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August 08, 2022

A Penitent Man

By Jeff Dosser

After twenty years working the streets, I've never gotten used to the musty stench of death. Images don't bother me anymore, the memories of shotgun blast suicides and the bloated remains of hookers sometimes bob like garbage through the river of my dreams, but most nights I sleep without dreaming, the sleep of the just you might say. But the smells ... the smells still get me. Even after fourteen years in homicide, I've never been able to eat after visiting a crime scene. So when my phone buzzed me awake at two a.m. I knew enough to grab a bite before rolling out the door.

Stepping beneath the crime tape, a cup of cheap coffee still warm in my hand, I was intercepted by my old running buddy, Cpl. Frost. It'd been twenty years since Perry and I patrolled the wrong side of the tracks together. A time when the guilty trembled at our approach and oft times the only justice received was that meted out with our fists.

"Mornin' Dave, sorry to wake you," he said, pumping my hand enthusiastically. "I know you're not the detective on call, but the Chief insisted we hand this one to you. Said it was related to some case you've got on your plate."

As he led me to the victim's front door, I knew he wasn't referring to the shooting of a grocery clerk by a gang banger out north, nor the murder/suicide of the enraged husband who discovered videos of his wife with another man. No, he was talking about Stan Nelson, a landscaper who'd broken into a middle class home to rape and murder two ten-year-old boys before hanging himself in their closet, and Peter White, a successful software developer who'd blown away two tellers during a bank robbery, then driven home with the money and rounded out his day by parking a bullet in his own temple. Cases where both suspects, men with no criminal past and no known motive committed crimes of such violence, that they garnered the lead story of media outlets across the state.

When I stepped onto the porch and walked inside, I could smell the blood. Not the coppery tang of blood spilled in a fight or the bright red results of a cut scalp, but the thick black stink of arterial blood ... and the cold aroma of raw organs.

"Perry, what are we dealin' with here?" I slipped a pair of latex gloves from my pocket and snapped them on. I could tell by my old friend's expression we were facing something bizarre.

"We've got four victims," he said, "they're in here." He led me to the dining room, laying a hand on my arm before stepping in. "You and I see bodies all the time," he met my eyes then looked quickly away, "but this ... this is something else."

My old friend wasn't wrong. Before the horror which ended their peaceful lives, the victims had been enjoying a dinner of chicken casserole, French bread, and green beans. A mother and two children, a boy maybe eight and a girl in her teens, were duct-taped to their chairs, their intestines spilled onto their laps, mouths frozen in anguished cries. The father, likewise taped to his chair, was tipped onto the floor, his guts spread across the ground and soaked into the carpet.

I bent down to examine the blood splatter on the table cloth and floor.

"These people were alive when this was done," I told Perry.

I stood and pressed my wrist against the boy's forehead trying not to imagine the terror as one by one his parents and sister were gutted like fish before his eyes. His flesh was still warm.

"How'd you get the call?" I asked.

"The killer phoned it in," he said. "Dialed 911 and told dispatch she just killed a family of four."

"I was told there were five bodies. I assume the fifth is our killer?"

Perry shrugged and bobbed his head towards the kitchen. "I don't know, pal. You tell me."

My breath caught as I stepped from the living room into the kitchen. It wasn't the body on the floor that halted me, her intestines splayed across the linoleum like a pile of Chinese noodles; it was the four human hearts set beside it and the words painted in blood on the wall beyond.

Each heart sat in a puddle of gore. Eight legs were drawn in each. It gave them the look of plump red spiders. The killer, a frumpy woman in her late fifties wore a black skirt, her pale body naked from the waist up. She lay in a heap beside the refrigerator, her face, hair, and arms streaked with blood. A kitchen knife was clutched in her fist.

I crouched beside her and studied the scene. "What on earth could push you to this?" I whispered. When I tilted her head back, her eyes fluttered open. With a cry, I fell back, my hand landing in the center of one of the hearts and squashing across the floor.

"Holy Shit, she's alive," Perry exclaimed. He kicked away the knife and called on the radio for an ambulance

"What's your name?" I asked, "Do you know where you are?"

"Spiders." Her words gurgled out like a curse. "Spiders ... in ... shadows."

Perry tapped my shoulder and handed me an ID. The picture was that of the woman on the floor.

"Where'd you get this?"

He jacked a thumb over his shoulder. "She parked her car out front. Her purse was sitting on the front seat."

I glanced down at the ID: Gail Ann Simons, age 57.

