Days of Grace
posted June 2004
With her hands buried deeply in her coat pockets, Grace walked through the long corridors of the coroner's pathology department. Bright, fluorescent light hummed accompany to the sound of her shoes clicking against the hard, white floor. A couple of shiny, stainless steel tables standing along the wall were her only companions. Grace stepped up her pace.
She never liked going to the morgue. An undefined, sweet smell mixed with antiseptic and the human bodies exposed in ways they should not be exposed made her uncomfortable. The pathologists she had worked with in the past had all been totally unsympathetic to the fact not everyone was used to seeing people's fleshy insides. Perhaps this one, Patty Steele, was different. Grace hoped so.
Taking a deep breath, she walked through the door into the autopsy room. White tile floors and gray walls matched the three rows of tables, each supporting a lifeless body being examined by technicians dressed in scrubs. Country music twanged in the background. The contrast was unnerving. No matter what kind of music they played, this was a work place unlike any other. The clang of steel against steel as someone dropped a tool on a tray and the row of freezers – three crypts high and six crypts long – was enough for Grace to keep on edge.
Standing by the middle table, Patty Steele was hovering over the body formerly known as Father Malachi. She nodded her head with the music and she mouthed the words. The priest's gray, naked body lay wide-open; in this condition, Grace preferred to disregard the fact that it indeed was a human being lying on the table.
“Detective Jacobson,” Patty greeted without looking up. “You're an early bird.”
The sweet smell of death was disturbing. Grace retrieved a handkerchief from her pocket and held it over her nose. It smelled of Fran's perfume; the contrast was surreal.
“I really want to get this problem solved before the Holidays,” Grace said, trying to ignore looking at the body. “It won't happen if I sleep in.”
“You're absolutely right, Detective.”
Patty dug her hand into the body's cavity. The sound made Grace think about an incident where she had been stuck in a mud hole. She closed her eyes for a beat then asked, “So, what can you tell me?”
Pulling out the liver, Patty placed it on a stainless tray next to her. “I have good news and bad news,” she said ripping off her gloves then reached for the chart.
“Of course,” Grace muttered. It never was simple.
Patty laughed. “I'm glad I don't have your job,” she said in distinct Texan dialect. “At least I know I can leave this guy by the end of the day.”
Grace smirked certain she did not want to switch places. “That's one way to see it. Give me the bad news first.”
The doctor flipped through the papers. “I can't say whether it is suicide or not.”
“Damn!” Grace cursed and looked down on the body. She had really hoped there would be a big sign inside him. Bold letters reading, “I committed suicide.” Now they would have to dig deeper in the old man's life, turn every possible piece of him inside out. For some reason, Grace felt she did not want to know everything about the reverend. There were times when the memory of someone was shaped in a better way if you did not try so hard to get to the truth.
“Sorry, Detective.” Patty said. “Can't do much about that. He did die from asphyxia though; no air coming in – no blood going up.”
Leaning forward a little more, Grace peeked at the marks around his neck then down to where his lungs now lay exposed. The lungs were pink; he had not been a smoker.
“What is the good news?” she asked unconsciously finding the body more interesting.
“Oh, that is interesting.” Patty flipped a page in the chart. “His blood is loaded with benzodiazepine.”
Grace looked up. She was well aware what the substance was. “An anti-depressant?”
“Or sleeping pills,” Patty suggested. “He definitely overdosed and shortly before death.”
Grace thought back to the scene: the desk, the account ledger and the turned over mug. “His tea mug,” she mused. “I better make sure crime scene checks what was in that mug.”
Puzzles. Grace liked puzzles. It was the main reason why she became a police detective. Her official explanation was she wanted to make a difference, but inside she knew that would never happen. She was plainly looking for the thrill of solving puzzles. Being good at it, she had quickly moved up in the hierarchy and although her methods could be irritating, disallowing the rules, she won respect.
The main piece in the puzzle was hiding something from her; she could feel it. Perhaps he was depressed, perhaps he could not sleep; Grace knew there was a reason for the pills. In any case, Grace wondered what it was and from where he got them.
“I'll look for prescriptions,” Grace thought aloud “He should have a receipt for drugs like this, right?”
Patty nodded. “Not necessarily,” she said and sat down on a stool. “He could have bought something over the counter. But check if someone knows who his doctor was.” She put on a new pair of gloves then picked up her scalpel. “His medical condition might be a clue,” she said waving the blade.
Grace listened as her mind began working more aggressively. She had to talk to Sean. Maybe Malachi really was depressed and the pills and the extension cord were the only way out. If that were the case, what would he have been depressed about?
The questions kept piling up, but she was relieved to have gotten an answer from the autopsy. She asked, “Anything else?”
Having returned to her work, Patty said, “His last meal was chick peas, sesame seeds and bread.”
Grace's eyebrow's arched. “What kind of meal is that?”
Patty shrugged. “You tell me.” She grinned and looked up. “If it had been beef I could have told whether it was Angus or Hereford but this -.” She shook her head.
Chick peas and sesame seeds - Grace tried to put the two of them together hoping she would get some kind of flavor in her mouth but it didn't come out as anything exciting. I could call Fran, she thought. She might know.
Far away in her thoughts, she saw Patty drop the liver into a scale hanging above her head and heard her casually ask, “How is the baby?”
Grace reacted slowly. “What?” she wondered, doubting she had correctly heard Patty. The tech working behind Patty looked up; Grace met his gaze and could see he was trying to stifle a grin.
Patty laughed, sensing she had thrown the detective a curve ball. “Gossip, dear Jacobson. It didn't take much time before I got a full report about you.” She looked up and saw Grace's stunned expression. “Don't worry, woman,” she whispered. “No one said anything bad.”
Gay all her life, Grace never really thought about it being strange. Not that she walked around telling everybody, she knew better than that, but she never denied it if someone asked her. Her colleagues knew about her relationship with Fran, and so far only a few seemed to have had trouble getting beyond it. There was a rumor a couple of years ago about Sean pushing a new officer up against the wall, defending Grace, but she had never asked him about it. Grace knew she did not want anyone protecting her, but at the same time she felt touched he had.
“So, is she cute?” Patty asked smiling.
Grace shook her head, feeling a smile in the corner of her mouth. “It's a he,” she said. “Eric.”
“I meant the wife.”
Again taken aback, Grace just looked at the pathologist.
Patty laughed again, obviously quite pleased with herself. “I heard your wife is a real looker.”
Grace blushed heavily. “You hear too much,” she stuttered but could not prevent a smile spreading across her face.
“You have a picture?”
Within seconds, Grace shamelessly reached for a picture of Fran and Eric and held it in front of Patty.
“Not bad, Jacobson, not bad at all. He looks like you.”
Chuckling embarrassed, Grace explained, “Fran is the mother.”
“Oh, and you're not the father?”
Grace blushed again and quickly pulled back the picture, “You are crazy, Doc.” She looked at the picture for a moment, smiled and then put it back into her wallet. “Give me a call if you find anything else about him there,” she said pointing at the body.
