Monday, 18 October 2010
It was the young man lying on the ground who had been punched and kicked by the other three hooligans. He still had the scars on his face where he’d been injured and his left eye had turned a lovely shade of blue.
“May I have a word Sir?” he asked as he stood nervously at the door.
The priest led him to the downstairs waiting room and offered him a cup of tea.
“I see you’re still healing slowly,” he said soothingly, “have those people bothered you again?”
The young man shook his head.
“You come and tell me if they do …” continued the priest, “I know one of them well and I’ll soon put a stop to it. Who are the other two?”
The young man gave Father Ignatius the names of the other men who beat him up.
“What can I do to help you?” asked the priest gently.
“I have come to explain myself,” said the young man, “the other night at the park I had to run away quickly for a reason as I shall explain why …”
The priest nodded gently to encourage the man to continue.
“The four of us are friends … Gabbi and the others,” said the man, “at least I thought we were …
“We don’t have jobs … it’s difficult to find work these days … well, I’m OK now, as I’ll explain …
“You see Sir … why did Gabbi call you Father the other day, by the way?”
“It’s because I’m a priest” said Father Ignatius, “it’s customary to call a priest Father!”
“I see …” said the man, “well … the four of us a few days ago … last week it was. Well we mugged a man in town by the cinema.
“It was Tuesday night and we stopped this man and we asked him for his wallet. He gave it to Gabbi and the three of them ran away. As I was leaving I noticed he was wearing a gold watch … so I asked him for it. He gave it to me and I ran away also.
“Afterwards the three of them divided the money between them and gave me nothing.
“They said I didn’t deserve anything because I had not agreed to the mugging. I said it was wrong to rob people.
“They then saw me with the watch and realized I’d taken it from the man. They wanted that too but I ran away.
“A few days later they met me in the park and beat me up … that’s when you found me with your dog.
"I had to run away when you helped me because I was worried they'd go and beat my sister!”
“I see …” said the priest frowning, “and what happened to the watch?”
“I still have it here … I was going to sell it because I need the money for my sister. She has no husband you see … and she has a small baby girl which she has to feed. I was going to give her the money.”
The priest looked at the gold watch in his hand and realized that it was quite valuable.
“How much were you intending to sell it for?” he asked.
“About £20 …” said the man.
“I’ll buy it from you for this sum on one condition,” said Father Ignatius, “I want you to promise that you will never ever mug or steal from anyone again. Is that understood?”
The young man nodded.
“If you ever get in trouble again you’re no longer under my protection. The police will no doubt find you and you’ll end up in prison.”
“Yes Sir … Father. You see … I now have a job cleaning cars at the garage in town. I can give some money to my sister …”
The priest gave the young man £20 and let him go. He then picked up the phone and called the police.
An hour later Detective Inspector Lorne called on the priest.
“On Tuesday of last week there was a mugging in town by the cinema and a wallet and watch were taken,” said Father Ignatius.
“Good Heavens, Father …” said the Inspector, “that’s very accurate. Don’t tell me it was you who did it! I know funds are short in your church but I never expected the likes of you to turn to robbing people!”
He then laughed heartily as he watched the priest’s face.
“Seriously though, Father …” he continued, “it’s one of the cases I’m investigating. Do you have some information for me?”
“Better than that …” said the priest, “I have the watch in question … here it is.”
The detective looked at the watch and whistled quietly under his breath. “That’s a very expensive time-piece,” he said, “Care to tell me how it came in your possession?”
“I’m afraid I can’t, Vince.” replied Father Ignatius.
“I thought not Father … But you can’t blame me for trying. I’d better give you a receipt for this then we’ll return it to its owner. You don’t happen to have the wallet too?”
“No, sorry! Was much taken?”
“Only £10. The victim was more interested in the watch. He said it had sentimental value … For such a solid gold time-piece I’d have sentimental value too I tell you, Father. Some people have more money than they’ll ever need whilst others around here are starving under our very noses.”
The policeman thanked the priest and went away happily.
Father Ignatius never saw the young man who’d been beaten up ever again.