Maria’s steps echoed across the floorboards of the church. Her shadow crossed over the image of the blessed Virgin, glowing on the floor as the sun set over the stained glass in the western end of the Holy Name of Mary Cathedral. She left the church, letting the reverberating sound of the door slamming fade as the sanctuary, and beyond it, Philadelphia, grew still. And in the chapel of St. Mark, before the winged lion of the Evangelist, Peter Radcliffe knelt and prayed.
Lord, forgive me for what I must do today. I know that I am your tool on this Earth; your instrument to bring your holy Light and Word to those who suffer in the darkness. To ease those tormented, to remind them that this too shall pass, and that the end is not yet. And for these years I have rejoiced in bringing the hope of faith in Jesus Christ to men and women who bend beneath the burdens of despair. But tonight I am afraid…
Tonight, I fear that I must kill someone.
The Weeping Man in the park. He seems tied to those… creatures, somehow. I cannot know why You, in Your wisdom, have chosen to tie these tortured souls to the earth even yet, O Lord, but I know it is my task to release them. I cannot know what you meant by the dream that you sent me, but I will find the answer. I must. If I can, I will send him to Your Kingdom, to sit redeemed. I know, with conviction, that You will forgive him. He has suffered so, Lord, but he shall be comforted. But I cannot do this while wolves would tear me asunder, while beasts would rip and cut my friends that have nothing but righteousness in their hearts. And so tonight we may kill another person, O Lord, and I am afraid.
Holy Mary, Blessed Mark, who stood resolute against the forces of evil, pray for this poor sinner, who would do the work of the Lord. Protect me and my brothers, and my sisters, and if we must fall, take us swiftly into thine loving embrace. Toshi, who wants only the good in men to triumph. And Dylan, who had the bravery to show the truth when the shadows threatened him with torments such that I cannot imagine. And Natashia, who would help these stricken spirits out of kindness alone. And Arkady, for she has suffered and suffers still. Protect them, O Lord, for they too are bearers of the Breastplate of Righteousness.
The intense young woman, who seems tormented so, tells me that this wolf killed a child. Or that it would. I don’t know, Lord, for she speaks in tongues of angels or demons. Such a heinous crime. But I know You would forgive him, Lord, and so I must as well. As St. Francis said, ‘You have done much evil, brother wolf, such that all folk are thy enemy, yet I would be your friend.’
Forgive him, Lord.
Peter Radcliffe crossed himself and rose from the kneeler. He picked up the folio of the Witch’s Hammer, and strode out into the blood-red sunlight, burdened no longer. His mind, body, and soul were prepared for the Hunt. He fought, and the Lord fought with him.