As she walked away, Grace took a quick loop by the radio and changed the station.
“Hey!” Patty shouted as good, old rock & roll flooded the room. The rest of the crew cheered. Pleased with herself, Grace left the pathologists and the dearly departed behind while her mind jumped between the bodies on the tables and her beloved family in the picture in her wallet. “This place gives me the creeps,” she mumbled as she exited through the corridors.
Back at headquarters, Grace clipped the stairs two at a time to the second floor, walking through the doors to homicide before the by-passed elevator arrived.
“Good morning, Mrs. Kolinsky.” She beamed at the department's secretary.
Mrs. Kolinsky, a woman in her late fifties with teased, bleached hair; thick, caked make-up and pretty daring cleavage, smiled. “Good morning, Grace.” Her voice was raspy after 45 years of smoking filter free cigarettes. “For being the mother of a baby, you seem shamefully awake.”
Grace stopped by the coffee machine, picked a cup from the shelf and poured it full. The coffee was pitch black and she knew it would probably hurt as it slid down to her stomach. She needed it.
“Nothing coffee like this can't cure,” she responded holding up her cup as she went to her desk. Truth be told, she wasn't tired. Eric already slept through the night, but it sounded good and she hoped Mrs. Kolinsky would feel a little sorry for her. But that was hopeful as the secretary never felt sorry for anyone – not even herself.
Grace was indeed in a great mood. Although her visit to the coroner hadn't served her clues on a silver plate, she still found the meeting with Dr. Steel refreshing. The information of Malachi's overdose was a good start to the investigation and the Doctor's wit was refreshing. It was a pretty good start of the day.
Leaving Fran and Eric this morning had been difficult though. While Fran fed Eric, Grace had taken a quick shower. After the shower she tried to find some clothes she liked that were clean. She ended up taking the same black slacks from the previous day but a clean, dark-gray turtleneck. Down on the floor in the kitchen, Eric lay gurgling on a blanket. As Fran went upstairs to take her morning shower, Grace sat down on the floor next to her son. Eric's eyes rolled about as he tried to focus on Grace.
“What are you saying?” Grace asked softly, letting Eric clasp onto her finger. The baby made more gurgling noises and then smiled, kicking his little legs. Grace laughed. “No, sweetie, you can't come to work with mommy today.”
When Fran came down the stairs – her dark hair still wet from her shower - dressed in beige linen slacks and a thick roll-neck sweater; Grace knew she'd better get out going. She was too easy of a prey for Fran during that time of the day: a few words, a smile and Grace would seriously consider staying home. It had happened, but it was a long time ago now.
Homicide was a big rectangular space. Two rows of desks - six desks in each row, every pair facing one another - occupied most of the room. Along the left wall windows faced Superior Street ; to the right a massive line of file cabinets and wipe-off boards filled with pictures of missing persons and investigation strategies. In the far left corner sat Captain John Darby in his fishbowl-like office keeping a watchful eye over the detectives. Three interview rooms followed along a narrow corridor to the right of the Captain's office.
Dodge, one of her colleagues, a kid of a clunky sort, sat with his feet on his desk, chewing on a pen. “Trouble, Dodge?” Grace asked tossing her coat on a chair. He was working a child murder case.
“Think I have interviewed the entire city and still -,” he sighed. “Nada.”
Dodge was a young detective whose real name was Terrence Freeman. The name ‘Dodge' had followed him since the day his car – an old Dodge Dart – died on the freeway while he was chasing a suspect. Sitting in the rain, he watched the suspect disappear over the horizon as his Dodge hissed steam out from under its hood.
“You'll solve this one,” Grace said confidently looking at his pile of reports before she sat down at her desk.
Sean's desk faced hers. Leaning on his desk, his elbows propped him up he absentmindedly rolled a pencil between his fingers. Grace pulled out a lower drawer, sat back in her chair and rested her feet on it. Sean didn't say anything. Not good morning, not hello.
Taking a sip of her coffee, Grace eyed him over the rim. His eyes were red, his tie loose and the top button of his shirt open. “Did you by any chance stop by the bar after work last night?”
Her partner didn't respond but sat back in his chair, stretched his arms above his head and let out a loud yawn. “Why do you say that?” he asked seeing Grace's smug expression.
“Just a guess,” Grace replied looking for a clean spot to place her cup.
Her desk was a mess. Four piles of papers, each one a foot high, pushed out to every corner; in the middle sat her computer and next to it her phone. The phone cord was twisted so many times it barely stretched beyond the cradle. Two old, empty coffee mugs were collecting mold next to the monitor and a pair of chopsticks lay across the top of one mug.
Grace sat up and looked down on the misery of her desk. “So -.” She rubbed a dirty spot. “Did you find anything after I left last night?” The spot on her desk was sticky. Without thinking, she put her finger in her mouth: ketchup. She grimaced.
“Not much,” Sean replied with another yawn. “I got the names of everybody who works there. Phone numbers and stuff. I also had the rectory sealed off.”
Beyond, Grace could see the captain begin to move in his fish bowl. “Give me your note pad,” she said just as their captain opened his door. Sean pitched the note pad across the desk and Captain Darby looked at Grace, pinning her down.
“Jacobson!” he demanded. “Leary! My office!“
Sean groaned and his head fell against the desk. “I don't like having that man behind my back,” he mumbled.
“Now!” Darby barked, turning back to his room again.
Grace was not certain if it was only she, but she thought the captain's voice could have turned an army around. A former football player, tall and muscular, his impression was formidable and Grace knew better than hide anything from him. Some had tried and rumors circulated about what was left of them. He was hard, but fair and took good care of his staff.
“Let's go,” Grace said slapping Sean's shoulder with the notepad as she walked by him.
“Hey!” Sean stumbled up and chased after her. “Those are my notes.”
“Not any more,” Grace laughed increasing her speed until she almost fell over a chair in Darby's room.
With his hands deeply buried in his pant pockets, Sean followed and grumped.
“Close the door,” Darby ordered and sat down behind his desk.
“Close the door, Sean.” Grace grinned as she sat down.
Still grumping, Sean did as he was told.
The captain's office was in neat order. The only pile of paper on the desk was perfectly stacked, his pens and pencils lay in a row in the middle. On his right side was his computer; the monitor had the department's emblem as wallpaper. In a few minutes the screensaver would start, showing the very same emblem. Behind him stood a bookcase with graduated rows of books and football trophies. On the wall next to the bookcase was a picture of the captain and the mayor together, next to that a picture of the president of the United States . The latter she secretly imagined improved with dart holes.
Darby sat back in his chair with his fingers laced across his stomach and eyed both investigators. “I just got a call from McArthur,” he said.
Grace threw a quick glance at Sean who sunk deeper into his chair. Teresa McArthur was the Chief of Police, a hardheaded politician who showed up every time sensitive cases came up. For her it seemed more important to show than to solve - something that gave Captain Darby a lot more pressure than he needed. For the investigator it meant long hours and no mercy until everything was solved. Overtime in a city on shallow budget.
