Two days later the body was found. A hiker had veered off the trail a bit and found what remained of thirteen year old David Adler right where Father Boyd had left him. So far, there were no suspects.
Claire had been close to contacting her father on his boat and begging him to come home and help her with this, but she didn’t see what he could do, what she could even do. Father Boyd was going to get away with it, and she was powerless. For the first time since she became the wolf, Claire felt truly handicapped. Her blindness was keeping her from exposing the murderous priest, and now a boy’s death was going to go unpunished, the man responsible going on to preach about goodness and morals and life without sin.
No, she thought. He cannot get away with this. I won’t let him.
Long after the sun had set that night, Claire the wolf returned to the scene of the murder. Even at the late hour, there were officers on the scene, looking for evidence and keeping hikers or curious bystanders from getting too close.
Claire waited over an hour, hiding in the shadows, until the officers let their investigation lead them further away from the clearing, and then the wolf began an investigation of her own. She went to the spot where the body had lain, and the scent of David’s blood was overwhelming. What am I even looking for? She wondered. I’m not going to find anything, he didn’t leave anything behind to –
And then Claire remembered. She was chasing Father Boyd, and he had paused for a second – he had dropped something. She could see it clearly in her mind now, the object had glinted in the moonlight as it fell to the ground.
Claire felt a glimmer of hope as she raced to the spot where Father Boyd had stumbled. Then she smelled it – blood. The wolf smelled the priest’s blood on the ground, in the dirt, from when she had bit him. Also, though, she smelled another, sweeter coppery scent nearby – more of David’s blood.
She dug in the dirt where the smell was coming from, and she found what she had been looking for: Father Boyd’s monogrammed rosary beads, covered in David’s blood. Claire was relieved, the police would find this and then they would know.
As she turned to head home, the wolf caught a whiff of yet another scent from the ground where she had been digging. It smelled like something rotten, like decay. Curious, she dug deeper, in a spot right next to where the rosary beads had fallen. She hit something solid, then, and pulled it out into the illuminating moonlight to get a better look.
It was a bone. Claire kept digging.
My God, she thought, these are human remains. Someone was buried here.
Just then, a flashlight shone on her, and Claire turned to see one of the officers staring directly at her. The wolf whined, and looked back in the direction of her discovery. As the officer approached, Claire turned and bolted back to the safety of her home.
Father Lucas Boyd was convicted of David Adler’s murder, along with the murders of two other boys, their remains discovered near the same clearing in the woods. After the police found the rosary, and the other body, Father Boyd had confessed and told them where to find the third body. His plea of insanity was denied, and he was sentenced to life in prison. The other two boys had been missing, one for two years, the other for seven years. At his sentencing, five former alter boys came out and testified that Father Boyd had molested them.
Claire’s father returned home on the day of the sentencing, two weeks after the murder she had witnessed, and Claire filled him in on the whole thing. It was Claire’s 18th birthday.
"God, I can’t believe this," her father said. "I’ve know Lucas Boyd for years, and to think that this whole time he’s been…It’s terrible."
"I know," Claire replied. "It wasn’t too pretty to see, either."
"I’m just glad you’re okay. And I… I have something for you."
"Ooooh, a birthday present, perhaps," Claire cooed.
"Sort of…it’s from your mother."
"What…what do you mean?" Claire asked, baffled. "What is it?"
"It’s a letter. When she was in the hospital, she was so worried that you would inherit the wolf, and she wouldn’t be here to help you through it. It was all she could think about, that last day. She wrote you this letter and told me to give it to you on your 18th birthday. Would you like me to read it to you?"
Claire was near tears, and she nodded. "Yes, please read it."
He opened the sealed envelope and began to read: "‘My darling Claire, if you’ve gotten this letter, it means I’ve passed something on to you. It also means that I’m no longer here with you, and I’m sorry. I want to tell you that it’s okay, that carrying the burden of our family is easy, but it isn’t, and I’m so sorry that I won’t be around to guide you through it, like my mother did for me.’"
Claire’s father paused, holding back tears. Reading his late wife’s words made him miss her more than ever. He continued to read: "‘I know it will be hard on you, being the wolf, especially with your condition, but I know you can handle it. In the past, some in our family have used the wolf to do terrible things, they’ve lost control, but there is a light in you, Claire. It’s always been there, since the day you were born. I know you’ll use this to do good. Be strong, and know that I love you. And I’m proud of you.’"
When he finished the letter, Claire hugged her father close to her. She felt as if a great weight had been lifted from her soul.
All of this time, Claire had felt that being the wolf was wrong, that it was a sin. Now she understood that it wasn’t, not at all. Simply being the wolf wasn’t wrong or right – for Claire, it was just natural. She had thought that because the ability to transform into a wolf was strange and certainly not something the Bible would condone, she must be an evil person for doing it. Now, she saw things with a new light. If she hadn’t been the wolf, Father Boyd would have gotten away with three murders, and possibly more to come.
The next day, after school, Grant offered to give Claire a ride home, and she accepted. As they drove, the hot topic of David Adler’s murder worked its way into the conversation.
"I just…I couldn’t believe it," Claire told him. "I’ve known Father Boyd all my life. I mean, he’s a priest. He’s supposed to be this holy person. I used to value his advice and his counsel…It’s just so shocking that such a good person could do something so awful."
"After what he did, would you still say he’s a ‘good person’?" Grant asked her, as he stopped the car in front of her home.
"Well, no. Father Boyd is…what he did was evil, no question. I just meant, because he’s a priest…"
"You see, that’s the problem today," Grant replied. "People assume that because Father Boyd was a priest he was a good person, that he wouldn’t do anything wrong. But actions speak louder than words, even if those words are holy vows."
Claire was listening intently now, as Grant’s words sparked an understanding in her.
"Being a priest or a teacher or a president doesn’t make you a good person, " he continued. "And being a prostitute or a stripper doesn’t make you a bad person. We’re all human. It’s not who you are or what you are, it’s the choices you make and the way you live your life that determine what kind of person you are. Most people just don’t see that-"
Upon hearing those words, Claire couldn’t help herself. She reached for his face, pulled him to her and gave him the kiss they’d both been dreaming about.
After their lips parted, Grant put his hand on hers. "Does this mean what I hope it means?" he asked.
"Grant, I like you. I really like you, and I have for a while now."
"Then why didn’t you say so when I told you how I felt a couple weeks ago?"
"Because I was scared," Claire replied. "There are things you don’t know about me, things that I –"
"Claire, it doesn’t matter," Grant interrupted, and he placed his hand gently on her cheek. "I care about you. I’ve seen what a wonderful person you are. Since the day I met you, it’s been like you’re this light in the darkness – you shine on me and brighten up my whole world, Claire. Nothing you tell me can change the way I feel, nothing else matters."
With that, he leaned in and kissed her again, passionately, and in that moment, Claire Noir understood. Most people live their lives in the dark, they can only see shadowed outlines of the truth. Grant sees the light in people, he looks past the surface and sees the real person within. Her father is the same way and, she now knew, so was her mother. Claire was beginning to see herself and others the way they did. Now, she understood that many people in this world couldn’t see the illumination that lay beyond the superficial darkness, and it is those people who are truly blind.