Redemption (Building a Pack #4)

Henry takes pride in the work that he does, helping young, misguided gay men find God and their inner heterosexual. During one such conversion session, proceedings are interrupted by uninvited guests.

Isaac, Kevin, and Gabriel have been on the trail of the man responsible for the conversions in the community and just so happen to catch the perpetrator red-handed, only to find out that Henry’s just another victim.

Everyone deserves a second chance, though, and with his newfound power, Isaac rescues Henry from the false life that had been forced onto him.

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The creak of leather upholstery drew Henry’s attention. His driver, Manuel, was looking at him through the rear-view mirror. Manuel scratched the back of his head, glancing briefly outside the window. “Are you sure about this, padre?” said Manuel. “I don’t like how this place looks. I can drive you back to the church, no problem.”

“Thank you, Manuel,” said Henry, as they pulled up to the front building. The sidewalk was desolate. A plastic bag scraped across the pavement, caught in the wind. “I appreciate your concern, but this is something I must do. God wills it.”

Henry slid his fingers down the seatbelt and unbuckled it. He smoothed down the front of his cassock with one hand as he reached for his briefcase with the other. He stepped out of the car, briefly shivering in the cold.

Taking a breath to center himself, Henry walked over to the driver’s side of the car. He stooped down to the window as Manuel lowered it. “Are you really sure you can’t put this off, padre? Or do this somewhere else?” said Manuel. “Just say the word and I’ll drive you back, no charge.”

Henry laughed. “I’ll be fine, Mr. Enrique,” he said. He held out a hand. Manuel shook it, grip firm. “It was nice meeting you. You don’t have to wait for me. I’ll send you a message when I need a ride back to the parish. Oh, and I’d appreciate it if you kept this between us, Mr. Enrique.”

Manuel stared at the hundred-dollar bill that Henry had left in his hand. He looked up at the priest. “No, padre, I can’t accept this,” he said. “It’s too much!”

“Mr. Enrique,” said Henry, saying the words deliberately, “I would very much appreciate your discretion.”

Manuel gulped. He glanced at the bill and then back at Henry one more time before pocketing the money. “O-of course, padre,” he stammered. “Do you have any idea how long you’ll be? I might, uh, take a few fares after this.”

Henry shook his head. “Sorry, I don’t know for sure. I’ll message you when I’m done. And don’t worry. I know you need to make a living. I won’t mind waiting.” He patted the chassis of the car twice before taking a step back from the curb and gave Manuel a little wave as the cab drove away.

Once Manuel drove out of sight, Henry turned to face the building. He remembered what had been, once. A house of debauchery and sin in one of the city’s most active districts. A nightclub that not only encouraged fornication out of wedlock, but a kind most contemptible in the eyes of the Lord. Now here it stood, empty and condemned, as was proper.

The corners of Henry’s lips twitched into a little smile, knowing that he’d had a hand in shutting not just this awful establishment down, but the entire district of degeneracy that had once surrounded it. He liked to think that he had saved at least a few souls from damnation for his part. Today, Henry hoped, he’d be able to save yet another soul, just as he’d been saved fifteen years ago, when he’d been young, misguided, and lost.

Henry entered the building. The poorly-maintained hinges creaked as he pushed the wooden door open. It wasn’t his first time inside, but it never failed to amaze him how much the place had changed. He still remembered where the dance floor was, and how much time he’d used to spend there. He shook his head. What a distasteful memory.

Quickly, and with purpose, Henry crossed the floor to the back of the building. He entered the stairwell and climbed up to the now-empty offices at the top. From the landing, he went to the right-hand corridor and knocked on the third door on the left.

The door swung open. “You’re late,” said a voice. It belonged to a uniformed police officer about Henry’s age, with blond hair framing a handsome, youthful face, and vivid blue eyes. “We’ve been doing this every month for the last three years and you’re still late.”

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