Father Mulrooney Makes a House Call - A Craven Danger Mystery
Lord, get me through the next thirty minutes and I’ll never again rage like a lunatic when I find Sister Helen in my whiskey cabinet. Also, let me not be too judgmental when it comes to one of your flock and his lackluster approach to a chosen profession, and to life in general.
As Father Mulroney walked through the door of the Craven Danger Detective Agency he had little hope of coming away with any sense of accomplishment.
And, Lord, let not this lost sheep blather on about why he couldn’t do what he didn’t do and how he’ll never not do it again once I’ve dished out the absolution. And, finally Lord, understand that on occasion I must answer to a higher authority here on earth. Amen.
“Good morning, Betty,” said Father Mulrooney.
“Good morning, Father. Thanks for coming.”
“Did I have a choice? You beckoned. I called. It’s easier on the nerves than to suffer the consequence of refusing you. The last time we spoke on the phone my right ear twitched for a week. You have to understand that the confessional is a sacred trust. I’m not a traveling huckster selling magic elixir door to door at two bits a pop. Unless Craven’s about to croak, he’s to do his confessing at the church. What’s the dear boy dying from this week? Typhoid, dysentery, the black plague?”
“Hangover,” said Betty.
“Hangover? You dragged me from the rectory to hear the confession of a guy who didn’t know the party was over? Young lady, you’ve saved me the trouble of removing my hat. See you next Sunday.”
“Ah, come on, Father. He thinks he’s been poisoned. He’s been blubbering all morning about how he’s ready for the good Lord to take him away until his better life comes along. And would I mind waiting around another twenty-eight years for his reincarnated self to come find me. It was a tempting offer. Twenty-eight is going to look awful good when I’m fifty-three and not defying gravity any more. I’d kill him myself, but he has no insurance and all I’d only be left with is a lingering feeling that he’d come back as his old self and I’d be fresh out of good wise-cracks. You talk to him, Father. I’m done for the day.”
“I’ve been picking that boy up by the scruff of his neck ever since he was eight years old, and he hasn’t aged a day since. But in I go. The gallant knight in tarnished armor jousting with the jittery jester once again.”
“Thank you, Father. I owe you another bottle.”
“I’ve been saving those bottles, Betty. When I retire I’m opening up a six-stool confessional. Now let me go in and check on the nearly departed.”
When Father Mulrooney stepped into Craven Danger’s office the detective was nowhere in sight.
“Craven? You in here? It’s Father Mulrooney coming to hook you up with your maker.”
“I’m in the bathroom, Father. Just hook a left and come in. I’m in the washtub.”
When Father Mulrooney entered, he closed the lid on the toilet and sat down. Craven Danger was seated in a washtub with his knees up to his chin.
“Excuse my appearance, Father. When I meet my maker I want to come clean in more ways than one. I even pressed my suit so good you could slice bread on the creases. But before I meet my maker I have a question.”
“What is it?”
“If I wear my fedora, do I need a bigger coffin? I’d hate to think of that mortician coming up short and having to pull the hat down over my ears in order to squeeze me into the box. I don’t want to appear silly at my own wake. And I’ll look a damn fool if I can’t pull the hat off my head while St. Peter’s waiting to check me off his list.”
”Oh, you don’t have to worry about that, Craven. I have it on good authority that once your soul ascends, you enter the gates as naked as the day you were born. As far as the wake goes? I’d hold that fedora close to your heart. It might get squashed when the lid comes down, but the worms won’t object. They’ll work around it.”
“Well, that’s a disappointment, Father. I really look good in that suit. Naked, huh? I may have to change my plans and wait till I can tone-up a bit. I’m a little shy in the Mr. Universe department. So I’m told.”
“It was me that told you, Craven. There may be a decent afterlife for you in the cornfield. I’ll put a word in. Now, on to the big question. What were you doing last night that brought on this sudden urge to die?”
“I was in the cellar helping old man Cochran celebrate his new batch of home-made red.”
“You drank old man Cochran’s hootch? Even the neighborhood hobos only use it to get the grime out of their socks. Let me tell you something, young fool. You drank too much bad booze, and your twisted head is making you think you’d be better off on a big fluffy cloud. That’s not happening. And for your information, old man Cochran is only thirty-two years old. He ages worse than his wine. Stay away from that man and his wares, or you will be meeting your maker sooner than you think.”
“You want to hear my confession anyway?”
“Only if you plan on drowning in the next few minutes. I could help with that if you like. God sometimes gives passes on mercy killings.”
“No thanks, Father. I’m sorry you had to see me like this.”
“You’re sorry? I’m almost blind from the shock. Don’t you ever take that body out for some sun? Do me a favor, Craven. After I leave I want you to throw on some skivvies, get yourself a blanket, then go up on the roof and offer yourself to the sun gods. And be sure to tell Dr. Wiggins to lock up his pigeon coop. We don’t need a flock of blinded pigeons running scared through the streets of New York. As for now? You wait in the tub while I go downstairs to get a bucket of ice from the butcher. You’re about to get a rude awakening. And it will be my final absolution for the day.”
Phito courtesy of Wiki Commons:https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?sort=relevance&search=washtub&...