The Last Witness Excerpt

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The Last Witness by K. T. Roberts book cover

MAX HARWELL tiptoed into the darkened vestibule of St. Catherine’s Roman Catholic Church and dipped his finger into the holy water to bless himself. His nerves spiked, knowing he didn’t have much time to hide the voice-activated microphone to record the confessions before Father McKinley’s associate arrived to hear confessions.

Excitement welled inside him at the prospect of being the only twelve-year-old amateur detective to do something so daring by using the surveillance equipment that belonged to his father’s precinct. He wasn’t expecting to hear anything exciting. Heck, if his recorded material turned out to be anything like his confessions, it would be pretty dull. But that was okay; it was the experience that mattered most, the first of many he’d have during his life-long career.

He scanned the nave to make sure he was alone. The familiar smell of musty old wood and incense filled his nostrils as he tiptoed down the aisle to the confessional when the floorboards released a loud creaking noise beneath his feet. Max’s pulse shot up as he looked around the nave, checking to see if the noise he’d just made had alerted the priests, who might already be vesting in the Sacristy. Max panicked. A recollection of Father McKinley chastising him for past indiscretions made him duck into the first pew and hunch down low.

The longer he remained there, the more anxious he became. He had to get into that confessional and fast. He’d waited too long to set this up and couldn’t afford to let his nerves get twisted into a tightwad. Max sucked in a deep breath and held it for a while before blowing it out. He couldn’t believe how shaky his hands were. This covert stuff was exciting, but it sure was scary.

The silence of the church remained absolute except for the hum of the air conditioning. After a few seconds, convinced he was alone, Max edged his way out, slowly tiptoeing the rest of the way to the confessional. He slowly twisted the doorknob, pulled the door open, and entered total darkness in the confining cubicle. He squatted down onto his knees, and when he heard the loud clunk, he knew the microphone had fallen from his breast pocket. His hand clutched his chest. He immediately chastised himself for being so careless and not holding the microphone in his hand. Nervous tension ached in his neck and made his head pound. Why was he so tense? He’d planned his covert operation for weeks, and he sure as heck didn’t need anything else to go wrong before he could get the job done.

He slid his hands across the entire floor, trying to find the microphone, but he couldn’t feel anything. Where could it have gone? More panic shot through him. Was there a hole in the floor? Had the microphone dropped through to the basement of the church?

After serving as an altar boy for a year, he thought he knew every inch of the church, but now he was questioning himself. He sighed. The darn thing had to be in that tiny cubicle. He filled his cheeks with air willing his pulse to calm down, but it did little to compensate for the slight dizziness he was feeling. He suddenly became aware he was hyperventilating, something he’d warned himself against earlier. Losing control was out of the question and a guarantee for making costly mistakes.

He braced his hands on the floor so he could navigate in the confined quarters. When his fingers felt the tip of the microphone lodged between the wall and the kneeler, he was relieved. Now he could finish the job and get the heck out of there. He picked up the microphone, kissed it, and positioned it where he’d get the best recording.

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