Chapter One of “Come Sunday Morning”


Sunday Morning

Cynthia Pryce scanned the pages of the Sunday paper. A silk robe sloped gracefully around the calves of her slender legs. Hair, the color of burnt caramel, curved leisurely over cheekbones that most women would gladly pay thousands to replicate. Cynthia looked perfect even with no one there to impress. She had no choice.

It was six o’clock on Sunday morning. The city lay at her feet as she looked from the twenty-third floor of the rooftop condominium. Morning light drifted into the penthouse while floating clouds peeked through the windows for a glimpse of the beautiful woman. 

Crystal vases and glass tables throughout the condominium sparkled from the light flowing through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Soft beige carpet served as a lush backdrop for Cynthia’s expensive and eclectic taste in furniture. Scandinavian leather sofas and chairs stood in the center of the living room, and a Louis XV armoire held a state-of-the-art sound system and music collection which ranged from classical to gospel to and every genre between. 

Original paintings by Bearden, Barnes, and Motley hung in places of honor above the fireplace, behind the sofa, and at the head of the dining-room table. Freshly cut flowers, magenta, mauve, and pink, were arranged by the skillful and nimble fingers of Cynthia’s favorite florist, were poised to greet visitors in the large foyer, as well as the dining and living rooms.

Hands and fingernails that never went a day without special attention lifted a second cup of coffee to her lips as she searched for mention of her pastor, Hezekiah T. Cleaveland, in the paper. Cynthia slammed the paper to the coffee table when the last page was turned, rattling her coffee cup and plate, which held the remains of a half-eaten poppy seed muffin. The story she had waited for was not there, as had been promised. She looked again to the front page. The headline read, father kills family and self, despondent over financial losses.

Cynthia pushed the paper to the floor. 

Who gives a fuck? she thought while reaching for the cell phone on the dining room glass table. 

She entered the number that had been called frequently in the last month. 

“Hello,” a raspy voice answered. “What do you want? It’s six o’clock in the morning.”

“Lance, its Cynthia. Where’s the story? You told me it would be in this morning’s edition.”

“My editor won’t run it until I give Hezekiah a chance to respond. I tried to convince him the evidence stands on its own, but he wouldn’t budge.”

Lance Savage sat up in bed and rubbed his squinting eyes. “I’ve got a meeting with Hezekiah tomorrow. He thinks I’m doing a story on the new cathedral. I can’t wait to see his face when I drop this bomb on him.”

“He’ll deny everything,” she said. “When you meet with him make sure Naomi isn’t there.”

“Naomi isn’t available for the interview. I think Catherine will probably sit in, though.”

Cynthia laughed. “That’s fine. You’ll certainly get a reaction from Catherine if you can’t get one from Hezekiah.”

“That’s what I’m hoping. Does she know anything about this?”

“I doubt it. As far as Catherine is concerned, Hezekiah walks on water. If she does, let me know and I’ll deal with her later.”


The joy in the Sunday morning church service at New Testament Cathedral was palpable. Brass instruments, drums, violins, guitars, and pianos caused the auditorium to pulsate with rhythmic music. Images on the twenty-foot-high JumboTron screen alternated rapidly between sweeping images of the 15,000-member congregation standing, clapping, and singing, to the 200-member choir and orchestra performing songs of inspiration.

Shots of Hezekiah and Samantha Cleaveland standing at the front row, smiling and waving their hands in the air, filled the screen throughout the morning. The captions below their images read,” Visit our Web site at to make your love offering today!”

On cue, the pace of the music gradually shifted to a more melodic and reverent tone. A soprano sang a hypnotic tune and the audience obediently chimed in. A billowing hum from the crowd rolled from the front of the church to the top rear row and filled the room as congregants softly sang in unison and looked upward to heaven. 

The camera followed Hezekiah as he walked up the steps to the center of the stage. On the pulpit to his left and right were waterfalls made of a series of stacked boulders, greenery, and gently flowing ribbons of water. The stage backdrop was an electric wall of light which periodically changed from blue to green, lavender and a hazy yellow to accompany the desired mood of each moment during the service. 

“Good morning, New Testament Cathedral,” Hezekiah said when the music began to subside and the audience settled into their seats. The room replied in unison, “Good morning, Pastor Cleaveland.”

Hezekiah was well over six feet tall. He wore a crisp white shirt and a sleek tailored black suit which was stitched to perfection around his muscular frame. A cranberry-colored necktie complemented perfectly his flawless skin which seemed to glow under the bright lights.

Hezekiah flashed his radiant signature smile approvingly in acknowledgment and continued, “This is the day the Lord hath made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

For the next fifteen minutes the jumbo screen was filled with the image of Hezekiah Cleaveland delivering the Sunday sermon, interspersed with shots of members of the audience reading a verse in their Bible that he had referenced, nodding their head in agreement to a word of wisdom just shared, and his wife, Samantha, looking lovingly up at her husband and pastor. The sermon ended on a euphoric note which had all the attendees up on their feet, clapping, and Hezekiah looking pleased and exuberant at the podium.

After a final uplifting song from the choir and orchestra, Samantha joined Hezekiah on the stage. The last shot that appeared on the screen was that of the beautiful couple waving to the camera with a caption that read, Always Remember, God Loves You And So Do We! To make a love offering call us toll free at 1(800) 555-4455 or visit our Web site at

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