Authors: Allison Brennan,Karin Tabke,Roxanne St. Claire
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Contemporary
“[Allison Brennan] is making a name for herself by producing not only memorable heroes but also unforgettable villains. This journey into terror is fast paced and pulse pounding.”
“A chilling story that will do for online social groups what
did for showers.”
Parkersburg News and Sentinel
Speak No Evil
“St. Claire’s ability to evenly match sultry romance with enticing suspense makes this novel a superior entry into the romantic suspense game.”
“Tabke masterfully creates sexual tension…. The main plot is intricate and engaging…just when [readers] think they have it all figured out, the ending hits with a big surprise.”
Don’t miss her sexy full-length novels,
Good Girl Gone Bad,
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Deliver Us From Evil
copyright © 2008 by Allison Brennan
Reason to Believe
copyright © 2008 by Roxanne St. Claire
copyright © 2008 by Karin Tabke
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Deliver Us From Evil
Reason to Believe
Roxanne St. Claire
He who does not punish evil, commands it to be done.
—Leonardo da Vinci
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
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.”
LOOD ISN’T RED
Blood goes beyond color. Rich and textured, dark and fathomless, blood was life and death.
didn’t do it justice. If blood were wine, it would be a full-bodied cabernet, perhaps a zinfandel, certainly not something as boring, mundane, two-dimensional as
Especially spilled blood, filling the crevices of the nearly two-hundred-fifty-year-old limestone floor of a forgotten California mission. Every hole, every nook, every imperfection in the aged floor filled with blood, corner to corner, the porous stone absorbing death so dark red it was almost black, as black as the heart of the evil man who had murdered the twelve priests in this oppressive chapel.
Certainly it had taken more than one person to slaughter twelve unarmed priests.
Until this morning, the most spilled blood Sheriff Skye McPherson had witnessed was a vicious murder-suicide three years ago. A man had stabbed his family to death, then shot himself, the bastard. Even the arcs of blood slashed against those white walls didn’t come close to the tragedy before her today.
She’d never rid this image from her mind, never forget the stench of violence.
Twelve people dead. It was a massacre.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.” Detective Juan Martinez crossed himself as they proceeded carefully through the carnage.
They were in the chapel of Santa Louisa de Los Padres, a small mission closed to the public. Skye had hiked up here many times with her father, Chuck McPherson, a U.S. forest ranger who had known the Los Padres National Forest better than anyone and had befriended the priests who came to the mission on sabbatical.
That was before. Five years ago the diocese relocated the few who’d lived there, ended the sabbatical program, and moved in retired priests who weren’t as friendly as their predecessors. But Skye was too busy now for weekend hikes anyway. And with her father dead, she didn’t enjoy the wilderness as she once had.
Skye let the criminalists do their job as she surveyed the scene. So much violence in such a small room—it was as if the imprint of what happened last night would forever taint this hall. The altar drew her eye. She wasn’t Catholic, she didn’t care much for any religion, but it was obvious something sacrilegious had occurred.
The huge stone crucifix had been turned upside down. It must weigh hundreds of pounds, in addition to the deceptively simple six-foot solid-wood carving of the crucified Christ. Blood coated the crown of thorns on Christ’s head, whether spatter from the killings or put there on purpose Skye wouldn’t know until the crime scene team finished their work.
One of the dead lay on the raised altar; the remaining victims were scattered around the room, on the floor or in the pews. Not all bodies were intact.
There was good news, bad news. The good news was that they had the prime suspect in custody, along with the man who had discovered the bodies. The bad news was the suspect was allegedly in a coma. She’d believe it when she had a second opinion.
“I thought de Los Padres was for retired priests,” Martinez said as he looked around. Many of the dead were too young for retirement.
“That’s what the diocese has said, but they’ve been pretty hush-hush about this place for the last couple years,” Skye said. “They did some major renovation five years ago, but I haven’t been here for more than a decade.” She forced herself to look at the faces of the victims. Their frozen expressions of terror gave her additional motivation to find the killers.
“The crime scene has been compromised.” Head of the small county CSU Rod Fielding carefully approached, his face grim, stating what they already knew. “The guy who brought Mr. Cooper to the hospital didn’t take any care about stepping in blood or disturbing evidence. I need his prints, his shoes, and a statement. What he touched, why, the whole nine yards.”
