A flashy animatic of an androgynous, golden figure tells me that my TV is tuned to the Goldman News Network. The picture fades into a burgundy sitting room, where a serious-looking woman sits across from a bespectacled old man in a tweed suit.

“And continuing our story of the so-called ‘Lake Town Knight’ said to be operating in Lake Town, Illinois; we’re here today with David U. Pinkerton, Professor of Sociology at the University of Manhattan, to hear a scientific perspective on the vigilante’s actions.”

“Thanks for having me, Deborah,” says Pinkerton, “I think we should start out by clarifying that this so-called ‘Knight’ is not a vigilante. He’s a serial killer, plain and simple.”

“That’s interesting,” says Deborah, looking very interested indeed, “What makes you say that?”

“Well, take last night’s attack, for example,” says Pinkerton, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Every single one of his victims was a person of color.”

“Oh, I see,” says Deborah, nodding vigorously, “Now, the reports we received did say that the, ah, victims were human traffickers associated with the cartels, and that the Knight did rescue several women during the attack. Would you say that he was in the wrong to do so?”

“I absolutely do say he was in the wrong,” replies Pinkerton, “I want to know why he had to attack people of color to rescue white women. Why couldn’t he have found some women of color being trafficked by white criminals instead?”

“Are you saying that human trafficking is okay so long as the victims are white?” asks Deborah, appearing genuinely desirous of the professor’s wisdom.

“Certainly not,” says Pinkerton, “What I am saying is that white people, being historically the oppressors, could stand to benefit from a bit of a role-reversal. Who’s this ‘Knight’ guy to stand in the way of progress?”

I interrupt the good professor to flip through the channels. Eventually, I find Wolfe News, where I behold a man in a baby-blue business suit and a man in a cowboy hat, also discussing the Lake Town Knight.

“Listen, Frank,” says the guy in the suit, “I’m not saying these guys weren’t scumbags or that they didn’t deserve it; all I’m saying is that this country cannot survive without the rule of law, and that applies to this ‘Lake Town Knight’ every bit as much as it does to the cartel traffickers.”

“And all I’m saying, Joe, is that the man’s a hero!” replies the guy in the cowboy hat, “The law wasn’t acting, so he did. That’s heroism, plain and simple.”

“It’s illegal,” argues Joe, “If he knew that there was a crime being committed, he should have called the police so these guys could be arrested and tried by the appropriate authorities. When everyone starts taking the law into their own hands, there is no—”

“Aw, shuddup!” snaps Frank, “Listen, Knight, if you’re out there watching this—”

I turn off the TV. I’m not sure why I watch the morning news every day; I can’t stand it. Lately, it’s even worse. It’s weird, listening to the talking heads argue about the town I live in. Fortunately, I don’t have to watch the news if I don’t want to. I don’t really have to do anything today. I stayed out kind of late last night, but today is Saturday, and I don’t normally work weekends. The day is mine. I can do anything I want. Anything except go back to sleep, anyway; I’m too awake for that by now.

I decide that the first thing I’m going to do is go out for breakfast. I pull on some pants, slap on some deodorant, and venture for the first time this day beyond the walls of my dirty, one-room apartment. There’s a cheap little diner—real old place, my grandparents used to go out there when they were about my age—just down the street, and it’s a nice enough day out, so I walk there. Why not?

So I get to the diner, get seated, get my coffee, and I’m waiting on that big heap of corned beef hash I just ordered when none other than my good buddy Ralph walks in. Well, we were good buddies back in high school, anyway. He skipped town after graduation and I hadn’t heard from him since, not until today. He sees me as I see him.

“Jay!” he says, and then he sits right down at my table and waves the waitress over. He orders a big stack of pancakes with strawberries.

“Jay,” he says, again, “I didn’t know you were still in town.”

“Yeah, man,” I say, “I’ve just been working, you know.”

“Oh yeah? How’s that?”

“It’s whatever, man,” I tell him, “What have you been doing?”

“I’m, uh, going back to school,” says Ralph, “I’m trying to learn computer science. They say it’s where all the money is, you know.”

“Yeah, man, yeah.”

