|Mystery and Crime Fiction posted October 8, 2013||Chapters:||...45 46 -47- 48...|
Father Brian feels the breath of evil
A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road
Okoka Moon, Part Two
Father Brian DeShano is in the midst of a personal crisis when a killer pulls him into a twisted world of moral corruption, cover-ups and revenge.
"There was fear in her eyes, but he didn't care. "What did Georgie tell you. I have to know his exact words.
He said the dead man's name was Fritz Buell and that he was killed by a devil. A devil he claims lives in the rectory -- your rectory, Father."
The man in the orange Datsun marked Father Brian's return to the rectory. "I'll give him time to get into the house, then I'm going in after him," he said to the beast seated alongside him.
"Patience, Eddie-O. This has to be done right. Fuck up now and the whole deal's off."
"You promised I could do whatever I wanted to him," he argued. "S'posed to be my reward for killing the others. Anyway, he's half yours already, so what's the big deal?"
Claws pierced the fabric of his shirt. Eddie screamed and twisted, but only succeeded in widening the gash in his flesh. Nerve endings screamed pain along the length of his arm. He flopped against the steering wheel and sobbed. Eyes as cold as deep space studied its human counterpart. "Whatever am I going to do with you, Eddie?" it said.
"I've done everything you've asked, haven't I? You want the priest, and I want Matthew. What are we waiting for?" Eddie whined. He used his shirt to wipe the snot and tears from his face, then took it off and used it to stem the flow of blood from his shoulder.
The beast lunged, snapping its jaws. Eddie shrank back to avoid further damage to his flesh. Settling back on its haunches, the cur lifted its paws and rubbed its eyes in perfect imitation of frustration. "The priest is not yet ready to give his soul to me." Sour, fetid air filled the truck's cab. "Once I have ground his will to nothing, you will be told what to do with the rest of him. Get creative, and I'll see you in hell."
Pain and fear rendered Eddie mute. His eyes were closed against the horror of his life. They snapped open at the tapping on his side window. A gray-haired man wearing a blue cardigan mouthed, "Do you need help?" He raised a cell phone to eye level and pointed to it. Eddie panicked. Oh Christ, I've been seen.
He waved the man off, started the engine and streaked off.
The old gent looked at his Schnauzer and said, "That boy's up to no good, Jake. Mark my words." He took out a small notebook from his pocket and wrote down the Datsun's license plate number.
Father Brian DeShano paused to review what he'd written. He struggled to craft a fitting memorial for Debra Padget's funeral in two days' time. His teeth deepened the dents on his ball point pen as he read. "This is crap," he thought. Balling up the page, he lobbed it onto the growing pile in his trash bin.
Eluding him was a balance between his personal insights and espousing the resurrection rhetoric required of a Catholic funeral mass. Prudence demanded he not appear to be personally affected. The rules were nowhere written down, yet they remained etched by the ages: Priests must remain aloof from the congregation, especially its single female members.
The younger clergy ignored such archaic notions, but Brian recognized its inherent wisdom. Yet, he'd sought out Debra's company to ease his loneliness and hoped he'd eased hers. Memory of a home visit one week before her murder nipped at the edges of his awareness. It crystallized all that was unique about their relationship.
Before he knocked, Debra pulled the door open. A beatific smile wreathed her face, softening his heart. "C'mon in, Father. I've just pulled some cinnamon rolls from the oven." Her eyes flashed mischief. "Now don't go giving me a lecture about baking special for you. I promised a batch for my Bible study group and set aside a few for us."
"You've always understood the psychic connection between the stomach and the heart, Debbie." Brian placed his jacket on the coat stand and turned back to add, "something I believe our dear Lord also appreciated."
The elderly widow's face crumpled. Tears glistened in her eyes. Father Brian dropped to the level of her wheelchair and laid his hand atop hers. "Forgive my weak attempt at a joke. I meant it as a compliment."
"I know that, Father. It's just that my late husband used to say things like that to me." She patted his hand. "You're a true gentleman, just like my Earl." She looked into his eyes, and he shuddered before the knowing reflected there. It was rare, and always meant imminent death. "I'll miss our talks, Father," Debra whispered.
