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Chapter 13

Father Cass pushed the remains of the potato pierogi around on his plate. Lately he didn’t seem to have much of an appetite, which was beginning to get on the nerves of even that most patient of motherly creatures, Pattie Cleary. She was visibly pained to throw away perfectly good food when so many in her beloved city were going hungry. Father Cass had suggested that some of the problem could be avoided if she would allow him to fill his own plate, but she would have none of that. Although the last few days he had noticed that she had cut his portion sizes, they were still at least double what he would have served himself, which was why he’d chosen to have his dinner at Polonia’s instead of the rectory. His reverie was cut short by the sound of Father Jack DuMont’s hand slamming down on the table in front of him, creating a cacophony of dishes and flatware.

“Wake up, man! You’re a million miles away. I asked you a question.”

“You did? Oh. Sorry, Jack. I guess I got lost for a minute.”

“A minute? You’ve been staring at your plate and holding your fork like that for the last five or ten minutes. I’m surprised your arm hasn’t cramped up. Is there something wrong with your food, or have you had some sort of breakthrough on the miracle front? Something you might be willing to share with a good friend, perhaps?”

“No, I was just thinking about the homeless, the hungry, Pattie Cleary, and my lack of appetite that seems to disturb her so much-nothing of interest, really. You said you had a question, Jack?”

“I do. Have you heard anything from Marin since he went back to the Vatican? Do you think you’ll have any more trouble from him or Rome?” Jack pulled out the chair next to Cass and sat down.

“I don’t know. But I had Pattie look into the matter, and he definitely checked out of his hotel, so I can only assume he’s gone back to Rome and I see that as a good sign. As far as I know, he didn’t send for any back up and I haven’t heard about anybody poking around asking questions. So as far as I can tell, I turned out to be a dead-end investigation for them. I’d be lying if I said I was sad to see him go. I’m happy to get things back to normal around here.”

“Normal? And just what does that mean for you, Cass? Are you and your gang starting up your prayer circles again?”

“My gang? Since when do I have a gang? Who exactly do you see me as, Jack-Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, one of those guys?”

“You’re a real jackass, y’know? You’re completely clear on what I’m asking you, Cass, don’t pretend you’re not. You’ve already brought Marin all the way from Rome breathing down your neck; just ’cause he’s gone, doesn’t mean they’ve stopped watching, eh?”

“Take it easy, Jack. You’re starting to hyperventilate; you’ll give yourself a stroke. Everything at St. Florian’s is just as it should be. No mid week prayer circles. Okay?”

“I believe that’s the smartest thing you’ve said since I sat down. Where’s Anna? I could use a refill on this coffee.”

“I’ll get her.” Father Cass raised his hand to get Anna’s attention. She nodded, grabbed the coffee, and headed toward their table. She had nearly reached them when a toddler, unseen by his parents, crawled out from under the table adjacent to the priests. As Anna took her last step to their table, her legs became tangled with the toddler and she tumbled forward. The toddler managed to roll under and through the disaster without a bump or scrape.

Not aware of what had tripped her up, Anna tried desperately to regain her balance, which only stiffened her muscles and made the fall that much harder. Arms akimbo, the coffeepot flew out of her hand, turned upside down, and the freshly made coffee, black and scalding, poured down onto Father Jack DuMont’s left shoulder and arm.

Without forethought, Father Cass grabbed Jack’s left hand with his left hand and then placed his right hand on Jack’s left shoulder, running it all the way down his arm to his fingertips. The event lasted no more than ten or twenty seconds, and Father Cass’s eyes remained closed the entire time. When he opened his eyes, controlled chaos met his gaze. A dozen customers were helping Anna to stand. The little boy’s parents were on the one hand chastising him and on the other, continually patting him to make certain he was fine. Then Anna and her rescuers all stood at Father Jack’s chair in amazement.

“Oh my God,” she said, “I was so sure the coffee was going to pour all over you. I can’t believe you escaped without a drop on you. I’m amazed! The entire table is drenched, but your shirt isn’t even wet. Thank God! I’m so sorry. Please let me pay for your dinner today, both of you, please?”

“That’s not necessary.” Father Cass stood and put his hand on Anna’s shoulder. “Just an unfortunate accident, and as you can see, Father Jack is fine. Are you all right? You had a terrible fall.”

“I’m fine, really. I fall at least three or four times every winter out on the icy sidewalks. Don’t worry about me. I’m made of pretty stern stuff. Are you sure you’re okay, Father Jack?”

Father Jack just smiled up at her. “I’m fine. Really. Though if you make another pot of coffee, that would be great, eh?”

“Oh! Of course! Right away! Let’s move you over to this table where everything is nice and dry.”

“Thanks, Anna.” Fathers Cass and Jack got up and moved to the table by the window while they waited for the coffee.

“That was really fucking something, eh?”

“Excuse me?”

