“I’m telling you, there’s something to this. There’s enough stories floating around about the Thomasville Monster, something had to happen,” Mike said.
“You know what my Grandpa said?” Kenny replied. “He said the Thomasville Monster was for late nights at kids’ slumber parties when they told stories in the dark with a flashlight pointed up at their face.”
“Well get this. You know the historical files room in the basement of Bethany?”
“Yeah,” Kenny said.
“Well, we’ve been going through it. We’re digitizing some things and tossing out some things. A lot of it is junk: receipts from fellowship dinners 50 years ago and owners manuals for typewriters we don’t own anymore. But, I found some journals from the founding pastor, George Williams.”
“The guy who came through with the summer revival and stayed to pastor the church that started?”
“Yeah,” Mike said, “So a lot of it is not super-interesting. He talks about doors he knocked on and how many were at his bible studies. But there’s this whole passage about the monster.”
“I’ve got it here,” Mike said, holding up a folder in his right hand. “Do you want to go down to McFly’s to have a look at it?”
“Yeah, but for the coffee, not because I believe your ghost story.”
McFly’s Mocha was just down Elm Avenue, as the Victorian Mansions changed to downtown storefronts and office buildings. Thomasville wasn’t a big city, but its downtown stayed nice even after the box stores showed up on the edge of town.
Mike and Kenny walked past the church’s front desk, and Kenny said to Beatrice, “We’re going down to the coffee shop. We’re preaching on the same bible passage and we want to compare our notes.”
“If you say so,” Beatrice said.
As they walked past Elm Avenue’s Victorian mansions into the downtown storefronts Mike said, “I don’t think Beatrice believed you that we’re working on our sermons.”
“I think she just doesn’t understand why anyone would pay $4.50 for a coffee when we can get it for nothing from the coffee maker in the Fellowship Hall.”
“That stuff is just barely a grade above motor oil in flavor.”
“I get it,” Kenny said, “but for her generation McFly’s is throwing money away.”
They opened the door to McFly’s and stood at the front counter. Mikala, McFly’s regular barista, looked up and said, “What is it today, pastors?”
Mike said, “I told you, Mikala, we’re to be addressed as ‘Holy Father.’”
“Forgive me, Fathers,” Mikala said, “for I have sinned.” As she spoke she made the sign of the cross with an arm covered with enough tattoos to make her parents wonder where they went wrong.
Kenny said, “The regular for me.”
“Me, too.” Mike said.
“A house blend black coffee and a hazelnut latte.”
“You got it,” Kenny said.
They took a table toward the back. “What do you think Mikala thinks of us?” Mike asked.
“I think you’re a little old for her, if that’s what you’re thinking. What is she, about 22?” Kenny said.
“Not that,” Mike said. “Even if I wasn’t old enough to be her dad she’s still not my type. I mean when she sees us walk in the door what does she think of us?”
“That we’re two doughy middle-aged guys who tip well so she figures she’ll be nice to us.”
“Do you think she gives us much thought beyond that?” Mike asked.
“Probably not,” Kenny said. “I doubt she’s ever considered coming to either of our churches."
“That's what I mean. It’s like joining the Masons or the Rotary Club. Nobody like her would even give it a second thought."
“Now Karen, though,” Kenny said, “I think she thinks about you all the time.”
Karen, McFly’s owner, came with coffees and placed them on the table. “Hello Reverends,” she said. “Anything new today?”
“Mike here is going to to tell me some scary stories,” Kenny said, “Beyond that, though, we’re doing ok.”
“It’s a little early for Halloween, but enjoy your stories and your coffee.” As Karen spoke her gaze settled on Mike for a half second longer than Kenny.
“Thanks, Karen,” Kenny said, “Mike thanks you, too.”
“Uh, thanks,” Mike said.
As Karen walked away Kenny said, “Dude, she’s into you. Go talk to her.”
“She is not,” Mike said. “I’m a 43 year-old divorced pastor. I’m not really the object of every woman’s desire.”
“I see the way she looks at you, and you’re selling yourself short. You’re a good looking guy. Stable job. A house. You’re in OK shape. Karen could do a lot worse than you.”
“She could probably do a lot better, too.” Mike said, “So look at this.” He opened the clasp on the folder and took out a few yellowed sheets of paper. “So here’s what I told you about. He mentions many in Thomasville seeing a shape in the sky in the evenings.”
“Yeah,” Kenny said, “That’s the story. Like a big amoeba up in the air.”
“Right. So George Williams says he never saw it himself but that all of Thomasville was filled with fear and dread. They were all sure it was some apocalyptic creature from Revelation. He even says special prayer meetings were held across the town.”
“So, what, they’re all sure a cloud of steam from one of the Perry factories is a monster that’s going to end everything?”
“Who know what it was,” Mike said, “but this is the interesting part. He says, ‘Citizens began to despair that we no longer had any reason for hope. Rev. Cogman hid his congregation’s precious objects in fear.’ This has got to be the treasure.”
“Rev. Cogman was Elm Avenue’s pastor then.”
“Yes. Your predecessor.”
“My Grandpa always said the stories about him were that kids ran in fear of his scowl.”
“Well,” Mike said, “That was the pastoral style then: stern and not much grace.”
Two older men in khakis and sport coats walked past their table. One of them, a man in his 60’s said, “Hello pastors.”
Kenny stood up, “Oh, hi Skip. You know Rev. Norris, don’t you?”
Mike stood up and shook hands with Skip. “Mr. Perry. So good to see you again.”
“And you,” Skip said. He glanced at a watch that was worth half a year’s salary to either pastor. “I’ll see you, Rev. Long, at the meeting in a couple hours.”
“Sure, I’ll be there,” Kenny said.” The two men took a table across the shop.
Mike said, “That was tense. What was that all about?”
“We’ve got a leadership meeting tonight. We’re going to review how things are going and what I’m doing. I’d rather you kick me in the private parts than have to go.”
“That bad?” Mike asked.
“You don’t know the half of it. And the thing I don’t understand is how does a guy in his 60’s still go by ‘Skip?’ Listen, I’d love to hear more of your folk legend about the monster, but I need to gear up for the meeting.” Kenny gulped down the last bit of his coffee.
“Before you go look at this,” Mike said pointing to the yellowed journals. “George Williams says the treasure is hidden in the old church.”