"Gail, is that your name?"

She nodded, barely a nudge of her head.

"Hold on, Gail, help's on the way."

"No." Her lips formed the soundless word.

"Gail, did you kill these people?"

Another weak nod.

"Why?"

"Shadows." She coughed, blood spurting from her open chest and splattering hot and wet across my thigh. "It came ... from his shadow."

"What came, Gail, what came from his shadow?"

I could hear the wail of sirens followed by the thump of footsteps and metallic rattle of wheels as the EMTs trundled their gurney into the room. They attached her to an IV before wrapping her guts in a sheet and throwing them atop her chest. Then just as quickly they packed her on the gurney and carted her out. In minutes they were gone, the ambulance streaking away from the curb and howling into the distance.

Watching the EMTs work, a silent prayer formed on my lips, a prayer they'd save her, not as a mercy, criminals like Gail Simons deserved no mercy, but a selfish prayer for survival. If she died, I'd never discover the sickness driving her to such horrors.

"Quite a thing isn't it?" I glanced behind me and found Detective Susan Yost eying the scene. She stepped up beside me and examined the wall.

Gail Simons, whether in her own blood or that of her victims, had pressed handprints in a broken red circle around these words painted across the wallpapered surface:

A SACRAMENT PENANCE

THE SHADOWS CEDE

SINS NOT MINE

ASSUAGE THE FATHERS NEED

Susan lifted the camera strung around her neck and snapped a dozen pics of the wall.

I needed time to think, a moment to wrap my head around this. I tapped out a cigarette and stepped onto the back porch.

"Whaddya suppose that writing means?" Susan asked, following me out.

I took a puff and sent a cloud of smoke tumbling towards the heavens. "Hell if I know," I said. "Hell if I know."

* * *

Back at the office, I received a call from Perry Frost. "The Simons woman didn't make it," he said. "They got her it to the ER, but she died an hour later."

"Did she say anything before she went?"

"Nothing of consequence," he said. "I sent a rookie to keep her company in the ambulance. When I asked that same question, the kid just shrugged and said she kept mumbling about spiders. Shadows and spiders."

"I'm writing up a warrant on her house," I told him, "You might send your people over to lock the place down."

"That's part of the reason I'm calling," he said. "We got a call from her husband an hour after the killer phoned in her 911; he wanted to file a missing person's report on his wife. When I showed up and explained to him what we had, he signed a search waiver and gave us permission to check the house. Dave, there's nothin' here. I'm sure you'll want to check her computer and phone records yourself, but this place is clean. Looks like someone's granny lives here, not a psychopath."

I thanked him and hung up. This case was shaping up just like the rest. I pulled out my files on Stan Nelson and Peter White as well as records on a perp by the name of Emanuel Garcia. Garcia was a bus driver for the city. He'd been on the job for thirteen years when one bright December afternoon he decided to plow into a group of shoppers waiting outside the mall. He'd killed twelve and injured fourteen more before stopping at the top of a hill. He'd put the bus in neutral and lay down in front. It had rolled right over his head. Witnesses said he'd been yelling about spiders in the shadow before the bus crushed his skull.

My instincts screamed there was a connection. Twelve people dead and fifteen injured and the only link were the ravings of murderers about shadows and spiders; that and the total lack of motive or criminal history in any of the killers.

In all my investigation, I'd come up with only one commonality and that could have been a coincidence. The bank robber and pedophile killer both had a connection with the Holy Mary Catholic Church. The robber was a member, and the pedophile showing up to mow the lawn every Thursday afternoon. Thing is, I don't believe in coincidence.

On my computer, I pulled up the pictures from the latest homicide. I went through each of Susan Yost's images one at a time. I paused a long while studying the bloody writing.

A SACRAMENT PENANCE

THE SHADOWS CEDE

SINS NOT MINE

ASSUAGE THE FATHERS NEED

Sacrament penance, what's that mean?

"Morning Dave, you're in awful early." I turned to find my office mate, James Neely waltzing, in a backpack slung across his shoulder. "I guess you got assigned the spider heart murders?"

James is Ichabod Crane thin with a bald head and protruding Adam's apple. He'd be the last man you'd imagine when picturing a cop, but in the years I'd known him, he'd proven one of the sharpest minds on the force.

"The spider heart killer?" I rose from my chair and stretched. "Is that what they're calling it?"

He dropped his pack on his desk and sunk into his chair. "Yup, someone must have gotten a look at the scene and tipped off the media." He spun around and leaned in, lowering his voice as if someone might hear.

