Pasayten Pete

Chapter Twenty: Healing

The suicide of the priest was front page news on all of the city and regional newspapers. It was even featured on both national wire services. Frank and Madeline Jacobs, who had known Father Bernard and attended his church for most of their adult lives, were stunned.

Frank struggled with conflicting emotions. He wanted Father Bernard punished. He wanted him jailed and defrocked for his crimes against Marilee. But suicide? God forbid that Frank should feel any satisfaction at such an end. Suicide was a mortal sin. For a priest it must be an immediate fall to Hell. His soul would be damned for an eternity! Frank was quite torn: he had half a mind to rejoice, and half a mind to mourn. He could do neither. He was numb with grief over the loss of his daughter, her fleeing to the west, and his impotence at bringing the priest to account. He feared he hovered on the verge of a mental breakdown. Nothing had prepared him for such rage and anguish and helplessness.

Madeline felt no hesitation. Her fury was unbounded. Her child had been assaulted; her child had fled for her own protection. Father Bernard, the perpetrator, seemed untouchable, invincible. He was protected by law and church alike. She regarded his death as a gift from God, a gift that spared her from having to hunt him down to kill him. She understood her husband's stalemate, but she did not share it. Given time, she would have stalked the priest and shot or run him down with her car. God spared her the effort; she was spared certain doom to self and family.

The news stories contained detailed accounts of Father Bernard's service in the church and his long tenure at the city's most prominent cathedral, but told little concerning his death. Unflattering details in the reporters' story drafts were excised by their editors. They had been told by their publishers and managers to censor any such reports. Late evening telephone calls from officers of the church enlisted cooperation from the media owners. Wise business and political sensibilities prevailed over sensationalism. Only the police detectives and the astonished coroner and his morgue staff knew the details of the priest's self mutilation.

Without sensationalism, the story faded away. The priest's career may have been long and laudatory, but as regional news it was soon pushed aside by lurid reports of scandals, killings, and the usual parade of urban corruption and violence.

Friday evening found Frank and Madeline alone at their indifferent dinner, staring past each other. Neither wanted to confront the obvious, to indulge idle talk just to fill the long, silent spaces between them. During such an interlude, the doorbell rang.

"Who? Damn! Who would that be?" Frank muttered, half in anger, irritated at being disturbed. Madeline gazed bleakly at her plate.

"Probably nobody," she offered. "Or maybe it's that silly television reporter again, doing her breathless survey of the congregation. How do we feel? she asked us. If I told her how I truly felt, it would be the story of the century in this city, I'd betcha!

"Answer the door, Frank. Tell whoever it is to go away. We're not at home for anyone tonight!"

Frank nodded, agreeing with her feelings. He opened the front door, prepared to give anyone there a quick send-off. Instead, he stood gawking, trying to understand why he would be looking at a tall, elderly man with long hair and a Stetson hat. The man wore blue jeans and a soft flannel rancher's shirt, and richly beaded and fringed buckskin moccasins with high legging tops laced halfway to his knees. His piercing eyes were not the least bit threatening. His face, stature, and aura exuded reassurance and comfort. The stranger waited for a response to enter or leave.

Frank astonished himself with the next words from his mouth:

"Come in, please."

"I assume you know of the death of Father Bernard at the cathedral," Mike asked the Jacobs, who sat nervously on their couch in the living room. Mike sat facing them, a glass of iced tea by his hand, offered moments after he had introduced himself as a visiting friend from the Methow Valley. He brought news that their daughter was settling in well with her aunt and uncle.

"Yes, we've heard. These last few days it's been all the news. Our church... our friends... everyone is upset. We've been harassed by TV reporters, and others, all trying to get stories from us." Frank was embarrassed, still trying to sort out his feelings.

"A fitting end!" Madeline snarled, unable to contain her emotions. "He deserved it, for what he did!"

Frank stared open-mouthed at his wife's outburst. She clamped her hand over her mouth but her words echoed in the silent room.

Mike smiled, nodded his head gently. In a low voice he spoke to her directly:

"It was an unforgivable thing that he did. He has gone to answer to a higher power. Your family will never be touched by him again. In a sense, you have been avenged. In another sense, you have a chance for a new beginning."

Madeline stared back at Mike, questions racing through her mind. Before she could react, Frank half rose from the couch, quickly reconsidered and sat back, his body posture poised to challenge Mike:

"How do you know this? What causes you to say what you just did? Nobody, no one at all, could know what you just said, other than the authorities who refused to help us!"

"No one told me, but yes, I know. I know that he assaulted your daughter over a period of years. I know that you trusted him and your trust was betrayed. I know that you sought justice and were denied. The law was used against you as a threat, to deny you any hope of justice. Yes, I know all that. And you must accept that I am a friend. I am here to help."

