Mystery and Crime Fiction posted November 15, 2012 Chapters:  ...23 24 -25- 26... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
the weight of guilt

A chapter in the book Along the Jericho Road

Yatiza Moon

by Writingfundimension

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

Previously: Father Brian arrives at his rectory following morning mass to discover his housekeeper has been attacked by an unseen evil presence. She reveals to him she has felt the Presence before when she was employed by the church as housekeeper to a pedophile priest: Monsignor Lew Flaherty. She tells Father Brian she has some information she never shared with the police about the Monsignor and is ready to tell the police what she knows. Detective Jana Burke has agreed to conduct an interview at the Sheriff's Department.


Detective Burke emerged from the break room with crackers, a knife and a jar of peanut butter. She kept emergency snacks stored in a box in the cupboard. In order to ward off her endlessly-hungry male counterparts a warning was attached: 'Touch this and you Die.'

Her agreement to wait for Father Brian and his housekeeper forced Jana to put lunch on hold. Unlike Skeets Epstein and the other detectives who consumed caffeine and candy bars for quick boosts of energy, Jana preferred a healthier approach.

She returned to her desk, made a space on the cramped desktop for the plate and twisted off the jar's top. The first cracker collapsed under the weight of the peanut butter. When the same thing happened to the next two, she grabbed the cracker box and looked for the expiration date.

Expired a month ago. Crap.

Jana hooked one foot on each side of her metal wastebasket and pulled it close. She jammed the cracker box inside, propped her feet on the basket's edge and plunged her knife into the peanut butter.

She was licking the underside of the knife when Father Brian found her. Eyes shifting, he took in the room's disarray.

Dropping her feet to the floor, Jana slid the basket out of sight. To recover her dignity, she set the jar aside and reached for her notepad.

"I'm sorry to interrupt your lunch break, Detective." The priest gestured about the room. "I imagine it's grab and go when you're in the middle of an investigation."

"Pretty much, but I wouldn't have it any other way." His perfect understanding was a welcome gift.

"Where's your housekeeper?" 

"Seated by the information desk. I'll need to assist her. She's had a recent fall that banged her up pretty good."

"We'll be talking in one of the interrogation rooms. Its got a desk and chairs, but not much else. Also, I'll be taping the session. Will she be willing to proceed under those conditions?"

"I'm sure she'll rise to the occasion," Father Brian was quick to assure. "She may look a bit frail, but don't underestimate her. Her mind is sharp."

Jana stood up, "As a Native American, I'm used to being judged by my looks. I've learned to trust half of what I see and even less of what I hear." She jutted her jaw in the direction of the waiting woman, "After you Father."  

Caroline Findley stared fixedly at the floor, looking stiff and uncomfortable. She gripped an object in her lap that turned out to be her purse. Father Brian approached, held out his elbow and she rose with his help, first draping the purse over her shoulder.

"Mrs. Findley, this is Detective Jana Burke. She's one of the detectives investigating Debra Padget's death."

"Thank you for agreeing to meet with me on short notice, Detective. I've been convinced by Father Brian my life may be in danger.
My niece in St. Paul has agreed to let me stay with her."

Detective Burke nodded her agreement. "We'll also be notifying the  authorities in St. Paul for additional support. Now, if you'll follow me, we'll be going down the hallway and into one of the interrogation rooms."

Once they were settled, Jana began the recording with a clarification. "This interview is at the request of Mrs. Caroline Findley. She is currently employed by St. Matilde's Catholic Church as housekeeper for Father Brian DeShano, who is present at Mrs. Findley's request."

In turn, Mrs. Findley stated, for the record, she had been employed as housekeeper by St. Matilde's Catholic Church during the time of Monsignor Lewis Flaherty's pastorship. She'd not been extensively interviewed by investigators at the time of his arrest. "It was my assumption they felt I had little to add to their case. I was so badly shaken by the whole thing, I don't know if I'd have survived being put on the stand."

"During the period you were employed as housekeeper for Monsignor Flaherty," Jana queried, "did you personally observe anything that hinted at the abuse for which he was later convicted?" 

"He kept his perversions hidden from me." The housekeeper's eyes were glassy with tears and her lips trembled. "On two separate occasions I overheard him talking in low tones on the phone, and I didn't want to believe what my heart was telling me."

The elderly woman hung her head to hide her tears. Father Brian placed his arm across the back of her chair for encouragement. "I know this is very difficult for you, Caroline," he said gently. "Take all the time you need."

