For 13-year-old Ronnie Day, life is full of problems: Mom and Dad have separated, his brother Tim is a constant pest, Melanie Ward either loves him or hates him, and Jesus Christ won't stay in his heart. Plus he has to walk past the red church every day, where the Bell Monster hides with its wings and claws and livers for eyes. But the biggest problem is that Archer McFall is the new preacher at the church, and Mom wants Ronnie to attend midnight services with her.
Sheriff Frank Littlefield hates the red church for a different reason. His little brother died in a freak accident at the church 20 years ago, and now Frank is starting to see his brother's ghost. And the ghost keeps demanding, "Free me". People are dying in Whispering Pines, and the murders coincide with McFall's return.
The Days, the Littlefields, and the McFalls are descendants of the original families that settled the rural Appalachian community. Those old families share a secret of betrayal and guilt, and McFall wants his congregation to prove its faith. Because he believes he is the second son of God, and that the cleansing of sin must be done in blood.
"Sacrifice is the currency of God," McFall preaches, and unless Frank and Ronnie stop him, everybody pays.
©2002 Scott Nicholson (P)2011 Scott Nicholson