The Seeing

Publisher: Zondervan
ISBN-10: 0310242371
ISBN-13: 978-0310242376

About the Book

Book 3 of the Soul Tracker series

An evil presence looms over the desert community. Native American legend calls it Tahquitz. The new casino operators call it an opportunity to make money…

Young Luke Kauffmann acquires a pair of strange goggles that gives him glimpses into dimensions around him, where dark, sinister forces exert their powers to influence—and glimmering creatures of light strive to stop them. 

Thanks to the help of a beautiful but quirky techie, Luke increases the power of the goggles until he is thrust even deeper into the spirit world. With their added strength and the help of others, darker secrets are soon uncovered until Luke himself is seduced by the power and pride that the goggles offer. 

It isn’t until the final showdown at Tahquitz’s very lair that Luke and his colleagues learn the deeper truths of spiritual warfare that enable them to destroy the creature’s sinister hold upon the valley.

The Seeing Reviews

Bill Myers novel, THE SEEING, compels the reader to burn through the pages. Cliff-hangers abound and the stakes are raised higher and higher as the story progresses. Intense action, shocking twists!
An entertaining novel, Bill Myers THE SEEING is a great reminder of spiritual warfare and the impact of choice and will. Reminiscent of Frank Peretti’s THIS PRESENT DARKNESS.

The Seeing

The Seeing
Copyright © 2007 by Bill Myers
This title is also available as a Zondervan audio product.
Visit for more information.
Requests for information should be addressed to:
Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Myers, Bill, 1953 –
The seeing / Bill Myers.
p. cm. – (The Soul tracker series ; bk. 3)
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN-10: 0-310-24237-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-24237-6
I. Title.
PS3563.Y36S44 2007
813′.54 – dc22

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New
International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopy,
recording, or any other – except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior
permission of the publisher.

Published in association with the literary agency of Alive Communications, Inc., 7680 Goddard
Street, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80920.
Interior design by Michelle Espinoza
Printed in the United States of America


The guy’s BO made Luke’s eyes water. He had long greasy hair, an eleven o’clock shadow, jeans as brown as they were blue, and a crumpled, stain-riddled Hawaiian shirt. “This your first time to Agua Rancheria?” He sniffed loudly, wiping his nose.

Luke gave a nod and looked out the bus window, hoping to end the conversation.

No such luck.

“You’ll like it. The desert, I mean. Nothing but nothing as far as you can see.” He sniffed louder.

Luke stole a glance just in time to see the guy pinching away a drip of hanging mucus with his hand. His gloved hand. In the middle of June. Proof that the man was not only homeless but a mental.

“And those stars at night, I tell you – ” another sniff – “God must have been having a fine day creating those.”

This time Luke didn’t respond.

The man didn’t notice. “‘Course the casino’s kinda messing stuff up. All that bright light and razzle-dazzle. But get away from it and the place is beau-tee-ful.” As discretely as possible, Luke cupped his hand over his nose and mouth. They’d picked the guy up in Palm Springs about thirty minutes ago. If Luke’s geography was any good it meant he’d only have to endure another five or 6 the seeing ten minutes of his company before stepping off the bus and getting some fresh air.

In truth, the man was only a minor nuisance – the last in Luke’s ongoing campaign to get away from home . . . and Dad.

“You’re smothering me again!”

“I just don’t think being gone all summer is a good idea.”

“Six weeks,” Luke argued, “it’ll only be six weeks.”

“That’s nearly two months.”

“You’ll be in New York half that time.”

“That’s got nothing to do with it.”

“You’re always saying I should get a job, save for college.”

“It’s too far away.”

“It’s two hours. I’m fifteen years old, Dad. Fifteen!” And so they continued. For the most part it had been a standoff . . . until Preacher Man had weighed in. Good ol’ Preacher Man . . .

“Come on, David,” he insisted, while working on a bag of potato chips at the kitchen counter. “Let the boy go.” It was an unusual friendship – a middle-class, whitebread family and an old black street preacher. Then again, considering what they’d been through these last couple years . . . his sister’s death, his dad’s visits to heaven and hell, and later where they literally saw each other’s souls and the spirit world . . . well, maybe it wasn’t so unusual after all.

“You already met Pastor Virgil and his wife.” Preacher Man continued munching. “They don’t come any better. And they definitely need help gettin’ that church of theirs fixed up.”

