The line went dead. And Justine was once again left with her fears.
She hated the mind games these monsters were playing.
Lord I want this nightmare to be over. I want to get back to living, living without fear. I forget what that’s like.
I am scared, scared of everything that is about to happen. I wish I had never stumbled on that place, and what they were doing to those girls. I think I put myself in danger here, and I may have put my family in danger as well.
They know what I saw. I have been getting threats, through email. They are trying to hide who these threats are coming from. But I know it’s them I know they saw what I saw.
Justine couldn’t believe she had been so blind. As she read her sisters words, ten years later, she was starting to see how things went down. Perhaps if she had known what was going on before, her sister would be alive. Perhaps she shouldn’t feel guilty.
Maybe she should just let the past stay in the past. But her sister was murdered, and because of that she could not leave that in the past. She had to find out the answers. She needed to have closure, and more than anything she needed to have her sisters killer behind bars.
Ten years since Brandi was murdered, and still her killer was walking free. None of this made sense to her, how could guilty people, people who caused so much pain be allowed to go free? How could they be allowed to destroy more lives. That is exactly what they were doing.
Justine opened her Bible to Romans 11 searching for comfort in the word. She had barely been able to sleep since she got the call and heard him being taken. She knew the person that had killed her sister now had Bert. She did not want even to begin to imagine what Bert was being put through. She did not want to think that he could be dead, but his mind went there.
11 I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”[a]? 4 And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”[b] 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
7 What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, 8 as it is written:
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that could not see
and ears that could not hear,
to this very day.”[c]
9 And David says:
“May their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
10 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.”[d]
11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!
13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
All Israel Will Be Saved
25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way[e] all Israel will be saved. As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27 And this is[f] my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”[g]
28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now[h] receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[i] knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”[j]
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”[k]
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Justine did find comfort in the word, she always did, but she also knew that she needed to do something. She felt like she was sitting on her hands. She had felt that way since Brandi’s murder, and the fact was she did not like feeling this way. She wanted to be able to put this all behind her, but she would not do that until Brandi was truly put to rest. She had been buried ten years ago, but she wouldn’t be put to rest until her killers paid for their crimes, and were made to stop killing.
The more she looked at the disk and read what her sister had written, the more she did not understand how no one really saw anything. They all knew Brandi was acting strange, but thought it was simply a phase or something. Ten years later, Justine was starting to see the Hell her sister had been going through for the last year of her life. Her fifteen year old sister, who should have been worrying about first crushes, and highschool football screams, but instead was facing this kind of hell.
“Brandi why didn’t you tell us what you were going through? Maybe if you had told us, you could help you. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened.”
Justine did not really want to put the blame on her dead sister. The fact was no one but the killer was to blame. Justine just wanted answers, her parents may have tried to put this all behind them, but the fact was even they hadn’t. They tried to pretend, put on pretenses, but no one could really move on from something like this. You did not just get over someone you loved being so brutally murdered.
“I wish you would have told us Brandi. I wish you hadn’t had to carry a burden like this for so long. I cannot even imagine what you have been going through.”
Lord I need help through this. I know that more than me though Bert needs help. He must be so lost right now, and wondering why this was happening . I know I have witnessed to him many times in the past ten years, but I am praying right now that he takes what I said to heart. I am praying that he makes it through this. I love you Lord, and I thank you.
Justine took a few moments to pray, before putting her Bible away, and turning on the television. She wanted something to block out her thoughts, but the fact with nothing was going to help with that. She wanted to feel less alone, but the television wouldn’t do that. She needed Bert to come home, to be safe, get her sisters journal, and take it to the police. And wait for justice to be done
Thank you Lord, I am feeling so alone, I have so many questions, but I don’t have enough answers Lord. I love you Lord, and I thank you.
She lay on the floor, her once blonde hair, red with blood. The damage unlike anything I had never seen before.
My sister was dead. My fifteen year old sister, shot execution style, and I had come home to find the carnage. I was scared of course, but more than anything I felt sick.
Who does this to a fifteen year old?
I had come back from morning classes, had a three hour break between the next class, and wanted to go home, get a bite to eat, but I did not imagine this. I did not imagine coming home to a dead sister, and having the last picture of her to be one so gruesome.
Justine could not get that day out of her mind no matter how hard she tried. She could not erase the horrific image from her eyes, but she doing her best to move on from it. Ten years later it was still strong, still unimaginable. Now Bert was at the hands of the monsters, the monsters that had done such horrific things to her sister.
Lord please keep him safe I can not face another funeral, someone I love dying. I do not want to have to another funeral Lord. I don’t think my heart could deal with that. It was shattered when my sister was murdered, I don’t know if it could take anymore.
