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*Please note: This is not a romance. The Saint is a dark suspense.*
My life was simple; God, business and myself, in that order.
Then I met an angel, and everything changed.
Only an angel can save the damned.
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The heavy scent of wood polish and incense surrounds me like a blanket, bringing a rare sense of peace and familiarity. Sunlight plays through a gap in the curtain, hitting the lattice divider and sending tiny speckles of light across my face. I close my eyes, bathing in the temporary warmth.
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.” The words leave my lips, taking with them the lead weight that’s been sitting in my gut ever since I left this very confessional twenty-four hours ago.
There’s a heavy sigh, and the faint waft of stale coffee drifts across the short space between us. “Son, you’ve been here for the last four days. There is only so much forgiveness I can grant. It’s not accumulative.”
But I’m not forgiven. I can feel the sin festering, rotting my soul with each passing minute. I need divine intervention. A healing touch from the Lord’s hand. Salvation. And that requires a true confession, a purging.
“I didn’t tell you my sin,” I breathe, stepping out onto the tentative tightrope between the Lord and his messenger.
“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world—”
“I killed a man.” Silence. “I killed him because he hurt her.”
I count eight heavy beats of my heart against my ribs before he finally speaks. “Do you repent?” Father Maxwell whispers, a noticeable tremor in his voice.
He finally sees me. For the first time, he truly sees the monster that I keep leashed. I’m no longer just the strange boy who has attended his church for the last thirty years, or even the unsettling man he’s come to know. That niggling sense of danger he gets when he’s near me; the one he’s always told himself is so irrational, irrevocably, all makes sense. I’m a killer, a sinner, a predator living amongst his prey. How can that be? One of his own flock. A traitor. A false pretender. I can almost hear it all clicking into place in his mind.
“No,” I answer truthfully. “I’m not sorry that I killed him.” I feel nothing, only the sickening disappointment that God will judge me. That I am so very wrong, and without his guidance, I would have unleashed all my dark urges on his children a long time ago. Bad boys go to hell, my mother’s voice whispers in my ear.
“Then you cannot be truly absolved of sin.”
“I’m destined for the fires of hell,” I murmur, voicing the very thought that plagues me relentlessly.
He takes a shaky breath, the sound like a gunshot in the silence of the confessional. “Unless you truly repent in your soul.”
Pushing to my feet, I grab the curtain, pausing for a moment. “I have no soul.”
And without a soul, what do heaven or hell, really matter?
My footsteps echo off the walls of the long, ominous corridor, a backing beat to the thundering of my pulse. My chest constricts until even the smallest of breaths feel like a chore. The brushed steel doors loom ahead of me, like the gateway to hell itself, and I wish I could delay this and never reach them. Time seems to slow to a crawl, though the weight of inevitability weighs down on me.
“Miss Harris?” I blink and glance at the police officer standing, watching me, the smooth features of his young face crumpled in sympathy. “Are you ready?”
I nod, sucking a deep breath into my lungs. He pushes one door open with a squeal of the hinges. Instantly, the temperature drops, the cold air reaching out and running icy fingers down my spine. I step forward, my heels clicking over the clinical white tile. Bright overhead lights make me squint before I still. Everything freezes and my body locks down, braced and waiting for the incoming impact. A single table sits in front of me in the middle of the cold, sterile room. A sheet drapes over the body, hanging down almost to the floor, but doing nothing to hide the morbid outline of the boy beneath.
“Just say when you’re ready,” the policeman says, cutting through the deathly silence.
I’ll never be ready. My heart beats so hard I feel like I’m going to vomit. On a stiff nod from me, he takes the sheet and slowly peels it back. As soon as I see the boy’s face, a choked sob tears from my lips, and I slam my hand over my mouth to stifle the sound.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I turn away and shove through the door. A few moments later and a hand lands on my shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Miss Harris.”
I shake my head. “It’s not him.” I can still picture the white, waxiness of his face, the blue lips, the neat bullet hole between his eyes. Dark blonde hair, the exact shade as Otto’s, and the tattoo on his chest that’s somehow familiar to me, though I can’t place it. “That boy’s name is Marcus Jones.” My eyes meet the officers. “He was Otto’s best friend.” A giddy kind of relief swells in my chest because it’s not my brother. It’s someone’s brother, son, friend… It’s not Otto this time, but it easily could have been.