“Yes, but – ”

“Probably do the boy good. Get him out in some fresh air, doin’ some real work for a change, ‘stead of always playin’ with that computer.”

“What about his eyes?” Dad argued. “He barely remembers to wear his sunglasses around here. What’s going to happen if he gets out in the bright desert sun and forgets – ”

“I won’t forget!”

“You say that now, but – ”

“I won’t forget.”

And so the war continued. It had taken nearly a month to wear him down. Even at that, Luke had to use every weapon known to adolescence – forced cheerfulness, willingness to do household chores (even when unasked), and listening to the man’s perpetual naggings and repeatings without so much as an eye roll.

It had nearly killed Luke, but somehow he had succeeded. He had won. Now he was heading out to a desert community for six weeks to help some old pastor fix up some old church . . . and to finally enjoy a little independence.

The bus turned off the main road and entered the town. As it did, Casino Rancheria filled Luke’s window. It was a monstrous complex of white limestone, giant waterfalls, and fountains complete with roaring rapids and life-sized bronzed replicas of Native Americans in canoes. Portions of ocher-colored pottery protruded from the walls, where mural after mural of desert wildlife had been painted to look like Indian art. And lining the entrance, a dozen Native American heads, twenty feet tall, gazed toward the desert, their faces creased and weathered by the sun.

It seemed everywhere Luke looked he was reminded of Indian culture. And for good reason. According to Pastor Virgil, that was part of the deal when the casino leased the land from a local tribe.

As the bus passed the red-carpeted entrance, Luke noticed a handful of protestors carrying signs and placards reading:


A tanned blond guy in his early thirties was leading them. He shouted things Luke couldn’t quite hear while bored security guards stood nearby. Apparently, none of it really mattered, because despite the demonstrators, hordes of people just kept swarming in and swarming out. Luke reached into his nylon windbreaker and pulled out what almost passed for the broken half of a pair of night-vision goggles – complete with various wires cut back. Although he had trimmed them, he didn’t have the heart to completely remove them.

In truth, he hoped to find a way to make the goggles work like they had for Orbolitz – back when the old guy claimed to use them to see into “higher dimensions.” More importantly, he hoped they would earn him the respect he never fully received. Luke had always felt special . . . chosen. And, if he ever got the things to work, they would definitely help prove his point.

Imagine how different folks would treat him if they knew he could see into the spirit world. It was one thing for those TV preachers and everybody to be jabbering about that stuff, but if he could actually see it . . . well, that would sure get them to sit up and take notice. At the very least he wouldn’t be treated like some stupid kid anymore. He raised the broken goggles to his sunglasses and looked at the familiar smears of light and darkness that, for some reason, only he was able to see. Chances are it was because he’d fried his eyes while climbing that microwave tower, or whatever it was, up in Washington. But it made little difference. The point is, despite Dad’s protests, Luke took them wherever he went. And the more he used them, the more he was able to recognize recurring patterns and formations of light.

It wasn’t much. But being able to see the faint traces did set him apart . . . a little.

This time the smears darted about the casino – particularly in and out of its entrance. He turned and focused on the protestors. Although the smears seemed a bit more flighty and agitated than normal, they acted pretty much the same as they did around any other group. He started to remove the goggles when something caught his eye off to the right of the casino – a jagged peak, flattened on one side, part of the mountain range they’d been following for the last hour.

It had no fleeting smudges of lights around it, and Luke wasn’t surprised. The lights usually just hung around people. Instead, what caught his attention was the very top of the peak. It was covered in a shadow. But thicker than shadow. Not as dense as a cloud because he could still see through it. But it was a specific darkness that rippled and quivered. It seemed to pulse ever so slightly . . . almost as if it were breathing.

Almost as if it were alive.

“Misty! Misty, where are you?”

Pilar slammed the front door to their penthouse suite, the largest at the casino, and stormed across the white carpet toward the hallway and her daughter’s bedroom.

She was not happy.


She arrived just as her sixteen-year-old appeared in the doorway. The girl still wore her sleeping sweats and flip-flops. Her hair was unkempt, as thick and black as her mother’s.

“Oh, hi, Mom.” She sounded too casual. “What brings you home?”

“You were in the Surveillance Room again, weren’t you?”

“What do you mean?” She blinked, pushing up the world’s ugliest pair of tortoise-shell glasses. “You told me I could never go in there.”

