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A Priest's Confidence

A Priest's Confidence

by Jenny

 

Rating: PG

Summary: Ever wonder who taught Face everything he knows? I did, and this is

what came out.

Warnings: Hanky alert.

 

 

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Templeton Peck, intent on his goal, strode briskly up to the entrance of the

All Saint's hospital. Balking suddenly, he felt his confidence slip and he

wondered if he could really do this. Could he really go through with his

mission? Could he say what he had to say to this man?

 

Suddenly, he nodded, "Of course I can. I have to." He straightened his tie,

smoothed his hair and pulled open the door, the smile already in place. He

traveled up the elevators and down the carpeted hallways. He nodded seriously

to the first receptionist as if he were an expected and respected quest and

heard the old words echoed in his mind, 'Templeton, my boy, if you believe you

belong, so will everyone else.' It still worked for she nodded back, a gentle

smile on her serene; habit framed face and allowed him to enter the slightly

restricted section of the ICU.

 

Now, moving more stealthily, he skimmed past the staff nurses and toward the

far room. So far, so good. No guards, no MP's in sight. At least Decker

could leave a dying man in peace. Reaching his goal, he checked the tag on the

door and entered silently.

 

The muted lights of the room shadowed the bed and it's occupant. The old man

lay on his back wheezing slightly. The IV's dripped fluid and medicine into

his thin arms. Oxygen tubing curled over his shoulder and hugged his ears; the

cannula secured into his nose giving air to ease his labored breaths.

Approaching the bed, Face could see that he slept. His eyes were closed and

his mouth panted for what little air his sick lungs could draw in. His hands

were lying atop the rough hospital blanket, still long fingered and elegant,

but for the knuckles slightly burled now with arthritis. They clutched a

rosary and Face could clearly see where he had stopped in his prayers.

 

Pulling a chair close, the younger man reached for one of the hands, freeing

the rosary and picking up the familiar litany where Father Patrick Magill had

left off. As his soft voice spoke, the now empty hands searched for the rosary

and when it wasn't found, he felt the eyes open and focus on him.

 

"Templeton, my boy. You shouldn't be here. Dangerous."

 

"Now, Father. You knew I would come. I have to be here. I want to be here."

Face returned the rosary to its owner and let his hands linger there. "I have

something to confess."

 

"My days for the confessional are over, son. You should see Father Liam, he'll

take care of you, protect you as I have." Exhausted from the simple words,

Patrick Magill lapsed back into an uneasy slumber.

 

"No Father Pat. Liam will never be able to protect me as you did. You taught me

how to protect and care for myself." Still holding the now frail hand, Face

leaned back in his chair and recalled a time, long ago.

 

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Even at eight, Face, then named Alvin Brenner, had the look of one who could

generally get what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted. And right now,

what he wanted was one of the big chocolate brownies that the sisters were

turning out for the church bake sale. He smiled sweetly at Sister Katherine

and tried his best to look innocent. When she turned to pull the next batch

from the oven, he zipped out a hand and almost had his prize, when she turned

back, shrilly called his name and slapped his hand with the still warm

dishtowel she held, wrapped around her hand. "Alvin Brenner, you leave my

kitchen this instant!"

 

Dejected and hungrier than ever for the gooey chocolate treat, the boy backed

out of the door and into the legs of Father Magill. Looking w-a-a-a-ay up to

the stern but kind priest, Alvin gulped, ready to apologize and start his

penance for his misdeed. It was with astonishment that the child watched as

the green eyes twinkled and winked, then pushed him gently aside to enter the

kitchen. He leaned against the counter, chatting idly with Sister Katherine,

all the while looking her right in the face. Even as the talk began to soothe

the still flustered nun, the hands that showed them geography and theology,

streaked out smoothly and pocketed two of the chocolate chunk brownies.

 

Minutes later, he eased his way out and beckoned Alvin to follow him to his

office. There they shared the treat, grinning like two children over the ploy.

When Alvin had dared to ask why, the priest had only patted his head and

offered, "Sometimes we need the delicacies as well as the staples, boy."

 

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Smiling at the pleasant memory, Face could almost taste the wonderful flavor of

ill-gotten chocolate. "That, Father Pat. Was the start of my love affair with

the finer things in life."

 

It was nearly three years later before the young Face had the chance to further

observe the man in action. Late one night, after hearing footsteps down the

boys' dormitory hall, the boy peeked out his door and saw the receding back of

Father Magill. Quickly making up his mind, he slipped back into his clothes

and followed the priest out into the night. At a safe enough distance not to

be detected, but not far enough away to lose sight, Alvin watched as the man

meet with two rather shady characters inside a fenced area. The two new men

were dressed in dark cheesy suits and wore large diamond rings on their

fingers. They looked like mobsters! His young, fanciful mind thought at once

of the spy novels he'd been allowed to read in the school library. Was Father

Magill an undercover spy? A real spook?

