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The funeral for Kim Zinter was the first opportunity for the new Prophet of the Green Dome Church to preach to the flock in his new role. On paper, the services were intended to mark the great restora- tion of Church unity after the schism. In reality, the only member of the Red Wing to attend was Gabriel Shybear, and that was only by ne- cessity, as he was the sole minister of the Last Rite. So it was sim- ply the barn operation of Hansen's "reformed" church all over again, minus the tongues and the sawdust.

Klaus had absolutely nothing to say about Kim at all. He never men- tioned her parents. He never mentioned how she had gone missing for the last two months, and how she had been in quarantine for six months before that. Hansen didn't know the girl, he didn't know her family, nor her friends, nor their families. He had no feelings for her what- soever, other than the fact that he hated her with an abiding hatred for marrying Gabriel Shybear and thus, in his view, she ripped apart the One True Church. So instead of giving anything like a decent eulo- gy, Klaus embarked upon a particularly malicious Bible study.

He said, "Friends, please join me in turning in your Bible to the book of First Kings chapter eleven, verses four through eleven."

Gabriel Shybear stood in front of Klaus in a white robe, but one step down from the elevated chancel platform, holding a large Bible open for the Prophet to read. The Temple Bible was marked with colored tabs. Even arranged this way, some members of the congregation still couldn't see Hansen's face because Gabriel was so tall.

Hansen said, "For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt in- cense and sacrificed unto their gods. Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, 'Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.'"

After this the people in the congregation hoped the Prophet was fin- ished, but then he continued, to their dread. "Now turn, please, to the book of Nehemiah chapter thirteen verses twenty-three through twenty-seven."

There was more page flipping, but it was much less eager this time. Hansen said, "In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language, but ac- cording to the language of each people. And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, 'Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for your- selves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did out- landish women cause to sin. Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?'"

The Prophet went on and on, quoting favorite parts of the scriptures having to do with the "sin" of inter-marriage between races, until most of the Bunners were frantic, desperately wishing he would stop. For hez part Gabriel merely smiled, thinking the White Wing was get- ting the hell they deserved for all their own sins. And it was only getting started because Michael was yet to dish some out.

When the Liturgy of the Word finally gave way to the Final Rite every- one in the pews seemed to be greatly relieved.

The temple organist took her place at the edge of the raised chancel and began to play a Bach chorale prelude, "I Call You, Lord Jesus Christ". The congregation sang the hymn in the original German from the words printed in the hymnal, though very few members still under- stood German anymore. The singing was therefore pretty lousy, but the underlying music was gorgeous.

Mark Felt, sitting in the pews, took note of the musician and remarked that the organist looked remarkably like the deceased.

Sheriff Walker told him the girl playing was Kim's twin sister Robyn, whom he once interviewed on the afternoon of the murder but he had not been able to contact her since. "Shall I hold her after the services?"

Felt replied, "No. I think, Sheriff, that any need to question her further has been entirely overtaken by events."

Wearing white robes in hez role as the Minister of the Final Rite, Deacon Gabriel Shybear stood behind the embalmed body of Kim, which lay face up on the altar, also clothed in white.

Sofie Krause came out of the audience to stand next to him. She was wearing her green school uniform, like she always did when she went to Temple, since it was the most feminine garment she owned. Perhaps it was the only feminine one.

Special Agent Bill Sullivan gave a start. "Sir, that's the girl I've been looking for! Sofie Krause!"

Someone behind him snickered. The way he put it sounded hilarious.

Tolson restrained him with a hand on his arm. "Don't move unless she tries to walk out of the temple. Oh yes, we have her, but my top pri- ority is the artifact."

"Most of you know me," Sofie told them. "If you don't, I'm Sofie Krause. Kim was my close friend. We were the same age, we went to the same expensive school, we went to the same church. Most of you knew her too, and most of you know that she and her momma Claire have had a pretty lousy time of it lately. Her father died in the mines about nine months back. There was some trouble in the Church over that. There's no use rehashing the particulars, except to note there are no more coal mines now. And if you ask me that's not going to do the town a heck of a lot of good from here on out. After that me and Kim both got sick and we were stuck in quarantine for six whole months over in Wyoming, near Cody, and not only were our family and friends unable to visit us, they didn't even know where we were."

