At last the odd bunch that made such an enemy of the Grainger family could go their own separate ways. Or, could they? A summons that none individually could resist draws the disparate group to Denver, where one Mr Irving Backlund, father of the estranged Christopher, wants a simple Christmas task completing – find his son at a religious retreat, see if he is happy there or wants to come home. Simple enough, although time is tight.
In need of the rich rewards for one reason or another the group head to Derrys Ford where they question the town folk but only really find out that the church – more of a cult, The Church of the Holy Flame , is a bit strange although most of the people in it are an inoffensive old bunch. Investigation at the church compound itself and a meeting with its charismatic leader, Lady Cynthia Carstairs reveals little bar Christopher himself more than happy in his new environs and politely dismissive of any attempts to reconnect him with his father. An in advised sojourn into places off limits sees the group forcibly ejected.
Essentially done, the group can’t help but fall into bad habits and decide on one last visit – this time under the cover of night and in secrecy. Things go well to begin with – Sam and Ebeneezer eavesdrop on a church sermon which makes it clear the cult members are about to go … somewhere. The hitherto unflappable John lands most of the group in trouble by doing his best one-man-band impression which sees him and some of the others held until the local Sherriff can come and pick them up. The undiscovered members of the group are re-united in custody after a trade-mark misunderstanding between John and William.
Faced with jail the law is brought back on-side as John reveals to the Sherriff, and indeed an astounded group, that he is part of the Agency – a secretive branch of the Government with an apparent agenda which to William’s dismay does not in any way include tannin based hot drinks. This acts as a springboard for, one, last trip back to the cult ranch which ends in apparent failure – everybody is gone! As Quique started to track the convoy like only the best Mexicans can (so the says) the rest of the group perform a quick search of the buildings and find little to nothing.
Indeed, the entire search is wholly uneventful unless one counts the foul-smelling secret basement with long-dead mutilated canines which spring back into life, attacking the group. The normally calm and collected William anchors the battle by standing in the middle providing support of the non-existent type despite Ebeneezer’s best efforts whilst Sam and John do what needs to be done, gunning down man’s ex-best friends whilst trying to avoid being squeaky dog-chews.
With the battle won for now, Quique back from the hunt and William back from Rattled City, John makes a random, but entirely correct assumption – the dogs were under the control of lady Carstairs and she was watching them through canine eyes all along…