256 Words

Priestly Obligation

M. Stanley Bubien

Father Juliano entered the cell.

On a small cot lay the prisoner. "Padre..." he rasped.

"Niño," Juliano replied, clasping the man's hand. He fought to keep his gaze from the lumps and bruises that scarred the man's body.

The confession was surprisingly brief. "It... It was my doing... The bomb. And I made my point..."

Involuntarily, Juliano's grasp slipped and the prisoner's hand dropped from his. He wiped his face to hide his reaction, but it didn't matter. The prisoner had lapsed into a fitful sleep.

As the cell door clanked shut, Juliano shuddered. He wanted to get back to the mission, to get out of his clothes and into a bath.

The Captain stopped him. Clapping Juliano on the back and waving a cassette, he said, "Gracias, Padre. You gave us everything we needed."

Juliano stared, but as realization crept upon him, his eyes flashed. "You recorded the confession."

"Yes. And you did what we couldn't, even with four days of... interrogation."

Juliano nodded and held out his hand. "May I have a look?"

"Of course," the Captain smiled, giving Juliano the tape.

Here it was, the evidence they needed to bring a criminal to justice. A true criminal---Juliano had seen the man's face, he heard the confession. And they heard it too, listening in on the ancient sacrament.

Juliano closed his eyes, grasped the cassette with both hands and snapped it in two, crumbling the tape through his fingers.

Leaving the compound, Juliano's only thought was how badly he needed that bath.

Copyright ©1996 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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October, 1996
Issue #7

256 Words