“That mishap with the toddler. I was really fucking lucky, wouldn’t you say, Cass?”

“Well, yes. I think you were very lucky. Things could have been a lot worse.”

“Do you remember the commandments, Cass?”

“The Ten Commandments?”

“Are there any others?”

“Actually in the New Testament, there is considered to be the one above all others.”

“I’m not in the mood to discuss theological philosophy right now, dammit.”

“Okay. The commandments. Yes. I know them.”

“Do you remember number nine?”

“Sure. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

“Right. So stop lying to me, you son of a bitch! I was not lucky and you more than anyone know the truth of that statement.”

“You weren’t scalded with hot coffee. I’d say that’s pretty lucky.”

“Don’t think you can weasel out of this conversation with petty semantics, because you can’t. I am not a fool and I was not unconscious five minutes ago. I was scalded with hot coffee-from my shoulder all the way down to the top of my hand-and then suddenly I wasn’t. You took a hold of my hand and then you placed a hand on my shoulder and ran it all the way down my arm to the end of my fingers. After that, not only was the burn gone, but my goddam shirt was completely dry and all of the coffee had been transferred to the tablecloth. Don’t bother with a denial. You fuckin’ healed me, didn’t you?”

“Did you want to spend the next six weeks in the burn unit at Detroit Receiving? I thought you were busy. I thought you had a ministry with those boys who don’t have anyone else looking out for them. I wasn’t aware that you were looking for some sort of masochistic redemptive sabbatical. Is that what this is about?”

“Oh don’t even try it. Don’t even fuckin’ try it. Masochistic redemptive sabbatical, oh that’s rich, that’s really good, Cass. You’ve been reading, for a change, I see. Good for you. Now, you listen to me. I figure I owe you one now for what you just did, so thank you. But I’m going to tell you right now that you’re going to sit here and listen to me this time, Miracle Man-I did not spend six years in the NHL without learning how to put a man against the boards and hold him there-not forever, but for as long as necessary.”

“Are you saying you’re going to hit me, Jack?”

“Get a grip on yourself, darlin’. You’re not in any danger. I’m speaking metaphorically. I’m telling you that you are not getting away this time without being square with me and answering the important questions. I’m not trying to hurt you, Cass. I’m only trying to help you. If you could get that through your thick Polack skull we would get a lot further a lot faster.”

“I see.”

“Good. The last time we talked about this, I asked you if you knew that the people you prayed with were going to be healed. It was apparent by your response that you did.”

“I never said that.”

“Okay, see. Here’s where we’re having a problem. This isn’t a court of law. I’m not the enemy. I’m trying to help you. Plus, you just got finished healing my burns, right? So, let’s try this again, eh?”


“How long has this been happening? Have you always known about it? What does it mean? Why is it happening?”

“It would take forever to explain everything, Jack. You have to believe me about this.”

“Okay. Right, then. We’ll go slower. Do you have a plan in place?”

“Yes. But I don’t have all of the pieces.”

“I’m not sure I understand. If you don’t have all of the pieces, who does?”

“Would you like to take a guess?”

“No. Let me ask you another question. Are you Jesus Christ?”

“No, I’m not.”

“Are you the antichrist?”

“That’s kind of a stupid question because if I was, of course I would say that I wasn’t, which I’m not. But I will help you out here. No, Jack, I am not the antichrist, and I will prove it to you by telling you that all of the healing that comes through me is done by the grace of God.”

“Don’t you mean done through ‘our Lord Jesus Christ,’ or can’t you say that?”

Cass smiled at Jack with love as if he were smiling at a small child. “Yes, Jack. I can say that, and I’m sure it will be easier for you to understand if I do. The healing that comes through me is done by and through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Are we good now, or do you want to call Abe Nalepa?”

“Why would I call Abe Nalepa?”

“I hear he puts on a pretty good exorcism extravaganza. Do you think you’ll be needing his services?”

Jack looked at his empty coffee cup and then searched the room for Anna and the coffeepot. “I think what I really need is a good, strong cup of black coffee. Then if it isn’t too much trouble and I’m not in danger of getting struck down by the Almighty, I’d really like an explanation for what the hell has been going on around here. From the beginning to the-wait a minute, what kind of end are you planning here? This isn’t Israel you know, this is the U S of A, and crucifixions aren’t something you see on every street corner. Besides, that’s already been done. That’s not part of the plan, is it, Cass? I can call you Cass, can’t I?”

“What else would you call me? I told you, I’m not Jesus returned to judge the living and the dead. I’m still Cass. But more.”

“What do you mean, more?”

“Not here, Jack. You never know who could be listening. Let’s go over to your place.”

Cass put enough cash on the table to cover his dinner and Jack’s coffee and they were out the door, into Jack’s beat-up Ford and headed down Jos. Campau by the time Arnold Park exited the restaurant. “Damn! Just when things were heating up.”

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