“I know what I told you, and you were there, weren’t you?”

“What? Why would I – ”

Pilar raised the small electronic box she’d been carrying, complete with dangling cable.

“What’s that?”

“Security found it attached to the back of their computer.”

Misty took it into her hands. “Hm, I wonder what it’s for?”

Pilar sighed wearily. “You know how the casino frowns upon you hacking into their surveillance system.”

“But, Mom – ”

“No ‘but Moms.’ ”

“Why do you always blame me? You’re always blaming me for everything!” It was the girl’s attempt to go on the offense by playing victim. “It’s like you don’t even trust me.”

Pilar crossed her arms. “Nice try, no sale.” She shifted her weight and noticed Misty doing the same, obviously trying to block her from seeing into the room. “Besides,” Misty quipped, “what do you care? It’s the white man’s casino, and we both know what you think of the – ”

“My personal feelings have nothing to do with it. What you’re doing is wrong, it’s proprietary information, and it makes them nervous. It makes Bianco nervous.” She shifted again and Misty mirrored her action. “What are you doing in there?”

“In where?”

“Misty?” Pilar tried to see past her.

Once again Misty blocked her view. “It’s just video games and stuff.”

“Right, and it’s the ‘stuff’ that’s got me worried.”

“Why are you always so suspic – ” She was interrupted by the howl of a cat. Twirling around, she cried,


She raced into the room, Pilar right behind.

The place was a Radio Shack gone berserk – electronic consoles, gizmos, and gadgets everywhere you looked, except the floor, which was covered in an equal amount of clothes – some clean, some dirty – but all, Pilar knew, would be dumped into the dirty-clothes hamper.

Then there was the cat box. By the pungent odor, she guessed it hadn’t been emptied in a week . . . or two. Stuffed off in the corner was a small twin bed with the mandatory grouping of stuffed animals. But the long table in the center of the room was the obvious focus of activity. A table cluttered with wires, circuit boards, soldering iron, and the innards of a hundred who-knew-whats. Directly behind it, on another table, a dozen different- sized monitors were stacked on top of each other, all glowing.

“Balzac . . . oh, you poor thing!” Misty had scooped the jet-black cat into her arms. “How many times has Mommy told you not to go sniffing around all those mean electrical circuits.”

He definitely looked dazed. And for good reason. As Pilar leaned closer she saw he no longer had whiskers. Well, he did, but they were now melted into little corkscrews. That and the smell of burning hair was a sure sign that the cat had used up a few more of his lives.


“Poor baby,” the girl soothed, stroking him. “Poor Balzac.”

Pilar looked up at the wall of monitors. She moved in closer, not believing what she saw. “Is that what I think it is?”

“I was just – ” “Is that Bianco’s office? Did you bug the manager’s office?”

“Mom, you know something’s going on. I mean, the way he’s got everyone running all over the – ”

“Did you just bug my boss’s office?”

She turned to Misty.

The girl raised her shoulders in a helpless shrug.


Pilar sighed wearily, dropping her head and slowly shaking it. a wave of hot fresh air struck Luke as he stepped off the bus. But he was grateful for it – especially the “fresh” part.

“Praise God, there he is now!”

He looked over to see Pastor Virgil and his wife – he’d forgotten her name – shuffling down the sidewalk toward him. The spunky old-timer wore a Panama straw hat, dolphin- print shirt, leather sandals, and khaki shorts which showed off far too much of his brown saggy knees. Fortunately, his wife was dressed a bit more modestly.

“Good to see you, son.” The pastor arrived, throwing his arms around him.

Surprised, Luke answered, “Thanks, it’s good to – ” he gasped at the old-timer’s strength – “see you . . . too.” They broke apart as Virgil turned to his wife. “Isn’t it good to see him, Fiona?”

“Yes, it is.” She offered her wrinkled, sun-browned hand and Luke shook it.


“Yes, it is,” Virgil repeated, “yes, it is.” Then slapping his little belly, he looked about, beaming. “Welcome to Agua Rancheria. What do you think?”

“It’s . . . nice.”

“Nice? It’s glorious! Now I don’t wanna be spreading rumors, but folks say God Himself has a time-share here.” He flashed another grin, laughing at his joke. By now the driver had opened the luggage compartment under the bus and was pulling out Luke’s bags – all four of them.