"Is it true? Did she carve out their hearts and use them to paint spiders on the floor?"

"Where'd you hear that?"

"Rumor mill," he said arching his brows expectantly.

"It's true. The pictures are on the server if you wanna take a look." I grabbed my empty mug pausing long enough to ask. "I'm getting' coffee, you want some?"

He glanced absentmindedly over his shoulder. "Naw, I got a full thermos in my pack."

When I returned, the wall writing photo was displayed on his screen.

"Can you make anything of that?" I asked. "Like what the hell's a sacrament penance? I've Googled sacrament and penance and come up with nothing."

"I don't know about other churches," he said, "but as a Roman Catholic, I know of several sacraments; there's the sacrament of baptism, marriage, confirmation. And of course confession. As for penance, that's related to the sacrament of confession. You know, when a priest hears your sins and offers absolution."

"So the shadows gave her a penance related to a confession?"

"Maybe," James said. "She's insane. Who knows what her mind came up with."

"That's the thing," I said. "All these people, Peter White, Stan Nelson, Emanuel Garcia. None of 'em had a history of mental illness. No family or friends reported anything odd until the day they killed. Blood tests were negative too. No drugs, no chemicals, nada." I shook my head. "To tell the truth, I'm not convinced they were crazy. And based on what we know about the Simons woman, she doesn't' appear to be crazy either."

I leaned forward and tapped on his screen. "What about these next two lines? I looked up assuaged. It means to make an unpleasant feeling less intense or satisfy an appetite. If the sins aren't hers, whose sin is she doing penance for, the fathers? And is commission of the murders what assuages the father's need?"

"Maybe," James said. He paused rubbing a palm across his chin. "This has the feel of a cult. Have you found anything linking these people together?"

"Until the Gail Simons started babbling about spiders and shadows," I said, "the only connection was a weak link to Holy Mary Catholic Church."

"With all the talk about confessions and fathers," James said, "I think your connection just took a turn for the surreal."

I stood behind him for a long moment, both of us lost in our thoughts. Down deep, I knew he was right.

"Do you know the head priest at Holy Mary?" I asked.

He turned in his chair obviously deep in thought. "What was that? The head priest at Holy Mary?" He squinted his eyes and scanned the ceiling in thought. "I should remember, he runs the camp my kids go to every summer. A New Orleans guy, transplanted to Oklahoma after Katrina." He paused, snapping his fingers and rocking back in his chair. "Yeah, LeBlanc something. Yeah, Father Benet LeBlanc. Fortyish, mop of black hair. Nice guy."

I grabbed my blazer and shrugged it over the .38 snubby I wore on a leather shoulder holster, then grabbed my keys and headed for the door.

"Where ya goin?" he asked.

"I think I'll have a talk with Father LeBlanc."

"Before you do, may I suggest a detour?"

"If you want me to pick up kolaches, you can forget it, I've been up since two and I'm not in the mood."

He shook his head and waved me over. "No, no. I'm serious. Take a look at this."

He spun around and pulled up an image on his computer. It was a report from a shooting two years prior. A homeless Marine, by the name of Gavin Ford. He'd killed four and injured another ten in a shooting outside a South Alsuma mall.

"I remember this," I said. "What's this guy got to do with my case?"

"On the surface, very little, but your spider woman got me thinking." He leaned forward and pulled up Ford's psych profile. "The news had a field day with this guy comparing him to Lee Harvey Oswald. But Ford was almost a pacifist. He joined the Navy and became a corpsman for a Marine unit."

"Corpsman?" I asked.

"Yeah, they're the same as medics in the Army." He leaned up and tapped the screen. "You see where it's reported Ford never took up a weapon the whole time he was deployed in Iraq?"

"Still," I said, "the man was insane. He's a diagnosed schizophrenic."

"True," James said, "but he was nonviolent; until the day of the shooting. Can't the same be said about each of your suspects? Nonviolent until they committed murder."

James was right. But I couldn't get over the hurdle of believing a known schizophrenic couldn't suddenly snap.

"I don't know, seems a stretch." I glanced at my watch and stepped towards the door.

"Wait, wait." He spun around and held up his hands. "Just two things. If I'm wrong about this case being related, lunch is on me."

"Fine." I sighed my acceptance as he pulled up another document.

"This is a report on Ford's activity since being committed."

The report was several pages long and I didn't have time to waste. "Just give me the Reader's Digest version," I said.

