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.
THE GRANITE MOUNTAIN DETECTIVES ARE CLOSING IN ON THEIR SERIAL KILLER, EDWARD PEARCE, WHEN ONE OF THEIR RANKS RECEIVES A MESSAGE THAT HER UNCLE HAS BEEN ABDUCTED. THE KIDNAPPER, LIKELY IN COHOOTS WITH EDWARD PEARCE, DEMANDS THAT FATHER BRIAN DESHANO BE BROUGHT TO THE RESERVATION IN EXCHANGE FOR TONY BUDAY, TRIBAL SHAMAN. WHAT THE DETECTIVES DO NOT YET KNOW IS THAT DANIKA MARTEN, A LOCAL NEWS PERSONALITY HAS ALSO BEEN ABDUCTED.
Ty made a thorough search of Tony Buday's home. He fully expected to find signs of struggle, but except for the bloody remains of Tony's mauled pet, nothing appeared out of place. The tribal Shaman might be 83 years-old, but Ty could attest to the man's stamina on their occasional hunting expeditions. He would not go without putting up a bitch of a fight. Whoever abducted the old man must have employed the element of surprise.
A visual of the devil dog Ty earlier encountered popped into his mind. He wondered if the kidnapper might have used the creature to catch Tony by surprise.
If a spiritual warrior like that was not safe against the powers at work here, what hope do I have?
Rubbing the back of his neck, Ty searched his memory to recall stories of the devil dog. His parents never used dark myths to control their children's behavior, though they would have known of the stories. Some of the tribal elders believed the creature was very much alive, even calling in reports of recent sightings. Now, Ty wondered if they'd actually been seeing the same creature he'd encountered.
He pushed his mind to remember something that would give him a way to anticipate the creature's moves. He stilled as a scene from his past unfolded:
Ty had gone fishing one day with his brother and their two friends. After they returned from the creek with several nice-sized brook trout, the boys had cleaned the fish then cooked them over a campfire. One of the boys, Sam Cutter, loved telling ghost stories – his special favorite was the myth of the devil dog. Of course, he'd never seen one and was repeating stories they'd all heard before. Ty grew very anxious and escaped by saying he wasn't feeling well. His brother was upset with him for 'ruining the fun' but Ty didn't care. He hated the thought of a beautiful animal like a wolf turning into a fiend.
In the early hours of the next morning, he awoke from a nightmare calling for his mother. She appeared by his bed wrapped in her thick blue robe. He stammered, “I dreamt a...a...bout the devil dog, Ina. He told me I had to go with him because I'm bad.” Tears spilled down his cheeks and his body trembled beneath the quilt. His mother bent and laid her hands on either side of his face. She brought her face close to his and said, “The devil dog comes when it is called into being by a human who has embraced the death road. The Christians would say a person who has sold their soul to the devil. You are good boy, Son, and have nothing to fear.”
Her words were comforting, but Ty was still unconvinced. “What if I do something that I think is okay, but it ends up hurting other people?” he persisted. “Like cousin Billy did when he killed himself. He thought he was saving his family from shame, but it didn't work out that way.”
His mother stiffened. “This is not something I wish to discuss with you, Son.” But she relented when she saw the confusion in her eldest child's eyes. “I will explain this to you once, and we will not speak of it again.” Ty was afraid to breathe lest he break the moment's spell.
“The young man whose name you've spoken made a terrible mistake. In a way, he was out of his mind due to events he had no control over. The person who caused these events was evil. In order to stop the spread of this evil, your cousin chose to commit what he thought was a selfless act. We believe his heart was pure, though his action was misguided and caused much pain.”
She tucked the blankets up underneath his arms and kissed his forehead. He grabbed her hand as she turned to go. He had to know one more thing. “Can the devil dog be killed?”
“The elders say that only a man or woman wrapped in light can do this deed.” She reached down and caressed his face. “Now it's time for sleep. In a few hours, it'll be time to get up for school.”
“Ugh...” he mumbled. His mother left the door ajar for which he was grateful. He was too old for a night light. Yet, he felt the urge to leave a light burning for his cousin Billy, hoping he'd see from that place where the dead reside that someone below understood what fear will make you do.