The restaurant staff must have waited for Ralph’s pancakes to get done before bringing me my hash, because both our breakfasts came out at the same time. The table goes quiet for a bit, except for the tinking of silverware on plates, because we’re just eating now and not talking.

Then Ralph sets down his fork and says, “Listen, Jay…”

I set down my own fork and reply with a, “Yeah?”

“Listen, man,” he says, “I know you’ve always been Mister Super-Catholic…”

“Nah, man,” I tell him, “I’m not a super-Catholic. I’m just doing the bare minimum. Really.”

“Yeah, well, that’s better than most people,” he says, “Better than me, anyway.”

“You stopped going to church?”

“Yeah, I, uh…look, I’m sorry; I shouldn’t be laying this on you right now.”

“It’s fine,” I tell him, “Something happen?”

Ralph looks up. Then he looks down. Then he looks up again. Then he sighs.

“Listen, man,” he says, “Remember how I wanted to be a priest?”

“Yeah, man, yeah,” I tell him, nodding, “What happened to that?”

“Well, I went for it,” says Ralph, “I went to the seminary in Chicago, and uh…”

I’m expecting him to say something about starving children in Africa. Babies with leukemia. Some nice little niece who got killed in a car crash or something. Or maybe he found the word “slave” in the Bible somewhere and freaked out about it. I’m expecting something, you know, normal.

“Look, I’m just gonna come out and say it,” he says. “I woke up one night with a priest’s dick up my ass. I got the fuck out of there that same night and never looked back.”

A fucking train smashes into my face.

“No way,” I say, almost whispering, “Wasn’t Father O’Donnell at the Chicago seminary?”

Father O’Donnell used to be our parish priest back when we were kids. Nicest old man you ever met; wouldn’t hurt a fly.

“Wasn’t him,” says Ralph, “I don’t think he knew about it.”

“What’s his name?”

“Father Jimenez,” Ralph tells me, then, “Shit, I shouldn’t have told you that.”

“Why not?”

“I know what you’re thinking, man,” he says, “You’re gonna go to the cops or the church or someone and tell them all about it.”

That’s not quite what I have in mind, but Ralph doesn’t need to know that.

“I think there should be consequences for sick behavior,” I tell him, “Don’t you want some kind of justice?”

“Look, man; forget it. I shouldn’t be laying out my problems on you,” says Ralph, “I’m over it. Really.”

“You got your ass taken, man,” I say, probably a little too loud, “You don’t just get over that.”

People are starting to look in our direction now. Ralph notices, and he drops his voice to a hiss.

“You’re right. You don’t just get over it. But I’m over being mad about it,” he whispers, “Look, man, it’s complicated. Just don’t say anything to anyone, please. I don’t want that kind of attention in my life.”

At length, Ralph gets me to promise not to tell anyone, but I walk out of that diner feeling pissed as hell.

I don’t normally work on weekends, but tonight I’ll make an exception.

Ten hours later, I’m on the highway. With traffic, Lake Town is about an hour’s drive from Chicago, and there’s always traffic. That’s a big part of why Lake Town gets so many scumbags; because it’s so close to Chicago. Drug runners, human traffickers, and all other sorts of human excrement like to use my sleepy little hometown as a stop on their way to Milwaukee and St. Louis.

I get about ten minutes out of Lake Town before pulling off onto the backroads. I find a nice, dark spot with lots of trees and stop there. Then I switch out my license plates and start putting on my armor.

If I could pick my own nickname, I’d go with the ‘Templar,’ but I guess people don’t recognize the big red cross on my chest, so they call me the Lake Town Knight instead.

My armor is mostly plates of ballistic ceramic, which I strap on over a Kevlar shirt and trousers. The helmet is ballistic ceramic, too, though I’m pretty sure the only real protection it offers is for my identity. To finish it off, I’ve got a pair of chainmail gloves, mostly for stylistic reasons, but they have saved my hands from getting nicked in a knife fight once or twice.

It’s not hard to get this sort of stuff discretely once you start supplementing your income by looting cartels and mobsters.

I throw on a big, bulky pea coat and finish the drive to Chicago without the helmet or gloves. I’ve never worked in Chicago before, so I left the guns at home. I don’t want to draw unnecessary attention, and anyway, I shouldn’t need them this time. People will assume my sword is just some goofy costume prop, and it should be more than enough for a job like this.

