Thursday, July 5, 2012
His voice echoing off the walls and barren pews, Fr. Kevin O'Kenney gave the Final Blessing of the Mass to a near empty church. "Near empty" was an understatement. It was more like a ghost town. The six members of the congregation huddled quietly in seats near the back, the ones closest to the exit, with literally, one foot out the door. Before Mrs. Martin could finish the first refrain of the recessional hymn on her kazoo, they were gone, with only the door swinging behind them.
Fr. Kevin strolled down the aisle, and followed the fleeing parishioners out into the bright July sunlight. As far as joyful liturgies went, this morning was a bust. The 6:00 AM Mass had been celebrated with three worshipers, and that number included a homeless man who had plopped himself down in the last pew to take a short nap. The early Mass was never crowded, but was usually supported by the same dedicated group of faithful members. They had not been in attendance today. The 9:00 AM Mass was always his most popular of the week, a standing room only type of event, full of families and children. To see the church so empty was definitely worrisome.
Observing the crime scene tape, and the chalk outline of Marco's body, prominently displayed in the church's front yard, Kevin could hardly blame his flock for avoiding Holy Family. To get to the front door of the place, people had to pass the very spot where a man had been brutally murdered. It was understandable that the folks would not want that sight in their heads during worship. But it wasn't like he could do much about the whole matter. The Sheriff had no solid leads, and the case seemed to be going nowhere. Unless something changed, Marco's murder would sadly go unsolved.
Feeling silly standing on the church steps by himself, the young priest made his way back inside to lock up the building. He stopped at the altar to blow out the candles that he himself had lit earlier. Even the altar servers had not shown up this morning. He placed everything back in it's correct spot, and turned to leave for the rectory. As he passed, he noticed, yet again, that the flowers in front of the Blessed Mother had still not been changed. The withered bouquet was still there from Friday morning when he... Fr. O'Kenney stopped with a start. Friday morning... something he had forgotten until just this moment!
Thinking things over, he remembered that he had just returned from his bike ride, and was on his way back to the rectory. He recalled looking into the church windows to check on the flowers, and saw a lone woman in church, praying the rosary. She was a young blond whom he had not recognized. How long had she stayed? He did not recall if she had stayed on for Mass, or even when she left the church. Was there a possible witness to Marco's murder? Was she even involved? He needed to call Sheriff Beckett. He knew the Sheriff hated to be bothered on his day off, but information like this couldn't wait until Monday. Dead Marco was stuck in his brain, and couldn't be shaken off.