Justine thought to herself how some people thought 10 years was a lifetime, but the ten years from her sisters death seemed like yesterday. The pain was very real, she was healing, emotionally, but she would never completely get over her sister being murdered, and what she had saw that night. You just don’t get over something like that.
It was hard to wrap her mind around all that was happening, and how Bert was connected to all of that. Right now she did not have time to worry about that though, instead she had to worry about how to get Bert away from those monsters, and still keep her parents and herself safe. She knew she was in danger. Someone was following her, that Black SVU, seemed to follow her wherever she went. The vehicle remind her of the cars the FBI used, but she knew this was not the FBI. Someone dangerous was after her, her sisters killer. The fact was they had been after her for years, the only reason they hadn’t killed her yet, was that journal. Right now she had no idea where that journal was.
She had finally made her way back to the police station, with the disk, after she had transferred the contents onto her computer, because something compelled her to read her sisters words. It was almost a way of bringing her back to life for a short time. Of course it was not the same thing, she missed her sister like crazy. Had for the ten years since she had found her sisters body, in the bedroom. Justine still could not go into her sisters room, without that image going through her mind. About five years ago they had changed her old bedroom into a study, but that would never stop Justine from seeing her sister laying dead on the floor, shot by some monster.
“Brandi I can not even begin to imagine what you went through the last moments of your life. How afraid you must have been! I wish I had been able to save you, to help you in someways. I still hold guilt for not being able to do that.”
One day Justine would meet her sister again in paradise, she believed that with her whole heart, but for the moment, she had to settle for talking to the air as if her sister was there. Somehow it made her feel a little better, so she did it. Just not in front of others.
When Justine had left the disk with the police, she had been scared, because of the SVU following her, but that was nothing compared to the fear she imagined her sister must have felt the night she was killed, or the way Bert must feel now.
Lord I love Bert, I really do, please don’t let anything happen to him.
Maybe she should have never told him about her need to find her sisters killer. If Justine hadn’t Bert may not be in danger now. She couldn’t live on what if’s and should have, and shouldn’t have’s, none of that would change the situation. She needed to focus on how to get Bert home safely, they could deal with everything else later.
Lord why did I have to drag him into this?
The fact was she hadn’t drug him in, he had kind of inserted him into the equation. And in doing so they had fallen in love. Justine was sure that was probably not the end goal, but that was what had happened.
You don’t just plan on falling in love. Sometimes it just happens, but right now Justine worried that there fallen in love, could have put Bert in danger. Could that be the reason they had gone after Bert?
Had they found the journal?
Was Bert Okay?
Justine had so many questions, but not enough answers. She wanted to know Bert was safe, but how could she know, if he was safe or alive, or even where he was.
Justine did what she often did when she felt alone, full of questions. She opened her Bible and spent some time in the word. This time she turned Hebrews 6 and began reading.
6 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,[a] and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites,[b] the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.
4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age 6 and who have fallen[c] away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. 7 Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8 But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
9 Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation. 10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
The Certainty of God’s Promise
13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”[d] 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
After a few minutes in the word and prayer, she went back to the files she had downloaded onto her computer. It was a miracle, these files that were over ten years old were even readable, but she was grateful they were. She was hearing from her sister, even though her sister had been dead for ten years.
Thank you Lord for technology, for allowing me to better understand what Brandi went through in the last year of her life. Thank you for letting me be able to use technology, to try and make better sense of things, not that having your sister murdered when she was fifteen ever makes any sense.
Justine still fought with the images of that day. She still had nightmares, who wouldn’t? It had been getting better, but on the tenth anniversary of her sister’s death, they had come back with a vengeance.
There was blood, so much blood.
It stained the carpet, caked on her head.
I had never seen anything like this.
Instinctively I knew my sister was dead. Murdered. I just did not understand why.
I won’t ever understand why.
How do you ever understand murder? Especially the murder of a fifteen year old girl? It had only been a few years ago that she and I were playing dolls. I was older, but I played dolls with Brandi, because that was what she liked doing.
Now she was murdered.
Dead, her sister was dead, only fifteen and she was dead.
Someone she knew had to do it, she would not let a stranger in. The thought was sobering. Someone they knew had killed Brandi.
But who did she know that would kill her?
Justine came back to reality when her phone rang. Came back to now, instead of the past.
Lord let it be Bert, let me know it’s going to be okay. I need to know he is okay Lord. I am not ready to face more pain.
Justine looked at the clock. It was late, her parents wouldn’t call her this late, if it weren’t important. Maybe something had happened, she certainly prayed that wasn’t the case. She worried about her parents often.
She picked up the phone, not knowing who would be on the other end. Praying for a familiar voice.