James looked up, his lips twisted into a scowl. "Basically, it deals with Ford's obsession with his art. According to this report, he spends his free time drawing spiders and shadows ... all ... day ... long."

"James." I laid a hand on his shoulder. "This is all very interesting, and I appreciate you thinking out of the box, but I'm not buying a relationship between your killer and mine." I turned to go, but he halted me with a touch.

"I said two things, that's only one."

"All right, what's the second?"

"Just this, the day before my boy went on his shooting spree, the shelter he stayed at was visited by a group of volunteers."

He stared up at me, his arms crossed across his thin chest, a shit-eating grin on his face.

"So volunteers came to a homeless shelter," I said. "So what?"

"Would it matter that they came from the Holy Mary Catholic Church? And that Father LeBlanc was one in charge?"

* * *

A lot had changed since I'd last walked the halls of a mental health facility. Instead of the dingy white walls and buzzing fluorescents of the 90's, Laureate Psychiatric Hospital reminded me of a hotel. A lobby of plush couches and tasteful paintings lead onto bright halls and a picture window overlooking a waterfall and jungle of lush plants. I was directed to office 2A. The door was open so I knocked on the wall and peered in.

"Doctor Jones, I'm Detective Adams. It's nice you could see me on such short notice." A slim woman in a dark blue pantsuit and pixie hair cut rose from her chair and ushered me in.

"You're quite welcome, Detective. I got a call from Detective Neely. He said you had a few questions about Gavin."

"That's right," I said. She indicated a plush leather chair in front of her desk and I took a seat. "I wanted to know if he ever mentioned confession or a priest during any of his sessions."

She pursed her lips, one brow arched in thought. "I'm not sure, let's take a look at his file."

She typed at her keyboard for several seconds before she began a slow shake of her head. "No, nothing mentioned in any of our records. No mention of church or anything Catholic at all."

That wasn't the answer I'd hoped for.

"Detective Neely mentioned Gavin spends a lot of time drawing. Is that true?"

"Most certainly," she said. "Whenever he's not watching TV, he's drawing. Always the same thing."

She typed on the keyboard and turned the monitor so I could see. The screen showed image after image of dark sketches. Each depicted a spider either coming out of a shadow or casting a shadow.

"Does that mean something?" I asked.

She shrugged. "Schizophrenics often express themselves through art. It's hard to tell what the unconscious is telling us in their work. Especially in a patient as disturbed as Gavin."

"Is he violent?"

"Not that we've found. Frankly, ever since my assessment for his trial, I was surprised he was responsible for the killings. Of course, even with all we know about the human mind, there are dark corners yet to be explored." Her eyes cut to a clock on the wall.

"I'm sorry to rush you, Detective, but I've got an appointment in fifteen minutes. Would you care to look in on Gavin before you go?"

"Thanks, Doc, but I wouldn't want to put you out."

"Oh, it's no problem," she said. "He's in the commons room. I can show you a feed from here."

Her screen opened on a bird's eye view of a room with tables in the center and a TV with three couches in the corner. Most of the dozen people in the room were seated around the TV, a handful at the tables engaged in a game of cards. One patient, his long hair dangling around his broad shoulders, stood beneath the camera staring directly into the lens.

"Now that's odd," the doctor said. She stared at the monitor a moment before leaning over and tapping on the screen. "That's him, the man staring at the camera."

It was apparent Gavin was saying something, his eyes never leaving the lens.

"Does he do this often?" I asked.

"No, this is a first." Her fingers clacked across the keyboard. "Let's hear what he's saying."

A second later the distant sound of Forest Gump, the movie playing on the TV, and the scattered chatter of voices came across a pair of speakers situated on her desk. Gavin's mumbling monolog was a constant buzz in the background. I leaned closer as she turned up the volume and zoomed in so we could see his lips. He was repeating the same words over and over:

"A sacrament penance the shadows cede ... a sacrament penance the shadows cede ... a sacrament penance ... ."

I sat in stunned silence. How could he know what was written on that wall? Unless ... unless he'd heard it himself.

"Has Gavin ever said anything like that before?"

The doctor shook her head. "Never."

When she stole a second glance at her watch, I took the hint. I thanked her for the time before pausing at the door for a final question.

"Doctor, when you pulled up the commons room video, you said, 'That's odd'. What did you mean?"

She looked up, her brows unknitting like someone pulling themselves from an unpleasant thought. "What was that?"

"When you pulled up the video. You said 'That's odd'. I was curious what you thought was odd."

