Read John Jordan05 - Blood Sacrifice Online

Authors: Michael Lister

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Hard-Boiled, #Religious

John Jordan05 - Blood Sacrifice (10 page)

BOOK: John Jordan05 - Blood Sacrifice
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Chapter Twenty-two
 

I found Brad Harrison installing sensor lights on the main gate. He was on a ladder screwing a lightbulb into one of the sockets. His large body was covered by faded jeans and a camouflage jacket, both of which were flecked with primer and paint, and spotless work boots that appeared new.

“Little late for this,” he said, nodding toward the lights, “but Sister Abigail said it was better late than never.”

“These wouldn’t’ve made a difference,” I said, “but they make people feel safer.”

“It’s not this kind of light that drives out Satan,” he said.

I waited for him to smile, but he didn’t.

His movements flexed his upper body muscles and they pressed against his tight clothes. He was thick and muscular with the quiet confidence of a man who knew he could figure out a way to build or repair anything.

“It’s the darkness in our hearts that’s the problem,” he continued. “And stringing up lights along the perimeter and putting locks on the doors ain’t gonna deal with that.”

He finished tightening the bulb and flipped on the switch behind it. When he ran his hand in front of the sensor, the lights came on. Snatching up a screwdriver and a pair of pliers from the top rung, he shoved them in his jacket pocket and climbed back down the ladder.

Standing in front of me, he cocked his head and studied me intently. “You a preacher
and
a detective?”

The pungent smells emanating off him were a sour mixture of sweat, testosterone-tinged body odor, cheap cologne, a bland, ineffectual deodorant, dirty hair, and the greasy metallic scent of tools and labor, of screwing and unscrewing, tightening and loosening, of repairing and installing.

“Prison chaplain. I was a cop for a while. Still help with investigations occasionally.”

“With all the souls that need to be saved?”

The only responses I could come up with were smartass ones, so I didn’t respond.

Shaking his head slightly to himself, he turned, grabbed the ladder, and dragged it to the other side of the massive wrought iron gate.

“You close and lock this every night?” I asked.

He nodded. “Nine o’clock.”

“Every night?”

“Haven’t missed one in five years,” he said.

“And last night?”


Every
night,” he said.

He pulled a box with another light fixture in it off the ground and carried it up the ladder with him. Placing it on the top rung, he withdrew the pliers and screwdriver and began fastening a bracket to the top bar of the gate.

“How did the police cars and ambulance get in?” I asked.

“I let them in.”

“How’d you know to?”

“Sister Kathryn.”

“I thought she wasn’t a nun?” I asked.

He stopped what he was doing and looked down at me with a perplexed look on his face. “She’s still our sister in Christ,” he said. “Right
brother
?”

“Did she call you?”

“We don’t have phones in our rooms,” he said. “She sent Brother Keith to tell me.”

“Who all has a key to it?”

“The gate? Myself, Father Thomas, Sister Abigail, Sister Kathryn, and there’s a few in the front office of the counseling center.”

“If someone needs to get in or out after nine, what do they do?” I asked.

“They don’t,” he said.

“You’re saying the chief of police was trapped in here?”

“If he was inside he was.”

My next question was for personal and not investigatory purposes, but he didn’t know that.

“Had he ever been locked in before?” I asked.

“Not that I know of.”

“Someone said the night before Tommy Boy was found, he was seen leaving with Tammy,” I said. “Did you see them leave together?”

He nodded. “Yeah.”

“Our best guess is that he didn’t die until late that night or early the next morning,” I said. “If Tammy was with him, I’m wondering how her car got back into St. Ann’s.”

“She must not’ve been with him,” he said. “I locked the gate at nine.”

“Did you see her return?”

He shook his head. “No. I didn’t.”

Having finished mounting the sensor light, he descended the ladder, exchanged the empty fixture box for one holding lightbulbs, and ascended the ladder again.

“Look like what Jacob must’ve seen,” he said.

I knew he was talking about the story in Genesis in which, on the run and sleeping on the ground with a rock for a pillow, Jacob dreamed of a ladder with angels ascending and descending, but from what I could tell he was no angel.

