Opening my eyes I saw what appeared to be a collage of newspaper clippings stuck to the ceiling. The words seemed all but a blur as my eyes strained to focus in the dim light about the room. Perhaps it was because my mind also felt in a haze and perhaps that is why it took me more than a minute to register my surroundings and the restraints binding me.
I tried to sit up and quickly discovered that I was unable. My outstretched arms were bound with handcuffs to the wooden board beneath me and the best I could manage with my legs was to bend my knees as I realised that my ankles had been tightly secured together with leather straps.
Where am I? Why am I here? Oh no, please!
“Help! Help! Somebody! Anybody! Help!” I yelled wriggling upon the makeshift table constraining me.
“No one can hear you, Mr. Wilson. No one at all, apart from me that is,” a soft voice stated from the shadows shrouding the thin figure sat in the corner of the room in the direction of my feet. The indistinguishable stranger stood up and slowly walked towards me. I could not make out her appearance but I knew that my captor was female.
“No one could hear me and my sister when we were down here, not even our mother and she would be sat in the living room but fifteen feet above your head,” my composed host said stepping into the light to the right of me.
Her hair was brown, fine and just over shoulder length. She was slender and casually dressed, most unlike what I had imagined, given my situation and surroundings. She could hardly be much older than the eldest of my grandchildren and looked vaguely familiar though I was sure that I did not know her. She was attractive in spite of her plain deportment and the seriousness of her mien. She neither smiled nor frowned as she stood silently over me but the coldness of her eyes was most telling. They were pitiless and I knew she would not be one to show remorse. Something told me that she was being earnest and that my pleas would fall but on deaf ears. I was at her mercy and beneath my portly exterior I was trembling.
“Why me? I don’t know you. Is it because I am a man of god? Whatever sins you have committed, I am sure we can walk the path to forgiveness together,” I frantically beseeched.
Unperturbed by my frenetic manner, my callus host maintained a prolonged silence until I had finished my desperate rant. Calmly, she peered over my naked torso before succinctly answering each of my questions.
“You are here to repent your sins and though you don’t know me, I certainly know you. You are Father Alan Wilson, the vicar of St. Michael’s church. My father was a disciple of St. Michael’s too. He was also an alcoholic. He used to beat my mother regularly but that was nothing compared to what he did to me and my sister.”
“You’re one of Father Sandwell’s daughters,” I recalled aghast, “He died five years ago. Have you not gained salvation from his death?”
“How can someone gain salvation when their abuser never repented nor received punishment for their crimes? Though there is no doubt that my father died as a result of the drink, he passed away peacefully after doing what he did best, shrouding his guilt in the depths of a bottle.
He had a nice service too. You were there. You spoke of the good my father did for the community and in the service of god. You also said that god would accept him into his kingdom and that my father would be forever apart of our lives. You got that much right. I haven’t been able to put him out of my mind and neither could my sister, that is until she took her own life.
Ironic, don’t you think? My father was an abusive alcoholic and has been accepted into heaven and my sister has been refused because she opted for suicide. Where is the justice in that?
Did you know that she was shunned by members of our faith and family because she desecrated her body with tattoos and piercings? She didn’t like who she was. She couldn’t accept the image she would see in the mirror. The problem is you can alter your appearance but you can’t change your memories. They haunt you forever and pain you like a splinter that can’t be removed.”
“I’m truly sorry about what happened to you and your sister but I didn’t know. I couldn’t stop it. I’m not to blame.”
“Do not insult me by trying to mask your guilt with lies!” my captor exclaimed before quelling her anger, “I have been honest with you and I would expect that you extend me the same courtesy. I have already extracted the truth from the others. All I expect from you is a confession.
You know, I don’t know which is worse; he who commits the crime or those who choose to hide it? At least with my father he was driven by his passion for his needs, in spite of how sick they were. You were only interested in saving the reputation of the institution, deliberately forsaking the very morals you preach. My sister and I were sacrificed to save face and hence our torture was prolonged.
We were ignored by Miss Brayton when we came to her for help and our father punished us severely after speaking to Reverend Woods. They, and the others I have killed, elected to protect the institution. They also, pointed the finger towards you, Father Wilson, patron saint for protecting abuse and paedophilia.
Well, that is all in the past and that brings us to the present, your ratification. Is there anything you would like to say before we commence with it?”
I could see that it wouldn’t matter whatever I would say, her manner suggested little in the way of care. In spite of this, I attempted to make her see reason and as I did so, she secured a steel cord to a hook just above my head and tested to see if it was sufficiently taught.
“You won’t get away with this. The police will find you and when they do, you will get life.”
“I needn’t worry. You are the last. After tonight I will have completed my resolve and prison will be a welcome consequence.”
She then walked away from me and out of view. Though I was terrified when she was at my side, not knowing where she was, was exceedingly worse. The thought of what she was about to do was at the forefront of my mind and silently I prayed for mercy.
Suddenly, I heard a metallic catch click on something mechanical. She was somewhere by my feet and the resounding sound of a crank echoed about the room as slowly the head end of the platform I was lay on began to rise.
“In spite of my sins and of those who have sinned against me, I still have faith and wish to repent. My father’s crimes were far more horrific than my own, he was penitent and was accepted into heaven so I see no reason why I should not be able to do the same,” she stated as she winded the crank and prepared to announce her confession, “Forgive me Father for I have sinned. I have killed four people and soon a fifth. I know it is wrong to kill and that it goes against the Ten Commandments but they were all deserving given the crimes they committed.”
She then proceeded to name each of her victims and secured the cable once I was vertical. Outstretched and helpless like Jesus on the cross, I could see the collage of news clippings clearly. The headlines were of each of the victims she had named, “Parish Worker Missing”, “Civil Servant’s Body Found In Estuary”.
My heart was pounding. I could not hear her confession as my mind was overridden with fear. It was when she ceased to chant that I was able to perceive my surroundings once more. From a table along the far wall she had attained an odd looking implement. It was long, curved and pointed on the end. I prayed that it would not go where I believed for it to be intended. A moment later and she was stood before me, examining her chaotic tool with sinister affection.
“I want you to feel pain and indignity before you die,” she said softly, stating her intention before moving uncomfortably closer, “Perhaps god will accept your pleas for forgiveness when you reach the gates of heaven, otherwise, see you in hell.”
She then began to recite the passage of my last rights. Sadly, I knew the rest.