The last time Father Flannigan had ridden in a police car it was the beginning of a 10 year journey through a hell of his own making. This time he was accompanying detective Ed Beckel checking out some Church property on some forgotten plot donated a hundred years before.
“Father Michael Flannigan, I am surprised they did not take your collar?”
“They took my congregation detective.”
“How long were you inside?”
The trees grew taller, the further they got from the city, the road wound in and through some valleys before they turned up a dirt road overgrown with years of neglect.
“I spent seven years in prison.”
The high granite cliffs closed in on the narrow road way. The gate stretched across the road from cliff to cliff a natural barrier fortified with a 12 foot high iron gate, the only part of the estate regularly maintained by the church. The priest stepped from the car and opened the gate. Up above the very top of the tower could be seen from the road as the car ascended the rutted path.
“I guess you should have left the altar boys alone.”
“Yes, I should have, I fell to the temptation of the devil.”
“Father, you are the fucking devil.”
The cliff walls grew smaller as the car climbed even with the top of the bluffs and there it was, the Berger Estate, or what was left of it. A summer home, from a time when the wealthy took the entire summer to enjoy their station in life.
“I understand your hatred, I betrayed everyone who trusted me including God.”
“Yea I’m not much into God, Padre but you definitely betrayed those kids.”
The Berger estate was left to the church after an unfortunate accident involving two of the Berger Grandchildren. A hundred years had passed and the church had left the property pretty much as it had been bequeathed.
“I have made my peace with the Lord; now I must negotiate with the devil.”
“The church paid out over 30 million dollars to your victims; do you know how many people that could have helped?”
“I am very aware.”
The car came to a stop in a small grassy field a few hundred feet from the entrance to the mansion and the tower.
“The hikers reported that they broke in on the side of the house and that they saw fresh blood on the stairs to the tower.”
“I have a key to the front door, detective.”
Opening the trunk the detective removes a large flashlight and hands it to the priest.
“I am going to check and see if I can find where they supposedly entered on the side; it might be easier to find the stairs they are talking about if we enter where they did.”
“I am just here to assist in any way I can detective.”
A window on the side of the mansion is in fact open and the wooden boards that had secured it are scattered across the tall grass, a gnarled tree makes a perfect ladder and the detective climbs through the dusty hole followed by the priest.
The light of the flashlight illuminates a room furnished with cob webs and bat guano, the names of vandalistic hikers and explorers are scribbled on the wall, the stench of urine and worse permeates the air.
“Detective, the stairs are this way.”
“You have been here before?”
“Many times sir, many times.”
The pair works their way through a long dark corridor across a room full of rotting bookcases long past empty. A dark liquid runs in a small stream in and around the bookcases, the light reveals the liquid to be water.
“Padre, I’ll bet that is what those kids thought was blood, it looks pretty creepy in the dark.”
“It is very possible detective; the poor light can play tricks on one’s eyes.”
The stairs up ahead did in fact have a liquid running down them but the light did not penetrate it like it did the water, it held its dark black color even when the detective took the flashlight from the priest and shined it inches from the thick oozing fluid that seemed to disappear into a crack at the base of the stairs.
“Well this isn’t blood Padre, I don’t know what the hell it is, but it sure as shit is not blood.”
With that comment the detective instinctively stuck his finger into the liquid and proceeded to sniff it.
“It has a strong earthy scent, like a mold, or maybe decay, be careful not to get it on your shoes.”
Suddenly a great sadness over took the detective and he fell to one knee.
“Father, I feel something, I can’t explain, that liquid is making me sick, I think we should get out of here.”
“We can’t leave now son, you have to move forward up the stairs.”
The detective turned towards the hallway and began to walk away but the liquid turned to black vines and wrapped around his legs and knocked him to the floor.
“Help me Father, what is this?”
“It is sin son, your sin, my sin the sin of the whole world, it is all there, in that black liquid, it flows continually down to hell.”
The black vines pulled the struggling detective up the stairs as the door opened and a great light ignited the hallway a million sad eyes flashed on the walls and from the descending liquid.
“But you are a sinner; you sinned far worse than me?”
“Good and evil lie across a great spectrum, I do not know if it is the degree of sin so much as the willingness to ask for forgiveness.”
“I am sorry, I am so sorry for everything.”
“Whatever is good in you shall pass on to heaven but first your sin must be wrung from your soul, I hope God is with you detective your time to make good is over.”