“Whoa,” Virgil exclaimed. “These all yours?” Luke nodded, somewhat embarrassed. “Yes, sir.” The old guy whistled. “Didn’t know we were going to have a fashion devo on our hands.”

“Leave the boy alone, Virgil.”

Luke tried to explain. “I wasn’t exactly sure what to wear, I mean out here in the – ”

“It don’t matter, son.” He reached for the luggage.

“No, here,” Luke offered, “let me get that.”

But Virgil was already trying to lift the largest bag.

“That’s way too heavy, let me – ”

“I got it, son, I got it.” With great effort, the little man finally lifted the suitcase. “Fiona,” he gasped, “wanna give the boy a hand with them others?”

“No, please,” Luke protested.

“Nonsense, she’s as strong as a – ”

“Really.” Luke quickly gathered up the other three.

“I’ve got them.”

“Suit yourself.” Virgil turned and staggered up the sidewalk.

“Car’s just a little ways – ”

He was interrupted by another voice. “We’ll catch you later, friend.”

Luke turned to see the man in the Hawaiian shirt stepping off the bus, heading in the opposite direction.

“Uh . . . right.” With hands full, Luke managed a nod.

“One of your Hollyweird buddies?” Virgil teased.


“Uh, no, I just met him on the bus.”

Virgil nodded. “Probably homeless. We get our share of ’em this time of year. Usually aren’t dangerous – long as you don’t get too friendly. We don’t bother them, they don’t bother us.”

The bus gave a belch of black smoke and started pulling away.

Fanning away the fumes, Fiona asked, “So, Luke, how was your trip?”

“Pretty good.”

“That’s wonderful.” Virgil was breathing heavily.

“‘Cause you’re going to need all the strength you got, once we get to working on that church. Twenty hours a day can really tucker a fellow out.”

Luke threw a concerned look to him, then to Fiona.

She smiled. “He’s just playing with you. He calls it – what do you call it, dear? – oh yes, ‘humor.’ ”

Luke smiled. Though he’d only spent a few hours with them when they’d visited Preacher Man in LA, he remembered all too well how the couple communicated.

She continued, “Don’t pay him any mind, Luke. Nobody ever does.”

Ignoring her, puffing harder, Virgil asked, “How’s your dad? And Billy Ray?”

“Preacher Man’s doing great. And Dad, he’s, you know, Dad.”

Virgil flashed a grin over his shoulder. “Still making you crazy, is he?”

“I didn’t know it was that obvious.”

“It’s hard to get much past these old eyes.”

“Right,” Fiona drolly replied.

“It’s true, I see everything.”

“Unless it’s the garbage that needs taking out, or all the repairs that never get done.”

“Selective vision, woman. These eyes see life from a select perspective.”


“Closed and from the recliner.”

“Drip, drip, drip . . . Drip, drip, drip.”

Fiona explained, “That’s his way of reciting the Bible to me.”

Virgil quoted, ” ‘A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.’ Proverbs 19:13.”

Fiona countered, ” ‘If a man is lazy, . . . the house leaks.’ Ecclesiastes 10:18.”

The old-timer frowned, searching for a response. Luke had to smile.

They walked by a large billboard with a picture of the casino he had just passed. Written across its front, diagonally, in big red letters, were the words:


“What’s that about?” Luke asked.

“More of Travis Lawton’s handiwork,” Virgil replied.


“Our city’s newest gift from God – least that’s what he thinks. He’s found a loophole in a local ordinance. Thinks we can force a vote and drive out the casino.”

“Why would he want to do that?”

“Lots of reasons,” Fiona answered. “Prostitution, drugs, corruption. Our overall crime rate has gone up 400 percent since the casino moved in.”

“Is that what the protestors are about?” Luke asked. “I saw some folks picketing in front of the casino.”

Virgil nodded. “Pastor Lawton and his congregation – they’re foolish enough to think if they get rid of the casino, they’ll get rid of our troubles.”

“And you don’t think so?”

Virgil shook his head. “The casino is only the symptom. Lawton and his people are fighting shadows. They’re totally clueless about the real sickness.”

“And that is . . .”


“You’ll know soon enough,” the quirky old man answered as they continued down the street. “You’ll know soon enough.”

