Revolutions Universe: Metamorphosis

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Chapter 11 - 25 or 6 to 4

Father Doherty walked into the entry hall to find two uniformed police officers accompanying two men in dark suits who, from the look of them, were also police officers. Funny thing, how plain clothes officers are just about as obviously policemen as are their so called unmarked cars.

"Good morning, Officers, I am Father Doherty, how may I help you this morning?" Father Doherty asked pleasantly. During his time at his former mission, he'd had more dealings with the police than he cared to remember, and along the way he had actually become rather comfortable talking with them.

"We asked to speak with the person in charge, that's supposed to be..." One of the men in suits faltered, then took out a notepad before continuing, "...a Father Amil Guzman."

"I only just arrived here last night." Father Doherty said, and looked to his right, then slightly back over his shoulder to find Father Franklin more or less hiding behind him. "Have you heard anything about a Father Guzman?"

"No. I mean, I've heard the name before. But I don't think I ever met him." Father Franklin said timidly, while his face became visibly pale.

After a moment, the man in the suit who had spoken before said, "Our fraud division has been working on a case for a few months now, and we've turned up some rather serious 'irregularities'. We came down here to talk to Father Guzman, to hopefully clear some of this up."

"Gentlemen, could I, perhaps, interest you in some coffee? Please, come into the kitchen where we can sit down and be more comfortable. This sounds as though it might take a while." Father Doherty said graciously.

The uniformed officers looked hopeful, but silently waited for one of the men in suits to make the decision.

"I suppose that this could take a while." Their spokesman in the suit finally said, then turned to the uniformed officers and continued, "It looks like there's not going to be any action here. We'll call if anything comes up."

The uniformed officers looked a little bit put out, at being dismissed before the coffee was served, but they both exited through the front doors as the rest of the group walked down the hallway, toward the kitchen.

* * * * *

"Would both of you like coffee? We also have tea, juice and a number of other beverages, if there is something you would like better..." Father Doherty asked as he gestured for them to take seats at the table.

"Coffee's fine." The man in charge said dismissively, speaking for both of them.

"I'll get it." Father Franklin muttered before dashing away.

Just then, Father Kinsey walked into the room, carrying a large sack of potatoes.

Both of the 'suits' looked at him appraisingly.

"This is Father Kinsey, he's the third and final priest working at this mission. From what I gather, he and Father Franklin have both been here for a while, so they might be able to answer, at least, some of your questions." Father Doherty said pleasantly.

Father Kinsey set down his sack of potatoes, then walked to the table, looking uncertain of his welcome.

"Father Kinsey, I'm Detective Roberts, and this is Detective Fuller." The man introduced himself and his partner, as he brushed some lint off his colleague's sleeve. We'd like to ask you a few questions about Father Amil Guzman." Roberts said firmly.

"Would you like some donuts with the coffee?" Father Franklin asked as he placed cups of coffee in front of each man at the table.

Both detectives looked at him darkly at the question.

"I'll get them." Father Kinsey said before anyone could answer.

Father Doherty motioned for Father Franklin to take a seat.

"What can any of you tell me about Father Guzman?" Detective Roberts asked loudly enough for Father Kinsey to hear him at the stove.

"If he's the same Father Guzman who works at the diocese office, then I might have spoken to him a time or two about business matters, but I couldn't for the life of me tell you when that was, or even what we talked about." Father Doherty said frankly. "I certainly haven't spoken to him at all, in at least a year."

"If we assume for the moment that that's him, do you know what office he worked in?" Detective Roberts asked with interest.

"I don't know what his title was, or if, in fact, he had one. But he was one of the people I had to talk to when any major renovations or expenditures needed to be approved for my old mission." Father Doherty said carefully.

The detectives glanced at each other with surprise.

"I just made these fresh this morning. I hope you like them." Father Kinsey said as he placed a basket, lined with a tea towel, on the table before the two detectives. He pulled back the towel just enough to reveal the donuts within.

"I really shouldn't." Detective Fuller said in a wavering tone, as he reached for a donut.

Father Franklin scooted the napkin holder over to him, so it was within easy reach.

"So, all of you are saying that Father Guzman is not now, nor has he ever been at this location. Is that correct?" Detective Roberts asked seriously, then looked askance at the basket of donuts, obviously wanting one.

"Dick, you've really got to try one of these!" Detective Fuller said past a mouthful of donut.

Detective Roberts ignored his partner's words and looked at the three priests expectantly.

"I've never met or heard of anyone called Father Guzman." Father Kinsey said simply.

"I think I heard the name once or twice, but that's about it." Father Franklin said honestly.

"As I've told you, I've spoken to a Father Guzman, I can't be sure it's the same one you're asking about, but, even so, I had no professional or personal relationship with the man." Father Doherty said seriously, then added, "But I think that you should know that not more than five minutes before you arrived, I had a phone call from someone, asking to speak to Father Guzman, and his tone of voice sounded rather urgent."

"Damn it. I knew we had a leak!" Detective Fuller growled.

"Do you know who it was that called?" Detective Roberts asked quickly.

"Although he didn't identify himself, I have reason to believe that it was Father Haslip. He asked that Father Guzman call him immediately when he arrives. He seemed to have expected Father Guzman to have arrived here last night." Father Doherty said thoughtfully, trying to remember anything else about the brief phone call that might be significant to the detectives.

"Last night? In this neighborhood?" Detective Fuller asked with surprise.

Detective Roberts nodded thoughtfully as he took one of the donuts from the basket in front of him, seemingly without thinking.

"We should probably check the hospitals and, for that matter, the morgue before we do anything else. If he tried to make his way here after dark... Let's just say, I wouldn't come into this neighborhood after dark with a tank and full body armor." Detective Fuller said frankly.

"I bet they'd have the tank stripped to the frame before you could get it stopped." Detective Roberts chuckled, then seemed to realize where he was.

"Sorry, Fathers. I suppose that we have enough to investigate right now, without taking up any more of your time." Detective Roberts said as he stood.

"Yes. You've been very helpful. If you can think of anything else that might be of significance, please don't hesitate to give us a call." Detective Fuller said as he offered Father Doherty a business card.

"Actually, when you arrived, I was looking at the books for the mission here, and, although I haven't had time to look at them in detail, at first glance, there seem to be quite a few... irregularities. I don't know if that has anything to do with what you're investigating, but I thought that you'd want to know." Father Doherty said honestly.

* * * * *

"So they make the fake loans, funnel the money through the mission and it somehow comes out clean?" Detective Fuller asked cautiously.

"I'm betting that the Church's tax exempt status comes into play somehow. We'll have to look at the books to see exactly what they did. If you can call the hospitals and the morgue, I'll get to work on getting a court order for the records." Detective Roberts said seriously.

