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BanishedA Demon, an Exorcist and A Battle of Faith
By Edwin F. Becker
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Edwin F. Becker
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMrs. Polski walked along busy Ashland Ave. carrying her old cloth shopping bag, as she has done for decades. She paused for a moment to rest, and the cold air, combined with the harsh Chicago wind, made her eyes water a bit. She glanced upward, and thought she glimpsed a gargoyle cornerstone on the side of the building where she stood. Except, unlike stone, it seemed to actually move.
'Impossible ...' she thought, as she was at the corner of Saint Martin's school. She wiped her eyes and gazed up the four story building and gasped, as now she could clearly see the figure of a priest who was seemingly defying gravity and leaning forward from the edge of the roof. Although four stories up, she recognized him to be Father Garro, a parish priest! She rifled through her purse and quickly grabbed her cell phone and dialed 911. The dispatcher asked "911, how can I help you?"
Mrs. Polski was speechless as she heard the priest loudly plead "God forgive me!" She watched in horror as he began his fatal decent.
As the dispatcher repeated her question, Mrs. Polski remained silent as she looked away; she could not bear to see Father Garro collide with the concrete pavement. When she caught her breath, she managed to say "Please send an ambulance!" and gave her location. She covered her face and began to weep hysterically. Within a few minutes, police and paramedics were on the scene and the body was quickly covered.
Only a block away, the phone rang at Saint Martin's rectory and Father Garrity answered. "Father, this is detective Simon. Father Garro has died. It appears he fell or jumped from the school roof. That is all we know at this time."
"Oh my God!" Garrity responded in shock.
"I'm sorry Father. I'll have your brother inform you further as soon as possible."
"Thank you detective ..." Garrity hung up the phone and ran to the window. He could see the flashing lights down the block. "Margaret!" He yelled behind him.
Margaret entered, and realized by his body language that the priest had received bad news. "Yes, Father?"
"Did Father Garro have anything scheduled on his calendar this evening?"
"Yes, he was to be at Menard Prison. He is committed to counseling a convict to be executed. He is to be there at 7 P.M."
Father Garrity shook his head as if shaking off a punch. "I'll be covering for him tonight." He replied quietly.
He checked his watch and began gathering his things. He had never visited the prison, but felt it no different than counseling any other parishioner. He was completely unaware that he was about to open a door he could not close.
* * *
They sat on opposite sides of the room just staring at each other, the priest and a serial killer. The serial killer remained silent while watching the clock, draped in chains and shackles, while the priest attempted awkwardly to make pleasant conversation.
"Can I get you anything?" Father Garrity asked, with no response. "Would you like to pray for forgiveness?" Once again, there was no response or change in expression by the convict; just a fixed expression of boredom.
The priest was apologetic. "I'm sorry, my son, as I have never done this before. I'm not sure if you know this, but Father Garro passed away tonight. I became responsible to take his place. I realize we only have a week until your execution, but a week is more than enough time to regain God's grace. My parish is actually close by, so although I'm only committed to being here for one hour each day, if you call for me I will try to be here whenever you need me."
The serial killer just stared straight ahead without showing emotion or even acknowledging the priest's presence. To the priest, the convict looked more pathetic than dangerous. He appeared slight of build, clean shaven, and weighed down with chains that looked completely unnecessary. Father Garrity did not discount the fact that he was face to face with a serial killer, but took into account he killed only women and children and did not look much of a threat to a grown man.
"Do you wish me to leave?" Father asked.
Again, there was no response, just a vacant stare.
Father Garrity lacked the skills of being in the position of counseling such a hard core criminal, so his only weapon was his sense of humor.
"Cat got your tongue?" Garrity joked. "Okay, I get it. You don't wish to talk. I get it, I get it." Father Garrity gave up of any hope of interaction on this first visit. "Since we won't be talking on this visit, I will just read from the bible. I know from reviewing your history that you were Christened Catholic, so do you have a favorite chapter or verse?" The priest asked.
He knew asking was merely a formality, and had expected no response. As he opened his bible, the warden looked in. He was a huge man with a shock of red hair that you could see coming a block away. Warden Donald Thorton never minced words, and knew Father Garrity, as they had attended high school together. Father Garrity knew him as "Buddy", as they had both played varsity football and that had been his knick-name. The warden knew Father Thomas Garrity as Tommy, and always referred to him informally as such.
"Tommy, I give you credit for wasting your time on this piece of shit." Buddy stated bluntly.
Father Garrity smiled. "Hey, you need a priest-I came. With our little parish, I really had no major rescheduling to do."
