Authors: Peter Flannery
The Million Dollar
The million dollar
challenge is a genuine prize offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation
to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal ability under properly controlled
conditions. To date more than a thousand people have attempted the challenge
but as yet no one has been able to demonstrate the powers they claimed to
I would like to thank
Mr Randi and Mr Wagg for taking the time to read through the relevant chapters
of First & Only and correcting me on several key points. Those wishing to
learn more about the JREF and the million dollar challenge can visit their
website at… http://www.randi.org/site/.
For her love and
and for letting me
know when I lost the plot!
Fourteen years ago
Police have confirmed that the
man’s body, found earlier this week in Didsbury, Manchester, showed signs of
torture. They have refused to comment on the nature of the injuries and
defended their lack of progress in finding the killer.
The lighting in the church was pleasantly subdued. Flames
flickered through sconces of red glass and the still air carried the familiar
smells of furniture polish, burning candles, incense and stone.
It was time for evening
confession in the parish church of St Joseph’s. Two tradesmen worked quietly
from a tower of scaffolding, fitting new lights above the statue of the Sacred
Heart but apart from them the church was almost empty. Just two people waited
silently in the pews. One was a woman in her sixties with her faded blue
raincoat and dull grey hair; the other was an eight-year-old boy who sat in the
pew with his head bowed and his hands twisting in his lap.
His name was Psimon, and he was
Every week he came to evening
confession, not to confess his sins but just to speak to Father Kavanagh, the
gentlest, most understanding man he had ever known. He enjoyed the game of
pretending they did not know each other and the fact that the priest was bound
by a sacred oath never to reveal a word of what was told to him. But tonight
was different. Tonight something was going to happen; something from his
dreams, from his nightmares. The church appeared serene and safe. There was
nothing to portend the presence of evil but somehow Psimon knew.
Somehow Psimon always knew.
To the right of the pews were the
two doors of the confessional each leading to a small rectangular room and
joined by a pierced screen of polished brass. Psimon glanced up as the light
above the penitent’s door went out and an elderly man emerged clutching a flat
cap and a walking stick carved in the likeness of a Jack Russel terrier. He
gave Psimon a smile and a conspiratorial wink before making his way to the
doors at the back of the church. The light above the other door remained lit,
indicating that the priest was still in residence. The grey haired woman turned
to look at Psimon but he bowed his head and the woman gave a weary sigh before
rising from her pew.
As the woman disappeared into the
confessional Psimon looked up at the workmen. Except for them the church was
now empty. There was no one else waiting to see Father Kavanagh. He drew a
breath. Maybe he was wrong... maybe the old priest would be all right after
all. He glanced eagerly at the confessional light. The grey haired woman would
not take long, she never did. He was edging towards the end of the pew when he
froze. He felt a prickling sensation across the back of his neck and an
unpleasant chill surged through his body. Someone had entered the church behind
him and Psimon knew that his fears were true.
His small hands gripped the pew
as the stranger came closer until he could hear their heavy footfalls on the
brown ceramic floor tiles. And there was something else… a noise; a confusion
of whispers that sounded almost like a voice, or many voices. Psimon did not
know if the whispers were coming from the stranger or just echoing within the
confines of his own head. He tried not to listen. He did not like the voices.
The stranger was almost level with him when the confessional door opened and
the grey haired woman stepped out into the aisle. From the corner of his eye
Psimon saw the woman check herself at the sight of the stranger. He noticed how
she flattened herself against the wall to let the stranger pass.
Psimon’s eyes flitted fearfully
to the side. He saw a tall youth with long black hair falling unkempt about his
face. His posture was hunched and brooding but his broad shoulders spoke of the
powerful man he would soon become. Without hesitation the stranger opened the
door to the penitent’s confessional and disappeared inside. Psimon glanced at
the grey haired woman who gave him a brief look of concern before hurrying
away, the harsh click of her heels receding until she left the church and the
main door closed with a soft percussive boom.
An ominous silence descended in
which Psimon could hear his own shallow breathing. He could just hear the
tradesmen atop the scaffolding talking in low respectful voices. And now he
could hear the stranger’s voice… harsh, unpleasant and made all the more
sinister by the incessant presence of the whispers; whispers that were almost
words. He did not want to hear it but he could not shut it out.
‘Forgive me Father for I have sinned…’
the stranger said. ‘But then I told you I was going to, didn’t I?’
The stranger snorted in response
to some reaction from the priest.
‘Yes. Your lost sheep has
returned to confess his sins.’
There was a pause and Psimon
could sense Father Kavanagh’s shock and fear.
‘So who needs a confessor now,
priest? He who committed the sin or he who let it happen?’ The stranger spoke
in a mocking tone, and in the background the voices whispered with dark
Father Kavanagh did not answer
but somehow Psimon could sense his breathing, heavy and laboured, and his
heart, thumping, thumping… He wrapped his arms around his chest as his own body
began to mirror the old priest’s anxiety.
‘You knew I’d do it, didn’t you
Still Father Kavanagh said
nothing and Psimon winced, hunching forward and struggling to breathe through
the pain that was crushing his chest.
‘What’s the matter priest… taken
a vow of silence?’