After a moment of silence, he said, “You think a demon killed Tommy Boy too?”

“I don’t.”

“Then why all the—”

“You had a relationship with Tammy, didn’t you? I base that not only on my observations, but witness testimony––and I have her diary.”

He finished screwing in the lightbulbs and descended the ladder before answering.

“Brother John, let me tell you something. I’m saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost, but no matter how willing my spirit is, my flesh is weak. I have feet of clay and a tendency to backslide often.”

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

“It wasn’t a relationship,” he said. “It was just occasional sins of the flesh.”

“It wasn’t occasional for her, was it?”

“It wasn’t her. She was possessed.”

“Even if you believe that, it had to make you jealous,” I said.

“I cared for her.”

“As a sister in Christ?” I asked, unable to help myself.

“That and more,” he said, his expression and tone sincere. “I would’ve married her once she had been set free and was really right with God.”

“Who was she fornicating with beside you?” I asked.

He shrugged. “I don’t know.”

It was the first time during our conversation that I thought he was lying to me.

“You didn’t just backslide again, did you?”

“What?”

“You’re lying,” I said. “I’ve seen and done it enough to recognize it.”

He grinned as if caught doing something cute. “Pray for me, brother,” he said. “I need strength.”

“Where were you last night after dinner?” I asked.

“In my room praying.”

“Like the rest of us, you saw Tammy leave the table with Father Thomas,” I said. “Did you know what they were doing?”

“Why you think I was praying? She was gonna come to my room afterwards to let me see the new her, but she never did.”

“Did you go out looking for her?” I asked.

He hung his head. “I fell asleep.”

“Because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” I said. “So you didn’t go out of your room at all?”

“Not until I had to open the gate.”

“Did Kathryn tell you what had happened?”

“Just said to open the gate.”

“What’d you think?”

“Honestly? That something had happened to Father Thomas.”

“Why?”

“It was just a feeling I had,” he said. “And it was right. Just wasn’t the only thing that happened.”

“You really believe a demon is responsible for Tammy’s death?” I asked.

“You don’t?” he said, looking at me with a mixture of surprise and disgust.

“If it wasn’t a demon, who do you think did it?”

“No one,” he said, “because it was a demon. ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities.’ How can you know so little about our adversary who roams about like an angry lion seeking whom he may devour?”

He then began speaking in tongues––the Glossolalia of Pentecostalism, that speech-like vocalization of nonsense syllables––throwing his head up, arms out, his eyes rolling back in his head.

Chapter Twenty-three
 

Father Thomas was slumped in the chair behind his desk. He looked old and weary and guilty. A gold banker’s lamp with a green shade provided the only illumination in the room apart from the sunlight streaming in the narrow strip of window that wasn’t covered by a bookshelf. Light jazz played softly in the background.

“How long you been doing exorcisms?” I asked.

“Over thirty years.”

He had pulled several books on the subject from his shelves for me to borrow and they were in a stack in the pool of light on his desk. Both hardback and softcover, with simple to elaborate artwork, the books claimed to plumb the depths of the dark side.

“That’s a long time,” I said. “How’d you get started?”

He shrugged. “Saw a need.”

“How many have you done?”

“Hundreds.”

“There aren’t many exorcists, are there?”

“More than you’d think,” he said. “Most avoid the inevitable circus that accompanies notoriety.” Touching the books gently, he added, “Some of the most renown are featured in these volumes.”

I glanced at the books again. He hadn’t arranged them by size, so smaller books were beneath larger ones, and the stack looked like it could topple over at any moment. Their titles left little doubt as to their subject:
An Exorcist Tell His Story, Possessed, Hostage to the Devil, American Exorcism, Speaking with the Devil, Deliverance from Evil Spirits, Beware of the Night.

“A couple of my cases are written about in this one,” he said, withdrawing
Cast Out
from the center of the pile and placing it on top. “The names have been changed—including mine.”

“There has to be more to it than you saw a need,” I said.

