Father Landover left the room and gently shut the door. He leaned his head back against the wall.
He opened his mouth and focused on just breathing.
But a memory slipped into his mind.
It was nine o’clock at night.
Father Landover picked up his breviary.
And the phone rang.
He answered it. “Hello, this is Father Landover.”
The caller breathed in shudders and small whimpers, but he did not speak.
“Hello? Who is this? Are you hurt?”
“It. It’s. Me. Thomas. Jenkins.”
“Tom. What’s happened? Are you hurt?”
“ch. change. Been changed.” He broke down. “What do I do? Father, help me! Please. Please help me.”
“I’ll be right there. I’m coming. Just stay near the phone, okay? I’m coming.”
Father Landover grabbed his car keys and ran out the door.
He reached Tom’s house as fast as he could. He got out of the car and ran to the front door. He banged on the door. “Tom? Tom! It’s me. Father Landover. Tom?” He pulled out his phone and called Tom’s cell phone.
Tom answered the call. “Father.”
“Tom. I’m here. The door’s locked. Please let me in.”
“I’m scared. Father, I’m scared.”
“I know. That’s why I’m here. Let me in.”
“I think…I. I might. I might bite you if you come in.”
“We’ll deal with that detail if it happens. Right now you need to let me in. Please.”
The doorknob rattled.
“Okay. I’m coming in.”
“Don’t. Father, don’t! I’ll hurt you. I know it.”
Father Landover grabbed the doorknob. “I’m going to open the door. Just step back.”
Father Landover put his phone away. He took a deep breath and exhaled.
He turned the doorknob.
Opened the door.
Entered the house.
The house was dark.
Heavy breathing filled the darkness.
“Tom?” He felt around for the light switch. “I’m going to turn the light on, okay?”
He found it. “I’m turning it on now.”
He flicked the switch and the overhead brass and crystal chandelier turned on.
Tom sat huddled in the corner next to the vacuum cleaner. He looked up at the priest and hugged himself tighter.
Father Landover didn’t question it. He approached his changed church member with outstretched, open hands. “I have no weapons. I am not here to stake you or hurt you. I promise.” He knelt at Tom’s feet. “I’m here to talk to you. I’m here to help you.”
“I’m hungry.” he whispered hoarsely.
‘I know.” He removed his black jacket and unbuttoned the cuff of his white dress shirt.
Tom shook his head. “I can’t. It’s wrong. I. I can’t.”
“You have to. Trust me.” He smiled a closed mouth smile. “I trust you.”
“You shouldn’t. I could kill you.”
Father Landover pulled up his sleeve, baring his skin.
Tom’s pupils widened.
“Take what you need and then we’ll talk. Okay?”
Father Landover pulled up his sleeve. White cyst-like marks pocked his skin all the way around his wrist. It almost looked like a pearl bracelet.
And he knew without looking that his other wrist was even worse.
He smiled as he remembered the relief on Tom’s face. And Angela’s face. And Carl’s face. And so many other faces over the years. “Good Father in Heaven, I have no regrets.”