"Excuse me, Detective Roberts, but you won't need a court order, to look at the mission records." Father Franklin said, much to Father Doherty's surprise. "You may come in right now, and look at whatever you wish, with our permission and our blessing."

"That includes Father Haslip's room." Father Doherty said quickly, before they had a chance to move on to another subject.

"His room? What about it?" Detective Roberts asked curiously.

"I'm afraid I don't have adequate words to describe what I've seen. But since it is so far out of the ordinary, there is a good chance that it's relevant to your investigation. I know Father Kinsey and Father Franklin need to prepare for the lunch recipients, so, please allow me to show you to the office." Father Doherty said as he stood.

"Thank you, Father. You've been very kind." Detective Roberts said with a note of surprise in his voice.

"That's my job description." Father Doherty said with a dismissive smile, then led the detectives out of the room.

* * * * *

As they entered the office, there were scattered papers, and several folders strewn haphazardly on the desk. It looked to the two detectives as though the person who had been reading them had simply left the room, without putting anything away.

"Please excuse the mess, Gentlemen, but I was informed that I was needed at the door, to speak to some police officers, so I simply dropped what I had been doing, and went to see if I could help." Father Doherty said, as the two officers surveyed the unkempt marked up folders, some of which were still open, and certainly in disarray.

"Trust me, we've seen worse." Detective Roberts said frankly.

"I can imagine." Father Doherty chuckled, then continued, "I only arrived here last night, and this morning, one of the fathers suggested that I might want to look at the books, since Father Haslip had left quite abruptly; I suppose that someone should be attending to things."

"Do you mind if we look at these papers?" Detective Roberts asked cautiously.

"No. Not at all. Please feel free to look at anything you want." Father Doherty said quickly.

"Thank you, Father." Detective Roberts said with mild surprise.

"I can honestly tell you that my experience administering a mission similar to this one, leads me to say that some very unorthodox accounting techniques were being used here. The person in charge here, up until he was asked to relocate to the downtown offices, was, in fact, Father Haslip."

"Please tell me he's not going to work in their accounting department." Detective Fuller said as he looked up from a folder of papers.

"That, I couldn't tell you. Since the death of another of our priests, Father Rodrigos, there were only two priests actually taking care of our guests and residents. It is my understanding that both of them have been so overwhelmed with their responsibilities, that neither have attempted to do anything in regards to the accounts. I would feel that I'm overstepping my bounds by doing so now, but... bills need to be paid, deliveries need to be scheduled, those things don't just happen."

"Look at this, Dick." Detective Fuller said as he held out a folder.

"Father Franklin told me that Father Haslip left in quite a hurry. It's only speculation on my part, but it seems possible that our superiors might have had a sense that Father Haslip was up to, shall we say, some extracurricular activities, to have relocated him so abruptly."

Detective Roberts looked up from the folder, then asked, "Have you had a chance to look at the computer?"

"Yes, for a moment, but I'm afraid there's very little there to see. The email and spreadsheets are both completely blank. I'm sure you're drawing the same conclusion that I am from that."

"Would you mind if I take a look?" Detective Roberts asked hopefully.

"Considering that anything even remotely useful to me has already been removed, you can feel free to take the entire computer with you, if you like."

"Are you serious? You wouldn't mind?" Detective Roberts asked with surprise.

"No. Not at all. Please just return it when you're finished. At some point, someone is going to have to get this all sorted out, and it's beginning to look as likely as not that it's going to be me doing the sorting."

Upon hearing that they could simply take possession of the computer, Detective Roberts reached for the off button, then thought better of it, and clicked on the "show the desktop" icon. Then he opened the recycle bin, and laughed. "I would say that Father Haslip was either in a bigger hurry than we thought, or he just doesn't know what happens to files that are deleted."

He highlighted all the deleted files and folders, in the recycle bin, then right clicked on the batch of highlighted items, and selected restore.

He then closed the recycle bin, and opened the email program.

"Well, there are now quite a few emails here. Oh, look, the spreadsheets are here as well." Detective Roberts pointed to the screen.

"I see there is a printer connected to the computer, so I will just print out all the items you will need, to take care of your Mission's daily business transactions." He quickly went through the folders and printed out everything that seemed important to running the mission, and in a few minutes there was a huge stack of printouts in the printer's tray.

As the printer continued to spew out documents, Detective Roberts pulled out his radio and called the two uniformed officers who had been with him and Fuller. "Joe, you and Steve need to get back here, NOW! I need you to take custody of the Mission's computer equipment. I believe there are sufficient grounds to hold it for evidence. I want this thing well protected. This little old Dell could easily contain the evidence we need to clear up a good bit of nasty goings on."

As he released the talk button, there was a short crackle of static, then, "Roger that, Sir. We'll be there in ten or less. Out."

"Would you please excuse me for just a moment?" Father Doherty asked Detective Fuller in nearly a whisper. After a nod from the detective, Father Doherty slipped out of the room.

Less than a minute later, Father Doherty walked back in to find both detectives reading intently as the paperwork continued to spill out of the printer.

"It's nearly done, Father." Detective Fuller said when he noticed that the priest had returned.

Before Father Doherty could respond, the torrent of paper ceased. Reluctantly, he pulled the printouts from the paper tray, and sighed. "Thanks, I think. No offense, gentlemen, but I mean, I really have some mixed feelings about all this stuff. On the one hand, I can now take care of the bill paying and ordering, but, now, I will have to go through all this mess, and see just what damage was done, instead of assuming there was nothing I could do about it. So, while I am glad I can pay our bills, I'm a bit overwhelmed at the staggering amount of paperwork in this stack alone."

* * * * *

In the kitchen, Father Kinsey, poured coffee into two large insulated paper cups, put lids on them, then got out a paper bag and put half a dozen freshly made donuts in it, and closed the bag.

He carried the cups and bag to the front room and set them on a table near the door.

Just then, the two uniformed officers returned, and Father Kinsey greeted them warmly. "Gentlemen, Father Doherty noticed that you didn't get any refreshments when you were here before, so he asked that I make you some special snacks, and here are two coffees. There are packets of creamer and sugar in the bag, if you need them. I suggest that one of you take this out to your vehicle, while the other one goes back to the office to let them know that you are here."

The taller officer smiled. "Thank you, Father. We have been so busy, today, that neither one of us has had a chance to take even a short break."

He carefully opened the bag and saw the donuts. "Wow! These look really good."

"I made these from scratch, just this morning."

"Thanks, these'll really hit the spot, after the day we've been having so far. I'll just go and put this stuff in the cruiser."

"Good, and there's no need to say anything about this to your grey suited friend back there."

"Thanks again, and I'll be right back."

The other young cop headed back toward the office to help get the computer secured.