“We have him, so you better do what we say. We want that disk, and we want the journal.”
“I don’t know what your talking about.”
“Yes you do, what do you take me for stupid? I will make your boyfriend die, the way I made your sister if you don’t do what I say.”
There’s a tap on my phone Lord, please let the police be able to trace this call.
“Why are you doing this to me? What did my sister ever do to you?”
“She stuck her nose where it didn’t belong.”
“She was only fifteen.”
Justine heard a gunshot in the background. She hadn’t told him what he wanted to know. Was Bert dead now? She could only pray he wasn’t.
“You shot me.” Bert screamed.
“I warned your girlfriend, she is going to be next.”
“You have me, why do you need her?”
“Because I don’t want her finding out what her sister found out. I am not going to be put away.”
Oh yes you will if I have my way. Lord help me to bring this man down.
“This is only a taste of what’s to come if you do not start talking.”
“I have nothing to say.”
“You’re a fool.”
“No you are the fool, thinking that you can get away with killing people to get what you want. Killing young girls because you are afraid of being found out, your nothing more than a coward.”
By this time Bert was in so much agony, that tears were coming down his eyes. He had been shot in the knee cap, likely not a fatal injury, but he was in agony. It wasn’t only the bullet, but all the beatings. The fact was he did not know how much more he could take. He wanted this to be over, wanted to be back with Justine, and forget all of this. Of course this wasn’t something he was likely to forget.
He had to fight though, fight for himself, but more than that he had to fight for Justine. He needed to somehow make sure he was safe, but how could he do that, when a monster had him captive. He somehow needed to break free, but he was hurt, and he had no way out.
Lord you are going to have to help me get out of this. I can’t do this alone. I love you Lord, I know I haven’t showed you that, for awhile I denied your very existence, but Lord now I know your real. I wouldn’t have made it this far if it weren’t for you Lord. You have given me the energy to get me this far, and I appreciate that Lord. I appreciate everything you have done for me.
Justine had heard the gunshots, Bert knew his captor had called Justine, he had no idea where he had gotten the number, he had dumped his phone, and brought nothing with information about her on it. He had to keep Justine safe, but somehow the monsters had found her number anyway.
This is all so unreal. I feel like I am in a plot to some made for tv movie, or something, but this is really happening. And I am feeling real fear Lord, unlike anything I have ever felt.
Bert had no idea how he was going to get out of this, but one way or another he was determined to do just that. He did not want to sit around, waiting to die. He had to figure out away to start fighting back.
This monster couldn’t watch him twenty four seven, he had to leave him sometime. It was time that Bert started thinking because the fact was if he didn’t figure something out soon, he would be dead. He was as certain of that, as he was of his name.
I need your help to do this Lord. I really can not do this on my own. I know that now, I am just sorry it took me so long to realize that Lord. It took me this to realize that. Keep Justine safe Lord. I could not handle anything happening to her. I need her Lord, and I need you. Thank you.
Bert sat in silence for awhile. Listening as the monsters in the other room made plans, and talked about how to get rid of him. He wanted to be able to find something and hit him over the head, but he was bound and was not going anywhere right away. He was going to figure something out though, and pray it did not get him killed. Actually death would have probably been preferable to living in the kind of fear, these monsters were putting him in. It would have been better, than being tortured the way he was being tortured, the mental torture was worse than the physical.
They were playing mind games with him, seeing how far they could bend him before he broke. Bert was staring to see that, and if he knew what they were doing, perhaps he could outsmart them. Play them at their own game. He was going to do his best, to make sure he got out of this okay, that he got reunited with Justine. He loved Justine, and he wanted a chance to explain things to her. Justine deserved an explanation and so much more.
Lord please give me a chance to explain things to Justine. I love you Lord, and I love her, and I am going to need a second chance. I know I probably screwed up, in fact I know I have for the past ten years I have been lying to Justine, lying by omission and I know she deserves better than that. I need your help Lord.
“You are going to spill it now. Where is that journal, and that disk?”
“I told you I didn’t know, that hasn’t changed.”
“And I told you I know your lying. I am going to have your girlfriend shot.”
“You’re a coward going after woman the way you do.”
“You are in no position to call me a coward.”
Another shot fired. Ricocheting off the ceiling. Bert was helpless to do anything. All he could do was pray that he wasn’t hit. He was not about to die this way. He wasn’t going to give the monster that kind of satisfaction. He had to fight, for Justine’s sake he had to fight. Justine was going to need to have him explain things to her, and he could not do that if he were dead.
Lord is Bert safe?
Is he hurt?
I have so many questions Lord, but no answers.
Justine was still trying to process everything. Trying to understand what was going on. She was going to wake up from this nightmare. Right?
