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The Confession - 1

First of Two Parts

By John CoxPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 6 min read
When he confessed to the murder, I was so stunned that I lost the ability to speak.

Everybody is talking about it.

Morning shows on TV. Talk radio. Tik Tok, Facebook, Instagram, X. It's everywhere. But hardly any of them know what they're squawking about.

Why do people keep saying hateful things about my friend?

He's not a vigilante priest, or grand inquisitor - whatever that is, or a confessional torturer.

Even my mother bristles when I defend him and she of all people knows what he did for me and so many other lost boys in New Orleans.

You all know the well-dressed missionary type. Out to save kids messed up on drugs or members of gangs. The kind that wears smart clothes and coifed hairdos, and post flyers about events at the church for youth but never walk the mean streets of the city to see where us kids have to live.

Well, that ain't him.

Listen. I was born in 2004 in the lower ninth ward. I was a year old when the water breached the levies after Katrina tore into New Orleans. My mom held me in her arms on our rooftop, waiting for rescuers that were too slow in coming.

My dad didn't make it.

The engineers rebuilt the levies. The lower ninth ward, not so much. Like most of the boys who grew up there, I grew up hard. I ain't afraid to use my fists and joined my first gang at thirteen.

I met Father Tom when I was fifteen. Saw him sauntering down the mean streets of the ninth like he didn't have a care in the world. A group of us were gathered on a corner together and stopped talking as he approached.

"Good morning," he said, and we busted out laughing.

Nate, who was eighteen, six foot-two and 190 pounds, walked up to him, chest to chest and stared him straight in the eyes. Well, Father Tom looked straight back and smiled.

"We don't see a lot of white folks 'round here," Nate said with contempt. His body language would have scared anyone with sense, black or white. Father Tom just continued to smile.

"You fellas play basketball?" he finally asked, looking at each of us in turn, as if he hadn't heard the threat in Nate's voice.

Turned out he played a pretty decent game. Nate was definitely better, but Father Tom made up for the mismatch with hustle and hard, full contact play.

He met us where we lived. Made no demands. Didn't talk down to us or make stupid speeches. When a brother needed help, he was there for him. It was simple as that.

He learned a thing or two about my world while he was in it, too. But after three years working in New Orleans, the church moved him to La Croix, Minnesota, his first parish.

I ain't gonna lie. It hurt bad. But even after he left, he stayed in contact. He'd came down to visit at least once a year. I saw more of him than his replacement, that's for sure.

When I turned twenty-one, he called to wish me happy birthday and congratulate me for coming of age. While we caught each other up, he asked if I had any news about a hitman we had discussed a time or two before leaving the ward, a badass killer known on the streets as the Collector.

Drug cartels would hire him if they wanted to send a message. When the Collector killed someone, they didn't go easy. He'd start with a silenced Berreta and finish with a scalpel.

Always knee capped them; always took both ears. I heard some say he took other, more personal body parts as well, but I think that's just talk. At least I hope so.

I told Father Tom on the downlow that someone put a price on the Collector's head. "Really big payday. Pretty sure he left town. I know I would have."

"Too bad they didn't get him. I think he's in La Croix."

I had never heard Father Tom say anything like that in all the years that I had known him. He cared about people. Even when no one else would or could.

But when a body was found on the steps of Our Lady of the Northern Lakes that changed. The victim did not die well: naked, knee capped, both lungs punctured, ears removed. Worst of all, he was a parishioner and a friend.

Father Tom took it hard.

But I did not realize how hard until a week later when I heard the news that the police arrested him for torturing the suspected killer.

I didn't believe a word of it.

A week later I was in La Croix. I took a bus to Cairo, Illinois, which was as far as my money could go. Then I made a sign that said, 'Going to see Father Tom.' Talk about a conversation starter!

I walked the last five miles into town, just grateful I didn't have to walk any more than that. LaCroix is on the shore of the Lower Red Lake. It's so big my jaw dropped, for a second there I thought I had hitchhiked to one of the coasts by accident.

But as I wearily walked down the main drag into town and saw six or seven news vans, and crowds surrounding the little courthouse, I knew I was in the right place.

