Father Thomas waited until my mouth was full of Lo Mein before he started talking. Probably so that he could be assured of a captive audience.
“You remember my friend Father O’Leary, yes?”
I nodded my head, still chewing. I knew him, but not well. We’d met once during my apprenticeship, when he called Dad in to help with a particularly nasty exorcism. I’d never seen one before, and Dad thought it would be a good learning experience — and he was right, I learned a lot. I also threw up on the carpet, but I think that’s a pretty natural reaction to seeing a human body contort like something out of a horror movie. Ugh. I shuddered just remembering it.
“We had coffee together the other day.” Christopher O’Leary and Thomas Moore had grown up together, in some small town in Pennsylvania. They’d both entered the priesthood, one to the Protestants and one to the Catholics. Apparently they stayed close.
“Mhm.” I swallowed my noodles and raised my eyebrows. “And?”
“There’s been an increase in requests for exorcisms lately. It had been so infrequent…most people don’t believe in demons, these days. And there was that case that made the news last year.”
“The boy died.”
Thomas rubbed at his beard. “Yes. God rest his soul. That’s what makes this so unusual.”
“There’s more to this story,” I said. I tilted my head to one side, reached for the rice. “If it were just ‘more exorcisms lately’ you wouldn’t look this worried.” Especially since not all requested exorcisms are the result of spirit-possession.
“The last three exorcisms Father O’Leary has attended, he exorcised the same person.”
“I…huh.” That was a new one for me. Usually, once you banish the spirit, that’s that. “I mean, there’s no reason why someone couldn’t be possessed more than once,” I said, “but I’ve never encountered it before.”
“I think he could use some help with this, Lizzie.”
“Yeah…” My mind was racing with possibilities. What would make someone a repeat host? They’d have to be exposed to the spirits, obviously…unless they were attracting them in some way? But how? —
“Wait a minute,” I said, my common sense finally catching up to me. “Why are you asking me for help?”
Father Thomas laughed. “Why am I asking a ghost expert for help with an exorcism?”
I rolled my eyes. “Why are you asking a out-of-practice, semi-retired ghost expert when you could call a currently-practicing ghost expert. As in, literally any other member of my family.”
“Your parents are out of town, Lizzie.”
Getting rid of a particularly nasty poltergeist in New Hampshire. Shit, I knew that. Corinna had mentioned that when she called last week. I hadn’t really been listening.
“I suppose I could have called Devon –” My jaw clenched. I can’t help it, it’s an involuntary reaction. “–but I suspect he’s busy.”
Yeah. Busy. Sure.
There are other hex-eyes in the family, but I was tired of arguing. Besides, I know why he called me. Christ, between Thomas and Henry it’ll be a miracle if I finish my degree. My eyes flicked toward the crucifix on the wall. Taking the name of the Lord in vain while sitting in a rectory across from a priest? Real smooth, Lizzie.
I might not really believe in God, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s to cover my bases. Sorry.
“So, will you–”
“Give me his contact information.” I stood up. “Gotta run, Father, I’ve got class.”
When I left St. Hilda’s, it was with a business card in my pocket and a scowl on my face. This was supposed to be my time. My four years to do something I loved. My chance to make a normal life for myself.
A normal life that was slipping farther and farther from my grasp with every passing minute.”Henry,” I whispered, “I am going to kill you.”