“Yes.” A slight smile curled his lips, and he stepped forward. As moonlight bathed his face, I realized that although he shared similarities to my new partner, his mouth was wider and he had rounder cheeks and a softer jaw. “My name is Father James Baxter. Guy and I are often confused because our voices sound so similar, in addition to the familial resemblance, but most people can tell us apart after talking to us for a minute. How do you know my brother?”
“I’m his new partner.” I watched the man tuck his weapon back into his robes. Then glanced over my shoulder toward the spot where my assailant had just melted into the pavement. “What the hell did you use on that thing?”
“Iron. It’s much more effective on their kind.”
His smile broadened, and he held out a hand to me. “Come. Let’s go find somewhere warm to talk.”
Father James took me to the Gateway Church off Warren Street, which turned out to be only two blocks from where he’d found me. He told me he’d been heading to the convenience store to grab a sandwich when he’d heard strange noises coming from the alleyway behind the building, so he’d come out to investigate.
“Do you usually carry a gun when you’re walking to the store, Father James?” I asked as he led me down a hall off the left of the main entrance, away from the nave.
“At night I do,” he admitted as we walked past a series of doors that I imagined led to offices and meeting rooms. “Dangerous things walk these streets when the sun goes down, like the shade that attacked you in the alley.”
“Shade?” I furrowed my brow as I remembered the way the creature had leapt from a shadow that had been too small to hold him, and then melted into a shadow after Father James had shot him. “I guess that’s an appropriate name.”
“Indeed.” Father James stopped in front of a door with his name on it, then pulled a key ring from his belt. “They are creatures of shadow, so they cannot truly be killed. But if you pierce them with iron, they are forced to rejoin the darkness, and it takes them a long time to regain a more corporeal form.”
“It sounds like you know a lot about them,” I said as he led me into his office and flipped on the light.
It was a pleasant space, with honey-wood furniture and a large cross that hung from the powder blue accent wall on my left. The wall to my right was covered floor-to-ceiling with book-laden shelves, and the one behind his desk boasted commendations and certificates from the town and various charity organizations. The certificates were framed in gold and neatly organized around a window that looked out onto a small garden.
“When one’s job is to shepherd the Lord’s flock, it is difficult not to run across His enemies.” Father James sat, gesturing for me to do the same. “Thankfully, I’ve learned that the fae are highly susceptible to iron, so I had a gunsmith specially craft these bullets for me.” He pulled a small wooden box from one of his drawers, then pushed it across the table to me. “Take these. You’ll need them.”
I popped open the box to find twenty bullets neatly nestled into grooves carved into the wood. “Oh no,” I said, pushing it back toward him. “I couldn’t.”
He pressed his hand gently over mine. “I insist. I have plenty more, and I suspect you’re going to need them more than I do.”
The ring on his third finger brushed against my skin, and I got a flash.
Crunching metal. Blood. Skidding wheels. A scream.
A car accident, I thought as it faded away, looking at him with a new light. One that had almost killed him.
“All right,” I said, slowly pulling the box back toward me. “I’ll take them. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Father James smiled. “I can’t count on being around the corner the next time you run into a fae, so I’ll feel better knowing you have those.”
Nodding, I tucked the box into one of my inner jacket pockets, then settled back in my chair. The large cross hanging from the wall caught my eye again, and my fingers fluttered to the one hanging from my neck. Being in the church was a comfort, even if I wasn’t in the nave itself, because Tom had been very religious. I’d gone to church with him every Sunday, so I couldn’t help but feel his presence in this place and wonder if he was watching down on me.
“Did you know a Tom Garrison?” I wondered aloud.
Father James’s eyebrows shot up. “Why, yes. He was a special member of my flock,” he added, his eyes sparkling with fond memories. “Did you know him?”
“He was my fiancé,” I told him around the lump that swelled in my throat.
His eyes widened. “Oh, you’re Brooke Chandler!”
I nodded, just now realizing I’d been too shaken up to introduce myself sooner.
“Tom told me a lot of good things about you when he came back to Salem to help the local police with that old case.” His expression grew somber. “I was very sorry to hear that he passed in such a terrible manner.”
“Me too.” I hesitated, wondering if I should mention what I’d found. But hell, he already knew about this hokey shit, didn’t he? “I went to the motel where it happened and asked if I could check out the room, but the clerk told me there had never been any fire and he couldn’t remember Tom.”
Father James sat up straight in his seat, his dark eyebrows pulling together in a troubled frown. “That’s not right,” he protested. “Tom’s death was all over the local news.”
“Right?” I slapped the top of his desk, then winced as an elephant-shaped paperweight trembled. “Sorry. But it didn’t make any sense, and when I had the clerk open up the room, it was pristine. Like nothing had ever happened.” I searched his troubled gaze. “Do you think this could be something…supernatural?”
“It’s quite possible,” Father James conceded. “A fae could have done it, or perhaps even a vengeful spirit. I’ve banished my fair share of wraiths from the homes of desperate parishioners during my time here.”
“Banished wraiths?” I leaned in, eager to know more. This was the first person with knowledge of the supernatural I’d run into who was actually willing to talk to me, and I was going to soak up every bit of knowledge I could. “How do you do that?”