When he got to the office, Detective Roberts was removing all the connecting cables from the CPU tower. "Oh, there you are. I can't seem to get this damned video cable loose. I hate these little tiny thingies that screw the connector to the computer. You can't get a decent grip on them, and I guess my fingers are just too damn fat. Can you get it loose?"

"I'll give it a try." Steve replied, as he grabbed the damn little knurled thingy, and tried to get it loose. He, too, scraped skin off his fingers, trying to free the screw. They heard the snap, as the connector finally gave way and fell to the desk. "Damn, that thing was on there tight." Steve complained, as he sucked on his bruised finger and thumb.

Just then Joe came in, and asked what he needed to do.

"I think we're about through here." Detective Roberts answered. "We only need the tower. No sense pulling out all the other stuff. We have plenty of monitors and such at the station, so all we need is the 'puter itself." Steve picked up the old Dell and started toward the door. "You guys can take that over to the station and mark it for evidence. I'll write up the receipt for Father Doherty, so he will have it for his records." Father Doherty nodded in agreement.

"Once the investigation is finished, we will return the computer to the mission. When I get the paperwork all taken care of, we'll get out of your way, and let you do whatever it is that you do here."

The two uniformed officers headed toward the exit, Steve carried the computer and Joe tagged behind him. When they reached their cruiser, Joe opened the trunk lid, spread the furniture pad on the floor of the trunk, and stepped aside to let Steve carefully place the computer on its side. Then he wrapped it with the protective heavy blanket and closed the lid.

* * * * *

Back in the office...

Father Doherty opened the top drawer of the desk and dropped the stack of printouts in it.

"Detective Roberts, before you leave, I really do think you two need to see something. I mentioned a bit about it earlier, but we kind of got busy, and then it slipped my mind, but, I am sure you will want to see it."

"Well, if you think it's that important, I guess it won't hurt to have a look. I must admit, you have piqued my curiosity." Detective Roberts admitted.

Father Doherty led the two officers to the end of the hall.

"Gentlemen, I don't know exactly how I can prepare you for what you are about to see, but I am almost certain you have never before seen anything close to what you will find on the other side of these doors."

"That's quite a build up." Detective Fuller remarked.

"Yeah, this had better be good, after all the hoopla you're going through." Detective Roberts, answered.

Father Doherty stepped up to the double doors and spread them wide open.

Both officers gasped, at the sight that greeted them.

"Holy mother of God!" Detective Fuller exclaimed.

"Yeah, that, too." Roberts gasped. "That is, by far, the ugliest room I have ever seen in my life."

"This is the suite of rooms formerly occupied by Father Haslip. From what the other priests who worked under him have told me, the man spent almost every minute of every day in here, and mostly by himself."

Father Doherty pointed to the mantel. "See that fireplace, and the mantel, over there? Have a look at the depictions of Christ's life, portrayed there, in miniature, inside those God Awful looking eggs."

Father Doherty indicated the ugly little things displayed on equally unsightly little stands all the way across the even uglier fake mantelpiece.

"Is this some kind of joke?" Roberts asked.

"I thought it might have been one, when I first walked in here, but, as far as any of us can tell, it isn't a joke, unless this entire monstrosity of an apartment is a joke, but looking at the whole ugly thing, you get the sense that Haslip actually enjoyed this hideous garbage, though how anyone could even tolerate this horrible mess is totally beyond my comprehension."

The two detectives looked at one another, then at Father Doherty, then, at the rest of the room, and then, back at the disgusting fake fireplace. "Did you say that man spent most of his time in this grotesque monstrosity?"

"Yes, Sir, from what Fathers Franklin and Kinsey told me, Father Haslip never even saw any of the people who were served by the mission. When he wanted something, he would shout to the other priests, at the top of his lungs, demanding whatever it was that he wanted."

"You mean, he didn't even come out for his meals?"

"No, not as I understand it, Sir. He ate all his meals in here, and the others never set foot any farther than the door of this room. I imagine that he took his meals at that table in the corner..." Father Doherty pointed. "...the one with the plastic lace tablecloth and the catsup and mustard stains. That seems to have been his dining table." Father Doherty explained.

"I toured the whole suite when Father Franklin thought I would want to stay here. By the time I had been in here five minutes, I was almost overcome with nausea. I actually had to sit down and rest, for a few minutes. I told Father Franklin that I simply couldn't sleep in a place like this, and asked if he had any other rooms available, and he told me that the only other room for staff would be the one used by Father Rodrigos."

"I accepted that room, with pleasure. It is a lot smaller, of course. It is simply a bedroom, not a suite, and not the least bit ostentatious, therefore much more suited to my needs." Father Doherty sighed.

"I would almost say that I have seen enough, or more accurately, too much, but, damn it, there is something nagging at me, something important, I'm sure, but it is still not coming to the surface. This just simply doesn't add up. I keep thinking that I am missing something. I haven't yet been able to put my finger on the troubling feeling, and that alone bothers the hell out of me. Oh, sorry for the cursing, Father." Detective Roberts gulped.

"I know what you mean." Father Doherty replied. "Don't worry about the cussing, believe me, I have heard much worse. But the heavy handed attitude which I'm told oozed from Father Haslip, when he called, leaves no doubt in my mind that he was up to no good."

Strangely, Detective Fuller remained silent, as his eyes slowly scanned the huge sitting room. Finally, he spoke.

"Ok, Guys, I think I've got it. It seems to me that this room is supposed to look as though it is filled with priceless art objects, but as anyone who knows the least bit about real art can tell, there is absolutely nothing in this place that has the slightest semblance of beauty to it. In fact, if I had to come up with a way to describe this horrible place, the only words I can think of to describe it would be, butt ugly, or perhaps, hideous. The terribly gaudy obnoxious colors alone make me wonder if the man who lived here might be deficient in his ability to see colors properly."

"I am not saying that it is all fake, but what I am saying is that it is so outrageous, that it makes you want to stop looking at it. I think that is exactly what he wanted anyone who came in here to do. He has what seems to be some expensive items here, but even the most expensive things, namely those disgusting eggs, are not the least bit pleasing to look at."

"They are supposedly telling the story of the life of Christ, yet they are all created by different artists, with varying degrees of talent; and the objects don't follow any logical sequence. They are all of different sizes, shapes, styles, and they differ significantly as to the way they portray Jesus. The first one, for example, the one with the baby Jesus in the manger, is obviously way out of place. the baby has long flowing blond hair, and blue eyes, and the Manger is actually covered in gold inlay, for Christ's sake. I mean, Jesus was supposed to be born in a stable, not the Ritz Carlton."

"The one at the other end, showing him on the cross, is little bit closer to the way they usually picture Christ, having darker skin and dark hair, but does anyone here remember Jesus being hung on a gold cross? It was supposed to be made of a tree, and he had to carry the thing, himself."

