One more week. I’ve almost made it. In spite of everything, it looks like I’ll get there!
Tonight, a play. This play has been bubbling in my consciousness for a few years now, and this month of writing has given me the oomph to go ahead and write it. It’s the story of someone who becomes so frustrated with the system that they devise their own way of dealing with it. I won’t say I recommend this method, because I do not, but I do understand the frustration.
MELINDA Female, a police officer, early to mid-40s
BRANDON Male, a police officer, any age
FATHER WESTON Male, a priest|
TIME: The present
PLACE: A city somewhere in the United States; not a small town, where everyone is known. Large enough to have more than one Catholic Church.
SETTING: A bare stage that can be anyplace or no place. A few pieces of furniture should establish the set; at the present time, it is a Catholic church. Two chairs represent a confessional.
AT RISE: A priest is seated in one side of the confessional. He rises, and moves out of the confessional. A shadowy figure sneaks up behind him and stabs him. He dies.
The setting now becomes a police station. BRANDON and MELINDA are having a consultation.
BRANDON: This can’t keep on happening. The public is angry.
MELINDA: What can we do? You have any ideas?
BRANDON: No fingerprints. Nothing stolen. No sign of any forcible entry.
MELINDA: Always right after confession.
BRANDON: Always the same way…a knife. Which is not left behind.
MELINDA: I think…no, I don’t. I don’t know.
BRANDON: I mean, it’s obviously someone who hates priests, right? Three priests…how many more before he’s stopped?
MELINDA: Maybe…have you checked on lapsed Catholics? No one hates priests more than former Catholics.
BRANDON: That’s not funny.
MELINDA: I wasn’t being funny.
BRANDON: I ran a check on that group…
MELINDA: What group?
BRANDON: You know, the atheist meet up group?
MELINDA: Hey! I’m a member of that group.
BRANDON: Yeah, so I found out. What the hell, Melinda? I thought you were…wait, you used to be Catholic, didn’t you?
MELINDA: Yeah. So what?
BRANDON: Where were you last night?
MELINDA: Not funny. Besides, I was with you, remember? That domestic violence case?
BRANDON: Oh, yeah, I forgot. Anyway, I wasn’t serious.
MELINDA: Let me guess. The atheists came up clean.
BRANDON: Nothing. They’re pure as driven snow…well, okay, not that pure, but no sign of motive, no evidence of opportunity, and none of them have records. So, nothing…yet. But I’m going to be keeping an eye on them.
(FATHER RICHARD WESTON enters.)
FATHER: I was told you two are working on Father Martin’s murder?
MELINDA: Yes. Can I help you?
FATHER: I might…I might…have…something…for you.
BRANDON: Well, don’t just stand there, come on in.
FATHER: I don’t know if this is relevant, but…
(FATHER WESTON hands BRANDON a scrap of paper.)
BRANDON: I don’t get it. This is just a phone number.
FATHER: Oh, sorry. Wrong paper. That’s…here, this is what I wanted to show you.
(FATHER WESTON hands another piece of paper.)
MELINDA: What is it?
BRANDON: It’s a letter…
MELINDA: Well? Come on, don’t keep me in the dark.
BRANDON: It’s a letter to a Father Richard Weston…do we know him?
FATHER: I’m him.
BRANDON: Oh, I thought…maybe he was one of the…dead ones.
MELINDA: When did you receive this letter?
FATHER: This morning. It was pushed under my door. I found it when I…when I…finished with confessions.
BRANDON: The right time for all the others.
MELINDA: So? The others were murdered after confession, not given letters.
FATHER: They all had letters, too.
MELINDA: What? Why didn’t someone tell us?
FATHER: I…I told them not to say anything. I told them…not to worry, it was nothing.
BRANDON: You told them not to report it? Why?
FATHER: That’s what the Vatican told me to do…we can deal with it internally. Don’t involve the police.
MELINDA: That wasn’t very smart.
FATHER: But…when Father Martin…when he got the letter…and two other priests dead…I was…worried. I called the Vatican again. They said the same thing. Don’t air our dirty laundry…
BRANDON: But now you have one, right?
FATHER: And the other priests…they’re dead. Killed in cold blood. Two days after getting the letter.
MELINDA: So you’re saying…we have 48 hours to save your life?
FATHER: Give or take an hour.
BRANDON: What happened to the other letters?
FATHER: I…have them. I…kept them. Told the priests not to…say anything. Keep quiet. We’d handle it internally.
MELINDA: And now they’re dead.
MELINDA: And you don’t want to be dead.