Only this wasn’t a nightmare, and Justine knew that, this all tied to her sisters death ten years ago.
Ten long years since she had come home to find her sister shot execution style in her bedroom. By an unknown monster, only now it was looking more and more like it was somebody they knew.
But who would kill a child, a girl of only fifteen?
She had never imagined something like this would hit so close to home until it did.
Ten years ago. She had been faced with the fact that bad thing did and could happen to people you loved. It had happened to her sister.
Murdered. Even now that word was hard to swallow.
She wanted to think of something else, anything else other than this. She wanted to clear her mind for a few moments, so Justine did what she so often did, when she needed to get away. She turned to her Bible, at least this way she was growing closer to God.
Justine opened her Bible to Galatians 5…
5 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!
Life by the Spirit
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[c] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Justine felt better after reading the word. She was thankful for what the good Lord gave her the strength she needed to get through this, even though at the moment she did not exactly feel like she was getting through it. She just felt very lost and alone, and afraid. Afraid more for Bert than herself.
Lord let Bert be okay, let him make it through this Lord. I do not want to lose him, I am not ready to let him go.
After she finished reading the word, and praying for Bert she decided to call the police station. She wanted to see if they had gotten anywhere on the case. It did not matter that it had been less than 48 hours since, she had dropped off that disk, she still needed to know. She had been feeling helpless for the past ten years, she wanted to start taking her life back.
Justine was still scared though, scared of the black SVU, that was following her whenever she left the house. She had called the police, but nothing could really be done. She just prayed she did not become a victim like her sister had. If they thought she knew something the people that had killed her sister and were holding Bert hostage, would have no problem with killing her. She knew these people were heartless.
I want to make it Lord. I want to get out of this in one peace. I want to get on with my life Lord, but more than anything I want Bert to be safe. Please don’t let them hurt him, let him make it out of this okay Lord. I love you and I thank you.
A few seconds after getting off the phone to the police station, she heard her window shatter. Justine knew who it was right away, it was the same people who were following her around in the SVU, but nothing was being done about it. The last time she had felt this scared was when she had found her sister.
The fact that she had no one she could do to about her problems, was hard enough. Of course she had the good Lord, and she turned to him, but Justine wanted to be able to talk to someone. She would normally talk to Bert, she felt easy opening up to him, but they had him now, the monsters who had killed her sister. She was sure it was them, it was all tied back to her sisters death, ten years ago.
We must be getting closer to the truth, if they are taking chances like this. If they have taken Bert. For ten years there had been nothing, at least in the way of personal attacks, and now this.
When Justin got to the living room, she saw her front window had been shattered, by a large rock, with the words your next painted on it. She called the police praying that maybe now something would be done. She was getting tired of sitting on her hands. It felt like everyone was acting like she was panicked and maybe she was, but she had a good reason to be. Someone was trying to kill her.
This is like a nightmare Lord. A horrible nightmare. I am tired of living like this. I love you Lord, and I thank you.
Justine called her parents to make sure they were okay. She did not want to tip them off, that anything was wrong. They did not need to worry needlessly, and she did not want to put them in any more danger than they were already in. If something she did brought danger to her family she would never be able to forgive herself, but she could not just sit around doing nothing. She needed to find Bert, and then she needed to make sure her sisters killer did not see the light of day again. The killer deserved to be locked up in a prison cell for the rest of their lives. In solitary, where they were forced to think about what they had done. Death was to easy for a monster like this.
I need your help to get out of this Lord. I love you and I praise you, but right now I really need your help. Thank you Lord for getting me this far, but I need the strength to go farther.
When her Mother answered and assured her everything was good. They would be going out to dinner later that night, and had invited Justine along. Perhaps going would be a good idea, she needed to get out of the house, but it was hard to think about doing anything normal, when the monsters who killed her sister had Bert. At times she felt like she was living a nightmare. But this was reality, she could not wake up from this nightmare, because it was reality.
“Are you okay Justine?” Her Mother asked.
“Yes I am.” She said, but the truth was, she knew her Mother knew better than that. She was far from okay. She was worried about the safety of Bert but she could not tell her Mother about that without endangering her.
“Just pushing a deadline.” She said. It was only partly the truth. She was due to have an article in, but that was not what was worrying her. She was scared for her life, and the life of Bert.
Maybe she should tell her Mother, tell her about everything. Maybe it would be better that way.
I don’t know what to do Lord, the fact is I am scared. I know I shouldn’t be scared, or maybe I should be, the fact is I do not know what I should or shouldn’t be. I just want to get on with my life. I want to live a normal life again. I am tired of living in the shadow of my sisters murder. I feel so bad for what happened to her. I won’t ever be able to get the picture of my sisters murdered body out of my mind. I found her Lord, and my heart still breaks over that. I am still trying to make sense of this Lord. I don’t think it is possible to make sense of murder though, especially like this. I love you Lord, and I thank you for hearing my prayers.