"All in all, I think Father Haslip was doing his best to make people think he spent a lot of money, decorating this place, and if you don't look, too, closely, I suppose you could believe that. I think he chose ugly things to make people stop looking, before they realized that this stuff is mostly cheap junk, in more ways than one."

Father Doherty cleared his throat. "You still haven't seen the most disgusting part, yet. Prepare yourselves for a shock. If you will follow me, I'll show you the actual bedroom, which is down this hall and around the corner to the right." Father Doherty explained, as he led the way down the long hall to the Master Bedroom. He pointed at a very fancy looking door, which they went past. "That was the ensuite bathroom." he told them. "Here is his bedroom. Feast your eyes on this." He pushed the door open, revealing another gaudy unsightly painted room.

However, no one actually noticed the day-glo painted walls. They were all fixated on the huge velvet portrait hanging on the wall above the headboard of the huge bed.

There, in all his simulated glory, dressed in his black leather suit, from his 1968 TV special, was the young, trim looking ELVIS! He stood there, holding his mike, with his mouth open in song. The hideous thing stood nearly ten feet tall, and, again, was simply UGLY as sin.

Father Doherty, looked away, and lifted his head toward the ceiling. He noticed the huge mirror mounted directly above the bed. It was slightly curved to distort the image it displayed. Anyone lying in bed could easily see their body seemingly half as tall as it really was.

Father Doherty turned his head and looked at the corner. He noticed a small box, mounted there. As he looked around the room, he noticed several more just like it; one in each corner, and several others placed at different angles around the room.

"What's with the motion sensors, mounted all over the place in here?" Father Doherty asked and pointed to several of them.

The two police officers glanced around, taking in the sight.

"I'm afraid you are mistaken, Father, those are not motion sensors; at least not in the way you meant; those are actually surveillance cameras; High quality, full motion, color, cameras. Our department has used similar cameras to watch people that we suspect are doing things they shouldn't be doing. They are manufactured in Germany and are very sensitive. They work in very low light, with little to no loss of quality... I wonder..."

Detective Roberts walked over to what looked to be a walk in closet. He opened the door, and saw a large array of high quality flat panel monitors, each showing a different viewing angle, but mainly concentrated on the bed. The center monitor looked to be at least 50 inches wide. Other screens were clustered around the main one.

On the desk below the main monitor, there was a large control console, with all sorts of sliders, switches and knobs. Many of the controls had labels which were carefully printed with the numbers corresponding to each of the cameras in the room, except that there were a lot more labels than there were cameras.

"That's strange." Detective Roberts mumbled, as he began flipping some of the switches that corresponded to something other than the cameras they had already seen.

The first change happened, as one of the smaller monitors changed to a different view. It was showing a bathtub.

"Would one of you try the bathroom door, and see if you see a camera hidden in there?"

Father Doherty walked into the bathroom and started searching for the camera. A second or so later, the screen in the control room showed Father Doherty standing near the tub.

Detective Roberts walked in, a moment later, and looked around curiously.

"I wonder, could it be hidden inside that hideous gold gargoyle thingy?" Father Doherty asked as he pointed out the object.

"I think that's a cherub, Father." Detective Roberts said slowly.

"Ok, whatever you say, but it's so ugly, It still looks like a gargoyle to me. I never saw anything that ugly being called a cherub."

"What with the bug eyes and distended belly, I suppose it could go either way. I guess it doesn't matter. By the way, I think I've found the camera."

"You mean the fat ugly little guy actually does have the camera?"

"I can't be sure, but I think that there's a pinhole camera in his navel." Detective Roberts said as he noticed something strange about the gargoyle/cherub. Experimentally, he tapped on the cherub, to receive a hollow sound in return. "It's styrofoam!"

"Now that is just so wrong. I mean, a gold painted styrofoam gargoyle, for heaven's sake. Who ever came up with that?"

"I'm pretty sure Detective Fuller is right, that if you chip away at the gaudy polish and veneer of this whole place, that you'll end up finding out that it's mostly cheap theatrics."

"Father Haslip was actually playing a role. I don't know who he was trying to impress, and I don't know what he was doing with all the money he was spending, to "renovate the mission", but it sure wasn't going into a real art collection. I am positive that most, if not all, of this ugly stuff is just cheap gaudy junk." Father Doherty sighed.

"The one thing that still puzzles me, though, is why he had all the cameras set up. I mean, according to the other Fathers, Haslip never let anybody come into his apartment, at least not any farther than the sitting room, so why all the surveillance gear?"

Detective Fuller called from the control room, "I think I might have the answer to that question. I found an external, 3 terabyte hard drive, which was 'password protected'. I took a guess at the password, typed in "password" and it let me in. There are hundreds of videos stored on it. they all have strange filenames. Most of them are just number and letter combinations, but I found one called, "My Little Pony".

"Since we're here, and we have permission, I suppose we should at least take a quick look at some of them, just to see if we can figure out what he was up to."

"You don't think he actually had a horse in here, do you?" Father Doherty asked, in horror.

"I have no idea, and frankly, I'm almost afraid to find out." Detective Fuller answered, his voice quaking a bit as he spoke.

"Ok, you two, I, for one, am curious as I can be to see, "My Little Pony." Detective Roberts chuckled.

"Ok, let me load it into the player." As he loaded the file, he chuckled. "I don't see any FBI warning, so it looks as though he hasn't Illegally copied a commercial disk."

All three men gulped, and groaned softly, as some very strange, if not grotesque images appeared on the 50 inch screen, on the wall in front of them. "That's his little pony, all right. I have never seen one quite that small before. It really is a little one." Roberts snorted.

"I think you're supposed to have the head mounted on a stick or a broom handle, not the way he has it mounted." Detective fuller laughed.

"Ok, now I see the handle. Look what he has it sticking into. It's sitting in a bucket of concrete." Father Doherty gasped. "Is that part of one of those heavy duty rubber gloves? Oh my heavens, why would he even think about doing that? That man is actually amazing."

"I couldn't have done that when I was a teenager, not that it ever would have occurred to me." Detective Roberts moaned. "And I spent years working out like a Gym bunny."

"I'm still baffled as to how he was able to put that there... Not only that, but he actually wiggled it."

"Okay. I've seen a lot, and I've never seen anyone do that with their belly button, before. That's disgusting to watch, but also somewhat impressive."

"Oh, I forgot to mention something I found in the closet, when I thought there might be some DVD's here. Take a look at these." Detective Fuller grinned and pulled out a fuzzy bra, a pair of matching panties, and what could only be described as a Santa Claus Hat, and placed them on the desk.

