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Authors: Ralph McInerny

Requiem for a Realtor

BOOK: Requiem for a Realtor
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Contents

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Part One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Part Two

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Part Three

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Also by Ralph McInerny

Copyright

 

To John and Mary O'Callaghan

Part One

1

Although Marie Murkin, housekeeper of the St. Hilary rectory, regarded others her age as old, she still thought of herself as young. Well, younger. She dismissed her aches and pains as temporary anomalies, not evidence that time's creaking chariot was catching up to her. The fact that she was childless was a partial explanation of her attitude. In their children, parents have ever before their eyes a measure of their passage through this vale of tears, but Marie, like the celibates she had cared for, had no such reminders.

Abandoned by her husband, a ne'er-do-well sailor who had returned after years of absence only to die, she had unconsciously developed a somewhat cynical attitude toward marriage and family life. And, of course, in a rectory, one tended to see the failures rather than the successes. For all that, Marie had no negative premonitions when Stanley Collins showed up at the rectory door and asked to see Father Dowling.

“I'm not a parishioner.”

“You're new in the parish?”

“I used to live in St. Hilary's. As a kid.”

Marie had come to see herself as the filter through which only worthy callers on the pastor could pass. This visitor had much to commend him. He was a handsome man, tall, broad of chest, an interesting face dominated by a mouth that wore a disarming smile. His deference to her stood him in good stead.

“Father hasn't returned yet from his noon Mass.”

“I suppose I should have telephoned first.”

Marie led him into the front parlor and indicated a chair for him to sit in. The absence of the pastor gave her an excellent opportunity to grill the visitor.

“Did you mention your name?”

“Stanley Collins.”

“There were Collins in the parish.”

“On Lincoln Avenue. My parents.”

“Ah.”

“I have been told that Father Dowling is a canon lawyer.”

“That's right.”

“And he served on the archdiocesan marriage court?”

“That was before his appointment to St. Hilary's. You want to consult him as a canon lawyer?”

“You're the housekeeper?”

“I am.” Marie's tone suggested that this title did not begin to tell the story of her role in the rectory. “And have been for many years.” She cleared her throat. “I have been here longer than the pastor.”

“There were Franciscans here when my parents lived in the parish.”

“Yes.” This was a sore point with Marie. She had come into her position when the Franciscans were in charge, and she had found them difficult to bring to heel, despite the sandals they wore.
Il Poverello
would have had difficulty recognizing the clerics who bore his name. A succession of friars had characterized Marie's first years at St. Hilary's, and she had seriously thought of resigning when suddenly, as it seemed, the Franciscan hegemony ended and Father Roger Dowling arrived as pastor. With him she had worked out a modus vivendi that seemed satisfying on both sides. Not that he always appreciated the pastoral help she gave him.

“When will Father Dowling be back?”

“Oh, we have time.”

He seemed surprised.

“Perhaps you could give me some idea of why you want to see Father.”

The sound of the kitchen door opening and closing brought Marie swiftly to her feet. The key to her effectiveness was to conceal the role she played.

“There he is! Wait here.”

She scurried down the hall and stopped Father Dowling as he came into the dining room. “There's someone to see you.”

“Oh?” He was tall and thin with a prominent nose, and his eyes softened what would otherwise have seemed an austere countenance. “Who is it?”

“Lunch is ready. I'll ask him to wait.”

“Nonsense.” He went past her, looked into his study, and then continued on to the front parlor. An exchange of greetings and then, as she might have predicted, he issued an invitation to join him for lunch. Good. Now she could listen in as they talked over their meal.

2

Lunch was salad and
saltimbocca alla romana.
Father Dowling was glad to see his guest tuck into it, rolling his eyes in appreciation at the first taste of the veal. Marie had hesitated before disappearing into the kitchen, hands beneath her apron. She knew better than to expect an adequate reaction to her cooking from the pastor who ate whatever was put before him and thought that like God in Genesis, anything she made was good, but the man who had identified himself as Stanley Collins might have been awarding her a
cordon bleu
then and there.

“This is better than any I have ever had.”

Marie did not exactly giggle, but she went through the swinging door into her kitchen, a woman fulfilled.

