Family Killer (Unfinished)
By Tim Daughtry
Father O’Shaughnessy sat silently in the confessional and wondered why he was scared. In his 36 years as a priest in the sleepy suburb of Tustin, California, he had heard everything from the ex-Marine who confessed to murder, to the first graders from the parish school who felt the need to apologize for occasionally shoving a classmate. Over the years as he patiently listened to these various confessions he had experienced surprise, disappointment and maybe an occasional shock. But he rarely remembers feeling scared.
But when the phone rang earlier in the day he felt an uneasiness come over him as he heard the demanding voice of a stranger ordering him around. The words he remembers the clearest were the words that made him anxious, “Father, I need to make a confession about something I’ve done and about something I will do again tonight. I’ll be there at 4.”
Father O’Shaughnessy of course agreed to the caller’s terms, even though he doubted that his afternoon visitor would ever make it on time. Orange County was waterlogged from its second full day of constant raining. It was late January when the combination of steady cold rain and the early afternoon darkness set up by Daylight Savings Time, actually gave Southern California a season other than summer. This was Father O’Shaughnessy’s favorite time of the year. It always reminded him of his boyhood days growing up in Scotland where there were four unique seasons. The low clouds that held back the sun created an intricate pattern of shadows that turned St. Timothy’s parish into an eerily, Gothic maze of stone structures. Father O’Shaughnessy always looked forward to that walk he would have to make from his office to the chapel where the church’s one confessional was located. But today was different. He was not altogether enthusiastic about his mysterious afternoon appointment.
Father was jolted out of his daydreaming by the church bell volume of the phone ringing on his desk. He kept meaning to turn down the volume on his phone, but always forgot after a long conversation. He picked it up quickly to hush the deafening, high pitched ringing. With this call he could barely place the phone next to his ear, much less say hello, before the voice on the other end blurted out “Father I just called you a few minutes ago. I’m your four o’clock confession. Father I need to make sure you can get God to forgive me for what I’ve done. I’m killing off my family. They’ve given me no other choice.” O’Shaughnessy had no idea how to respond. So he didn’t. “You there?” the caller asked abruptly. “I’m here,” he replied almost timidly. “Just be ready for me at four. I won’t be late.” At least he now had an answer to whether or not she would show up. But as the priest returned his loud phone to its cradle, he felt more fearful about who and what he was “getting ready for.”
This time he didn’t forget to turn down the volume on his phone. He wanted to unplug it. Instead he left his cozy office and went down the hall to the kitchen to refill his now cold coffee cup. He was alone. Kathy Elliott his secretary of almost 10 years was not there yet. Although she was scheduled to start at 9:00, she rarely made it before 9:30 or even 10:00. She had two kids to get off to school and judging by the look of her house, she probably never left the house with anything out of place. Since the workload at the parish was sporadic and never more than one secretary could handle, Father was okay with her flexible schedule. She was worth the wait….