Grace was not surprised McArthur had surfaced. The church had great power and did not want any more bad publicity than what it already received. Whatever the reason for Father Malachi's death, they would most certainly like to have insight into the investigation and McArthur was going to have that happen.
Neither Grace nor Sean said anything. Darby walked over to the window and with his hands locked behind his back he looked out on the street below. “The bishop doesn't want the investigation to interfere with Christmas and he doesn't want us to harass the staff of St Matthew during their mourning.”
He turned around and looked at the detectives. “Any ideas of how we can keep this from happening?”
Sean cleared his throat. “I think it is hard to do our job,” he began in a slow voice, “if we can't talk to folks.”
“But,” Grace filled in, “we will of course do it as smoothly as possible.”
Nodding, Darby put his hands in his pockets and turned to gaze at the pictures on the wall. “There is going to be a memorial service tomorrow at 1300; I want you to be there. Be smooth but -.” He turned and looked at Grace. “Don't be so smooth you can't solve the case. If the bishop has any complaints tomorrow or any other day -- I'll take care of them.”
“Yes, Sir,” Grace and Sean responded at the same time.
Grace was relieved. She didn't like working with constraints and especially not when someone told her not to. It only made her suspicious. Luckily, the captain was of the same opinion.
Walking back to his chair, Darby asked, “You have anything about this case yet?”
Straightening up, Grace told him about her meeting with Dr. Steel and findings of anti- depressant in his blood. Darby nodded, his mouth puckered. Grace never knew what the man was thinking and he rarely said what he thought about a case. He mostly just stayed informed and made sure the way was cleared for the detectives.
“We're heading back to the scene right now,” Grace added. She saw Sean look at her from the corner of her eye. “We're going to check his home first and then there are a couple of people to interview.”
“Did he live in the rectory?” Darby asked.
“Good,” Darby said and pulled out a paper from his pile. Both Grace and Sean knew the discussion was over and stood up.
Before leaving, Grace turned to Darby and said, “We'll keep you informed.”
“I know you will,” Darby responded without looking up from his reading.
Sean was on his way to sit down behind his desk, when Grace nudged his arm. “Let's go.”
Still drowsy from last night's adventures, Sean looked dumbfounded at Grace.
Grace smirked and picked up her coat. “To the plaza de Malachi, remember we're going there now.”
“Right,” Sean sighed.
While Sean slowly gathered his belongings, Grace started to walk towards the exit. Chick pees and sesame seeds, she pondered smiling suddenly.
“Hummus!” she said aloud as she heard Sean coming up behind her.
“What did you say?”
Grace shook her head. His collar folded inwards and his sweater was only half way down over his stomach. Grace fixed his clothes all the while Sean whined about her being picky.
“And I can't find my note pad,” he complained.
Looking squarely at her partner, Grace said, “I'm sure you'll find it. Let's go, now.”
Grace drove across the Superior-Detroit Bridge , connecting Cleveland downtown with the Westside. Under them the Cuyahoga River stretched out to Lake Eire . The car radio played some jazz music Grace could not understand. Sean had reclined his seat and lay with his eyes closed humming to the music in a syncopated manner. Every other note was wrong and he was tragically behind the beat. Sean didn't mind, but Grace felt as if she was trapped in a birdcage.
As they closed in on the intersection of West 25th and Superior , St Matthew on the right, Grace realized they were in the wrong lane. With a quick glance in the rearview mirror, she threw the car over to the left lane.
“What the hell -.” Sean had not been prepared and his head swung into Grace's shoulder.
Keeping one eye on the traffic behind her and one on the road in front of her, Grace mumbled, “Sorry.”
Sean sat up. “Gee, Jacobson.”
The traffic lights changed to red and Grace hit the breaks. Sean fell forward. “Will you take it a little easy,” he barked.
“Oh, stop whining,” Grace grinned without looking at him.
Waiting for the light to turn green, Grace looked over and scanned the church. It looked like an old, traditional limestone building yet it was not more than 50-60 years old. The church had burned down to the ground in the 1940's but was rebuilt following original drawings. Mostly Irish went there, but the rumor of being a church for the poor working class had lived long and now, as the Westside of Cleveland struggled to stay fit, St Matthew remained supportive.
The lights changed and Grace turned right.
The pale two-story rectory sat hidden behind St Matthew among oak trees and hedges. Barely noticeable from the street, it showed up like an oasis in an asphalt desert as Grace entered the narrow entryway to the left of the church. Until today, few knew about this refuge from the city. But last night's tragedy had brought this peaceful place out in the open. More people than Grace ever had seen in the area walked up and down the sidewalk. Some stopped by the stairs to the church and left a bouquet of flowers; some left candles. Four older men stood talking; one pointed at the church and then to a building on the opposite corner of the intersection. Grace could only imagine what they talked about, yet she had a fairly good idea: gossip about Father Malachi, about the church or about something that happened many years ago, anecdotes perhaps.
A squad car was parked along the way. Two police officers sat inside, overlooking the church entrance and the people walking by. Grace stopped as they came up next to the car, rolled down her window and asked how the day had been so far. Her eyes hidden behind shades, the young officer informed Grace nothing unexpected had happened. Many visitors had dropped by during the day to pay their respect, but no one had made any attempt to go inside the church.
“Crime scene just finished their job but we've informed the church they will be closed to the public until tomorrow,” the officer said.
“Why tomorrow?” Grace asked.
The woman casually looked at her partner then back to Grace again. “Someone from the church said they're preparing for the service tomorrow and didn't wanna have folks milling about.”
That made sense, Grace thought. The church would probably be jam packed tomorrow and she assumed the bishop would be the one in charge of the service. She nodded at the officers and slowly continued to the parsonage.
Grace gently peeled down the crime scene tape across the door and unlocked it with the key Bishop Collina had given Sean. The first thing striking her was the smell: stuffy-old building smell. She wondered if Malachi had ever opened a window.
Dark gray marble flooring covered the small entrance. To the right was a kitchen, to the left something that looked like a living room and straight ahead a stairwell leading to the second floor. Grace switched on the lights and sent Sean to the right; she walked into the living room.
The oak parquet flooring creaked sporadically as Grace strolled the white painted room. A fireplace sat to the right, a seating group and low coffee table in front of it. This room seemed to be for public presentation; she could very well imagine Father Malachi enjoying a cup of tea with someone in here. Perhaps the bishop was one who had shared thoughts with him, sitting in this room. Windows facing the church sat on the left wall. On the wall facing the door, a picture of the pope next to a crucifix, a bible lay open on a side table under the crucifix. Grace brushed her hand over the slightly rugged text and read:
"But to you who hear, I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.” 1
Grace could not imagine anyone hating her although she probably should considering the job she had. She chose not to think in those terms though. It would only make her unsettled. Quite a few people probably cursed her, but instead of praying for them Grace thought ignoring them was enough. And if someone takes my coat , she thought, I will most certainly not give him or her my shirt.
The room was impersonal and Grace moved on to the next one: a study and office space. The walls were lined in bookcases; the old, dark leather bound books mixed with colorful newer ones whispered a great sense of knowledge and curiosity. The diversity surprised Grace: books about ethics, anthropology, psychology, and, of course, religion. Somehow she had expected a bookcase in a rectory to be filled with nothing but Catholic propaganda.
