Andrew Barnett is good at acting. Right now, he’s acting like his old self again. Acting like he’s recovered. Acting like he’s innocent. Acting like he doesn’t know.
But he does know—deeply guarded secrets preventing deeper sleep at night, pulling him from his bed, whispering in his ear, tugging at his heart, luring him back into the dark, the ever-deepening dark. The insidious searing of his conscience, the private loss of his mind, so subtle, so gradual, the irreversible loss of his soul.
Leading a double life hasn’t been easy, but it’s getting easier.
A realist by nature, the young interim minister of an elderly Anglican church likens his temporary position to that of a hospice chaplain: merely holding the weakening hand of a disappearing congregation until an unavoidable death shall fully and finally part them. A merciful flat line.
The average age of the white-woolen flock is mid-seventies to upper eighties, their clocks unwinding, irregular heartbeats ticking down to a complete stop, always in the hospital more than out it. They’re tired. Heroics will not be necessary. No extreme measures will be required. Please, please, please do not resuscitate. Let My people go.
It’s the perfect place to hide. No one is paying attention. The architectural beauty of All Saints is decaying, cancerous from the inside and out, too expensive and beyond the point of justifiable repair. The Gothic style structure sits humbly unnoticed, nestled within a hilly cul-de-sac, tangled in vines, hidden from view, a dignified old lady who’s lost all her glory and is fading fast. Most of the gravestones in Christ Walk cemetery are blurred in their identity—slates that have been wiped clean by time and nature’s elements—faceless, nameless, fuzzy green with moss. Such out of sight, out of mind obscurity is a good thing for Andrew; for others, not so good.
Certainly not for the grey-eyed man.
The Refrigerator Man.
But, hell, it’s Sunday morning and Father Andrew is in the midst of a perfect act.
At the prayer breakfast, the priest smiles and forces himself to shake the extended, nasty, clammy hand of an occasional visitor.
“Good morning, Mr. Thompson…”
With a seared conscience, the 6’4 man looks down upon the pastor, stares him directly in the eye.
“What will the sermon be about today, Reverend? Nothing long-winded, I hope. I was up late last night—business, you know—and honestly I can’t trust myself to stay awake for all of it.”
Andrew tightens his grip, “Do numbers mean anything to you, Mr. Thompson?”
Cautious grey eyes stare deep into chocolate brown.
Already drunk enough to buzz and irreversibly committed, Andrew recklessly quotes the combination that will open the door to the children.
Mr. Thompson, now pale as his empty eyes, pulls his hand away.
“What did you say?”
“I’m referring to the text I will be preaching from today —Numbers 32:23 —“Be sure your sins will find you out.'”
“Oh. Yes. Of course.”
Mr. Thompson turns and walks toward a table spread with mostly Entemanns cakes and pastries, the predictable sugary delights of the aged.
Forming a gun with his left hand, Andrew clicks an invisible trigger at the back of the Refrigerator’s Man’s head with a not-so-playful wink.
See you soon.