Fiction Friday – 20 March 2009 Mud sticks
This Week’s Theme: A priest is attacked for being a paedophile. He is innocent of the crime, but guilty of something far worse.
Mud sticks. It is a universal phenomenon. Accusation is proof.
And the cleaner you are, the more readily it sticks to you. An insinuation here, a rumour there, and before you know it your stained character becomes your defining hallmark.
Lack of evidence is immaterial. Complete exoneration is irrelevant. Once you have been labelled, you will carry that to your grave.
It was a lesson Father Donnelly had learned the hard way. Through swollen eyes, he could just about make out the shape of his assailant. But he knew the voice. Mulholland, yes, it was David’s father. Brian Mulholland. A bullish man, thick neck, shorn head, strong arms – he had spent time inside for assault.
Mulholland’s fist slammed into the priest’s nose, and he started to choke, unable to breathe. He knew it was broken, and was glad the shock had numbed him. He could taste the blood as it oozed from his mangled nose, across his lips.
“This is what we did to your kind in the joint. You sick bastard.” Mulholland spat, then landed a straight jab to Donnelly’s jaw. A few teeth gave way and came loose. The priest spat them out onto the floor, in a pool of scarlet liquid.
Donnelly leaned back into the chair, his hands bound tight behind him, and tried to calm his breathing. He was used to the beatings now. It always ended in violence. At first, he’d be the popular new guy. He would be asked to lead the youth groups, coach the sports teams, lead the scout troop. Then, the rumours would catch up with him again. About why he had left his last parish. Do you realise he’s changed his name? There’s a reason he is so interested in the children…
Then some deadbeat dad would attempt to make up for a decade of lousy parenting with ten minutes of pounding on the pervert. And Donnelly would leave quietly, change his name once more, and join a new parish.
Mulholland lit a cigarette, and took a few drags from it, resting from his exertions. Casually, he grabbed Donelly’s hand, lit the flame, and held the priest’s hand over it. Donnelly began to writhe and twitch as his skin began to blister.
“You come across a sick dog, you put him down. And you are one sick dog.”
Donnelly whispered “I didn’t even touch your boy.”
“It would only be a matter of time. I know all about your sort.”
Donnelly began to laugh, bruised lips twisting into a parody of a smile, the few bloodied teeth still in place forming a harrowing grin.
“You think this is funny motherfucker?” screamed Mulholland. “You think touching kids is a joke?”
Donnelly stopped laughing. “I didn’t touch your boy, are any other kid in this parish. Or any parish.” He began to wretch, a trickle of blood and bile sliding down his chin. “These rumours are a good way of keeping me from settling anywhere. Keep forcing me out, never in one place long enough to recruit my army.”
Mulholland stepped forward into his swing, but found his fist stopping short. Donnelly stared straight at him, his eyes darkening. “Most are content with giving me a hiding and running me out of town. And for the sake of a quiet life, I accept that. But you…”
He strained briefly against his restraints, snapping them.
“You wanted more. You wouldn’t be content with beating me, you want to kill me.” He grabbed Mulholland’s hand, and squeezed. The bones ground against each other, then shattered. Mulholland dropped to his knees in pain, as Donnelly stood.
“As you now realise, that is easier said than done. And now you know that, I really can’t simply ignore you.” He grasped Mulholland’s upper arm, placed his knee against the elbow, and slowly began to push.
“I’m certain the rumours must come from somewhere on high. They can’t challenge me directly, so they use thugs like you, easily manipulated by lies and prejudice.” With a loud crunch the elbow bent backwards at an unnatural angle, and Mulholland began to scream.
“A pity Mulholland. That’s just the kind of person I’m looking for. I could have used you, but now you are simply a liability.” He grasped him by the throat and began to tighten his grip, choking the scream into silence. “I’ll let everyone know I found you. Probably some old prison acquaintances bore you a grudge.”
Mulholland tried to struggle, but was weakening fast, unable to breath. Darkness started to cloud the edge of his vision, but he could clearly see the cuts on Donnelly’s face begin to close over, the jaw reset, teeth regrow.
“Wh-what are you” he whimpered, his arm hanging limp by his side. Donnelly leaned in close, and whispered one word into Mulholland’s ear. The colour drained from his face, shortly before the life left his body.