"Modern Day Job"...

        by Sherri -

Continued from the first page....

Philip held a special place in his heart for Julia. She had a hard edge to her that he admired. That, coupled with the fact that she had the courage to get involved with Nick, made her a very special person in his mind. So, when Derek called him at the historical religion class he had been taking in Paris to tell him that Julia and her Aunt needed the Legacy -- and his -- help, he caught the first plane he could to San Francisco.

During the flight, he recalled how close he and Julia use to be. They had been best of friends until recently. However, her involvement with Nick and his growing tension with the young man, strained their friendship considerably. Philip had been struggling more and more during the past year over the decision of whether to stay with the Legacy or stay with the Priesthood and he found himself quite often questioning God's judgment and decisions -- which was not at all what he had been raised and taught to do!

But, often times, he wondered why God allowed innocent people to be a target of the Devil and his minions. At those times, he would remind himself that questioning God was dangerous, yet he found himself doing it all the more. Because of this internal conflict, he found himself conflicting with everyone lately.

His own fall from grace ... of falling to the temptation of a woman -- the sensual Eileen from India when he was stationed there -- and the fact that it had cost her her life was never far from his memory. 'Why wasn't it me,' he wondered for the millionth time. Just as quickly his heart -- GOD -- answered him by stating that losing a loved one was far greater punishment than losing one's own life. 'So true,' Philip thought as he recalled Eileen's death, Michael's death, and even the recent death of his dear friend, Father Harrigan.

By the time Philip arrived at the Legacy, he was out-of-sorts ... with himself and with God. Naturally, the next person he was to run into was Nick! "What're you doin' here," Nick asked as he opened the door to Philip's knocking. "Decided to join us again?"

"Derek called me," Philip replied as he brushed past -- and a little in to! -- Nick. "He said that Julia and her Aunt needed m'help. I'm here for them, not t'be startin' up somethin' with you, Nick."

Before Nick could make one of his infamous sarcastic comebacks, Derek called from the top of the stairs. "Goot, you're here. Come on up; Julia, Alex and I will fill you in." He paused and then asked, "Nick, are you coming?"

Nick grabbed Philip's bags. "I'll just toss these in the guest room first." He turned to Philip and said, "No tellin' how long you'll be here this time, right?"

"Right," Philip replied with equal venom in his tone. He went up the stairs and sat as Derek, Julia and Alex filled him in on what had been happening at the new home Julia's Aunt -- Ann Marie Chiles -- had just moved into. Nick joined them just as Philip commented, "Well, it sounds like the problem has more t'do with the house itself than with Julia or the Legacy."

"No kidding," Nick snapped.

Philip saw Derek shoot Nick a warning look and he continued despite wanting to reach out and strangle his younger colleague. "I'm only sayin' that, if Ann Marie isn't too committed into this new house, maybe she ought t'think about leavin' it; goin' somewhere else. The fact that there's a tie to the Legacy through you, Julia, isn't goin' t'be helpin' the situation any."

Julia had greeted Philip warmly when he walked into the Control Room. She backed him up now before Nick could make the comment everyone knew he would make. This, more than anything, seemed to increase the ex-SEAL's temper; but he kept it in check. "I agree with you, Philip," she stated, "but, unfortunately, she's already poured a great deal of money into the house -- most of what she made on the sell of her previous one. So, she can't just up and move again right now."

"Besides," Derek continued, "the property itself would still be experiencing a haunting; someone could get hurt. Because we believe we're dealing with a soul that hasn't passed over, I naturally thought that you could be of some help, Philip."

Convinced, Philip asked, "What can I do?"

He should have seen it coming, but he hadn't. Nick sarcastically replied, "Snap on a little Holy Water and go sprinkle the ground for starters."

"Nick!" Derek reprimanded him. "Enough! We're all a team here; whether Philip is here on every case or not, we're still a team. I want you to back him up on this one, Nick. Understood?"

Nick nodded as he headed for the hologram entrance. He turned to Philip and said, "I'll get the car and meet ya in front when you're ready. We can head over to the house and take a look." Philip watched as Nick left the room and shook his head. He wished there wasn't always this much tension between the two of them. They had been so close a few years ago. But, ever since Philip first mentioned leaving the Legacy, he found it harder and harder to reach Nick.

The strain in their friendship was hard on Philip. He had looked at Nick as a younger brother and, because of his thoughts about leaving the Legacy, that tender relationship had been damaged. And, as he had recalled earlier, this had also taken a toll on his and Julia's friendship as well. It felt like only Derek and Alex now treated him with any warmth on his visits lately. He had this growing distance between himself, Julia and Nick, but didn't know quite what to do about it.

"I'll have a look at the situation at Ann Marie's and let ya know what I think when we get back," he said to Derek as he started to follow Nick out of the room.

"Be very careful." Derek cautioned him. "Ann Marie is staying with a friend of hers; Nick has a key to the house." He paused and then added, "It could get dangerous, Philip. All we know so far is that the spirit has been violent -- throwing objects around the room and smashing furniture. There's no telling what It will do when you walk in the door."

The ride out to the house felt long to Philip as he sat in silence next to his "one-time" friend and brother. His own pride so often prevented him from telling Nick what was really in his heart. He wished he could explain to Nick why he was so torn between the Priesthood and the Legacy -- why he felt he had to choose either one or the other -- but he hadn't found a way to explain it to himself yet.

Arriving at Ann Marie's, Nick turned off the engine of the Mustang and reluctantly said, "Look, Julia and her Aunt are dependin' on us; so, let's just put our own problems aside for now, OK?"

"I couldn't agree with ya more, Nick," Philip responded happily. He truly hated the tension between Nick and him and felt immediate relief that they would work together on this matter. Philip exited the car believing he was ready to face whatever laid ahead.

Philip knew there were many times in his life that he had thought he was prepared for one thing only to find that he wasn't. And this turned out to be one of those times! Upon entering the Chiles' house, a lamp flew through the air and it missed Philip's head by inches -- and that was only because Nick had pushed him out of the way. 'Thank God for Nick's instincts,' his mind screamed at him.

"Thanks," he said to Nick as he picked himself off the floor. "I didn't see that one comin'." Suddenly two other objects flew towards them and shattered on the wall over their heads.

"No problem," Nick replied as he slowly got up. "Be careful, huh, Philip; looks to me like your a little out of practice with this 'spirit' stuff." He gave Philip a mischievous grin and then headed into the Chiles' living room. A loud and furious wind began to blow and Philip watched as Nick struggled against it. "It's this way," Nick shouted over the noise. "Aunt Ann first encountered the spirit in the built-in back porch. C'mon!"

They struggled against the fierce wind until they reached the glass doors that led to the built-in porch. No one needed to tell either of these experienced "ghosthunters" that this is where the entity was originating from -- the glow in the room was bright enough to nearly blind them. They held their hands up trying to shield their eyes from the light; trying to get a glimpse of the actual shape that was causing such an inhuman force.

Growing impatient, Nick reached out and began to try to pry the glass doors apart so that he and Philip could enter. Philip watched as Nick was obviously straining -- using every inch of muscle he had developed during his years in the Navy -- to open the doors. He stood back, with the aspergill in his hand ready to banish the entity inside.

Suddenly, the wind and the light vanished; they didn't merely fade out, but stopped abruptly all together. Nick, who had been struggling on the doors, nearly went crashing through them when the resistance he had been fighting against disappeared. Philip had to catch his friend and stop him before he could have been seriously injured.

They looked at each other, stunned by the sudden silence surrounding them. "What the Hell just happened?" Nick asked him. "What'd it stop for?"

"I've no idea," Philip answered cautiously. He supported his friend until he was solidly on his feet and then, together, they opened the back porch glass doors and stepped inside. "Nothin' in here's been damaged, d'ya see?" Philip pointed to the few knickknacks Ann Marie had already placed around her new "sunporch" (as she called it). They were all standing upright and intact.