“Justine I have seen you when you were rushed because of a deadline this isn’t that.” Her Mother said. “You’re an adult, so I am going to leave it be, but please know you can turn to me if you need anything.” She was reassured. The fact was though she was afraid for her parents, if she told them they would be in danger.
“I am okay Mom. I guess I am just letting things get to me.”
“Does this have to with Bert? I haven’t seen him around for a few days.”
“He went away on business I am expecting him back any time now.”
“Good, you seem a lot happier when he is around, and he really does seem like a good guy.”
Mom you don’t know the half of it, the truth is, neither do I. I don’t know what’s going on, all I know is that Bert is in danger, and I am afraid for him. I know I should leave it in your hands Lord, but I really am terrified, and I guess it is starting to show. I don’t know how much more I can take Lord, I need your help. In Jesus name amen.
Justine’s lines now had a tap on them, in case Bert should call. More than anything she wanted Bert to call. Perhaps if he did they could trace the call, and get the location to where they had Bert. She wanted more than anything for the cops to find Bert, and get him to safety, and to see the monster who had killed her sister and now taken Bert locked away forever.
When the monsters who had taken her sisters life and destroyed her family were taken away, then maybe she could get back to living a normal life. She wanted to live a normal life. Not live in constant fear.
To calm her fears once again Justine turned to her Bible, searching for comfort in his word. Today she turned to Isaiah 43:
Israel’s Only Savior
43 But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush[a] and Seba in your stead.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
8 Lead out those who have eyes but are blind,
who have ears but are deaf.
9 All the nations gather together
and the peoples assemble.
Which of their gods foretold this
and proclaimed to us the former things?
Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right,
so that others may hear and say, “It is true .”
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.
11 I, even I, am the Lord,
and apart from me there is no savior.
12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—
I, and not some foreign god among you.
You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.
13 Yes, and from ancient days I am he.
No one can deliver out of my hand.
When I act, who can reverse it?”
God’s Mercy and Israel’s Unfaithfulness
14 This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“For your sake I will send to Babylon
and bring down as fugitives all the Babylonians,[b]
in the ships in which they took pride.
15 I am the Lord, your Holy One,
Israel’s Creator, your King.”
16 This is what the Lord says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
17 who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21 the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.
22 “Yet you have not called on me, Jacob,
you have not wearied yourselves for[c] me, Israel.
23 You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings,
nor honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with grain offerings
nor wearied you with demands for incense.
24 You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me,
or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins
and wearied me with your offenses.
25 “I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more.
26 Review the past for me,
let us argue the matter together;
state the case for your innocence.
27 Your first father sinned;
those I sent to teach you rebelled against me.
28 So I disgraced the dignitaries of your temple;
I consigned Jacob to destruction[d]
and Israel to scorn.
The last few days since Bert’s capture had been crazy, it felt like she had no time to just spend on doing normal things her mind was on Bert 24/7. She was in love, and a monster had him. She did not even want to think about what she would do if something were to happen to him. She did not want to take her mind to that place. She had to believe that Bert was going to be okay, that one way or another they were going to make it.
They had so much to talk about when Bert was freed from those monsters, so many things to set straight. She wanted to know why he had lied to her all these years, but she also needed to tell her how she felt about him. The fact was she wanted to Mary the man.
I am in love Lord, it took me a long time to realize that, but I really am in love. I want to live for you Lord, so I cannot Mary him if he is not a Christian, but I do love you Lord. I praise you, and I thank you. I know you will help me to see what is right for me. I really know I have been asking a lot of you lately Lord, but you are an all powerful Lord, and I want to praise you for that. I want to praise you for all you have given me,
Justine did not like to be so evasive to her parents the way she had been for the past week and a half. By now they knew that something was going on, they had been contacted by the police. But Justine did not really go into details, she did not really know any details to go into. She longed to know more herself, but it was hard when nothing was known. She had not heard from Bert’s captors in days, and she could only pray the unthinkable had not happened. She was in no way ready to face another loss. She did not want to let her mind go there, but it had, and she hated to think about it.
“I’m sorry Mom, I know I should have told you everything, but I really couldn’t.”
“I understand sweetie, but I want you to be careful.”
“I am being as careful as I can.” Justine promised. Her Mother did not have to finish the statement, because she knew it was because she could not face buying another child.
“I know you are sweetie, I do not know why you didn’t tell us sooner.”
“I was trying to protect you and Dad.”
“By keeping us in the dark sweetie. I would have broken if something happened to you.”
