Cake and Corruption
Release date: March 4, 2021
Print pages: 147
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Cake and Corruption
I held my side and gasped for breath. My sister-in-law, Kelly, and I finally had to take to the nearest seat in a failing effort to graciously recover from the sight before us. Hunt and Jake had just walked out of the costume closet and into the backstage room where we were all awaiting our cues to enter the church sanctuary. It was Easter Sunday morning, and the choir was about to present a musical drama depicting the events leading up to the resurrection of Christ. In a small church in a small town, big, strong men willing to put on Roman armor were hard to come by. Especially when it involved wearing a skirt. Last week, in a state of last-minute panic, Brother Jason had instructed me to do whatever it took to fill those roles and believe me it took a lot. As the part-time church secretary, I spent days scouring the church membership list. With no one willing and able and getting nothing but refusals, I had to swallow my pride and grovel to the last two able-bodied but not-so-willing men I knew.
“Glory Harper.” Hunt glowered at me. “If I didn’t love you so much, I’d strangle you with my sash.”
I could see the red tinge running up the back of his neck and all the way to the tips of his ears. I struggled so hard to keep from grinning, my face hurt.
“It’s freezing in here! Where’s that breeze coming from?” Hunt tugged at the costume trying to cover more of his bare legs.
“You look great! So handsome and manly,” I cooed, batting my eyelashes and stifling a giggle.
Kelly walked over to Jake, raised up on her tiptoes and planted a kiss on his rosy cheek. “So do you, baby.”
“You two are going to owe us big time for this one.” Jake raised his arm, clanking his armguard against the sword hanging from his waist, and pointed at us.
“I think it’s a totally logical part for both of you to play since you have plenty of experience in law enforcement,” Kelly said.
“At least my uniform has pants!” Jake retorted.
“Those skirt things are a tad shorter than I expected, but at least they fit. I just hope you’re both wearing running shorts underneath.” Kelly knelt to lace up Jake’s sandals.
Hunt Walker was chief detective on the Sweetwater Springs police force. He and I had been dating for about a year. My brother, Jake Miller, was his right-hand man. Jake was right. Kelly and I were going to be paying for this for a long time to come.
Hunt took the cat-of-nine-tails from his belt and held it out toward me. “Tell me one more time what I’m supposed to do with this thing.”
“I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to go through the dress rehearsal with us, but you’ll do great. Donna will be back here to make sure you enter at the right time. Y’all will be on either side of Dustin and walk him onto the stage.” I scanned the room for the teenager who would be playing the part of Jesus. A member of the high school drama club, Dustin had been doing a great job in rehearsals.
“Hey, Donna! Where’s Dustin? Isn’t he here yet?” I called across the room to where the stage manager was helping Mary, the mother of Jesus, put the last touches on her robe.
She took the safety pin from between her clenched teeth and pinned Mary’s sash in place. “He called to say he overslept, but he’s on his way.”
I turned back to Hunt. “So y’all will bring Dustin out, throw him down to the ground, and begin beating him with the fake whip. It’s a stage prop made of strips of Naugahyde. It barely weighs more than a few strips of fabric, so you’ll have to make a big dramatic showing of it. You are supposed to hit him ten times. Right before you enter, Donna will dip the strips with a solution that is supposed to turn red when it hits Dustin’s bare skin.”
“Yeah, this thing is pretty flimsy.” He waved the whip in the air and the pieces flopped from side to side.
The door flew open and Dustin hurried in out of breath. “I’m really sorry I’m late!” He pulled the baseball cap off his head exposing bright purple hair. “My girlfriend colored my hair for me. Cool, huh?” He grinned from ear to ear.
Donna, however, wasn’t grinning. There was a collective gasp from everyone in the room. “Dustin! What on earth made you decide to do that? And on Easter!”
“Exactly! We were coloring eggs yesterday with my little brother and she thought it would be fun to do that to our hair! Wait till you see hers. It’s pink!”