Father Doherty looked back and forth between the two officers, then back to the 'costume'. "Ok, I can almost picture someone having something like that, and maybe it could be worn at some sort of party, around Christmas time, except for the fact that everything is in day-glo GREEN!" he gasped.

"But that's not the weirdest part." Detective Fuller answered.

He then reached under the console, and pulled out a pair of knee length sparkling bright, stiletto heeled boots, in the same shade of green as the other items, except for the fact that the boots actually shimmered like a bowling ball or a fancy sports car.

"Do you think he actually wore those hideous things?" asked Father Doherty.

"Not sure." Detective Fuller answered, "but there is a file with the word BOOTS among a bunch of numbers, so maybe we should take a look at it."

They all watched as a rather wrinkled, fat man paraded around in the items Detective Fuller had found, but no one had anything to say other than the groans they made periodically, when the man did a few strange, and seemingly impossible moves.

"I still can't believe he is that limber. I honestly don't think I have ever seen anyone who was able to bend that far. Not even 'professional' strippers." Detective Roberts whispered. He didn't even notice that everyone else was nodding in agreement.

"Has anyone else noticed the strangest part about all this?" Father Doherty asked.

"Do you mean the fact that the only person in any of the pictures seems to be Father Haslip?" Detective Roberts asked.

"Yep!" both of the others answered together.

"If the costume were red, then I would say this was some sort of Santa Claus 'suit' but It is GREEN! That just doesn't make sense." Detective Fuller puzzled.

"I don't know who it was that did it to him, but I am sure they are laughing their butts off, right now." Father Doherty chuckled. "Haslip is obviously colorblind. Think about it. Many colorblind males are unable to tell the difference between red and green, so someone who knows Haslip well, got him this stuff in the most awful gaudy green possible, and the self absorbed prick never knew he was being mocked for all he was worth."

"Here's the thing, though." Detective Roberts growled, "I can't think of anything we've seen in this stuff that could be seen as illegal. Pitiful, maybe, and downright grotesque, absolutely, but I can't think of any law forbidding him to do it."

"This hard drive is almost completely filled with video files. I, personally, have no desire whatsoever to see any more of them." Detective Fuller groused. "As far as I am concerned, the matter involving his narcissistic behavior is not within our purview. I suggest we leave it here, with some sort of note, for the Diocese's officials to peruse and enjoy as they wish."

"I do have a theory, though." Father Doherty remarked. "I'd be willing to bet Father Haslip was somehow laundering money, through the mission, here. I suspect he received money from various sources, and he would then spend some of it on this horrible junk, then he would write up his purchases as if he were buying truly priceless art treasures. Then he and his accomplices would split the excess money between them, at whatever percentage they agreed upon." Father Doherty suggested.

"That little scheme, if that is truly what he was doing, IS against the law, in fact, several laws." Detective Roberts answered. "That could get him a pretty stiff sentence, if he is tried and convicted. Sadly, the word IF is really the operative word here." he complained.

"Unfortunately, I have found it very difficult to prosecute members of the Catholic clergy. It seems that somehow, they almost always find ways to get transferred to some country where there is no extradition treaty in place."

Silence fell as everyone pondered the situation, trying to think of a way they could make Father Haslip pay for his actions, along with whoever it was he was working with.

The tinny sound of a muzak version of 'Onward Christian Soldiers' erupted from somewhere, and it became obvious that a phone call was coming in. Detective Fuller was the one who spotted the Little Buddha, on the desk, with his red eyes flashing. "Over here, Father. There's a number being displayed in its tummy.

"That's the same number Father Haslip called from." Father Doherty mused.

"There is no handset on this thing, so I bet it is just a speakerphone."

On a hunch, he reached out and gently pushed the belly of the Buddha, and the music stopped.

"Father Doherty, speaking; how may I help you?"

"Listen, you idiot! This is Father Haslip, and I don't have much time, so I have to make this quick. I need to speak to Father Franklin. Now, before the shit hits the fan. Get him on the fuckin' phone, NOW! You got me?"

"I got you. Hold on, and I'll get him for you." Father Doherty pressed the belly button again and grinned. "Oh, I got him all right. This should be interesting. I just hope I put him on hold, and didn't hang up on him."

He punched the intercom button, and a loud clicking sound could be heard all over the building. He spoke calmly. "Father Franklin, There is a call for you, from Father Haslip. He ordered me to get you on the phone. I suggest you take it here, in Haslip's apartment, since there is a speakerphone in this room, and there are several people who would really like to hear what he has to say."

It only took Father Franklin a couple of minutes to reach the room. "I can't imagine what he wants with me, since he hardly ever spoke to me, when he was here. Shouted, yes, spoke, not so much."

Father Doherty pushed the Buddha's belly button again, and pointed to Father Franklin, who politely answered. "This is Father Franklin; how may I help you?

"You can get your sorry dumb ass into MY office and clean out my fucking desk. Make sure you shred every last fucking document you find there. I just got word that the cops are going to be snooping around, and I can't afford to have them find the shit I left there. Thank God I deleted all the fucking files from that Goddamned excuse for a computer, or there would be even more evidence against me and Goozman. It looks like that asshole ran out on me."

Father Franklin looked around at the other men in the room with surprise.

"Oh, and if you think you can just ignore me, you've got another thing coming. Let me tell you that I have the goods on you, Faggot. I have the reports saying that you have HOMOSEXUAL tendencies, and I know just who to spill it to. If you don't do what I tell you, down to the last fucking detail, your ass is grass. I'll have you fired AND excommunicated. Understand, Tinkerbell?"

Father Franklin grinned. "Yes. I understand, Father. I'll make sure everything is taken care of. Don't worry, I'll be sure to get rid of all the papers.."

He pushed the button to end the call. "Now I'm rather glad that he never talked to me. I never heard such as that from a priest before. Regardless, let him think about what I said. He is definitely not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. I assume he will rat me out, no matter what I do, so let me just say that I haven't hidden my sexual orientation from my immediate superiors. Although, I have never acted on my feelings, I know that I am gay, and I know that God made me in his image, and he can't make mistakes, so I know I didn't choose to be gay."

Detective Roberts looked at Father Franklin, and smiled. "I know that you had no choice, and neither do I. I am straight, and am married to a wonderful woman, and I have a wonderful son who happens to be gay. I love him with all my heart, and it doesn't matter to me, one bit, who he sleeps with. In fact, my wife and I think of his partner, James, as a second son."

Father Doherty spoke up. "Excuse me, Father Franklin. You don't need to worry about me, either. It pleases me to know that you have kept your vow of celibacy. I see no sin in desire. The bible tells us that even Jesus, our Lord, was tempted, so there's no way that thoughts, urges or desires can possibly be sinful."

"I thought from the rumors that I heard about your old mission, that you might be... um, might understand." Father Franklin said quietly.

