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.
"While it would undoubtedly be more convenient for a demon not to possess anyone, he does this for one simple reason: to cause suffering. Remember: demons seek to make people suffer, and with possession they can accomplish this in a very direct way."
-- Father Jose Antonio Fortea, Official Exorcist of the Catholic Church
Edward Pearce grunted with every blow of his shovel's blade. The taproot impeding his progress was the size of a man's fist and resisted his attempts to hack through its center, forcing him to go in search of a better tool. He dug his fingers into the solid ground above and pulled himself out of the hole he'd been digging.
The beast had been clear about the hole's dimensions: 6x6x6. The significance of the number failed to penetrate the growing confusion in his mind. He'd conceded control of their situation without the slightest protest. Though he suspected the grave would hold his body as well as three others, it didn't matter. He remained fixated on the promised afterlife reward for his unquestioning service to evil: being with his lover, Billy, for eternity.
He reasoned that Billy's soul was damned to hell for the act of suicide. It was a mortal sin, he'd been taught, regardless of the circumstances of mental duress. Though their abuser was surely in the same place, it didn't matter. Edward believed his benefactor would see to it that he and Billy were left alone.
Moving to a pile of tools lying on the grass, he bent in search of a saw. The woman's screams gave him a moment's pause before he returned to his task. Bitch has it coming to her. Her kind's the reason Billy's dead.
Digging to the bottom of the pile, he felt the sharp-toothed edge of a saw. Shoving the rest of the tools aside, Eddie grasped its handle and stood. A blue jay perched on a tree stump screeched its alarm and flew in a direct line towards his head, turning at the last second to avoid collision.
Goose pimples rose on his arms. Someone's out there. I feel them watching me. He scanned the woods, but spotted nothing unusual. The whole area had the eerie feel of a cemetery at midnight.
A strong scent of cologne replaced that of upturned earth and drew his immediate attention. It can't be... Billy's favorite... Giorgio Armani.
He whirled about, frantic to find the origin of the smell. Billy, are you here?
From out of the woods, a funnel-shaped mist approached. It hovered above the hole. Eddie dropped to his knees and brought his hands up in supplication. From its center emerged the apparition of a warrior. Though it had Billy's face, its body was mature and powerfully muscled. The being was clad in breech cloth with leather leggings. A single braid tied with quillwork strips draped his shoulder and bare chest.
The eyes, Billy's eyes, blazed with contempt. There was no trace of love or warmth in them. Eddie was forced to look away from the light of truth he'd forsaken to appease his blood lust. Pain roared through his body as if it approached the surface of the sun. This is what the damned feel, he thought.
I did it for you, Billy. I've never loved anyone else. Please, tell me you understand?”
Eddie crawled closer to the apparition, groveling before it.
You swore you'd never become like the monster that raped us, Eddie. You've become something far worse. Where you go... you go alone. I am not in that place.
What are you saying, Billy? Our love was the reason for all of it. You can't abandon me now?
As the apparition began to fade, Eddie reached out to touch, one last time, the object of his desire...”
“Edward Pearce, you are under arrest for the murders of Debra Padget and Fritz Buell. Put your hands up where I can see them,” a voice from behind commanded.
The instinct for self-preservation kicked in, and Eddie pulled the gun from his waist. He rolled and got off three quick shots, hitting Ty Longacre in the thigh. The Tribal policeman returned fire. His second shot found its mark between Eddie's eyes.
His last sensation was a weightless falling and then he collapsed like a burned-up twig.
“The cabin's down at the end of this lane, Father. We need to go by foot from here.”
The priest had been utterly still and silent during the remainder of their ride. Jana assumed he was preparing himself for what he faced ahead. His blank expression was unexpected.
“Did you hear me, Father? We need to get moving!”
“Yes, Detective, I hear you. But I will not be going with you.
“What the hell are you talking about?"
“Edward Pearce is dead. Your uncle needs to be your priority now.”
“How can you possibly know that?”
“God has given me a vision. My part in this drama is just beginning.”
Jana grabbed the priest's arm, shaking it with vehemence. “You are going with me. If you resist, I will shoot you. Bet on it."
"You won't do that, Detective. It's not in your nature to shoot an unarmed man. Besides, you'll soon find out that I'm telling you the truth.”
He gave her a crooked smile, and reached out to touch her hand. “This is my destiny, Jana. You could no more stop these events than you could hold back a tornado. The devil is a shape shifter by nature. Remember that. It takes the weak and suffering and promises to make their lives perfect. I've dedicated my life to glorifying the risen Christ. Now, I have the opportunity to do that in a concrete way. With the Savior's help, that is exactly what I intend to do.”
Clutching his worn leather valise to his chest, he tipped a finger in salute and exited the car.
She made no move to stop him. His face had reflected the light of a soul approaching peace. Watching his back as it disappeared into the shadows, she whispered, “May the Ancestors protect you, Father Brian.”
Ty looked down at the body of Edward Pearce. He shoved the torso with the toe of his boot and, when there was no sign of movement, he bent to confirm the serial killer was dead. I hope you rot in hell.
Ignoring his own wound, he rushed the cabin's front entrance and kicked it in. He passed through a trash-strewn kitchen on his way to the back of the house.The first door he came to was closed. He turned the knob and pushed. The door gave way to the scene of a man gagged and bound to a bed. His heart lifted when he recognized Tony Buday. The elder's skin was gray and Ty feared he might have died from shock. He pressed his hand to Tony's wrist and felt the erratic rise and fall of his pulse. Thank God.
Ty removed the gag and patted Tony's cheeks, but there was no eye movement. A sound came from nearby – the creak of a footfall on the warped, wooden floors. The only place to hide was behind the door, and he quickly moved in that direction.
Whoever it was, they were moving with equal stealth. He pulled as far back into the shadows as he could, watching and waiting.
He heard a gasp at the same time he saw the tan uniform.
Detective Jana Burke dropped beside her Uncle and was rubbing his hands and face when she reacted to his presence. The adrenaline rush had worn off and Ty was in pain from his wound. He limped to where she knelt and said, “His pulse is erratic, but he's alive. We need to get him to the hospital right now.”
“I saw the body. Pearce do that to you?”
“Yeah, the mangy fuck started firing as soon as I called him out. Doesn't matter, this will heal, though it hurts like hell right now.”
“We still have one unaccounted for, Ty. Danika Marten was kidnapped by Edward Pearce. She has to be somewhere in this house.”
"The television news anchor? She's here. Though what state she's in I can't imagine. I heard a woman screaming earlier. I'll check the rest of the house while you call for an ambulance.”
“Have you seen the hound yet?”
“Shit, I'd forgotten all about that. Strange, there's been no trace of him. I would've expected it to be on guard either outside or here in the house.”
“Its absence has me worried. Father Brian took off on me when we got to the house. He said he had to go on alone. And he knew that Edward Pearce was dead.”
“What?” How could he know that?”
“Ty, I got a really bad feeling. See if Danika Martin's in the other bedroom,” she urged.
He quickly checked the other rooms and found where the woman must have been kept. The bedding was soiled and the room reeked of urine and burnt flesh. On a table was an object Ty recognized.
Ty dreaded the news he had for Jana. He re-entered the bedroom where she was just finishing her 911 call.
“Danika Marten is gone. There's a blood trail leading out the back door. I found something else in the room. Do you understand the meaning of this, Jana?” Ty opened his hand so she could see the object resting in his palm.”
Tears filled her eyes and trickled down her cheeks. “It's Rick's shield. Ty. My God, that's who Father Brian's gone after.”
~~ to be continued ~~