Read John Jordan05 - Blood Sacrifice Online

Authors: Michael Lister

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Hard-Boiled, #Religious

John Jordan05 - Blood Sacrifice (6 page)

BOOK: John Jordan05 - Blood Sacrifice
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Chapter Twelve
 

“Don’t say a word,” Ralph Reid said to Father Thomas.

Father Thomas had just regained consciousness a moment before and was about to respond to Steve Taylor’s first question when Reid intervened.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Steve said.

The crime scene techs from FDLE taking measurements and collecting evidence all around us stopped momentarily to listen. There were six of them, wearing white jumpsuits, latex gloves, and vinyl slip-on booties over their shoes with the identifying “Police” pattern in the print. They worked quickly and quietly, seemingly oblivious to us until now.

“As counsel, I’m advising him not to talk to you yet,” Reid said.

“You’re an attorney?”

“Among other things.”

“I don’t need an attorney,” Father Thomas mumbled.

He was lying on a stretcher being examined by the same female EMT I had seen on the pier the previous morning. We were all standing around him. Across the clearing Tammy’s body, still facedown on the damp ground, had been covered with a white sheet.

“Oh, yes you do,” Reid said. “They think you killed Tammy.”

Father Thomas’s eyes widened. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “I—”

“Need to talk with me before you talk with them. Do you want me to represent you or not?”

Father Thomas looked up at Sister Abigail, his eyes searching hers for reassurance.

“Let him, Tom,” she said.

“Is that the way you want it?” Steve asked. “‘Cause I can’t help you if you lawyer up—and doing it so quickly only makes you look guilty.”

“See what I mean?” Reid said. “That’s the mentality you’re up against.”

The night air was cold and moist, clumps of fog clinging to the bare branches above us. Beyond the clearing the woods were loud, as if to remind us we were trespassing into a living, largely unseen world we no longer belonged to.

“He works for Tammy’s family’s company,” Steve said.

“And
he’s
part of the family,” Reid said, jerking his head toward Steve, “but for now, we’re the only players in this little drama. You can get another attorney later if you want to, but at least let me help you through these crucial first hours.”

Father Thomas nodded. “Okay,” he said, “but I didn’t kill her.”

“Then just tell us what happened,” Steve said.

Father Thomas opened his mouth to speak, but Reid said, “Later. At the station. Let him get checked out at the medical center and give me a chance to confer with him, then we’ll cooperate fully.”

Father Thomas closed his mouth and nodded his head.

Steve let out a frustrated sigh and simply said, “Okay.”

FDLE had set up several large halogen lights, and the entire clearing was lit up like a rescue operation, which made the woods beyond seem even darker, and cast eerie, elongated shadows onto the now trampled ground.

“And I’d like Chaplain Jordan there,” Sister Abigail said.


What
?” Steve and I both asked in surprise.

“You’re the one who asked for his help,” she said to Steve. “I’m just saying since he’s been involved from the start and since the victim is your cousin, let him continue at least through your initial interview with Tom.”

I looked at her, my face a question.

“You can handle that, can’t you?” she asked.

“Of course, but I thought you—”

“I asked for his help because there was no one else,” Steve said. “Now I have all the help I need.”

“You don’t question his ability to be objective, do you Steve?” she asked, leveling her gaze onto him.

“Any professional can be objective,” he said, “but he’s no longer a professional.”

“Sure he is, and you know it.”

“But—”

“To avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” she said. “Why are you so resistant to just having him present? I would think you’d want to have every possible—”

“Okay, okay, he can observe, but that’s all.”

While the EMTs finished examining Father Thomas and FDLE finished processing the scene, Sister Abigail, Ralph Reid, and I stepped away from the others.

“I thought you wanted me to avoid things like this for a while?”

“Mitigating circumstances,” she said.

“There always are,” I said. “That’s sort of the point.”

Her eyes narrowed and her expression hardened. “Can you handle it or not?” she said, a new edge accompanying her curt voice.

“I’m just curious about why you changed your mind?”

“There’s no way he killed her,” she said, “and I was afraid they would trick him into saying he did. Not even consider that someone else could’ve done it.”

“You really an attorney?” I asked Reid.