To his everlasting regret, he'd remained mute. Fear stole his courage that day, and he let an opportunity pass to acknowledge the sweet grace of Debra's affection. With the murder of a second parishioner, rage built upon the foundation of guilt, and Brian passionately prayed to be free of the corrosive emotions.
As a priest, he'd counseled many souls to beware of the unholy ones who feed on dark feelings. But with no one to bounce his thoughts off, he'd begun to slip into despair.
He prayed for deliverance. Yet, nothing seemed to soothe his nervous state. When he tried to confess the situation to a fellow priest, Brian felt as if his tongue had doubled in size and nothing came out of his mouth. In one lucid moment, he made a pact with himself to seek counsel with his old friend and Tribal Healer, Tony Buday. His plan was to contact Tony right after the funeral.
A whoosh from the direction of the fireplace brought Father Brian's Sheltie to his feet. Alyx growled a warning. Brian looked up from his writing and struggled to make sense of what he was seeing. Forks of flame rose from the logs in the gas-burning fireplace and joined to form a spiral, shooting a foot high. ''That's impossible," he thought.
The shrill ringing of the rectory phone drew his attention away from the strange phenomenon. Brian noted there was no caller identification. His hand wavered above the receiver. "Don't answer," a voice in his head warned.
He brought the receiver to his mouth. "St. Matilde's rectory. Father Brian speaking."
"Padre, long time no talk. How you holdin' up?"
Brian recognized the killer's voice. He decided to play along. "Pretty well, all things considered. How about you?" The hissing of a startled snake oozed through the line.
He isn't expecting sympathy.
"This is a terrible mess you've gotten yourself into," Brian hurried on before the man could hang up. "At the end of it, there'll be nothing left of you... nothing at all. You'll have given yourself to the Destroyer who hates God's sons. It's not too late to ask for forgiveness. Through Christ's blood...."
"Aamaaazzzzing graaace..." a cacophony of voices screeched through the line.
Brian stood his ground. "Stop it! You want to end this, I know you do. Surrender to the police, please, in the name of God!"
"Save me, son." Brian turned cold at the single voice that emerged from the chaos: Monsignor Lewis Flaherty. "I was a good priest," he said. "You know that better than anyone. I made some mistakes, but it wasn't my fault. I swear I never meant to hurt any of them."
I can't show sympathy. This is the work of the demon.
"God alone knows what was in your heart and has dealt with you accordingly," Brian responded.
"I'm so cold, so cold... God has abandoned me."
"I'm sorry... "
"NO YOU'RE NOT! You priests never apologize for anything," the voice of the killer screamed. "You hide behind your lawyers, pushing money under the table and thinking that makes it all okay."
Brian felt as if a fist had rammed into his gut. He leaned into the edge of the table, fighting to get his breath.
"Your mother killed herself because she copulated with a priest. She broke her wedding vows and committed a sin, with full knowledge and intention. You keep trying to deny it, Padre, but the truth won't go away. She's in hell with the rest of us. Join us. We'll take your soul in exchange for hers."
"I'll never join you..."
"Oh, but, Padre, you can't resist. It's your mother's legacy."
The connection went dead. Brian dropped to his knees, grabbed the crucifix lying on his chest and prayed, "Dear Mother of God, have mercy on your child in this hour of need."
Scraping sounds of furniture moving and doors slamming came from the upstairs bedrooms. Outside, it sounded as if an army was goose-stepping across the roof.
Alyx raced to the foot of the staircase, barking in alarm. Brian roused himself and crossed to his dog. He picked him up in his arms and slowly ascended the staircase, prepared to do battle with the evil besieging him.
Tony Buday: Sioux Medicine Man, Brian's personal friend
Eddie: Serial Killer
Father Brian DeShano: Catholic priest
Debra Padget: Murdered parishioner
Monsignor Lewis Flaherty: Convicted pedophile priest
Cur: A mongrel dog
Okoka: Wild, Confusing
Thanks to donkeyoatey for his fantastic accompanying artwork: Eve's Seducer
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