A small desk sat by a window. Outside were trees and shrubs, the Urban Community School and over the rooftop of the school she saw the beginning of the railroad bridge. Nice view. The desk was fairly clean of paper; a stack of letters sat between the desk lamp and an angel figurine, a psalm book and a bible lay open, and a notebook with short notes scribbled down lay next to it. Father Malachi seemed to have prepared for mass. Pulling out the desk drawer, Grace found nothing of interest: pens and pencils, envelops and stationary, a couple of old-worn rosary beads, ledgers with names of parish members and volunteers. Grace picked up the latter deciding to take a closer look at it back at the station. In the bottom drawer she found a large stack of postcards. Grace estimated it was close to 100; they were all bound together with a blue ribbon.
She heard the parquet-flooring creak and figured Sean was done with his part of the building. “Did you find anything?” she asked untying the ribbon.
“No,” Sean sighed. “Just a fridge with no beer and a laundry room full of dirty clothes.”
“Any fun clothes?” Grace mused and sat down on the leather chair. Someone named Ruth had sent Malachi a lot of post cards; most of them were from Santa Fe , New Mexico , but a couple came from other places. Judging by the elegant handwriting, the woman was older; she had learned to write in a proper way, not sloppy like many kids of today.
Sean sat leaning against the desk. “Nothing priesty. More private clothes like khakis and sweatshirts.” Chuckling he added, “I even found a pair of sweatpants.”
Grace smiled. “Do you think he exercised?”
Her partner shrugged. “He was trim like he might have.”
“Ah.” Grace stood up. “He has post cards from a woman named Ruth and look,” she pointed at the signature on the back of one card and read, “Take care, Brother.” Mildly interested, Sean yawned in response. Grace frowned, but pondered aloud, “Have you heard anything about a sister?”
“Nope. The bishop said he didn't have any relatives.”
“Hmm,” Grace mused. The card was stamped July 25, 2001 – more than two years ago; Ruth wrote she was going to Mesa Verde, Colorado , over the weekend. She said she would send another card. That sounds like a lot of fun , Grace thought and wrapped the ribbon around the stack again. When she got back to the station she hoped she would find the Mesa Verde card.
They continued together up the stairs and found Malachi's bedroom. Again, the creaking parquet flooring, but now a warmer tone of ivory white, almost light beige. Light flooded through the three windows facing the church; one of the windows was slightly opened and a soft breeze came in. A whiff of traffic pollution caught Grace's senses. A small couch and coffee table sat to the left together with a bookcase containing both books and a TV set. Grace hit the power button and Sci-Fi channel popped up. Smiling, she turned the TV off again. Sci-Fi channel , she thought. What a funny guy he must have been.
To the right from the door was the bed. Sean rummaged the nightstand and shortly he called for Grace's attention. “He seemed to have liked boxing.”
Grace looked at two magazines in his hand: “Boxing Digest.” Boxing, Sci-Fi and priest. “Is this not odd?” she asked.
“I don't know.” Sean flipped through the pages. “I'm beginning to like the guy, but I guess there is something off about this.” He paused and Grace could sense he was thinking. “But on the other hand,” he began, “boxing is a pretty big deal among we Irish and Italian's.”
“Take the magazine with.” Grace turned away from Sean and stepped over to the walk in closet next to the bed. “Might be a familiar face in there,” she said and opened the door.
Three black jackets and pants hung next to one another, as did four white shirts and four black ones. Grace saw a long, black wool coat and a couple of thinner summer jackets. In a drawer she found socks, underwear and T-shirts; on the floor sat two pair of black shoes, one pair of winter boots and two pairs of jogging shoes. On a shelf sat a brown cardboard box; Grace easily lifted it down and found two pairs of shorts and a pair of Speedo's. Chuckling, Grace pulled out the Speedo's and held them up.
“He must have been a sports freak, Sean.”
Sean looked up from behind the bed. His eyebrows arched as he saw the swim garments. “What the hell are those small things for?”
Grace laughed. “You tell me.” She put the Speedo's back in the box. “You would probably be really cute in them.”
“Would probably even turn you on, Jacobson,” he grunted and looked under the bed.
Grace froze. The image of Sean in tiny Speedo's appeared in her mind: his thin legs, beer belly and flushed skin. She realized she would not be able to make love for weeks. In a desperate attempt to get rid of the illusion, she shook her head then proceeded to browse the closet. She didn't find anything that caught her attention. Not until she was on her way out.
Brushing her hand across the jackets something flashed between. She separated the jackets and found -.
“Hey look at this,” she hollered and held up a pair of boxing gloves.
“Hey!” Sean grinned. “Look at those.” He snatched the gloves from Grace and tried one of them on. “Good gloves,” he said and hit his glove clad hand against the palm of is other hand. Sniffing the other glove, he stated, “And they stink. He's probably used these puppies a lot.” He faked a knock against Grace's chin.
Backing away, Grace said, “It's so odd.” The smile on Sean's face faded away and he took off the glove. Grace continued. “I don't know what I thought was going to show up here, but he was just a guy – a man like any man.” She glanced about.
“Except for the lack of the beer,” Sean added.
Grace smiled. “Yeah, except for the lack of beer.”
As they left the rectory, Sean complained he was getting hungry. The remark about food caused Grace to recall her revelation earlier: the chickpeas and hummus. So, instead of walking across the lawn to the church, she suggested they took a lunch break at Angelo's Deli a few blocks away.
Angelo's was a small, unpretentious Middle Eastern deli with a great reputation. From the outside it didn't look like much and it honestly didn't look like much on the inside either, but many had discovered the soul didn't sit in the appearance. The food was great. It was long narrow space with two rows of tables, one along each wall; shortly it would be jam-packed.
Grace and Sean sat down by the only table facing the street. A waitress, 20 something, gave them each a menu and took their drink order. Browsing through the menu, Grace wondered what Father Malachi had thought about when he sat here his last day of life – if this was where he had been. Perhaps he wanted a gyro or a falafel. Maybe a pastrami sandwich had been a close pick. Nevertheless, hummus and bread were his choice.
Grace brushed her hand across the sticky menu. Perhaps this was the menu Malachi had read, she thought as she made her selection.
The waitress returned with their drinks and asked if they were ready to order. Sean ordered corned beef sandwich with fries and a bowl of olives on the side. Still browsing the menu, Grace chuckled at his mix while she tried to make a decision. She wasn't very hungry and after all – it was not even noon.
“I'll take hummus and pita bread,” she eventually said. “And a Greek salad.”
Quickly writing down the order, the waitress turned on her heel only to stop at the table next to them.
“What the hell has happened to you?” Sean questioned with a smirk. “Has Fran told you to think about cholesterol?”
Grace was one of the fortunate ones who could eat without gaining weight something she gladly took advantage of. Often, she was the one with the largest portions and if that wasn't enough, she cleaned off her friend's plates too.