Father Doherty smiled, trying to put Father Franklin at ease, then said, "I try to understand as much as I can. But in all my life, I have loved only once. Ironically, I only just found out yesterday that the woman that I had loved got pregnant with our son and never told me. Of course, that was before I became a priest. Had I known, I never would have entered the priesthood. Looking back, I'm sure that's why she chose not to tell me."

Father Franklin slightly smiled as he nodded that he understood.

"My son, Zane, is a fine young man, and I hope he is doing well. He and several others are on their way away from here, and hopefully they are safe and sound, I'm assuming somewhere West, although I don't know that for sure. He, along with his cousin, and my former volunteer staff members, have taken on the responsibility of taking care of several youngsters, who would not be safe here any longer. I have a strange feeling, that something really bad is about to happen."

Detective Roberts and Detective Fuller shared a concerned look, and seemed to be thinking the same thoughts.

"Fathers, I'd like to thank you both for all the time you've taken for us and for the extraordinary level of cooperation. If we are able to gather enough evidence to make a case, it will most likely be due to all the help you've given us." Detective Roberts said as he straightened his posture and seemed to be about to leave.

"One thing." Detective Fuller said quickly, and Detective Roberts flashed him a warning look.

"Be careful, okay?" Detective Fuller said hesitantly, obviously fighting to keep from saying much more.

"Yes. Of course." Father Doherty said slowly.

Detective Fuller quickly shook his head, then said, "Things are about to get... complicated..."

"Paul! Our orders!" Detective Roberts said harshly.

"Yeah." Detective Fuller said to his partner, then looked Father Doherty in the eyes and said, "Your son had the right idea. Be careful."

Father Doherty slowly nodded, then watched as Detective Roberts urged his partner to leave the room.

* * * * *

"I'm so sorry that we were gone for so long. Is there anything we can do to help?" Father Franklin asked as he rushed into the kitchen.

"No. Actually, we opened the doors about fifteen minutes ago, and we have yet to receive our first visitor." Father Kinsey said in a puzzled voice.

"Really? We usually have twenty or so people by now." Father Franklin said as he turned and walked briskly out of the room.

Father Doherty followed right on his heels.

* * * * *

When the two priests stepped through the front doors of the church, the sight that greeted them was enough to make their blood run cold.

The sun was high in the sky, approaching its midday zenith. Slight sounds of traffic could be heard in the distance, but otherwise, it was silent.

There was no one on the street.

Not one person.

Not one car.

No dogs or cats or even the odd scavenging bird were to be seen.

An abrupt sound in the distance caused both priests to turn in unison and they saw a car racing at full speed up the street.

They stood and watched as the car sped past as though the hounds of hell were chasing him, but there was no one in pursuit.

Without a word, Father Doherty turned and put a hand on Father Franklin's shoulder, urging him to go inside.

* * * * *

"What does this mean?" Father Franklin whispered as they walked down the hallway, toward the kitchen.

"Give me a minute. I'm trying to remember what it was that my son and Ben were talking about." Father Doherty said slowly.

"What's wrong? You look as if you've both seen ghosts." Artimus said as he approached the priests walking into the kitchen.

"I'm beginning to think that maybe we have." Father Kinsey said as he was led to take a seat in one of the chairs at the table.

"Are we in danger?" Arthur asked as he studied Father Doherty's expression closely.

"Perhaps..." Father Doherty said absently.

An extremely loud knocking caused everyone in the room to jump.

Father Doherty looked around, trying to determine where the sound was coming from.

"That's the delivery door. We're not expecting anything, are we?" Father Kinsey asked in a whisper.

"No. Not that I know of, and certainly not at lunchtime." Father Franklin said nervously.

Father Doherty shook his head dismissively, then quietly said, "It could be someone needing our help."

As Father Doherty started walking toward the door, Father Kinsey, Father Franklin and Artimus walked with him.

Just as Father Doherty reached the door, there was another loud bout of knocking.

"Yes, yes. I'm coming." Father Doherty said as he unlocked the heavy steel door.

Artimus stood with his back to the wall just inside the door, and waited for Father Doherty to pull the door open.

"It took you fucking long enough!" Darnell bellowed as he ushered two battered and bruised teenage boys inside.

Father Doherty didn't give a response as he looked at the two boys with concern.

He squatted down and beckoned the two boys to come closer. The two boys looked at one another and made a decision. They both rushed toward Father Doherty. He pulled both boys into a hug, being careful not to hug them too tightly, since he couldn't be sure how seriously they were injured. From what he could tell, they both had the knees of their pants shredded, and their knees were scraped pretty badly.

Darnell saw the boys grab Father Doherty and hold on for dear life.

"I think maybe they like you, Father, but then you've always had good luck with them young'uns."

"Well, you seemed to have taken good care of them, and I assume you were not responsible for their current state of disarray."

"These here white boys ended up in the wrong part of town and nearly got their asses killed for it." Darnell said frankly.

"He rescued us." One of the boys said. "At first we were both pretty scared, till I looked in his eyes, then, I'm not sure why, but for some reason, I just knew he wouldn't hurt us."

The boy's prominent British accent was a bit of a surprise, but Father Doherty put that out of his mind as he gently said, "You're in a safe place now. No one will hurt you here."

"Father D, I don't mean to be tellin you your business, but there's some shit about to go down and you should be thinkin bout packin up your shit and gettin tha fuck outta Dodge." Darnell said frankly.

"What's happening? When we looked outside, the street was nearly deserted." Father Doherty asked cautiously.

"Shit ain't right out there. I don't know what's brewin, but some bad shit's about to come down."

"Are you sure?" Artimus asked in shock.

"I lived with enough shit goin' down to know it when I see it. When whatever it is happens, people's goin' ta be goin' bat shit insane out there! From what I seen, the cops and military are gettin' their shit together. It looks like they're itchin' for it, just waitin' for an excuse to go all Rodney King on someone."

Artimus put his hand on Father Doherty's shoulder and quietly said, "Forgive me for saying so Father, but I think you should seriously consider what he's saying."

"I can't abandon the people who depend on this mission." Father Doherty said as he held the two boys a little more tightly.

"You're not gettin it, D. It's MILITARY! They ain't gone be no more mission. They's no more rules, no more laws. As soon as someone gives the word, those fuckers in uniforms'll do whatever the fuck they want to whoever they want. All they's waitin' on is that first spark, then every sick fuckin' thing they ever wanted to do to another human bein' is all gonna come spillin' out on whoever's in front of 'em." Darnell said imploringly.

"Thank you, Darnell. I promise you that I'll consider what you've said very seriously. But right this minute, I have these two young men who look as though they might benefit from some care and attention." Father Doherty said as he released the boys and looked Darnell in the eyes.