"Well," Nick said semi-sarcastically, "maybe it saw you comin' with that collar on and decided to get the Hell outta here." He saw the angry look cross Philip's face and immediately followed this statement with, "Just kidding!"

They both walked around the room for a few minutes, trying to ascertain if the whole event might start again as suddenly as it had just stopped. But after several minutes, they decided to go back to Nick's Mustang and get their equipment. Neither man noticed the glass doors slide shut as they exited the house.

Nick strapped on his own equipment -- all the latest in technology that the Luna Foundation/Legacy utilized in cases of hauntings and poltergeist activities -- and they walked back into the house. Philip found himself ducking just after stepping in the door, anticipating an object flying at them. Nothing moved.

Nick led the way with the equipment held out in front of him. He listened on the specially-equipped headphones for the slightest change in pitch as the needle on the meter he carried held steady. As they approached the back porch, however, even Philip could see that the needle was beginning to swing back and forth. "I'm getting somethin'," Nick said unnecessarily.

Philip opened the glass doors for Nick thinkin, 'I don't remember us shuttin' these.' As Nick began to enter the porch area, the needle swung wildly from left to right and back again. Just as suddenly, Philip saw Nick drop the meter and yank the headphones off his ears with a cry of pain. He didn't need an explanation as he heard the high-pitch sound emanating from them.

"Something is definitely here," Nick said needlessly. "The readings are off the chart. Whatever it is, It's powerful."

"Can ya tell if there's more than one entity?" Philip asked, feeling a sense of dread rise in the pit of his stomach. He had secretly hoped that he would come to San Francisco, help Julia out (maybe that would relieve some of the strained relationship he had with her and Nick), spend a little time with Alex -- and maybe even with Nick and Julia! -- and that he'd be able to head back to Paris in a day or two to finish his class. Now, that hope was waning.

"Nope," Nick responded. "The reading's strong though. It's got a real hold on this house -- or at least in this part of the house -- that's for sure." He bent to pick up the equipment he had dropped and turned it off. He looked at Philip for a few minutes and then asked, "So, what'd ya want to do? Do you wanna try to 'exorcise' the house or somethin'?"

Philip knew in his heart that Nick wasn't trying to be sarcastic this time, but he felt his pride rise up anyway and he replied, "I'm not an Exorcist, Nick ... I'm a Priest. An' I'm not sure what the Hell we should do now. Yer the one with all the answers all the time. You tell me!"

"Look," Nick said trying very hard to control the anger in his voice, "I'm not the one who understands all this religious, 'spirit passing over' stuff; you are. If ya don't want to help Julia and Aunt Ann, FINE! Get the Hell outta here; I'll stay and try to get rid of this thing myself."

Philip immediately felt ashamed. He was several years older than Nick and knew that comments like the one he had just made to him would get the response it did. "I'm here t'help," he answered quietly. "An' I think we should call Derek and see if they found out anythin' about the property before we go on. While we're here, maybe the spirit'll come back; if not, maybe we can coax it back. What'd ya say?"

"Fine," Nick answered curtly. He walked to the phone and Philip listened as Nick spoke to Derek. He saw him grab a pad of paper that was miraculously still sitting on the end table in the living room beside the phone and watched him as he wrote information down at a furious pace. When he hung up, he turned to Philip and said, "OK, here's what they got. Apparently, this house was built over a piece of property that was destroyed during the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. Developers have tried to build on it in the past few decades, but something's always prevented them from finishing; I'm sure you can guess what -- strange occurrences and so on. But, a builder finally did get this house up and now it's Aunt Ann whose dealing with the problem."

Nick paused to look at his notes and then continued, stating, "Alex came up with the names of two people -- a man and woman -- who died in a house in this area during the fire. My guess is, where the porch is now!"

"So what happened?" Philip asked intrigued. Although he hated to learn of other people's misfortunes, he was always fascinated with the historical research end of the Legacy's job. "Did the people who died live in the house?"

"Yes and no," Nick answered. "Seems that the man lived in it, but he was with a woman who wasn't his wife. Apparently, when the fireman -- or whatever they were called back then -- finally arrived, the house was gone; totally destroyed in the fire. They discovered two bodies and thought they were the owners. Then the wife turns up from a trip at her mothers. They investigate further and turns out the guy was with his bookkeeper."

Philip jumped at the sound of a loud bang that came from the direction of the porch. "Seems like our spirit -- or spirits -- might not be to happy with us knowin' this; least ways not the way we know it. What were their names?" he asked.

"George Spencer and Mary Mowery," answered Nick. "Do you think that both of 'em are haunting this place? And why would they? I mean, I realize they died here, but what's the point; I thought spirits only stayed put when they had unfinished business. What happened -- weren't they 'done'?!"

"Nick!" Philip said indignantly. "Try havin' just an ounce o'respect fer their souls, would ya?! They could be feelin' guilty about the affair ... I don't know. But whatever the reason, it's clear that they -- he or she or both -- aren't gonna budge until we help 'em depart from this world."

Suddenly, objects began flying through the air at the two men. Philip took a hard hit in the head by a book and Nick was hit hard in the leg by a table that slid across the floor into him. They looked at each other and headed for the door. Even from the safety of the roadside, they could hear objects crashing and smashing with the Corrigan house.

Hours later, after bandaging their wounds, Philip and Nick sat at the library table with Alex, Julia and Derek to discuss their next move. Philip felt angry at Nick for his earlier comments and the tension in the air between the two was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

"I guess we should try to figure out if it's one spirit or two doing the haunting at Aunt Ann's," Julia said, trying to defuse the tension she could sense around the table. "We'd get alot farther, if we knew exactly who we were dealing with."

Alex supported her by stating, "I agree. We can't really focus on the reason for the haunting or visitation without knowing who's doing it. But, the question is, how do we find out? Should we try to hold a seance there or something?"

"No," Derek responded authoritatively. "I think, given the circumstances, the spirit -- or spirits -- are too agitated for a seance. I think that would be extremely dangerous. No, I think we need to research the backgrounds of both the individuals. Try to come up with a reason for their remaining at the home."

"Derek," Alex said, sounding frustrated. "It's not like there's going to be a wealth of information, you know. We are talking the early 1900's. I'm afraid waiting until we have information on the residences is going to be a waste of time."

"And do we have the time to waste?" Julia interjected. "I mean, Aunt Ann doesn't want to move in until everything's alright, but if this spirit or whatever it is knows we're 'on to it' so to speak, it's probably gonna get a whole lot more violent."

Philip could tell that Nick couldn't resist the temptation to get in one of his infamous jabs and it didn't surprise him when Nick responded, "Well, whoever it is, it's a sure bet that now that 'a Priest' has been there, he, she or they aren't gonna be very calm."

Philip and Julia both noticed the angry look that crossed Derek's face and Julia rushed to defuse the situation by punching Nick in the arm and saying, "Cool it, Hotshot. Philip's here to help." Everyone took a deep breath and she continued, asking, "So, how and where do we start?"

"Well, I know we're goin' on the assumption that it's either the husband or the bookkeeper -- or both -- doing the 'haunting' since their the ones that died there," Nick commented (much calmer now), "but couldn't it be the wife? I mean, couldn't her spirit've come back to haunt the place where her husband had been unfaithful?"

"Goot point," Derek said, his previous anger subsiding. "Alex, why don't you research both George and, what was his wife's name?"

"Leslie," Alex answered.

"Right. Why don't you research George and Leslie and, Julia, you do the research on the bookkeeper." With the assignments handed out, Derek, Philip and Nick headed to bed while Julia and Alex headed to the Control Room's computers.

Philip rose in the morning feeling very stiff and sore. The physical part of working for the Legacy was never the part of the job that he missed. He entered the Control Room to see if any information had been found on the Spencers or Miss Mowery. He found Alex with her head lying beside her keyboard and Nick sitting next to her reading whatever was on the screen.

"How's it goin'?" he asked Nick in a whisper, trying not to wake Alex. "How long've ya been down here?"

