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Father Bradley knew the killer was coming, it was only a matter of time. It was a huge paradox that someone so pious could kill and lie with impunity to save himself. Still, he was hardly a saint himself, despite his dog collar, he reflected. The things he had done. Were they much worse than what Olsen had perpetrated? While Olsen might have extinguished one innocent life, Father Bradley had destroyed many more. Yes they might still be alive, but they were hardly living. The psychological damage was too profound. He had fought his urges for years, and the battle was ongoing. His guilt over those boys would never pass, but it failed to diminish the physical urges, like a scab desperate to be picked off.

He had seen Olsen’s picture in the papers of course, but he seemed smaller in person, less of an intimidating presence. Father Bradley peered at him through the latticed grill of the confessional box. He wandered in, looking slightly lost, head turning in all directions in pursuit of a helpful soul. Father Bradley stepped out of the box and greeted the killer. He gave his best welcoming smile.

“May I help you?”

Olsen was in his mid-thirties with a hard, angular face carved from too many violent incidents. The eyes were sharp, darting and full of menace. It was an expression that could strike fear into his adversaries and doubtless had done so many times. Yet there was a softness to his expression, the lost gaze of a small boy occasionally surfacing. He smiled hesitantly.

“Father, I have sinned.”

“God be with you son. You are in the right place for redemption. Please step into the confessional box and unburden yourself.”

Olsen followed the Priest’s gesture toward the box and sat inside. Father Bradley quickly swept aside the curtain and sat down in his booth so that only the wooden partition and speaking grille separated them. As he settled onto his padded bench there was an imperceptible click. This meeting and its outcome flew headlong against everything he believed in, but he had to follow through. Would he ever be able to make peace with himself afterwards? That would surely be a battle for another day.

“Father I have done some terrible things.”

The Priest knew that, even if Olsen did not know that he knew.

“This is a safe place,” Father Bradley reassured him. Usually the case but not quite true.

On the other side of the grille the sinner hesitated.

Father Bradley gently cajoled him, anxious to get this over. “Go on my son.”

“Father I killed a man.” The sentence hung in the air until the silence between them was like a suffocating mask.

“Who did you kill, my son?” the Priest asked eventually.

Now that the initial statement was out there, Olsen was less reticent. “I didn’t mean to kill him. Maybe I did in the moment of madness when it happened but I did not set out to kill him. I have been in a lot of scraps in my time but I felt I was finally on the right path. We were partners in a business venture that went sour. But I fell in with some old pals, the wrong type. They got me back into gambling. It was my fault. I used the money we invested at the casino. I took his investment with me and gambled it away.”

“Then what happened?”

“He came to remonstrate with me and we got into a fight. I pushed him and he fell.”

“Where did this happen?” asked Father Bradley, trying not to sound too inquisitive.

“We were out at a bar till late and we took a walk to the City Hall square. We walked along the concrete elevated walkway that runs around the square. Then we got into a heated argument. He began pushing and yelling at me, and I gave him one big shove. He stumbled and fell over the parapet to the concrete ground below. I knew it was bad as soon as I did it.”  His voice faltered.

“He made absolutely no sound. I could barely look over the edge and when I did my worst fears were confirmed. My partner, a friend of mine for 15 years, was lying motionless.”

Olsen began sobbing, thick grievous wails.

Father Bradley waited patiently. “I know this can't be easy. Take your time, my son.”

Olsen eventually composed himself. “His head was at a funny angle and there was blood oozing from it. I just knew he was dead. I panicked and fled. I ran as fast as I could till I was almost coughing up blood. It took me a while to calm down and and told myself it was a tragic accident. I thought about handing myself in and confessing to the police, but then I thought of my children. I would go to jail for a long time, and who would look after them? My wife was struggling and they needed me. What was the point of ruining my family’s life? So I calmly went home and avoided my wife’s awkward questions and went to bed.”

Father Bradley waited, aware that he wanted to say more. Best he keep talking. There was enough to implicate him already. It was all there. His tormentor would surely be satisfied.

“What happened next?”

The voice behind the grille hesitated, unsure what to say next. When he spoke it was still cracked with remorse. “I kept a low profile but I knew the cops would come calling eventually. When I shoved  him over the parapet I didn’t think there were any witnesses. I knew it was naive to expect I had got away with it. Apparently there had been a  witness, just a homeless guy who failed to even identify me in a police line up. Even so, they had enough to go to trial. Apparently a hair on his jacket matched my DNA but they had little else. The homeless guy was their star witness, that’s how weak their case was. My defence barrister absolutely ripped him to shreds, got him to admit he had been drinking heavily and took hallucinogenic drugs on the night of the killing. His credibility was destroyed. I did not take the stand because I know that the prosecution would have found me out. I let proceedings take their course, all the while knowing I was as guilty as sin. The case collapsed. You might have seen it in the papers.”

