Merry Christmas, Alex Cross (Alex Cross, #19) by James Patterson Read Online (FREE)
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THE DEVIL ON CHRISTMAS EVE
THE REAR DOOR TO ST. ANTHONY’S CHURCH HAD BEEN LEFT OPEN. EXACTLY AS I had been promised. John Sampson and I eased in through the dimly lit sacristy, the room where the priests dressed for services and where they stored the altar wine, the hymnals, and the vestments.
“Sugar, I hope we don’t have to shoot some dude in a church,” Sampson said in a stage whisper. “Your Nana’d be predicting me for a slot in the fire.”
“Especially if you pulled the trigger in church tonight.”
“Not funny, Alex.”
“Who’s laughing, John? If you shot someone in a church on Christmas Eve and I didn’t stop you, Nana Mama would be signing me up for a slot right next to you in the big burn.”
We made our way along a short, narrow hallway that led to the darkened apse and the altar itself. We stayed in the hall, looking out. Except for some flickering votives, some dim overheads, and a hanging candle near the altar table, there was no light in the church.
There couldn’t have been more than three or four people in the place. An old woman clicking her rosary beads, a homeless guy napping in the front pew, an older man reading a prayer book and muttering curses. I carefully checked out each of them.
Then a young girl in a fur coat, a coat way too fancy for St. Anthony’s, barged out of the confessional box on the near side of the church. She was sobbing into a long striped scarf. The priest came out after her. Father Harris placed his hand on her shoulder and led her to a pew, knelt by her.
The padre was a very nice guy, and a very good priest, the kind of man you did favors for if you could.
I looked around at the sparse wreaths that decorated the church. I’d been attending St. Anthony’s since I was ten years old and I couldn’t remember the place ever seeming so bare at Christmas. In fact, the church looked depressing.
I waited until I was sure all the worshippers had their heads down, and then I walked quickly along the front of the altar and knelt at the bottom of the stairs that led up to the carved oak pulpit. The Man Mountain stayed on the sacristy side and knelt among the bright red poinsettia plants, the lectern and the chairs used by the priest and altar boys between him and the pews.
A moment later, the girl nodded and left. Father Harris paused, glanced toward our positions, and then went out a side door.
Except for steam ticking in the registers, St. Anthony’s fell quiet. Kneeling there with my back to the crucifix high on the rear wall felt odd and somehow wrong. Then again, the entire thing felt strange. I don’t think I’d been at an altar in more than thirty-five years. Not since I had been at that very altar making my confirmation, when I was twelve.