Alex stirred slightly and Nick nodded his head in the direction of the hallway. Once there, he answered Philip. "I came down here when Julia came upstairs and said that Alex was still working. Julia didn't find much on Mary Mowery, so when Alex conked out, I continued the research on the Spencers. Again, information is very scarce on Leslie Spencer ... only that her father was a founding family sorta man; she married George Spencer, an employee of her fathers; when her old man died, he left the family business to both her and George; George is found dead with a 'mistress'; and Leslie sold the business to a competitor and moved in with her mom."

He cleared his throat continued, "Apparently, George was a pretty successful businessman and the company grew nearly 50% while he was running it. In fact, he was on the verge of a 'corporate takeover' of one of his competitors with the quake and fire hit. There's really no other information available on 'em. Like Alex said, trying to dig up specific information on ordinary people from that time period isn't easy on short notice."

"So, George works hard durin' his marriage at makin' the company grow," Philip reasoned out, "and then his wife goes off an' sells it t'his competitor when he dies."

"Sounds like divine justice, if ya ask me." Nick stated. "He cheats on her and she gets 'im back by selling the company to someone he hated. Just might make 'im think twice about his little infidelity now, wouldn't it?"

"An' could just be enough of a motive t'be haunting the place where he was unfaithful now, isn't it?" Philip mentioned. "Even though he lost his life, he could still be feelin' the guilt about losin' his business."

"Goot work you two," Derek called from the top of the stairs. "That's how we should proceed; as though the spirit we're dealing with is George Spencer. Whenever you two are ready, why don't you go over there and try to help the man find peace, Philip."

Nick looked skeptically at Derek. "Yeah, but, just because we think it's George Spencer doin' the haunting and can guess that the problem is probably due to the guilt he felt about the affair, that still doesn't tell us how we should get rid o'the guy."

"True," Philip agreed with Nick. "But maybe by just confrontin' 'im with the facts ... lettin' 'im know that his spirit needs to move on -- that nothing is goin' t'be gettin' his business back fer 'im -- maybe that'd be enough t'help 'im let go and move on. He needs t'realize that hauntin' this place isn't gonna change anything."

"I agree," Derek stated. "Until now, his only means of contact with the real world has been in destroying things. Just knowing that someone is trying to communicate may be all it takes. It's worth a try, don't you think? If it doesn't work, then we keep trying."

After quick showers by both Nick and Philip, they were once again headed to Ann Marie's new home. Philip noticed that Nick was exceptionally quiet -- even for Nick! -- and he questioned him on it, "Ya disagree with Derek and I, don't ya?"

"Yeah," Nick stated simply. "I think we're rushing things. I know Julia wants a resolution and all, but I think if we took a little more time to get to know more about this guy, his bookkeeper, his business and his wife, we'd have better luck."

"Aren't you the one always rushin' into every new situation, Nick?!" Philip joked playfully. "It doesn't sound like you t'be wantin' t'hold back an' be takin' yer time."

Nick suddenly swerved the car for no apparent reason and they came to a dead stop. Though they were nowhere near the Chiles' house yet, Philip knew that this would probably be the first of many confrontations this night. "What'd ya come back for?" Nick asked point-blank. "I know you don't wanna be here; you're trying to rush this case and get it over with so you can go back to whatever you were doin'. So, why'd ya bother? What gives?"

"Nick," Philip said as soothingly as he could, "I wouldn't be here if I didn't want t'help. And yes, I would like t'get back t'finish m'classes. But I'm not tryin' to rush a resolution here; I really think this'll work." He knew his friend well enough to know that Nick was dealing with his own personal feelings of pain, loss and abandonment; it seemed to happen every time Philip arrived and left again. But he couldn't find any words of comfort within his heart at the moment and simply stated, "For Julia and her Aunt's sake, don't ya think we should at least try t'get resolution today?"

Wordlessly, Nick resumed driving to the Chiles' house. They parked in front and began to walk up the front sidewalk to the door. When they were within six feet of the door, they saw a bright light shine out every window of the residence. "So much for an unannounced visit," Nick commented as he pulled out the key and opened the door. "Let's get this over with."

Both men observed that objects were flying about the living room as they entered the house. A sudden and swift wind pushed both men backward and it was the weight of their bodies -- and not of the wind itself -- that forced the door to slam shut behind them. Nick instinctively reached out his hand to steady Philip and Philip felt immediately ashamed. The all-to-familiar guilt that constantly ate away at Philip began again. His mind screamed at him, 'I shouldn't've been so hard on 'im in the car. I should've thought o'somethin' t'say.'

"I'll lead the way to the porch," Nick shouted in order to be heard over the roaring noise of the wind. "When we get there, then you can do your thing; alright? Stay close!"

With that, Philip followed Nick to the back porch. He had to admire his friend as he took the brunt of the wind as several things smashed into him. Twice Nick fell backward into Philip and Philip began to wonder if Nick hadn't been right after all; if they maybe should have waited until they had a better understanding of who they were dealing with and why.

Upon arriving at the back porch, both men noticed that the room had been destroyed. Every object in it laid torn and tattered on the floor. Nick once again struggled with the doors and, using all his body weight and strength, finally pried them open. "Get in," he shouted over the wind. "I don't know how long I can hold 'em open!"

Philip stepped into the room and the wind once again suddenly and mysteriously stopped. This time, he was not fast enough to catch Nick and he cringed as he heard his friend fall sideways into and through the glass doors. He bent to make sure that Nick was alive, and thankfully, he was -- cut and bleeding profusely, but alive! Philip had been clutching his aspergill in one hand and the Word of God in the other. He prepared to do battle with the spirit.

He made the sign of the cross and said a silent prayer to God asking for strength, courage and success; he then shouted at the top of his lungs, "George Spencer! Let yer spirit depart from this place." As he said these words, he shook the Holy Water about the room.

A blinding light shone from the far left-hand corner of the room and it rose and filled up approximately six feet of space. Both Nick (who was sitting on the floor, applying pressure to the worst of the cuts) and Philip stared into the light. They watched as it took the shape of a man ... tall, stocky and dressed in 1900's apparel.

Philip again made the sign of the cross. He could feel his heart racing as he thought about all the things that could go wrong in the next few minutes. He called out in as calm a voice as he could muster, "George ... George Spencer? Why're ya hauntin' this place?"

Surprisingly, the spirit of George Spencer replied back, "My business ... it's gone -- it's all gone. That bitch stole it from me, and I won't rest 'til I get it back!"

"Your wife sold the business after finding out you were cheatin' on her," Nick snapped back. "She didn't steal anything; it was her father's to begin with. You're the one who blew it."

Philip knew it was dangerous to aggravate an already-troubled spirit -- and Nick should've known it too! But before Philip could respond, he saw Nick suddenly hurled through the air and crash into the wall. He watched with dread as his friend laid still, not moving. He took a step in Nick's direction and felt something holding him back. He turned to face the spirit.

"Le'me go," Philip demanded. "I want t'make sure m'friend's alright."

"Your friend's got a big mouth," George Spencer replied, as he released Philip from the hold he had on him.

Philip rushed to Nick's side to check for signs of breathing. When he saw that Nick was unconscious but still alive, he thought, 'Yes, he does have a big mouth; but he doesn't deserve t'die fer it!" Angrily, he turned toward the spirit once more and commanded, "Begone from this place, George Spencer. Yer life on Earth is done!"

The spirit of George Spencer shook with what must have been laughter. "I'm not going anywhere, Father, until I get what rightfully belongs to me ... my business!"

Philip began to think (for the second time) that Nick had been right -- they had rushed into this by coming over here to soon and were not equipped with enough knowledge or information to dispel this spirit. As he was trying to think of a way to get both he and Nick out of this situation alive, he heard a noise behind. Relief flooded over him as he saw Derek in the doorway.

