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Author's note: I want people to question what they've grown up with and what is deemed by society, or...  Show full author's note »
Author's note:

I want people to question what they've grown up with and what is deemed by society, or more specifically, their communities, as right. I grew up attending a private Catholic school, as well as a Luthern school, public schooling, and online schooling--I've been exposed to a wide range of ideas and want to convey that living narrow-minded or persuaded by tradition can be detrimental.

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Part 4

Thorpe slipped inside a towering brick church. A daunting, pitch black hallway enveloped his unadjusted eyes. He gulped, wishing to step back into the cool, frost-dusted air--wishing to hop into his car and drive home. Thorpe took a deep breath and patted the outside of his pockets. Reassured by the feel of his gun and cell phone, he wandered onto the hallway’s velvet carpet. Around eight doors came into a view. He could make out two voices talking from behind one. Using the wall to guide him, a dim light caught his eye, where it flickered beneath the fifth door. Thorpe’s fingers fumbled through his pocket and wrapped around the gun. His ear pressed against the door. Gasping, he threw both palms to the door. A familiar child’s voice whimpered. Jake?
    He heard the boy’s muffled voice, “I’m just happy that mommy will have Bella to keep her company.”
Father Lawrence began to respond. He talked deeper, however, and harder to hear. Thorpe leaned even closer, so that his ear was like a suction cup to the wooden door.
He could make out the priest’s last words, “...dogs don’t go to heaven.”
Jake cried, “What? But, but…”
Setting his plan into action, Thorpe knocked on the door, “Uh, excuse me? Father?” A long silence presumed. He knocked again. A quiet rustle of papers sounded, followed by a rush of footsteps.
Father’s bellowed, “Why’d you go through the back door?”
“The front was locked,” the detective lied. Father’s face peeked through a gap in the doorway as it creaked open.
“Come in, detective. Jake is--,” the priest trailed off as the boy trudged over and tugged at his sleeve. Father looked down at him quizzically.
“You said mommy went to heaven.”
The priest exhaled and started talking to Thorpe again, “As I was sayin--”
“You said all souls go to heaven! Why not Bella’s?”
Thorpe was now inside Father’s office. His eyes fluttered past the mahogany wood walls and scanned a row of shelves and a flower-designed desk. They darted from its glass surface down to a drawer adorned with wooden roses. A white cloth jutted from the closed drawer’s opening. As to not look suspicious, Thorpe turned his attention back to Father Lawrence. His face was contorted in an irritated grimace.

    “My dear boy, we follow the very wise St. Thomas. And, in his words, “animals are innocent creatures.” To be innocent is to be without sin and without sin, animals do not have the gift we have of choosing what’s right and what’s wrong. Possessing choice is possessing free will. Without free will, there is no soul. So, Bella did not have a soul and could in no way go to heaven. I’m sorry. You’ll just have to remember her for who she was on earth.” Father Lawrence sat at his Acme Vendome desk. The office around Detective Thorpe, Jake, and the priest was adorned with intricately designed shelves holding dusty hardback books and the communion chalice, pattern plate, and sacramental bread and wine. A light green chasuble and white alb hung in the corner, hovering over a pair of leather shoes. The priest sat beneath paintings of the 14 stations, while marking in a large book.
    On the verge of tears, Jake frowned, “You mean-”. He sniffled. “Bella won’t go to heaven?” He tilted his head towards the ground tears dripping on to the green carpet.
    Annoyed, Father rubbed his greasy forehead, up to his dandruff-sprinkled hair. “No, she won’t,” he mumbled coldly.
Jake’s shoulders shook as he let out a quiet sob. The detective scowled disapprovingly at Father’s answer and wrapped his arm around Jake’s shoulder.
    Knowing he had to get Jake away from the priest, Thorpe asked, “May I have a word with you?”
The priest nodded. “Jake, go wait outside, OK?” The boy hugged Thorpe, then wandered to a bench outside the parish lobby.
    “Father, you’ve been very distant from the community after I questioned you. Now, I attend church often and I’ve known you for years,” he looked at the fold in his shirt where Jake had just hugged him, “But recently you’ve been acting odd and the way you acted in here today was-”

“How did I act?” Father sneered.
“Very un-priestly. You were mean.”
“Un-priestly? Ha! Is that even a word? I was hoping the detective solving the biggest murder crime in Oak Knoll would have a wider vocabulary. Hmmm, pity.” The priest smirked.
Ignoring his rudeness, Thorpe pointed towards the door, “That boy had me take him here so you could comfort him. His mother’s only just been murdered. His dog’s only just been run over. And then you say some bullshit about how his caring, sweet Bella has no soul? What the hel-”

“Robert, I would hold your cursing tongue if I were you!” the priest flung from his chair.

Fuming, the detective’s face went red, “What is a soul to you anyway?” Thorpe’s slipped his hand into his back pocket and clutched his gun.

A slight smile etched into the priest’s pimple-ridden cheek, “The church believes it to be human free will and consciousness.”

“That dog had every ounce of free will in her when I called her to cross the road. She looked right at me and stayed. That dog was completely conscious when she committed suicide.” Thorpe slapped the desk in anger.
“That’s impossible.”
Furrowing his bushy eyebrows, Thorpe muttered, “Look, I don’t care about your beliefs, I just want you to comfort Jake. Tell him his dog will go to heaven.”
“That dog was a menace. It will hardly go to heaven!” Father laughed.
“How could you say such a thing?” Thorpe walked around the desk so nothing was between them. The priest inched off his chair and towards an ornate dresser.
The detective continued, “How would you know the dog’s personality? When would you have met her?”
    Realizing his flaw, the priest’s eyes went wide. He clutched the edge of the dresser.
“Josie brought her to the church potluck,” he stuttered in fear.

Thorpe crossed his arms, he remembered that potluck. “No, no. She left him at home.”

In a swift motion, the priest swung open the dresser’s door, and wrenched a set of altar bells from its floor.
“What are you doing?” Thorpe exclaimed. Rushing to the priest, he tugged at his collar. Aghast by what he saw Thorpe fell against the desk. There, on Father Lawrence’s neck, were gaping holes in the pattern of teeth marks. Spewing dark orange pus and surrounded by purple bruises,he exclaimed, “What happened to your neck?”
Father paused. He set the bells in his lap and slowly turned towards the detective, “Just a little mishap.”
Thorpe glanced at the white cloth emerging from the dresser.
“I suppose beating dogs are just little mishaps to you too, huh?” the detective snarled.
“I haven’t the slightest idea what you mean.”
The detective recalled the piece of cloth he found in Bella’s fur; an image of the priest beating her with a pile of rocks tied inside the handkerchief hazed his mind.

Knowing his mistake, Father chucked the bells at Thorpe, Lawrence flew to his desk’s bottom drawer. As the bells hit Thorpe’s head, he collapsed behind the desk. Father Lawrence’s sweaty hands sifted through its contents- tissues, an assortment of plastic rosaries, and an advent calendar. Finally, he pulled his Glock 26 firearm from its handkerchief napkin. Knocked out from the bells, Thorpe rubbed his eyes open. His nostrils flared, angry from not arresting the priest earlier. In quick correlation, the two men both sprung from behind the separate sides of the table and pointed their weapons at one another.
Warry, Thorpe uttered, “Father, you don’t have to do this. Just drop the gun and we can work this out.”
    “Please Father.”

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