Madeline, with the intuition of mothers inherited from the ages, settled back into a relaxed posture and smiled to herself, satisfied that the priest had met a timely and well-deserved end. She cared not how. She cared only that this stranger's presence somehow sanctioned her feelings and she drew deep satisfaction from it.

Frank, the more logical-minded, had to know. He needed a rational explanation.

"How did you learn this? Who are you, exactly, and how can you come to us saying things that you could not possibly know?"

Mike sipped his iced tea, settled back in a more relaxed posture, and began to explain.

"I came to your city to ensure that no further harm would befall the children under that man's shadow. Of that, I cannot say more except to say that he will not harm another child. You know that.

"I came to offer aid and comfort to you, the parents of a beautiful child who has found refuge with kind people, friends of mine. I assure you that she enjoys comfort, solace, and love there. If you wish, I can share visions with you, but you must be satisfied that it can be, and not insist on knowing how it can be. Consider it a gift offered, but one not to be understood. Is that acceptable?"

Again, Madeline, in a quick outburst answered for them: "Yes! I must see her for myself. If you can show her to us, we must see. I don't care how!"

Frank wisely kept his peace and let his wife take the lead in this bizarre and unfamiliar development.

"Good," Mike answered, softly. "Please, sit closely together, and hold hands. I will prepare the way."

He opened a small leather pouch slung from his belt behind his right hip. He removed a small stone dish, a tiny pouch of powder and ground herbs, and a few pellets similar to incense. He struck a small match to the mounded stuff; tendrils of aromatic smoke rose between them. Rather than rising above them, the smoke seemed to flatten and spread. After the first tentative sniff, the Jacobs savored it, inhaling deeply despite their initial reluctance. As they breathed, Mike chanted a singing prayer. His voice filled the room and stirred their deepest emotions. Calm settled upon them. They felt lightened, relieved, almost joyous in an expanding sense of well-being.

Marilee was sitting in an apparent garden of eden: green grass, white birches, blue sky, fluffy white clouds and golden sunshine filled the scene. She sat with her legs tucked under her, one hand outstretched as a support while she leaned happily to one side, feeding a sprig of clover to a small, wild rabbit. It was gray, short-eared, compact, not at all afraid as its dainty mouth chewed rapidly and the clover vanished under its twitching nose. Marilee plucked another clover blossom. As quickly as it was offered, it was eagerly eaten. More wild rabbits grazed and hopped around her. The scene expanded and they saw a dozen or more rabbits. She sat at the edge of a large pond, one end wooded with white-barked birches. A busy flock of guinea fowl scurried among the small bushes and grasses at pond's edge. A huge peacock, brilliant in its iridescent plumage, strutted and preened nearby. It was an unbelievable scene to their urban eyes, yet they saw their daughter, her happy face, and her actions, her delighted eyes. They did not for a moment doubt what they saw.

The scene faded, dissolved away, and the daylight turned to the dusky twilight of a summer day's end. The scene expanded and sharpened and in the twilight aura they saw her again, now among the white-bark birches. She was not alone. On each side of her lay a speckled fawn. She lay back, half upright against the base of a birch; the fawns nestled beside her, legs curled under, slender necks extended, their heads resting in Marilee's lap.

A tall and stately doe kept watch from just behind the children. Her bright eyes looked directly to Madeline, mother to mother. In unblinking gaze her message was clear:

"I nurture and cherish our children, mine and yours. They are innocent, they are precious. We offer our lives, you and I, for our children. Rest, be well, be healed. Become strong again. Until that day when you are here, I will tend her. They will be safe."

Madeline clasped her hand to her mouth; she heard the words and saw that serene gaze. She knew the truth and was comforted. She blinked and the vision faded and was gone. The words remained in her memory. They would never dim. She believed, and she was content.

Frank saw and heard a different scene. His daughter sat among the birches with the fawns, as Madeline saw. But instead of a doe, he saw the shadow forms of several tall figures, imposing and strong. He heard a message of reassurance, as a friend would reassure another friend, father to father.

"She is guarded; she is well. We watch and protect her. This vigilance is our gift to you. Move yourselves to this valley that she may again be near her family. Until that day, be assured she is safe."

The vision faded; Frank stared at the tall stranger seated before him. The room retained an intoxicating aroma of something he'd never known before. It seemed to belong, as a natural part of the experience.

"I must ask, again. Who are you?"

Mike extended his hand, laid a slate disk over the smoldering tray that it might quench itself, stretched his arms upward as he arched his back to stretch and relieve his cramped muscles, then he smiled.

"If you good people might have another glass of that excellent iced tea, and a slice of the apple pie I smelled when I can in here, we'll get down to some introductions and catch up on a few things."

Pride_and_Punishment < <> > Transitions

Pasayten Pete © Graybyrd 2010

Last modification: 2016/8/25 at 19:20