“I know Mom, I really am sorry.”
“Is Bert okay?”
“I want to say yes Mom, but the truth is I don’t know.”
“Your Dad and I are praying.”
“Thank you Mom, that means more than you know.”
“I love you Justine, I do not want anything happening to you. It about killed your Father and I when Brandi was killed. You kept us going.”
“I think it shook all of us Mom, it made us realize just how fragile life is. I still am affected by what happened to Brandi.”
“I know you are sweetie, everything you do is driven by that. I can see that.”
“I wish it weren’t that way Mom, sometimes I really wish it weren’t. I wish I hadn’t come home to find Brandi the way I did, or those monsters hadn’t got her, but they did, and even now I feel so guilty about that.”
“You have no reason to feel guilty sweetie. What you went through is hard. I know in a way it was worse for you, because you found her. I wish you hadn’t saw what you saw, but you did, and I know that makes it hard. I don’t know if I could be as strong as you are.”
“Mom I don’t really feel all that strong, even ten years later, what happened makes me feel so broken. I wish it hadn’t happened. I wish I had come home earlier.”
“If you had Justine, then we may have had to bury two daughters. Your Father and I wouldn’t have made it through losing both of you.”
“I know Mom, I just wish I could have done more.”
“We all do sweetie, but for some reason Brandi is with the Lord now. I know we will see her again one day, and that gives me comfort.”
“It gives me comfort too Mom. I wouldn’t make it, if it weren’t for that fact. And I don’t know if I am going to be able to make it through this.”
Lord thank you for giving me such wonderful parents. They have helped me through so much, and now they are helping me through this. I love you Lord, and I thank you for all you have given me. I love you Lord, and I thank you.
“I am glad you made it sweetie, your Father and I really love you. You know that. I know it seems we have all grown more distant in some ways, but our love for you has never changed. If we ever made you think that. I love you Justine, and I am going to do my best to help you in anyway I can. I know I didn’t want you digging up what happened, but I know now your right, we have to look into what happened to your sister to find the answers, and to make sure the monsters who did this pay. I don’t want these people hurting anyone else.”
“Thank you Mom for understanding, I am sorry that I had to be so evasive with you at first. I just really thought I was protecting you and Dad.”
“Just remember sweetie, we never want you to have to go through this alone. We want you to know that no matter what we are your parents, we love you and we want to do everything we can to help you.”
“I know Mom, and I am sorry I did not give you that chance until now. I just did not want to upset you. I remember how upset you got when I told you I was going to look for Brandi’s journal.”
“I was just afraid, afraid that you would be hurt or worse.”
“I understand that now Mom. I guess I just really wasn’t thinking it through at the time.”
“It’s okay sweetie, let’s just start over. If you need me, I just want you to remember I am here for you, and the same is true for your Dad.”
“I know Mom, and I appreciate that more than I can tell you.”
“I know you do sweetie, and we appreciate you too.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
There was blood dripping from him.
Was the blood his, or his captors?
Had he killed them, or was he dying?
He needed to get out of here, but he had been shot and barely could move, and he did not know if his captors were still alive.
If they weren’t dead by now, then surely they would come after him, and finish him off.
Lord I don’t know what’s going on, if I killed them or not, but I need the strength to get out of here, and get help. I know I need medical help but before that I need to get to the police. I need to make sure Justine is okay. I can not bear to think about what might be happening to her, how afraid she might be. Lord I need strength.
Bert had done more praying in the past few days then he had in his entire life. He was in a way growing closer to God in the midst of this tragedy, this craziness. He was thankful something good was coming out of all this craziness, but none of that would matter if he was dead. He had to make it out of this nightmare alive, and talk to Justine. He owed Justine that much.
Lord I need your help to get out of this. I need to get back to my life, and I need to see those monsters put away. The things they did to Justine’s sister and all those other girls. Forgive me Lord for not speaking up sooner. I love you Lord, and I thank you.
Bert was tired of sitting on his hands, feeling helpless. He knew he had to be careful, but sitting around waiting to die wasn’t exactly being careful, it was giving up. He did not want to give up, he had to much to live for. Justine came to mind. He loved her, and he needed to tell her how he really felt about her.
I wish I had the faith Justine has Lord. I wish I could just pray, and believe everything was going to be okay, but I have so many questions, more questions than I can even put into words. Justine has such an absolute faith in you Lord, and I still have so many questions Lord. I really don’t know much of anything. Thank you Lord for listening to me.
Bert managed to crawl out of the room, each move caused agony, but he had to get out of here. He had found a phone and dialed the police, but he did not know when they were coming. He could hear someone stirring, and he felt the fear run through him, but he could not give up. He was going to get out of here, or die trying.