Sophie saw Tolson sitting out in the pews and locked eyes with him. "I think it was a gross injustice, and it demands a comeuppance, but for right now that's neither here nor there. It was Kim, mostly, who got us out of that jam, but that's what she always did. That's who she was. In school Kim always called me a scrub, but she never, ever turned me away when I told her I needed help with my class work. Somehow she had a way of explaining things to me better than the teachers did, and that, at least, kept me in D territory. Maybe, if she lived, she would have been a teacher herself one day. You already know she had a voice like an angel, and she could play the piano and the organ. I mean she could really play. It turns out her twin sis- ter Robyn can play pretty good too, as all of you have heard. Thanks for coming here and doing that for us today, Robyn. Me and some of Kim's other friends in band class had dreams of pressing a swing re- cord with her, but now they're dashed flat and that's a terrible shame."

Sofie paused to sharply sob just then. When she recovered she said, "It's even more terrible when you think about why it came to be. It didn't have to be this way. What a terrible, terrible waste!"

Sofie stepped back from the lectern, with tears rolling down her face, but she remained standing next to Gabriel on the chancel.

Gabriel did not follow up with a eulogy of hez own, though he longed to express the love che had for his wife, or even to mention that she had been his wife. But things had already gone overlong with Hansen's sermon, and besides, this was a tough crowd. Gabriel knew any mention of Kim as his wife would simply antagonize the congregation even more than Klaus Hansen's sermon did. Instead he offered a prayer before beginning the heart of the Rite.

"Bless us, O Lord, as today we have gathered together to commit the body of our beloved sister in faith, Kimberly Anne Zinter, directly into your hands. Sown in corruption, let her body be raised in incor- ruption. Sown in dishonor, let her body be raised in your glory. Sown in weakness, let it be raised in power. Sown a natural body, let her be raised a spiritual body as we eagerly look for the life to come when she receives again the many years that were taken away from her on Earth. In the name of your only son Yeshua we pray."

The crowd muttered scattered amens.

"Do you believe, as I believe, that when Prince Melchizedek first came to Father Abraham, he unveiled our most holy relic as a sure sign of our Lord's divinity?"

Some scattered members of the crowd, who knew the correct way to an- swer the Call and Response of the Last Rite, said, "I do."

Gabriel produced the self-same relic then, and held it high for all to see. Clyde Tolson leaned forward in his pew.

"Do you believe, as I believe, that when the Lord our God was made manifest on this very spot, the Island in the Sky, Chief Wanica took possession of our most holy relic, which we name the Golden Gift?"

A more robust response of "I do" came from the congregation. They were catching on.

"Do you believe, as I believe, that when the Kuwapi people were united with the forty pilgrims led by our first prophet, Mark Lange, the bodies of two fallen warriors of the People were committed into the hands of our God by the Golden Gift as a sign of their everlasting union?"

A very hearty "I do!" erupted from the rest of the church.

Then, before the eyes of everyone in the sanctuary, Gabriel ignited the Golden Gift and used the hissing black shaft to make every scrap of Kim's body disappear. He even took shallow swaths of the concrete altar along with it, although Gabriel was usually much more careful not to do so. Periodically a new altar surface had to be poured and cured. Che knew such measures wouldn't matter anymore after this last Last Rite.

Clyde Tolson was frozen briefly as he took in this astonishing sight, but he quickly recovered and gave the signal to go.

Sheriff Roddy Walker, however, did not recover. He sat transfixed, realizing his lifetime of unbelief had been entirely misguided. But that, after all, was the most important purpose of the Last Rite.

