Our Father

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Our Father, who art in heaven…

I hear the door of the nave creak as he comes in. The sanctuary is dark, only the candles around the altar still burning. I stand beside them, my eyes on the cross above the altar, and hold my breath as he comes down the aisle. I can already smell the salt on him, the fresh, pungent scent of the waves and the reek of the tar. He lights a candle, kneels down near me, and my heart misses a beat at the mockery of his muttered prayers.

Hollowed be thy name…

“Good evening, Father,” he says aloud, his voice quiet in the hush of the church. “Were you expecting me?”

Thy kingdom come…

I swallow. “I was. Did you bring them?”

He laughs. “I did. Twenty odd girls. Some are pretty young. Are you sure you’d like to be caught paying for girls that young?”

The sarcasm in his voice stings. Am I sure? Of course I’m sure. Anything to get those girls off the docks, away from the men that prey on them. The farm we take them to is ready, the extra rooms already set up. They can see the sky there, hear the wind in the trees. Find their souls again, after they’ve been crushed and beaten on by men who are closer to devils than flesh and blood.

Thy will be done…

“Do you have the money?” he asks.

“I do.” The money our parishes have been saving for weeks, waiting for him to arrive. We can’t take the children from him, not by force, but we can buy them before others do. It’s the wrong thing, we all know it, but it’s all we can do for the moment. It will have to do until our other plan is ready.

On earth as it is in heaven…

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