He couldn’t help but wonder what Justine was doing. How she was doing? He wanted to be with her, and he was doing everything in her power to make sure that he got out of there, if he did not he would certainly die trying.
Bert had no intention on dying at the hands of these monsters. He was going to make it, and tell Justine of his new found relationship with Christ, and eventually after he explained everything, he would someone find the courage to pop the question, and pray that Justine said yes. If she did not, he would try to understand, especially after all the lies he had told her. The half truths, maybe she would be afraid to love him.
He could hear stirring, and moans, were they his own, or were the monsters he shot starting to come through?
He was tired and weak, not knowing if he could make it, without alerting others, without waking them up. If they woke up, he would be in danger.
He was already in danger, but at least with them unconscious he had a chance to get help.
Perhaps he could lead the cops to them.
He would refuse treatment until he could do just that, or at least make sure they knew exactly where to go.
He really did need to get to a hospital, if he wanted to make it through this.
Bert had been carrying so much fear, and burden before he gave his heart to the Lord. In a way he was thankful that he had the wake up call that had drove him to the arms of the Lord, but it was frightening. Frightening being stuck in a house with monsters who wanted to kill you. Bert was not ready to die, he was ready to live. Ready to live for the Lord, and ready to show Justine how he really felt about her.
The fact was he was in love. Head over heels in love, to the very person he had been deceiving the person he loved. He hated the way he had been lying to her. He had tried to rationalize it at first, but now he knew he should have been honest with her from the start. He should have told her what he knew, but he knew that he had hurt her. He had hurt her in the very ways he had been trying to protect her.
Forgive me Lord for lying to Justine the way I did, and help her find it in her heart to forgive me. I know I do not deserve forgiveness for the way I was treated. I love you Lord, and I know I do not deserve all that I am asking for, but it is not for me but for Justine she has been hurt enough in her life, and I know I was some of the cause of that hurt. If she and I are not meant to be, please show me that Lord, but I really have fallen in love with her, and I want to be able to spend the rest of our lives together. I don’t know how she will feel about this Lord, so I ask that you please help her. In Jesus name Amen.
Justine felt better now that she had told her parents what was going on. She hated keeping secrets from them, and now she was starting to see they really did need to know. Perhaps not telling them had not been the safest of ideas, at least this way they could be prepared if the monsters did come after them. Perhaps if Brandi had been more prepared she would still be alive.
She felt a little better, but the fact was Justine was still afraid. Afraid of what was happening to Bert. She hated not knowing if he was dead or alive, if those monsters had killed him or not. She did not want to lose him, the fact was she loved him, and if everyone came out of this in one piece she was going to tell him exactly that.
As she so often did Justine turned to the word for comfort, for understanding. She could not get through this without the Lord. And she wondered how Bert was managing, maybe something positive would come out of this hell? Maybe he would see his need for Christ’s love, and stop trying to act is he was invincible?
Today she read from Romans 12, once again finding comfort in the word.
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Humble Service in the Body of Christ
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love in Action
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Justine was thankful she had taken the time to explain things to her parents, and thankful that no matter what they had her back. She knew she was blessed to have such caring parents. After Brandi was murdered they had been a bit overprotective, but considering what everyone had been through she couldn’t really blame them. Whenever she was blessed with children, if she was blessed with children, she would probably be the same way. She knew that even idyllic lives came to an end when violence entered the picture.
I don’t know if I will ever understand the hate and the violence in this world Lord. That is what makes me almost afraid to have children of my own, but I have spent my life wanting a family. I would name my first daughter Brandi, after my sister Lord, as a way to let her legacy live on. I know you will help me to see what is best for me. I love you Lord, and I thank you.
There were a lot of things Justine wasn’t sure of in this world, but the one thing she was certain of was God’s love. Despite everything that she had been through she had never questioned God’s love. She may have questioned why he had let her sister die, but she had never really questioned his love. Somehow he had always got her through the most difficult times including her sisters death, and now he was getting her through this. Somehow she had to believe that Bert was going to make it, that he somehow got away from those monsters, and that justice would be served. She had no choice but to have faith, because without faith she would nowhere.
Justine was thankful for the faith she had, the strength to see her through. She needed that strength to get through this, this hell. Justine was glad that she had faith, glad that she was not alone in this battle. She wanted to live her life for the Lord no matter what came her way, and she was trying to do that. Even after her sister was murdered she tried to stay strong in faith, but the truth was sometimes it was hard, very hard. She had so many questions, and no real answers. Figuring out why someone killed an innocent girl was impossible. It just made no sense. Neither did what they were going through now, but she had to believe God’s hand was in this, that he was watching out for Bert. She wanted to believe in this horror Bert had realized his need for God.
