A priest is in the midst of a personal crisis when a killer lures him into a twisted world of moral corruption, cover-ups and revenge.
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 onto 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's seen his housekeeper's car in the driveway.
"It's Father Brian, Mrs. Findley."
The response he received was the spine-jarring, hysterical scream of a woman in terror.
Father Brian raced in the direction of the scream. On the kitchen table were his housekeeper's keys and gloves, and her coat hung in its usual position.
"Mrs. Findley, where are you?"
Alyx crept from beneath the table at the sound of his master's voice. He refused to make eye contact with Father Brian. His head was bowed and he lay shivering on the floor.
"Come here, boy," Brian urged, wiggling his fingers in gentle invitation. The dog whimpered but stayed rooted to the spot.
What in blazes is going on?
From the vicinity of the storage closet, he heard three sharp raps on the door.
Maybe she's fallen in the closet.
Crossing to the corner room, he called a reassurance, "Hold tight, Mrs. Findley." He turned the door's knob and prayed she wasn't lying in front of the door. His brain did a double take as the door swung wide -- the light switch was on but the room was black.
Wedged between storage boxes and curled in a protective ball was his housekeeper. The door's thickness had muffled the sound of her weak response. He squatted beside her, incredibly relieved she was conscious.
"I need to find a flashlight. Don't try to move until we can see if you've been injured."
Ambient light from the kitchen streamed around Brian's frame. He was shocked by the revulsion apparent in his housekeeper's upturned features.
"Please... Father... p-please g-get me outta here!"
"It'll only take me a couple of minutes to get my flashlight. It's not safe for you to move just yet. The overhead lamp has burnt out."
The movement was lightning fast. Brian was surprised by the strength of the woman's grip on his knee and the streaks of red on her knuckles.
"HE did it," she croaked. "HE threw me to the floor and made the lights explode."
Father Brian laid his hand atop hers. "Listen to me, Mrs. Findley. You believe in the power of the cross, don't you?"
She loosened her grasp of his leg. "Yes, Father, I do believe in the power of Jesus and the miracle of the cross." In her eyes, he saw a tiny flame of hope.
"You've had a horrible shock." He reluctantly continued, "I foolishly believed I could keep this business to myself, but I see that's not going to be possible now. I must warn you that some of what you'll hear will require you to have faith, also, in me."
"I'll do my best. After what's just happened to me, you could tell me Martians were living in the attic and I'd believe you."
The priest chuckled. "I've always enjoyed your dry wit, Mrs. Findley. Now, about that flashlight ... "
"Look on the nail above the light switch." Her voice was stronger. "I keep one there for emergencies."
Brian secured the flashlight and did a quick survey of the scene. Except for shards of glass, there was no obvious impediment to movement.
"Let me take your arm and help you to a standing position. Please don't try to do it alone. Lean into me and allow me to do most of the work." With the priest's help, Caroline straightened to stand. Despite the shaking of her limbs, she maintained her balance.
"Do you think you've broken any bones?"
"No, I don't feel sharp pain anywhere. Bruises will likely be sproutin' up from falling against the plastic storage tubs, but I don't think I've broken anything useful."
"Thank God." The priest smiled with genuine relief.
Side-by-side, they moved towards the light. Once Father Brian was assured she was walking in a steady manner, he guided her down the hallway to the den. She balked at lying on the couch, insisting she was okay.
The priest sensed the best way to handle his housekeeper's stubbornness was to offer her a choice: "It's either lie here or I take you to the hospital. Which do you prefer?"
When Caroline realized he meant business, she agreed. Father Brian helped her find a comfortable position on the couch before setting off to locate blankets and a pillow. Quickly he retrieved the items and first aid kit from the parlor bathroom.
Mrs. Findley's skin had a gray cast, and the priest struggled to recall whether she had a heart condition. He tucked the blankets about her body and placed a pillow beneath her head. When he held her hand in order to clean and dress the half-dozen small cuts on her knuckles, she neither flinched nor spoke.
"How's the patient doing?" he asked, finally meeting her steady gaze.
"Better. Thank you, Father."
The moment stretched into minutes. To break the tension, he walked to the fireplace and arranged the logs before setting a flame to them. Finally, he could put it off no longer.
"Mrs Findley, I must ask that you keep everything I'm about to tell you..."
Holding up her hand like a school child asking for a bathroom break, the housekeeper interrupted, "Father, if you don't mind, I'd sure appreciate a nip of that fine scotch you keep in your personal stash of liquor. And while you're at it, why don't you pour some for yourself. You look to be half dead yourself."
"How do you know about my private... oh, never mind." His grin was wide and genuine. "I think that's a brilliant idea, Mrs. Findley."
When Father Brian returned from his bedroom with two glasses and the scotch bottle tucked beneath his arm, an unlikely scene amused him.
Mrs. Findley was sitting upright against her pillow and in her lap rested his sheltie, Alyx. Though the woman's movements were tentative, Alyx appeared to be loving the attention.
"I never thought I'd live to see this day," Brian quipped. "I thought you were a devoted dog hater?"
"It's dogs in the house I don't like. Alyx proved himself a good watch dog today. That counts for something in my mind."
Brian poured two fingers of whiskey into each glass and placed one in her hand. From his seat opposite, he watched her take a swig of the liquor, which didn't seem to phase her in the least. He sipped from his own glass and used the time to figure how to approach his fantastic story.
She spoke first before he could recount his own encounter the previous night with an intrusive presence he believed was demonic.
Her words stunned him.
"What happened to me -- the Thing that attacked me -- it's responsible for Debra Padget's murder, Father."
"How can you be so sure, Mrs. Findley?"
"I've felt its presence before."
A chill crept along his spine, seeping deep into his bones.
"Here, Father. I felt it and smelled its stench when Monsignor Flaherty lived in the rectory. But I didn't understand what it meant until the police uncovered the truth about him."
Sadness held Brian in its grip. "Can the wounds caused by one man's selling his soul to Satan ever heal?" he thought.
"Neither you nor Debra deserve what's happened to you. The important thing now is for you to tell the police everything you know. No matter how trivial you may think it is, you must reveal everything to Sheriff Oleson."
A bit of color had come into Caroline's cheeks. The liquor was working its magic. She took another sip, swallowed and sighed.
"Debra's spirit was with me in that closet, Father. It was her that chased the Thing away, then rapped on the door to help you find me."
Brian held his breath and waited for confirmation of what he'd sensed all along.
Her head fell back unto the pillow, and she closed her eyes. "Don't be afraid, Father. It will not be man's law that prevails -- it will be God's."