Thursday, May 19, 2016

Chapter 43

Sunday, December 6, 1964

Sundays were for work, at least for me. I made myself scarce in the morning, staying in my room and preparing the next week's classes. It took a couple of hours, less than it used to. I had gotten the hang of things by then. 

Sarah invited me for Sunday dinner, a late midday thing. However odd, we were becoming a family again, or maybe for the first time. We no longer scheduled my days with the kids. I was now a regular part of their lives, something made possible by the death of Father Fox. Ironic.

Having finished my class planning, I still had some time to kill. In the fall, I could wander around the lake. In December, it could be a little unpleasant. Nevertheless, I put on my winter coat and went out the back door, thinking I would walk over to the Huddle or the library. Sarah wasn't working today, but it wasn't a bad place to kill time. 

After exiting the back door, I could hear a radio going in the boathouse. News was on, focusing on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The door was open. I went in and went down the stairs to the boathouse. Brother Rufus was there, scraping the paint off a rowboat. 

"Sunday is not a day of rest for you," I said.

"This is rest for me," Rufus said. 

"Scraping the paint off a rowboat? What do you do for serious fun?"

"Paint it with primer," he said.

"Of course." I paused. "Mind if I pick your brain."

"Be careful. It's an untouched wilderness in there."

I laughed. I wondered if I had misjudged the man. "I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the death of Father Fox."

"A-k-a BJ," he said, behind a hint of a smile. "Why do you ask? Isn't it locked up."

"That's why I'm asking. Man dies, probably murdered, possibly killed accidentally. Boy goes away to a sinkhole called juvenile justice. Now nobody talks about it."

"Too easy, you think?"

"I'm thinking. It bothers me, that's all. Tough on the boy, especially if he didn't do it."

"Boy didn't like BJ, I heard."

"He wasn't a fan, but I don't think he hated him, not enough to kill him."

"You've talked to him?"

"Smart boy, a bit confused by events." Okay, I hadn't talked to him recently, but Butch had. I didn't want to go into that with Rufus. 

"Aren't we all," Rufus said. "Boy takes the fall. You don't have to think about the confusion anymore."

"You didn't like BJ, er Father Fox, did you?"


"Why not?"

"Horse's butt."

"That's not an answer."

"I hear he was, you know, three-gaited."

"A homosexual?"

"No, liked boys."

"What's the difference?"

"Look, we're a congregation of men. Lotta guys are here because marriage ain't for them. Why do you think? But they keep their liking to themselves, and it works out. But if they like boys, and do something about it, it's not so good. And if the boys they like ..."

"Are boys," I said. "I get that. It's trouble. But why do you thing he, um, liked boys."

"It's what I heard."

"What you heard. From where."


"C'mon, Rufus. The only evidence for what you say is gossip. Malicious gossip at that."

"Yea, sometimes malicious gossip is true."

"In which case, it's slander. You know better than this. Any of the other staff share your views?"

"Naw, they're all priests. Political guys. They're trained to be nice, whereas I'm trained to unplug toilets. I know shit when I see it."

"Nice. You're chances of getting the Mr. Congeniality award this year are poor."

"Yea, I don't suppose I'm in the running for that, but then BJ wasn't in the running for that either."

"So you had something in common with him," I said.

"Now, who's being nasty?"

I decided to change the subject. "You're in charge of tidying up the grounds."

"Yea, why?"

"You prune the trees and shrubs?"

"Only when I have to."

"Not your favorite."

"I like carpentry, plumbing, handyman stuff. Gardening ain't my thing."

"What about the yew shrubs at the front of the building?"

"The what?"

"The shrubs in the front of the building. They're yew trees."

"You, what? Pain in the ass is what I call them."

"Thanks for answering my questions."

The wind had picked up. I decided a walk wasn't in order. I got in the Edsel and headed home. 

Sunday Dinner

Over roast chicken, I explained that I had talked to Brother Rufus, who was incorrigible in his dislike for Father Fox but an unlikely candidate for poisoning. If Bernie Fox had died from a blow to the head with an iron pipe, I might have suspected Rufus.

So what are we going to do, the team wanted to know.

"Well, we've got to check out the former secretary, the staff, and the nuns."

"Well, that sounds easy," Sarah said drily.

"What we need is good librarian," I said. "Oh, I know one."

"What do you want me to do?"

"We need background information on everyone. Let's see. The teachers."

"Well, I can check the official Catholic directory, get ordination dates, maybe check bios that appeared in connection with the ordination."

"Good," I said. "I'll go back and talk to Rufus. He loves gossip and might fill me in on informal stories about where everybody came from."

"What about the secretary?" Sarah wanted to know.

"I'll have to talk to her personally," I said. "If I can find her."

"And the nuns?" Sarah asked.

"Don't you have some connections with the sisterhood?"

"There is no sisterhood," she said, emphasizing the last syllable. "There are sisterhoods, but yes, I do have some connections."

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