The Healer calls it salvation. The police call it murder.
Easter Monday, Walthamstow. FATHER CHARLIE SALT witnesses a suicide in his church. Before killing himself, the victim speaks of a serial killer targeting male prostitutes – a killer known as “The Healer”.
As Salt starts investigating, two suspects present themselves: a charismatic pimp and a distrusting detective. Feeling a personal connection with the victim, and believing the police won’t help, Salt must use his past to help with his investigation.
As he gets closer, will he overcome his wounds or be swallowed by his sins? Can he determine who is telling the truth and who wishes to heal again?
Before the end of Holy Week, his life, and those around him, will change forever.
‘Forgive me, Father…Forgive me, for I have sinned.’ Father Charlie Salt recognised the voice of the confessor. He shifted in his side of the confessional. ‘You have strength for being here. Continue, my son,’ he said. ‘I’m sick. I’ve done sick, sick things,’ the young man said, before dry heaving. His hand slammed against the wall of the confessional. ‘I’ve…I’ve been with men for money. Many men.’ The words Sean O’Toole spoke made a darkness visible inside Salt; a rock rising from a deep river bed, incomprehensibly coming afloat. Salt put his palms either side of his legs, rooting himself from escaping. ‘You’re here now. You’re safe. Nothing bad can happen to you here.’ ‘Something bad can happen anywhere, Father,’ Sean said calmly. ‘I’m here for you, son,’ Salt said. Sean’s breathing became rapid before he started to speak again. ‘They start by taking something you need, to show you what you want. I’ve done things with my body to keep men rich. Without me, how could they continue their work?’ Sean, behind the latticed veil, asked before he giggled. Salt made his back straight, trying to gather strength against the giggle which was abhorrent; a slash from a knife. ‘I am the one that drives them,’ Sean continued. ‘And I’ve done so many nasty things, Father. I wish…I wish…I wish I could go back home.’ Salt listened to the breathing, fearing Sean would start hyperventilating. ‘Son, the Lord will forgive. He’s merciful.’ ‘What about now, Father!’ Sean hissed. ‘What about while I’m down here?’ ‘There are things that test us, my son. We can not let these things defeat us.’ Salt swallowed. ‘We continue.’ ‘Did God send him, Father?’ ‘Send who?’ The smell coming from Sean was of dried sweat and dehydration; a body unable to settle. ‘He’s coming. He hasn’t finished his work. He…h-h-h-h-h-h-he won’t stop!’ ‘Son, listen. I can help you. Forget any sins. Let me help you.’ In the silence, Salt thought he could hear Sean’s heartbeat. ‘He wants to heal us, Father. He slips his hand in yours and says, I’m here to heal you.’ Salt brought his mouth to the veil. ‘Who is he, son?’ Sean smacked his lips. ‘“The Healer”,’ Sean said, before breathing in deeply as if to fill the lungs of twenty men. ‘He’s come to heal us all.’ ‘Sean, I know it’s you, please…let me help you.’ Sean cried once. He slapped his face. ‘This church…it’s always so fucking empty. No one comes to say they’re wrong anymore! Are more people like him than not?’ ‘Sean…I’m not like him. Let me help. We can figure this out.’ ‘This can’t be figured out!’ Sean said and punched the walls of the confessional. ‘No one cares!’ ‘I care. You know I care. Stay with me, and we’ll solve this,’ Salt said and waited. He heard Sean move his face closer to the veil. Through the patchwork of cork, Salt could make out Sean facing him. Through the small gaps, Salt saw sweat on Sean’s forehead. His eyes were animal, those that had seen too much. ‘Hear me…hear me…, Father…“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”’ Salt swallowed. ‘I know more than you can imagine. I know your pain, Sean. Let me help you.’ ‘I want you to. That’s what I’m saying, Father. I want you to.’ ‘Then let me.’ ‘You will!’ Sean shouted through his side, his voice reaching something deep inside Salt. Salt wanted to know how he would help, but Sean talked on. ‘He’s turning the lights off one by one. He knows who I am…he knows my worth. He can get me at any time. He can get what I love!’ Salt’s hands left his seat and became fists on his knees. He knew he needed to get to Sean. ‘Sean, God does forgive. I promise you. He forgives.’ Sean mumbled something. Salt turned his eyes away and pressed his ear against the veil. ‘Sean, what did you say?’ The sound of a jacket being opened, came to Salt before Sean spoke. ‘F-F-Father…some things…some things, God doesn’t forgive.’