Silent Witness

Silent Witness by Richard North Patterson

Book: Silent Witness by Richard North Patterson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Richard North Patterson
no one I can talk to.’
    â€˜What about your priest?’
    Tony hesitated. ‘I don’t know yet,’ he said softly. ‘About Alison, he didn’t approve.’
    Ravin studied him without expression, as if buying time for his own thoughts. ‘I’ll make you a deal,’ he said at last. ‘Keep quiet for now, and you can come with me to the police. That way you can speak your piece to the folks who matter most.’ Rising from his chair, Ravin stuck out his hand across the desk. ‘Deal?’
    Tony hesitated, then shook Ravin’s hand. ‘Deal.’
    â€˜Okay,’ the lawyer said. ‘I’ll be in touch.’
    Tony headed for the door. It struck him that he was about to face a world he no longer knew.
    â€˜One more thing,’ he heard Ravin say.
    Tony turned, hand on the doorknob. ‘What’s that?’
    â€˜You can call me, Tony. Anytime you need to talk.’
    Tony paused. In his relief and gratitude, all that he could manage was, ‘Thanks, Mr. Ravin.’
    For the first time, Ravin’s smile reached his eyes. ‘Saul,’ he said.

Chapter 9
    On the drive home, the Lords passed Saint Barnabas Episcopal. The street was jammed with cars. A black hearse was parked at the rear of the church.
    Quietly, Tony said, ‘I need to see Father Quinn.’
    His parents, pale and silent, dropped him at Saint Raphael Church.
    Though the parish was not wealthy, the church itself was spacious, filigreed, soothing in its shadowy quiet. Slipping into the rear pew, Tony sat alone.
    It was three o’clock. Three days before, the football game was not yet played; Alison Taylor, not yet his lover, was waiting for their night together.
    Tears running down his face, Tony prayed for the repose of her soul.
    He knew where he must go.
    At the side of the church, in a darkened corridor, was the confessional booth. Each afternoon, Saturday and Monday, Father Quinn heard confessions: the ritual had been part of Tony’s life since childhood. Tony would recite his sins, venial or mortal. Father Quinn would hear him out and then prescribe a penance, the recitation of Our Fathers and Hail Marys, directing him to make a good act of contrition. ‘ Ego te absolvo ,’ the priest would say – I absolve you – ‘ in nomine Patris, et Filü, et Spiritus Sanctus . Go in peace.’ Tony would return to the church, kneel before God, and recite his penance. And then he would leave, his soul unstained again, his heart unburdened.
    On this unfathomable day, it was his only hope of redemption, for Alison most of all.
    As Tony approached the corridor, two women emerged, a mother and daughter. Seeing Tony, they stopped abruptly, backing away to let him pass. Whether this was out of deference to his loss or fear of what he must confess, Tony could not tell.
    In the darkness of the corridor, the floorboards squeaked beneath him.
    The confessional booth was at the end, an empty chair inside it. Entering, Tony sat. Behind the screen was the shadowy ascetic profile of Father Quinn.
    â€˜Father, forgive me, for I have sinned. . . .’
    He sensed the priest’s stillness. After a moment, the Irish voice asked softly, ‘What are your sins, my son?’
    â€˜Mortal, Father.’ Tony paused, the words catching in his throat. ‘I made love with a girl.’
    The priest hesitated. ‘Sex before marriage is a mortal sin. . . .’
    â€˜She’s dead, Father.’
    Through the screen, Tony heard the intake of breath, but not from surprise. ‘How did she die?’
    â€˜I caused it.’
    This time the priest was silent. Tony bent forward in the attitude of prayer. ‘For months I pressured her, knowing it was wrong. Finally, she gave herself to me because she loved me. She wasn’t Catholic; it wasn’t a sin to her. . . .’
    â€˜Yes,’ Father Quinn said softly, ‘I know. And that in

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