A priest is in the midst of a personal crisis when a killer lures him into a twisted world of moral corruption, cover-up's and revenge.
Previously: Father Brian has a frightening encounter with a dark presence in the rectory of St. Matilde's following the murder of Debra Padget. Although there had been rumors the rectory was haunted for years, the diabolic presence that confronts him is of a much more powerful nature. He believes it is his destiny to be God's champion in an ultimate showdown with Satan.
Raindrops ricocheted off the plastic rain cap Caroline Findley wore to protect her hairdo. Her movements were slowed thanks to walking with two knees that felt like they'd morphed into footballs overnight. A gust of wind tore into her body -- a minor impediment in its course. She shrank deeper into her coat and dropped her head like a bull readying itself to charge.
One of these days I'm gonna chuck it all and migrate to Florida like most of my friends.
Her salary as housekeeper for the pastor of St. Matilde's offset her heating bills through the winter months. Along with her husband's military pension, and social security, she managed to balance her checkbook and still set a little aside. But, truth be told, she was in no position to afford to live anywhere else.
Caroline faced the rectory door with determination. It hadn't been replaced in thirty years and every time the weather turned damp, it swelled.
She sank her teeth into the tip of her glove and yanked upwards. Shifting a bag of groceries to her other arm, she spit the glove atop the package of Oreo cookies and thrust her hand into her coat pocket. Digging deep, she felt the cold metal of a key.
The elderly woman inserted the key into the lock and wrenched it with practiced force. It would not budge.
Oh, for the love of God how many times do I have to remind Father to replace this door!
Out of pure frustration, she kicked the door, setting in motion insistent barking by Father Brian's sheltie. Using the knob for leverage, the housekeeper was able to extend her torso and peer through the window in the door. Only the dog was visible.
"Alyx, it's just me. Stop that infernal barking -- you're not helping matters any."
The dog ignored her. Head low, teeth bared, he appeared to be disturbed by something beyond her line of sight.
Probably just impatient to get outside.
Caroline went back to wrestling the door for dominance. Finally forced to give up the effort, she turned to make her way to the front of the rectory.
A second before she heard it, her scalp tingled a warning.
"Try the door again," a disembodied voice invited.
The housekeeper came from a long line of steel-hearted Welshmen. It was that blood in her veins that made her turn back around. She made the sign of the cross and reached for the knob. The door swung inward before her fingers reached it.
Tired of being the brunt of poltergeist activity by the resident ghost, Caroline decided it was time for a good old-fashioned throwdown. She entered the kitchen, and dropped her bag on to the table. Then she faced the room's center and yelled, "Stop with your stupid tricks. You're dead, remember? Get out and let me be!"
She waited for a reaction. The only sound that broke the silence was that of raindrops against the roof.
If I'd known how easy this could be, I'd have done it months ago.
Caroline took no notice of Alyx's terror. Had she not possessed the belief that dogs were dumb, soulless beasts, she might have been forewarned.
Removing her coat and hat, she placed them on a hook beside the broom closet. She put away the groceries and debated whether to make a cup of tea in order to warm herself.
This room is freezing.
One of the thermostats for the furnace was in the hallway outside the kitchen. She noted it was set at seventy-two degrees. Father Brian differed from his predecessors in that he liked the common rooms kept comfortably warm for both visitors and residents alike.
Back in the kitchen, it was at least twenty degrees colder. She set out to check all the windows and nowhere found anything to account for the temperature difference.
I'll start my cleaning upstairs. Father Brian can check the furnace when he comes in following Mass. Though it's obviously not the pilot light or the whole house would be cold.
The switch for a single overhead bulb was to the right of the closet doorway. The cord leading to the bulb rocked back and forth, causing jagged shadows to crawl across the walls. Caroline attributed the cord's movement to the air from the nearby heating vent. Hadn't she just ordered the ghost to leave?
She gathered her work tools and placed them in a pail. Reaching for a dust mop against one of the walls, Caroline felt a hand clamp unto her shoulder, squeezing with such force she fell sideways. The light bulb shattered, spewing glass on her head and the closet door slammed shut.
Father Brian had just entered through the front door and was shaking off his umbrella. He'd seen his housekeeper's car in the driveway.
"It's Father Brian, Mrs. Findley," he called out.
The response he received was the spine-jarring, hysterical scream of a woman in extreme terror.