Ruth Long’s Picture Choice: 1
Title: Shepherd’s Crossing
The interrogation room was cramped, the high-backed chairs uninviting and the temperature five degrees higher than was comfortable.
In spite of it, Reverend Mason Shepherd sat at the table, face serene, body relaxed, breathing steady. Father God, when you said you were going to open a new door in my life, this wasn’t what I pictured.
Detective Ryan Benson faced him, brow and mouth mirrored frowns, knuckles white where he gripped the pen. “Let’s go through it one more time, Reverend.”
“Sure,” Mason said, polishing off the cup of lukewarm coffee one of the beat cops had given him when he first arrived.
Benson cleared his throat. “Okay, last night, before you went to bed, you prayed about the baby who went missing earlier in the day. Sometime later, you woke from a dream in which you were shown where the baby was.”
Mason nodded, noting how lean the detective was, the kind of thinness that comes from not properly eating or sleeping for weeks. He knew how deeply family troubles affected a man.
“And then, without consulting with the police department, task force or child’s family, you left your house, found the baby and took him to a hospital.”
He nodded again. Father, pour the balm of Gilead into every open wound in Detective Benson’s heart.
Benson slammed his fist on the table. “I’ve heard a lot of bull over the years, Rev, but this stinks -”
A loud rap on the darkened window stopped him mid-sentence.
Benson changed tactics without missing a beat, leaning across the table and shouting the question he’d badgered Mason with from the moment they’d entered this room.
“HOW did you know where the baby was, Reverend?”
He answered with the one thing he was absolutely sure of the last twelve hours. “God showed me in a dream.”
Benson stood up abruptly, the sound of the chair legs grating on the cement floor. “No way. I’m not buying it! I think you’re the person who took Nicolas in the first place, as some kind of surrogate for the son you lost.”
Mason’s stomach clenched and he bowed his head. Father! I can’t handle talking about losing Anna and Caleb right now. Not here. Not in this context. Not without losing my composure.
“That will be quite enough, Detective,” a sharp female voice said from the doorway.
Benson straightened up and folded his arms across his chest. “You’re in the wrong interrogation room, counselor. This poor sap doesn’t have two sticks to rub together. Only thing more pathetic than his story is his sorry bank account.”
Morgan stood up when the lawyer entered the room.
She set her briefcase on the table and drug Benson’s chair around to sit beside Mason, motioning him to take his seat. “Then it’s fortunate for Reverend Shepherd that I’m taking this case pro bono.”
“You don’t do pro bono work, Corrigan, so what gives?”
She turned to Mason. “Reverend, my name is Bayliss Corrigan, and I’ve been hired on your behalf courtesy of the woman who called you a cab this morning.”
He blinked. “Leila?” Father, I feel absolutely lost. Please show me who to trust and don’t let me be swayed by a pretty face and sharp mind.
She answered Mason while staring down Benson. “Yes, Reverend, Leila Campion.”
Benson’s face went red. “Why didn’t you tell me your witness was Bruno Campion’s daughter?”
Mason shrugged. “I didn’t know her name. And I don’t know who Bruno Campion is either.”
Benson turned to Corrigan. “So, the one person who can vouch for the Rev’s whereabouts this morning just happens to be Judge Campion’s daughter?”
Corrigan smiled, though it was a gesture devoid of warmth. “Exactly.”
Benson’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of bail are we looking at?”
“None. You’re going to release him based on the fact that he isn’t responsible for the baby’s disappearance.”
“Maybe, but he interfered with a police investigation.”
“Do you really want to press the issue? Nicolas is alive and well, thanks to Reverend Shepherd. It’s not in the department’s best interest to file charges on a public hero.” Benson sighed. “I need to talk to Captain Hinshaw before-”
Corrigan slid a file across the table. “I already have. As soon as you sign off, he’s free to go.”
She ushered Mason out the door before the ink on Benson’s signature was dry. “Let’s get something straight, Reverend. I’m here to protect the Campion’s best interest, and right now, it’s in their interest to champion you. Opportunities like this are few and far between, so enjoy yourself but don’t get too comfortable.”
He glanced at her. “You’re very direct.”
“For a thousand dollars an hour, you bet I am. Now, I’ve arranged a fifteen minute press interview upstairs in the conference room for you, the Campions, Nicolas’ mother Tamara, and Nicolas. After that, it’s in everyone’s best interest to put this story to bed.”
“Oh.” His heart sank. Tamara Faraday was not someone he wanted to meet. There was something about how Nicolas went missing that just didn’t feel right. There was a lie in there somewhere and maybe something worse – much worse. Father, please give me the grace to do what is expected of me here. No, that’s not what You want, is it. This is hard to ask, but please help me lay aside my personal judgment of Tamara and treat her with the affection and respect You command me to show all people.
Corrigan said, “I can understand that you have reservations about meeting Ms. Faraday or being forced into this interview, but the quicker we feed the media, the quicker they’ll move on to the next thing.”
He held the door for her as the moved into the administrative department.
She smiled, and this time, there was warmth in it. “Detective Benson only grilled you for an hour but I’ve had you under a microscope since the Campions called me 4 o’clock this morning. Before I finished my morning run, I had you in a nutshell. Grieving recluse with a sterling reputation. The lawyer in me wants to suggest you file suit against the driver who killed your wife and son but the human in me, and yes, there’s a little humanity left in there somewhere, realizes that revenge isn’t in your vocabulary.”
Before he could respond, they were interrupted by Benson’s voice calling after them.
“Corrigan. Shepherd. Wait up. Listen. Everything’s changed. The interview is scrapped. The governor is flying in this evening. Wants to meet with us over dinner tonight. Something about an idea he has for making the three of us into some kind of autonomous unit that serves special cases and is directly supervised only by him.”
Mason’s heart slammed against his ribs. Father, this is exceedingly, abundantly above all I could ask or think. Again, not the door I imagined but one that could only be conceived by a master craftsman -
Benson elbowed him. “Quit praying, Rev, and let’s start talking about kind of monkey suits we’re going to have to wear to meet the governor!”
Corrigan shook her head. “Don’t listen to him, Reverend. You just keep praying because we’ll need all the help we can get to pull off this fiasco.”
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