Fighting against the pain Psimon
raised his head, looking up at the workmen oblivious to what was happening.
when I put him to the torment.’
Psimon’s eyes grew wide. He did
not know what the stranger was talking about but he knew that something
terrible had happened, that the stranger had done something terrible. He was
about to call to the workmen when he heard a heavy thudding sound coming from
the priest’s confessional. Before he knew what he was doing he dashed across
the aisle and pulled open the priest’s door. Father Kavanagh had slipped from
his chair and was slumped in the corner of the small room; his hand knotted in
his cassock, clutching at his chest.
‘Stop it!’ said Psimon. ‘Stop it,
you’re hurting him.’
‘Who’s there?’ said the stranger
and suddenly the voices ceased their whispering and coalesced into words…
A witness… a witness in the
house of Jehovah…
‘Father, are you all right?’
cried Psimon. ‘Father Kavanagh, please…’
‘Who the fuck is that?’ snarled
No one must know…
Psimon crouched down beside the
stricken priest. He jumped at the sound of the penitent’s door flying open and
he knew the stranger was coming. Pressing his face against Father Kavanagh’s
chest he began to cry but when the stranger grabbed the handle and tried to
open the priest’s door Psimon held it shut.
‘Open this fucking door priest,’
growled the stranger, and the whispers made his intentions terrifyingly
‘Silence the witness...’
‘Cut out his tongue...’
‘Fill his mouth with dirt...’
Psimon knew that Father Kavanagh
was dead. There was nothing he could do. He was just eight years old and he was
utterly terrified. The stranger pulled at the door, tearing at the handle with
all his animal strength but Psimon closed his eyes and held it shut. If that
was all he could do then he would do it. He would hold the door shut. Keep the
‘Silence the witness…’
‘Cut out his tongue…’
‘Fill his mouth with dirt…’
Psimon sobbed against the
priest’s chest. He was losing his battle with the fear and his grip on the door
Hold the door shut…
Keep the stranger out…
The shout came from the workmen
on top of the scaffolding and the assault on the door came to a sudden stop.
The two men began to climb quickly down the ladder and the stranger stepped
away from the door.
‘What the hell are you doing?’
they demanded as they reached the floor but the stranger was already heading
towards the back of the church. ‘Stop... What’ve you done? Stop!’
The stranger started to run,
racing down one aisle while the workmen gave chase down the other. Oblivious to
the presence of the traumatised boy they sprinted for the main doors and the
stranger fled before them.
Psimon heard the men charging
through the church and, trembling with fear, he pushed himself away from the
body of Father Kavanagh. He opened the confessional door and peered round the
church now quiet and peaceful as if nothing had happened. With a last tearful
look at his friend and confidant he left the confessional and crossed over to
the sacristy where there was a side door that was always unlocked. Grasping the
heavy iron ring he hauled the door open and gasped as the night air cooled the
tears on his face. He was halfway through door when he heard footsteps coming
back into the church. Having lost the stranger in the dark suburban streets the
two workmen returned to discover the body of Father Kavanagh.
‘Christ!’ said one as they opened
the door of the confessional. ‘Do you think that guy killed him?’
‘Either that or he had a heart
attack trying to hold the door shut.’
‘Don’t know how he managed that...
there’s no handle on this side.’
The two men looked at the brass
plate on the inside of the door. There was no lock, no handle, no way of
holding it shut.
Quiet as a ghost Psimon closed
the sacristy door. He squeezed his eyes shut and rested his forehead against
the cool thick oak. He tried to tell himself that it was over but he knew that
it was not; he knew that one day he would meet the stranger again only then
there would be no escape. Struggling against the fear that had engulfed his
soul he tried to drive the stranger from his mind but all he could see was the
vast shadow of a man and the name by which the stranger knew himself...
Psimon sank to his knees and
sobbed in fearful silence.
The stranger’s name was Lucifer.
Tuesday March 1st
The Present Day
There is still no word on the
whereabouts of the eminent psychologist Dr Marcus Bryant who went missing last
week near his home in Sefton Park, Liverpool. Police are reluctant to link this
latest incident with the murder of several other individuals over the last few
years, all of whom worked in the field of mental health. Questions about the
existence of a serial killer have been deemed unhelpful.
Psimon watched as the gravediggers levelled the soil over
his mother’s grave. They arranged the flowers around the headstone and placed a
small posy in the centre of the low mound. The foreman turned to him and
touched the peak of his cap in respectful salute. Psimon nodded and offered a
small smile of thanks then waited as they loaded their tools into the barrow,
put on their coats and sauntered away.
The graveyard was quiet. The last
of the mourners had long since taken their leave and Psimon was alone at last.
It was raining slightly and the air was filled with the loamy scent of earth.
Breathing in the smell he moved forward to stand at the foot of the grave. He
let out a sigh as the expression on his face turned inwards, the grief softened
by a smile of love and enduring fondness. His mother’s death had come as no surprise
and yet, after twenty-two years of her constant presence, it was difficult to
accept that she was gone. He felt the sadness welling up inside but he also
felt relief that she had not lived to see him suffer. She was down there now
with his dad; together again at last. They were at peace and he was free to do
what he had to do. Wiping the tears from his eyes his mind drifted back to the
last conversation he had had with his mum.