Immediately, Derek had assessed the situation as he saw the blood on the glass and Nick's still form against the wall. The fact that Philip was standing calmly by Nick's body assured Derek that Nick must still be alive and so he entered the room with a show of confidence.

"Who are you?" demanded the spirit. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm here to help send you wherever it is you belong," Derek replied. He turned to Philip and quickly said, "I'm sorry. I should've had you two wait until we finished checking the histories of all the parties involved." They both looked at George Spencer and Philip saw -- for the first time -- that the apparition appeared nervous.

"What do you think you know, little man?" George Spencer's voice boomed, laced with hatred and false bravado. "You think you or this puny Priest can make me leave?! Nothing can make me leave until I get my business back!"

"But this isn't about the business," Derek countered, "is it, George? You're hiding behind the loss of the business ... blaming your wife for selling it to your competitor ... when in truth it is the loss of your wife and UNBORN CHILD that you are really mourning, isn't it!? You're seeking forgiveness and yet offer nothing but blame."

Philip fully comprehended the situation now. George's spirit was blaming his wife for never having told him that she was pregnant before he died. Perhaps, had he known, he might not have had his fateful dalliance with his bookkeeper. The guilt of the affair and what his child must have been raised knowing about him, prevented his spirit from leaving. Now, Philip realized how he could help him.

"George," Philip said soothingly. "I can help ya t'find peace. If ya only confess yer sin of adultery, God'll forgive ya an' ya can pass on."

A wind began to slowly pick up around the inhabitants of the porch, but Philip sensed immediately that it wasn't being caused by the spirit of George Spencer. In fact, there was a look of sheer and utter terror on his face.

"What're you doing to me?" the spirit cried. "What's happening?"

Derek quickly interjected, "Now that the truth is known, you're hold on this place is fading. Pray for absolution now before it's too late."

Before Philip could begin the Prayer of Penitence, the room filled with a thick, heavy smoke and the spirit of George Spencer began to cry out in agony. "Help me!" he begged, "For the love of God, help me!" But before Philip could take another step, the spirit of George Spencer burst into a fiery ball of flame that disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.

Helping revive and then half-carry Nick out of the house, both Philip and Derek felt unsatisfied. They had hoped to help George Spencer reach his afterlife, not condemn the man to eternal Hell. But, they could not always pick and choose the resolutions of Legacy cases; years of experience had taught them both that fact.

Julia had been grateful -- as had Nick for Philip's helping him return home in one peace! -- and Philip left San Francisco that same night with bittersweet feelings. He felt that he had taken the first real steps to repairing his damaged relationship with Nick and Julia. And that knowledge made his burdened heart feel at least a little lighter.

However, Philip also felt a tremendous sense of loss ... particularly as a Priest! ... in his role of sending the spirit of George Spencer to Hell. But, before he could dwell on this feeling, his heart (God?) quickly reminded him that George Spencer was paying for his own sin. That there were far worse things a person could face other than losing their life; there was the possibility/probability of Hell! George Spencer had been judged for his sin just as Philip knew he himself would be someday.

Philip's mind raced and reeled. The recollections he kept having were only making the decision process harder, not easier! What exactly was "the Voice" trying to accomplish. Then a thought occurred to Philip, 'Maybe it's not a Heavenly Voice I'm hearin', but a Voice from Satan t'distract me! Oh dear God, tell me what t'do?"

The Voice almost chuckled as it replied, "My Brother, I am truly a Heavenly 'voice'! Satan's temptation of you, Philip, is in your doubt, not in your recollections. But, at last, I can almost say that there is hope that you will not fail God, for finally, my Brother, you are calling on Him to help you instead of trying to do it all yourself.

This comment confused Philip even more for he felt that he had always looked to God for answers; that he had always turned to God for guidance; and that he had always tried to follow the path that God wanted him to take. He simply didn't see the direction that he should take when it came to the Priesthood vs. the Legacy. There seemed to be no clear-cut path or answer to this decision. His heart grew heavier as he felt no closer to a "decision" ... and no closer to saving Nick!

Job 27:2-6 - As God livith, who hath taken away my judgment; and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul; All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils; My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit, God forbid that I should justify you: til I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.

"Your friend is still alive, my Brother," the Voice reassured Philip gently. "I know your heart is weary and you feel confused and lost. Again I say, you must turn to Him if you wish to pass Satan's temptations and God's test. It is no harder and no easier than that, Philip."

Feeling Philip's continued despair, the Voice confirmed, "You have lived a Godly life, my Brother. You've sought many times to do His perfect Will. You've recalled fighting evil as a Priest and defeating it as a member of the Legacy; remember now, Philip, how you dealt with it as a man who turned to God for guidance."

Philip enjoyed it when Nick came to his bi-weekly soccer games. He knew that Nick sometimes had trouble getting away from whatever case the Legacy was working on, but he always appreciated having his friend in the stands as he mowed down the competition. He loved the way Nick would tease him after the games about showing 'Priestly-compassion or the lack thereof' out on the soccer field!

They had made it a sort of "ritual" to go out after the games to the nearest pub and have a few drinks, talk sports, politics, life in general ... anything but the Church or the Legacy ... and then they would go their separate ways. Philip had come to enjoy those moments even more than his "glorious" ones out on the soccer field. He felt that he and Nick were both finding their way back to the friendship they both had held so dear.

Philip remembered the first time their friendship had been sorely strained and tested ... it was right after he had told Nick he was thinking of leaving the Legacy. He had expected that Nick would understand -- after all, Nick himself had been a member of the Navy SEALs and thought nothing of leaving them! So, when Nick's temper exploded at Philip, he hadn't been prepared for it and lashed back. The tear in the relationship began at the moment.

Then, as time went on and Philip expressed the doubts he was having about remaining a Priest, Nick seemed to get even angrier. "First you wanna quit the Legacy," he had yelled, "and now you want to quit the Church. God, Philip, what the Hell do ya wanna do with your life anyway?!" Those words had stung Philip to the core for they had come from a young man he both cared about and respected. But worse of all, the truth behind the words stung even more.

But now, Nick seemed to be making the effort to spend time with Philip, and Philip was grateful for that. He had been assigned a few months ago to a rather large Church in the heart of San Francisco, and that gave him plenty of time for both playing soccer and socializing with his Legacy friends. Philip felt happy -- genuinely happy -- for the first time in a long time. Now, as he came out of the locker room and saw Nick standing applauding him, he couldn't help grinning from ear to ear.

"Not bad," Nick said, sounding impressed. "I think that's one of the toughest and best games I've seen you play yet!"

"Why thank you," Philip replied with pride. "It was a tough team, but I really felt strong out there today."

"Do you have time to go for a drink?" Nick asked. "I saw a pub about a half-mile down the road as I drove up. First round's on me! It's the least I can do for someone who practically won the game single-handedly!"

Philip laughed at the comment, but a twinge of regret moved over him. He hated that he was going to have to upset and disappoint Nick, but he couldn't be helped. He took a deep breath and said, "Well, I didn't exactly know you were comin' t'today's game, Nick, so I promised Father Lawrence I'd handle some matters up at the Church fer him this afternoon." He watched as Nick's eyelids shifted downward and his face began to set in disappointment. "But," Philip continued, "I'm sure I've got enough time for one drink, if yer still offerin'."

"Sure," Nick replied, clearly upset. "If your sure you have time, that is." He followed Nick to the Mustang and was careful to put on his seatbelt. He knew that, when Nick was angry or upset, his driving tended to be a little more reckless than usual and Philip wasn't taking any chances. The drove in silence to the pub Nick had mentioned, walked in and sat at the bar to order their drinks.

"Two whiskeys," Nick snapped at the approaching bartender. "And hurry it up; the 'Father' here's in a hurry."

"Nick," Philip tried to say in a calm and soothing voice, "I've gotta a little bit o'time. I was only mentionin' the Church duty so that ya wouldn't be expectin' me t'spend the whole day here ... that's all."