He nodded. “Haven’t practiced in a while, but I’m the real deal.”

“How’d you even know what had happened or where to find us?” I asked.

“Kathryn told me,” he said.

“Where
is
Kathryn?” I asked.

He shrugged. “I don’t know. She just told me to get out here and take care of Father Thomas.”

“She’s probably seen enough for one night,” Sister said.

“Speaking of taking care of Father Thomas,” I said to Sister, “as a defense attorney, that’s his job, but I’m not a defense attorney and I won’t even be acting as one.”

“What’re you saying?”

“I’ll be looking at the evidence, following it wherever it leads.”

“Which is what I want you to do.”

“Even if it points to Father Thomas?”

“Yes, but it won’t.”

“Well,” I said, as the EMTs began to roll Father Thomas out of the clearing and down the path, “we’re about to find out.”

Chapter Thirteen
 

Cuffed so he couldn’t alter evidence, Father Thomas had been briefly examined at the Bridgeport Medical Center then released back into police custody. He was now being led down the florescent-lit corridor of the police station to the small interview room in the back. When he stepped inside the room, two FDLE techs were waiting for him.

Steve, Ralph, and I, who had been following behind him, stopped at the doorway and waited.

With practiced formality, Steve presented Father Thomas with a document and said, “This is a search warrant.”

“For what?” Father Thomas asked.

“You,” Steve said. “These two lab techs from FDLE are going to gather any physical evidence you have on you.”

Father Thomas looked at Ralph Reid, who nodded.

“I’d like to be present,” Reid said to Steve.

“Sure,” he said. “John and I’ll wait out here.”

Reid joined the others in the small room and Steve closed the door.

“Shouldn’t take too long,” he said to me. “Want some coffee?”

I nodded.

I followed him back up to the small squad room and the coffee maker just outside his office door.

“It’s bad,” he said, handing me a large paper cup full of the steaming black liquid, “but it’s hot and strong.”

He waved to the tired-looking middle-aged dispatcher through the glass of her communications room and we walked back down the flatly lit hallway toward the interview room.

“You’re not gonna do anything in there to hinder me or help him, are you?” he asked.

I shook my head. “Just observe.”

A flash of light filled the room and shone at the bottom of the door, and I knew the techs were taking pictures of Father Thomas.

“I like the old guy,” he said. “I’ll give him a fair shake, but we can’t forget what he did.”

“If he did it.”

“You seriously believe it’s even possible he didn’t?”

“If you don’t you shouldn’t be heading the investigation.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, keep an open mind and all that, but it’s just the two of us talking here.”

“I’m not saying it because it sounds right.”

“Okay,” he said, “but just from what we know, what we’ve seen, statistically—”

“It’s likely he did it,” I said.

“All I’m saying.”

“Is it?”

He started to say something else, but hesitated.

Without seeing or hearing anything from inside the small room, I knew what was happening. The techs were scraping flecks of blood and tissue from beneath Father Thomas’s nails, snipping a sample of his hair, and combing his pubic region.

“Are you really going to pursue other possibilities?” I asked.

“No,” he said with a smile, “but only because I know
you
will.”

“I’m out of it after tonight,” I said.

He laughed. “Even if I charge him and you think he’s innocent?”

“Innocent people’re convicted all the time.”

“Not while John Jordan’s around,” he said, his voice taking on a bitter edge that hadn’t been there before.

The door to the interview room opened and the two techs came out. They were carrying various-sized plastic and paper evidence bags.

“He’s all yours.”

They walked away and we walked inside.

The small room was simple and, to my surprise, not cluttered. Rather than the outdated sterile, austere interrogation room, it was a warm and comfortable interview room. Cushioned chairs surrounded a wooden table, and pastel pictures of beach scenes hung on the walls.

Everything about Steve and his department impressed me.

“Father Thomas,” Steve said, his voice kind and respectful, “would you like a cup of coffee?”

He shook his head.

Steve and I were on one side of the table, Ralph Reid and Father Thomas on the other. His clothes long since placed in plastic evidence bags and taken to be processed, Father Thomas was wearing a pale blue county uniform that transformed his appearance so completely as to make him look like an old-time recidivist.