"It's the cameras and mics," she said. "They're hidden. The patients don't have any idea they're there. Yet it appeared Gavin was looking straight at us."

* * *

Holy Mary Catholic church stood behind a low stone wall at the corner of Fifteenth and Elm, a bustling intersection only two miles from downtown. The church's facade with its Cherokee Gothic spires and red brick walkway was surrounded by a lush garden of Azaleas and magnolia trees. The late morning sun sat hot and bright in a bluebird sky.

It took me some time to locate the church's basement offices, a dark, well-worn section of the building smelling of old books and mold.

"Father, there's a Detective Dave Adams to see you," LeBlanc's secretary announced.

From my spot in the cramped lobby, I could see the left half of Father LeBlanc, the good Father hard at work at his keyboard. At the announcement of my arrival, he leaned over and peered out the door. He smiled and threw me a wave. "Let me finish this email, and I'll be right there."

A moment later, he stepped out and shook my hand, a toothy grin on his slim face. "Good morning Detective ... Adams? Did I hear that right?"

"Yes, sir. Dave Adams, with the Alsuma Police."

He ushered me into his office, a narrow space with barely enough room to hold his two drawer mahogany desk and a pair of sturdy wooden chairs.

"What do I owe the pleasure of your visit, Detective?" His worn leather chair groaned beneath him as he dropped into the seat. "Does this have to do with the car break-ins we've been experiencing lately?"

"I'm afraid not, Father. I came to ask about Peter White and Stan Nelson."

"Ah, yes." He leaned back, his elbows propped on his desk, his fingers steepled beneath his chin. "As I recall, a detective Neely spoke with me a few months back." He shook his head and gave me a brooding smile. "I'm sorry, but I doubt I have very much more to offer."

I smiled, ignoring his brush off and went on. "Mr. White was a member of your congregation, is that correct?"

"Yes, for six years. He had just become one of our board members before the uh ... the unfortunate incident at the bank."

"Did you care for Mr. White?" I asked.

The question caught him off guard. He lowered a brow and considered me with a hawk-eyed stare. "I wasn't a close friend of Mr. White's, but there was no animosity between us."

"How about Stan Nelson? How well did you know him?"

From the instant I asked about White, the tension jumped off LeBlanc like sparks.

"Mr. Nelson and I spoke now and again. On warm days, I often brought him a glass of lemonade."

"Did you hear either man's confession?"

His brows arched, his eyes wide. "I'm not at liberty to say, Detective. Surely a man with your experience is familiar with the sacramental seal?"

"Of course," I said, "I guess I should have asked if both men made use of churches services. I know Peter White was a member. Did Mr. Nelson ever attend church?"

Before he could answer, the secretary, an elderly woman with rosacea red cheeks and flabby white arms poked her head in. "Father, Mr. Drake is here with the decorations for his daughter's wedding. He doesn't know where to put them."

LeBlanc rolled his eyes and pushed up from his seat. "If you'll excuse me for a moment, Detective, I shouldn't be a minute."

While LeBlanc was gone, I received a call from James.

"You still at the church?"

"Yeah, I'm interviewing LeBlanc now."

"Well, here's some more fuel to throw on the fire," he said. "I did a little follow up on the missing person's report filed on your spider heart killer."

"And?" "The last time her husband saw her, she was leaving for a funeral for a woman by the name of Grace Emons."

"Grace Emons? Never heard of her."

"Not surprising. She was ninety-three and a resident at Green Meadows Living Center. Gail Simons volunteered there twice a week."

I wasn't sure where James was headed. "I'm assuming you've got something a little better for me than a ninety-three-year-old woman's funeral?"

"Yeah, I do. Guess who officiated the ceremony?"

"Father LeBlanc?"

"Bingo."

I turned to find LeBlanc hovering at the doorway. "I'll call ya later."

"I didn't mean to disturb you, Detective. Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, Father, everything's great."

"Would you care to join me for a smoke?" He pulled a pack of Winstons from his pocket and smiled. "I can always tell a fellow addict."

I followed him out the side door into the parking lot. He tapped out a cigarette and lit up sharing his lighter as I joined him.

"One of my little sins," he said holding up his cigarette.

"So I hear you're a transplant from Louisiana," I said. "When did you move to Oklahoma?"

"Yes, I am. I see you've done your homework." He leaned against a gray Honda, the smoke curling from his nostrils and swirling about his head. "Our church in Bayou Vista was destroyed by Katrina in oh-five. I spent two years doing relief work in the ninth ward before the diocese saw fit to assign me here."

