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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

           The quiet time in the grotto may have helped Fr. Kevin feel better spiritually, but the late afternoon sun baking the church's front lawn did little for the banging in his temples, or the churning of his stomach.  Beads of sweat gathered under his collar, and beneath his jacket, the dark dress shirt he had carefully pressed that morning was melted to his body like a layer of chocolate.  He surely  regretted the several lemon squares floating around in a sea of Irish whiskey, and if he was lucky, he'd make it back to the rectory without leaving evidence of his indiscretion in chunky puddles across the church commons.

        With a sense of weariness usually reserved for men much older, Kevin pulled himself off the stone bench, and looked around Holy Family's little garden.  The plants needed weeding and watering, and the lawn called out for the attentions of a mower.  Marco had always handled that, and now that he was ...gone...Kevin would need to hire someone new.  A piece of crime scene tape fluttered from the side wall of the grotto, a reminder of terrible things.  Watching it flap in the breeze like some type of hellish windsock needled the unhappy padre.  It seemed inherently disrespectful to the peace and meditation the place was meant to induce, and Fr. Kevin was set on removing it.

         Climbing over the stones that bordered the garden, he reached up and pulled hard at the tape.  The yellow banner tore in his hands, leaving a piece remaining, attached with a slice of silver duct tape.  Determined to leave no trace of it, Kevin pulled out his keys, and using the edge of a large one, began scrapping at the tape until all that was left was a tacky residue.

        "Need some turpentine, or gasoline to get this sticky shit off," he thought, "otherwise it's just going to turn black and never come..."  Despite the bourbon fog, something clicked in the back of his head.  Sticky.  Residue.  He crunched the yellow tape in a ball, and jamming his keys into his pocket, hustled back to the rectory.  Heading straight for the desk in the parlor, and leaving the front door wide open, he rummaged through the files, looking for one page in particular. Finding the coroner's report, he located a photo of the clothes Marco was wearing the day of the murder, and raced back to the grotto.

           Holding the photo up to the spot where he had removed the tape just moments before, it was obvious that the residue on the grotto wood, and the residue on Marco's undershirt, were one in the same.  Something had been taped to the gardener's shirt, and removed, thus leaving the same sticky residue behind.  He sat back down on the bench and thought long and hard about the morning of the murder.  That was the day he had decided on a bike ride around town.  He arrived back at the church about an hour before the start of 8:30 Mass.  That was the same morning he saw the blond woman with the rosary in the chapel.  What was it about Marco, on that specific morning, that was floating in his head, just out of reach?

            Then it came to him...the proverbial cartoon light bulb clicking on in his brain.  He remembered thinking how odd it was that Marco was wearing a heavy cable knit sweater on a warm summer morning.  Now it made sense to him.  The murdered gardener was probably trying to hide whatever it was that was taped to his t-shirt underneath.  The question was...what was the tape holding?



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