“I know you’ve been through a lot tonight so I’ll try to make this as brief as possible.”

Joining the fine network of cuts and scratches webbing Father’s face, blue and purplish bruises were slowly developing on his right cheek and around his throat.

“Thank you.”

“Do you mind if I record this? My handwriting is atrocious.”

Father Thomas looked at Reid, who shook his head.

“Is that a ‘no’ or a ‘no we don’t mind’?” Steve asked.

“You may record the interrogation,” Reid said, his tone flat and impatient.

Steve pulled a small recorder out of his pocket and placed it in the center of the table. Clicking it on, he rattled off the date, time, and who was in the room.

“Father Thomas,” Steve began, “we think we know what happened. The physical evidence and crime scenes tell a certain story, and, unlike people, their testimony is objective and accurate.”

“Subject to interpretation, of course,” Reid added.

Ignoring him, Steve continued. “What physical evidence can’t do is tell us how things felt, why things happened. It can’t really explain these things. And scientific facts can be cold and make things seem much more… ah… cold-blooded than they really were.”

Steve paused for a moment, but Father Thomas didn’t say anything.

“I’ve been doing this long enough to know that there’s always a context—you know, circumstances—that gives greater insight than the proof provided by cold, hard facts. So we’re here as friends to let you explain to us not so much what happened, but
why
.”

“We’re not friends,” Reid said.

“Father Thomas and I are,” Steve said, never taking his eyes off Father Thomas.

“Not in this room.”

“Tammy can’t tell us what happened,” Steve said. “She can’t explain to us why things turned out the way they did. Only you can. You get the final word. You can explain your side of it and no one can contradict you.”

When Steve stopped talking, we all waited, but Father Thomas didn’t say anything.

“Go ahead,” Steve said, “tell us why you did what you did.”

“Because she asked me to,” Father Thomas said, his voice small, dry, weak.

“She asked you to?”

“You know how she was.”

“Yes, I do,” Steve said, his voice full of enthusiastic empathy. “She was out of control. A real mess.”

“Far more miserable than most people knew. She wanted to change.”

“But she couldn’t, could she?”

“Exactly,” Father said.

“So she asked you to tie her up and—”

“Actually, she did that herself. I went to my office to get my things and by the time I arrived, she had undressed and strapped herself to the bed—well, all but one hand.”

“Father, I know this is difficult, but I need you to tell me exactly what she asked you to do to her.”

Father Thomas looked at him in impatient disbelief, as if Steve had not been listening. “What I’ve been talking about,” he said. “She asked me to perform an exorcism on her.”

“What?” Steve asked in shock.

“She asked me to drive out the demon inside her.”

“So what went wrong?”

“Nothing went wrong,” Father Thomas said. “He simply refused to go.”

“So you killed her?”

“Of course not,” Father Thomas said. “I didn’t kill her. He did.”

“Who’s he?”

“The demon.”

Chapter Fourteen
 

“You’re saying you didn’t kill her and a demon did?” Steve said.

Father Thomas nodded, his tired face somber and sincere.

“Father, come on. You can’t expect me to believe that. You’re a few centuries late for that defense to work.”

Father looked offended. “It’s not a defense. It’s what happened.”

Steve turned to Reid. “You gonna let him hang himself with this?”

Reid said, “Father, tell them the whole story from the beginning like you did me.”

He took a deep breath, sighed heavily, then hesitated a moment. “I still can’t believe she’s dead.”

He paused again, and in the intervening silence I had to keep reminding myself not to ask any questions of my own.

“Tammy was tormented. Out of control. Doing things she not only didn’t want to do, but found revolting—and that’s the things she even remembered. More and more she was losing time. Waking up with no memory of what she’d done. Later, when people would describe her actions, she was sure they were talking about someone else.”

“And this made you think she was possessed?”

He shook his head and gave Steve a look of frustration. “Made
her
believe it. She heard I was an exorcist and began coming to see me. At first, I refused to even talk to her, but she persisted and eventually convinced me—”

“That she was possessed?”

“That she was sincere,” he said impatiently, “that she really was asking for help.”

Reid patted him on the back, and I could tell he was trying to get him to relax and be more tolerant of Steve’s questions.