A job like this? It occurs to me that this is gonna be the first time I set out to kill someone without expecting anyone to shoot back. It’s a little unnerving, but I reason that it’s not really any different from what I normally do, even if it does seem a bit colder. I take out scumbags who prey on the weak, and this guy fits the bill, plain and simple.

I find a free parking garage not too far from the seminary. For a second, I consider keeping the pea coat on to hide my armor, but I decide against it. I want this Father Jimenez to see the cross on my chest. I want him to understand why this is happening to him. The priesthood is a beautiful thing, and for some pervert to abuse it for his own twisted ends—thereby chasing men out of not only the priesthood, but out of the church itself—is an abomination.

I don my helmet and gloves, come down to the streets, and begin to prowl. There are a lot of people out tonight, but if anyone recognizes me from the news, they don’t say anything. It takes me about five minutes to speed-walk to the Seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago. I draw my sword, take a deep breath, and knock on the door.

The door opens exactly 67 seconds later. The man in the doorway is a little bit hard to make out against the lights silhouetting him from behind, but he’s wearing a priest’s collar and my heart is pounding and I just stab at him. I just run him through. Then I pull out, and the guy crumples face-first without a sound.

Everything is silent. No outcry. No gunshots. I turn around and see nobody on the streets behind me. No witnesses. It’s never happened like this before. I wipe off my sword on the guy’s shirt before sheathing it and get the hell out of there, feeling like eyes are watching me from every shadow. Nobody stops me as I get back to my car and drive out of the city. Nobody’s waiting for me in my nice, dark spot, where I take off my armor and switch my license plates back. Nobody’s milling outside my apartment building when I get home.

By the time I get inside my apartment, I’m stumbling, and I careen into my counter and knock my Douay-Rheims Bible onto the floor.

“Calm down, man, geez,” I tell myself, shaking my head violently.

I go to pick up the Bible, and I notice that it’s open to 1 Samuel, chapter 26. Somehow, against my will, my gaze slides straight to verse nine.

Kill him not: for who shall put forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and shall be guiltless?

My vision is swimming now. I reach for the Bible again, but I drop it. The pages split open right at Exodus, the part about the Ten Commandments. Do I need to tell you which Commandment my eyes hyper-focus on?

“All right, I get it!” I shout, “Maybe I went a little too far tonight!”

I snatch my rosary off the counter and stagger across the tiny apartment. I step on my TV remote and the television tunes into Wolfe News. I don’t pay it any mind. Instead, I make it over to my bedside, where I collapse into a kneeling position and begin to pray. I go through all four sets of Mysteries, including the Luminous. Some people will tell you that the Luminous Mysteries are invalid because they were introduced after Vatican II, and normally I wouldn’t use them, but the way I see it tonight, why pray less? I could really use the grace right now.

By the time I’m done with my 200th Hail Mary, I notice that my breathing has evened out, but I still feel a deep unease. I finish out the closing prayers of that last rosary, and then I launch into free-form prayer.

“Oh, God, I know that revenge is Yours, and that in Your perfect judgement You will avenge the innocent far more thoroughly than I ever could. But, God, the wait is long, and hope wanes dim—”

My attention is whisked away from my prayers when I hear the TV utter the words “Lake Town Knight.” Once again, Frank and Joe are talking about me from their studio in Texas.

“You know, I think you were right, Joe,” Frank is saying, “What the Knight did tonight was way un-cool.”

“It’s like I always say, Frank. You gotta have rule of law. When you just go around killing anyone you think deserves it, you’re eventually gonna go too far,” Joe says. “And for those of you just tuning in, the Lake Town Knight was spotted in the big city of Chicago for the first time tonight, where security cam footage has him stabbing and killing a Catholic priest. Father Manuel Jimenez, a colleague of the murdered priest, had this to say about the killing.”

The screen cuts to a dry-eyed man I recognize as the same Father Jimenez I spent all day researching, and I notice that my palms are dripping.

“I cannot denounce strongly enough the kind of man who wears a cross on his chest only to promote hate and violence,” he’s saying, glancing at his watch. “Father O’Donnell will not be forgotten by us here at the—”

Oh, God.