Donna looked at me and shrugged, then turned back to Dustin. “Thank goodness you’re wearing a wig! Of course, I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think Jesus ever dyed his hair purple. Now, hurry up and get into your robe so I can get your beard on you and make sure that hair is hidden.” She nudged him toward the costume closet.
I heard the first notes of the opening overture begin in the sanctuary. I gave Hunt a quick kiss on the cheek, and Kelly and I grabbed our music folders and took our places in the processional. I looked back over my shoulder and flashed Hunt one last, big smile and a thumbs up. When he rolled his eyes and shot me a grin—the one with the dimple that always made me weak in the knees—I knew all was forgiven.
The choir filed into the choir loft, lifted our music folders, and began the opening song. There were several dramatic scenes intermingled with songs portraying the Last Supper and other significant events of the week leading up to the crucifixion. As expected, Dustin did a good job with his lines in all the scenes. The congregation seemed to be enjoying the presentation. Finally, the cue came for Hunt and Jake to bring Dustin out. I cut my eyes over at Kelly as we watched our men, bare legs and all, escort Dustin to center stage for the scourging scene. Hunt threw him down on the ground and raised the whip above his head. He brought it down with a dramatic flair, making it seem he was hitting much harder than he was. The crowd gasped as the whip came down over and over onto Dustin’s bare back. With each swing, you could see the fake blood becoming more visible. After about the third or fourth lashing, one of the strips came flying off the whip. Kelly and I exchanged wide-eyed looks. I wondered if too much solution had weakened the strips.
Hunt never slowed up. He just kept whipping away. With each swing, another strip went sailing. Jake glanced over at me and Kelly, a panicked look in his eyes. To his credit, he continued to stand guard next to Dustin and kept his composure.
With the cat-of-nine-tails down to two, measly little strips waving carelessly in the air, Hunt made the ninth swing. When he raised the whip for the tenth and final lashing, the strips tangled in Dustin’s wig and jerked it clean off. With Hunt’s last dramatic motion, the wig flew into the air and Dustin’s head took center stage. The spotlight shown down on the purple cranium as Hunt stopped in mid swing, mortified in the silence. For a split second, time stood still, and I heard a child on the front row yell, “Mommy, look! They just beat the hair off of Jesus!”
Brother Jason motioned to the media booth to start the next song. Hunt and Jake pulled Dustin up off the floor. Hunt, as nonchalantly as possible, reached his foot over and kicked the wig along with them as they went.
By the time Dustin returned for the next scene, his wig was securely back in place—glued to his head if Donna had her way. Hunt and Jake returned and pretended to hammer the nails as Dustin balanced precariously on top of the fake cross. The conclusion was the powerful resurrection scene. Dustin gave an emotional and impressive performance. The presentation closed with one last choir anthem then the choir filed out of the loft.
“Oh, Glory. I’m scared to face the guys,” Kelly whispered. “They’re never going to speak to us again.” She frowned at me as we walked down the hall to the costume area.
“Jake has to speak to you. You’re married to him. Hunt, on the other hand—may never forgive me.” My heart raced as I reached to open the door.
“Can you believe that just happened?” Hunt was doubled over laughing.
“Boss, I knew you were a quick thinker, but that was a stroke of genius kicking the wig off the stage with us!” Jake fist bumped Hunt.
Dustin stood nearby, his head looking like a giant grape. “Yeah! If y’all hadn’t kept your cool and brought it with you, I’d have been up a creek in the rest of the scenes. Good job, Mr. Walker.” He smiled and gave Hunt and Jake both high fives.
My jaw dropped and I looked at Kelly. The guys turned to see us standing in the doorway and immediately feigned angry expressions. They both broke into huge grins and walked over.
Hunt gave me a hug. “Thanks for railroading me into this. It was fun.”
“You’re not mad at us?” I asked them both.
“Nah.” Jake put his arm around Kelly. “We just like to give you two a hard time.”
“Excuse us while we go put some pants on. This bare-legged thing is for the birds. I don’t know how you girls do it.” They strutted back to the costume closet to change.
“Whew! We got away with that one!”
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