“look at this putz.” Peter Bianco sat with his meticulously polished black leather Guccis propped atop a large teak desk. Across the office, a row of surveillance monitors displayed various angles of the casino’s front entrance – shots of the demonstration. More importantly, one close-up shot of their leader . . . Pastor Travis Lawton. “Does this guy ever sleep?”

“Apparently not.” The answer came from Joey Popiski, a balding, middle-aged man with far too much cream filling in the center and wearing way too much Old Spice. He forced a phlegm-filled chuckle. “Not when he’s made you the focus of his personal jihad.”

Bianco stared at the screen without comment. Popiski leaned toward the desk, trying to continue the conversation he had begun earlier. “You wouldn’t have to start me off as a headliner. I could be somebody’s warm-up.” Popiski’s claim to fame had been working on Saturday Night Live in the eighties as a comedian/impersonator. Now, with waning popularity, he had enough clout to get into Bianco’s office, but not enough to be taken seriously. “I don’t even need to have my name on the marquee, at least in the beginning.”

Bianco watched the monitors as his gall continued to rise. Finally, swearing under his breath, he sat up in the chair and reached for the intel folder that Security had prepped on Travis Lawton.

“And then in say, six months, once I’ve established myself, we can talk about better billing and better money.” Across the office, two large men in identically tailored suits – Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb, Bianco called them – continued sweeping the room for electronic bugs.


“And from there, who knows. I mean, if I’m bringing them in, anything goes, right?” Running his hand over his gray buzz cut, Bianco continued flipping through the folder. Nothing. They had nothing on this pain-in-the-butt preacher. Nothing, except . . . He reached for his glasses to take a better look. That’s when Tweedle Dee’s surveillance wand began buzzing.

“Got something, boss.”

He looked up, then rose to his feet and crossed the room.

Tweedle Dee pulled out a small camera, no larger than an M-16 shell, from the side of the farthest monitor.

“That’s it?” Bianco asked.

“Yes, sir.”

He took it into his hands. It even looked like an M – 16 shell. He turned it over until he spotted what had to be the lens. Then leaning into it he shouted, “Not funny, Misty.

Not funny at all!”

He turned and headed for the bathroom.

As he entered, the motion sensor lights flickered on, revealing the white marble walls and gold fixtures. He raised the toilet lid and dropped the camera into the bowl with a rewarding kerplunk. Reaching for the lever, he flushed it, and watched the camera swirl away – a fitting end to his problem.

He stepped from the bathroom and glanced back at the monitors. If only he could dispose of his other headaches so easily.

As Bianco walked back to his desk, Popiski, not the brightest candle on the cake, started where he left off. “I wouldn’t even have to include my agent, not that he does me any good. It could all be under the table until – ”

The intercom buzzed and the secretary’s throaty voice spoke. “Mr. Bianco, your call has come in.” He moved to the phone. “Good, good, put him through.”


” – on a trial basis, that’s all, I’m – ”

“All right!” He turned to the comedian. “All right, you got the job! On a trial basis! Now go on, get out of here!”

“Thank you, Mr. Bianco, I promise you, you won’t – ” He shot a look to Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumb. Taking their cue, they moved across the plush carpet, gently gripped Popiski on either arm, and escorted him toward the door.

” – and if there’s anything I can ever do to return the – ”


At last the fat man was out of his office.

“And shut the doors!”

They softly closed.

Bianco paused a moment, looking at the phone. Then taking a breath to clear his head, he reached for the receiver and turned to the tinted wall of windows. “Senor Velasco.”

He sat on his desk, suddenly all confidence and good humor. “So good to hear from you.”

The voice on the other end was cordial but definitely businesslike. “Good afternoon, Mr. Bianco.”

“How are we doing today?”

“They tell me you are incurring some difficulties.”


“People in your community. There are some who do not wish for your presence.”

Bianco rubbed his forehead. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Demonstrators. They are trying to make you leave.”

“Oh, those.” Bianco forced a laugh as he turned back to the monitors. “Just a handful of religious fanatics.”

“Fanatics who are opposed to your presence?”

“It’s the American way. They’re merely exercising their constitutional rights.”

“I trust such rights will not interfere with our plans.”


“What? No, no, of course not. Believe me, they are a minor nuisance.” Once again he stared at the monitor featuring Lawton.

“I sincerely hope you are correct.”

“Believe me, in a day or two this will all blow over. By the time you arrive, no one will even remember them.”

He glanced at the intel folder on his desk and pulled it toward him.

