“Well, I’ll be damned. Hells’ bells! We’re not open for ten minutes and look who comes through Big Bob’s new door. Good to see you, Benj. You too, Patrick. How’s Nora? Your Dad? Everything good with the clan?” Stanley set up three cups of coffee, one for himself and the two men who were the first to come inside and currently the only people in Big Bob’s.
“Hey Stanley. You’re looking good.” Benj kicked the snow and rock salt from his shoes as he held the door open for Patrick doing the same behind him before crossing the threshold.
“What can we do for you two fine young fine men? Whatever you want. It’s on the house considering you’re the first folks back in here.” Stanley waved a hand indicating that the bar was empty of customers except for the two O’Mara brothers.
“Just a couple of coffees and sweet rolls,” said Patrick. He took a bar stool next to Benj and began toying with the salt and pepper shakers.
“Oh come on, you two can do better than that. You got a stomach bug or what? Huh?” Stanley poured steaming coffee into the cups.
“Nora stuffed us before we headed for Falls. Preventive breakfast I call it. In case we get stuck in a snow-bank along the way, at least we’ll be stuck with full stomachs.” Benj knocked shoulders with Patrick next to him as they laughed.
Stanley set two sweet rolls on plates for them. “That’s Nora alright. So what brings you two to our National Guard Disaster area? Don’t you dare say it’s because you enjoy the scenery on the ride here. That would be a whole lot of snow-shit anyone can see anywhere.”
His fingers dancing around the rim of his coffee cup, Benj said, “Actually we came in thinking we might meet up with Sarge.”
“Well, he has not been here this morning. He usually comes around every so often after a shift for the breakfast special and a sweet roll. With the docks still closed, I wouldn’t expect him though.” Stanley nodded at the window view of the shoulder-high mounds of snow all along the street with only one lane cleared for traffic. “If Reggie Dawson hadn’t taken it into his head to clear the street that much on his own, I wouldn’t be open either.”
Patrick followed the direction of Stanley’s glance and nodded in understanding. “When was Sarge last in for a special?”
Stanley sipped his coffee. “Let’s see. Pretty sure it was the Friday of the week before the snow really became a bitch. Yep. It was. I remember now. He sat there right at the end. Came in at the end of us getting slammed. Had his usual over-easys.”
“He seem okay to you then?” Benj dipped his sweet roll into his coffee.
“Oh hell yeah. Right as rain. Had a book as usual. Gave me a little lip for fun.”
“You ain’t seen him since then?” said Patrick.
“No.” Stanley shook his head. “Last I saw of Sarge he was high-tailing it out the door in hot pursuit of Lily. Have no idea if he caught up with her, but he sure put a leg on after she left.”
Benj and Patrick looked at each other, then at Stanley. Patrick leaned over his coffee expectantly. “How long has Sarge been seeing this Lily?”
Stanley shrugged his shoulders. “Never saw them together before that Friday. All I can say is that he sat down next to her. They gave each other a little grief. She ate like a starving pig as usual. He ate. She left. He grabbed his sweet roll and left right after. What more can I tell you?”
Benj grinned. “So what do you know about this Lily? Besides she eats like a pig.”
Stanley shook his head. “Oh that Lily, she’s something else, Benj.”
“What? She like some hot to trot firecracker?”
“Hot to trot firecracker? Lily? Hell no, Patrick. Atomic bomb is more like it.”
Mistaking Stanley’s line of thinking, Benj and Patrick laughed with glee. “So she’s like, what, stacked to the max?”
“How’s her ass action? She got a cute little wiggle in her walk?” Patrick shook his sweet roll to illustrate this notion.
Stanley laughed. “I hate to disappoint you guys, but you got it all wrong.”
“Awww Stanley. You’re such a tease,” said Patrick before eating half his sweet roll.
“You’re just yanking our chains with the atomic bombshell bit?” Patrick slumped dejectedly on his stool for a few moments.
“No. I’m not. I meant it. Only not like you two are thinking.”
Patrick punched Benj in the shoulder while keeping eye contact with the barkeeper. “Okay. Okay. So how did you mean it, Stanley?”
“Wait a minute.” Stanley glanced at the door and out the window. “I don’t want to start something I can’t finish. Let me lock the door. Fifteen minutes more of being closed won’t hurt anyone.”
“What the hell, Stanley?” Benj swirled on the bar stool while watching Stanley lock the entrance door. “You got FBI secrets to share or what?”
Returning to his place behind the bar, Stanley got comfortable on a stool, topped off everyone’s coffee, then looked from Benj to Patrick. “Remember when the shit hit the fan big time at St. Luke’s Church in the Flats a couple of years back?”
“You mean all that about Father John being a pedophile?”
“That’s it, Benj. That’s what I’m thinking of.”
“Oh I remember that. That was one storm that just wouldn’t blow over. So what’s this Lily got to do with that?”
“So—Lily started that shit-storm and kept it blowing for as long as it did.”
“I don’t recall reading about any Lily in the papers.” Patrick shook his head as he wiped his hands on a napkin. “I think I’d remember if Father Joseph had said anything about a Lily during Sunday Mass when he talked about St.Luke’s and Father John.”