“Why’re you a minister? Why’re you an investigator? No simple answers to those questions I bet. We’re complicated beings with complex motives.”

“Last night at the police station you mentioned knowing the difference between someone who’s possessed and someone with mental illness.”

“You just know,” he said. “Especially after doing this for so long. I know evil when I sense it, and no matter how demented a person becomes, no matter how bizarre their behavior, there’s a difference.”

“But are there specific signs you look for to confirm someone’s possessed?”

“The
Ritual
mentions three symptoms,” he said. “Talking in unknown languages, exhibiting superhuman strength, and knowing what’s hidden.”

I nodded.

“And,” he added, “in my considerable experience, and that of the countless exorcists I’ve spoken to, these always surface
during
an exorcism,
never
before.”

“Did Tammy exhibit any of them?”

He nodded. “All three.”

“Really?”

“You don’t believe, do you. Not just about Tammy, but in general. You don’t believe in possession.”

“I don’t disbelieve. I’m just not as certain as some people—and that’s about most things, not just possession.”

“I can understand that for an investigator, but for a man of faith?”

I frowned and nodded slowly. “I really go back and forth between belief and skepticism,” I said. “But most of the time it’s not that I don’t believe, it’s that I’m not sure what I believe. Practice is more important to me than belief. I’m open. Seeking. I attempt to be faithful even as my knowledge and beliefs are fluid.”

“We live in cynical times,” he said. “It’s the age of the brain, and I’m afraid the soul is what suffers the most.”

I wasn’t sure I agreed with him exactly. There seemed to be more religiosity than cynicism in the world—especially in our culture. Fundamentalism was on the rise. There was a revival of conservatism and literalism. The religious right was enjoying political power like never before. Maybe what he was saying accurately reflected one segment of the population, but for another significant part nearly the opposite was true. Perhaps more than anything else what we had was a great divide. On one side the post-Enlightenment, scientific-oriented skeptics and on the other the faith-filled, dogmatic fundamentalists. Religion was just one of many ways the world was deeply divided these days—and like politics, education, technology, environmental protection, and wealth, the gulf seemed to be growing wider by the minute. We seemed to be heading toward a revolution that would not only see a battle between the haves and have-nots, but between the fundamentalists and the progressives—actually that war had already begun, and it did so long before September 11.

“If we only had the tape, you could—’course that’s not the same as believing, is it? These really are matters of faith. Plenty of people see and still don’t believe.”

I nodded and thought about it.

“‘Blessed are those who have not seen and still believe,’” he said. “Speaking of which,” he added, “what about all the exorcisms Jesus performed? Are they just legends that grew up around the Christian tradition?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I think—”

“But isn’t that part of the problem? All your thinking. What about feeling, discerning, intuiting?”

The jazz stopped and we sat in silence for a long moment.

“I’m not judging you,” he said, “just asking questions.”

“They’re good questions, and I’m fine with you asking them. I do all the time. I have faith, just not certainty. I’m a devout agnostic. And I think I have to be to do what I do, but you’re right. I live in my head way too much.”

Compassion filled his face and he sat up in his chair a little. “When I was a teenager, I underwent an exorcism that not only saved, but changed my life.”

Frederick Buechner was right. All theology really was autobiographical.

“There’s not a doubt in my mind about possession,” he continued, “because I’ve experienced it firsthand. I had an uncle—step-uncle really—who systematically abused me sexually and in other ways. In fact, it was more like torture. He also got me strung out on drugs. I was vulnerable and angry and the dark place deep inside me became the home of a truly evil presence.”

“I’m so sorry.”

He waved off my apology. “I didn’t tell you for sympathy. That angry young man seems like another person to me—a stranger now. I just wanted you to know that I’m not crazy or making all this up, and, now that I’ve had time to think about it, I think Tammy’s experiences with sex and drugs were far closer to mine than I realized.”

“You think she’d been abused?”

“I think you should find a solitary place on this sacred ground and read these books. Then read the rest of her diary and see for yourself.”

BOOK: John Jordan05 - Blood Sacrifice
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