It wasn't simply homophobia; it was a zealous crusade against what they called the "abhorrent, unnatural offense to God's eye," and listening to their self-righteous accusations always left him feeling sad and somehow soiled.
Please let it be something else this time, Lord, he prayed as he drew near the middle pew. I have, after all, already endured the penance of good Sister Ignatius's meat loaf.
And indeed it was something else. What was troubling John and Mary Kleinfeldt this morning was not the suspected presence of homosexuals in the parish, but the indisputable presence of small, tidy bullet holes in the backs of their skulls.
It wasn't the first homicide in Kingsford County since Sheriff Michael Halloran had pinned on his star five years ago. Scatter a few thousand people over the northern Wisconsin countryside, arm a good half of them with hunting rifles and skinning knives, throw a hundred bars into the mix, and eventually some of them are going to end up killing each other. That's just the way it was.
It didn't happen very often, and for the most part they were the kind of killings people up here could get their heads around: bar fights, domestics, and the occasional suspicious hunting accident, like when Harry Patrowski said he shot his mother through the kitchen window because he thought she was a deer.
But an old couple gunned down in a church? Now that was something else, something senseless and evil that wasn't supposed to happen in a little town where kids played outside after dark, nobody locked their doors, and corn wagons still lumbered down Main Street on their way to the feed mill. Hell, half the people in the county thought smoking a joint meant lighting your elbow on fire, and you still had to drive ninety miles south and east to Green Bay just to see an "R" movie.
This murder was going to change everything.
Four of the five squad cars on third watch were already in St. Luke's parking lot by the time Halloran arrived at six a.m.
Great, he thought. I've got one car left on the road patrolling over eight hundred square miles of county. He saw Doc Hanson's ugly blue station wagon sandwiched between two of the squads, and off in a corner, an ancient Ford Falcon in an ominous rectangle of yellow crime-scene tape.
Deputy Bonar Carlson walked out of the church and waited on the top step, tugging at a belt that had no hope of ever again making it up to his belly button.
"Bonar, that holster hangs much lower you're going to have to kneel if you ever need to get at your weapon."
"And I'd still beat you at the draw," Bonar grinned, which was true. "Man, you're ugly this early. Good thing you don't work the third. You'd scare the other boys."
"Just tell me you've solved this already so I can go back home to bed."
"Way I figure, Father Newberry did it. Forty years of listening to confessions and sniffing incense and then one day, poor bastard just snaps and shoots two of his parishioners in the back of the head."
"I'm going to tell him you said that."
Bonar stuffed his fat hands into his jacket pockets and snorted a frosty exhale, serious now. "He didn't hear anything, didn't see anything. Fell asleep in front of the TV after dinner, didn't even know Kleinfeldts were here until he looked out the window at five a.m. and saw their car. Went over to see if he could help, found the bodies, dialed 911, end of story."
"We're working on it."
"So what's your take on it?"
It wasn't an idle question. Bonar might look and talk and act like another good old Wisconsin boy, but there were some scary processing chips in that head of his. He could take one look at a crime scene and tell you things the state forensics boys would never find with all their fancy equipment.
From Monkeewrench by P.J. Tracy. Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher, Penguin Putnam, Inc.
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