"I said what needed said, you listened. Ain't nothin' else I can do." Darnell said with resignation as he turned to leave.

"Keep yourself safe, Darnell." Father Doherty said quietly.

"Evrythin's changed, now. Remember that, Father D. If you don't care about yourself, think about all the people who depend on you and make the right choice for them." Darnell said before quickly ducking out the door, into the back alley.

"Boys, come with me and I'll get you some clean clothes and show you where you can get cleaned up. Then I'll bring you back here so you can have a good meal." Father Franklin said gently.

"Father?" Artimus asked as he watched the boys follow Father Franklin out of the room.

"In most circumstances, I have a sense of what I need to do. It's not always clear what's right and wrong, but I generally have a sense of what needs to be done, even if I don't necessarily want to do it." Father Doherty said quietly.

"But this time there's no right answer." Artimus said simply, finishing the thought.

The phone ringing broke Father Doherty away from his train of thought.

"I'll get it." Father Doherty said quickly.

He picked up the phone, and quietly said, "Saint Barnabas. Father Doherty speaking."

"Let me speak to Father Guzman." An unfamiliar voice said abruptly.

"I'm sorry, there is not now, nor has there ever been a priest at this mission by that name. Is there any way that I can help you?" Father Doherty asked cautiously.

"It's Father Harden. We've been ordered to shut down all the churches, missions and outreaches in the low income neighborhoods of the Chicago area."

"We can't do that. These people depend on us..." Father Doherty began to say, but was interrupted.

"I don't have the time to discuss this with you. Listen to me. It's really simple. Turn off the stoves. Tell everyone to leave. Then lock the doors behind them."

"We can't..."

"If the police find anyone who isn't a verifiable church employee on church property, they will take them into custody and charge them with trespassing."

"How can you..."

"This isn't a debate, it's a notification. We've been assured that as long as our priests do as they're told and cooperate, they will not be taken into custody. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have several more calls to make."

"I'm sorry, Father, but I can't accept what you've just said. I will pass your message on to Father Franklin and Father Kinsey but, as far as myself, from now on you can call me Mister Doherty. I cannot in good conscience abandon those in need. It is in direct opposition to the values that our Lord, Jesus, taught."

"I don't have time to get into a discussion of semantics with you. If this is your final decision, then you need to get off of church property and quickly find yourself a safe place to stay."

"You've allied yourself with the devil."

"They didn't have to allow us even this much. The soldiers and police could have just taken whoever and whatever they wanted. Isn't it better to save some, than none?"

"And what have you really won if you gain the world but lose your soul?"

"Good luck, Mr. Doherty. May God be with you."

"May God be with you as well, Father Harden." Father Doherty said before hanging up the phone.

* * * * *

"Did I hear you right, just now? Did you just quit?" Artimus asked cautiously.

"Yes. If you'll get all the residents into the kitchen, I'd like to tell all of you about what I just learned." Father Doherty said seriously.

"Yes, Father." Artimus said as he turned to leave.

"You can call me Brian." Father Doherty said quietly.

"I could no more do that than I could have called my own father by his first name. It's not about a title, it's about respect."

* * * * *

"What is it? We're in the middle of serving lunch." Jim asked as he walked into the kitchen, wearing an apron.

"This will only take a minute." Father Doherty said as he looked at the six men around the table and the two priests standing nearby.

"I just received a call from the diocese instructing me to tell everyone to leave the property immediately, then lock the door behind them. I refused and resigned."

"You can't be serious." Father Franklin said in astonishment.

"It doesn't get more serious than this."

"You renounced your Vows?" Arthur asked cautiously.

"If you mean I resigned my commission as a Catholic Priest, then yes, I did. However, I will continue to serve our Lord the best I can. I will not turn my back on the people who are relying on me. Politics and Church authority be damned! These people deserve our protection. They came here in good faith, believing that we would protect and care for them. We can't turn our backs on them, just when they need us most. At least, I can't. I wouldn't be here now, if I hadn't taken my vows seriously. I was told by my superior to lock up my old mission and come here. I made sure that all the people who had relied on that mission had been safely provided for, and then, I did as I was ordered to do."

"How sure are you that there is an actual threat?" Ahmid asked slowly and carefully.

"Yesterday I received my first warning. The group that left with the children that we were sheltering were convinced that they were doing the only thing possible to keep the children safe. Then, just this morning, the police officers who visited us gave me another warning, being very careful not to reveal too much. Just now, Darnell basically told me the same thing. So that makes three very credible warnings, from three unrelated sources, all saying that the best thing we can do is try to get away from here, and to someplace safe."

"So, what are we going to do?" Harry asked anxiously.

"I'm sure that if we pray, God will provide." Father Kinsey said in a voice that didn't sound completely certain.

"God helps those who help themselves. He's given us fair warning, but I think that it's time for us to take action. Does anyone have any ideas about how we can obtain transportation for all of us?" Father Doherty asked as he looked around.

"I think that if we all pooled our resources, we might be able to come up with enough for a cup of coffee. And I mean regular, not that stuff you get from a barista." Artimus said slowly.

"Actually. I might know of someone." Father Franklin said distantly.

All attention turned to Father Franklin.

"Are we all agreed that we need to do this? Because once I make this call, I'll be committed to this course of action." Father Franklin asked as he looked around.

"You and Father Kinsey can choose to stay here and follow the church's directive. You don't have any obligation to do anything more." Father Doherty said seriously.

"I have an obligation to what I believe is right, just as you do. To my way of thinking, my vows were made to God, not a bureaucratic organization. I take my vows very seriously. We're here to help people in need." Father Franklin said, sounding to be quite a bit more sure of himself.

"Me too." Father Kinsey said quickly.

Everyone looked at him with question.

"What they said." He explained timidly.

"I suppose that there are some calls I need to make." Father Franklin said anxiously as he walked to the phone.

"You can go into the office if you would like to do this privately."

"No. I'm proud of my decision, I don't feel like hiding what I'm doing." Father Franklin said as he dialed.

"While he's doing that, I'd like to see what supplies we have to work with. If we're leaving, we're going to need some things." Artimus said as he looked around.

"I'll help you." Gregory said as he stood from the table.

* * * * *

As the two men walked out of the kitchen, the boys hesitantly walked into the room.

"Please sit down and I'll get you something to eat." Father Kinsey said quickly, then dashed away.

"How are you boys doing, now that you've had a chance to get cleaned up?" Father Doherty asked gently.

"Much better. Thank you." The taller of the boys said quietly.

"Do any of your injuries need medical attention?" Father Doherty asked.

"No. I don't think so. But I'm afraid that we're going to be sore for a few days."

"I'm just glad that you weren't more seriously injured." Father Doherty said gently.

"My name is Ahmid and this is Father Doherty."