The warden looked down. "I'm really sorry about Father Garro. Phil was just a great priest. As you know, Father Garro had been doing this for years. He really had compassion for each convict he worked with, and mistakenly thought he could save each and every one of them. When they called me, I could hardly believe it. I would have never guessed him as being suicidal. I mean, Tommy ... suicide? It doesn't make sense. He committed a mortal sin as his final act, for God's sake!"
"Buddy, I don't have the answer. I knew Father Garro fairly well and certainly never saw it coming. In fact, I have not yet heard the exact details of his death, but I will tonight when my brother Bobby stops by." Garrity replied.
Warden Thorton looked toward the serial killer, and thought he detected a slight grin.
"Something strike you funny, you bag of garbage? You can play tough all you want. I have seen many of your kind. In the end, they all fall apart. You can sit there and ignore Father Garrity if you like, but we all know that sometime in the next week, you'll be praying like a monk on crack and crying for your mama! You should know, Father, that Mister Richard Gindle is so tough that he only killed helpless women and children. Tell the good Father how you killed at least twenty-one innocent people. You have fun Father, but this one is going to hell and you can't save him. There is a special place in hell for you, Richard. If I were you, I would pay attention to Father Thomas Garrity, because he is the only one who gives a shit."
"Warden Thorton, thank you." The priest replied.
"This is a long way from the varsity football beer blasts, eh Tommy? Would you have thought you would someday volunteer to sit in a damned prison?" The warden asked.
"Not a chance in hell. How is the family, Buddy?" Garrity asked.
"Doing great, Tommy." The Warden replied.
"Not to put you on the spot, but I have not seen you in church for quite a while." Garrity probed.
"Sorry Tommy, but we're out in the suburbs these days. I thought it would be better for the kids, but I found that with my sixteen year old son, he can find trouble anywhere." The warden complained.
"Buddy, just let him spend a few days with his dad down here and that just might give him a whole new perspective. Let him see up close how all these hard asses wind up." Garrity suggested.
"I just might do that, Father. Tommy, I have to go, but we'll talk." The warden replied.
The warden gave a look of distain toward the convict, as if he could not tolerate the very sight of him. He then went his way.
After reading from the gospel of Mark aloud, the priest saw his time was up.
"Well, I guess I'll be on my way. This is it for tonight." He stated to no response. "Can I bring you anything tomorrow? I sure hope eventually you will trust in me and we can talk." The serial killer just stared straight forward, making no eye contact.
Garrity picked up his bible and called for the guard. He was soon on his way home, which was but a few miles away at Saint Martin's rectory, adjacent to the church and school. Saint Martin's was built in a proud, old style of a cathedral, and was a huge parish in its day. But with migration to the suburbs, the body of worshipper's dwindled to sparsely attended masses made up of a melting pot of nationalities. Based on collections and school tuitions, the parish was barely staying afloat financially. Father Garrity knew his parish was evaluated on a yearly basis. It was one of the things that Father Garrity had a problem with, as the Catholics viewed each parish almost as a separate franchise-and his was not doing very well.
Father Thomas Garrity was a very disillusioned priest. He was more 'old school' than one might expect because of his strict Catholic upbringing. He loved his God and had deep faith, but had begun to resent the Catholic institution that he worked for. Nothing brought him more joy than presiding over weddings, baptisms, home blessings and even offering comfort at requiem masses and funerals. He was what one might call a 'minister of the people'. His parish was a reflection of the economic times and the deteriorating neighborhood. Regardless how many times the church demanded he pass the collection baskets, he knew the poor people could only split the same dollar into so many pieces.
Thomas Michael Garrity was a big man at six foot three and two hundred fifty pounds. He was an all-state tight end, and likely would have played college football. Instead, he chose the seminary and answered his calling to God. Now, at age forty, his visions of what could be accomplished had been dashed, as he clearly saw he was working for a profit-oriented institution; not much different than a fortune five hundred company. He had his history of disagreements with the Catholic hierarchy, which was why he failed recommendations of being promoted beyond an assistant pastor.
He left the rectory to meet up with his brother Bobby, a Chicago detective, who was called-in to investigate the death of Father Phillip Garro. They met at one of Chicago's many Italian eateries-and one of their favorites. Wearing his collar, he was greeted warmly as he entered the restaurant in the primarily Catholic neighborhood. As he made himself comfortable, his brother entered. Robert "Bobby" John Garrity was only a year younger and shared the same looks as his brother. He had thick brown hair and boyish good looks, but his job was taking its toll on his emotions and he now appeared to be the older brother, due to the bags under his eyes, deep creases created by frown lines, and an increasing graying at the temples.