Father Bradley mumbled incoherently. Of course he had seen it. Scandalous, some had called it. A travesty of justice. An indictment of the prosecution system. He had heard it all. The fact is Olsen had walked free when no one truly believed he was innocent. Now he was in the confessional box, baring his soul.


At least now justice might be served, but he would have to break the seal of the Confessional, the absolute duty of the priest not to disclose anything they learned from penitents during the Sacrament of Penance. This applied even under the threat of his death or that of others. To break secrecy would lead to automatic excommunication. Yet that is exactly what he was being forced to do. It was more than an ethical dilemma. His very soul was at stake. For what purpose? Was he doing this to remedy a flawed justice system or to save his own sinful flesh?

“Father will I be sentenced to eternal damnation?” Olsen asked him desperately.

He sure as hell could not answer that question. The priest smiled inwardly at his own tasteless pun. “You have come to confess in the House of God,” he began. “That is an important first step. You cannot undo what you have done but your penance is to seek peace with God and ask for his forgiveness every day. Live a decent life and seek to help people where you can. Our God is not a vengeful God, my son. He sees your remorse. Live a good life.”

Behind the grille Olsen sniffed but when he spoke his voice was brighter. “Thank you Father. It feels like a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders.”

“Go in peace son, and make it your mission to serve the Lord.”

“I will Father and thank you.”

Olsen stepped out of the box and as Father Bradley watched him go, the killer seemed to stand a little taller. Another click and the recording was complete. An audio file of a confession made in the sacramental Confessional Box, the one place where dark secrets could be spilled without repercussions. Retreating to his vestry, Father Bradley’s finger hovered over the delete button on his laptop. Jesus give me strength, he thought to himself. He was about to delete when the Skype call came through. He reluctantly accepted it.

“Do you have it?” The voice was cold, metallic, all business. It was always just the voice. The extortionist had never shown his face. No need. He had Father Bradley’s attention.

“Yes, I have it.”

“Send it over.”

“How can I trust you?”

The voice cackled, making his laptop buzz. “Father, you’re a man of the cloth. You’re job is to trust people. You’ve done a good job. If you cooperate then there is no reason to put you to shame. You send the file over and all of your indiscretions will go away. Really though Father, molesting altar boys. A man in your position of responsibility ought to act with a little more morality.”

Father Bradley felt his face reddening. “Don’t lecture me on morality. What you are doing is obscene.”

The voice remained composed, but betrayed a hint of irritation. “I’m not interested in what you think. I don’t have time to discuss this with you Father. I’m not the one confessing. Just send the damn file. NOW!”

“I can’t do it. It’s wrong.”

“Don’t play games with me Father. This isn’t wrong. A guilty man will get what’s coming to him. What YOU did was wrong.”

The priest’s fingers trembled over the keyboard. The voice inside the laptop sensed his hesitation. “Send the file and it all goes away. No one will ever know. Don’t send the file and everyone will know of your shame. You will destroy your reputation, your family’s and impugn the Catholic Church you love so much. Make the right choice.”

Father Bradley agonized. He knew he was weak. That’s why he had taken advantage of those boys in the first place. Given way to temptations of the flesh and his own perverted, salacious desires. How could he possibly face his God now? Whatever he did he was damned.

“Father, a family are in pain. They need to see justice. Father Bradley! The voice was urgent, almost pleading.”

Suddenly, his decision was made. Father Bradley picked up the laptop and smashed it against the concrete vestry wall repeatedly until the casing came off in a heap of twisted metal and his fingers were bloody.

Tears in his eyes, he checked over his contingency plan. The rope and the chair had already been prepared. Another heinous crime against God, but it was too late for him anyway. He would not be around for the allegations that no doubt his tormentor would release on social media. He hoped that his family and parishioners would understand that he was too weak to bear the shame. He had always been weak.


He stepped out to the altar one last time and knelt down, uttering a silent prayer for forgiveness. He had his own confession to make.


Author Bio

Paul Michael Dubal settled in Ontario in 2008 from the United Kingdom with his wife and two children. His day job takes place in the corporate legal field in Toronto but he is even more creative outside the office. Paul’s first novel, Crimes Against Humanity is a critically acclaimed thriller about human trafficking in Canada. He has recently completed the explosive Dictator of Britain trilogy. a dystopian vision of a near future Britain. Follow Paul on Twitter: @pauldubal and Facebook: Paul Michael Dubal


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