One of the reporters was trying to interview a young couple with a little girl who had buried her face on her mama's hip. But as I edged closer to hear what they were saying, a big man approached me with a wide smile on his face. "Are you Jonesy," he said, my jaw dropping for the second time that day. "No worries, man," he said, "Father Tom said you would come today."

"But, but," I stuttered, "I didn't tell him...."

"Well, somebody did," he said pointing into the sky and then laughed.

"Come on, he's waiting to see you."

He took me across the street to a small jailhouse, and as we entered, a woman in uniform said "Mornin', Darrell, "go on back, Father Tom's waiting for ya."

The cell door was already open and Father Tom sat at a little desk scribbling on a legal pad. "Look who's here to see ya, Father," Darrell boomed, and Father Tom jumped up and hugged me so hard my feet left the ground.

When he let me go, I could see tears in his eyes as I felt them helplessly pool in my own. It was hard to talk, but somehow I squeaked, "Tell me it ain't true, Father Tommie."

He squeezed my hand and smiled sadly before stuffing the papers he had scribbled on in an envelope. "Have a seat, Jonesy." It was only once we both sat down that I noticed the obvious stiffness in his knees.

"What happened?"

I can't really tell you all of it now, so I'll just share how this mess started." The details are in here," he said as he tapped the envelope.

"A stranger began attending Sunday mass a few weeks before the murder, but the day following it he entered the confessional when no one else was in the church.

"When he confessed to the murder, I was so stunned that I lost the ability to speak. It was only once he asked for God's forgiveness that I found my voice again and explained the Holy Church requires more than just confession, it also requires genuine sorrow for the sin and penance to make amends.

And no amount of Hail Mary's will suffice for murder.

"I told him I could not grant God's forgiveness till he confessed his crimes to the police and accepted the just punishment of the law. And that's how it ended."

Father Tom sat in silent thought for what seemed to me to be several minutes. But my heart pounded so hard in my chest for fear of what would follow that it was likely only a few seconds.

"I barely slept the next two nights, Jonesy. I actually hand wrote my resignation and sealed it in an envelope to send to the Archdiocese once I decided to go to the police. Confession is one of the sacraments, I could not continue in good faith as a priest if I violated it. But after two nights essentially spent in prayer, I realized that my obligation to protect life was greater than protecting my calling.

"But the very next day he came to confession again. 'Forgive me Father,' he whispered, 'for I have sinned.'

"'Then confess,' I whispered back, my hands trembling with dread."

"'I kidnapped a little girl, but only you can save her, priest. A life for a life. Your life for hers.'"


About the Creator

John Cox

Family man, grandfather, retired soldier and story teller with an edge.

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

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Comments (11)

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  • Lamar Wiggins5 days ago

    I really loved the authentic feel of the setting you chose. Intriguing start of this series.

  • L.C. Schäfer23 days ago

    😱😱😱😱😱😱 I got Sleepers/DeNiro vibes at first. But holy fuck, that ending! I might have to go straight to 2!

  • Andrea Corwin 28 days ago

    Oh, wow, I like this a LOT, John! Great storytelling. Go Father Tom, Go!

  • Hannah Mooreabout a month ago

    Well I'm gripped...

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Oh wow, now he wanna kill Father Tom? And he kidnapped a little girl to threaten him to surrender. This is crazyyyyyy! Waiting for part 2!

  • Rachel Deemingabout a month ago

    Nice work, John. Looking forward to the next one!

  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    You had me at New Orleans...and the story compelled me right into Minnesota. The priest is amazing so far. Love this

  • Mark Gagnonabout a month ago

    John, I thought you said you were taking a few days off. Now I'll have to keep reading and never get my story finished. Great start to another compelling series.

  • Gerard DiLeoabout a month ago

    Great story. Caught my attention with New Orleans and I never looked back! Awaiting part 2.

  • JBazabout a month ago

    Wow, again a heart stopping well written story. You cannot help but read this fast waiting to find out more. Fine job John, an excellent story. I am just a little confused about the girl, did father commit the crime by torturing the man to recover the girl?

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    Oh no he didn't! "'I kidnapped a little girl, but only you can save her, priest. A life for a life. Your life for hers.'" And now I have to wait for part 2?! You're killing me, John.

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