“Deliver Us From Evil” is my novella in the anthology WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE, on sale now from Pocket. I share the cover with two wonderful writers, our own murderous gal Karin Tabke, and MSW friend Roxanne St. Claire. We all delve into something a little new and different by incorporating supernatural elements into our romantic thrillers.
In my story, historical architect and demonologist Anthony Zaccardi rushes to Santa Louisa, California after his best friend, Rafe Cooper, asks for his help. He’s too late to save the twelve troubled priests at the Santa Louisa Mission, and Rafe is in a coma. Anthony is certain a demon is to blame; down-to-earth Sheriff Skye McPherson is just as certain that this is the work of human hands.
This scene comes at the beginning of Chapter Six when Anthony breaks into the mission to search for clues on how to send the demon back to Hell, and Skye confronts him.
Anthony picked the police lock.
He didn’t need his flashlight; the lighting had been restored in the mission. He quickly walked through the kitchen and down the main hall.
The mission had been destroyed from within. He’d seen the destruction earlier when he’d broken in to save Rafe; now the sad reality sank in.
Beautiful artwork, hundreds of years old, had been defamed. Every statue in the alcoves had its head removed. Paintings slashed. This, Anthony thought, was the work of human hands. A demon would crush the statues; humans defaced.
Anthony found Rafe’s room, accurately guessing that it would be closest to the kitchen. There was one small window facing the rear of the mission. A small night-light in the corner illuminated the room with shadows.
Anthony closed the door, looked at the wood. It was splintered and cracked, as if someone had been scratching from the inside. He shined his light on the marks, saw the damaged wood stained with dark blood. Deep gouges, likely made with something metal or hard wood had been used to pry open the door. Now Anthony knew how Rafe’s fingers had been broken, his fingernails torn.
The police had obviously gone through the room. Rafe’s computer was gone, only wires remaining. His files had been rifled through and many had been removed. The drawers of his desk were open.
But the police didn’t know the secrets the mission held, nor the many hiding places.
Anthony traced the ridges of the stone wall. He’d been in many missions, in many ancient buildings. He could find any hiding place . . . there. Around the edge of one stone he found a small, ancient release. A facade for a stone safe.
Sure enough, Rafe had left something in the space. A leather-bound journal. Anthony removed it, put the stone back in place.
Anthony carefully opened the journal, hoping for a clue. Several sheets of paper fell out and he stooped to pick them up.
The door opened and the lights came on.
“I thought you were going to do something stupid.” Skye McPherson stood in the doorway, gun drawn. “You’re under arrest.”
“Hand me those papers.”
“And the book.”
Reluctantly, he handed it over.
“Are you armed?”
“I don’t carry a gun.”
“Turn around and put your hands on the desk.”
“I told you–”
“You expect me to believe you? You broke a police seal and entered this building in the middle of the night. You’re attempting to remove evidence. You’re in hot water, Mr. Zaccardi.”
Skye frowned, glanced around the room.
“You heard,” he said, incredulous.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Hope claimed a corner of his heart. “You heard the voices.”
“I don’t hear any voices,” she snapped. “Turn around.”
He complied. Her hands moved around his waist, his thighs, his ankles. He wanted to think of her as a cop; he could only think of her as a woman. A woman who didn’t know what danger she was in, nor what power she had.
She removed his cross. “You’re clear, but I’ll keep this for the time being.”
He faced her. She was close, only inches from him as she holstered her weapon. He reached up to touch her face, and she flinched. He dropped his hand and said, “You can’t deny what you heard.”
She swallowed, took a step back. “What’s this?” she started flipping through the journal.
“I suspect it will speak of Rafe’s concerns. He would have hidden his notes if he thought something was going on here.”
She frowned, reading the journal.
“What?” he asked, inching closer. She smelled of pine and soap. All natural. All woman.
“It’s in Latin.”
Latin? Rafe hated Latin. Anthony could practically hear him groaning during class.
She tucked the journal under her arm and looked at the papers.
“What are those?” he asked.
She didn’t say. He peered over her hands. Santa Louisa Grocery.
“Why would he keep copies of the food deliveries?” Anthony asked.
When Skye didn’t say anything, he knew she had the answer. “We need to work together, Skye.”
Her head shot up. “You said you weren’t a cop. Has anything changed in the last–” she glanced at her watch “–fifteen hours?”
“You need me.”
“I don’t know you.”
“But you know I had nothing to do with what happened here.”
“How? Maybe you were working with your friend Rafe. Maybe you’re supposed to steal artifacts while I’m trying to solve a mass murder. Maybe–”
“You don’t believe that.”
“I don’t know what to believe.”
“That’s the name of the demon in the sacristy. Human blood was used, wasn’t it?”
“I can’t discuss the investigation with you.”
She had a great poker face, but her eyes exposed her soul, which told him he was right. He also had thousands of years of history to draw upon.
“Ianax was a triple agent, so to speak. He was a spirit on Satan’s side, but attempted to convince St. Michael the Archangel that he was gathering evidence against Satan, all in an attempt to find out how many were staying on the Lord’s side and who were going with Satan. He gave information to both sides.”
She stared at him blankly. “You’re a lunatic.”
He hardened. He was used to people not believing him, but he desperately wanted Skye to trust him. The dead depended on it.
“Ianax was banished to the deepest pits of Hell by Satan when he attempted to overtake Hades. He’s an ancient demon, feeding on hate and revenge. It takes three dark souls and human sacrifice to draw him out.”
“I’ve read thousands of crime reports. There’s no proven case of human sacrifice by Satanists in America.”
Anthony continued. “Your people don’t know everything, and human sacrifice is rarely what you envision. He’s here. You sense it. You heard the voices of those trapped between Heaven and Hell. But you won’t open your heart.”
“You can’t tell me that a spirit killed those men.”
“Not alone, but Ianax was part of the massacre and if we can’t send it back to Hell more people will die.”
“Bullshit. More will die if we don’t capture the people who killed those priests.”
“I don’t know what planet you live on, Mr. Zaccardi, but where I come from you put people in prison and they stop killing innocent old men.”
He’d said the wrong thing, but he persisted. “I agree, we need to find the three involved in order to send Ianax back. If we don’t, he will grow more powerful.”
“Why are you so certain there are three people involved?”
“The seal. In the sacristy.” How could she convince this woman what took him a lifetime to learn?
“You look so normal,” she muttered.
A rare anger grew in Anthony’s chest, the rage he fought to keep firmly at bay.
He grabbed Skye by the arms and pulled her close. “If you think this is a game, more innocent people will suffer. I am deadly serious, Sheriff McPherson.”
Her lush mouth opened, closed, opened again. “Let. Me. Go.”
Anthony dropped his hands, the anger washing away in embarrassment. He didn’t manhandle women. It was Skye’s total disdain of him and what he said . . .
He should be used to it by now. Few people truly believed that evil existed. They talked about it, gave it lip service, but didn’t believe in evil spirits, that they could be summoned and used, that they grew more powerful with every moment they spent outside of Hell, feeding on the cruelty and rage and hatred of human beings.
“Trust me,” he said simply, imploring her with his eyes. He saw a hint of doubt in her face, the desire to believe him. Then it vanished.
But hope was all he needed. He’d worked with far less.