“I sent a deputy to the hospital to hold Mr. Zaccardi until I get over there to interview him.” Skye stared at the crime scene. “I don’t expect it’ll be anytime soon.”
“Sooner than you think.”
Skye whipped around and saw a tall, broad-shouldered man with dried blood on his white tailored button-down shirt. His naturally tan face was as hard as the stone walls that framed the mission, but his eyes were as deep and rich as dark chocolate. He looked like a pirate, not only out of his country but completely out of his element. His commanding presence caused everyone to pause a beat.
Anthony Zaccardi, no doubt.
“You’re in the middle of my crime scene,” she said.
Zaccardi stared at her with haunted eyes, his black hair falling to his shoulders. He wore a small dark stud in his left ear and bore a three-inch scar on the side of his neck along the edge of his collar. He was physically fit and muscular, more than capable of killing. But twelve men without a scratch? Doubtful. Besides, she had already verified his itinerary and the timeline wouldn’t have worked, otherwise he’d be in lockup.
Chances were he had nothing to do with these murders. But
wasn’t going to assume anything.
“I want my cross back.”
She frowned. “What’s he talking about?”
Tommy Reiner, the cop she’d sent to sit on Zaccardi, stepped into the room. He paled at the sight and scent of death. “He wanted to talk to you.”
“I told you to keep him at the hospital.”
Zaccardi repeated, “I want my cross.”
Just what she needed, a lawsuit that she was denying Catholics their right to worship the way they saw fit.
“Uh—” Tommy hesitated.
“Give it back to him.”
“It appeared to be a weapon.”
“For shit’s sake,” she muttered. She motioned for them to leave the chapel, then turned to Rod. “You need me, I’m outside.”
“I have enough to keep me busy,” he said. “But when you’re done with Zaccardi, I’d like him to walk me through his exact steps.”
She ushered everyone out of the chapel and into the courtyard. “This is a crime scene. I—”
“You need to know what I touched when I arrived, where I went. I understand. I need my cross, Sheriff.”
Zaccardi spoke with a subtly luxurious European accent. He looked Italian, dressed well, and had an aura about him that suggested he always got what he wanted, when he wanted.
Reiner said, “It’s a knife, Skye. I swear.”
She snapped her fingers. “Let me see it.”
The cop left through the main courtyard entrance. They’d cut the lock on the gate when they entered. With one survivor at the hospital, they had to assume going in that there were other survivors, regardless of what Mr. Zaccardi had said over the phone.
“So you weren’t lying when you told my deputy you just flew in from Italy.”
“I don’t lie.”
Everyone lied, but she refrained from saying so. “What are you doing so far from home?”
“Rafe asked me to come. He was concerned about something happening here. He felt something—” He paused.
“He said something evil had slithered inside.”
She raised her eyebrow. “Were those his exact words?”
“And you dropped everything and flew halfway across the world?”
“Rafe wouldn’t ask for help if he didn’t need it.”
“What kind of help.”
“I told you. Something—”
She waved her hand dismissively. “Something evil, right.”
“What kind of evil?”
Skye had almost forgotten her detective, Juan Martinez, had followed them out of the chapel, until he asked the question. A few years older than she was, Juan had been one of her few close friends in the department since she became a cop eleven years ago.
“The kind of evil I understand.”
“For a man who doesn’t lie, you’re being awfully evasive,” Skye snapped.
His jaw tightened. “I’m a demonologist.”
That was the last thing she expected to hear. She glanced at Martinez, who was nodding. “You study demons,” he said, as if it were in the same career category as brain surgery.
“Among other things.” Zaccardi stared at the chapel doors. “I was here five years ago. It had been safe.” His voice trailed off.
“And now? You’re saying
killed those men?” Skye snorted. “Please. We’re looking for the men who helped your
butcher those priests.”
Zaccardi stepped toward her, aggressive. She put her hand on the butt of her gun, but he didn’t so much as blink. “Rafe did not kill those men. He didn’t have any part in it.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“That doesn’t matter—”
“All I’m saying is we don’t always know our friends, especially those we don’t see all the time.”
And sometimes we don’t even know our own family.
Skye steeled herself against her memories.
Zaccardi shook his head. “Rafe and I might as well be brothers. I know his heart. He knows mine. We were raised together, studied together in Europe.”