Ty came back to himself and felt a rush of expectation. Where a few minutes before he had no clear sense of what to do, he now had a course of action. There had to be tire tracks. Whoever took Tony Buday had left markers behind, and Ty would find them. Since he had to wait for dawn's light to do so, he decided to dig a grave for Wasu and bury Tony's faithful hound. He reasoned that seeing the actual corpse would be upsetting for Jana and not likely to produce any additional information about the abduction.
Before heading out the door to seek out a shovel and a good spot to bury the dog, Ty dialed the number of his deputy.
“Tony Buday's been abducted,” he said without preamble.
Jake's voice was pitched high with excitement. “Wow. The whole rez will be buzzing with the news by noon. Do you want me to assemble our usual group of trackers?”
“First, I want you to pull out all the 911 reports from the last six months. What I'm looking for is any mention of a wolf painted to look like a warrior. Specifically, any mention of the devil dog.”
Ty could hear Jake breathing so he knew he was still on the line. “Do you copy?” he asked.
“Ah, I'm not sure I understand what you're talking about, Ty. A devil dog... as in a flesh-eating soul-stealer? That's superstitious bullshit the elders came up with to scare the kids straight.”
“I don't have time to explain why I know the devil dog exists. Just get down to the station and do as I ask!”
“Copy. On my way out the door. And, Ty... you owe me a helluva story.”
Jana Burke filled the other detectives in on the disappearance of her Uncle Tony and need to get to their home on the reservation. Rick, in particular, insisted he wanted to accompany her, but she spurned his offer.
“Ty will provide me with back-up. The kidnapper gave little other than the fact he has Uncle Tony. He says he'll call back with ransom details. I'm sure he's waiting to see if we obey his demands about not involving any other law enforcement.”
“Jana, any idea why this guy snatched your Uncle?” Sheriff Derek Oleson asked.
God, I hate lying. But I can't mention that the ransom is Father Brian. Not yet.
“It has to be the connection with my cousin Billy,” she replied. "Uncle Tony's disgust with the Catholic Church's handling of the pedophilia was made public at the time. It generated controversy, even hate mail. Maybe this is pay back."
“For now, do everything the guy asks," Derek responded. "But you have to keep us in the loop on this, Jana. This is not just a reservation problem. I know I don't need to tell you that, but your cousin may be a different matter.”
“Ty loves Uncle Tony like a father. He won't do anything to risk his safety. And I will report back in as soon as I know anything. You have my word.”
Jana felt the force of Derek's scrutiny. He knows I'm not telling everything. What will I do if he refuses to allow me to leave the crime scene right now? Do I want to risk my job by an outright refusal to obey?
“Keep us informed, Jana. Remember we're a team,” Derek said. His eyes betrayed his concern, and Jana felt a rush of gratitude for his implied confidence in her judgement.
She looked around at the other assembled detectives. Her heart filled with affection. Down to a man, they were good people. But this was a unique situation. The Sioux Nation had its own laws and courts. She was a member of that Nation first and enforcer of the white man's laws second. Though her fellow detectives would give their lives to protect her own, she knew they had no concept of what a tenuous line she walked.
“When I know anything of value, I'll call. You have my promise.”
Father Brian packed his satchel with care. He placed the holy water, crucifix and Rite of Exorcism in the bottom. Atop that he placed the stole he used to say Mass and a picture of the Madonna and Child.
He bent down so Alyx could jump into his arms. He kissed the top of his dog's head and whispered, “I don't know when I'll be coming home, Alyx. But you'll be just fine with Mrs. Findley. She's got that cute little Dachshund, Charlie. Remember?”
He grabbed a handful of treats from the cupboard, laid them on the bottom of Alyx's cage and placed him inside. The dog whimpered, and Father Brian stuck his fingers through the cage for Alyx to lick. “I wish I could take you with me, boy, but I'm going to a very bad place. And I have to go alone. You'll be okay, I promise.”
Father Brian illuminated the area above the kitchen sink to keep Alyx company until Mrs. Findley arrived. Steps heavy, he moved to the rectory entrance and pulled his wool topcoat and hat from the closet. He heard the siren which signaled the time had come. Looking around the place he'd called home for more than a decade, his heart constricted. Then his eyes fell on a picture of Jesus standing at the prow of a boat, hands stretched to calm the storm.
The priest closed his eyes and whispered, "The Lord is the defense of my life. Whom shall I dread?"
His mother's beautiful face filled his mind, bringing with it a soft golden light that bathed his spirit with peace. He opened his eyes and stepped with confidence to greet the young detective who so desperately needed his help.