BRANDON: Don’t worry, we’ll do what we can. But you need to…I don’t know, hide or something.
FATHER: I can’t hide. I have to say mass.
MELINDA: Yeah, I agree. You have 48 hours, stay in the open. But don’t go into the confessional until…wait, you know what, I think…you could be…a decoy. |
FATHER: What? I don’t want to….die.
BRANDON: Of course not, of course not. You won’t die, we’ll put security details on you. And we’ll put someone else…I’ll go into the confessional. We’re about the same size, I can wear your…thing…
BRANDON: Your collar…
FATHER: You can’t trick my parishioners into giving their confession to you. It wouldn’t be fair.
BRANDON: I won’t listen. I’ll wear ear plugs.
MELINDA: Never mind. We’ll work it out. Just…go home and…I don’t know, pray. Or something.
BRANDON: Yeah, that’s good. Pray. We’ll do the work, you do the praying.
FATHER: Thank you. And my security detail?
BRANDON: I’ll get them out to the church in the next couple of hours. They’ll be in place long before…two days.
FATHER: Thank you.
(FATHER WESTON exits.)
MELINDA: I don’t like this.
BRANDON: I don’t either. We can’t have people going around stabbing priests.
MELINDA: I don’t mean that. I mean…this letter. Did you read it?
BRANDON: Of course I did. So?
MELINDA: If this is true…this priest has been deeply involved in sexual scandals in some way. Molesting children? Covering up other priests molesting children? It’s a nasty business.
BRANDON: Oh, come on, you don’t think he really did that, do you? It’s just some deluded lunatic trying to justify their hatred of priests.
MELINDA: I don’t know, Brandon, there have been a lot of priests that have been defrocked and some of them are going to jail. It doesn’t seem so odd to me.
BRANDON: Oh, come on, if he did what they accuse him of, just come down here, file a complaint, and someone will investigate. You don’t murder people for raping children, you put them in jail.
MELINDA: Sometimes I think you’re a hard case.
MELINDA: I didn’t mean it as a compliment.
BRANDON: Look, I don’t like child rape, okay? It’s just…I don’t think anyone has the right to take the law into their own hands. Let’s just…solve the damn case already.
MELINDA: I’m not saying…we shouldn’t solve the case, just that I don’t like it, okay? He’s scum.
BRANDON: He’s in danger, I don’t care if he’s scum, I plan to save his life.
(Later. Still in the police station. BRANDON is working; MELINDA enters.)
MELINDA: I got the personality profile on the murderer.
BRANDON: Let’s see…(BRANDON reads.) No surprises here. Loner, probably living in a broken down hovel, but may be middle class living in his parents basement. Young. Psychotic hatred of organized religion, probably brought up in an atheist or Wiccan family, unemployed, probably no more than high school education. Contempt for law and order, perhaps an anarchist.
MELINDA: So that’s what we do? Look in all the hovels and basements until we find a young bearded kid huddled with several copies of The Anarchist’s Manifesto and The God Delusion, and a great big knife?
BRANDON: You’re just being sarcastic, aren’t you? Because if you’re not…I’m worried about you.
MELINDA: What, me, sarcastic? Never!
BRANDON: Run the profile through the database, you know that. Standard procedure.
MELINDA: Oh, silly me, I forgot. Brandon, this is silly. How many perps have we actually caught using these profiles?
BRANDON: I don’t have the exact count right here.
MELINDA: I do. Zero. That’s how many. Not a single perp ever caught by running his personality profile through our database. Because the profiler doesn’t know any of this, they’re making it up. It’s a standard stereotyped view of a criminal, that’s all.
BRANDON: You got anything better?
MELINDA: Yeah. We stake out the church while Father Weston is hearing confessions.
BRANDON: I already thought of that.
MELINDA: Good. I thought you were losing your skill…and your mind.
BRANDON: Sound as ever…but I’m still going to run this profile through our data base.
MELINDA: Whatever trips your trigger.
(Later. MELINDA is sitting with her feet on the desk, hands behind her head. Her eyes are closed. BRANDON enters.)
MELINDA: Now that you’ve got that out of your system.
BRANDON: What’s that supposed to mean?
MELINDA: C’mon, Brandon, not one of those suspects yielded a single clue. All of them fit the profile, but none of them had motive or opportunity, and they all had an alibi. Can we do real police work now?
BRANDON: Don’t be so snooty. Just because you don’t believe in science.
MELINDA: I do believe in science. This isn’t science.
BRANDON: So we sit in a cramped space watching the confessional…come home with a murderer in cuffs…close a case. I’m ready.