"What ... like I've got nothin' better to do than sit around some bar all day? Is that it?" Nick questioned. He took the shot placed in front of him, downed it and motioned for a refill. Philip watched Nick down the second, motion for the third and then turn to him and say, "Look, I'm sorry. We just came off a hard case, I've been butting head's with Derek ...."

"As usual," Philip interjected with a smile. He could tell that, although it took the whiskey to do it, Nick was starting to loosen up a bit.

"Yeah, well," Nick continued. "I just thought you'd have some time to hang out today. I guess it made me more upset than I thought it would that you'll be 'playing Priest' instead."

Although Philip knew that a comment like that was just Nick's way of talking, it still upset him whenever he heard it; he was not "playing" Priest! He downed his whiskey and said briskly, "Well, speakin' o'being a Priest, I better get goin'. I've got duties waitin' fer me, Nick." He immediately could tell his harsh tone had made an impact on the younger man and regretted his rashness. He said more gently, "Guess yer gonna b'headin' back soon, right? I bet Derek'll b'glad t'see ya back so soon."

Nick picked up his third shot of whiskey and started to nurse it. "No," he answered softly, "I'm gonna stay here for a while. You were right earlier ... I don't have anything better to do." With that, he downed the third whiskey and motioned for yet another refill.

Philip was very aware of the fact that he was going to have to leave -- soon -- if he was going to make it back to his Church in time to take over for Father Lawrence, but he hated to leave Nick here like this. "You gonna be OK?" he asked him as he put his hand on his shoulder.

Nick lightly shrugged out from under Philip's hand and shook his head. "Yep, I'll be fine. Go do what you have to do," he said as he stared into his fourth whiskey shot.

Philip rose, patted his friend on the arm and said as cheerily as he could muster, "Well, thanks again fer the drink and fer comin' to the game to cheer me on. I'll see ya later." He then nodded to the bartender to meet him at the end of the bar. "Make sure he doesn't drive, if he has verra many more o'those, will ya?" he whispered. The bartender nodded agreement and Philip walked out the door and the eight blocks it took to reach his Church.

Although Philip knew that Father Lawrence really had had nothing special planned for the afternoon, but he had agreed to take over some of the man's duties unaware the Nick was going to show up at his soccer game. Now, no matter what function he performed, he felt he was doing it half-hearted; his mind was on his friend sitting alone at the bar.

Occasionally the ringing of the confessional bell would pull Philip away from his thoughts and he would sit and listen to other people's problems. He would ask the requisite questions, give out the required penance, but he never really paid attention to what anyone was saying to him. Again, he began to wonder if being a Priest was the right profession for him.

Lost in his own thoughts, he was barely aware that someone had entered the confessional room until he heard the sound of the person bang into the bench -- followed by a steady stream of profanity. He had not yet opened the screened partition between the two rooms, hoping to give the individual a chance to collect their thoughts; besides, the stench of whiskey permeating off the man was making Philip queasy and he didn't want to open the partition any sooner than he had to.

He heard the person clear their throat and say, "Hello? Is anyone in there?" The voice sounded heavy and yet vaguely familiar. He opened the screened partition between the two rooms and said, "I'm here, m'Son."

Although the screen allowed only the vaguest idea of an image of the individual inside, Philip could tell that the person seemed to be sitting or kneeling awkwardly on the kneeler. Before he could comment on this, he heard the voice say, "Forgive me, Father, for I'm not Catholic." This was followed by a steady stream of laughter.

'Oh dear God,' Philip's mind screamed out. 'It can't be!' But even as he thought it, he knew that the voice of the individual belonged to the same man he had worked with for the past several years; to the same man he had once thought of as a younger brother; to the same man he had just left drinking an hour beforehand at the pub -- NICK!

Philip was thrown headfirst into a situation that he definitely did not want to be in. It was obvious Nick was drunk -- the mere fact that Nick was in a Church was one of the first indications of that -- and so there was no telling what he might say. But, at the same time, Philip had taken a vow to hear anyone's confession who wished to make it and he wondered if it would be right to turn his back on his friend when he so obviously was seeking help.

The laughter stopped abruptly and he heard Nick say in a sluggish voice, "Sorry about that. I gotta be honest with ya ... I don't have a whole Helluva lot of respect for you guys. Priests, I mean. I got a friend and he's a Priest and he's the most screwed up guy I ever met."

Philip resisted the urge to laugh at that statement; he felt that Nick had never been more right in his entire life as he had been with that comment. But he remained silent and listened to what else was weighing on Nick's mind and heart. 'God forgive me,' he prayed as he heard Nick sigh. 'Don't let me hear anythin' ya don't want me t'hear, Lord. Give me yer strength t'guide 'im.'

He tried to continue staring straight ahead -- as he had been taught to do when hearing confession -- but found it difficult not to look over at the young man who was suddenly so silent in the room next to him. He noticed that Nick was shifting his body around; probably trying to get comfortable on the kneeler. It amazed him that, although Nick was clearly drunk, how clear his speech was. But then, Philip remembered Nick's discipline and military training and began to dread what might be coming next. He waited in silence.

Finally, Nick said, "Sometimes I hate my friend ... you know, the Priest? See he use to be one of us -- he works sometimes with this organization that I'm in -- but now he's thinkin' of leaving it. I can't forgive 'im for that. He was family -- like a brother -- and he's willin' to throw it all away for this. I don't get it, Father. What's so special about bein' a Priest?"

Philip's heart was tearing in two as he heard Nick's heartfelt words and question, but he knew to answer him would give himself away; there was just no disguising his Irish accent -- no matter how drunk Nick might be! So he simply sat quietly waiting to see if there would be anything further from Nick ... and praying that there wouldn't be!

"You probably don't know this about me, Father," Nick continued (in a somewhat sarcastic tone) after a moment, "but I don't trust people very easily. Not at all, sometimes. So when I trusted my friend, the Priest, I did it for life; and it's like he doesn't give a damn."

'I do, Nick,' Philip's mind and heart cried out. 'I'm just torn between the best way t'be doin' God's work -- in the Priesthood or in the Legacy -- but I'm not torn in m'friendship with you!' He cleared his throat, hoping against hope that the sound would shock Nick into realizing where he was and what he was doing.

"Ya know," Nick continued, "our jobs aren't that different, Father. We both fight the evil that's in the world; just some of us do it more physically. 'And if you're gonna do a job, you better do it right,' my old man use to say." Nick became quiet and Philip could tell he was being very reflective.

Then, Philip heard Nick almost whisper, "My old man ... now there was a real Sonofabitch. Everybody always thought he was such a great guy -- a hero, a good friend, a caring family man -- but he wasn't! He was a drunken Bastard who would beat up my mother and I just for walkin' in the room sometimes. Some hero, huh, Father?"

Philip listened, stunned, as Nick continued, "Ya know, most people enjoy birthdays. My friend -- the Priest -- goes all out makin' a big deal about 'em. But I hate 'em. See, to most people the day means cake and ice cream, gettin' together with family and friends, celebrations and surprises; but at my house, it meant arguing over how much money was spent, the smell of beer, brandy or whiskey, shouting and screaming, bruises and broken bones ... and always the inevitable apologies and tears."

Nick paused and Philip prayed that he would stop; he didn't know how much more he could stand to listen to. But Nick's voice became stronger as he said, "But, it wasn't really so bad. I mean, it made me who I am today ... right? There's not a whole lot I can't handle and I should be proud of that, right? Most people like to try to live on the edge -- well, I am the edge ... you know what I mean?! I don't know why I'm telling you all of this except .... I feel really bad about the way I treat my friend, the Priest, sometimes. For some reason, I tend to expect more from him than what I got from my old man -- crazy, right?!"

All these stunning and incomprehensible revelations made Philip's head whirl. He felt as though the wind had been knocked out of him. He knew that Jonathan Boyle -- Nick's father -- had been a former member of the Legacy and a friend of Derek's and he was shocked beyond words to learn that Nick's father was both a spouse and a child abuser! 'Oh dear God,' Philip thought, 'that explains so much about Nick's behavior!' He felt he could no longer keep silent; that the young man must by now need some word of comfort, so he cleared his throat and asked, "What can I do fer ya, my Son?"

