Something strange is happening in the city of Everett, Washington and Father Niccolo Paladina is tasked with investigating possible demonic activity. Nothing is as it seems, however, and things quickly begin spiraling out of his control.
When his path crosses with that of an old rival, they discover that things are worse in Everett than either of them could ever have imagined. As his world collapses around him, Niccolo will be left with one terrible question: what is my faith worth?
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Here is an excerpt from the book by Lincoln Cole:
“Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
Father Paladina knelt in his uncomfortable position beneath the staircase, eyes closed and struggling to control his breathing. Each gasp sounded like the cracking of a tree branch, and he couldn’t fight down an occasional sob of terror. His heart beat in his ears, and his veins seemed about to burst open.
“I can smell you, Priest. I know you didn’t run far. Where are you?”
The voice came from upstairs in the local priest’s office. Niccolo couldn’t remember a time in his life when he had been so on edge and afraid. It felt like a sickness in his stomach, as all of his muscles tensed simultaneously. It made his body shake, and he worried that he might throw up at any moment.
“We both know how this will end. If you come out now, I’ll do it quick. If you make me come and find you, though …”
Niccolo struggled to control his breathing as hot tears ran down his cheeks. He reached into his front-right pocket for the single item he kept there. His rosary, which he held between his fingers and pressed against his lips, praying as hard as he could for the strength to deal with whatever was happening to him.
Not to overcome it, though. Part of him—if he were honest, a large part—knew he was about to die alone in this church, and the only thing he prayed for was the strength to die well.
After all, right now, not only his life hung in the balance: so did his everlasting soul.
“This basement has no exits. I know this church. This is my church. Not yours,” the man—if still a man—said from just upstairs. “I never thought I would actually get to kill a priest here. This is delightful!”
What is he waiting for? Niccolo wondered, in fear. Tim Spencer—or whatever controlled him—seemed to enjoy taking his time. Every muscle in Niccolo’s body ached, and he had to fight to keep from sobbing. Why is he doing this? Why is he waiting up there?
It felt like he’d been hiding under the stairs forever, but it had probably lasted for less than a minute.
“We’re having fun, aren’t we, Priest?” Tim asked.
Niccolo couldn’t contain a shudder, and the movement caused his shoulder to bump against one of the boxes behind him. The noise it made wasn’t that loud, but to Niccolo, it rumbled like an explosion in the stillness of the basement.
If his pursuer heard, though, he didn’t let on. Tim hummed to himself as he took his first step down the staircase. It creaked heavily underfoot, and Father Paladina winced when dust fell on his head.
Another step; the sound of the boot on the stairs sounded like a nail in the priest’s coffin. Tim kept on coming, humming a tuneless tone, until the father could see muddy boots in front of his face.
“Priest? You know I’ll find you. You can’t hide from me.”
Niccolo’s whole body trembled, and the man had called it true. His hiding place seemed weak and pathetic now. As soon as Tim reached the bottom of the staircase, he would spy Niccolo. The priest had backed himself into a corner and had nowhere to go.
He shouldn’t have stayed here at Saint Joseph’s Cathedral alone. Should have gone with Father Reynolds to his home; splitting up had turned into a terrible idea, and one that might well cost him his life.
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