The Case of the Incontinent Curate - IV
Further adventures of our fearless sleuthette.
"Goodness!" thought Nancy, as she passed through the imposing gates of the Massachusetts State Prison for the Sexually Adventurous at Bridgewater, "What an unusual place for a clergyman to work. I hope they won't mind that I'm a little late for my appointment!"
"Good morning, Miss. May I help you?" inquired a big-boned blonde woman dressed in a white coat. A badge pinned to the coat identified her as Doctor Frieda Johnson.
"I'm an intrepid young sleuth solving a mystery," Nancy replied cheerfully, "and I'm looking for Father Don."
"Father Don is a priest in good standing," said Dr. Johnson, "Come this way." She led Nancy into a wood-paneled office with diplomas and awards hanging on the walls and motioned for her to sit down. "I must tell you that Father Don, a priest in good standing, is not available at the moment. May I ask why you wished to speak to him?"
"Actually," ventured Nancy, "I wanted to ask him about his patient Paul and how he came to be in Bridgewater."
"Twelve to twenty on a skin beef," said Dr. Johnson. "Tied up a ten-year-old he snatched from a playground and trangressed professional boundaries. Three times. Pled guilty, so the judge dealt him four treys and sent him here -- but Fr. Don, a priest in good standing, put him right in just forty-three sessions. Mind your skirt."
As she spoke tiny chips of plaster had begun to fall tinkling from the ceiling. "That's Fr. Don now," she said, glancing upwards, "He's a priest in good standing. Curing a new inmate upstairs. He makes a specialty of satiation therapy -- if he hadn't, your man Paul might still be here today."
"How does this ... satiation therapy work?" Nancy asked, somewhat uneasily.
"I won't bore you with the technical details," the doctor responded gravely, "but basically the idea is you keep committing the same mortal sin until you get tired of it. Repeat sex offenders find satiation therapy much preferable to hoeing fields or breaking rocks, and I'm pleased to say we get nearly 100 percent co-operation from the clients. Of course it helps when the therapist takes a personal interest. Fr. Don, a priest in good standing, used to bring his pal Paul silk pajamas, condoms, gold chains ... you know -- the little things so necessary for prison life that are so often neglected. It builds trust. That's why Paul agreed to join Fr. Don, a priest in good standing, as his roommate.
"His what?" exclaimed Nancy.
"Don sprung him personally," Dr. Johnson patiently explained. "Got a tame judge to upgrade him out of coach, brought him home, gave him a job. What we call the Ministry of Presence. Fr. Don, incidentally, is a priest in good standing." She took a cigar from her coat pocket, lit it, and took a long, meditative puff.
"I met such a nice young man on the Nantucket Ferry the other day," she continued. "His name was Paul too, come to think of it. Told me he'd been tipped 400 large by some sugar daddy -- an archbishop in good standing, as it happens -- to keep mum about their wellness counseling. Then your man discovered daddy was practicing satiation therapy without a license and dimed him out." She shook her head while slipping the paper cigar ring around her pinkie. "Go easy, young lady. There's a lot of bad pennies out there."
Nancy rose to take her leave when the rain of plaster came to a stop.
"That was fast," remarked Dr. Johnson, with a tone of surprise. "Of course, we're getting some quick learners from the archdiocese these days."
Deep in thought, Nancy walked out of the compound and made her way across the parking lot to her sporty auto, "It's odd about Fr. Don," she reflected. "Standing is not something he seems to do particularly well. I wonder if he isn't prone to exaggeration. Still, I believe I've found a clue to the riddle of the wounded healer..."
To be continued.
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