Her healing touch could start a fire.
Ally Reynolds is a veterinarian specializing in raptor rehabilitation in New Hampshire. Other than one horrific incident in her childhood and a little extra “spark” for healing in her hands, both of which she has kept secret from even her best friend, her life has been singularly boring. It has also been extremely lonely. Ally longs for someone to share her life with, but how can she trust anyone with her secret?
Matthew Blake, an ornithologist at Cornell University, calls Ally, asking for her help with an injured raptor. Matthew grew up in New Zealand and has lived around the world. He has read about Ally’s high success rates in raptor rehabilitation and suspects there is more to it than is generally known.
Matthew has some secrets of his own; he is a demon hunter. He suspects Ally’s healing powers could benefit him. He wants her to join him and thinks they’d make a great team.
Can Ally trust him or is he just using her? Matthew definitely has more secrets, and some of them are about Ally.
A Chat with Father Patrick:
Melora: Thank you for hosting us today! I’ve brought along Father Patrick to share his version of the story.
Father Patrick: Thank you, Melora. It’s always a pleasure to have the chance to spread the mission of the church to people outside of Sunday services.
Melora: And what do you see as the mission of the church, Father Patrick?
Father Patrick: I believe that we are called to build connections between people and strengthen the community with a sense of shared purpose, to help build one another up, and journey through life together.
Melora: I think that’s something all of us can agree to.
Father Patrick: And to do battle with the demons of hell.
Melora: Oh. Yes?
Father Patrick: Yes! All through my seminary years and youth I viewed the problem of demons and being led astray by minions of Satan as a metaphorical problem, but I see now, due to recent events, that this is a much more immediate and hands-on problem, than I ever imagined.
Melora: So, Father, can you tell us a little about what you’ve . . . seen?
Father Patrick: (vaguely) To quote a great man, “I’ve seen enough to know I’ve seen too much.”
Melora: Who was that? Ghandi? One of the Popes?
Father Patrick: Actually, I think it was a movie line. Sorry.
Melora: I see, and, um, what do you propose to do about what you’ve seen?
Father Patrick: I’ve been doing some research into more advanced methods of recognizing and banishing demons. I’m putting together home kits – holy water, small book of the Gospels, a cross.
Melora: (dryly) I see and would you be selling these?
Father Patrick: Well, we are a not-for-profit but there is a cost to putting them together.
Melora: Uh-huh, I see. Really, Father, I didn’t think you were the type.
Father Patrick: But if anyone can’t afford it, of course I’ll make it available to them for free.
Melora: (confused) Okay.
Father Patrick: The point is that we have to be prepared.
Melora: Well, thank you for joining us today, Father. I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen, that is not where I saw this going today. I think the good father has seen a little more than he was prepared to process.
Father Patrick: (grabbing the microphone) If anyone would like a kit, they can stop by the rectory at any time.
Melora: Father! I think you need a nice cup of tea, or maybe a little nap.
Father Patrick: Coffee would be good. And some cookies?
Melora: Sure, we’ll get you some nice decaf and cookies. Come along now, Father.
I chose to sit across the table from Matt in the diner. I didn’t know which was more confusing to my body and psyche, having him next to me or having him watch me with those eyes. They did something unquantifiable to me. They were serious now as he reached out to put his hand over mine. I withdrew. I didn’t want to be confused by his touch.
“What exactly do you want from me?” I asked again. I wasn’t sure I believed the answer he’d given earlier. I really wanted to ask what he knew about me, but that sounded just a little too defensive. After the way he had caught me on film back at the lab, I felt trapped.
“I just want to help you,” he said softly.
I snorted. “Yeah, most people who want to help someone else don’t try to get something on them first.”
“I needed to know if you were really who I thought you were. Once I knew for sure, I wanted to explain, but I was waiting for the right time.” He shook his head. “Look, you can’t just go around healing animals outright like that, or I’m not the only one who is going to notice.”
I leaned across the table, anger again taking the place of the fear. This guy really didn’t know me or what I was capable of. I spoke in a furious whisper. “Just what do you think you know about me? How long have you been… watching me, studying me? Is this some kind of government experiment or investigation?”
“It’s not like that, I promise you. I’m an ornithologist,” he said as he placed one hand on his chest. “Just like you, I work with birds. I came across an article about your amazing success rates with rehabilitation. It set something off in my head, so I started digging, searching through old papers in the town where you grew up.”
I froze, the fear back now. What had he found? This guy knew way too much, made too many intuitive leaps.
He looked up as the waitress approached with our drink orders. “Here you go, one iced tea and one coffee.” She tugged a pad of paper out of her apron pocket and clicked a pen, then tapped it on the pad. “Have you decided what you’d like to order?”
Matt looked at me. When I didn’t say anything, he spoke. “I’ll take a burger with lettuce, tomato, and cheese.”
“Fries okay on the side?”
He nodded. “And a side salad, Italian dressing.”
They both looked expectantly at me. This was all so mundane, considering the conversation we were having. I wanted to throw myself across the table, grab him by the collar and ask what the hell he was on, but years of acting normal no matter the situation had trained me to behave myself.
“I’ll have the same,” I said evenly.
As soon as the waitress left, I glared at him. “Get to the point. What do you know about me? What do you want?” I demanded.
A corner of his mouth lifted in amusement. “Trust me, it’s nothing bad. Like I said, I want to help you.”
I sat back, took a deep breath, and blew it out slowly. I still wasn’t sure I believed him, but I’d refrain from stabbing him with a fork. For now.
Melora Johnson is a poet and novelist living in Upstate New York with her husband, daughter, a black cat, and quite a few chickens. Her most recent published work includes A Sanctuary Built of Words: Poems of Peace, Grief, and Passion, and publication in The Sexuality Poems from Foothills Publishing. She also runs a large and thriving writer’s group for adults. Of course, into every life a little rain must fall as well as the occasional tornado, but you’ll find that amply covered in her writing. Find out more about Melora and her writing –