"Pray," was the simple answer he heard back. "Pray I don't become the monster my old man was. Ya know, I can feel it sometimes ... the rage to strike out for no reason. In fact, on the way over here, I nearly got into a fist fight with some guy over .... I don't know what. And that's why I'm here. Even though I hate your club for takin' my friend away, you Priests are suppose to be compassionate and forgiving of people. So all I want from you is a prayer -- not your pity, just a prayer."

"I'll pray fer ya," Philip said as calmly as he could, although he knew the compassion in his heart could be heard in his voice. 'You can count on it, Nick,' Philip's thoughts screamed out. 'You can count on me!'

Philip wished there was more that he could say to his friend, but he knew that Nick would be horrified if he realized that what he had just shared was with Philip and not with some nameless, faceless "Priest". He sat quietly waiting to see what, if anything, Nick would add to his previous statements. Finally, he heard Nick almost whisper, "And pray for my friend, too, OK, Father? You know -- the Priest? Not that he'd stay with our organization or anything like that, but that he'd find peace; just that he'd finally find some kinda peace in his life."

The fact that Nick was in a Church and actually baring his soul to a Priest had stunned Philip; the revelation that Nick's father had abused him as a child had horrified him; but the fact that Nick had asked someone to pray for him ... for Philip! ... was too much for Philip's heart and emotions to bare. He could feel himself breaking; but, before he could reach out to Nick to tell him how much that had meant, he found a sudden strength and surety well within his heart and soul. No, he could never let Nick ... or anyone ... know what was said here today.

"I'll pray fer ya both," Philip answered in a voice that didn't sound like his own. "Go with God, m'Son," he concluded as he closed the partition between them. He felt a sureness in his heart that Nick would be alright; in fact, he doubted that Nick would ever remember any of this once the whiskey wore off.

Several seconds later, he heard Nick stumble out of the confessional. It was obvious that the young man's legs must have either fallen asleep or cramped up in the tiny space because he let out another steady stream of profanity as he left the Church. 'So like Nick's usual "hot-headed" self,' Philip thought, somewhat relieved.

Yet he had found out more today about Nick than anyone else would have ever guessed. And that knowledge helped Philip find within himself a greater compassion, patience and understanding for his friend; and he would never forget it!

Philip waited several minutes, making sure that Nick was good and gone, before stepping out of the confessional himself. He headed to the alter and knelt as he lit two candles ... one for Nick and one for himself -- just as his friend had requested.

Philip had turned to God that day for guidance; the memory of how sure he had been that he needed to keep Nick's secret reminded him of how God did talk to him. Slowly, it began to dawn on Philip what the Voice was talking about -- in all the instances he had recalled, he had turned to and trusted God to give him strength, wisdom and guidance. But, when it came to the decision between remaining in the Priesthood, remaining in the Legacy or continuing to do both he wasn't listening for God's advice ... he was trying to make the decision on his own!

Job 28:28 - And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.

"Now you understand, my Brother," the Voice said, no longer sadly but now laced with admiration. "God has allowed Satan to test you ... to see if you would turn to Him ... for answers, and your failure in this test had been in not making the choice He had placed in your heart."

"So," Philip asked hopefully, "does this mean m'friend's gonna be alright? That he'll live?" The exhaustion and hopelessness he had felt when he first arrived on the beach were beginning to fade away as he began to realize that the choice -- the answer -- had been within him all the time ... he merely had failed to listen to it. "Please tell me, Spirit -- Lord -- if I choose t'do what yer tellin' m'heart t'do, then Nick will live, right?"

"Again, my Brother, the answer to these questions are within you -- if you listen to Him," the Voice replied. "Recall once more, Philip, what truly brought you to this beach tonight ... for it wasn't connected to the Priesthood and it had nothing to do with a Legacy case. Your friend was injured ... by saving you!"

Philip enjoyed the time he spent with Kat and her mother, Rachel. He often worried, however, about the young child being exposed to the forces of evil the way she was. Whenever he expressed these concerns to Derek or Alex, they both commented that Kat had the "gift of sight" and so she would be exposed to different things her whole life whether she was involved with the Legacy or not. He didn't care for this "flippant" attitude on their parts and found himself in a very rare position -- in agreement with Nick!

Nick felt that Kat and Rachel did belong in the Legacy, but he was always worried about her. He would be constantly caring for her during their cases by playing games with her, protecting her or generally being the person she could turn to. Philip admired this ability to handle Kat so well; particularly knowing how hard Nick's own childhood had been.

So, when Philip knew that he would be in the Sacramento area for a few days attending a seminar, he contacted Rachel to see if she and Kat could meet for lunch. Because he was still so divided over his feelings of where exactly he belonged, he didn't feel up to going out to the Legacy House ... or up to seeing Derek or Alex.

However, when Rachel mentioned that she and Kat had previous plans of going to the zoo with Nick, Philip decided to invite him along -- after all, with Katherine there, he doubted Nick would be his usual "sarcastic" self. He dressed in his everyday street clothes and headed to the restaurant they had agreed to meet at; it was only a short walk from the hotel he was staying in.

He arrived at the restaurant and immediately smiled. Seated at a table in the corner, he saw Rachel (who waved when she saw him walk in) as well as Nick and Kat who seemed to be engrossed in a "tic-tac-toe" game on the back of the restaurant's paper placemat.

"Who's winnin'?" he asked as he approached the table. Nick looked up and gave a half grin as if to say, 'Who do you think?' and Philip leaned down to kiss the top of Kat's head saying, "Hope yer beatin' the pants off 'im, Kat!"

She laughed as she stated that she was and from there the rest of the luncheon was kept light and filled with laughter. Kat monopolized much of the conversation by telling Philip the latest events at school, the last case she "helped" the Legacy with (and Philip didn't miss the look Nick shot him over that one!) and all about the animals they had seen at the zoo that morning.

As they were finishing, Rachel asked, "Philip, are you staying in San Francisco for a few days or do you have to head back soon?"

He dreaded what he knew would be coming next ... the inevitable confrontation with Nick over "how he treats them" and "how he's deserted them". But, with Katherine sitting at the table, he hoped most of it would be curbed. He answered, "Well, I did take a room fer the night, but I'm plannin' on headin' back over to the Sacramento area first thing in the mornin'."

"So," Nick stated in his sarcastic tone, "if you hadn't called Rachel and Kat for lunch, the rest of us wouldn't've even seen you this trip, huh?!" Philip could tell that Nick was getting upset, but was a little surprised to hear him say, "Guess I'm lucky you decided to tell Rach that I could come along or it would've been 't'Hell with me' too, right?!"

Rachel intervened declaring, "OK, you two; remember, my impressionable nine-year-old daughter is sitting here. Let's not rehash this now, alright." Neither man said anything -- pride and ego keeping each silent -- and so finally, Rachel added, "Well, it's been a pretty full day and Katherine and I have a few more errands to run. I think we'll just catch a cab and head to Neiman Marcus. Thanks for lunch, Philip. It was great seeing you again; and Nick, thanks for picking us up and taking us to the zoo. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

With that, Kat hugged both men and walked out the door waving behind her. They both sat and stared at each other in silence, each ashamed of their behavior. Philip remembered is promise to God to be more compassionate, patient and understanding with Nick and realized that he had broken that vow. But, before he could say anything, he heard Nick say, "Guess I know how to clear a room, right."

"Well," Philip said in a friendly tone, "if it's any comfort t'ya, ya weren't alone on this one; it took both of us t'chase 'em away." With that, both men smiled and decided to stay and have another cup of coffee. The spoke of sports, politics and all the old, "safe" subjects. But, as always, the conversation couldn't remain "safe" between them.

