“Are you alright?” Sammy asked as he drove slowly past the rectory, looking for a place to park.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Fran’s murder just took me by surprise.”
“I know what you mean. There’s been a lot of strange things happening lately.” Sammy looked left and right at the crossroad and then kept driving. “I think we may need to walk a distance; there aren’t any parking spots. Is something going on at the Church this afternoon?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” Ruby said. “But there was a lot of people here when I went to Mass the other day. I ended up parking over by that playground.”
Sammy turned and headed to where Ruby was pointing. “Looks like we’re in luck; there are a few spots by it.”
He parallel parked and they got out of the car.
“This is the area where one of those goths came up and talked to me.” Ruby placed a hand on her temple and softly said, “Draven.”
Sammy glanced at Ruby as they walked swiftly toward the rectory. “You said his name like you know him.”
“He does seem familiar,” Ruby said. “But I don’t know how. It’s almost like we’ve met before and the more I think about it, I’m sure we have.”
When they reached the rectory, they walked up the steps to the front door and knocked a couple of times but no one answered.
“Father’s probably at the Church,” Sammy said. “Do you want to go over there?”
“Let’s go. It’s like the whole town is there.”
They walked across the road to the Church. The sidewalk was void of people as they entered the vestibule at the entrance door. Sammy copied Ruby and dipped his fingers into the Holy Water font and blessed himself as Ruby did.
Standing behind the quiet pews they looked around for Father.
“I don’t see him,” Sammy whispered. “He could be in the back.”
“He might be in the sacristy.” Ruby motioned for him to follow her as she walked down the side aisle of the nave, past pews of praying parishioners.
“Are we supposed to go in there?” Sammy said, following her to the sacristy door at the side of the altar.
Ruby looked at him and then out to rows of worshipper packed benches. “I’m not sure, but our mission is rather important.”
The door was open, so they looked inside to find Father Murphy seated in the corner, reading. Sammy cleared his throat.
Father Murphy looked up. “Oh, I didn’t see you there. What can I do for you?”
Ruby hesitated, and with a near stutter said, “I’m not sure where to begin, but I’m trying to find my brother, Alan, and I think he’s somewhere around the old castle and . . .” She let the sentence trail off because the rest of what she had to say was going to sound ridiculous.
“I’m sorry your brother is missing,” Father Murphy said. He walked up to them, holding the bible he had been reading. “But I would avoid going near the old monastery. Great harm could come to you if you do.”
“Do you know Ethel Dory?” Ruby said, anxious to get to the point.
He thought a moment, then said, “Yes, she was here the day she was attacked by, what she called, a giant bat. How is she doing?”
“She’s still in the hospital and not doing too well,” Ruby said. “But, before she lost consciousness, she said I needed a relic. Do you know anything about that?”
“Come inside,” he said, then closed the door behind them. “I do know the relic she may have been speaking about, but why would you need it?”
“Ah,” Ruby said, having difficulty finding the words she wanted to say.
Sammy blurted out, “Ethel is in a coma—or something like that—and we think she wants us to take a relic with us when we look for Ruby’s brother and to help us fight off vampires.”
Ruby looked at Father, waiting for him to open the door and boot them out or at the very least laugh at them. All he did was give them a stone-faced stare.
“I know it sounds crazy, but it’s what we need. Can you help us?” Ruby said.
Father Murphy exhaled and shook his head. “You’re not crazy and I do have a relic that I requested sent here to us at Sacred Heart to help fight the demons in the old monastery.”
Ruby almost fainted. She could not believe what he was saying. He was not admonishing them; he was agreeing with them. “You mean you believe us?”
Father nodded. “I believe you. The townspeople come here and crowd into the Church because this is the dwelling place of God amongst men; the House of God and Gate of Heaven.”
“So you’re saying that you’ve known all along that the things going on around here are . . . demonic?”
“Not at first,” Father said. “I presumed people were overreacting because of the unusual activity around Monks Hill, but as more people came to me with their concerns—not to mention the way residents have been coming up missing or killed—I decided to be prudent and have the finger of St. Thomas the Apostle loaned to our Church while it was touring the Midwest.”
“Does that mean we can have it?” Sammy said.
A tense silence filled the room, then Father said, “It is a sacred relic—a treasure—and needs to be treated as such. I cannot take the chance of anything happening to it. If I gave the relic to you, it would be against Church policy.”
“But if we take it inside the monastery, it can do good,” Ruby said, beginning to sound desperate. “Doesn’t it say somewhere that the bodies of the Saints can drive off demons?”
“It is true that God dwells in the body of the Saints, for they are asleep and not dead, but it could be lost or destroyed while in your possession.”
“But if we take the relic in the monastery and get rid of the demons, that would help the people on the island. Wouldn’t it?” Ruby said.
Father rubbed his youthful, wrinkle-free forehead and then looked around the room as if the sacristy would provide him the answer he was seeking. “I want to give it to you, but it is entrusted to my care and is currently guarding Sacred Heart.”
“Consider this,” Ruby said. “Sure, people are safe inside the Church, but how long can people hang out here? The demons will increase in number, surround the Church, and trap everyone inside this building. Not to mention the fate of the other people on the island. That doesn’t sound like a good plan to me.”
“Your point is well taken,” Father said. “But if I let you take the relic out of here, I may be excommunicated for disrespecting the relic.”
“You could come with us,” Sammy said, pulling the collar of his T-shirt away from his thick neck. “You can carry the relic; we won’t touch it.”
“I cannot leave my flock alone and without the protection of the relic.”
Ruby and Sammy looked at each other. They were fighting a losing battle.
“Surely you know what must be done, whether the Church likes it or not,” Ruby said.
Father briefly looked at the two of them before walking to the cupboard holding the chalice safes. He took a key from his pocket and put it into a lock, but did not turn it. He walked back to where he had been sitting when they first came into the sacristy and opened the Good Book.
Ruby looked at Sammy, somewhat confused by Father Murphy’s actions. Sammy gave a nod toward the safes and the protruding key. Was Father really going to let them walk out with the finger of Thomas the doubting Apostle?
Sammy took the lead and walked up to the small wooden safe above the marble countertop. He turned the key and opened the square door. Inside was a small reliquary. Sammy took out the glass box adorned with gold, attached to a chain, and handed it carefully to Ruby.
With the greatest of care, Ruby put the links of precious metal over her head so that she was wearing it like a necklace. When they looked over to Father Murphy, he was still reading the Bible, ignoring their actions. Sammy closed and locked the safe. He left the key in place and then followed Ruby toward the door.
Before leaving, it occurred to Ruby that if the parishioners saw her walking out of the Church with the relic, they would not be happy, to say the least. To her side, she saw a stack of church bulletins on the counter, so she took one and used it to hide the sacred relic that she wore around her neck. She looked back at Father once more, relieved he was still acting as though he did not know what was going on, and said, “Thank you, Father. We will bring it back safely to you and the Church.”
Then Sammy opened the sacristy door, and they left Sacred Heart Church—equipped to enter the gates of Hell. Once outside, he said, “Since we have the relic, are we doing this now?”
“No.” Ruby lowered the paper bulletin and looked at the boxed finger. “Tomorrow as planned. When I’m done helping Doctor Booker with Lord Andrei’s foot, I’ll call you. So be ready.”
“I’ll be ready,” Sammy said, walking at Ruby’s side as they crossed the street. “As ready as I can be.”