“No,” Sister Ruth said softly. I crossed the room and sat back down. I wasn’t surprised in the slightest. I knew Judah wouldn’t leave me alive, not after I had tried to kill him. I had seen it in his eyes. Because he knew I could kill him. He knew I’d be too much of a threat to all that he had built if I wasn’t silenced permanently.
“I have to go,” Phebe said and turned to leave. As she gripped the handle of the door, she stopped. Turning around, she said, “I will not be able to get back to see you all before the ceremony this week. Other sisters will be sent to clean you.” Her voice cracked, but she steeled herself and faced Sister Ruth. “Meister . . . he is becoming suspicious. He is keeping me close. If something happens to me, if the plan fails . . . please honor our agreement. Please . . . just save . . . ”
Sister Ruth walked across the room to Phebe and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “I will, I promise,” Sister Ruth said. Phebe nodded her head, and, giving me one last smile, she left.
“Phebe has been helping you?” I said.
Brother Stephen came to sit beside me. “We realized that she is being hurt by a close confidant of the prophet. He refers to himself as Meister. He’s almost as delusional as the prophet is. Phebe has something she needs help with. She has supplied us with information and we have agreed to give her the help that she needs.”
“Five days,” Samson said before I could ask Brother Stephen what Phebe needed help with. They were talking about the wedding.
“You plan to get her out?” I asked, pointing toward my cell.
Samson hesitated, then he sighed in defeat. “When we knew the prophet was recalling us to New Zion, we tried to get Harmony to leave. We had people that could get her out in Puerto Rico, but she would not go.”
“She had no one she knew outside of us. She would have nowhere to go, nobody she loved . . . ” Brother Stephen said.
“So we told her all about Prophet David. She knows he lied about his revelations from God. That he was obsessed with gaining power. She knows he liked raping young girls,” Solomon spat, venom in his tone. “When we told her we would return to New Zion to try and bring it down, she would not let us leave her behind.”
“I tried to make her leave,” Brother Stephen said. “I did not want her to return here, or be scouted by the prophet’s guards. But she would not go. For a deeply personal reason, she wanted to help. When the guard came and announced her as a Cursed, she decided that was how it was to be done. Harmony told us she wanted to marry the prophet so we could get closer to the evidence of the commune’s crimes. She willingly sacrificed her freedom to help us in our mission.” My chest ached, yet filled with such fucking pride at her bravery.
“But she did not expect the prophet to be so cruel,” Sister Ruth whispered sadly. “She has never said anything, but I can see how this coming marriage is affecting her.” Ruth cleared her throat. “She feels like the fate of this commune rests on her shoulders. And like the brave soul that she is, she suffers in silence.”
“She will willingly marry that monster to help those she loves. She is willing to submit to his cruelty and risk her life so she can save those who are trapped,” Brother Stephen added. He met my eyes. “We did not know the prophet was so cruel.” His face contorted. “I would never have brought her here to do this had I known beforehand . . . we have brought her to hell.”
A thick silence stretched over us, then Solomon said, “We cannot let him marry her. She has already been through so much. We cannot see her publicly raped by him. The prophet will kill her eventually. Either he will or his consort will—we have heard nothing but frightening truths about Sister Sarai too. The things she has been doing to some of the younger girls the prophet awakens. Sick things. Sexual things.” He took a deep breath. “Harmony would never agree to this, but I cannot live with myself if I stand by and watch her destroyed for our cause. We have to think of another way to bring this place down. And we have to get her out before she is tied to the prophet and taken from our hands.”
“How?” I asked, in complete agreement with everything they said.
“We are planning to somehow get us all out, then we will go to whoever we need to and give them the evidence we have. It is not as much as we would like, but we only need the outside authorities to come and investigate. There will be enough evidence on the property to arrest all in charge for child sexual abuse and child pornography,” Brother Stephen said. “I used to live on the outside world before I came here in my twenties. It was a long time ago, but I remember how some things work.”
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