She smiled at Sean. “You know she has given up on me but -,” Grace paused for a moment before saying, “Father Malachi had hummus as his last supper.” She saw his eyebrows arch. “There is a great chance he ate here,” she said and looked out over the room. The tables were slowly filling up and by the counter in the back stood Angelo himself talking to an older man. Turning back to Sean, she added. “I just wanted to taste what he had.”
Sean nodded and suddenly seemed to have sobered up. “Good idea, Grace.” He took a sip of his coke and sat back in his chair. “What did the doctor say?”
Grace sensed how their work slowly began to move forward, how they now could start doing what they were best at – solving the puzzle.
“He had a large amount of anti depressants in his blood.”
Shaking her head, Grace replied. “Bennies. Patty said it also could be sleeping pills.”
The waitress returned with their foods and they stopped talking for a beat. When she left, Sean took three olives before saying; “No man with any sense takes sleeping pills at work.”
“Unless you want to kill yourself at work,” Grace responded, scooping up hummus in her pita bread and put it in her mouth. The texture was rough from the peas; the taste was rich with garlic and olive oil. Grace liked it.
“Killing myself over work would be something,” Sean said, “but at work -.” He shook his head and took a big bite of his sandwich. With his mouth full, he mumbled, “Too dramatic for me.”
“Yeah,” Grace agreed not capable of even thinking about taking her own life. She had seen a lot of misery but so far she had been able to separate her own life from the tragedies she met through work. When she thought about it, the only thing that could make her lose it was if something happened to Fran and Eric. She shoved that thought quickly aside.
“Perhaps he was dramatic or perhaps someone simply filled him with pills,” she suggested and took another bite.
Sean wiped his hands off on the napkin then picked up a couple of fries. “It looks a bit clumsy for murder,” he said chewing the fries. “Either it was done by someone who's really smart or by a complete idiot.”
“And either could be Malachi himself,” Grace filled in.
They sat without talking. Grace took a bite of her salad while looking at the traffic outside; pedestrians were walking against the wind on their way to lunch. Some dropped in at Angelo's, others were heading for different destinations.
“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” Grace suddenly asked returning her attention to Sean.
Clearing his throat, Sean said, “I think I'm going to see Laura.”
Sean was married twice. His first marriage only lasted for two years and resulted in a daughter – Laura. The other one lasted for nearly twenty years yet no children were left behind. It had been three years since his wife came home telling Sean she had found a new man, a man that was home for Christmas and would remember their anniversary. Grace knew he still was not certain he deserved being left.
Grace nodded, knowing it was hard for him during the holidays. On several occasions, she had invited him to come and spend Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with her family but he always turned the offer down.
“It's enough we work together,” he used to say. Grace had a feeling he wanted to come but was too proud to accept.
Suddenly, annoying music began playing from Grace's coat. “What the -.” Quickly, Grace dug out her phone while Sean chuckled.
“Jacobson,” Grace answered trying to stay serious while Sean still grinned.
“Hey there, Detective,” a female Texas voice said in the other end of the line. Grace knew it was Dr. Patty Steel before she introduced herself.
“It was sleeping pills,” Patty said. “Over the counter, I suspect.” Grace hummed in response while she looked over at Sean. “We also found two thumb-sized bruises on his shoulder blades indicating someone lifted him.”
Grace's eyes widened and Sean immediately whispered, “What?”
Putting up her hand to silence him, Grace repeated the statement.
“I guess we have a murder,” Grace said certainly as Sean nodded.
When Grace hung up the phone, Sean said, “We should have a conversation with the cleaning lady. She must have been inside the church when it happened.”
“You're right,” Grace said. She looked at him with a smug expression. “Perhaps she is the one.”
“Like we're that lucky,” Sean grinned. In a serious voice he added, “One can never know though.”
Excited to be on the hunt again, Grace cleaned her plate of hummus with the remaining piece of bread before standing up. She put on her coat, put the phone back in the pocket and pulled up Sean's notebook. “Check for her address,” she said throwing the notebook to Sean.
“Thief,” Sean muttered with a crooked smile.
They quickly paid their check and headed back to the car.
Pamela Griffin's home was in a brownstone apartment building at the corner of Detroit Avenue and West 46 St only a ten-minute drive from Angelo's Deli. Before Grace and Sean walked through the entrance, Grace paid attention to the defunct convenient store next door. Timelessly, an ad for Marlboro cigarettes hung in display; the backdrop of the picture was fading to yellow and the label was now more pink than red. Having passed by many times, Grace could not recall having ever seen the store before although it seemed to have been around forever.
Once inside the brownstone and three flights above street level, an out-of-breath Sean hit the doorbell to Pamela Griffin's apartment. Silence answered so instead he knocked on the door. Grace listened, but heard nothing other than the hum of the broken fluorescent hall light overhead. Sean knocked again.
“Mrs. Griffin!” he called throwing a quick glance at Grace. “It's the police!”
Grace heard muffled sounds of someone moving within. Instinctively, she stepped aside, reached inside her coat and unclasped the holster holding a 9 mm Smith & Wesson. Something told her she was being paranoid, but once staring right into the barrel of a Winchester rifle in a similar scenario, she now warily prepared herself. She then gave Sean the go ahead and he knocked again. This time more determined.
“Mrs. Griffin! We need to talk to you!”
Listening carefully, Grace looked down at the dull marble floor. Someone had swept it but left a dark trail of dirt and dust along the wall. Footsteps sounded from the inside and she held her breath as if it was interrupting her concentration. Sean remained in front of the door, clearly in sight. The locks rattled and slowly, slowly the door opened. The safety chain was still on and only a narrow stream of light reached out into the hallway. Still staying out of sight, Grace saw Sean smile in response.
He said, “Mrs. Griffin, I'm Detective Leary from the Cleveland Police.” He paused a beat to see if she recognized him. When she didn't show any signs of recognition, he added. “We spoke in the church last night.”
After a moment of thought, Mrs. Griffin faintly mumbled, “Oh yes.”
Taking the moment in hand, Sean smiled again. “My partner -,” he quickly looked at Grace who stepped forward, “Detective Jacobson and I would like to talk to you about yesterday.”
Mrs. Griffin's voice was still hesitant, yet she said, “Yes, of course.” She slowly closed the door again and while she unhooked the chain, Grace re-snapped the holster.
The apartment was neat, in contrast to the lack of care Grace had seen on the outside. Right inside the door was a waist high dresser with a set of keys, cheap CD player, and a glass jar containing change. A spotless, beige carpet stretched from the entrance in across the living room floor. The living room spanned to the right with large windows opposite the entry; straight ahead from the entry was a door leading into the kitchen. To the left was another door; Grace assumed it was the bedroom and bathroom. A blue couch sat with its back against the living room windows and a dark, wooden table in front of it. To the right was a fireplace and in front of the couch: a bookcase, TV and stereo. Enormous ficus trees – only inches from brushing the ceiling - stood on each end of the couch. The room was very different from the woman Grace had spotted yesterday; then dressed in sweats and a worn shirt, she seemed like someone with no style at all but now -. The room spoke of someone with a great sense of detail.
