Sunday, September 30, 2012
The Cleric - Chapter 1
Twenty years later...
Father Jake Slaughter sat alone in the quiet of the Sacristy at The Basilica del Voto Nacional in the historic center of Quito, Ecuador.
He was dressed in a priest's black cassock, a white, wide-sleeved surplice and an eight foot long crimson stole, his head bowed in silent prayer as he awaited the evening's final confessor.
Cold rain fell in sheets as don Pedro de Alvarez's black Mercedes limo pulled up in front of the church. Two men jumped out with umbrellas and escorted don Pedro up the front steps, through the front door and into the darkened vestibule.
Father Jake, kneeling at the altar, turned, then stood and walked toward the confessional. The nave was empty and don Pedro dismissed his bodyguards with a wave, then draped his wet coat over a pew and entered the confessional.
The small slider opened, a dim light illuminating Father Jake's slightly turned away angular face.
"Who are you and where is Father Medina," de Alvarez asked in a surly tone.
"I am Father Jake, my son. Father Medina is not feeling well and I have come from San Miguel de Sucumbios at his request to hear your confession."
He did not have to look at don Pedro to know that he was being scrutinized. "Do you wish to confess your sins, my son," he said in a calm reassuring voice?
A moment of silenced passed between them before don Pedro began, "Bless me father for I have sinned...."
Father Jake sat in silence, head bowed, for the next fifteen minutes as don Pedro rendered a detailed account of his myriad indiscretions against Almighty God and the Holy Mother Church.
de Alvarez looked up and through the screening when he was done, awaiting penitential discipline and absolution.
Father Jake turned his head to face the man and asked softly, "Are you truly sorry for your sins, my son? Do you now renounce Satan and his disciples of evil, and beg forgiveness of almighty God?
This was an unusual question, one never asked of him by Father Medina, but de Alvarez had wasted enough valuable time and was already late for an important meeting with his top three drug and prostitution czars. "But of course, Padre, why else would I be here." For the first time, he noticed the blood red cross dangling at the end the black bead necklace hanging around Slaughter's neck. "What's with the red cross, never seen one like that?"
Instead of answering, Father Jake made the sign of the cross and whispered, "May almighty God bless you, forgive you and have mercy on your soul?
Before he could finish, Slaughter pulled the 9mm Glock with its heavy silencer out for the left sleeve of his white surplice and shot Alvarez through the neck.
He rushed out and grabbed hold of de Alvarez, dragged him out onto the floor and kneeled down next to him. He looked into the man's crazed and frightened eyes, then anointed his forehead with oil and began to recite the set of prayers comprising Last Rites, giving don Pedro a last chance to repent and help his soul find its way to the other side.
"Why?" de Alvarez's voice was beginning to fail him. "Who are you?"
Jake didn't answer, instead made one last sign of the cross, pressed the Glock against the man's temple and pulled the trigger.
He slipped out the back door of the church where Father Medina waited in a silver Lexus sedan.
"The bodyguards?" he asked.
"Taken care of," Medina said.
Father Jake nodded and rested his head back against the seat.
Twenty minutes later, as the Cleaners finished removing all incriminating evidence from the church, Jake was aboard a private Gulfstream V jetting back to the states.