Wearing a green chasuble, Father John Heller, tall and slender, follows the altar boys up the center aisle toward the sanctuary.
Everyone stands. The celebration of the Mass begins.
After the gospel, he gives a sermon: “God forgives. We are his adopted children. He knows our sins.”
Leaning in, he drops his arms and then rubs his hands up and down on the sides of the pulpit. He loudly repeats, “He knows our sins.”
His blue eyes graze over the congregation, “Amen.”
A booming response, “Amen!”
Father Heller reaches under his vestment into his trousers pocket, pulls out a handkerchief, and swabs sweat from his brow. His eyes search for the rectory’s housekeeper.
“Please, Alice! Turn up the air conditioner.”
Alice stands and steps sideways over parishioners’ feet. “Excuse me, excuse me. Sorry.” She pushes toward the center aisle.
On the back wall, she lowers the thermostat to sixty-eight degrees. Seconds later, a whirring sound echoes through the church.
Father Heller walks away from the pulpit, concludes the Mass, and returns to the rectory.
After a quick coffee, he drives across town and parks his black Honda in front of Mayor Doug Smart’s home.
John rings the bell.
Doug opens the door.
John steps into the house. Rays of sunlight shine through the bank of windows, overlooking a lake, onto the tile entry that leads to a great room.
Doug is wearing an unbuttoned, long-sleeved shirt hanging loosely over white cotton trousers—his blond hair combed in a short ponytail. “Can I get you a glass of wine?” He asks.
“A Merlot. Please.” John ambles to his favorite chair—a brown leather wing-back. He kicks off his shoes and rests his feet on a matching ottoman.
Doug ambles to a mahogany bar, fills a wine glass, and steps toward John. “Did you miss me?”
Their eyes meet.
“Of course.” John peers over the rim of his glass and sips his wine while gazing at Doug.
A man, around twenty, wearing a Speedo brief, with a towel over his shoulder, enters the room. “Doug, I’m going for a swim. Would you like to join me?”
“Not now. Maybe later.”
The young man glances back as he struts toward the sliding door leading to the pool.
“Who in the hell is that?” John asks.
“Salvador. My handyman.”
Monday morning, at six-thirty, the alarm goes off. Father Heller tosses a brown comforter to one side and rolls out of bed. After one hundred push-ups, he hurries to the bathroom, showers, shaves, then leaves to celebrate seven-thirty Mass.
Later that night, Father Heller is watching the six o’clock news. An alert stream appears across the bottom of the television screen: Mayor Douglas Smart found dead in his swimming pool.
He gets up from his chair, pours a double shot of whiskey, and gulps.
Alice is eager for the priest to enter the room the following morning. When he does, she asks, “Did you know Mayor Smart was found dead in his swimming pool?”
“I saw it on the news.”
“Wasn’t he a friend?”
“More like an acquaintance.”
“Well, if you ask me—”
“I didn’t ask you.” Father Heller turns and leaves the room.
Again, Father Heller is watching the news.
Television cameras zoom in on the chief of police; he’s standing in front of the bank of microphones and says, “A black Honda was parked in front of Mayor Smart’s home on the day of his death.”
“Oh, my God. What if they trace the car?” Father Heller mumbles. “Talk to Salvador. He gave me his address.”
The next day, Father Heller removes his clerical collar.
Wearing jeans and a Nike T-shirt, John drives through a poor part of town and parks in front of a 1940s bungalow. He walks to the door and knocks. Hooking his thumbs in the front pockets of his jeans, he waits.
Salvador, barefoot and shirtless, goes to the door.
“Come in,” he motions to a recliner. “Have a seat. I’ll grab you a beer.”
“Guess you heard the news,” John tells Salvador.
“Yeah, I heard it.” He strolls toward the kitchen.
John sits on the edge of the chair. “What are we going to do?’
“We?” Salvador yells from the other room. “I don’t know about you. But I’m not doing a thing. Got nothing to hide.” He returns to the living room and hands John a Corona.
Salvador says, “Hey, I’m just a poor brown handyman.”
“You’re a little more than a handyman.” He smirks.
“I suppose you think you’re high and mighty. Wouldn’t the parishioners like to know what you do in your spare time?” Salvador laughs. “That could be worth a few bucks.”
John gets up. “Don’t try blackmail with me.”
They’re standing face to face.
John pushes Salvador.
Salvador shoves back.
They maneuver around the room. A lamp falls— a chair flips.
John punches Salvador in the gut and knocks the wind out of him.
Salvador doubles over. Catches his breath. Stretches out an arm.
John grabs it. He twists and brings Salvador close.
Another blow to the gut, hard elbow to his ribs. A final blow to the head.
Salvador is dead.
Later that evening, Father Heller unlocks and opens his bottom desk drawer. He takes a loaded .38 caliber pistol, places it against his temple, pulls the trigger, and kills the man called John.
Phyllis Souza lives in Northern California and is retired from a long real estate career. After taking several on-line writing classes, she started writing flash fiction and short stories. Her stories have been published in Café Lit, Spillwords, Scarlet Leaf, and Friday Flash Fiction.