“Until he moved to America ten years ago.”
“And you haven’t seen him since,” Skye said flatly.
Deputy Reiner came back with an evidence bag. Inside was a knife in the shape of a cross.
would be a more descriptive word.
is your cross?” Skye took the bag from Tommy. “How’d you get this on the plane?”
“I checked my baggage. It
“Right.” This guy was getting weirder and weirder. But he didn’t seem dangerous. Not physically dangerous, at any rate. His alibi had checked out. Between the time his flight landed in San Francisco and the four-hour drive to the mission, he couldn’t have killed the priests. She handed him the bag.
Surprise lit his face. He retrieved the cross and slid it into a loop on his belt. For a moment he looked just like the pirate Skye had envisioned earlier, the dagger-cross his sword, a breeze lifting his hair, the morning sun chiseling his face.
Rod stepped into the courtyard. “Skye, you have to see this.” He stared at Zaccardi. “You should come, too.”
Skye didn’t want to discipline Rod in front of the other cops, but he didn’t have authority to bring civilians into the crime scene, even though he’d been working the job almost as long as she’d been alive.
“Do you really think demons did this?” Martinez asked Zaccardi without derision.
“Yes,” Zaccardi responded. “I know they did.”
“I don’t know about demons,” Rod said, “but something weird is going on, and if the press gets hold of this, PR will be hell.”
Anthony walked through the carnage, trying to push aside the silent screams for salvation. He didn’t have answers, and the panic in the pleas told him the dead knew their fate.
Did none of these cops see the evil around them? Didn’t the presence of darkness terrify them as it tried to overtake their souls?
For his entire life, he’d heard the cries of the dead and cackle of evil. If it hadn’t been for the wise men at St. Michael’s on a small island off Sicily, he would have gone insane. He’d learned to control it, to let them inside in small doses, in order to help the dead as well as preserve his own sanity. But here, with so much evil and pain in one place, his head ached with the struggle to keep the agony of the lost souls at bay.
They entered the small, narrow sacristy on the far side of the altar, the room where the priests stored chalices, vestments, unconsecrated hosts, sacramental wine. The destruction was complete, broken glass everywhere and the scent of sweet wine.
An odd drawing was painted in red—probably blood—on the stone wall. It was the seal of a demon, but Anthony didn’t recognize the crest. Four circles, one within the other, evenly spaced. Inside the first ring was a phrase written in ancient Latin. The second ring held three symbols Anthony recognized as traditional demonic marks—an upside-down cross at the top, a common symbol of the devil that has been around for thousands of years; a seven-point triangle in the lower right; and an upside-down hook in the lower left with a triangle at the top and an oval circling the bottom curve.
The third ring had markings he would need to analyze, but they appeared to be a numeric code of some sort. Some who practiced demonolatry used numerology as part of their rituals.
But the inner circle held three filled ovals that formed a fat triangle, a mark he’d never seen but filled him with an unexplainable primal fear. The image reminded him of soulless eyes, of which he had seen far too many.
Rod said, “It looks almost like hieroglyphics, but not exactly. Too much detail. The words are Latin.”
“ ‘Summon the fires to serve in death; relinquish the soul to serve your lord; walk in the willing dead,’ ” Anthony translated.
“What the hell does that mean?” Skye demanded.
“I’m not sure, but it’s part of a ritual.”
“A satanic ritual?” she questioned, disbelieving.
“This isn’t the mark of Satan.”
“Well?” she prompted when he didn’t continue.
“This is the seal of a demon. It’s used as part of the ritual to bring a specific demon from Hell.” He gestured at the crude painting.
“Demons, Satan, does it really matter? I mean, we’re dealing with a bunch of violent psychos anyway.”
“It matters,” Anthony said.
Walk in the willing dead.
He’d never heard that phrase before. Fire was a common element to call upon, particularly when dealing with demons. To serve Satan, one had to relinquish their soul to the fires of Hell. But the willing dead? Physical death or spiritual death?
“And who is he?” Skye asked.
If he were in Italy or in some other countries, Anthony could explain in far greater detail what they were dealing with. Believers would be appeased with his explanation that someone had brought forth evil and until they knew
evil they faced they’d never be able to send it back. But here in America? This pretty blond cop with intelligent, sad eyes? Her entire demeanor said she wouldn’t believe anything he had to say.