The Sledgehammer Concerto
Francis W. Porretto
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Andrew MacLachlan, mystic and thwarted priest, has retired at age 40 to the Onteora woods. Devin MacLachlan, 35 years old, successful fantasist, pretends he has devoted his life to accountancy. He hasn't admitted his real calling even to his siblings. Rachel MacLachlan, 30 years old, genius of neurophysiology, yearns to bend human desire to her will. All three become the targets of malevolent forces.
First Movement: Communion
With a contest for pretext, the MacLachlans disclose the events that shattered their family. Rachel tells of her sexual abuse at her father's hands, designed to reduce her to a mere plaything. Andrew tells of his quest for the priesthood, and the tactic his mother used to break his confidence. Devin tells how their parents destroyed what he prized without laying a finger on him.
Second Movement: Virgin's Prayer
Andrew tries to reconnect to humanity by volunteering at a local hospital. He meets Lori Iervolino, a young orderly closed in upon herself, and Aaron Loesser, who covets her. Aaron has discovered that malignant tumors are sources of magical power.
A patient with huge teratomas causes a three-way collision. Aaron wants some tissue early, to power a spell that would make Lori yield to him. But Aaron isn't the only one with esoteric powers, now that Andrew is there.
Third Movement: Last Rights
Ten years later, Devin MacLachlan is indicted for sedition. The government offers a plea bargain in which Devin would have to surrender all his worldly goods. When the prosecutor tries coercion, Andrew, who has become a rugged and powerful man, thrashes her goon and removes Devin to prepare for trial -- a trial in which the motives of the prosecution are more of a mystery than the ultimate outcome.
Fourth Movement: Source Code
Rachel finds the biophysical basis for desire, and develops a means of reprogramming it. She tries it on her assistant Elise to confirm its efficacy, then offers it to the public. After a year of skyrocketing success, an FDA deputy director demands that she surrender the technique to FDA control or face charges. Rachel, seemingly defenseless, submits. But Elise won't permit it to stop there...until she's learned what sort of test Rachel had performed on her.
Fifth Movement: The Last Green On The Willow
For three years Devin has remained in the Onteora forest with Andrew, his desire to live bleeding away. One morning, he's contemplating a willow partly uprooted by a boulder when he encounters Natalie Forslund, a scion of a wealthy family, who's fleeing a husband driven mad by a misapplication of Rachel's therapy. Devin brings her back to the cabin, where he and Andrew provide her refuge.
Natalie knows who Devin is, which unsettles him. When she makes abrupt changes to the cabin and Andrew applauds them, Devin is gripped by fear that she's stealing his brother from him. Natalie settles into their lives in a way that appears to confirm Devin's fears. But there's more to fear than the alienation of Andrew's affection and loyalty.
Coda: The House Of Evening
Andrew dies and "awakens" in the House of Evening, where souls purge themselves of their final regrets. The House is filled with pleasures of the flesh, without consequences. The encounters between the dead are otherwise.
Moira Woolard, a young Irish prostitute, befriends Andrew, senses his sorrow about not having protected his family, and at having turned away from the priesthood. The relationship ripens, and the two immerse themselves in one another. Andrew, happy for only the second time, ponders retaining his pain to remain with Moira. But Moira, whose whole reason for living is to heal the hurts of others, will have none of it.
On their last evening, Andrew is challenged by a cynical Anglican cleric who proclaims religion to be only a social control, designed to keep the masses in line. Andrew must counter from his own experience and the power that slumbered within him in life, which might no longer be his to wield.