“You see no problem then.”

“None whatsoever.”

“And should it persist, the problem. You have adequate means to remedy it?”

“Absolutely. You have my word on it.”

“Good. The stakes are too high for us to have any distractions. I think you would agree.”

“Of course, Senor Velasco, of course.” Once again he opened the folder. “I absolutely, one hundred percent, completely agree.”

Luke rocked in the old porch swing, enjoying the night. The town with its glaring casino lights was far enough behind the house that it didn’t affect his view of the stars. They were so bright it was like looking at a photo taken by one of those space satellites.

And so intense he almost felt he should wear his sunglasses. The desert too. Even without the moon, the desert and mountains glowed in bright, blue-white.

Talk about beautiful . . . and peaceful.

Well, everything except the mountain peak. It was hard to explain, but even now he sensed a strangeness about it. So much that he’d gone back to his room and retrieved the broken piece of goggle to find out what he could see. He’d barely pulled it from his pocket and placed the lens against his eye before he heard the screen door groan and Virgil step out.


“Lord have mercy, can that woman cook.” Luke quickly lowered the lens, discretely removing it from view.

“Makes no difference how they sass ya, you find a woman who can cook – ” Virgil slapped his belly as he approached – “and you’ve found yourself a mighty good thing.”

Luke nodded. “I bet.”

Easing himself down on the swing, Virgil asked, “Still got them goggle things, I see.” Caught, he brought the broken piece into view. “What, this?”

Virgil smiled. “And I’m bettin’ they still make your daddy nervous. You called him, let him know you got here okay?”

“Yes, sir.”

“So what’d you see?” He motioned to the goggles.

Luke shrugged. “Nothing. I was just about to check out that mountain over there.”

“Tahquitz Peak?”

“That’s its name?”

“Local Indians have some pretty interesting legends ’bout the place.”


Virgil gave a stretch. “They believe there is an evil spirit living on it – ruling that entire range of mountains, and the Coachella Valley down here.”

Luke turned to him.

“Tahquitz, they call him. In the old days they said he used to sneak into the villages at night and kidnap their virgins – dragging them into a canyon up there and having his way with them.”

“Some legend,” Luke mused.

“If that’s all it is.”

“What do you mean?”


Virgil looked at him, then changed the subject. “I noticed you’re still having to wear sunglasses?”

Another shrug. “Yeah.”

“Doctors still aren’t sure what’s wrong?”

“Not yet.”

“Kinda makes you mysterious, though, don’t it.” Chuckling, Virgil added, “Bet the ladies love it.”

“I, uh, wouldn’t know.”

He laughed and slapped Luke on the leg. “You will, son. Mark my words, you will.”

After a polite moment, Luke returned to the topic. “You think there’s something more than the legend?”

“What’s that?”

“The mountain, you said, there was more.”

Virgil paused, then answered, “You ever hear of something called spiritual strongholds . . . principalities?”


Virgil smiled. “The Bible talks about it.” Looking at the mountain, he quietly quoted: “‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ Ephesians 6:12.”

“You’re talking about the spirit world?” Luke asked.

“That’s how I read it.”

“Like what Dad and I saw up in Washington – all those angels and demons scattered everywhere.”

“Probably. Though I doubt they were really scattered.”

“What do you mean?”

“There seems to be specific territories that the spirits rule over. Regions that they influence.”


Virgil looked at him, sizing him up another moment, before continuing, “Ever go some place and feel things you can’t explain?”

“Like what?”


“Like lust.”

Luke blinked.

“Or maybe some great hunger for power? Or greed? Or maybe just the feeling that something ain’t quite right?”

Luke fidgeted, recalling all too well his feelings up in Washington. “Maybe. A little.”

Virgil held his look, then continued, “I remember the first time I went to LA. I was practically bowled over by feelings of lust. And Washington, DC – not only did I feel lust, but a real desire for power, so strong it was palpable.”

Luke frowned. Until now he’d figured he was the only one getting those feelings about places, that it was just his imagination. But ever since Washington State his impressions had been growing stronger. Ever since he’d heard the words “Be still and know.” The very words that, when he’d practiced them, allowed him to guide Dad and the others to safety.

“Ever wonder why certain areas experience the same problems over and over again? New York with its greed and violence. Jerusalem, the center of all that hatred and war. Even Abu Ghraib with its unspeakable brutalities.”

