“It’s okay. They’re fine. The fire started after they left. Everyone’s accounted for. Your wife had a list of everyone who was present. They’re fine.”
Jose nodded sorrowfully. “A church is just a building.”
The police officer nodded. “We’re with you, Padre. Don’t you worry.”
“How did it start?”
“The fire chief is gonna come talk to you in a little while. He’s kind of busy.”
“Don’t you know? Or is that your way of telling me you’re not going to tell me.”
The officer smiled a little. “Chief Red Eagle will talk to you.”
Maddie tugged Gabe’s sleeve. “Is he an Indian chief or fire chief?” she whispered.
He didn’t answer. Luis leaned over. He was standing behind Maddie. “He’s fire chief, but an Indian.”
“Why don’t you folks go back to the fellowship hall,” the officer suggested. “You can’t do anything here. And you don’t need to see the old girl fall.”
Jose nodded, understanding what the officer said. He had no desire to see his beautiful building collapse. There would be nothing left but smoldering ruins. They followed him to the fellowship hall. Fortunately, it was far enough from the church proper to be safe. They found the choir members gathered in the fellowship hall. When Jose saw his wife, he rushed forward, taking her in his arms. She kissed him worriedly, trying to assure herself he was fine.
When she’d finished mauling her husband, she attacked her son. Other members of the choir had family members who had been on the trip. All of them hugged and kissed each other, sharing their sorrow.
Craig beckoned to his group. They left quietly, allowing the church members their time to grieve. When they got back to the kitchen, he asked them all to sit down.
“I know we worked really hard last year in order to pay for a ski trip in during Christmas break. But I was wondering—”
“Dad, I think I speak for everyone when I tell you to give them the money. They need it more than we do,” Daniel said.
The teenagers nodded their agreement.
“I have some savings,” Claire said softly. “I’d like to give that too.”
“That’s a lovely thought. I can’t ask that from you, but thank you,” Craig said gently. “That’s settled. As soon as we get back, I’ll talk to the elders. I don’t think there will be any problem getting their okay. Thank you all. This is what being a Christian is all about.”
Bedtime preparations were somewhat subdued. The church members had gone home, but not until after the fire chief talked to them. Craig had joined them and brought the news that the fire department was positive that it was arson. The police were fairly certain Ramon’s gang was responsible. Some of them had gotten drunk and stupid, spouting off in a bar about how they’d gotten even for their jefe.