The dark shadows of skyscrapers are falling across New York as an elderly white-haired priest leaves the reassuring comfort of his home and heads through the streets towards the apartment block where the others are waiting. He walks quite slowly, carrying a small black case filled with the essential paraphernalia of the ritual he is about to perform. The room has been prepared to his precise instructions: cleaned, sprinkled with holy water, and stripped of movable objects. Of those now gathered inside, only the priest – his face drawn and solemn – has any idea what to expect. Or rather, what to expect. After 30 years as an exorcist, Father Malachi Martin has learned to recognize the natures of the demons he pursues. They may be ingenious or stupid, coarse or charming, brazen or craven. Hell, it seems, is no place for stereotypes. “I need to know who they are,” the Irish-born priest says softly. “I need their names – and their stories.” He speaks of the demons in a tone of polite disgust, as a country clergyman might about village boys who have thrown a brick through his stained glass windows. “They are a pestilence,” says Father Martin.
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