ON THE ALBINO FARM – CHAPTER 39

            I don’t have too much more to say. 

I would like to get back to my martini.  Ed’s giving me free booze today.  You remember Ed, my gay cellmate from the Indian City prison who opened the very Bohemian bar called “David’s.”  I don’t know why he’s pouring on the house, exactly.  I hope it’s not because of what I did.  That certainly deserves no reward.

            I won’t bore you with another one of my omnipotent narrations concerning events at Infant of Prague Church after the shootings.  Police came and did what police do.  A meat wagon came for the bodies.  Cleaning crews spent the rest of that week re-sanitizing the sanctuary.  The Archbishop scheduled a new consecration so that the evil could be expunged.  All that happened, I’m sure.  I didn’t see it.  I didn’t care.

            Liz Nice, of course, covered the “…house of worship turned into a house of horror…”  She also announced a week later the renaming of the new “Catholic Appeal Building” as “The Leo Shuldik Building.”  Poor people everywhere rejoiced.  “The Shuldik” would save them — “The Guilty One.”   Few would ever suspect the irony.

            Vandy was cleared in the shooting of James Redlands.  He got the finding from the investigative board that said “Justifiable Homicide”  the same day his retirement went through.  Vandy had to shoot Redlands.  Nobody blamed him him for it – except himself.  Vandy’s a mean S.O.B., but he doesn’t like killing.  He wouldn’t be my friend if he did.

I do know that Vandy was, maybe still is, very angry at me.  He suspected what I had done right under his nose and what I’d put him in position to do.  I think, in the end, he understood why.  But we never talk about it.  That’s for the best.

            Funny, almost.  I like to think of myself as a guy who can always see the angles — an unconventional thinker.  But I’d picked up a cliché and run with it – damned near straight into disaster.  I’d figured it was the traditional pedophile priest story, when all the time it was the traditional corrupt rich guy saga instead.  I wonder if Shuldik felt funny covering up the crimes of a layman.  It must have been a refreshing twist of fate.

            Kennsington was a creature of favor.  He would fund all of the Church’s work — so long as the family name showed up on a plaque.  He would make sure all the legal and legislative needs of the Diocese were taken care of.   His needs would be taken care of as well.  A symbiotic relationship that gave the Church money and the DA power.  And the Monsignor would be grateful for the money and for the ginger-scented Tabarone cologne – impossible to find in Tirawa, but oh so available in London.   It was a simple matter of the political balance sheet — a matter of pragmatic calculation. 

            I’m not sure that Shuldik knew what Kensington did to Doug Hunter back in his Assumption days.  I can’t even be sure when the Monsignor found out about Torey and the other boys.  The timing isn’t important.  What I know is that when faced with the disgrace and the loss of his biggest cash cow, he came to Kensington’s rescue.

            Kensington had used Doug Hunter for years.  The pattern had been established at the seminary when the college man would visit the high school dorm.  The rapist and his slave.  Doug was a hollow man, and he became Kensington’s servant, like so many before and after.  Terri falling in love with Doug was an accident; finding the tapes was another.   When she discovered that the drugs she thought she was supplying to Kensington were being used on little boys, she was horrified.  Terri had a plan – a great idea.  Terri was going to pull a “Tools.”

She’d manipulate the Monsignor.  She’d blackmail him the way Kensington had blackmailed her.  Terri would lay out the evidence – the tapes and the drugs.  When the holy man from the Chancellery realized the peril the Church was in, he’d pay them off and let them go.  She’d use Mikey as her muscle.  Terri expected the Monsignor would stop Kensington’s abuse of little boys.  Mikey bailed out on her, and when Shuldik showed up with Kensington, it was all over.  I will always be grateful that she saved Torey before she died.  The poor girl.  She had always been so innocent — even when she was pulling tricks.  You know how that works.  That’s why I loved her.

            The mixed up colors on the set at Pies house – that lead to a lot of trouble.  Torey solved that without knowing it.  Two hundred screaming monitors at Best Buy had already given me a quick, but clear enough glimpse and the fear that I’d blown it all — a momentary flash of two hundred purple stones.  I really had to scramble then.  Adjusting the cop’s TV took all of five minutes.  I brought along the dubbed tape I’d hidden under Milton’s poems to make sure the red was a very ruby-red indeed.

I didn’t want Redlands shooting Kensington.  “Slow Joe” was all mine.   Besides there was one other reason I needed Redlands in that church with that mad look in his eyes, and it’s the most important reason of all – the real reason I did everything I did.

You’re thinking it was vengeance.  Kensington had raped my son.  Torey’s fragile soul had been ripped for his pleasure.  And there were other boys – other souls.  Shuldik had been his accomplice, his enabler, and ulimately a murderer.  Shuldik killed Terri.  He would have killed Torey if the poor girl hadn’t stepped between them. They had dumped Terri’s dead body under a lilac bush, leaving her to be discovered by a drunken teenager while he took a piss.  Yes, there were plenty of reasons  to want vengeance.  But I couldn’t afford that motivation.