MELINDA: I’m right beside you, partner.
(Later. At the confessional. FATHER WESTON is in the confessional. BRANDON and MELINDA are hiding nearby, watching. FATHER WESTON exits. The cops tense.)
FATHER: Well, another day done…another confession over. I’m just standing here all by myself.
MELINDA: (whispers) What a moron.
BRANDON: (whispers) Give him a break. He’s probably scared. |
FATHER: I just love being by myself after confession. It helps to clear the soul.
(FATHER kneels to pray.)
BRANDON: Nothing. How long do we wait?
MELINDA: I suppose until he leaves. If he is still alive when he leaves, everything’s fine.
BRANDON: Does he know it’s okay to leave? Did you tell him he didn’t have to hang around until he gets killed?
MELINDA: No. I thought you told him.
BRANDON: Great. We’re probably stuck here until dinner.
(FATHER WESTON finishes his praying, and stands.)
FATHER: I guess no one else is coming. I’m still alone here. (Pause.) All alone. (Pause.) If no one else is coming, I guess I can leave. (Pause.) I’m going to leave.
BRANDON: (whispering) Leave already!
FATHER: I’m gone.
(FATHER WESTON hesitates, waiting, then exits.)
BRANDON: Nothing. I guess it was a false alarm. It’s odd, though. He said two days…
MELINDA: Maybe he remembered incorrectly.
BRANDON: Yeah, I suppose. So we come back tomorrow?
MELINDA: I guess so. I don’t imagine the killer is going to pass this up.
BRANDON: Unless…you don’t suppose they know, do you? That he brought us the letter?
MELINDA: Why would they know?
BRANDON: Not sure…just…it’s a thought.
MELINDA: Hey, let’s go get some food. I’m starving.
BRANDON: I’m right with you on that…
(They exit. The stage remains empty for a few seconds. Somewhere an organ starts to play a hymn. A thump is heard; another; another. FATHER WESTON appears, and starts to examine the confessional, trying to find the source of the noise. He exits the confessional. A shadowy figure sneaks up behind him and stabs him. He dies.)
(Later. The police station. BRANDON is pacing. MELINDA rushes in.)
MELINDA: I just heard.
BRANDON: Damn. Why didn’t we stick around?
MELINDA: Where was his security?
BRANDON: They were asleep.
BRANDON: I guess so. We should have stayed.
MELINDA: We planned everything just right. There was no reason to stay. This shouldn’t have happened.
BRANDON: I’m angry, Mel. I’m pissed off. Killing him right under our nose.
MELINDA: Would it be better if they’d killed him behind our back?
BRANDON: Don’t make fun of me…just…don’t. I’m not in the mood.
MELINDA: Sorry. Just…trying to deal with it in my own manner. But…I’ve got to go, okay? Patti…you know, my daughter?…she has a doctor’s appointment. Can you get by without me this afternoon? I’ll…spend the time looking over the records, if you’ll hand me that file.
BRANDON: Yeah, sure, okay. I’ll…we should…I don’t know. Maybe we should issue a warning to all the priests, right? So they could…wear protective gear under their…robe things.
MELINDA: Robe things? You really don’t know anything about priests, do you?
BRANDON: Me? I’m an agnostic. What do I care about priests?
MELINDA: Yeah. So, see you tomorrow? Try to get some sleep, okay? You look awful.
BRANDON: This is the worst one…we could have prevented it. It’s my fault.
MELINDA: It’s not your fault. It’s…the fault of…the murderer. Okay? The loner atheist anarchist?
BRANDON: You’re mocking me again.
MELINDA: Listen, come over to dinner tonight. You and Frank can play pool, you’ll feel better. I’ll cook.
BRANDON: Sure. See you…7?
MELINDA: Make it 6:30.
BRANDON: Okay. See you tonight.
(MELINDA exits. BRANDON watches her, then picks up the phone.)
BRANDON: Hello? Is this St. Peter’s? Could I speak to the priest? Thanks, I’ll hold.
(The next day. St. Peter’s confessional. BRANDON is hiding. Organ music plays a hymn. A thump is heard. Another. Another. A priest enters, and goes into the confessional, looking for the cause of the noise. He looks around, shakes his head, and exits. A shadowy figure comes up behind, lifts a knife. BRANDON grabs the figure and wrestles it to the ground. The priest exits at a run.)
(Later. The police station. BRANDON is pacing. MELINDA is in the chair. She is in handcuffs.)
BRANDON: I don’t believe it. I just don’t believe it. How…why…you…I just…
MELINDA: Shut up. You’re babbling.