After reading her devotions Justine booted up her computer, and began reading from her sisters computer entries. It was a journal of sorts, not as detailed as her diary, but it did give Justine some insights on what Brandi had gone through the last year or so of her life. The year before she had so brutally been murdered.
It’s getting to be Christmas time, and I used to love this season, and all it stood for, but now I am just so over taken by fear of what’s going to happen to me, fear of someone catching me for what I saw, that I don’t know if I can really celebrate. I should be worrying about dances and first dates, and things other Sophomores worry about, but instead I am afraid, afraid for my very life. I saw something I should not have seen, something so sick I can’t even begin to describe it other than to say, no one should have the right to sale a person especially a child like they were a piece of property. I thought slavery went out long ago, but it’s still happening and it makes me sick.
People I once thought I could trust, I am no longer sure of. This little town is full of dark secrets, secrets that all to often end in death. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I wish we could just move away, but I am afraid these secrets would follow me. All I know for sure is that, no matter what happens I have to someone keep my family safe, but how am I going to do that if I am afraid for my very life?
I know they are capable of murder, these monsters. I saw them dispose of a body. I called the cops and left an anonymous tip but I am afraid of it getting back to me. Afraid for my life, but not only my life, but my families as well.
I saw them throw away a person, like she was nothing more than a doll to be tossed aside when they were done playing with her. She was probably younger than I am, though I am sure she had seen much more than I could even imagine. I pray I never have to see anything like this again, but I am afraid it’s going to happen again and again. If they can do this once what’s going to stop them from doing it again?
Justine keeps asking me what’s wrong. Why I am acting the way I am, but I can not answer her, I don’t even know how to put this into words, and I am afraid for her, for Mom and Dad. The less they know the better. I don’t want to put them in the kind of danger I am, although I am afraid I may have.
I just don’t know what to do Lord. I know I am afraid more afraid than I have ever been in my life. Things like this aren’t supposed to happen in a place like Emerald Lake, we are supposed to be safe. We are supposed to live the idyllic life here, but that is far from the case. Especially if you are a young girl on the wrong side of the tracks. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain these parents must be feeling.
I can’t even begin to imagine what my parents would feel if something happened to me.
It scares me just to think about.
I feel like those carefree days have been ripped away from me, and all because I saw something I needed to see.
It wasn’t like I went out looking for trouble, but it found me anyway.
Justine couldn’t believe how prophetic her sisters words were. She had faced the fate of the girl she had seen tossed away like trash, but at least Brandi had, had the chance for a proper burial. As far as she knew Justine did not think the same thing happened for the girl her sister had seen tossed away like trash. She had been giving a proper burial thanks to the community, but no one seemed to really know her. It saddened Justine to even think about it.
“Brandi you were keeping so much from us. I wonder if things would have been different if you told us. I know you were afraid, but I really wish you hadn’t felt the need to keep all of this to yourself. Perhaps we could have helped you.”
All the perhaps’s in the world were not going to change the what was. Brandi had been murdered at the hands of monsters, just over ten years ago, and nothing in the world would bring her back. Not that Justine would wish her back, in a world gone crazy.
Lord I wish Brandi had not had to go through this fear, during the last year of her life. I wish she had not held all of that in. I know she must have felt like she was exploding Lord. I pray that she knew how much we love her. I will always love my sister, and I will do everything in my power to bring her killers to Justice.
The phone rang bringing Justine to the present. She prayed with all her heart it was Bert. She needed to hear from Bert needed to know he was okay. She was not ready to lose someone else in her life. She would never be ready to lose anyone the way she had lost her sister, the violence of her sisters death, the way she had found her was something that would forever be embe dded in her mind.
“You won’t escape from us Justine. You know what we did to your sister, and you are next.”
She hated the sound of the evil in there voice.
“Why can’t you just leave my family alone? You already took Brandi from us? How much more do you want?”
“We won’t be satisfied until we wiped out everyone who knows anything about what happened your sister.”
“Please just leave us alone.”
“Sorry that’s not going to happen, you are all going to die.”
Lord please let these monsters be caught soon. I am tired of the threats and the fear. I am starting to see what Brandi must have felt the last few weeks of her life, when the threats started. I know that’s when they started because that’s when she started acting more afraid than she had before.
“You are going to slip up someday, and you will be caught.” Justine said sounding more confident than she felt.
“That’s what you think.”
The line went dead. And Justine was once again left with her fears.
She hated the mind games these monsters were playing.
Lord I want this nightmare to be over. I want to get back to living, living without fear. I forget what that’s like.
I know we are supposed to fear you alone, but we are facing real danger here. And it scares me to no end.
I saw what they did to Justine Lord. I know what they are capable of.