Revenge blinds a man.  I needed all my wits.  You have to realize that the danger and the evil was not something that existed in the past.  It was not a cold memory.  Kensington was a man who would do anything to protect himself.  Shuldik would take whatever steps he had to in order to keep the Church’s secrets.  And Redlands – Redlands would do what he was told – so long as he was on the side of the Almighty.

I was in danger.  That peril I might have been willing to live with.  Val was a target.  God help me, I didn’t want that.  But if I had to choose between her life and Torey’s – I don’t want to think about that.  Torey was my son  There could be no waiting.  There could be no running away.  Torey’s life was in the balance.  Kensington, Shuldik, and Redlands had to die.

Redlands had to be in the church.  He had to kill the Monsignor, and whether he ever forgives me or not, Vandy had to be there to put down the faithful hound.

Everything I did, I did to protect Torey.

I gave my son two notes that Sunday morning in front of Infant of Prague.  One was for Shuldik.  Torey put it right under the host so that when the Monsignor started to pick it up during the consecration he could see it.  In simple block letters it said: “He is coming for you!”  That was all it said.  It was just one more banderilla stuck in the bull’s back — one more bit of tension.  I had to make sure Shuldik was off-balance.  I wanted him overcome by the moment.  I wanted him frozen when Redlands stepped up to the communion rail.

Which brings me to the second note I gave Torey on Sunday outside the church.  It wasn’t anything eloquent, or emotional, and it wasn’t very long: 

“Torey,  Thanks for adjusting Val’s old TV.  The picture was clearer and the right colors made all the difference.  The ring wasn’t red; it was purple.  I know that Joe Kensington is the guy who abused you.  Shuldik was the cover-up man, and he killed Terri.  None of it was your fault.  I want you to know that I have already killed Joe Kensington.  I will protect you from Shuldik.  Take my hand when I tell you.  – Dad”

I wasn’t lying – legally speaking.  I had already killed Kensington — the night before. There was “Slow Joe” next to a panic attack, and there I was with ten ounces of booze suitably dosed.  He might not have been dead when I handed Torey the note, but I’d already killed him.  It was true.

Now to people who have never been raped, it may be impossible to understand  how such a few sentences could change things for Torey.  Anyone who’s been put through that hell understands.  Any explanation to the uninitiated would be a waste of time.  But, to put it simply, Torey just didn’t feel alone anymore when he realized that I knew the real secret.  As soon as he realized that I knew the truth, too, and that I had already killed to protect him, he could trust me.  He could finally feel safe.  Dad knew.  My Dad’s bigger than your Dad.  Feeling safe is everything to a kid who’s been raped, or beaten, or starved, or any number of evils that the world can turn on its children.

            Yes, I’m a smart ass.  I make everything a joke.  Thalia, the muse of comedy, is my mask.  That’s where I hid.  It was getting harder to laugh, so I moved from Thalia to thallium.  That’s almost funny, isn’t it?  I told you, I had read that Agatha Christie book.

            Sometimes murders are exotic things like Agatha would enjoy — Brown Hugulu Spider venom,  magnetic plastic explosive booby trap on the electric toothbrush, neutron pulse to the unwary victim’s brain from the snack room microwave, occasionally the fatal poke with an umbrella on a London bridge, a Manchurian Candidate cop in a church, ten grams of thallium in a gin and tonic – all wonderfully complex, and all the exception to the rule.  Ask any killer, murder is always best when it’s face-to-face. 

I had been face-to-face with the Monsignor that day in the church.  I had been face to face with Kensington as he downed the fatal cocktail.  It was murder, pure and simple.  I’m not a coward. 

They did an autopsy on Kensington, of course.  They must have discovered the true cause of death.  But there was never any screaming headline.  Mattie told me later that Kensington’s wife had found some more of his video collection when she cleaned out the study.  No one made a threat.  No one phoned or sent an extortion note. 

Mrs. Kensington made it known that he would be buried in a big tomb, everything would be buried.  She placed a huge marble slab over his grave to discourage exhumation.  The local news called it a heart attack.  The newspaper played it very low key.  “Natural causes” was the phrase used in all the page-six stories that followed.  I won’t officially contradict our citiy’s fine journalists.

            Mikey is still in prison.  He was sentenced to thirty years to life for Terri’s murder.  There was really no way to save him.  I didn’t want Torey testifying at some silly appeal, and the lawyers didn’t want me on the stand.  I saw no reason for such a futile gesture. 

They’ve appealed anyway, of course, but there’s really very little hope of winning, and just a drunk lawyer’s hope of the bill being paid.  After all, the State has the DNA on Terri’s blouse.  The vaginal swab results that would have implicated Father Doug Hunter got lost somehow.  There was a rumor that Shuldik’s replacement had something to do with that.  Another tough break for my brother. 