Wishing to feed her curiosity, Grace casually strolled around while Sean explained the reason for their visit. A picture of a man sat on the mantelpiece; the man, smiling at the photographer, sat on a bank, turquoise water behind him. He looked happy. Next to the picture a wooden box, a small glass dolphin and an opened pack of Virginia Slim cigarettes. Grace took a deep breath, sniffing the air noting no smell nor seeing an ashtray. The cigarettes could belong to someone else, Grace mused, or she might not smoke inside the apartment. Moving on, she eventually stopped in front of the bookcase. Art books, interior design and novels by Claude Simon, Solzhenitsyn and Steinbeck. Unusual for a janitor, she turned away just as Mrs. Griffin sat down on the couch.
She seemed nervous and distant. Grace had seen it before; most people did not like talking to the police, much less wanted to have them in their home. It didn't seem to matter whether they were guilty or not.
Sean pulled out a pen and notepad from his pocket and sat down next to Mrs. Griffin. Grace remained standing, purposely keeping her distance to let Sean take charge.
“Mrs. Griffin,” Sean began sitting on the lip of the couch slightly turned to face her. “We need to hear again what happened last night in the church.”
Looking at the woman, Grace saw her hands nervously twist in her lap. Her hair was brown with an obvious amount of gray; it was long and dirty and it seemed to lack both life and luster. The shirt she wore was too big and her hands vanished inside the cuffs as she moved them. Again, it was a sharp contrast to the neat apartment.
“Can you tell us when you started cleaning the church yesterday?” Sean asked.
Brushing her hands through her hair, Mrs. Griffin responded, “It was around 4 pm.” For the first time, she looked directly at Sean. “I go there three times a week to clean.”
“And every time at four?” Grace broke in.
Mrs. Griffin jerked at Grace's sudden question. “Yes,” she stuttered.
“Pamela,” Sean said and smiled. “Is it okay if I call you Pamela?”
The woman nodded and Grace could have sworn she blushed at the attention. Mentally Grace shook her head. She had seen the phenomenon before: all of a sudden Sean puts up a mask across his face and starts acting as a real gentleman. The women – especially 40 years and older – are, in Grace's opinion, either very dumb or they feel sorry for him. Grace could not think of any other reason why they all of a sudden would be friendly to her partner.
“Pamela -.” Sean smiled. “Did you ever talk with Father Malachi?”
Leaning back against the cushions and crossed her legs, she answered, “Yes. Father Malachi is -.” She fell silent, looked at her hands, as her mind seemed to drift to memory. “Father Malachi was,” she corrected, “a very gentle man. He always came out and talked for a while; asked how I was doing and how my studies were going.”
“Studies?” Grace questioned and casually sat down on a chair across the table.
Again, Pamela faltered when Grace spoke but quickly straightened up. She replied, “I study literature at Cleveland State .”
Grace observed Pamela as she talked on. She explained that her husband had died two years ago, she decided to do what she always had dreamt about: study literature. Literature had always been a passion in her life and when nothing else seemed to matter, she chose to fulfill her dream. Cleaning St Matthew's was something she had done many years for charity but when she began her studies, Father Malachi paid her a small stipend.
“Do you like art as well?” Grace asked when Pamela turned away from her.
Without looking at Grace, Pamela abruptly said, “The art books were my husband's.” Her mouth pursed giving her a snotty expression.
Grace pondered whether Pamela had lived in a different place when her husband was alive – the art-interested husband. The apartment was like an oasis in the scruffy neighborhood and somehow Grace could picture Mrs. Griffin in a totally different part of the city. Perhaps she had spent her summer evenings watching the sun set on the lake while the sightseeing ferry journeyed along the shore. She might have sat - drink in hand -casually gazing out across the water while her husband – the art-interested – told her about his day. Maybe the grill fumed next to them, thick steaks sizzled under the lid; a salad and a bottle of red waiting. They nodded at a neighbor, but did not invite conversation. Pamela would laugh as the artsy husband burned himself on the grill; she lit a cigarette and laughed some more.
The image was far from the broken windowpane below, far from the murky and dirty corridor outside her apartment. Grace made a mental note to see who Pamela's late husband had been; just to see where the woman came from.
Gently, Sean put his hand on Pamela's arm and pulled her back from the mood Grace had stirred up. Grace couldn't help but grin at his smarminess. “Pamela, did you talk to Father Malachi yesterday?”
Again, Pamela began twisting her hands. “After having worked for about an hour,” she said in a faint voice and crossed her arms across her chest, “I passed by the sacristy. I saw the lights under the door and thought I could clean in there.” She looked at Sean. “I mean - I was just outside and it is nice to have someone to talk to.”
Sean patted her arm, asking her to continue.
Pamela smiled shyly. “Well, I knocked on the door and stepped in. I remember, Father Malachi looked up from his desk when I entered and smiled as he usually does.”
Tears began to shine in Pamela's eyes, and Grace wondered about Malachi and his relationship to people. Many priests are popular but there seemed to be something special about Malachi. Although Grace had been asked many times to join Fran's parents at mass, she had always politely declined. Not being a catholic was her official excuse; the truth was she really didn't want to go to church. Grace hadn't been in church since she was christened and had no intention of going unless it was for purely historical reasons. Now, seeing Pamela tear up, she wished she had joined the in-laws at least once. Just so she could have seen Father Malachi in action.
“What was he doing in there?” Sean asked Pamela who now had tears trickling down her cheek.
Wiping away the tears with the back of her hand, Pamela replied, “I'm not sure but it looked like the account ledger. I've seen him with it before.”
Nodding, Pamela said, “Father Malachi and Miss Parker often worked late together.”
Sean flipped the pages in his notebook then asked, “Miss Parker. Is that Mary Parker, the bookkeeper?”
“Yes,” Pamela said. “A sweet lady.”
“Why do you think they do that?” Grace broke in. This time, Pamela seemed to be a little more prepared for Grace's question and she quickly replied.
“I know St Malachi has financial problems. Mostly poor people live around here and the few who have money don't contribute enough.”
Grace smiled knowing St Matthew was a parish with many unemployed members. The last couple of years had been hard on Cleveland and the people who were poor previously were now even poorer. ‘Compassionate conservatism,' Grace thought with a frown. Having worked in the police force for more than fifteen years, she had seen a lot of misery but never as bad as it was right now. It did not surprise her that Father Malachi had worked hard trying to get the money to last; especially since it was up to the church to make sure people didn't starve.
“Do you remember if he was eating or drinking anything?” Sean wondered.
Shaking her head, Pamela said, “I can't recall seeing any food but he usually drinks tea when he works.”
“And he did that yesterday?”
Pamela shrugged. “I can't really say, but I think he did. I've rarely seen him without a mug.”
Grace and Sean looked at one another; Grace thought about the tipped-over tea mug on the desk and the sleeping pills in his blood. She hoped they would find traces of the substance in the mug. At least one mystery would be solved by then – where the sleeping pills came from.