"A priest from Louisiana huh? Did you like it there?"

"Born and raised on Lake Pontchartrain," he said. "My family has a long tradition in New Orleans. We've an even longer tradition of religious service. My grandmother and her mother before her, as far back as our family can recollect, were all Hoodoo priests."

"Really? That's fascinating."

I needed to get to questions of his relationship with the Simons woman and his presence at the funeral. He took a long drag and eased out the smoke, his shadow on the pavement seeming to quiver in the heat.

"Father, did you speak to a woman by the name of Gail Simons yesterday at the funeral?"

He rubbed a palm across his chin seeming to consider the question. "Yes, I believe I did. A stocky woman? In her fifties?"

"Yeah, that 'd be her."

Bingo. I had my link. I knew LeBlanc was the key. The question was how much intel could I get before he got wise and lawyered up. With guys like LeBlanc, the secret to keeping them talking was playing to their ego.

"What did you two discuss?" I asked.

"Sin, mainly."

"Really. Did you hear her confession?"

He waggled a finger, a tight smile twitching the corners of his lips. "Ah, there you go again, Detective." He took another drag. The amount of smoke he exhaled was startling in its abundance. Once again, my eyes were drawn to his shadow. The shade cast by the smoke was as dark as jet as it swirled around his head.

"But no, I did not hear her confession. As a matter of fact, it was I who confessed to her."

I stared in shock as he took another drag. The smoke of his exhalation swirled like a fog. The air between us grew icy and thick.

"There are sins a man should never confess," he said, "Especially if that man's a priest. Desires so vile their utterance would damn him to hell."

"Like what?" I coughed out the words my throat suddenly tight, my mouth dry.

"Of course, I'd expect you to be curious. As a detective, you're something of a connoisseur of sin." He took another drag. As smoke spilled from his lips, the light grew bitter, the shadows as sharp as blades.

"Have you ever wondered what crashing a bus into a crowd would be like? Or picking off people from a rooftop like a sniper." He pulled in another lungful laughing as it cascaded out.

The air caught in my throat. It was filled with a reek of rot and decay.

"How about the molestation of a child or murder of a family? Have you ever pondered it, Detective? Have you wondered at the brutality and beauty but been too afraid to act? Too afraid of being caught."

The world spun as I stumbled against the Honda. With wide-eyed amazement, I watched a knob of darkness expand from LeBlanc's shadow. Like a tumor, it bloomed, eight palpitating legs around a pulsing ebony core. With an audible pop, it broke free. It floating across the pavement like a shadow bubble. He made the sign of the cross and stepped closer. "Bless me, father, for I have sinned," he said. "It's been a day since my last confession and I've grown lustful."

I took a step back as the spider shadow swelled. "What ... what is that?" I fumbled for the holster, my fingers chill and stiff against the leather. I unsnapped the revolver and brought it out. "What is it?" LeBlanc laughed. "Why it's my confession taken form, Detective My ... my untold sin." He took another puff then leaned close and blew the smoke in my face.

I gasped, my knees gone soft in the fetid warmth of his breath.

"I congratulate you on discovering my little ... hobby. I really hadn't expected to be caught. But I'm sure you understand why I can't let you go."

The shadow thing crept closer. The blob of its body resolving into abdomen and head. It rose into three dimensions as it plodded closer. This isn't possible. What I'm seeing isn't possible. With shaking hands, I raised the gun.

"You run into a lot of prostitutes I imagine."

LeBlanc's hand closed on mine. He pulled the pistol free.

When the thing touched my shadow, I felt it enter my soul. Silken webs as chill as night twined around my heart. They tightened until there was nothing left but desire.

"Haven't you always wanted to wrap your fingers around their soft, warm throats," LeBlanc said. "Squeeze out their iniquities like grapes in the press."

As he spoke, I could almost taste them. I could smell the deep pink aroma of cheap perfume, and naked flesh. Could taste the scent of panic, and blood, and fear.

LeBlanc opened my fingers and pressed the gun into my hand.

"For these and all the sins of my past," LeBlanc said, "I ask pardon of God, penance, and absolution from you."

I holstered the pistol, thirsting for penance, knowing what I had to do.

"I absolve you from your sins," I said making the sign of the cross. "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen."






"A Penitent Man" first appeared in ParABnormal Magazine.




Article © Jeff Dosser. All rights reserved.
Published on 2020-11-09
Image(s) are public domain.
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