“Wait, what?”

“Remember that prison in Iraq where some of our soldiers were performing all them vile things on folks?”

“Yeah, sort of.”

“Doesn’t it surprise you that it was at that exact spot, Babylon, where for centuries some of the worst inhumanities ever were performed?”

“You’re saying . . . these spirits, that they control and rule these areas?”

“Not only rule them, but in some instances, they fight to defend them.”

“Defend them? From who?”

“From us.”



With a groan the old man rose and walked to the porch steps. “I’ve tried for over thirty years to take this valley for God. Oh, we’ve gotten a few converts here and there, but it’s always felt like swimming in molasses.”

“And you’re thinking it’s spirits that are stopping you?” Looking to the mountain, Virgil nodded. “Since the time of the Indians this valley has been a playground for sin and immorality.”


Virgil threw him a glance and headed down the steps to the front yard of rock and sand. Luke rose and followed. Only when he arrived did the old man continue.

“Before you were born, this valley, particularly over at Palm Springs, was famous for its promiscuity. This was the place the big Hollywood stars came to gamble, to drink their liquor, to do their drugs, to have their immoral affairs. Later, it became a mecca for college kids on spring break – the same gambling, same alcohol, same drugs, and sex. Then them killings in 1988.”

“There were killings there?”

“Some teenagers. ‘Fore you were born.”

“And now?”

“Now . . . the casino.”

“Is that why that minister guy’s picketing the place?” Luke asked. “He’s trying to stop it?”

“And that’s why he’ll fail . . . miserably.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s using the arm of the flesh.”

“The what?”

“The wrong weapons.”

Luke stared, not understanding.

“Come with me tomorrow. You’ll see what I mean. He’s holding a rally, trying to get all the churches fired up to band together. Come with me and I’ll show you how he’ll fail.”

Luke frowned, not answering.


“So – ” Virgil brightened – “tell me what you see with that goggle thing.”

“I . . .”

“Go ahead. Take a gander.”

Luke looked back to the mountain, hesitated, then dug in his pocket. He pulled out the lens and brought it to his eye. As on the bus, he saw the dark, churning shadow. Only in the bright starlight and without the glare of the sun, he could see more detail. He wasn’t sure, but it seemed to be rotating . . . swirling.

“What do you see?”

“There’s like this black cloud.”


He squinted. Although faint, he saw what looked like tiny tributaries stretching out from the blackness. He’d seen something like them before, in his biology book, like a brain cell or something – its long, hair-thin tendrils reaching out, some all the way down to the valley floor.

“There’s these little tentacle things coming down from it.”

“Coming down from it, or going up?”

“I can’t tell. But they’re shooting back and forth all across the ground. Real jerky. Like skinny electrical currents. They’re all ov – ” Suddenly he gasped. “One’s coming at us!”

He pulled the lens away but saw nothing. No current, no tentacle . . . until a black shadow appeared over their heads.

It was a bird. A crow or raven. And it was diving straight toward them!

Luke cried out, raising his arm. But the thing was too close and he was too slow.

It struck the top of his head, claws and flapping wings. It tried pecking at his face, his eyes. He yelled, ducking, trying to swat it away, to pull it off. Virgil shouted and slapped at it . . . until, finally, the thing flew off, cawing in frustration and anger.

“Are you all right?” Virgil yelled.

“What was that?”

“A crow. A crow that- ” Virgil stopped and looked up.

Luke followed his gaze. The thing had circled and was coming in for another attack.

“The house!” Virgil shouted. “Get into the house!”

Luke spun around and ran up the steps, pausing just long enough to turn and help the old man.

The bird swooped under the far end of the porch and came at them.

Luke arrived at the screen door, yanking it open and stepping behind it just in time to block the creature. It hit the wire mesh, flapping and cawing, trying to tear its way through to him.

Luke and Virgil raced inside, stumbling into the front room, slamming the door behind them. The screen rattled and banged as the bird continued its attack, squawking and cawing until it was apparent it could make no more progress.

Finally, it gave up and took off, cawing as it flew away. “A crow?” Luke cried. “That was a crow?”

Virgil nodded, leaning over, trying to catch his breath.

“How weird was that!”

“Weirder – ” Virgil took another gulp of air – “weirder than you think.”

“What do you mean?”

“When’s the last time . . . when’s the last time you ever saw a crow flying at night?”