"So," Nick said hesitantly, "have you made any decisions yet about what your gonna do ... stay with the Legacy, etc.?" When Philip shifted uncomfortably in his chair, Nick continued, a little more forcefully, "'Cause I've gotta be honest with you, Philip ... this decision thing is tearin' you apart. Friend-to-friend, you need to just decide this thing -- one way or another. And, if you choose to leave the Legacy, we'll have to deal with it and move on. It's that simple."

Philip wished he could express to Nick how much those words of compassion and understanding meant to him! He was overwhelmed by the truth and emotion with which they were delivered and found himself -- at least momentarily -- unable to speak at all. Although he had regretted Nick's joining Rachel, Kat and himself for lunch about mid-way through the meal, he was now grateful to God and His wisdom for placing Nick there. He cleared his throat, pushed down his welling emotions and stated, "No, I haven't made any decisions, Nick. But, believe me, m'friend, you'll be the first t'know when I do."

The silence after these comments indicated to both men that it was time to end the luncheon and they rose to pay the check and leave. After a brief argument -- which Nick won -- over who was going to pay the tab, they exited the restaurant and stood outside the restaurant for a few minutes, enjoying the gentle breeze and each other's company.

"Well," Nick stated, "my car's around back. Why don't I give you a lift to the hotel."

"No," Philip replied, "it's such a beautiful day, I think I'll walk. It's only a few blocks away ... and I'd really like t'do some soul-searchin' -- if ya know what I mean."

"Yeah," Nick replied. "Take care, huh. Keep in touch next time ... even if it is gonna be a short trip."

"I promise," Philip said. They shook hands and Philip headed down the street, his mind occupied on everything that had transpired at lunch. He was lost in thought as he replayed in his mind everything Nick had said; as he tried to decide where he felt he could serve the Lord best. He never heard Nick cry out to him; he never heard the screech of the car's brakes; he only felt himself pushed through the air and then heard the sickening thud of metal as it hit flesh.

Everything seemed to move simultaneously in slow and fast motion. He pushed himself up from the pavement realizing that he hadn't been hit by the car. But he was aware that a vehicle was very close beside him. He could hear shrieks of concern and agitation all around him and slowly turned in the direction the voices were headed.

Terror struck him in the pit of his stomach as he turned to discover Nick lying on the pavement, bleeding profusely from his head. As he rose and approached his friend, he wasn't aware of whether or not the young man was breathing; the only thing that struck him was how awkward and still the figure on the pavement was lying. He heard a voice say, "I didn't mean to hit him ... I was trying to stop!" Another voice screamed, "Someone call an ambulance."

All these shouts brought Philip's mind back in focus and he quickly leaned over his friend's body and gently checked for a pulse. Relief flooded over him as he felt the gentle beat of Nick's heart. "Get some help," he shouted. "He's alive but his pulse is verra weak!"

After that, it seemed that everything moved rapidly. An ambulance came; he was pushed aside as the Paramedics began to assess Nick's injuries; someone grabbed him and said, in an accusing voice, "He was shouting at you to watch out for the car! He saved your life, you know!" Yes, Philip was very aware of that ... very aware indeed! And, the fact that it might cost Nick his life was not lost on him either!

It was a struggle to convince the Paramedics that he was with Nick -- that they were friends who had just finished having lunch together before the accident happened -- so that he could ride in the ambulance with him. Finally, he resorted to shouting, "Look, m'friend's not lookin' too good here. I'm his friend an' I'm a Priest. Now let's get goin' ... fer the love o'God!" The Paramedics couldn't argue with Philip's assessment of the situation and, within minutes, they were racing to Mercy General.

The ambulance ride felt like it took an eternity. But, once they had arrived at the hospital, things once again moved at an increased rate of speed. Nick was rushed into the closest E.R. area and the curtain was pulled shut behind him; forms were shoved into Philip's hand as Nurses began inquiring about Nick's statistics -- name, age, allergies and such; and he began to look around for the nearest pay phone so that he could call Derek with the news of the accident.

Making the call to Derek was one of the toughest things Philip ever had to do. At first, Derek's tone was friendly and warm (although a little shocked) as he said, "My Gott, Philip ... are you in San Francisco?" But as Philip quickly laid out the facts about the accident, the tone changed dramatically as Derek coldly replied, "Alex and I are on our way. Wait there until we arrive."

'What?' Philip's mind wanted to scream to the dial tone he heard buzzing in his ear after that statement, 'did ya think I'd just leave 'im lyin' in there?' He tried to rationalize the fact that Derek was speaking out of a state of shock, but his feelings were hurt nonetheless; how could he even imply that Philip would just leave Nick in a hospital alone! He paced the floor, praying to God for some kind of news on Nick's condition; praying to God that the doctors would discover that the injuries weren't quite as serious as they looked; praying to God for a miracle!

Philip nearly ran into Derek as he was pacing ... he hadn't heard the Precept approach. He looked up and saw the mixture of anger and concern on Derek's face. This did nothing to ease Philip's already-burdened heart. He had been feeling guilty enough already for Nick's accident; but to look into Derek's eyes and see blame there as well -- it was too much.

"What happened?" Derek asked harshly. "Nick was suppose to be with Rachel and Kat today. What was he doing with you?!"

Although the questions were not meant to be accusations, Philip certainly felt like they were and he answered defensively, "I'd called Rachel and Kat t'invite 'em t'lunch today. I've a seminar in Sacramento and thought I'd come t'the City fer the day t'see 'em. Since they had plans with Nick, he came along."

"Where are Rachel and Kat?" Alex asked, looking around. "Are they with Nick?"

"No," Philip answered. "Thankfully, they'd left before the accident happened ... Kat didn't have'ta see it. Nick and I had stayed behind t'talk and ...."

"How is he?" Derek interrupted. "Can we see him?"

Philip felt his shoulders sag. He knew that Derek must have been -- at least to some degree -- be blaming him for the accident. He probably thought that they had argued and Nick was injured as a result of that argument. But, he calmly responded, "The doctor's are still with 'im. He was unconscious the whole time in the ambulance." As the image of Nick's body lying so still appeared in his mind, his voice faded as he continued, "He looked so pale and ...."

Alex touched his arm and motioned him toward the seating area in the Visitor's Lounge. "Are you alright?" she asked, warmly. "It must've been some accident if he was unconscious the whole time."

Derek had stayed by the doorway of the E.R., straining to see around the curtains. Philip looked up at him and said, "Derek ... it's my fault." Derek looked at him, waiting for him to continue. "I had m'mind on other things and was crossin' the road. I never saw the car ... I guess Nick must've seen it an' he ran up an' pushed me outta the way. It hit 'im head on." Philip's voice was laced with shock by this time and it began to fade in and out of coherence as he said, "There was so much blood .... he wasn't movin' .... I could barely tell if he was even breathin' ...."

Philip saw Derek (out of the corner of his eye) as he came toward him. He sat beside Philip and reached out his hand, squeezing Philip's arm reassuringly. "Well," he said in his most authoritative voice, "Nick's strong. I'm sure he'll be alright. You shouldn't blame yourself, Philip; it was an accident."

At that moment, all three of the Legacy members noticed a team of doctors come out of the E.R. area. They approached them, hoping for news on Nick's condition. "Doctor," Derek said as he approached the man who appeared to be in charge. "We're here with Nick Boyle ... he was hit by a car. Can you tell us how he is? Can we see him?"

Philip's heart sank as the doctor looked gravely at the three and asked them to follow him to his office. He felt Alex's hand on his arm as they walked down the hall and, although she had obviously placed it there as a sign of comfort to him, he could feel her shaking. They each solemnly took a seat around the doctor's desk and waited for what he had to say.

"I'm Dr. Cole," he said. "I'm the doctor in charge of your friend's case. I'm not going to beat around the bush here ... Mr. Boyle is in serious condition. To be perfectly honest, we nearly lost him about 20 minutes ago; the only way we were able to revive him was to put 'im on a ventilator."