“You understand I'm not a parishioner, Father.”

“We have a few openings left.”

Collins laughed. “I did live in St. Hilary's as a kid. My parents lived and died here. As I told Mrs. Murkin.”

Father Dowling's eyebrows rose. “I hope you didn't have to wait long for me to return.”

A shrug. “Ten, fifteen minutes. I should have called. I had no idea I would be treated so royally. The reason I came—”

Father Dowling held up a hand. “Enjoy your lunch. We can talk afterward in my study.”

Did the silence in the kitchen alter? Father Dowling had no doubt that Marie was on sentry duty. Perhaps he should have been more annoyed at her nosiness than he was, but as often as not it helped that Marie kept herself au courant on parish business. Not that he would ever tell her that. Nor of course did he want to convey to Stanley Collins that he was criticizing Marie.

“I am told you are a canon lawyer, Father,” Collins said when they were settled in the study. The lingering aroma of tobacco seemed to surprise him. He watched with wonder as Father Dowling filled his pipe.

“I hope you're not bothered by smoke?”

“Good God, no. Could I have a cigarette?”

“I can't offer you one.”

But Collins had extracted a package from his jacket pocket. He leaned over the desk to light it on Father Dowling's match and sat waiting until the pastor had succeeded in getting his pipe going to his satisfaction.

“You were on the archdiocesan marriage court, Father?”

“A long time ago. Or so it seems.”

Had Collins come here for advice on an annulment? The very thought filled Father Dowling with unwelcome memories of the bleak years during which he had processed requests for recognition that a marriage had not occurred. In those days, it had been far more difficult to prove such a claim.

“You understand I am no longer on the tribunal.”

Collins nodded. How much did he know of Roger Dowling's ignominious departure from the tribunal? For a moment, the pastor was overwhelmed by the contrast between his former duties and his life at St. Hilary's.

“My wife is having an affair, Father.”

Collins's cheerful expression was gone. Had he come to confess his wife's sins?

“That's not cause for an annulment, Mr. Collins.”

“Annulment! I don't want an annulment.” His look of gloom returned. “My wife says we're not really married.”

“Tell me about it,” Father Dowling said, trying to keep resignation out of his voice.

Stanley Collins and his wife Phyllis had not been married in the Church. They had avoided a Catholic wedding on the advice of a priest who seemed to think that they should not bind themselves so completely until they were sure. This sort of bad advice was all too frequently given of late, in good faith, perhaps, though Father Dowling lamented it. When marriage was regarded as a temporary experiment that is what it too often proved to be. The Collinses had been married in a civil ceremony in Evanston ten years ago, and until quite recently everything had gone smoothly.

“You never thought of getting your marriage blessed?”

“I wish I had! Now Phyllis says she is in love with another man, and she wants a divorce so she can marry him in the Church.”

Life without law would be impossible, but it was not always much better with it. The intricacies of the marriage code were many, and the Church's attitude toward annulment had seemed to blur of late.

“Can she do that, Father?”

“I would have to know more than I do,” he said with the sinking realization that this invited Collins to go on in the expectation that something more than mere advice would be forthcoming.

“I suppose I have pretty much kept my nose to the grindstone.” Collins was a Realtor, in partnership with a man named George Sawyer, a college friend. “We've done pretty well. I always thought I was doing it for Phyllis, and now she complains that I neglected her.”

“Children?”

He shook his head, and his eyes drifted along a shelf of books. “We thought we'd wait.”

Until they had their marriage blessed? Perhaps that, too, had been part of the advice they had been given. Despite himself, Father Dowling was thinking of ways he might shunt Collins on to someone else. But who? There was no point in sending him to the marriage tribunal. There he would be told that his wife could divorce him and, in the present state of affairs, could doubtless have a Church wedding all in white with her lover. He could imagine how all this would seem to Collins: the Church siding with his wife and colluding in the breakup of his marriage.

“Would it help if I talked with her?”

“I wish you'd talk to him.”

Father Dowling waited. He would not ask for the man's name.

“You know him.”

“I do?”

“Jameson. David Jameson.”

Father Dowling took the pipe from his mouth. Jameson! “You're sure?”

BOOK: Requiem for a Realtor
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