“Fucking savages in this town”, Father Daniel murmured under his breath, as he stared at the church walls. The once beautiful mural depicting Jesus baptized in the Jordan river had now been tarnished by the red paint smeared across it. Shards of broken glass lay by a nearby window where the vandals entered the church. Father Daniel stared at the words written on the wall. “Dirty dirty dirty Danny.” Now Dirty Daniel he was no more, not for some time anyway. This was a life that Daniel had long forgot and tried to never remember, but the words stood on the wall, looking at him. Taunting him. Reminding him of the life he left behind.
“What do you make of it Daniel?” Father Joseph Romano said. The old man spoke in a raspy voice, one of a lifetime of cigarette smoke. His white hair was combed back tight, almost as it were a thin sheet wrapped around his head. His black eyes peered at the wall in disgust.
“It will never quit will it?” Daniel asked.
“Seems like this time it’s a message to you” Father Romano said.
“Maybe the wrong message.” Daniel replied.
The two men stared at the wall for a moment, Jesus looked sad, the once inspirational image had now been tainted. John the Baptist looked pissed and the dove looked like an angry vulture looking to pick flesh from the dead.
Daniel marched to the back of the search, feet stomping in a rhythmic beat, making a beeline to the scaffolding where the painters had been painting the day prior. Daniel grabbed a large bucket of primer, whisked it off the shelf, and then returned to the mural. He didn’t mind the train of white that followed him across the marble floor. Daniel plunged his hand into the bucket and smeared white paint over the writing. The sad eyes of Jesus disappeared behind a sea of white, flowing down into the river until the dirty, dirty reminder of who Daniel was vanished.
Both hands were working now, as he erased the work he had spent the last six months on. He smeared and pushed with double fists, making large circles until all was white again. Father Joseph reached out and touched his shoulder, but Daniel jerked him of with a sharp shrug.
“Daniel!” Father Romano screamed. His raspy tone became deep and authoritative.
“They can’t keep doing this! We have rights.” Daniel screamed.
“Rights we do have, but you’ve been in this town long enough to how this works.” Romano said. “The angry man is the unruly man Daniel. This you know. I will talk to her.”
“Talk to her, and then what? This isn’t right Joseph, and you know it.” Daniel said.
“It isn’t right Daniel, but God will work things out in his own time. Give to the Lord what is the Lords and give to Caesar what is Casar’s.” Father Romano said, his hand reached out for Daniel’s shoulder once more, but Daniel threw up two sopping hand, running with wet paint, slashing a trail of white against Father Romano’s garbs.
“She’s not Caesar, Joseph.”
“For our purposes, she is Daniel.” Joseph said with a sad smile. “Clean yourself up Daniel, then we can talk to her together if you’d like.”
Daniel sat in the back of the rectory on a plush red couch. He cleaned up from earlier, but still had traces paint between his fingers and nails. The fire brewing in him had still been raging, but as he reflected on the day, it calmed him. Daniel had always had a temper, a mean one, but over the years it had been tapered. But some things sent him running into overdrive, a race car in the red, a four alarm fire on Devil’s Night, and nothing would calm him down except for the thought of his wife and son who had died many years before. Before when he led a much different life than one of the cloth.
Donna was her name, a smoldering beauty, the kind of woman that you want to make babies with over and over again, but with their short time together, they only made one, little Jonathan, who died at the age of two, by a knife that was much longer than he was at the time. But that was long ago, and Daniel didn’t like thinking of that, he wanted to remember the happy times with them, the few they had as a family. But for every wrong Daniel had in his life, he tried to make three rights for them, since that bloody night, when he arrived home to carnage and macabre. Daniel never wanted to see their bodies, he didn’t have to. He had seen dead bodies before, but never a child’s.
“Please don’t get up Daniel, I wouldn’t want to bother your slumber.” A shrill voice said. It was Dottie Van Esley, the town Caesar, eccentric socialite, and the richest woman in town. The hat she wore took up half the room and the the white vail covered her wretched, aging face. She let a haughty laugh, snapped her fingers, and quickly had a cigarette lit and burning between her lips, courtesy of one of the hulking men that sandwiched beside her.
Dottie wore a flashy white dress, fit to be the center of the Governor’s Ball, lacy bottom, frills around the edges. The two suited men had sqauare jaws and flat heads with straight black hair. Both had cauliflower ears, likely from a lifetime of scrapping with people who messed with Dottie. But no one messed with Dottie, not anymore.
Father Romano entered the rectory, quickly making his way to greet Dottie and her guests.
“Dottie, thank you for coming so quickly. Have you seen the mural?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen what’s left of it. Is that your handy work out there Danny?” Dottie asked.
“Father Daniel. Please a little respect.” Daniel said. His voice trembled ever so slightly.
“Young man, you look barely old enough to be anyone’s father. Danny.” Dottie quipped, the two goons at her side took two steps toward Daniel. He squirmed into the couch, fists balled, pushing deep into the sides of the couch.
“Ms. Van Esley, Daniel is not the problem here. It’s well I’m not sure who it is, but I have a few ideas.” Father Romano said.
“I’m sure you do have ideas. But what are we going to do with all those bright ideas bouncing around in that tiny, little head Joseph?” Dottie said, pointing her smoking hand at him. Ashes fell to the rectory floor. “When you came to the town a year ago, I told your guy in the funny little hat.”
“Bishop Tobin.” Father Romano said.
“Funny hat guy, that this was a Christian town, with Christian values, but most of the townsfolk wouldn’t take kindly to a Catholic Church springing up here.”
“But we have a parish here. We have members who have to drive an hour or more to Clarenceville to worship!” Father Romano said.
“And it’s those same people that the others don’t have a liking for. I understand your pain, believe me, but you don’t want to agree to my terms, it’s not much I can do for you Joey.” Dottie said, smashing her cigarette on the floor.
“It’s out of my hands. The land was for sale, the church bought it, I’m just the caretaker, Daniel and I. We’re set to open in two weeks, but we won’t be able to if these vandals can’t be stopped.”
“It can be stopped, for the price I asked Mr. Pointy hat for.” Dottie said.
“It can’t be done. It’s out of my hands, can’t you see your way to help us out?” Father Romano pleaded, his hands were reaching out towards Dottie. This poor old man, desperate and at the mercy of this monster, practically fell to the floor groveling.
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