BRANDON: You said to look for an ex-Catholic. You said…you told me. You warned me.
MELINDA: I didn’t warn you…I just…gave you a clue.
BRANDON: You wanted to be caught.
MELINDA: No. I just wanted…I didn’t want some lonely anarchist to get the death penalty.
BRANDON: Why? I don’t get it?
MELINDA: I should wait for my lawyer.
BRANDON: Yeah, you should.
MELINDA: No. You deserve to know. You…I don’t know, I hope you can understand. I had to.
BRANDON: No one has to kill.
MELINDA: I didn’t want to kill…I didn’t want to. I wanted to…I just wanted…you know my daughter, right?
BRANDON: Yeah. Cute kid. So?
MELINDA: She was molested by a priest last year. During confession.
BRANDON: Damn. I’m sorry.
MELINDA: Yeah. All those doctor visits? Therapy. She’s really messed up. She has nightmares. She isn’t doing well in school. She…I tried to report it. I reported it to the bishop. He told me I misunderstood. Then he told me my daughter was a tramp. So I went to the cops. They just laughed. They said, lady, Catholic priests don’t molest girls, they molest boys. Come back when you’ve got something real.
BRANDON: But…it’s possible that one could molest girls. I mean…that wasn’t right.
MELINDA: No, it isn’t right. So I checked up on him…and I found…others. Lots of others. Girls were being molested, a lot. The papers didn’t cover it, the news wasn’t interested. They were only interested in the boys that were molested. So all the girls…I talked to lots of them…they didn’t get any sympathy. They were told it was in their heads. Or that they were slutty...my daughter was eleven! Most the girls were young. They were told priests molest boys, not girls. All sorts of things. They all thought…they were the only one. They had no one to talk to. No one believed them.
BRANDON: You can’t just…
MELINDA: The girls were ignored. You know what I found out? More girls...and adult women…are molested by priests than boys. People just sort of brush it off. It’s a rite of passage for girls, or something. Or maybe it’s just seen as normal. Girls get raped, well, that’s part of being a girl. Or maybe…maybe it just isn’t as titillating. Doesn’t sell as many papers. Whatever. I don’t know. I only know nothing was happening, no one was trying to help, they were doing everything they could for every boy that got raped, but ignoring the girls.
BRANDON: No. It isn’t like that. It can’t be.
MELINDA: It can be. It is. Girls don’t matter as much in our society. Sex with girls, even very young girls, is normalized. So they didn’t see it as rape, even though Patti screamed and cried and begged him not to…
BRANDON: How do you know that?
MELINDA: Because his secretary heard. She whispered it to me, afraid to tell me outright, when she brought Patti home. But she wouldn’t go on record, she shut her mouth when anyone asked.
BRANDON: So you decided…
MELINDA: All of them…every one…molested girls. Father Weston? Just like the letter said. No one did anything, just moved him to this diocese from his old church in Arizona. Gave him new girls to molest, in a new location.
BRANDON: Was he…did he…Patti?
MELINDA: No. That was the first priest…Malloy. I only knew Father Weston from his record, until he showed here.
BRANDON: Your alibi…how?
MELINDA: Everyone thought it was after confession, because he was just coming out of the confessional. I made sure I was somewhere else during confession…then I made noises in the confessional. They always came to check.
BRANDON: I can’t believe…no….you can’t be…please, tell me…
MELINDA: I’m sorry, I wish it didn’t have to be you that caught me. I wish…
BRANDON: You…you’re mentally impaired…during the time you were killing, you weren’t aware. You didn’t know what you were doing.
MELINDA: Sorry, Brandon, I knew exactly what I was doing. I was angry, not insane. I was tired of little girls getting…I was tired…I hated myself…for years and years…I never wanted that for Patti…I should have left the church long before…I should never have exposed her…I knew. I knew. I just…somehow I believed…I was the only one.
BRANDON: Oh my God.
MELINDA: Please, untie me. I’ll…escape. You can…shoot me. Then it’ll all be over. None of us will have to hurt ever again.
BRANDON: I…can’t. Don’t ask that of me. I…won’t.
MELINDA: Then do just one thing for me…make sure no one covers this up. Help me make my trial so public that no one can pretend any more. Please.
BRANDON: I’ll do my best…I’ll try.
MELINDA: And please don’t hate me.
BRANDON: I could never hate you.
(BRANDON kneels next to MELINDA and takes her hand in his. She lays her head on his shoulder. She manages to get his gun, and shoots herself. She dies.)
END OF PLAY