Besides the evidence, the poor legal representation, and his bad fashion sense in court, the fact remained that Mikey had pled guilty.  That’s hard to take back in the real world.  Even Barry Schect from OJ’s dream team couldn’t help Mr. Hutchence now.

            Besides, in a way, it’s justice.  I saw the wreck that was Lonnie hanging from those branches.  I saw what Mikey’s meth had done to him with a little help from “Jesus.”  I had watched the junk almost do the same to Terri.  How many others were there?  And I’ve never forgotten where the drugs Kensington used on my son came from.  Maybe that was my one bit of vengeance, pure and simple.  Thirty years seemed about right to me.  Sometimes, more times than you might think, other guys end up like Mikey — in the right place for the wrong crime.

            I’m worried about Torey.  He’s been hurt pretty bad.  Whether or not I could have had done more to keep the kid away from the crime scene — I’ll let the therapists argue about that.  I only know that I wish the guy who raped me had died at my feet.  I think it might have made a difference, I don’t know.  I can never know that.  I didn’t want Torey around when Shuldik died, but he was.  And looking back, it seems right to me now.  

“Nothing happens by accident.”  I heard that at an AA meeting once.  I was drunk at the time, so I didn’t argue, but at the time I thought it was a load of pig shit.  Now, I’m not so sure.

            I’ve been paying for Torey to see this one lady.  She seems nice, and she looks a little like Valerie, and she has some diplomas, so I trust her.  I have to steal quite a bit to pay her every month, but I manage. 

I did well on that little side deal at Dr. Robinson’s house — Mattie’s ex-husband.  She even gave me the keys so it hardly seemed fair.  And just for grins I hit the Chancellor’s apartment before they could clear it out.  He had some very expensive jewelry besides the ruby they buried with him.  I’ve never felt better about a burglary in my whole Hall of Fame career.

            As for being a dad, I see Torey twice a week.  I don’t try to be more than I am.  Sometimes we play video games.  One time we went fishing; I impaled my thumb.  I never drink around him.  I’m as clean as I can be on those days. 

            I’m going to go back to the bar now and sit with my friends.  My old Indian City cellmate, Ed, runs a nice joint.  Sally loves this place; it’s a gay bar after all.  Vandy’s a little uncomfortable, but he’s down twenty-five bucks losing at darts to one of the cute waiters, so he’s not leaving for awhile.  We’ve been spending almost every night at David’s lately. 

            That’s about it.  I told you the whole story as I saw it.  Now it’s yours.  I don’t want to carry it around anymore.  My friends and I never talk about any of this.  But don’t fool yourself, me telling you all this doesn’t mean I want to start up anything like a relationship – friendly or otherwise.  You just looked like somebody I used to know a long time ago  Maybe I just wanted to go to confession and you’re the closest thing to a priest I care to go near right now.  Hey, you’d look good in black I’ll bet.  Besides, I’ve always trusted whores.

That’s all the truth I’ve got.  Take it.  Roll it around in your head.  Take your time, feel the heft of it.  You decide what you think of this whole thing.  After you’ve made up your mind you can leave David’s, or you can come up and drink with us for awhile.  It’s up to you.

            I know, it’s unusual for Valerie to accompany me when I imbibe. She wants to monitor my drinking; I think that’s why she’s here.  I almost don’t mind having her around.  She’s very interesting and very good-looking. 

I keep the Milton poems on her shelf, next to her books.  I don’t sleep on her couch as much as I used to.  I spend most nights in the inner sanctum, unless I get too drunk, or say something stupid, or smell funny, or pick the wrong night, or belch in front of her, or steal something when we shop together at Home Depot, or do any of the countless wrong things I am capable of.

            Sometimes I don’t know what I might be capable of, and it scares me.  I haven’t slept that well, lately.  Once I had a dream about the time Val told me she loved me.  When I woke up next to her, I stayed awake all the rest of the night hoping she would say it out loud.  She hasn’t told me again since that night on the Albino Farm.

            So that’s about all I have to tell you, except to risk boring you one more time with a quote from John Milton.  I knew another whore who liked poetry, so maybe you’ll like it.  It was in that leather-bound and gold gilt book I took from St. Philomena’s rectory the night Doug Hunter died.  It helps me for some reason to hear it.

                                                “Where can I run, where can I hide?

                                                The sight of that so horrid spectacle

                                                Which I saw so short a time ago

                                                And see so freshly even now,

                                                Pursues me towards hell.

                                                But providence or instinct of nature,

                                                Or my reason, though disturbed

                                                And scarce consulted, seems

                                                To have guided me to safety.

                                                I know not how.”

            If you look it up, you’ll find I modernized the language a little.  Milton’s dead, what’s he going to do about it?  They are still his ideas.  I just updated it slightly.  I haven’t sold that book yet.  Doug’s name is on the inside cover.  But I think I’m keeping it as an investment.  What do you expect? 

            I’m a really smart guy.

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