“That’s because Holy Mother Church didn’t want it getting out who was really calling the shots in the Flats. Church didn’t want anyone finding out about what Lily knew any more than necessary. Lily knew a hell of a lot about what Father John did, when, where, who and how many times. Last thing the Church wanted was some reporter getting in deep with Lily. And they sure as hell didn’t want their own giving anyone any ideas about chatting her up. The parents were another thing. The Holy Fathers couldn’t care less about how they were carrying on. They just came across as clowns in the papers and on television because of how they looked and talked. Church could deal with the parents. Or so it thought at the time.” Stanley drank his coffee and waited for a response from either of the two men.
“But this Lily could have just gone to the papers herself. Why didn’t she?”
Stanley grimaced. “Lily wasn’t interested in getting press. What she wanted was Father John out of the Flats and out of the priesthood. She wanted him listed as a sex offender with the police and that was just for starters. She wanted him prosecuted to the full extent of the law. On top of that she had other priest fish to fry. And they weren’t in Falls. Now the only reason I know this is because my cousin Pauline manages Father Richard’s office in M-. She’s been there for two decades. She types up all the top line letters herself to keep things quiet and contained. According to Pauline, Lily and Father Richard had a meeting in person, right there in Father Richard’s office for about an entire day. Right after that, Father Richard got busy and put some serious hurt on a priest in Minnesota, another one in Texas, and one in Washington State. Pauline doesn’t know what happened after that because only those letters went out. Nothing came in reply. Nothing in writing anyway. Everything else Father Richard did was either on the phone or face to face behind closed doors.”
Patrick hunched his shoulders and leaned over his coffee. “You’re saying he didn’t want any records or a paper trail.”
“Exactly.” Stanley topped off his own cup of coffee and then Benj and Patrick’s. “But that didn’t put an end to what was going on in the Flats. When Father Richard’s hands were tied by higher-ups in regard to Father John, it was Lily who organized those folks to drive Father John out of business and basically shut down St. Luke’s on their own. The Sunday donations stopped. The tithes stopped coming in. The people stopped coming to mass. There were even carpools for getting people who wanted mass over to St. Teresa’s or any other church. Till this day, if anyone wants to go to confession they go to St. Teresa’s. Baby needs a christening; it’s done at St. Teresa’s. Someone needs last rites; they get the priest from St. Teresa’s to the Flats for them. All of that is still going on. There may be a priest in residence at St. Luke’s, but only God Almighty hears him say mass. That church is a tomb.”
“Ahh ha. And this Lily is behind all that?” Benj exchanged looks and shrugs with Patrick before they both turned doubtful eyes back on the older man.
“Obviously none of that would have happened if people hadn’t paid attention to her. But she’s the one who light their fuses. No doubt about it.” He watched the two brothers smirk while remaining good-naturedly attentive to him. Deciding to take advantage of their interest and the lack of anyone walking or driving down the one lane street, Stanley warmed further to his subject. “As if that wasn’t enough, after those people got a taste of what they could do, they started doing other things. They formed what they call the Neighborhood Watch out there. It’s got ex-gang bangers, retired cops, blue-collar guys, white-collar guys, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Indians, Asians, the whole nine yards. You name it, if it lives in the Flats; they got it in the Watch. Falls PD may ignore 911 calls from the Flats, but the Watch doesn’t.”
Benj stretched his arms and locked his hands behind his head. “How you know all this, Stanley? Is there a Flats newsletter going around or some such?”
“How do I know all this?” Stanley’s eyebrows arched high as he met Benj’s eyes. “I know all this because my sister’s daughter, Joyce, she’s a nurse at St.Syms, lives in the Flats. Joyce bought a house god awful cheap there some time back because she wanted something close to work. As Joyce tells it, Lily pulled all those people together when she went after Father John for those kids he was messing around with. She really put the hurt on St. Luke’s when she got up at some community meeting and made some speech about if people still wanted to go to church and listen to some priest tell them how to live their lives after what Father John had done to their children, then they needed to go find a good man, because that’s what makes a good priest. So some people started visiting the other churches to check out the priests.”
Patrick laughed. “That’s funny, Stanley. Sounds like she sent them shopping for a better deal.”
Pointing his cup at Patrick, Stanley nodded. “That’s about what it boiled down to, Patrick. Now, lots of folks had been dishing some priest at St. Teresa’s ever since he arrived because he stuttered so much. They didn’t like listening to him trying to talk right. You know how that goes, especially with the old timers who want everything just perfect. They figured the Church had given them a lemon priest. Some of the Flats people go to St. Teresa’s to check out this priest anyway. When they show up out of nowhere to have a little chat, he stops what he’s doing and gives them his undivided attention until they’re good and ready to say bye-bye. Those folks didn’t give a damn about his stuttering. They just wanted a priest who flew right and played by the rules. They wanted a good man. Joyce said that when the people from the Flats showed up at St. Teresa’s for Sunday Mass for the first time it was like a people bomb had exploded. Church was packed from the first pew to the last and out the doors. Guess which priest was saying Mass that Sunday. After checking out all their options in Falls and M- and everywhere in between, they chose the lemon priest. Now every time the lemon priest says Sunday Mass, St. Teresa’s is stuffed to the gills. That priest doesn’t even have a chance to ask for help. Roof needs patching. It’s done. Window needs fixing. It’s done. His funny little scooter needs a repair. It’s done. St. Teresa’s food pantry needs filling. It’s filled. Why? Because when the people from the Flats call him, he answers without any bullshit. And he doesn’t mess with their kids.” Stanley drank the rest of his coffee. “Ever see a picture of an atomic bomb exploding?”