“What happened after you saw Father Malachi,” Grace asked curious to hear the scenario.
With her eyebrows quirked, Pamela paused then she slowly said, “I left him and continued cleaning for about two hour.”
“Did you hear anything strange?”
Shaking her head, Pamela said, “I was listening to Mozart in my headphones.” Faltering, she turned sad and her eyes immediately teared up again. “Mozart's Requiem,” she whispered and looked at Grace. “There is a certain irony in that.”
Indeed, it was, Grace thought just as the sun snuck into the room through the windows above the couch. The rays hit Grace's face and squinting she eyed Pamela and Sean.
“Why did you go back to him?” Grace asked.
Pamela wriggled and sat up. “I just wanted to say good night,” she whispered. Distantly gazing into the dark fireplace, she added, “It was horrible.”
Grace met Sean's glance and without the use of words, they determined the next question.
Turning to Pamela, Sean leaned on his elbows. “Did you kill Father Malachi, Pamela?”
The woman's eyes widened and she abruptly stood up. Both Grace and Sean followed her move but remained seated. “How -,” Pamela began with a high-pitched voice looking from Sean to Grace. “How dare you!” she shouted.
“Mrs. Griffin,” Grace said as she stood up. From the corner of her eye, she saw Sean standing up as well. Grace continued, “We have to ask. You were the last one who saw him alive, so tell us why we shouldn't believe you killed him.”
Pamela frowned and started pacing back and forth in the room. “I have absolutely no reason to kill him,” she argued with her finger pointing at Sean. She stopped pacing and said, “Unless you have any proof of what you're insinuating, I would like you to leave.” She walked to the door, opened it and said, “Now!”
Shrugging, Grace walked towards the door with Sean following behind her. Before leaving, Grace stopped and said, “I'm sure we'll meet again, Mrs. Griffin.”
Out on the street, Sean sighed then said, “That went well.”
An empty Coke can lie on the sidewalk. Grace footed it away. “Not really,” she muttered, “But at least we have a hint of what both Mrs. Griffin and Father Malachi were doing around 5 pm yesterday.”
“If she told the truth,” Sean argued as they reached the car.
Although the sun was shining, the wind still kept pining around every corner. Grace saw dark clouds in the northern horizon; shivering she thought about the man on the picture on Griffin 's mantelpiece – she thought about sunshine and turquoise water.
Grace drove the few minutes to St Matthew's; Sean rested his head against the window and neither of them spoke during the ride. A woman dressed in a red down coat hurried along the sidewalk carrying bulging blue grocery bags; a green hat looking like a bird's nest sat on the top of her head. Grace stopped for the red light. Two kids in abnormally large pants helped one another light cigarettes; one of them wore nothing warmer than a hooded sweatshirt.
At the intersection of Detroit and West 25th, St Matthew's light limestone appeared warm and inviting in the afternoon sun, juxtaposed against the cold wind and what had happened to the man who had been its caretaker for so many years. Grace pulled the car up on the curb in front of the main entrance and turned the engine off.
“What do we do now?” The question was meant for herself as much as for Sean.
Without moving, Sean looked at the church. “Let's get in there for a while,” he suggested and straightened up. “Just to sniff around. Then we can try to get hold of this Mary Parker person.”
Two men came walking from the Flats. Judging by their wobbling motions and wild gestures, they had probably been to one of the many bars down in the valley. It struck Grace she had not had a drink in months - no late nights barhopping, no romantic dinners. Nothing wild. Smiling, she watched the men gesticulating as they loudly talked with one another. Grace realized she had not been really drunk since she graduated from college. Perhaps I should call Mom , she thought. Ask her if she can take Eric for a couple of days.
Without finishing her thought, Grace unbuckled her seat belt and followed Sean who was already half way to the entrance.
It was quiet inside. No one sat in the pews, only a few candles were lit, and Christ, hanging on the crucifix, looked more abandoned than ever. Grace got the unsettling feeling St Matthew never was going to be the same again; the warmth and safety it had meant to so many people for so many years was probably gone.
She walked down the left aisle, brushed her fingers across the pillars and wondered how the church looked when it was crowded. All the candles lit and the chancel choir singing. Grace didn't know much about the Catholic rituals, but in her imagination she felt the holy water against her fingers tips, heard the songs and saw Father Malachi bow to the alter. Peaceful, she thought.
Sean reached the sacristy first but waited for Grace before he ripped down the blockade tape and opened the door.
Just as the door opened, Grace sensed they were not alone. But her motion didn't react as quickly as her mind and she walked right into the sacristy without protecting herself. As soon as Grace entered, a young man sprung up from behind the desk. Grace jumped back in surprise.
“Police! Identify yourself!” she shouted.
The man, slender with trim, ash-blond hair, stood behind the chair grasping onto its back. “Brother William,” he stuttered, his eyes wide open.
A beat of hesitation followed. Yes, Brother William, Grace recalled the man Sean had talked to the night before.
Sean pushed and entered the young man's personal space. “So, what are you doing in here?” Sean's voice was harsh and the friar looked away only to meet Grace's gaze.
“Answer me!” Sean repeated, nudging the young man's shoulder.
“I was just -,” William's voice failed him. “I just wanted to say good bye,” he explained in a voice so soft it could have caressed an angel to sleep. “I just wanted to feel his sprit.” Sean nailed him down with his look and the friar sought for understanding at Grace.
Seeing his eyes, scared like a rabbit's, Grace shook her head. “Back off, Sean,” she said irritated over having this situation. She was not in the mood to be taken by surprise, especially not by a friar.
“How long have you been in here?” she asked as Brother William backed away from Sean.
“Not that long,” he said and crossed his arms over his chest.
Sean frowned. “And how long is that?”
“I don't know.” William's voice reached a higher tone. “I didn't think about the time.”
Sighing, Grace glanced around the crime scene. The roomed seemed bigger today than yesterday; no bright lights, no broad shouldered police officers and no evidence investigators scouring every corner. It was very subtle; like nothing had ever happened in here. From his picture on the wall, the Pope looked at Grace; the benevolent smile behind those thin lips and the eyes, narrow and penetrating. Grace looked back at Brother William. He appeared so fragile next to the robust Sean Leary.
“You do know this is a crime scene,” Grace stated in a gentle tone of voice. William nodded. “Let's talk outside, Padre.”
They left the sacristy. Sean closed the door and put the yellow tape back across the door as much as he could. It would probably fall down eventually and Pamela Griffin would throw it away the next time she cleaned.
Grace sat down on the same dark pew as she had the night before and motioned for Brother William to sit down next to her. Sean sat down in front of them and turned to look directly at the friar. He didn't say anything; merely sat there like a watchdog showing who was in charge. Grace decided it was time to add some female sensibility to the moment.
Letting her arm rest behind William, Grace said, “I saw you here yesterday.” The young man looked at her; Grace noticed his eyes were shiny - tired and sad. “Inspector Leary told me you live in the neighborhood,” she added.
“Yes, just around the corner.”