The sanctuary of the Green Dome Church was constructed as a hexagon, with aisles forming six spokes. Clyde Tolson, Bill Sullivan, Mark Felt, Dr. Trochmann, Deputy Lurz and Deputy Holsinger descended toward the altar, each man descending his own aisle, making straight for Ga- briel, who saw them and quickly made the Golden Gift disappear into his little ready pocket of space-time.

Clyde Tolson was the first to reach Gabriel, and he tackled him, flip- ping the young nephil face down.

"Where is it, you son of a bitch?"

Gabriel was cuffed, poked, prodded and rolled over and over by four different men.

Some members of the congregation began to stream out of the temple. Others remained in their pews like the sheriff did, bewailing that they had come to full belief only after it was too late.

The ones who had seen the Last Rite once before shouted angry oaths at Klaus Hansen for permitting unbelieving outsiders to witness and hence defile the Sacred Relic. This was the Abomination That Makes Desolate predicted in scripture. The Temple was defiled beyond any redemption. The Church existed no more.

Gabriel had orders from Michael on what to do next: multiply the Gold- en Gift until each one of the B'nei Elohim were armed with one of their. But that order would have to wait.

After the Sheriff recovered and rejoined his deputies they arrested Gabriel and Sofie and took them away.

Tolson and Sullivan knocked over the massive altar in their search for the Golden Gift. They looked for any trap doors in the floor of the chancel where Gabriel might have tossed it. Ultimately they even resorted to tearing up the chancel carpet.

Mark Felt didn't seem eager to help them. He looked at Robyn sitting at the organ, who winked at him. He remembered how she had written a note to him that everything would turn out fine. Now he could see the search would be futile and Tolson would not get what he was looking for. He also saw Klaus Hansen standing there with his mouth wide open in shock at how things were turning out. Felt cuffed his hands behind his back before he had time to offer any resistance and with that Han- sen's shock was doubled.

"Hey, jerk!" Hansen screamed at Tolson. "We had a deal."

Tolson ceased from his labors to look at Hanson and saw how Felt had already cuffed him. Good. Saved him the trouble of doing it himself. He glanced at Sullivan, then dropped the corner of carpet he was hold- ing. Sullivan followed suit. Tolson ceased from his labors with a sigh of resignation. Then he said, "We did have a deal, Klaus. And I don't have the Golden Gift. That means all bets are off, just like I told you."

"Give me five minutes alone with the kid and I'll beat it out of him."

"He's a pretty tough kid," Felt said. "You already tried that with a whip, remember? Gabriel's buddies mightn't like it."

Gabriel and Sofie were hauled down to the station, strip searched, and even body-cavity searched with nurse Ella Fader drafted to do the hon- ors for Sofie. The Golden Gift was not found on the person of either one. After that they were thrown into separate cells. They spoke no words to their captors despite every attempt to intimidate them. In- stead they put on implacably stony faces and conversed with Robyn by way of Doryphone.

In the middle of the night, at an hour selected by Robyn, Gabriel pro- duced the Golden Gift and cut hez way out of his cell through an exte- rior wall of the sheriff's station. Once che was outside che cut Sofie out too.

She looked back and saw how the holes were carved as silhouettes of of people, as though she and Gabriele had escaped by running right through the wall like the cartoon characters did on Looney Tunes. Her own escape hole was in the shape of a girl in pigtails and a dress. "Very funny, Gabe."

It would, in fact, amuse Mark Felt to no end when he saw it in the morning.

Dory drove up in her station wagon just then to pick them up, with Robyn riding shotgun. Dory rolled down a window, pointed over her shoulder and said, "Look!"

Gabriel and Sofie saw the summit of Greendome was on fire, as though it was a volcano. The flames seemed to light up the whole night like a slowly flickering orange moon. Sofie asked, "What does it mean?"

"It means Michael has unleashed a certain B'nei Eloah we haven't met yet," Robyn told her. "One Ricky Morrich, from about thirty years up the timeline. He goes by the nickname Pyro because he likes to play with fire. And the Temple is bye-bye."

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