Mystery and Crime Fiction posted March 23, 2012 Chapters: 2 3 -4- 5... 

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Father Brian receives a warning

A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road

A Maza Moon, Part I

by Writingfundimension


PREVIOUSLY:  Father Brian DeShano, pastor of St. Matilde's Catholic Church, has been called to the scene of the brutal murder of one of its elderly parishioners.


Doctor Franklin Bloomquist was of the generation of physicians that exclusively wore white labcoats. After all, he had no reason to be concerned about causing white-coat hypertension in his patients, as they tended not to have a pulse. The words 'Medical Examiner' were embroidered in purple on his pocket. The effect would have been impressive were it not for the shrunken sleeves and the fact the garment's buttons had lost all control of their ability to hide the stout stomach underneath. 

Detective Jana Burke observed the Medical Examiner's SUV weave among the variety of vehicles scattered along the street in front of Debra Padget's house, forcing him to park a fair distance away. His cheeks were florid and his breathing labored by the time he reached the main entrance.

Head down and mumbling angrily to himself, he reacted sharply to the sudden materialization of the policewoman obstructing his momentum.

"What are you doing sneaking around, young lady? You scared the hell out of me!"

"It's Detective Burke."

"What's that?"

"My name is Detective Jana Burke. We've met before."

"Very well ... Detective Burke. What's going on here?"

"Sheriff Oleson has temporarily closed the crime scene to all personnel. He's interviewing an important witness."

His eyes narrowed as if he were studying alien amoeba on a plate. "I am not under the authority of the Sheriff's Department, Detective. The sheriff can interview his witness in one of the other rooms while I examine the body."

Moving past her, the man put his full weight on the toe of her boot. Jana grunted with pain, but Doctor Bloomquist neither acknowledged nor apologized for his actions as he climbed the porch steps.

Jana wiggled her toes to make sure nothing was broken then hurried to intercept the doctor, only to see him disappear through the bedroom doorway. Her fury dissolved when she caught the unguarded look that Sheriff Oleson turned on the man who had defied his orders. Derek Oleson's eye color could change rapidly, depending on his mood. At the moment, they'd gone from hazel to the brilliant gold of a focussed feline.

"I don't want you touching the body yet, Franklin. We have an unusual situation, and I've asked Father DeShano here to assist me in handling it."

"I am on a very tight schedule today, Sheriff. I've already been delayed at the front door," pointing in the direction of Jana Burke, "supposedly on your specific orders. I consider it an egregious matter that you and your detectives are impeding the disposition of my duty here."

Sheriff Oleson ignored the protests of the M.E. He closed his notebook, stored his pen and faced his subordinate. "Detective Burke, would you provide Father Brian with a set of gloves?"

"Yes, Sir." She deftly removed a pair of gloves from her pocket and handed them across to the priest.

"Father, I'm going to let you remove the object from Mrs. Padget's mouth. Don't try to remove the tape," the Sheriff emphasized. "Leave it all in one piece and place it into the evidence bag that Detective Burke is holding. If you need, or want to say a prayer, now's your chance."

Doctor Bloomquist blustered, "This is most improper, Sheriff." Clutching his satchel in both hands, the M.E. moved towards the bed. Quicker than a firefly's flash, Jana stepped in to prevent him from reaching his goal while Sheriff Oleson took the man's arm and steered him into the hallway.

"Wouldn't think you'd want the public to catch wind of the fact that you tried to prevent a priest from offering last rites to one of his parishioners, Franklin. Ten more minutes either way aren't likely to change your findings, am I right?"

At the mention of public opinion, the Medical Examiner acquiesced. "I suppose you're right, Sheriff. As long as he doesn't put oil or any other foreign material on her skin."


Father Brian believed the heart held autonomy over the brain. Though his brain directed the act of the communion wafer's removal and conducted the ritualized prayer for the deceased, memories of Debra formed a gentle counterpoint.

"In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; may any power the devil has over you be destroyed by the sign of the cross ... "

Father, your timing is perfect. Just took some peach cobbler out of the oven, and don't be telling me you're watching your weight.

"And by calling on the glorious and blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and her illustrious spouse, St. Joseph ...  "

I miss my Earl so much, Father. I know I'll see him again some day, but it's just so hard sometimes.

"And all the holy angels ... "

The kind people who care for me, bring my favorite casseroles, play cribbage with me - well I just can't repay all their goodness, Father.

"Archangels, prophets, martyrs, virgins and all the saints."

When my baby died, I blamed God and stayed angry with Him for a long time, Father. 

"God our Father, Your power brings us to birth. Your providence guides our lives, and by your command we return to dust. In company with Christ, may Debra rejoice in your kingdom where all tears are washed away."

The priest reached to make a final sign of the cross above the body, and was shocked by the appearance of a white mist emerging from the center of the corpse's forehead. He jerked his hands away and watched as the mist coalesced into a sparkling ball, paused for a few seconds and then shot straight up through the ceiling.

"It's Howiwacipi," Jana Burke whispered in the priest's ear.  "My uncle has witnessed this mystery many times."

Father Brian looked into Jana's shining eyes and peace embraced his heart. "You saw it, too? That's good because an hour from now I'm going to be thinking I've lost my marbles."

Her pleasant laughter lingered in the air.

"I'd better clear out of here now, Detective Burke, before we have another dead body on our hands. By the sound of the loud voices, I'm guessing Doctor Bloomquist has reached the end of his rope."


"Sheriff, Father Brian is leaving now. Shall I get the CSU's guys going?"

"Yes. And Jana, I want you to take Detective Newstead and start canvassing the neighborhood. I expect folks will be eager to offer assistance. And since most of them have lived here as long as our vic, they're likely to have noticed if someone unusual has been hanging around."

"They'll expect me to tell them what happened to Mrs. Padget, Sir. How do you want me to handle that?"

"Tell them the truth, Jana. We don't yet have a cause of death. Just assure them we have our best personnel on the case, and will keep them informed when we know something of more substance."

"Yes, Sir."

The Sheriff turned his attention to where Father Brian had exited the house. Walking quickly, he reached his side. "Father, I'd like to talk with you later today. What would be a good time for me to stop by the rectory?"

Father Brian blinked his eyes rapidly in a effort to focus on the lawman's face. Finally, he answered, "I'm scheduled to review financial reports this afternoon, so unless an emergency call comes in, I'll be available then, Derek."

He turned away, but was stopped by the unexpected sympathy in the Sheriff's next words: "Try to put the image of what you saw here today out of your head, Father Brian. I'm not saying you won't have nightmares - I did for years.  But, eventually, the memory will fade."

"There's something else I'd like you to consider. I think it would be a good idea to have a patrol car watch the rectory, at least for the next few days. I suspect the killer will be in communication with you again. And this time, it might be in person."


Chapter to be concluded with Part II ~~~ 


CSU: Crime Scene Unit
Medical Examiner: A physician specializing in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology.
Vic: Victim
White Coat Hypertension (syndrome): Phenomenon where a patient's blood pressure increases in the doctor's office but is normal elsewhere.

Sioux Dialect:
Howiwacipi (hoh wee wah chee pee): Ghost dance.
Maza (mah zah): Steel

Thanks, once again, to Tillom for the use of her artwork:
Pour L'amour De Vert
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