Mystery and Crime Fiction posted March 31, 2012 Chapters: 3 4 -5- 6... 


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Father Brian drops from sight

A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road

A Maza Moon, Part 2

by Writingfundimension

Previously: 

A priest is in the midst of a personal crisis when a killer lures him into a twisted world of moral corruption, cover-ups and revenge.

**********


Because Father Brian had never observed the processing of a crime scene, he was unprepared for the cold, methodical dance of the investigators around a corpse they couldn't afford to care about. He longed to lay one of Debra's hand-knitted afghans across her torso and face but realized that, for the time being, she was a possession of the state. Frustrated by imposed impotence, he escaped to his car after agreeing to an interview by lead investigator, Derek Oleson. 

He drove a short distance before stopping to consider his options. The interview with Sheriff Oleson was several hours away, and he  needed solitude to process the craziness of the morning's events.  On a whim, he struck off in the direction of the Diocesan summer camp.

Thoughts circled endlessly and theories bobbed in his brain like carousel ponies. What was the meaning of the macabre face paint and coffin pose? The killer spent precious time dressing Debra's body and perfecting her make-up. Were these acts staged for the benefit of the authorities, or did they have a more depraved meaning?

The irreverent act of taping a communion wafer across the victim's mouth was, in the priest's opinion, indicative of a grudge. In fact, the whole thing smacked of suppressed rage. And that suggested the possibility that one murder would not satisfy the killer's lust.

Father Brian intended to ask Sheriff Oleson to withhold from public knowledge details of the sacrilegious use of a holy object. He would attempt to impress upon the sheriff that such information would produce panic and arouse suspicions among elderly Catholics. Still, Derek Oleson was a seasoned detective. He would likely consider it a strong possibility the perpetrator was a member of one of the Catholic churches in the area and able to procure a communion wafer without drawing attention to himself.

Steeped in his thoughts, the priest almost missed the Bass Lake road sign and had to make a sharp turn. He slowed the car to avoid potholes in the gravel lane that led to the fishing camp's main bunkhouse. Exiting the vehicle, pine-needle droppings, agitated by the wind, stuck to his skin and the fabric of his suit.

His destination was a rear bedroom on the main floor of the lodge where he'd stored an extra set of outerwear. He entered the small room and quickly stripped himself of the formal black clothes worn to the crime scene. Stepping into an adjoining shower cubicle, Father Brian endured the pounding of the hot water on his skin until he felt cleansed of death's stench.

Freshly dressed in jeans and a Timberwolves sweatshirt, he wished he could fly away and be plain old Brian. What would it be like to fade into the background and leave off all the rules and expectations demanded of a cleric?

He examined his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He knew he'd lost weight in recent months and was aware of the incessant spread of gray hair.  Though he appeared years younger in casual clothes,   the desolation reflected in his eyes suggested a man in deep crisis.

On his way through the cabin's kitchen, he brushed against a table where he'd shared a meal of fresh-caught fish with a friend named Tony Buday.

Father Brian's eyes widened as he remembered a snippet of their conversation: 'Be very careful, my friend, that you do not lose yourself in the land of the dead. You do not know the cost of what you seek.' The Sioux medicine man uttered the cryptic warning while holding a picture of Father Brian's deceased mother.

Had Tony predicted Debra's death, and the way the killer would pull him in with a phone call? Could he be the killer's ultimate target?

He willed the holy man's words to retreat to the back of his mind and stepped on the path to Bass Lake. A chipmunk whistled a warning from a thick nest of ferns and, briefly, Father Brian detected a familiar scent: White Shoulders, Debra Padget's favorite perfume.

Even after seeing a mysterious, shimmering ball of light rise from Debra's corpse and shoot through the ceiling of her room, he was too steeped in rigid ritual to believe in mundane miracles. He told himself the smell was the result of sensory overload.

A pine picnic table at the water's edge was left outside to weather all four seasons. Despite this ingratitude, it was sturdy - no doubt a result of its stoic Norwegian heritage. Father Brian sat atop it and rested his feet on one of the benches. Across the lake, the leaves had gone from gold to ochre and blazing red to mottled maroon.

He sat with his chin in his hands taking no notice of time's passage. The vibration of his cellphone made him jump. Although he didn't recognize the number coming in, he thought it might be a parishioner with an urgent need.

"Enjoying the peace and quiet of the lake, Father?"

The voice of Debra Padget's murderer felt like the screech of a page as it's ripped from the spine of a book.

"What will Sheriff Oleson think of you dropping out of sight for several hours, Father? Derek is a sharp detective and right now you are suspect numero uno."

"You heartless bastard. What you did to Debra ... may the Angels of God ..."

"Fuck Your Angels," the man screamed. "God tried to get you all to repent, but you insisted on business as usual."

"Repent of what? I can't help you if I don't know what you're talking about. Listen, whatever's been done to you, we ... the church ..."

"I don't want or need your help, hypocrite. Madness, when it finally comes is liberating, Father. I highly recommend it."   

"Now who's the hypocrite? You knew exactly what you were doing when you entered that innocent old woman's house and stole her life. That's evil, not madness. You're walking the devil's plank straight into the fires of hell."

The only sound the priest heard was the smacking of lips as if the man was chewing gum.

In a perfect imitation of the priest's voice, he responded, "Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?"

Father Brian had heard enough. His finger moved to disconnect the caller when he heard, "You like riddles, Father? Personally, I love them. Anyway, I've got one for you ... could the fact the old lady trusted you, be the only reason she's dead?



Recognized


Biblical quotation: Luke 7:41

Terms:
Afghan: Blanket
Communion Host: A bread wafer used in Christian rituals.
Diocese: The territorial jurisdiction of a Bishop.
Medicine Man: A Native American Indian spiritual adviser/leader.
Norwegian Pine: A species of pine trees found in parts of the United States.
Timberwolves: A professional basketball team.

Thanks to Tillom for her artwork: Pour L'amour De Vert.
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