Monday, November 16, 1964
Timing was awkward. The DA had held his press conference, mercifully short, late Friday after the seminarians from South Bend and vicinity had left for home.
At evening prayer that night, Hank was equally short in his explanation to the seminarians who remained on campus. The seminarians weren't supposed to talk after evening prayer; of course they did, I was told, in loud whispers. I had been at a meeting and didn't get the gist of the scuttlebutt until the next morning, when the priests agreed that the consensus was that Dingo Dave was a bit crazy, and it was just a matter of time before he got into trouble.
The talk died down during and after the Fighting Irish blew out Michigan State.
I didn't get the full sense of things until classes began today, the townies having been given the news at evening prayer on Sunday. Most of them knew beforehand, either because someone caught the press conference on Friday night or they had been briefed by other seminarians on their arrival back at the seminary on late Sunday afternoon.
The certainty of their observations surprised me. To a person, they had no trouble pinning the deed on Dingo Dave. Some of them confessed that they knew all along, which I doubted. Others accused the administration of not paying more attention to someone who was obviously a bed short of a dormitory.
The seminarians, like most of the staff, were probably relieved that the case was solved.
Or was it?
Truth to tell, I was like everyone else. I wanted it to be true, wanted it to be over. But something was gnawing at me, maybe just the thought of Dingo Dave sitting in a group home with his life, if not ruined, then complicated into extreme difficulty.
After the afternoon class, I had a meeting with Sean O'Hara, the editor of the school newspaper. I knew what he wanted to talk about, and I wasn't looking forward to it.
He couldn't wait to see me. "So, Mr. Foote, how do we handle the Dingo Dave story?"
I had prepared for this—or tried to. I wasn't sure I had a good answer. "Do a story, front page if you'd like, but make it short and stick to the facts."
Sean was better prepared than I was. "The facts being that Father Fox was found dead. The sheriff's office investigated, arrested Dingo Dave for what amounts to manslaughter, and the juvenile judge sentenced him to a group home."
"Basically, yes," I said. "What you don't want to do is engage in speculation about motives, methods, or monkey business."
"What if we interviewed him?"
"You'd have to get permission for that, and I'm not sure it can happen—or that he would want to."
"Oh, he'll want to."
"Perhaps, but the powers-that-be won't sit for it," I said.
"The powers that be. Like who?"
"Like Father Grease. And the provincial."
"Am I not a journalist?"
"In the end, you're a high-school seminarian with other authorities to answer to."
"I don't like that."
"If you continue down the path to the priesthood, you will take a vow of obedience. Think of this as a practice run." I can't believe I said that.
He looked suitably sour. "You're not a priest."
"Nor am I thinking of being one, but I still have a boss."
"Would you like me to check in with him? He might not want you to even publish the short bit on the front page."
He paused, looked thoughtful. "No, never mind."
"Okay," I said and then looked at him. "But it didn't hurt to ask. Nice job."
The conversation with Sean did give me an idea. I called Eli's office and made an appointment to meet him at the end of the day to discuss my idea. When I got there, Trudy gave me her usual sour greeting but told me to go right in.
"Coffee?" Eli asked.
"Give me a second," he said, getting up out of his chair and grabbing his personal mug from his desk. "I'm going to get it myself. Trudy's a bit grumpy."
"How can you tell?"
Eli smiled to himself, left the room, and came back in less than a minute with two filled mugs. "What's up?"
"An idea," I said. And I told him how I wanted to talk to Dingo Dave.
"I think I can arrange a visit."
"But that's only the first part. I'd like Butch to come along."
"Your son? Why?"
"He's taken a liking to Dave. The thing is: Dave is a loner. He doesn't appear to be close to any of the other seminarians."
"But he likes Butch."
"He does. Butch may be able to get him to talk in a way that I can't—or anyone else for that matter."
"Interesting. What's he's going to do with that information?"
I went on to talk about Butch's anger at me about the arrest, about my participation in it, about the necessity of keeping gossip down at the seminary. "My plan is to pull Butch into the team, you might say, in return for keeping his mouth shut among the seminarians. I'm sure he can help me find out the truth—at least with respect to Dingo Dave and his involvement. My main problem is keeping some control of him ..."
"So he doesn't share his knowledge with the other seminarians and mess things up."
"Yes. If I can make him feel like he's part of Dave's team like you and I—and he really would be—he'll stick with the discipline."
I didn't add that it would be a way for me to make amends with my son.