Jana moved a box of Kleenex within reach of the woman and waited a minute before proceeding.

"What did your 'heart' tell you about the phone calls, Mrs. Findley?"

The woman raised her head and in a voice filled with contempt, admitted, "The way he talked was the way a man talks to a lover. It was sinful and it disgusted me. When it turned out it was boys and not a woman - God forgive me, I refused to believe it then."

"But you believe it now?"

"Yes. I have the evidence of his own words."

Jana stared at the woman, revealing nothing of her thoughts.

Father Brian reached into his pocket and pulled out a bundle of letters. He laid them on the table and slid them across to Jana.

"I was polishing the panelled walls of the master bedroom closet in preparation for Father Brian's arrival. A door popped open and inside were those."

"You read them?"

"Just one. It was enough to convince me of the truth about him."

"For the record, Mrs. Findley, why didn't you give these letters to the police?"

"When I found them, Monsignor Flaherty had already been convicted. The parish was just starting to get back to normal. I didn't want to cause more pain to the boys who wrote them. I felt they'd been through enough."

"That wasn't your call to make, ma'am."

Father Brian started to protest, but Caroline put up her hand to stop him.

"It was not a wise choice, I see that now," she said. "And I pray with all my heart there isn't anything in those letters that could have kept Debra Padget from being murdered."

Jana's tone softened as she realized that cherished beliefs ruled this woman's life.

"Is there anything else you'd like to add, Mrs. Findley, before we wrap up this interview?" Jana's finger was poised over the recording device.

"There is one more thing, Detective. I hope you won't be offended, but something about your features reminds me of an argument that took place at the rectory between the Monsignor and a man from the Reservation."

Jana's hand froze and she turned her head slowly, taking in Father Brian's shocked features.

"Go on," the detective urged.

"The gentleman was very upset over the fact that his daughter had chosen to become Catholic. He said he knew nothing but bad would come out of that and he, finally, had proof of it."

"What was the Monsignor's reaction?"

"He laughed. He told the man he had powerful friends within the church, and the last person they'd listen to would be a... a... heathen like him."

Jana cringed at the offensive racial stereotype. It was several moments before she could continue. "Do you recall the man's name?"

"No, I never heard it. I'm only telling you the story because of what the man did next."

Jana swallowed dread that rose in the form of bile.

"First he spoke in a language I didn't recognize. It sounded like a rhyme or something like that." Mrs. Findley spoke quickly, under the sway of the memory. "Then he said the Monsignor would not escape the revenge of his ancestors. I remember, especially, that word -- ancestors. I..I thought he might hit the Monsignor, he was so angry."

"What was Monsignor Flaherty's reaction?" Jana probed.

"He threatened to call the police. The man, just as cool as can be, said, 'Go ahead, I'll be glad to tell them my story.' Then he stormed out of the rectory and drove off."

"What happened next?"

"The Monsignor gave me a stern look and said I was not to repeat what happened to anyone. He made me promise."

Detective Burke clicked off the recorder and rose. "Thank you for coming in, Mrs. Findley. I wonder if you'd wait outside in the corridor while Father Brian and I have a word?"

"Certainly, Detective. If you'll point me in the direction of the bathroom, I need to use the facilities."

"I'll take you there, myself, ma'am."

Waiting for Jana to return, Brian struggled to get his mind around the disturbing revelation that someone from the Sioux reservation had threatened Monsignor Flaherty.

Jana came through the door, closed it and leaned into it with her hands behind her hips.

"Father, I'm going to ask you to keep everything spoken here confidential for now. I need time to talk with my uncle."

"Of course, you don't even need to ask." His eyes were dark with pain. "I'm afraid this case is like a hill thick with pines and impermeable to the light."

The detective crossed to the table and leaned forward. "And, I, Father, think we're dealing with a man who believes the police are stupid and will never catch him."

She straightened. "A common belief, but one that will make him drop his guard. And when he does? We'll descend like flies on a week-old corpse." 


Monsignor Lewis Flaherty: Convicted pedophile and previous pastor of St. Matilde's Catholic Church
Father Brian DeShano: Current pastor of St. Matilde's.
Caroline Findley: Father Brian's housekeeper.
Detective Jana Burke: Member of the Granite Mountain Sheriff's Department, and one of the case detectives investigating the murder of Debra Padget.
Anthony Buday: Jana's uncle - an elder of the Sioux Indian Tribe.
Thanks to DrCArt222 for use of his artwork.
Sioux translation: Yatiza: Affirm (yah-dee-zah)
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