The guy nailed the priest with a punch like a jackhammer. Cleansed by Fire. Chapter 5 – 3

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A VG Serial: Cleansed by Fire

Chapter 5 – 3

It was after eleven by the time Father Frank got free and could go see how the basketball league was doing. He turned into the parking lot at City Park, swung the Taurus into one of the two shady spots, shut off the motor and hopped out. He turned toward the basketball court and instantly his pulse rate shot up. Involuntarily, his fists clenched as he took in the scene before him. Standing on the edge of the court, talking to several of the boys, was the man with the Trans-Am. Father Frank eased into a trot.

He pushed in between the man and the boys. “Go on out on the court and start your game,” he said to the boys. “Now.”

The boys headed for the court. Father Frank grabbed the man by the shirt and pulled him to the side. “I told you to stay away—.”

The man’s hands shot up, breaking the hold Father Frank had on his shirt. In one fluid motion, his right hand came around and slammed into Father Frank’s jaw. The priest went down, conscious, but stunned.

The boys stared with open mouths. Harry Courtright, the biggest among the boys, took a step in the direction of the man who had decked Father Frank. The man turned and fixed Harry with a cold, menacing glare that stopped the teenager dead in his tracks. The man held Harry with his fierce stare until the boy took a step backward.

The man switched his focus to the priest, still on the ground. A moment later, he strode across the asphalt, got into his car and drove off without ever looking back.

Carlos, one of the basketball players, took his gaze off the priest and looked across the park.

“Police car.”

He took off at a full run toward the street, his ponytail swinging from side to side. He intercepted the Pine Tree Police Department car and flagged it down. In less than two minutes, Detective Mike Oakley squatted beside Father Frank.

“Are you okay, Father?”

The priest sat up, rubbing his jaw and working it side to side.

“Yeah. I just didn’t see it coming. He’s got a punch like a jackhammer.”

“Come down to the station and file a complaint. You’ve got plenty of witnesses, and a good case for assault.”

Father Frank thought about that for a moment. Would it get the man off the street? Not likely. He shook his head and stood up.

“No. I grabbed him by the shirt first.” He turned to the boys. “What did the man want?”

No one spoke. Two boys half-turned away, others sud­denly needed to inspect their shoes, or check out the progress of a bug crawling on the ground. Several just shook their heads. Not one word came from the group.

“Does he have a name?” the detective asked. When no answer came, Mike’s voice took on a more authoritative tone. “Come on, now. What’s his name? What do you call him?”

“Errr,” one of the boys mumbled.

Mike moved into policeman mode. “Say his name again, and make it clear this time.”

“Earl.”

Several heads bobbed up and down in agreement.

“Earl,” said Mike. “Any other name? A last name? A nick­name? Anything?”

More shakes of heads. A couple said, “Nah.”

A boy with a bad case of acne said, “Earl is the only thing he told us.”

Father Frank asked, “What did he want?”

Again, silence.

“Was he trying to sell you drugs?” Father Frank looked at the boy who had flagged down the detective.

“Come on, Carlos. Earl was talking. You have ears. What was he saying?”

Carlos looked like he wanted to shrink into the ground. “He, um, he wanted to know, um, who had drugs. Where he could find some.”

“Is that all?”

“He asked if we knew who ran the show here,” said Chip, the kid with almost no chin.

Father Frank nodded several times. “And what did you tell him?”

Chip’s eyes opened wide and he shook his head. “Nothing. I don’t know none of that stuff.” He looked at the detective. “I’m not into that stuff. I mean, I know it’s around, but I don’t know nothing about it.”

“We’re not accusing you of anything,” said Mike. We’re just trying to find out what that guy is doing here. That’s all.”

Carlos spoke up. “Honest, Father, that’s all it was. He was asking us what we knew and we all said, ‘Nothing.’ We don’t know anything about that stuff. Except that it’s in school. But none of us ever tried it.”

He looked at the boys around him. Several of them nodded enthusiastically.

“Good,” said Mike, drawing the boys’ attention back. “Don’t ever start. Some of the new stuff can make you an addict the very first time you try it. Stay away from it.” He gave each of the boys a stern look.

Chapters of the serial are published on Monday, Thursday, and Sunday.

You can learn more about Cleansed by Fire and other James H. Callan novels on his Amazon Author Page.

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