Safe Harbour – Part 3
“What the detectives are telling you is the truth, Faith,” Nancy assured her. “The man you called Father was a sick man. The things he told you were not true. Yes, he believed they were, but they were only illusions in his own mind.”
“What do you want from me then?” Faith asked suddenly. “Am I in trouble with your laws as well?
Detective Peterson tried to suppress a chuckle. “No, Faith, you are not in trouble with the law. It will take some time and counsel for you to determine exactly what the truth is. We came tonight to ask if you would be willing to come to the Coroner’s Office to identify the bodies we found? Once we’ve identified them, we can notify their family members. It would also be very helpful to know where the new compound was being built.”
“The compound was being built on the southeast tip of Seal Island,” Faith replied in a monotone voice.
“Thank you, now about the bodies?”
Faith looked from one detective to another. “They were my family, of course, I will identify them, but I only know their covenant names.”
“That will help us initially, and the DNA evidence will enable us to find out their birth names,” Detective Peterson reassured her.
Nancy knelt down in front of her, gently taking holding of her hands. “Is ‘Faith’ your covenant name?”
“What is your birth name?”
Faith closed her eyes and tried to remember. Flashes of a treehouse and a small boy merged into a picture of a striking couple. Somehow she knew they were her parents and the boy was her brother. A voice called out to her faintly…her mother’s voice.
“My real name is Ashley Lenore Denman.”
The detectives wrote her name down but did not press her any further. Within half an hour Faith identified the bodies of Father Sebastian, Brother Jude, Brother Michael, Sister Hannah, and Sister Miriam. All five lay pale and cold on the morgue’s cement slabs. Faith looked upon the face of the man she had called husband for the last time and wondered at the lack of power she saw there. His presence had hushed a room and struck fear into the hearts of many, but now he lay dead and powerless. If he was God’s Chosen, why did he die?
Safe back at the house, she sat on the couch, staring into space. “What is a cult?”
Thomas sat down on the cushion beside her. “A cult is an organization, usually set up by one man who either believes he is God or His son or wishes others to believe he is. It always involves extreme levels of control. Members are forced to cut ties with family and friends, sell all their possessions and give their money to this god figure. Sleep deprivation, starvation, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse are all used to break the wills of the members to bring them into submission. Guilt is always a motivator and the term “sin” is often used to incite that guilt.”
“You don’t believe Father Sebastian was God’s Chosen?”
“No, Ashley I do not,” Thomas replied, reaching for a black, leather-bound book on the coffee table in front of them.
“This is the Holy Bible, God’s Word given to man. In this book, it tells us that there is only one God, the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to the earth over 2000 years ago. He was both God and man, having been born of a virgin. He died a horrible death on a cross, bearing all of our sins, that we might have eternal life.”
“You’re telling me this Jesus was God’s Chosen One?” Faith asked.
“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m telling you.”
“But he died, just like Father Sebastian.”
“Yes, he did, but three days after he died, Jesus rose again to life.”
“That’s what the Bible says,” Thomas replied. “Here, why don’t you read the book of John. That will give you a good overview of who Jesus is. When you’re done, come and find me or Nancy and we will answer any questions you still have.”
As Ashley read, the confusion in her mind began to evaporate. By the time she had finished the story of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection she felt strangely at peace as if this book held the answers to the questions hidden in her heart.
She found Nancy and Thomas sitting around the patio table on the back porch. Nancy passed her a tall glass of lemonade as she pulled up a chair to join them.
“Father Sebastian was an imposter,” Faith said quietly. “I feel so stupid for believing him.”
Nancy reached across the table and touched her hand. “How old were you when you became a member of his group?”
“I was 18, just out of high school. I was a rebellious teenager and I left my parents home seeking fame and fortune. Father Sebastian, I mean Samuel Westman, found me wandering the streets of the city and took me in. He promised to help me get auditions…he lied. That was the first of so many lies that I believed. I was so gullible.” Faith shook her head in disgust.
“It’s not your fault, he preyed on vulnerable people. You mentioned coming to the city ‘seeking fame and fortune’ and ‘auditions’, were you an actress?” Nancy enquired.
Ashley laughed at the thought, “No, I was a singer with dreams of a signed record deal, concert tours, living a lavish lifestyle. I look back on it now with shame because my parents were right and I should have listened to them.”
“What was it your parents told you?” Thomas asked, curious to see how much of her memory was returning.
“My Dad’s a very practical man. He gave me the statistics on the percentage of singers who actually become famous. It was a pathetically low number. I remember thinking he was making it up to discourage me, so I became even more focused on proving him wrong.”
“What was your Mom telling you?”
Ashley thought long and hard. Her memories were sporadic. It had surprised her to remember that her Dad was practical. “My Mom is beautiful in an understated, natural way. She didn’t want to squash my dreams, but she did tell me that I should go to college to have a second job to fall back on, if the singing didn’t work out.”
“That sounds like a reasonable suggestion,” Thomas commented. “How did you react to that idea?”
“I became angry. I thought she was trying to distract me from my dream of being on stage for a boring degree and a desk in an office building. I didn’t understand then and I am not sure that I do now. What I do know is that I love them and miss them. I am so sorry that I left the way that I did.”
The doorbell rang, interrupting Ashley’s train of thought. Thomas went to answer the door and came back into the room with Detective Peterson following close behind.
The appearance of the detective caused anxiety to surge through Ashley’s body. “What’s wrong, Detective?”
Detective Peterson looked at Ashley and smiled. “There is nothing wrong, Ashley. I have come here with some good news. At least I am hoping you will think it’s good news.”
Nancy and Thomas glanced at each other with a hint of a smile on their faces too. Ashley realized that they knew why Detective Peterson was here, but they kept that information from her. She felt hurt and betrayed. Tears began to well up and she quickly looked at the floor, trying to get her emotions under control.
“Ashley, I have a question for you,” Detective Peterson’s voice broke though her rattled emotions.
“What would that be?” Ashley asked in a whisper.
“Would you like to speak to your parents?”
Ashley didn’t even bother looking up, “Why would I? They disowned me years ago. I threw away what I had and there’s no going back!”
“There is forgiveness, Ashley.” Thomas interjected.
“I have told you before, there is no forgiveness for me.”
Detective Peterson knelt down on the floor in front of her. “Honey, are your parents Adele and Ian Denman?”
“They called the station this morning from the airport. They were boarding an airplane and could only talk for a minute.”
“See they are off on a vacation somewhere!”
“No, Ashley, their plane has landed at the airport outside of town. Police are escorting them here. Your Mom was crying with relief that you had been found.”
Ashley looked directly into Detective Peterson’s eyes. She was telling the truth. “It’s been so long since I’ve seen them. I don’t know.”
Ashley’s words were drowned out by the loud clamouring of the doorbell.