“And today, you just happened to drop by?” A subtle smile swept across Grace's mouth. With a bit of coaxing she hoped to get a little closer to who the young man was. Dressed in a gray sweat shirt and fairly new jeans, William seemed like any man: early twenties, he could be sports interested, he could question his place in the grown up world just like so many men in his age did; he could be nervous around women. If it weren't for his title, Grace would assume all these things, but now she realized she didn't. She had to pay attention so she didn't fall for the circumstances.
“It was hard not to hear the sirens,” William responded. “And the lights flashed in the window across the street.” He looked at Grace, turned to Sean then back to Grace again. “What ever happened, I thought someone might need my help.”
“That was very thoughtful of you,” Sean commented his voice dripping with sarcasm.
The remark didn't pass unnoticed. William straightened up saying, “It is my job to help people, Detective Leary.”
Sensing Brother William felt intimidated by Sean, Grace broke in hoping she could get the discussion to last a little longer. “Did you know Father Malachi?” she asked.
The friar's shoulders eased and he smiled. For a moment Grace could see why this man was suitable for his mission. He looked exactly like she would picture a devoted man of the church – graceful.
William said, “He was like a father to me; helped me with my questions, my uncertainty and human failings when it comes to understanding God.” William paused and looked up at the altar in front of them. “He taught me God is always with me.”
Grace saw Sean cringe at the young man's devotion, but ignored seeking eye contact with him. She could almost read what was going through his mind and knew he would suggest that William was falsely good.
Grace didn't know the entire story behind Sean, but she knew he grew up in a very Irish Catholic family. In his miserable moments after his divorce, sporadic glimpses of his childhood surfaced. He had 10 brothers and sisters and their life had been a struggle when Sean was young. Sean told Grace about his father working at the steel mill plant, how he never seemed to have a happy day in his life. Always tired, his body broken and never enough money to support the family; his father failed to be the proud man he was taught to be. Although the family went to church every Sunday, learned that God cared for them and would give them a better life, it never happened. Sean's father died only 55 years old, drunk and worn out. The night Sean told Grace this, he said he would never forget the day his father died; his mother went to church, confessing the sins he knew she'd never made. It was as if it was her fault – someone's fault – the old man died. His mother tried hard to find absolution.
Somehow, Grace imagined this caused a complicated relationship between Sean and the church; like a love-hate relationship. On the surface, he stayed cool, acted smartly but what he felt deep inside was different. For Sean, in Grace's opinion, what the church taught and real life was profoundly different.
The practiced answers from Brother William probably caused Sean's patience to shorten. Grace thought he would probably like to take the young man outside and beat the hell out of him, try to save him from a life Sean thought was nothing but a lie.
In an attempt to win Brother William's confidence, Grace put her hand on his arm. She said, “I'm glad you have found your calling in life, Brother.” William smiled. “Our call though,” Grace added, “is to find out what happened to Father Malachi and if you have any idea, I hope you will tell us.”
Still smiling but now sadly, William said, “Father Malachi was a very good man, Detective. He was loved and respected by most.” He looked at Sean. “But even a man of faith can get lost.”
Frowning, Sean questioned, “Are you suggesting Father Malachi was lost?”
William shrugged. “I don't know what he was, but somehow he was not listening to God in this moment. If he had, he wouldn't have taken his life.”
Grace's eyebrows arched. All of a sudden Brother William didn't seem so graceful, but more judgmental. Quietly, she observed how he turned to look at the altar and the crucifix above. His mouth was pursed together and she noticed he tried to wink away the tears that surfaced in the corner of his eye. “What do you mean, Brother William?” Grace whispered. “That he committed suicide?”
His lower lip shivered and without looking at Grace William stuttered, “Yes.”
“How is that?”
“Mrs. Griffin said so. She said he hung himself.”
Sean cleared his throat and stood up. With his hands in his pockets, he then leaned down looking William closely in his eyes. “You sure she said that?”
“Because that is not what she told us,” Grace added.
William closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. He looked cornered and Grace quietly wondered what voices spoke inside his mind. God's? Or just his own?
“Well?” Sean pressured. “What exactly did she say?”
Suddenly, William kneeled on the floor: starring at the altar he crossed himself several times. “Forgive me, Father,” he whispered disregarding Grace and Sean's presence. “Forgive me for doubting.” Tears trickled down his cheeks.
“Okay, buddy,” Sean barked and pulled William by his collar out from the pews and up on his feet. “When we are here you talk to us! We are in charge,” he pointed at the crucifix, “not him”. William tried to back off but Sean held onto him.
Grace quickly jumped into the aisle to keep Sean from giving the young man nightmares for the rest of his life. Stepping in between them, Grace steadily looked at William and asked. “What did Mrs. Griffin say?”
Again, William rubbed his temples. “I don't remember,” he cried. “I don't remember!”
Sean stepped around Grace. “Maybe you killed him!” Sean accused, staring down at William only inches from his face.
The friar stumbled backwards, shaking his head. “No!” he shouted. “No! I could never do anything like that.”
Following William as he backed away, Sean hissed, “Because of God?”
“Sean!” Grace ordered. Sean continued to push the friar and Grace saw the situation ridiculously slipping away. What ever came over her partner, she was not going to let him alienate the people in this investigation.
“Sean!” she barked, grabbing the back of his coat and pulled him back. Quickly, Sean turned around and Grace, steadfast, met his blackened gaze. Neither said anything for many long seconds until Sean finally took a deep breath, turned around and walked toward the exit. Mumbling ungodly phrases, Grace looked after him; his shoulders were stiff and his steps determined. He was not happy and neither was Grace at the moment.
She took a deep breath and another one then turned back to the friar. He looked terrified; it was as if he had seen the devil himself. Grace did not blame him.
“I'm sorry about that,” Grace apologized. “He's having a bad day.” She honestly didn't know what Sean was doing, but a bad day was the best excuse she could think of at this moment.
William relaxed a bit and Grace took a step closer to him. She said, “I want you to stay here in Cleveland until further notice.” He started to object, but Grace held up her hand to silence his protest. “As long as we don't know for sure what happened, everyone is a suspect. It doesn't mean I believe it is you, only that procedure requires us to keep every door open.” She searched in William's eyes for any signs of not understanding or unwillingness to cooperate, but his gaze was steady. “Good,” she said. Reaching inside her coat pocket, she pulled out a card and handed it to William. “If you hear of anything or remember anything that can help us, please call.” He slowly nodded and Grace offered him her hand. His handshake was soft, feminine and far from the macho grip she often got from men. “Take care of yourself, Brother William.”
After a few steps against the entrance, Grace recalled something. She turned and asked, “Do you know if Mary Parker is around?” William was standing where she had left him. He faltered for a split second before he said he had not seen her in a while. Grace nodded. William steadily met her glance, his hands clasped behind his back. Grace flashed a smile. “Okay.”
The smile on her face stayed till she saw Sean leaning against the car. With his arms crossed over his chest he kicked at something invisible on the ground. He didn't look at her as she got closer nor did he make any attempt to apologize.
Grace felt her mood hit bottom. “Damn it!” she muttered.
Continue to Part 3