I scheduled two meetings for the next day. The purpose of both meetings was recruiting assistance for removing Hank from the Johnson house. That was the sole purpose of each meetings.
Things rarely go as planned.
Father Blackman listened calmly as I described what I needed him to do. “I tried all of this before, of course,” he said when I finished. “You'll find that Hank's ghost is stronger than the normal specter or poltergeist. Pushing him to leave the moral realm won't be enough.”
“Don't worry. Someone will be pulling from the next realm at the same time you're pushing for this one. Just make sure the moment Hank crosses over, you seal him in.” The meeting over, I stood up. “I'll see you at the house, Father Blackman.”
He didn't rise. He just sat there, looking at me.
“What is it?” I said at last.
“I wondered if there was anything else you wanted to discuss with me.”
Father Blackman pressed his fingertips together. I looked at his hands, and fought back the urge to recite the words to the old game I'd learned as a child. Here is the church, and here is the steeple. Open it up, and...
“How long do you intend to go on fighting alone?” Father Blackman asked.
I blinked. “I don't understand the question.”
“You're carrying a weight on your shoulders, one you seem unwilling to share.”
“I have friends,” I said stiffly.
Father Blackman looked at me sympathetically. “But are these 'friends' people you trust?”
A few weeks ago I would have replied unequivocally yes. But after learning about the traitor in the Undead Bar Association, I wasn't sure who I could trust. I said nothing.
Father Blackman stood up and leaned across his desk. “I don't want to pry, Ms. Wells. But the pain in your eyes in undeniable.”
“If I have a pain, its a private one. Back off.”
Father Blackman shook his head. He stood up and walked over to a small, decorative heart hanging on the wall. A square mirror rested in the center of the heart. “Are you familiar with the licitar of Croatia?” he asked, gesturing to the heart.
“Never heard of them.”
“It's a traditional cookie, decorated with a mirror in the center. It is said the maker of the cookie puts the mirror there in anticipation of the recipient looking at the gift.. The maker is thinking of the recipient as the gift is being made.”
Unless he intended to help me prep me for a game show, the conversation was going no where. “What does any of this have to do with the Johnson case?”
“It has to do with all your cases.” He turned away from the mirror and looked at me. “I preached for a time in Croatia, in a place called Marija Bistrica. It was there I acquired my practical knowledge in dealing with the undead. I also learned a lot about local folklore and customs. The more I learned, the more I saw the mirrors of the licitar cookies as a symbol of the culture.
“After I left Croatia, I realized the licitar is a representation of life. You see, Maryanne, we cannot make a thing or do an act for another without putting in something of ourselves. The mirror in the licitar is intended to reflect the recipient, but it will first reflect the maker. Every thing that you say or do reflects a piece of you.
“I know you only intend good. The nature of your choices proves that. But there is great suffering buried in your eyes. Whatever you're suffering from, will eventually contaminate what you do. You need help.”
I glared at the priest. “And you think you're the one to save me from myself?”
“You're disgusted with organized religion. I understand that. Examples set by people like Pastor Ted don't help. But you need help from someone. Ultimately, you need help from above.” He reached into his desk and pulled out a small black box. “I want you to have this,” he said.
I took the box and opened it. I almost dropped it on the floor. My fingers recoiled from the thing, and the vampire brand near my heart began to throb. “A rosary?” I spat out. “What am I supposed to do with this? Hang it on my rear-view mirror for decoration? You'd have done better to give me an air freshener.”
The quiet fervor in Father Blackman's eyes cooled. “You're a cold person, Ms. Wells. I'm sorry to learn that. But keep the rosary, and know I will pray for your soul.”
I dropped the box with the rosary into my purse and sprang for the door. “You might as well pray for the wind,” I snapped. I ran out of the church.