I guess I don’t have to introduce Ulff Lehmann, author of Shattered Dreams and soon to be released Shattered Hopes. We’ve had quite a nice chat about writing and fantasy all things fun in an interview before. This time he shares a short story with us about the real evil behind the mask of kindness. This is not a fantasy story but deals with a very serious topic. How far would you go to keep your family out of harm’s way? And what would you do if the worst already happened?
This story has some graphic contents and might be disturbing to some.
Ulff Lehmann has spent quite a while waiting on his Midlife Crisis, and decided he won’t go there. For the past two decades he has been developing the stories he is now publishing. Born and bred in Germany, Ulff chose to write in English when he realized he had spent most of his adult life reading English instead of his mother tongue, and brings with him the oftentimes Grimm outlook of his country’s fairy-tales to his stories. A wordsmith with a poet’s heart, Ulff’s goal is to create a world filled with believable people.
Peter Fisher hated his name. In fact, he had always hated his name. Very few people he knew considered the implications, the meaning of a name. Peter stood for the apostle, the guy the Romans crucified in “Quo Vadis,” the guy who had founded the Catholic Church, or so the history books said. And Fisher, well, one could say one of his ancestors had been a fisherman but Peter chose to think of the other Fisher.
Why he loathed the Church, in fact every religion, he couldn’t say. Every time he tried to unearth the memory, that one specific point in his past which had caused all that hatred, he drew a blank. He never even bothered anymore.
The past, as they say, is past. Or some such. He barely remembered his childhood anyway, and now, in sunny Florida things were so much brighter.
Needless to say, he had not been happy when Liza, his wife, had insisted the kids had to be baptized. But finally, he had relented. What was the harm? Liza had agreed to the compromise that he would not have to be present. Initially she had doubted him, saying nobody would get ill from a building. His throwing up on the church’s threshold had convinced her. He had even got his wish for not naming the kids after some saint or other. Livia and Lucius might have been odd choices, but at least the twins names were rare enough to stand out amongst the Jennifers, Johnathans and all the other common Christianized shit parents smeared on their offspring.
For the peace’s sake he had even relented when the kids wanted to go to Sunday School.
Soon after, things changed.
“Livia, please call your brother,” Liza said. “Dinner’s ready.”
“Luce! Dinner!” Livia yelled from her spot in front of the TV, raising her mother’s ire.
Peter cut up the last of the lettuce and dumped it in the bowl, chuckling to himself.
“What?” Liza hissed.
“Did you expect anything else?” he said. “You know how she is. And besides, you said ‘call’.”
Adding the salad dressing, he placed the bowl on the table and then rushed over to Liza’s side to help her with the oven.
“Meatloaf again?” Livia complained.
“You know it’s the…”
“Not another word,” Liza interrupted him, elbowing his side, laughing.
Livia rolled her eyes like she always did when she thought something silly. Peter still didn’t know from whom she had picked up that habit, he rarely paid attention to people’s faces. Not bothering to make a mental note about asking Liza – he would forget it soon enough anyway – he began to set the table.
“Five, honey,” Liza said.
“Huh?” He took the additional plate and adjusted the others so that the round table was set for five.
“I invited the kids’ teacher so we could talk about Luce’s problems in school.”
“Luce has problems in school?” Peter looked at the twins’ report cards on the refrigerator door. Straight Bs, with a C in sports, all in all not that bad.
“No, hon, not that school. Sunday School.”
“He picks fights with other kids, and sometimes he has to do extra chores,” Livia added.
“He fights other kids?” Peter echoed. “Why is this the first time I hear about it?”
“It’s no big deal, Father Francesco says. But recently he has also been getting into fights at school, regular school,” Liza said.
“Luce! Dinner!” Livia shouted again.
Lucius’s subdued call of “Coming” was so unlike his son. Sure, he had been very busy the past few months, the work of a writer never stops, even when not in front of the computer, but hearing Luce plodding down the stairs as if the boy had the weight of the world on his shoulders worried him.
“You all right, buddy?” Peter asked, guilt spreading through his guts. He had never wanted to be like his father, vowed he would always be there for his children. Now he realized he had ignored the twins.
“Sure, dad,” Lucius said, took his seat at the round table and looked around. “Someone else coming?”
“Yes, dear,” Liza said, and was interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Hello! It’s Father Francesco, may I come in?”
The guilt in Peter’s gut vanished as something more vicious, monstrous gripped his stomach. He knew that voice, he just couldn’t place it. To his right, Lucius sat straight, his son’s face ashen. What was it about the voice? Something stirred in his mind.
