Benny, Paolo, Skeeter, and the Rest of the North Bridge Gang

Father Kelly gave me the tour of all the hidden hobo camps in the North Boston area.  His '49 red Ford Woody Station Wagon attracted a crowd of homeless gents at every stop we made.  That car apparently served as the bringer of good Providence for those knights of the road and its appearance usually meant good eating for the night.  But at the first three camps, no Brother Paolo to be found.  Then as we pulled under the North Bridge, along the bank of the Charles River, a gang of six gentlemen walked out to meet us.  And as the good Father Kelly turned off the engine, he announced, "Lieutenant, I present to you Brother Paolo."

As they approached, which one was Brother Paolo was quite obvious, considering his brown Franciscan robe.   He had the look of a lean, raw-boned cowboy, a whole lot rugged and a wee bit handsome.  "Ah, Father Kelly, you have brought company with you to our humble parish."

"Brother Paolo, this is Lieutenant Ian MacKenzie."  Those words stirred a bit of nervousness in the old boys, but Brother Paolo's self-assurance soon calmed them.

Brother Paolo had kept up with the news.  "This is about  the Archbishop's death, I presume."

Father Kelly did the initial explaining.  "Yes, Paolo.  It appears that Archbishop Collins may have been murdered."  With that, Brother Paolo crossed himself, in what to me seemed to be a genuine expression of reverence and respect.  "He'd like to ask you a few questions."

Turning to his fellow bridge dwellers, 'Benny, Skeeter, you and the other fellas go with Father Kelly and see what he has brought for us today.  The Lieutenant and I are going for a stroll."

The stroll was not one featured on the tourist guides.  Down here by the river, the scenery was for the most part the polluted Charles River, beer cans, bottles and other debris of humanity have civilized this New World.

"Lieutenant, I am sure Father Kelly has told you that Archbishop Collins and I were not in good harmony with each other."

"Yes, he did, Brother Paolo.  He and others have indicated that you carried some hard feelings toward him."

"Yes. sadly I must confess that to be true.  Much of it had to do with what I believed to be his unfair denial of my vocation, but, sir, there is more to do it than that."

"Really.  And what that might be?"

There was reluctance here, deep reluctance on the part of Brother Paolo to go on.  We walked a few more silent strides before he made his decision.  "The Archbishop had his own reasons for not being qualified for the priesthood."

"I'm not sure I understand."

"He denied me my right to take and keep my vows, when he himself failed to keep his own."

"Even priests sin, Brother Paolo."

"Oh, yes, and I am chief among sinners, no denying that.  But I do not steal from the Church."

"You are accusing the Archbishop of stealing."

"In a fashion.  Sir, if you will search out a Mrs. Laura Wilson of Charlestown, you may gain some insight into the Archbishop and his ways."

"How about you tell me and save me the trip?"

"No, sir.  I'd rather not be the one who tells the details of such things.  If you are to know, it should come from her."

"Why all this mystery?"

"Ah, my police officer friend, whereas you are called to solve mysteries, we of the cloth are called to create mysteries."  With that he smiled.  As we made the turn back to the others, he gave me solemn assurance, "Lieutenant, I did the Archbishop no harm.  As God is my witness, I did him no harm."

For reasons that go counter to my cynical nature, I believed him.


The End

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