Bobby started by joking. "So, I hear you're dating a serial killer?" He laughed.
Tommy shed his priestly image and for this moment in time, he was merely Bobby's big brother once again.
"Yeah, have you ever talked to a brick wall? That's how my evening went. The man never said a word. It was like he was on another planet." He answered and then asked "Tell me about Phil Garro?"
Bobby swallowed hard. "Tommy, this is a first. We have one good witness; Mrs. Polski, who was coming home from work and had done some shopping for groceries at a local store. As she walked toward her home on Ashland Avenue and passed the school, she set her bags down to take brief rest, when she looked up and saw father Garro standing on the edge of the school roof. He was wearing his smock, which she stated was blowing in the wind. She said she knew something was terribly wrong and immediately dialed 911 on her cell phone. Before the dispatcher could even answer, he cried out 'God Forgive Me.' After which, he did a swan dive four stories down onto the pavement. He left no note, and no one who dealt with him had an indicator. It's just plain weird."
Tommy folded his hands. "I knew Phil well. He was a good priest. I can't imagine why he would commit a mortal sin and go out that way. How is Mrs. Polski?"
"She is obviously traumatized by the whole event. Her initial statement was that she looked up and thought she saw one of those Gargoyle corner stones. It was only after taking a second glance that she realized it was Father Garro. I know she don't drink, but Tommy, she had to know there was no Gargoyle on a school for Christ sake! I think she will be having nightmares for a long time, poor old lady."
"Well, Buddy Thorton allowed me to fill in for Phil, who was administering to death row inmates at Menard Prison and was in the midst of one that is scheduled to be executed in a week. No way could I let Buddy down." Tommy explained.
"Yeah, I know. Unfortunately, it's that Gindle guy. I would pay to pull the handle on that bastard myself!" Bobby responded. "My job is getting to me Tommy. I lock them up, and the courts plea bargain them back on the streets. It's like I'm on a legal merry-go-round."
Tommy laughed. "You? Look at me. I listen to them give me their confessions, some of which are very disturbing. I offer them forgiveness, only to hear the exact same confessions the very next week! Talk about a revolving door. I think if the Catholic Church thought it would bring in more revenue, we would have drive-through windows on the confessionals. Bobby, there are some good people out there who really believe they need forgiveness for the most venial infractions. They give me some amount of hope ... but there are others that are sick and need to be taken off the streets and all I can do is offer them forgiveness with a penalty of saying the rosary! I've got one guy that beats his wife on a weekly basis. I have another who has killed rival gang members in drive-by shootings and thinks he is wiping his slate clean with a confession each week. He finishes his confession and reloads his gun!"
"Funny how we both thought we were going to make this world a better place, each in our own way. Man, were we naïve or just fucking dumb?" Bobby lamented.
"I really don't want to get biblical on you, but it just seems evil has spiraled out of control. It's everywhere we look. People can't escape it. Whether it's movies or TV, video games, computers, billboards, etc.. I have no doubt that the devil is in control and we are losing this one, Bobby. If we were in the boxing ring, we would be far behind on points. The problem is, we have no idea what round it is?" Tommy stated.
"Well, maybe it's time we changed the rules. I watch the news. What I see on the streets are drunks and drugs. Drunks beating on their wives and kids. Drunks smashing their cars. Dopers committing assaults, robberies, rapes and more. You know how many families I have had to notify that their college-age child was dead in the ER from a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning? Too Many! Yet we celebrate spring break like it's a good thing. Take substance out the equation and half our crime problem is solved-but no! They have me arresting a guy for smoking in a public building, while we debate whether to make marijuana legal. What the fuck is that? We need to shit-can the entire government and start over." Bobby shook his head and smiled at his brother. "Oh, I'm going off on you and I know you already have a headache. By the way, get prepared for the press snooping around. The media's first take on Father Garro was that his suicide was motivated by pedophilia of some nature. We have to confiscate his computer and search his quarters. Sorry Tommy."
"Pedophilia? That's what we have become? The media has made priests and pedophiles synonymous. Bobby, I can't even give one of these poor neglected kids a well needed hug, without people looking at me cross eyed. Why our church does not fight back is a mystery to me. Poor Father Garro. You know he was a good priest, but they will imply some filth that will always remain a question when they are done dragging his name through the muck. See you later Bobby. Remember, wear that damned vest!"
"Fight the good fight brother, and stop and see mom and pop sometime. I'll call you."
Excerpted from Banished by Edwin F. Becker Copyright © 2011 by Edwin F. Becker. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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