"My name is Arthur, and this is my friend, Euan." The taller of the boys said carefully.

"May we call you Art or Artie? We already have an Arthur and an Artimus among us." Ahmid asked cautiously.

"Art is fine."

"What happened to you Art?" Ahmid asked gently.

"Got beat up. What happened to you?" Art asked in a voice that sounded slightly defensive.

"Got shot." Ahmid said frankly, then quietly added, "If, sometime later, you want to tell us about what happened, we'll do our best to help you with it."

Everyone turned at the sound of the phone being hung up.

"That's done. It was easier than I expected." Father Franklin said simply.

"Were you talking to the diocese?" Father Kinsey asked cautiously.

"Yes. I don't know why I expected wailing and gnashing of teeth, but what I got was 'I'll pass it on'." Father Franklin said in a voice that sounded to be on the verge of nervous laughter.

Art and Euan looked around curiously.

"Father Franklin just left the priesthood. I suppose he's Mister Franklin, now." Father Doherty explained gently.

"You can call me Eustis, if you want." Father Franklin said with a smile at the boys.

"No... Father is just fine." Art said in a valiant attempt to be inoffensive.

"I know. Not having to use my first name was one of the benefits of being a priest. Now I'm going to get us a bus... God willing." Father Franklin said as he turned back to the phone.

"A bus?" Art asked suddenly.

"Yes. We have it on good authority that some very bad things are going to be happening very, very soon. So we're making plans to get as far away from Chicago as we possibly can." Father Kinsey timidly explained to the boys.

"I'm sure that we'll be able to find a place where you'll be safe, if you'd like to stay in Chicago. But if you'd like to come with us, we'd be happy to have you along." Father Doherty explained gently.

"Where will we be going?" Euan asked cautiously.

"West. Hopefully God will provide us direction when we need it." Father Doherty said with an assuring smile.

All conversation stopped as Father Franklin spoke loudly on the phone.

"Hi Emmogene. How are you doing?"

"It's me, Eustis."

"Yes, really! Can't I call my baby sister every now and then..."

"Okay. I was wrong about that. You're not going to hell."

"Yeah. I was wrong about that, too."

"No. Priests don't put curses on people. I promise, whatever happened to Keith didn't have anything to do with me."

"Seriously, Emmogene, I've missed you and I'm sorry that I was being so stupid and self-righteous. What you and Keith do is your choice and it's not for me to judge."

"Yes. It really is me."

"Is Keith there? I'd really like to talk to him, if I could."

"I promise that I won't call him a sinner or tell him that he's going to hell. In fact, I'll even tell him that I'm sorry that I ever said things like that to him in the first place."

Father Franklin smiled as he waited.

"Keith? First off, I'm sorry. I said stuff that I shouldn't have to you. I was upset that you and my sister were together without being married, but that gave me no right to say those awful things to you."

"Thank you. Can Emmogene hear what I'm saying?"

"No. Actually, I don't. You know all that conspiracy theory stuff that you've talked to me about? Well, I'm sorry that I didn't take you more seriously. From what I've just heard, the stuff that you were worried about... it's happening."

"No. I'm most certainly not... fucking... with you. We've had three different people come to us and warn us to get out of town. And I was just wondering if you still had that bus of yours, out behind the house."

"Yes. That's what I'm saying. And I'm asking if there's any way we could use your bus to get about ten or eleven of us out of Chicago?"

"What? Yes."

Father Franklin looked over to the others and said, "Keith heard that there's some major troop movement in his neck of the woods. Him and his neighbors are already packing up."

"I don't know if you'd believe any one of my sources, but three different people, completely unrelated to each other, told us the same thing. Can you help us or not? If not, we're going to have to come up with something else, very quickly."

After a moment of waiting, Father Franklin broke into a smile.

"Thanks, Keith. I don't know how I'll ever be able to repay you for this."

Father Franklin's eyes went wide, then he quickly said, "Of course I'll be willing to shake your hand. For what you're going to do, I'd go so far as to kiss you on the mouth."

After a chuckle, Father Franklin hung up the phone, then said to everyone that was listening, "He said that a handshake will be fine."

* * * * *

"Do you boys have anyone that you need to call?" Father Doherty asked the two young teenagers with concern.

"I think we'll make our call when we get to wherever we're going." Art said for both of them.

"It seems we are all about to embark toward an unknown future." Father Franklin said as he looked around the room.

"The Lord works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. I have always trusted that He will give us what we are capable of, and willing to accept." Father Doherty said, as he pulled the two youngsters into another warm hug.


Co-Author's notes:

I feel so excited to be considered a co-author.

As far as I can tell, things in Chicago are looking pretty bad, but hopefully, former Father Doherty and the others will be able to make their way safely Westward, and will find their way to Kettle Falls.

I have the distinct feeling that Father Haslip will not be as comfortable as he has been, for some time to come.

I am only speculating about this, but I suspect that since the Church was used by Haslip for his own profit, and the evidence is beginning to point that way, this might be one time that they turn their backs on a Priest, and let him sink or swim on his own.

We may never know for sure, but it would be nice if that happened.

It is kind of funny to think of Darnell as one of God's servants, but it is possible that he is indeed something of the sort.

After all, He did deliver Father Doherty and now the two boys, safely to the mission, or in the case of the boys, fairly safely.

Father Doherty has always seen the good which is hidden down deep inside Darnell, but that would truly be a surprise to Darnell, since he thinks of himself as a macho, bad ass, kingpin of some sort.

Darnell has always had a great deal of respect, and some might say love, for Father Doherty. In all his life, Father Doherty has been the only adult who has shown Darnell the slightest bit of respect, and genuine caring. That means a great deal to Darnell, and he has always been loyal to anyone he respects, the number of which is, in fact very small indeed.

Having said that, Darnell has always looked out for people who were in worse situations than he was, and that always goes double for kids in trouble. Not just Ghetto kids, either, as witness his taking the two very white boys under his wing and delivering them to the only person he knows, who will care as much about them as he does, Father Doherty.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

* * * * *

Editor's Notes:

Let me start by saying Thank you to Multi Mapper and Darryl for asking me to edit. I hope I can do as well as Darryl. It is hard to edit something you have been involved in writing since you know what it is supposed to be. Now I just have to remember to edit and not get too involved in the story. I had to go back several times because I was just reading and not editing.

This is another excellent MM chapter. I'm glad I installed a seat belt on my computer chair as we do seem to jump from place to place with each chapter. I'm considering a new scale for misdirection just so I have some guide for MM's stories. So far this one has reached new heights.

I also have a new challenge with two new Brit boys. I'll need to be placing extra 'u's in their dialoge to add colour. Jeez.

I wonder where chapter twelve be. I could use a nice calm week in Hawaii.