Contemporary supernatural tale from the author of Night Relics (1994), etc. In Orange, California, on a rainy night some days before Christmas, local businessman Murray LeRoy goes berserk, vandalizing churches and threatening Father Mahoney, before inexplicably catching fire and completely burning up. Soon another rich businessman expires in the same fashion, while a third, Bob Argyle, also takes up vandalism. Some years previously, the Reverend Bentley, calling himself Flanagan, brokered the souls of the three to the devil as a way to raise money for his church. Seems that what Bentley had considered a fine swindle has turned out to be the real thing. Meanwhile, good-hearted failed businessman Walt Stebbins receives a package intended for Argyle; inside he finds a sinister bird, pickled in a jar, that has the power to grant wishes. Argyle hopes to fool the devil into taking the wrong soul by stuffing the bird down the throat of the golem he has also provided himself. But Walt, despite the double-edged nature of the wishes it grants, finds it hard to relinquish the bird. Bentley teams up with Mahoney to ring bells and keep the devil at bay; Argyle, increasingly desperate, pleads and threatens for the return of the bird. Walt must find a way to yield the bird to its rightful owner, lest he be damned himself, while Argyle must hope that his stratagem works--or find another means of salvation. A steady and well-appointed yarn, curiously irreligious considering its theme, with no real chills but a satisfying resolution.