"Dear God," Philip muttered as he made the sign of the cross. Alex and Derek had also expressed the same sentiments. They had had no idea how seriously Nick had been injured; but Philip had been with him, and he knew. 'Dear God, NO!' his mind cried out.

"I'm sorry," Dr. Cole said breaking into their thoughts. "Were going to be moving him up to CCU in a few minutes and, if you're his family, you can go in and see him after we have him settled."

"We're the closest thing he has to family," Derek replied, sounding much less authoritative than earlier. He paused and took a deep, shaky breath. "Is he going to survive?" he asked, point-blank.

The doctor seemed to appreciate the honesty of the question and answered it the same, "I don't know. Time is both our friend and enemy in head injury cases. If he wakes up in the next 24-48 hours .... Well, he was in excellent physical condition before the accident and there's no reason not to assume that he'd make a full recovery." He paused and then added, "If he doesn't wake up in that timeframe .... Well, it'll be a long waiting game."

Alex called Rachel and left her the message about the accident. Twenty minutes later, Rachel showed up at the hospital, just as they were told they could go in to see Nick. The sight was overwhelming! Nick, who usually looked so strong and solid on any occasion, now looked so helpless lying next to all the machinery that was doing his breathing ... and God knows what else ... for him. Philip saw tears fill both in Alex and Rachel's eyes as they approached Nick and he wished he could offer them comfort; but it was the one thing that he needed most at that same moment and had none to spare.

He felt a surge of unexplained anger ... not at Nick or anyone else in the room, but at God! 'How could ya do this,' his mind cried out. 'I've been a faithful Servant t'ya. Ya took m'brother away all those years ago; ya've taken so many Godly friends from me; d'ya have t'take Nick too?!' But as soon as he had thought these words and raged at God, he felt ashamed. No, he needed to make this right ... to "fix it" somehow; he needed to confront God head-on.

"I have t'go," he announced to the three people crowded around Nick's bedside. "There's somethin' I need t'do. Can I borrow one o'yer cars, please?" Rachel handed her keys over to him and turned back to Nick. Philip walked to the other side of his friend's hospital bed and looked into the pale face. "It's gonna be alright, Nick" he said as surely as he could. "I swear it will!" With that, he rushed out the door.

And, after the quick stop he had made to pick up the bottle of whiskey (for courage), Philip had ended up at this very spot on the beach to confront God ... to beg for Nick's life and offer his own! He vaguely remembered the cuts and scrapes that plagued him on his trip down to the beach; but those meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. Only God and His Will mattered --Philip saw that now.

"Speak t'me, Lord," Philip cried aloud. "Show me the answer I've sought ... the choice between the Priesthood and the Legacy. Ya've given me the answer ... I know that now, Father. But now m'heart's listenin' and I'm ready t'hear and obey."

Job 42:1-6 - Then Job answered the Lord and said, I know that thou canst do every thing and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

For the final time, Philip heard the Voice call out to him, "Well done, my Brother! You have turned to God and now know the decision He wishes you to make. But, let me caution you, Philip ... once you have made it, remember, to question or doubt God's Will is a sin against Him.

"I know," Philip replied with confidence. "An' thank you ... dear Spirit or Angel ... whoever -- whatever -- you are. Thank You! You helped me t'remember all the important lessons in m'life; and those recollections reminded me that, like Job from the Bible, all I ever had t'do was listen and trust Him. Thank ya fer showin' me the way."

"And now you know what that decision is, my Brother?" the Voice inquired. "What is God's Will for your life?"

Philip smiled -- full and broad -- as he answered confidently, "I'm t'stay a Priest ... and t'continue m'work with the Legacy whenever they need me! I know it now ... and I'll know it forever." And this was true; in the deepest reaches of his heart and soul, Philip knew God had been speaking to him from the first moment he had begun to have doubts about himself, his calling and his chosen profession ... but he had failed to listen. Now, he realized those doubts were really Satan's temptations!

He also realized that his greatest service to God was both in administering to mankind as a Priest and by fighting Satan head-on with the Legacy. If only he had listened to God sooner instead of trying to make the decision on his own!

The light around Philip began to fade and he closed his eyes as it slowly washed away. When he opened them again, he noticed that a new day was about to dawn; and he also knew that he had to head back to the hospital -- he had to be with Nick now -- no matter what was to happen! But, before leaving, while he was still in a kneeling and penitent position, he asked God for one more favor ... he asked Him to have mercy on Nick.

As he rose and started up the steep hill to Rachel's car, he paused and looked out across the ocean at the outstretched Heavens. The awesome beauty and wonder of it struck Philip to the core of his being; he felt blessed with the riches of memory that God had shown him. "Thank you, Father. Thank ya fer m'life and for every blessin' in it!"

Job 42:10; 12 - And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

... So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: ....

Philip was feeling so uplifted after his "chat" with God that, when he walked into the CCU area and found Alex in tears, it confused and stunned him. He felt his heart sink in his chest as he approached her. Frightened beyond words, but still trusting in God's ultimate wisdom and judgment, he placed his hand on her shoulder and simply asked, "Nick?"

Alex looked up through tear-filled eyes and threw her arms around him. She cried deep and heavy in his arms and, as Philip held her, he thought his own heart was about to break. But still he would not rage at God -- not this time! At last her sobs subsided and she looked at Philip saying, "We tried to reach you, Philip ... it's a miracle. It's a miracle!"

Realization began to dawn on him and he headed into Nick's room. There he found Rachel sitting beside Nick's bed and Derek standing over him. He noticed (still with a little alarm in his heart) that there was very little machinery in Nick's room now. As he approached the bed, Derek turned and looked at him. He placed his fingers to his lips and walked over to Philip.

"Ssshh," he said, "he's asleep, but he keeps waking up. It's a miracle, Philip! He woke up about 30 minutes ago. The doctor took the ventilator out and he's been breathing on his own just fine. He has a major concussion and some slight internal injuries, but Dr. Cole said he should make a full recovery."

"Thank God," Philip whispered with sheer joy and relief. He closed his eyes momentarily as he made the sign of the cross and did just that -- THANK GOD!

Derek turned to his friend and placed his arm on his shoulder. "And you?" he inquired, "how are you doing? This had to've been rough on you. And I guess I didn't go very easy on you earlier ... I'm sorry. But, where did you go? We tried to reach you at the hotel and at the Church you use to work in, but no one had seen you."

Philip smiled as he remembered his encounter on the beach. "I went somewhere t'have a little talk with God," he answered. "An' he's listenin', Derek. I know that now ... listen' and guidin' me -- guidin' all of us."

"Derek ... Philip," Rachel softly called. They both approached the bed a little apprehensively but, upon looking at the patient lying before them, they realized that everything was alright. In fact, they found Nick staring up at them through bruised and swollen eyes.

"Philip," he said at such a soft whisper it was hard to comprehend. "....r OK?"

The three individuals gathered around the bed understood the gist of what Nick was trying to ask -- whether or not Philip was alright. Philip bent down to his friend's ear and gently whispered, "Oh yes, m'friend ... thanks t'you!"

Then, Philip straightened up and looked Nick full in the face as he said in a clear and loud voice, "An' you'll be happy to know that I had a little 'chat' with God while you were takin' a nap ... and I've finally come to a decision. I've decided to remain in the Priesthood." He watched as Nick's face remained expressionless. "And," he continued, "I am and always will be a member o'the Legacy as well."

"Excellent!" Derek exclaimed, knowing that Nick would have if he could have. "That's wonderful, Philip! You were always going to be one of us, whether you wanted to or not ... at least in our hearts."

"Well," Philip stated, "it seems it's what's in God's Plan fer me as well." He looked back at Nick and said, "Thank ya fer bein' so tough on me, Nick. It was you who helped me come t'the decision, ya know."

Nick took a deep breath and, before drifting off to sleep managed to say, "Any time ... my Brother!"

The End.