“So at this point you didn’t believe she had a demon?” Steve asked.

“Of course not, but I could tell
she
did, that she genuinely wanted and needed help.”

“So you began to help her?”

“I began to meet with her on a semi-regular basis, and the more we talked, the more I realized just how deeply disturbed she really was. Her promiscuity and drug use had opened her up to all sorts of…”

“Demons?” Steve asked, his flat tone unable to completely mask its underlying ridicule.

“As it turns out, yes,” Father Thomas said, “but at the time I wasn’t sure. I thought it could be psychological trauma. Often the two go hand in hand.”

“What?”

“Possession and mental illness. I just wasn’t prepared. Not like I should’ve been. God forgive me for my arrogance and blindness.”

“When did you change your mind about what her real problem was?”

“I didn’t,” he said. “At least not until tonight. That’s what I’m saying. I was unprepared for what I faced tonight because I thought she was…”

“Faking?” Steve offered.

“Well, to be more precise, that it was in her mind. I honestly felt that Sister Abigail could do her more good than I, but I didn’t think she would even be open to that kind of counseling until we went through the ritual.”

“Of exorcism?”

He nodded. “The thing about possession is—and you can ask any exorcist about this—most manifestations of the demonic don’t occur until the ritual is performed. If there’s any question, it’s best to go ahead and perform the ritual. No one without a demon was ever hurt by an exorcism.”

“And tell me, Father, is that usually done by strapping the person naked to a bed?”

Father Thomas let out a frustrated sigh and Reid shook his head, his eyes narrowing angrily as he glared at Steve.

“I told you,” he said, “
she
did that. I had mentioned to her that I usually used restraints because you never knew what the demons might make a person do, so naturally she wanted to use them, but she’s the one who put them on the bed, undressed, and strapped herself in. She said she didn’t want to hide anything from me or God and that she wanted to be physically uncomfortable, but I saw it as yet another sign that she was suffering from mental illness, if not demon possession.”

I wanted to ask how he discerned between the two, but refrained. Sister Abigail would appreciate my restraint.

“I thought being naked was the state Tammy was most comfortable in?” Steve asked.

“Because of the cold,” Father Thomas said, shaking his head. “Are you trying to be––”

“So you went in that cabin last night not believing you were dealing with a demon?”

“Right.”

“So you can understand why we’re having such a difficult time with it,” Steve said.

“Sure,” he said. “But I’m telling you that’s what it was. I’ll swear to it in court. I’ll take a lie detector test. I’m telling the truth.”

“You’ve done exorcisms before?”

“Lots of them.”

“Anything like this ever happen?”

“I’ve had people hurt themselves,” he said. “Manifestations of the demons torturing their souls showing up on their bodies, but never to this degree. I’ve never seen them kill.”

“Have you ever even heard of it happening?” Steve asked. “In recorded history?”

“Most exorcisms aren’t recorded. They embarrass the church.”

“Is that a no?”

“It’s a ‘not that I’m aware of.’”

“So what we’re dealing with is unprecedented?”

“In my experience,” he said. “Yes.”

“And that doesn’t worry you?”

“Worry me?”

“Yeah, you know, risking your life on something no jury will have a frame of reference for?”

“I have evidence. Well, if not of her actual death, at least of how bad it was torturing her.”

“What evidence?” Steve asked.

“I videotaped the whole thing. It’ll prove I’m telling the truth. You’ll be forced to confront your own unbelief when you see it, and will have to let me go.”

“Well, maybe you should let us see it. Where’s the tape?”

“In the camera. Corner of the cabin. It may still be recording. I left it running when I ran after Tammy.”

“It’s not there. We checked.”

“Someone took my camera? Why would––”

“Not your camera, just the tape.”

“I don’t understand. Why would someone take my tape? It proves I’m telling the truth.”

“Maybe the devil did it,” Steve said.

“That’s not funny,” Father said. “You shouldn’t tease about powerful things you don’t understand.”

“Maybe it was taken precisely
because
it proves you’re telling the truth,” Reid said. “Maybe the murderer took it in an attempt to set you up.”

BOOK: John Jordan05 - Blood Sacrifice
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