“It’s been raining in the mountains/And the river’s on the rise
And we cannot hardly/ Reach the other side…”*
“It is not yet time.” Abaddon seemed sure of his statement.
Even though it had begun to rain even harder, there was still a certainty to the morose angel’s statement.
“How can you be sure?” Philip’s wasn’t so sure. His penchant for impatience was driving him almost to the brink of doing something rash.
“Philip, you must trust our angelic allies.” Michael was frank. And the statement was so like him. Always so sure. So calm. So pure.
“Trust ‘im.” Harkiss was always so cautious, but had always trusted Michael’s judgment. “He knows what he’s sayin’. David and I have had nothing but time to ponder this moment. We have wanted this so bad we could taste it. And we longed for vengeance even longer. But no amount of vengeance is worth goin’ off half cocked.”
“That’s right. From the moment I was taken and imprisoned, I wanted to get back at my jailor. But I know that revenge is a bittersweet meal best left alone. No amount of vengeance will ever give me back the years I have missed out on. But time is nothing compared to what I have learned.” David smiled. “I have learned his greatest weakness. I know how we will be able to defeat him.”
“Meaning what?” Now James was confused.
“I will only say this. There is only one way to beat a vain person. through their vanity.”
A smile spread across Michael’s lips. He suddenly understood what his older brother was saying. Feed the ego and sooner or later the person will trip up over their own ego. Of course.
Tori was already face to face with the devil. She had inadvertently allowed him in, assuming he was as he appeared. she had not listened to the buzz of her intuition. She had not caught the warnings.
“Bless you, Child,” he lied.
“And you, Father. What brings you up this way? I would have thought you would go west, to Spring Pass.”
“The roads are flooded over.” It wasn’t really a lie, but it had been used as a mode of deception. Boats were still taking people to Spring Pass. “I had no way.”
“Father.” She shook her head at the preposterous statement. “There is always a way. For his servants, God always makes a way.”
The devil was no beginning to get angry. Would this girl never quit with the questions? “Child, I was instructed to check on my mountain flock.”
Suddenly, Tori was struck with dread. Mountain flock? They had never gone to the valley to serve the Lord. They had always went to the church near South Pass. All the mountain folk did. The preacher of the valley only served those in the valley.
“You have never preached up here, Father. We have our own preacher. Father O’Malley. He takes care of our needs well enough.”
Of course. They would have an Irish preacher. Those damn Irishmen could swindle even him, and he despised them. He knew any soul ‘saved’ by an Irish preacher was ‘saved’ for good, even when they strayed a little.
But he is getting ready to retire, is he not?”
“No. He is far too young for that.”
Damn. Even worse. A young Irish preacher.Could he never get away from these damnedable Irish curses? Only thing worse than an Irishman was a Scotsman.
He could remember how he had tried to get the British to eradicate both. He had failed. The bloody English couldn’t do anything right either.
Samuel O’Malley Was your typical mountain preacher. All his flock were of Irish or Scottish descent. That included Tori O’Reilly and her brothers. He shook his head. That family had already had its share of tragedy. One boy had supposedly fallen to his death, though no body was ever found. Another was supposedly blown to bits in a moonshining accident. A third had simply vanished in Afghanistan. Their ma and pa had died of broken hearts. And the two siblings left, seemingly running from something. That had left but three.
James took hunting parties throughout the mountains. Philip hadn’t been quite right since the incident at The Devil’s Gate. Tori had The Gift. But she stayed in that old house all the time and rarely visited the parish.
This was bothersome. It was not good to seclude oneself from the company of their friends or family. Philip stopped in whenever he had presence of mind. James came when he was down out of the mountains.
He felt a twinge of pain. It had been centuries since he’d felt that. The last time was when the wound had been made. And the one responsible was the devil himself.
He was back. And at the thought of Tori, the pain had struck. Damn! He was after Tori! Samuel couldn’t allow it! He hadn’t lived this long to see a gifted one taken by the devil!
He grabbed his shillelagh and walked out into the downpour. His shillelagh was an odd one. He had found a small stout sapling that had the oddest root base. It formed a cross at the base. This, he had whittled to form a perfect cross and it became the handle.
Five centuries ago, he had made it. Five centuries ago, he had marked the devil with it in an epic battle never recorded by any but himself in his diaries. And none had read it. And five Centuries ago, the devil had wounded him and cursed him to live until the end of time. Not that he cared. But he was getting tired.
He began whistling as he easily made his way toward the O’Reilly cabin. It was such a lively tune. Even the animals that had been hiding from the relentless downpour came out to follow him. Sort of like the pied piper.
Damn! That infernal whistle! could he go nowhere without running into that damned Irishman? The devil knew he would have to work fast if he didn’t want to be trapped. He had never beat the Irishman. He knew him as Patrick. Was he the one his target called O’Malley? Or was he someone else?
Where in Hell was his help? They should be here already. All one hundred and one of them. They didn’t have time to dally. He had to win this one.
Tori heard the whistling too. Father O’Malley? What would the good Father be out in this storm for? Who had called for him in this weather?
James saw the grin growing on Abaddon’s lips. Eerie. This was the first time he had seen the angel show any emotion. And that whistle. Who?
“Ah, seems an old friend is coming.” For the first time, the angel’s voice was filled with an emotion–joy. “I haven’t heard that song for well nigh five hundred years. Ah, Dear Patrick! How we have missed you!”
“Who’s Patrick?” Philip was confused.
“Not my friend Patrick.” Michael started, just as confused.
“No, Dear preacher. Not your Patrick. Many a soul has met Patrick in time of need. But he has many names, though he serves but one Master…and that is Our Lord.”
*The Devil By Hoyt Axton. Used with permission.