Deliver Us From Evil PROLOGUE
ANTHONY SENSED FATHER PHILIP before he saw him on the overgrown garden path that connected the ancient monastery to Anthony’s private retreat.
Gently he laid his book on his desk—a four-inch-thick, thousand-year-old Latin tome—and stood to greet his mentor on the porch.
“Good evening, Father,” Anthony said. He used the word out of both respect and affection. Since Anthony had been abandoned as an infant thirty-five years ago, Father Philip had guided both his spiritual and personal growth. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for the man.
“Raphael is on the phone,” Father Philip said.
Anthony shut the door of his small bungalow and walked with the old priest toward the main house.
“Make any headway?”
Anthony rubbed his temples; he’d spent two days doing intensive research. “If there is a demon at work in Santa Louisa, I don’t know how it is managing not to leave a tangible trail, something to track. I hope Rafe has more information for me.”
When Rafe e-mailed him last week, his comments were vague and Anthony couldn’t get much more from him during their subsequent e-mail exchange. The twelve semiretired priests in Rafe’s charge were acting “strange.” Or, rather, stranger than usual. Rafe described them as forgetful, melancholy, and angry.
“Perhaps you should go out there yourself,” Father Philip suggested.
“I am not a demon hunter,” Anthony replied. “I’m doing what I do best, and that’s identifying the problem. Then I can send the right person to fix it.” Though he certainly wasn’t making headway on Rafe’s situation. “Maybe this isn’t a supernatural problem, but a mental one.”
Four weeks ago, Rafe had been called to minister to the reclusive priests at Santa Louisa de Los Padres Mission, who had each been sent there to recover from supernatural and human evil. Most would never be able to serve in full capacity again. But even Rafe’s arrival at the mission was odd; since when did a seminarian get called into such a sensitive service?
When Father Philip didn’t say anything, Anthony tensed. “You disagree?”
“I don’t think either of us can make that determination without going to the mission.”
Seven years ago Anthony had failed in the worst way and someone died. He wouldn’t jeopardize another life, preferring to work with inanimate buildings. “If it is a demon, Rico and John are the two best hunters out there.”
“Rafe needs you, Anthony.”
Father Philip didn’t need to say more. Anthony had been the one who had sanctified the ground the mission stood on. He’d renovated the facilities five years ago, declared the mission safe for the troubled souls sent there. That was his job—historical architect and demonologist. If a demon was there—if it could break through all Anthony’s precautions—Anthony must have missed something.
The library housed the only phone in the monastery. Father Philip left Anthony in privacy. “Rafe?”
“Eight minutes it takes you to get to the phone? I tried your cell phone first.”
“I had it turned off. I’ve been trying to research your problem, but I can’t find anything in the ancient texts that addresses your specific observations. Do you have anything else for me?”
“I need you to come here.”
“It’s a feeling. I can’t describe it. It’s like I’m looking at these men and someone else is inside them.”
“There are no cold or hot spots,” Rafe interrupted. “No sulfuric scent. No superhuman strength or unexplainable events. I know what to look for, Anthony. We’ve been through the same training. It’s like—they’re here, but they’re not here. They rarely sleep and when they do they succumb to violent nightmares.”
“What about Dr. Wicker?” Psychiatrist Charles Wicker lived a few hours from the mission and made monthly visits.
“He thinks one of my men is communicating with a spirit. But he doesn’t know who. We’ve used every test we can think of and they all pass.”
“The tabernacle is still secure?”
“Tabernacle? Yes, of course, it’s right behind the altar.” Rafe sounded confused.
“Then you’re okay,” Anthony explained. “The tabernacle is embedded with the cross of Saint Peter and blessed with water from the river Jordan.” There were also other protections, but Anthony didn’t need to go into details now.
“You’re one of the few people I trust. I need you. I don’t want to lose any of them.”
Suicide among those who have faced evil was unfortunately common. Like Anthony, Rafe had once failed in his mission.
The fear in Rafe’s usually calm voice set Anthony on edge. They’d known each other for twenty-nine years, since the day Rafe had been left on the doorstep of the same monastery Anthony grew up in. Rafe was as close to a brother as Anthony had ever had. How could he refuse him?
Rafe said quietly, “Anthony, I think something evil has slithered inside. And I don’t know how to get rid of it.”
“I’ll leave within the hour.”