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.
Previously: Two elderly parishioners of St. Matilde's Catholic Church have been murdered. In the course of the investigation, a possible link to the present days murders is discovered in the case of a dead pedophile priest. One of the young victims, Matthew Longacre, was a Sioux Indian whose mother had been a devoted Catholic. When the priest was arrested and Matthew faced the possibility of having to testify, he committed suicide. Matthew's secret relationship with a fellow altar boy is at the heart of the unfolding, demonically-directed revenge.
Tribal Policeman Ty Longacre was the last person to leave Fritz Buell's crime scene. He'd been studying three sets of tracks in the woods adjacent to the park. Snapping photos and taking measurements, he carefully recorded his findings. Once satisfied, he emerged into the clearing to find nothing but crime scene tape vacillating in the wind.
Grasses, both green and gold, lay flattened in a tight circle as if alien astronauts had left behind a sign that something watched from the skies. He skirted the perimeter of the crime scene on his way up the slope to his patrol car.
Once his camera and evidence bags were stowed, Ty leaned against the driver's side door and crossed his legs. He took off his Stetson and set it on the hood. A bank of cumulus clouds released an imprisoned sun, and Ty turned his face upwards allowing it to burn away all the extraneous details of the day.
He snapped alert to the sound of screeching gulls from the edge of the lake. A pair of them vied for the remains of fish. He watched without seeing while puzzling over his findings in the woods.
Three sets of prints. One animal, one human.
Likely Tony Buday and the dog.
The third set? In all his years of tracking, he'd not seen anything like it.
They could belong to one of Jana's investigators. Maybe they made a sweep before I got there.
The tracks ended at the base of a tree thirty feet from the edge of the woods. Ty studied the tree's surface to see if someone had climbed it. It showed no signs of molestation, and he was left with an unsettling scenario: Whoever walked up to that tree appeared capable of flight.
Ty's father had been a legendary tracker. His first born inherited the ability, and in the view of a number of the tribal elders surpassed his father's talents. Ty would have blackened the eye of anyone suggesting such a thing to his face. He'd learned from the best was all he'd say on the subject.
As a Sioux Indian, he also believed in nature spirits. The wind, the trees, the water -- all of nature -- fell under the rulership of protective spirits. The befouling of this beautiful sanctuary by a brutal murder may have drawn the wrath of such a spirit. He knew they could shapeshift to confound human detection.
A terrific gust of wind carried sand from the shoreline over the crest of the hill and into Ty's face. He carefully rubbed his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. A cold feeling spread up his arms. He no longer doubted an angry spirit, whether nature or otherwise, was stirring.
I've got to get to Tony Buday right away. The old guy knows better than anyone on the Rez how to deal with these things.
Ty replaced his hat, tapped the top to settle it into place and entered his vehicle. Clouds reclaimed the sun, and the color of the lake dimmed to a flat gray. He took a deep breath and turned on the ignition.
I'll do whatever it takes to restore balance. This I swear before the Ancestors.
The stench the Watcher emanated blended with the rotting vegetation of his woodland cover. He never ventured among humans without dousing himself in cologne. Though he'd been warned to cut back on its use in consideration of the sensitivities of his co-workers, he feared, more, their detection of his alter ego.
He recalled nothing of how he'd come to this spot in the woods. He'd grown used to these lapses in consciousness, but this time he demanded answers.
You promised me a reward if I killed Fritz Buell. I did everything you asked, even adding that little touch with the eyes. So, why am I lying here, freezing my ass off, watching the house of that meddling old Indian? What if his hound picks up my scent?
"Oh ye of little faith," the voice answered. It slithered through his brain, filling him with a dreadful hope. "Stay still and watch."
All but a slice of the sun slipped behind the trees that kept Tony Buday's house hidden from strangers. Clumps of stubborn leaves clung to their branches, causing the fall sunlight to flicker like solar fireflies. The Watcher dropped his eyes before the beauty that seared him like a red-hot brand.
I'm sick of your crazy orders. I take all the risks, and you take all the pleasure. It's not fair! We had a deal...
"Shut up, fool. Your reward is the honor of serving me. Let it not be said I don't keep my promises. I'm about to toss you a scrap."
The sound of tires on gravel startled the Watcher. A tribal police car pulled close to Tony Buday's porch and parked. The driver removed his hat and exited the vehicle. He straightened and turned at a muffled, unusual sound coming from the woods.
Jamming his fists into his mouth, the Watcher tried to cover the sound of his sobs. Through his tears, he watched Ty Longacre approach while his hand slid in the direction of his weapon. His straight, black hair accentuated a square jaw. His mouth was full-lipped and of perfect proportion. The eyes that scanned the surroundings were alert and intelligent.
Matthew, h... how is it pos... sible?
The Watcher's heart banged violently against his skin. He tried to crawl in Ty's direction, but his limbs were leaden. He struggled against the omnipresent force that held him, but his efforts had no more effect than a gnat in a hailstorm.
The door of the house opened. The hound, Wasu, hurried to Ty's side. The light melody of the animal's tags warned Ty of the dog's approach. He knelt and scratched the old dog about his ears. Wasu licked his hand in gratitude. "Some day soon, we're going to go on a hunt together, boy." Wasu looked at Ty with adoration shining through his cloudy eyes.
"Hau, Ty," Tony Buday called from the doorway.
"Hau, Uncle Tony," Ty called back. He squinted into the darkness that lined the path leading into the deeper woods and decided he'd heard a squirrel rustling through the underbrush. He approached the stairs leading to the main level of the house, laid his hand on the railing and looked up. "Am I catching you at a good time?"
"As good as any."
Tony waved Ty forward. "I'm quite a popular guy today," he said. "First Jana and now you. Come on up and we'll see if you have better luck parting the cobwebs of this old man's brain."
Ty took a moment to shake his Uncle's hand, then followed him into the house and shut the door.
The Watcher lay on his belly, soaking the earth with his grief. Foam and vomit spewed from between his teeth. He was consumed with pain.
Minutes passed. He rolled onto his back, and clawed at his jacket. He retrieved a folded cloth from his shirt pocket and brought it close to his face. Buried within was a faded newspaper clipping. Black-haired, square-jawed Matthew Buell was caught by the camera, making the shot that took St. Matilde's varsity basketball team to the finals.
The voice in his head mocked him. "Not satisfied, Eddie?"
Bastard! You promised to give me back Matthew, not some kid that looks like him.
"Oh, that's a promise I intend to keep as soon as you complete your end of the bargain. Fateor anima vesta, and your agony pleases me. Now get yourself together. We have much yet to do."
Eddie moved deeper into the woods, heedless of the sounds he made or the proof of his presence that he left behind.