Con artists ODWIN and NIRANDA FOX hold seances for those who have lost love ones, using their blind son MATTEUS, as the medium through which the dead speak. To ease the guilt and suffering of the survivors, the Foxes offer a special gift their son possesses: the ability to eat the sins of the deceased, thus ensuring unencumbered passage into the hereafter.
Odwin and Niranda are summoned before the rich and reclusive H.H. HOLLAMS, who wishes to engage their services and be expunged of his sins. The Foxes, blinded by the wealth they might be able to con from Hollams, readily agree. However, Hollams has a caveat: the sin-eater must drink of his blood. Despite their initial objections to this, Odwin and Niranda greedily agree.
Following the “sin-eating” of Hollams, Matteus falls into a coma. ELSPETH, a serving girl, looks after Matteus while the Foxes wrestle with the exultation of now being well-off versus the overwhelming guilt Niranda feels over subjecting Matteus to such an ordeal.
Secrets are exposed: Niranda gave up a career in theatre to marry Odwin when she found herself pregnant with Matteus. A "medicinal" tea she feeds Matteus may have more to do with casting her as the suffering mother of an ailing child than truly helping the child. Odwin has no desire to return to a hand-to-mouth existence as a purveyor of sideshow attractions; as well, he has long suspected Matteus is not be his child. As Odwin and Niranda engage in a genteel dance of recrimination, Matteus’ mental condition deteriorates and he alludes to visits by dark spirits.
Elspeth investigates the possible cause of Matteus’ declining health and finds all clues lead to Hollams; who he was, the sins he sought to rid himself of, and the unholy bargain he made...
Which is now coming due.