 

If so, he wasn't a very good one, was the boy's next thought as he watched the

strange men push the father against a wall and punch him hard in the gut. His

arms were wrenched behind his back and secured in a manner the child couldn't

detect. He was pushed to the ground and locked in the pen. The bejeweled men

left the scene, laughing and congratulating themselves on a job well done.

Once he was sure they were gone, Alvin approached and called for the priest.

His high tenor voice wavered in his concern for the man who had always been so

kind to him.

 

"Father?" The figure on the ground moaned and rolled over to face him.

"Father Magill? Are you okay?"

 

The man sat up slightly and blinked owlishly at the boy on the other side of

the fence. "Alvin?" He blinked and said again, more hopefully. "Alvin? That

is you! Oh my. Umm, you go run back to the orphanage. No, no, that might not

be best." He shook his head and watched as the nimble youngster monkey climbed

over the fence and dropped lightly to his feet on the inside. "Oh dear. You

really shouldn't have done that."

 

"Father let's get you out of here.. How are you tied?" Alvin was, in the way

only 11 year old boys can be, caught up in the adventure and not really

thinking about the consequences of his actions. He scurried behind the man,

looking for the knots that bound him. He was sure he could untie them. His

face fell when he saw the manner in which the hands were restrained. "Oh boy.

Father. These are handcuffs."

 

"Yes, Alvin, I know. Now sit down and let me think."

 

Alvin complied and fingered a loose coin on the ground before him. Picking it

up, he deftly began to walk the coin over his knuckles and back, idly. The

Father looked at him absently, then suddenly zeroed in on the boy's sure finger

movements.

 

"Alvin. How did you learn to do that?" He nodded at the trick coin movement.

 

"I think I read it in a book. Why?" Alvin asked curiously. He just wasn't

sure what his finger trick had to do with getting them out of this mess.

 

"Child. Quickly. Look under my collar. On the left side. No, no, no, my left,

not your left. Now, feel that? Pull that out. Feels like a long, thin darning

needle. Got it?" When the boy displayed his find Magill nodded. "That's a

half rake. A lock pick, Alvin. I'm going to tell you what to do and you're

going to release the lock on the handcuffs."

 

"I am?" The wide blue eyes got wider and the father chuckled.

 

"Yes, my boy, you are!"

 

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And so he had, Face thought as he smiled over the now fond memory. Father Pat

had told him just what to do, and to both of their amazement, he was free of

the handcuffs in only a few minutes. The young Alvin seemed to have a knack

for the skill. That was the first of many lessons to come for him. It turned

out the kind and gentle Father Magill wasn't a spy, overt or undercover. He was

a confidence man.. Or so he explained to the boy. He'd made life's work out of

the somewhat questionable art form. When he'd felt his calling to the

priesthood at the advanced age of 45, he had simply carried his talents with

him, applying them as needed for the best advantage of the church and it's

enterprises. And when he saw that his pupil was quick to learn and eager to

know more, he taught him all he knew. From picking locks to running scams in

order to increase the wealth in the orphanage coffers, the pair became

inseparable and Face had absorbed the man's knowledge like a sponge.

 

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A sudden shrill beeping sounded in Face's ear, rousing him from the past and he

stood, unsure what the noise meant. Outside he heard female voices calling out

to stop the alarm in room 12. They were in room 12! Looking around he saw the

light blinking on the machine controlling the IV fluids. Easing himself into

the wall length closet, he waited for the nurse to complete her chore and leave

the room, fortuitously pulling the door closed behind her.

 

He exited his hideout and went back to his bedside vigil. Sitting down, he

sighed and softly said, "That was another close call, huh, Father Pat?" He

didn't really expect an answer from the dreadfully ill man and so was surprised

to hear and answering chuckle.

 

"We've had a few, my boy... We've had a few." The low chuckle became a ragged

cough and Magill blanched at the effort it cost him. "Oh dear."

 

Face stood and supported the frail man under the shoulders, assisting him to

drink from the water glass nearby. He was sharply surprised by the wispy and

nearly fragile feel of the man in his arms. Surely this wasn't the man who'd

raised him? His Father Pat was strong, tall and able bodied. Hadn't the father

kept him from being trounced many times in his youth as he'd struggled to

master the art he'd chosen to follow as well?

 

Easing the man down to his pillows, Face softly wiped the sweat from him

mentor's brow with his own handkerchief. "Father? I. When did you get this

sick?" He asked mournfully, not sure he even wanted to know the answer. "I

don't come around often enough. I didn't know. I'm so sorry."

 

From the pasty-gray, wrinkled countenance of the old man, startlingly green

eyes focused on his miserable face. "Templeton. I'm an old man. You couldn't

have stopped this. Even if you could come everyday. You can't. I know this

and I accept this. You must accept it as well." He coughed weakly and added

as he patted the hand he'd trained for years. "I'm behind the eight ball, boy.

There's no escape this time."

 

Leaning over the bed, Face was suddenly taken back nearly twenty-five years.

 

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Fifteen-year-old Templeton Peck, as he had christened himself only months

before, stood outside the pool hall and watched the local talent. Father Pat

enjoyed the game of billiards and was rather adept at its skills. They had a

table in the orphanage game room and he'd made sure his prodigy could hold his

own. Templeton was better than all of the punks in the seedy hangout. He

knew it. And he knew that they wouldn't believe it. He was slight for his

age. His blond hair and blue eyes gave him an innocent appearance and most

people, but for the ones who knew him best, found it hard to believe he was

capable of mischief. That was fine with him. One of Father Pat's first

lessons had been to use whatever resources you had at hand. His looks were an

asset; a natural resource and he knew how to use them.

 

Making up his mind, he affected his best nave expression and entered the hall.

Wandering the smoky room, he wound his way through the other, older, tougher

boys and leaned against the wall, watching the hottest game going. The balls

flew and banged against each other. Each player sank ball after ball, until

they were down to one last: the eight ball. He watched each one carefully,

noting which shots they preferred and performed the best. When the tall, dark

one won the game, he politely applauded with the rest. Finally noticing the

newcomer, the street boys closed ranks and circled the blond, Catholic

schoolboy.

 

"Who are you? And what are you doing here? This is our turf!" The game's

winner demanded an answer.

 

"Just admiring your skill, man. That was some game." Templeton offered,

smiling calmly.

 

"Yeah, well, that's because I'm good, see?" The hood jabbed his finger at

Templeton's skinny chest.

 

"I see. Say. you wouldn't mind teaching me some of that, would you?" Young

Face gestured at the now empty pool table. "I'd be willing to. Ummm. Pay you

for each shot you show me. You know. If you make the shot I pay you. If I make

the shot you pay me. Got it?"

 

The boys leered and the game began. None of them were quite sure when exactly

the newcomer began to catch on, much less to wipe the table with their faces.

They only knew that as suddenly as it began, the game was over and they owed

the little blond boy about ten bucks. Obviously disgruntled and unwilling to

pay, they collared the boy and started out the back door with him.

 

For once, Templeton found that his agility and speed failed him. He was out

numbered and about to be beaten but good when a loud voice was heard from the

back door of the pool hall they'd just exited.

 

"You'll let go of that boy, if you know what's good for you!"

 

The street thugs were startled and relaxed their grips on their quarry. Taking

advantage, Templeton kicked the closest shin and dodged the first fist thrown.

He slipped under their feet and between their legs to join Father Magill on the

stoop. Magill stood, legs wide apart, arms loose and easy at his side, his

eyes flaring anger and his vivid red hair mussed. When he growled again,

advancing on the group of them, they scattered. Unsure what to make of the

menacing priest and his angel-faced choirboy.

 

Templeton had laughed and offered his hand to his partner. "Guess we showed

them, didn't we?"

 

"Yes. And now I'm going to show you, you rascal. If Sister Katherine hadn't

missed you at lunch, I wouldn't have come looking for you and you'd be a bloody

pulp by now, you foolish boy!" He gripped the slim shoulders and shook the boy

hard.

 

The boy gulped, his eyes wide. "Father." Father Magill had never yelled at him

before. He didn't know what to say or do.

 

As quickly as the scolding began, it ended. The hard hands on his shoulders

grew gentle again and just as abruptly, he was engulfed in a warm embrace.

Unfortunately, Templeton remained just as confused. For while Father had never

scolded him so vigorously, neither had he been hugged nor rocked quite like

this before either. As young children, they were often held or patted on the

head. But as they grew older, the orphans were touched less and less and then

usually only in passing. Not sure which attack he was more uncomfortable with.

Templeton just stood, enduring both.

 

Father Pat pushed him away and gruffly said, "Let's get back. They'll be

wondering about the both of us, now."

 

Nothing more was said and Templeton knew he was forgiven. On the way home,

their old comfort level had returned and as they approached the gates of Sacred

Heart they'd put the experience behind them.

 

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"Father. You saved my butt then and that wasn't the last time, either." Face

picked up a cloth and dampened it slightly at the sink. Returning to the bed,

he patted at the man's cracked and parched lips.

 

Face smiled ruefully as he recalled his last encounter alone with Decker. He'd

been visiting the orphanage and Father Pat.

 

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Suddenly sirens had sounded and a bullhorn was used by Decker to bawl out the

order for Peck to surrender.

 

"Peck! This is Decker. We've got you surrounded. Come on out, Lieutenant."

 

In the children's library, Face stopped reading to the young girl in his lap

and looked up at Father Magill. "Oh boy! I'm sorry. I'll. Uh. Well." He

whirled around, looking for a way out.

 

Face was unsure just how he was going to hold them off long enough for Hannibal

or BA to get there and bail him out. So he had been about to attempt to scale

the drainpipe and shimmy over the roof, hopefully unseen by the circle of MP's

below on the ground. Father Magill had stopped him, just as he was reaching

out the window for the rickety pipe. "Wait, Templeton. Call your team. I'll

stall the good Colonel Decker until your colonel can arrive."

 

Speechless, Face watched as Father Pat, already growing ill with his lung

disease, stepped out into the night air and approached the military entourage

with his hands before him, slightly raised. For thirty minutes, he watched as

the priest filibustered before the confused Decker. Finally shaking his head,

the aggravated military figure pushed the aging priest out of the way and

charged into the orphanage.

 

Even now, Face could recall the anger that simmered when he saw his friend and

mentor being manhandled by the irate colonel. Luckily, Hannibal arrived and

pulled him from the situation before he could show himself and punch Decker out

for the injustice. However, Face did gain a sense of satisfaction by landing a

good blow to Decker's right cheek on their next encounter. The man carried a

bruise from Face's right uppercut for weeks!

 

Face himself would never forget the way Decker had looked at Father Magill kept

right on talking and talking.

 

"Hmmm. And Hannibal wonder's where I get my mouth from?"

 

Face wiped the beloved face once more then sat down to watch the man breath.

Each breath was labored and as he watched they seemed to grow slower. It was

apparent that he slept soundly and Face, never releasing his hold on his hand,

leaned his head against the chair back and closed his eyes as well. He must

have dozed himself. For when he woke it was to the sounds of the bed being

raised and Father Magill's oxygen being checked. The young, auburn haired

nurse smiled down at Face and softly answered his unspoken question.

 

"He's okay. For now. I'm just checking his oxygen. He sometimes pulls it off

when he sleeps." Her nametag read 'Sara' and she had a smooth, easy manner

about her that set Face at ease. "You must be Templeton."

 

Face appeared startled and quickly looked over his shoulder. "How?"

 

"It's all right. Relax. Father Magill talks about you often. Well, to me

anyway. I'm one of his students from Sacred Heart. I lived there for ten

years after my parents died."

 

Face relaxed and offered her a genuine smile. She was an ally. He knew it.

"He's a pretty special man."

 

"I know. He helped me so much when I first arrived and he talked me into

nursing school. I'm not sure where I'd be if it weren't for him." Sara sadly

watched the oxygen saturation monitor fluctuate, never quite rising above 88%.

"He isn't going to last much longer."

 

Swallowing hard, Face closed his eyes briefly to help compose himself and

nodded. "I know. It's hard to believe."

 

"It might help to talk about it. My shift ends at four, if you want, we could

get coffee or something." Sara shyly looked at his handsome face and waited.

 

"That would be nice, Sara. Thank you.." Face took down an address and said

good-bye.

 

When the pretty nurse had gone, he heard an even weaker chuckle from the bed.

"That, my boy, is the one thing you never needed tutoring in." As he spoke, the

oxygen monitor dipped into the low 80's. Father gasped a bit and tried to talk

over the need for air.

 

"Shhhh... Father Pat. Let me talk for a change, would ya'?" Face lovingly

brushed the now entirely gray hair from the sick man's brow. His voice dropped

to a whisper and he leaned close to the ear of the man in the bed. "I need to

tell you. I need you to know.. I love you. And I thank you for raising me and."

His voice broke and he could only swallow again and again.

 

"No, boy. You hush. I know this. I've known. And I love you, too. I only wish

that you could have been mine. Truly mine." Magill reached one weak hand up to

wipe away the lone tear that trailed down his boy's face. Holding the tear on

his fingertip, he scolded lightly, "This has no place here, Templeton. I'm

going home." Suddenly too tired to go on, the old Catholic priest fell back and

closed his eyes.

 

The monitors began to beep, steadily louder and longer. Face kissed his

forehead and eased the rosary from his grasp before easing from the room. "I'm

sorry, Father Pat. But I need this. I need to have a part of you with me." And

he knew it was okay. Father Patrick Magill was going home.

 

 

THE END!

 

 


A Priest's Confidence by Jenny

 

 


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