“Sure, Father,” Liza said, rushing to open the door. “Come in.”
“Thank you, my child.”
Bile rose as the monster’s hands pressed ever tighter on his stomach. He knew that voice! ‘Thank you, my child.’ ‘My child.’ ‘Forgive me, my child, as God forgives all of us.’ ‘Remember, my child, we both confessed and are free of sin now.’ ‘God and I love you, my child.’
The next moment he was rushing to the bathroom, kneeling in front of the toilet, dry heaving, for the creature still had him in its grasp. The voice! The preacher’s voice! He remembered that voice, offering salvation right after the pain. The shame of what had been done to him, innocence ripped away by the preacher’s cock in his mouth, his ass! Father Francesco’s hard cock in his mouth, his ass! ‘Remember, my child, we both confessed and are free of sin now.’
Rage switched places with the monster clinging to his stomach, punched, hammered, stomped his insides.
‘Remember, my child, we both confessed and are free of sin now.’
His hard cock in his mouth, his ass!
His hard cock in Luce’s mouth, Luce’s ass!
He vomited, wept, howled.
‘Remember, my child, we both confessed and are free of sin now.’
The bastard! The bastard!
Now he remembered it all. Now he knew why churches made him sick!
And now he knew that the same thing that had happened to him was happening to his son!
Again he bent over and hurled.
Urgent knocking at the door. “Honey, are you okay?”
What a stupid fucking question! Didn’t she hear? Didn’t she see? No, nothing was okay! The same bastard priest that had raped me as a child is raping our son, he wanted to shout, but the mere thought caused him to vomit again.
“Honey?” Liza asked.
She didn’t know. How could she? He loved her, yet her ignorance, her blind faith in the institution that had raped her husband and was raping her son… “No guests!” he finally growled. “Send the man away.”
“But we need to talk about Luce’s problems at school.”
He vomited again, then said, “We will. – Now send him away!”
Flushing the toilet he stood, rinsed his mouth, and waited.
A slight knock on the door.
“Is he gone?”
“Yes, hon. But…”
He tore open the bathroom door, glaring at her. “You wanna know why? Fine, you will know why! But first… Liv, grab your plate and go to your room, exception to the rule, eat there.”
He must have sounded vicious, Liza’s eyes widened. A glimpse in the mirror showed him a berserker’s face. “Luce, you stay here, with us.”
“I haven’t done…”
“I know,” he interrupted. Then followed Livia to her room to make sure she shut the door.
When he returned to the kitchen, he saw Liza putting away the extra plate and cutlery. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“Language!” she hissed.
“I don’t give a fuck about proprieties,” he said. “Sit down. You too, Luce.”
Both obeyed. The berserker face must still be in place, he thought, then said, “Luce, have you ever heard these words ‘Remember, my child, we both confessed and are free of sin now’?”
All color left Lucius’s face, replaced by a whiteness he had never seen on his son before. The boy made to reply, but color wasn’t the only thing that had fled. He struggled to speak, the only sound escaping from his mouth was a whimpering rasp.
“Honey, I don’t understand,” Liza said.
“You will. – First though. Luce, you have done nothing wrong, the bastard tricked you,” he said, knowing his boy would shy away if he reached out to stroke his hair. Last thing he needed was someone else groping him. He gathered his strength, took a deep breath and fixed Liza in his gaze.
“Remember how I threw up that one time you took me to church?”
She bobbed her head, remaining silent.
“Now I know why. As a child, I was in Sunday School, like Luce, and we also shared the same teacher. The bastard taught me a lot of things, most of them not having anything to do with the shit they read from. Luce, you don’t have to talk. I’m going to show you where the teacher touched me, okay?”
Peter pointed to his crotch and his behind, blinking away tears. Through the wet film blurring his vision, he saw his son bobbing his head. “He said that if one confesses all sins will be forgiven, right?”
Again Lucius nodded.
“He confessed after he touched you, right?”
“He did more than touch us, though,” Peter stated.
Luce wept, bobbing his head fiercely.
“I don’t believe this!” Liza said. “Father Francesco is a…”
“If you say one word about how kind he is, I swear I will show you his brand of kindness!” Peter growled. “Your son was raped by that man, and you still cling to your fucked up idea that the rapist is a kind man? Look at your son!” To Lucius he said, “I know you have been wronged and there is nothing to be ashamed of, you did not do anything wrong. Understand me?”
Luce nodded again.
“Please stand up and pull down your pants and show us your butt.”
“Peter!” Liza gasped.
“Your puritanical shit won’t change what happened, nor will it heal him. You’ve changed his goddamned diapers, you’ve smooched that butt, it made him giggle.”
