, things you can’t explain. Livestock dropping dead from unidentifiable illnesses, hailing storms, locusts, darkness, dying birds, water turning to blood.”

Buck stopped his pacing. “Wait…did you say birds? Dying?”


“Miss Potter. She’s been having loads of birds flying straight into her house. Thousands.”

The priest dabbed his forehead with his green drooping sleeve. “That’s not good, detective.” He shook his head and looked toward the ceiling. “Not good at all. Lord save us.”

“What happens next? When do the sacrifices begin?”

Father Jonathan blew out his cheeks. “Well, they’ll usually execute someone. Someone prominent. This is to demonstrate the scale of their amassed power, which they would call ‘divine’. Could be the mayor, could be you, detective. Then, once they’re ready for the ceremony, it starts with the child sacrifice to open the portal, then come the forty others in mass suicide with the hopes of triggering their long-awaited rapture.”

“Why?” Buck squawked. “Why now?”

“I couldn’t think of a better time,” the priest admitted. “The eighth day of the eighth month of the sixty-sixth year of this century. That’s when you found your goat, correct?”

“The next morning,” Buck clarified.

“Ever since the bombs dropped, people lost their faith,” Father Jonathan lamented. “Their loved ones perished, the second coming didn’t happen, the rapture didn’t occur. They started to look elsewhere.”

“And what about you?”

“I still believe in God,” Father Jonathan proudly professed. “I believe in goodness, grace, kindness, and virtue. And I believe the rapture will come one day. But humanity is resilient. Pershing Tree is a testament to that. The apocalypse has not yet happened, no matter how much it’s hurt us.”

The detective’s attention drifted.

“Perhaps, one day you too can find solace in the church. Lord knows you’ve lost so much.”

Buck snarled and lunged towards the priest. “Tell me one more thing, Father: the boy, Patrick Evans…”


“He told me where his friends been at. The ones he’s been hangin’ out with at night. He told me he’s been goin’ down to the church.” Buck fumbled for his back pocket and pulled out a photograph, shoving it between the priest’s eyes. “Any idea how he got this? You seem to know a lot about this Malachi. Sure you didn’t have anything to do with it?”

Father Jonathan examined the photograph briefly and sweat quickly accumulated on his brow. There it was – just as he’d heard. The camera’s flash illuminated Pat Evans’s pasty back with that deep incision of an inverse pentagram. “No,” he whispered. “I’ve never seen the boy at mass without his mother – and the last time I saw that family here was Easter.”

“Then why would he say that, huh?” Buck shot back. “Kid wouldn’t lie, would he?”

The priest thought for a moment, put his robed hands on his hips. “You said he was coming here at night?”

“That’s right.”

“Well our last mass ends at around 6, 6:15pm – it’s the five o’clock. And then nobody’s here after that. Nobody but…”

“But who?”

“There’s a book group that meets in the basement couple times a week. Mary-Ann Keller asked me if she could host one there about a month back and I said ‘sure’.”

Buck eased and backed away from Father Jonathan. He straightened his jacket and returned the photograph to his pocket.


Saddler’s Inn bustled just as it did any other night; as if a child didn’t stumble home with a pentagram carved into his back that same day. Buck ordered his usual amber ale, paid his forty-seven dollars, and looked warily at the scenes around him. He watched the poker games, the bingo, the drawing of guns on spilt beers, the guitar-strumming, the singing, the dancing, the arrogance of it all. Forty people. Forty sacrifices. And one little boy. Buck noticed his wrist was shaking and his skin was turning white from his iron grip on the glass.

“What’s up, Buck?” Ron said. “You’re gonna sour the night with a face like that.”

“It’s the kid,” Buck grumbled. “It’s the kid, it’s the crows, it’s the damn goat and that priest.”

“Father Jonathan? What about him?”

“He knows a lot. Too much.”

Ron pulled a chair around to Buck’s side of the table and together they observed the Inn’s nightly chaos. “Like what?”

“He told me all this stuff’s been the work of a cult. Cult called Crimson Dawn based on some book by a guy who calls himself the messenger: Malachi.”

“Sounds like a crackpot to me. But he is a priest, ain’t he? He’s supposed to know that sort of thing.”

Buck stared, wild-eyed across the bar. “Little boy told me he was goin’ to church at night, priest said it was probably a book group in the basement.”

“Boy can read?” Ron sounded surprised.

“Enough to write ‘Malachi’, but not great. And what twelve-year-old goes to a book group?”

“Hell, I wouldn’t go at fifty-three.”

“Exactly,” said the detective. He continued staring across the bar. “But you know who would?”

Ron followed Buck’s eyes to see Mary-Ann Keller sitting in the far corner, reading a book resting on her crossed knees. “Her? Mary-Ann? You think Miss Keller is the cultist?”

“I dunno.”

“She couldn’t hurt a fly.”

“There’s probably more than one. Priest said they’ll need forty sacrifices plus a child to open their portal.”


“It’s a long story.” Buck took a sip of his beer. “Not worth the time.”

“I got a daughter to keep safe,” Ron retorted. “I oughtta know that sort of thing.”

“She’ll be fine, Ron. She’s not the one they’re after.” Buck flicked his head toward Mary-Ann, desperate to redirect the conversation. “Kid’s going to a book club, she’s hosting it, he’s got a big ol’ Satanic symbol carved on his back. What else am I supposed to think?”

“Maybe she’s makin’ the reservations for someone else. You think a gal like that is goin’ around callin’ herself Malachi?”

Buck shook his head and faced Ron with a huff. “I dunno know. Mayor’s reaming me out though. I gotta find an answer. They’re gonna kill that boy soon. Gut him. Just like they did to that goat.” The detective paused. “Priest said they’re gonna kill someone else too.”


“Said it could be me.”

“Can’t you arrest him on threatening murder?”

“It’s not Father Jonathan, Ron. I thought it was too, but when he saw the picture of that boy’s back, he had more fear in his eye than any of us. Man damn near turned white as a sheep.”

Ron looked back toward the quietly reading woman. “So, what’s next? You gonna arrest her for reading?”

“I want to,” Buck replied. “But you know I can’t. I’m gonna ask her some questions. In fact…I’m gonna do it now.” Detective Walters raised the glass to his lips and chugged the remainder of his ale. He dragged a sleeve across his mouth, then stood from the table leaving Ron behind. The detective forced a grin and tucked his thumbs into his belt. “Miss Keller,” he called out.

Her nose raised from between the pages. “Can I help you?”

“Yes, ma’am. As a matter of fact, you can. Just took up reading lately, great pastime it is, and I see you readin’ over here most every night. Whatever you got there’s gotta be good.”

Mary-Ann scanned the pages smugly, then stuck a finger where she’d left off and closed the book on her lap. “Quite.”

“Well I just got finished with a book and I’m at a loss of what I should pick up next. Heard you were running a book club out of the church’s basement. Care if I join?”

Mary-Ann frowned. “You wouldn’t be interested in what we read.”

“Sure I would. What are y’all readin’ now?”

“J.D. Salinger.”

Catcher in the Rye?”

“That’s right.”

“I’ve always wanted to read that one. When’s we gettin’ together next?”

Mary-Ann shut her eyes and sighed in what Buck observed as exaggerated embarrassment. “I apologize, detective, I was mistaken. We’ve moved on from that one. It’s old news now.”

“So what are you readin’?”


“Ain’t that the one about the pedophile?” Buck reached through his thin mental archive of titles.


“Weird one, but I’m a sucker for the classics.”

“We’re far too engrossed in the story at this point. Already halfway through. You’d surely be lost.”

“I can catch up,” Buck insisted.

Mary-Ann sighed again, this time annoyed. Then her eyes fluttered and she said, “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.”

“That from Lolita?”

“Proverbs 26:17,” she pompously corrected.

“Is that what you’ve got there?” Buck said, eyeing the book in her lap.

Mary-Ann pulled it in and tucked it under her arms. “No. Something far more…consequential.”

“More consequential than the Bible but it’s got a black cover with no words on it? Don’t sound like one of the classics to me,” Buck prodded.

Mary-Ann tilted her head, “Like I said, detective: it is unwise to meddle in the business of others.”

“Am I supposed to take that as threatening an officer, Miss Keller?”

She shrugged and began to reopen her black-covered book. “Why I wouldn’t dare,” her octaves soared. “I just mean to wish you the best of luck finding your little cult.”

“Cult?” the detective scoffed. “I never said anything about a cult.”

“Word travels fast,” she mumbled, already losing herself in the mysterious pages again.

Only moments later, the two of them shot their full attention to the bar behind which young Jake Harding was stumbling backwards. “My God!” he exclaimed. His shoulders smashed into the back bar where bottles of whiskey and vodka stumbled on alcohol-stained wooden shelves.

The bar quietened. The bingo and poker games paused, the swashing glasses went stagnant, Mr. Ford stopped strumming, breathing heavily into the beer-soaked microphone. “Having a little too much to drink, are we?” the entertainer roared.

 Jake’s eyelids were pasted open. “The…the…the water!” he blurted. “It’s red! Blood red!”

Buck left the reading woman alone and stepped hastily toward the bar, pushing past droves of petrified customers. And then he saw it, just as the kid had described: red droplets leaking from the closed tap, splashing one at a time into the glass beneath. The slapping blood rang in the ears of all of Pershing Tree, but the detective more than anyone.


Detective Walters mulled over the priest’s words amid the clamoring and gossiping streets of Perching Tree. Each and every person he passed seemed to know – know his failures and how the clock ticked ever nearer to doom. Whispers cut in his presence, the usual grateful “hellos” and praise had all but ended. Even Sam Livéd, seemed to have gotten control of his alcoholism just enough to judge the detective in tandem with the rest of the town. The women stopped playing Bingo, the men stopped their poker, the horses clip-clopping by seemed to quiet when they passed the detective. Buck looked up to the townhall’s old Doric pillars, ready to face the only resident of Pershing Tree he knew wouldn’t hold back on him. He noticed something about those pillars he never had before – cracks near the bottom. They were decaying, rotting. The town he was supposed to trust, to love, to protect, was falling around him. Perhaps it had been for a while. And it seemed there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.

A horse-drawn carriage galloped down the street, once again slowing as it passed the detective so the driver could bestow a grimacing stare. Buck tried to ignore it and looked directly across the street, but even there a little girl stood in a pink dress staring at him, waving to him. He blinked, took a second look. “Jenny?” he whispered.

The little girl jumped with ankles locked together and waved, the dress bouncing with her. “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” she sang.

Buck’s smile brightened and his eyes watered. He stumbled forward, almost breaking into a run towards his daughter. “Jenny!” his voice cracked in a shout.

Screams around the town hall rang out. The detective’s heart flipped and he sprung out of the way in instinct from an oncoming neighing and bucking horse. Its hooves landed where he had been and the carriage swayed, the wooden wheels nearly giving way. “Watch it, genius!” the driver called out.

Buck lay on the sidewalk’s edge, catching his breath before an audience of about thirty to forty onlookers. He caught the drunk’s eye: Sam Livéd gave him the reddest, most devilish smile. The drunk then broke their staring contest, and headed down the street towards the church. The detective looked back toward the sidewalk behind him. His daughter was gone. Nowhere to be seen. He gulped and shook his head. “She’s dead,” he closed his eyes and whispered to himself in gasps. “She’s dead. She died years ago. She’s gone.”


“I’m going to need answers, Buck,” Mayor Stevens spat. She was a fiery woman, perhaps the town’s greatest. Her charming public face and behind-the-scenes iron fist were the only reason Pershing Tree had stayed civil after the bombs dropped and everyone knew it. Buck knew better than to stray from her good graces, but this time he couldn’t seem to help it. “You can’t keep coming to me with nothing,” she scolded.

“I’m sorry,” Buck dropped his head.

“This is out of hand. Dead goats is one thing. But heaps of dead crows, blood in the water, child mutilation. What the fuck is going on?”

Buck hesitated, but eventually muttered his usual answer. “I don’t know.”

“What are you doing then? Just sitting on your ass at the bar?” Mayor Stevens said. “Did you ever think to arrest Deidra Evans for that pentagram? You know it’s always the parents and that woman and her kid are attached at the hip.”

“She didn’t do it.”

“How do you know?”

Buck took a deep breath. “With all due respect, what we’re dealing with here is bigger than a few strange events and child endangerment. I spoke with Father Jonathan yesterday. He said everything that has happened are signs of occult activity.”

“A fucking cult? In Pershing Tree?” the mayor laughed. “Jesus Christ, Buck. If that’s what you have I might as well do the investigating myself.”

“It’s true, Mayor. Look, I didn’t believe it at first either. But the animal sacrifices, the bloody water, the crows – these are plagues. Biblical plagues. And I believe your life may be in danger. The priest said they’ll execute someone. Someone prominent.”

“Why not you?” she shot back.

The detective shook his head. “Dunno. Could be.”

Just then, a knock came at the door. The mayor rubbed her eyes and grunted. “I’m busy,” she yelled.

“It’s urgent, ma’am,” a young squeal cried from the other side. The door creaked open and the mayor’s self-appointed intern, little Jeremy Fields’s head popped through. “It’s the priest, ma’am. Father Jonathan. He’s been murdered.”

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