“With the mushroom cloud and all spreading out.” Benj illustrated with his hands. “Oh yeah.”
“Same thing with Lily.” The barkeeper spun his empty cup in its saucer. “When she delivers a payload there’s a big bang, mushroom cloud goes up and down. Ripples just keep on spreading out wider and wider.”
Scratching his head, Patrick sat up straight and frowned at his brother and Stanley. “This does not sound like a woman who’d be up Sarge’s alley.”
“Anything but. Way too labor intensive.”
“You fellas are probably right. You’re his brothers.” Seeing a certain sort of opportunity in the situation, Stanley decided to make the most of it. “But if you saw how they were checking each other out here at the counter, both of them being sly about it, you might be singing a different tune.”
Not at all buying Stanley’s line, Patrick said, “If Sarge was giving this Lily the once over, then she must have something to grab his eyes. What does she look like anyway, Stan?”
Benj backed up his older brother. “Come on Stan. Give us something besides a yarn about the freak show in the Flats.”
“Alright already. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, you two are a couple of Peter Pan Pests today. Tell you what. Next time you see a Hudson Bay Blanket coat hoofing it in Falls, that’s Lily. “
“You got to be kidding. Oh Stan. I don’t know about Patrick, but you’re killing me with your bullshit. I’m thinking I’m going to take you up on that freebie breakfast just to make up for doing you the favor of listening to all this shit.”
“I’m serious. You want to know what Lily looks like and if she might trip Sarge’s trap, then go find the Hudson Bay Blanket coat. You do know what one of those looks like, don’t you?”
“What do you take us for? A couple of morons? We know what a Hudson Bay coat looks like. She can’t have the only one in Falls.”
“True. But she’s the only person I’ve seen in the last, what four or five years wearing one all winter long. If I see the coat on the street, I think, ‘there goes Lily.’ What do you know, every time I drive past that coat and see a face, it is Lily. Never yet have I been wrong about who is wearing that coat here in Falls. Not once. Okay. Now, let’s fire up the grill and have us all some eggs because I don’t think anyone else is coming through that new door until some more folks are dug out.”
Patrick and Benj banged their palms on the bar-counter in agreement. “Hell yeah, fill us up for the return trip with sunny-siders and some burnt pig, Stanley.”
After Patrick and Benj departed, Big Bob’s grill man, Murray, came out from behind the grill blind. Joining Stan in another cup of coffee at the empty counter he pulled apart a cinnamon roll and ate it piece by piece. “Stan, are you sure that was a good idea, telling those two about Lily and her coat? They might do that and give her grief she don’t need. ”
“Ah they’re harmless as far Lily is concerned. They won’t lay rough hands on a woman. A man, now that’s an entirely different story. They’ll fight any guy dumb enough to swing a dick in their direction. They don’t care who or how big in any sense of the word. I think Sarge has given them the slip again and they’re trying to pick up his trail anyway they can. Telling them to look for Lily when who they really want to find is Sarge, is like sending them on a wild goose chase. If they’re looking for her coat, then they’re not looking for Sarge. And in my book, them not finding Sarge for as long as possible is a damn good thing all by itself.”
“No argument on that score from me. Why they don’t just let Sarge do his own thing is beyond me.”
“It’s all about control, Murray. All about control. I’ve known Dylan and Nora for years. They always held their boys pretty damn tight when they were just kids. Now they hold the boys and their families tight too. Seems like they all want it that way. Except for Sarge who has been fighting that tight hold ever since he was a little kid. Unlike his brothers, Sarge was born with a mind of his own. That’s why Sarge and crazy Kozy get along so well.”
“Stan was that legit what you told them about Lily and Father Richard or were you just blowin’ smoke up their asses?
“Oh it’s legit all right. I could tell by the looks on their faces they weren’t buying one word of it even though I was telling them the gospel truth according to Pauline. I figure, hey, truth is stranger than fiction. My conscience is clear. I didn’t lie to them. They think I did though. So they won’t be wasting any time sharing that story. They forgot it before they even went out our new door.” Stanley looked at Murray. “Probably best you forget it too.”
Murray popped the last of the cinnamon roll into his mouth. “What? You say something Stanley?”
Breakfast Special, #28, Fair Trade Creed Reads, part 1, Les Mis:
Breakfast Special, #28, Fair Trade Creed Reads, part 2, Stealth:
Breakfast Special #28, Fair Trade Creed Reads, part 3, Two Guys On a Roof: https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/breakfast-special-28-fair-trade-creed-reads-pt-3-just-two-guys-on-a-roof/