Before Peter could continue, Lucius got off his chair, turned around and pulled down his pants and briefs, revealing the bloodied anus.
“Look at that!” Peter snarled. “Look at it and understand that the man you invited to our home is the man who did this! The man who convinced our son, and me, that it was nothing bad and that your fucking God had forgiven him, so that Luce here, and I, would have no reason to think it was wrong. God forgives, right?”
He would have continued, but the look of sheer agony on Liza’s face stopped him.
“Oh God,” she said.
“There is no god! Only people!” Peter raged. “The god you call to does not exist, or would he not have helped Luce to stop this? Look at his ass! Look at the blood! If that is what your god wants, how the fuck can you claim he loves you, or Luce, or me, or any of the other children this Francesco has raped over the years?”
The plan was simple. Liza agreed that making the pedophilia public, accusing the preacher would only result in Francesco getting put into another community. The moment when understanding had pierced the veil of ignorance that had shrouded her mind for so long her mother’s instincts set in with a vengeance.
Now Peter, his hiking pack on his back, stood outside Francesco’s house, Liza and Luce were waiting in the car behind him. Luce had demanded to come along. Livia was at home, watching a Disney movie, no need to involve her in any of this, that agreement had been simple.
To Peter’s surprise, it had been Liza who had suggested the sentence. Now he would carry it out. Latex gloves from the First Aid kit covered his hands, being a thriller writer did have its perks. The bell rang “Amazing Grace,” of course.
Francesco answered the door. “Yes?” He asked before his gaze fell on gloved hands.
Peter pounced before the preacher closed the door.
They went to the ground, Francesco’s head smacking onto the boards. “Tell me Father, which psalm told you to rape my boy? Which verse told you to rape me?”
He took the preacher’s pig-like head in a chokehold and dragged him out the door. In his mind he began to list the things that needed to be fixed so that the police would find no clues.
Sweep the floor to get the hairs, if any. DNA was a bitch, luckily Liza had brought the bleach. A well stocked laundry room did have its advantages.
A quick look around, a witness now would truly suck. Nothing, just their Chevy.
Liza turned on the car’s headlights. Luce had to see, had to know the monster was dead, had to know that monsters could be killed. The pain would remain, but they both could deal with it. In a world full of monsters, where monsters hide other monsters from justice and punishment, it was the only thing he could do. Kill the monster that had hurt him and his son.
Maybe that’s what his father had wanted to do as well?
It all came rushing back now with the whimper of the priest struggling against his viselike grip. His father had changed at the time when it was happening, they had never spoken about it, but something must have gone on, for at their church a great many things had happened at the same time Francesco the pedophile had suddenly left, and another preacher had replaced him. Father had been furious, and from then on out they had never gone to any church ever again. Had he misjudged his dad?
Illuminated like this, Francesco whimpered again. Peter knew he could never use any of this for any of his novels, but it was too perfect not to think up the prose.
Here they stood, tormentor and tormented, torturer and victim. The rapist of oh so many boys. Justus knew his wife and son were watching. No six year old should have to see murder, he knew that, but in the same vein no child should have to endure rape either. If the lad did not see this, if he did not know the tormentor was gone, how would he cope? Living without the truth, memories locked away in a subconscious vault was no life, merely existence. And while he strove for justice in his job at the NYPD, Justus also knew that far too many rapists walked free, with the victims being the ones to live with the horrors. No! His son would know justice, the law be damned!
“Now you know what it feels like,” Peter snarled, kicking the bastard to the ground. From the backpack he withdrew a hunting knife and the great crucifix that had graced Liza’s side of the study, until today. He cut open the backside of Francesco’s pants from crotch on upward, pulled the bastard to his knees, forced him to bend. “Remember, my child, we both confessed and are free of sin now. Not!” he said, taking the crucifix to the bastard’s anus and pushed.
At first the muscles resisted, then they tore and the preacher’s whimpers turned to screams. He heard his own pain in them but pushed on, shoving the crucifix up the preacher’s ass.
Next he straightened the whimpering child molester and plunged the blade into his mouth. He tried to think of something witty, something prosaic to say to this monster. All he could think of was “Justice be done.” Peter let go of the twitching body. He suppressed the urge to spit on the corpse, a crime writer knew what to look out for.
As he cleaned the floor and porch with bleach, he recalled his father’s grim face. In a while, he decided, the two of them would sit down and talk.
When he had found the right words.
If this short story was interesting to you, feel free to follow Ulff on the following sites, or get his first book (by clicking on the cover) in the Light in the Dark series, before the second comes out later this month: