Pastor's Friends


elisabeth_icon.gif joseph_icon.gif

Scene Title Pastor's Friends
Synopsis Elisabeth checks in on a situation that she was asked to follow up on.
Date Aug 3, 2009

Guiding Light Baptist Church

It's bizarre, coming back here now. The Guiding Light had been such a building of comfort, and knowing what Joseph knows now, it seems perverse. Like discovering your bedroom's been under surveillance, if not as literally intimate. Close. Close enough, anyway. It's a place of prayer and whoever this man is has turned it into something else entirely.

Regardless, Joseph is here this Monday morning, dressed neatly as a pastor would be expected to dress. The place is bathed in natural light, morning sunshine beaming straight in through the arching windows on high, and in defiance of that feeling of being surveilled, he sits at the further most pew, elbows against his knees and fingers locked into a cage-like configuration under his chin. Not quite prayer, just meditative silence, the good book itself resting beside him, opened and face down, the book of Timothy facing the wood of the bench.

It's good to have a reminder, now and then, and it's better to brood somewhere where brooding is sort of expected.

As she enters the chapel, Elisabeth pauses at the back of the room. She has to quell the urge to genuflect; though she rarely attends Catholic services as an adult, there is something about a church that makes it automatic for her. Had she walked into a Catholic chapel, she'd have not bothered to fight the instinct, but the movement is not expected and sometimes not even welcome in other denominations' domains. Taking a moment to soak in the silence — her own soul could use a little soothing, something she finds little time to attend to these days — she walks further into the sanctuary and glances around. A groundskeeper mentioned that the pastor was in here. "Father Sumter?" she calls quietly, not immediately spotting him sitting in his corner.

His head lifts as his name is called, a twist in his seat to see over his shoulder. "Mornin'," Joseph automatically offers, voice bouncing off the walls of the church as he gets to his feet. Unlike the Catholics, there's no real uniform for the Baptists - unless you count beige and shirts button to the throat, and some might. "Pastor, actually," is the gentle correction of preference he makes, stepping into the aisle and offering a smile. Clothing neat and precise, his hair combed and hands clean, the faint bruises on his face do something to offset this appearance - one near his temple, one lower at the corner of his mouth to paint rosy patterns of faint blue along a cleanshaven jaw. "What can I do for you?"

Elisabeth turns toward the sound of the voice and smiles faintly at the correction. "I'm sorry," she offers. "Fifteen years as a mostly lapsed Catholic and I'm afraid I still can't quite kick that habit." Liz shrugs faintly and moves forward, her eyes skimming his face. "I was asked to come by and check on you by a mutual friend… or a friend of a friend, I'm not actually certain of how many degrees of separation we're talking there," she says on a chuckle. She offers her hand and says, "Abigail and some people in her coterie are worried for you, Pastor. My name's Elisabeth Harrison."

Although she doesn't offer her title, the movement might give away that beneath the navy blazer she wears over a sea-green scoop-necked T-shirt and blue jeans, she's wearing a shoulder rig. "I'd like to help you, if you'll let me."

Hhhey now— Joseph's back straightens some as she introduces herself, a look of rue crossing his features before he glances for the door, judging for a second or so. "Oh, there's— there's really nothin' for any of you to be worried about - I didn't realise how much she'd already told the flock. But believe me, it was a misunderstanding," he states, with a reasonable amount of smoothness that doesn't quite match the visible tension. A cop may be able to detect it - the remove between what he has to say and the person that's saying it.

He starts to head for the double doors which she'd just come in from, gesturing towards it and managing a quick smile, in an attempt to lead the way. "I can tell you what happened though, if'n you like." By way of explanation, he adds, "It's a nice day outside."

Which, if the glance he shares with her is to be of any indication, is code that begs her to agree with him.

Elisabeth tilts her head, dropping her hand. She's definitely taking the hint that he's worried about talking in here. A slow nod follows his assertion. "It *is* quite lovely. I'd love a walk," she acknowledges, heading out of the chapel with the pastor. Once they reach the out of doors, she remains near him in the sunshine as they walk toward the church's lawn, but the sounds of traffic, the sounds of birds yelling at one another in the trees, all of those are silent. "Is the church bugged, pastor?" Elisabeth asks him mildly as they walk. "You can talk freely — there's not a bug made that I know of that can listen in on us right now."

Joseph blinks at the sudden apparent deafness, looking around him and then back at Elisabeth in obvious surprise, and let's out a breath of a nervous chuckle. Handy. Okay. "It's— it's a theory, I don't know for certain yet if it is," Joseph says, hands on his hips and letting out a sigh. Their voices seem louder, out here, with the world around them put on mute. As a result, his makes himself quieter, speaking more at a mutter despite their audiokinetic privacy. "Work in progress. Gosh— I'm sorry about that. Used to be that I could talk about anythin' in there, you know?"

Elisabeth reaches out to gently touch his arm. "We will make it so that happens again, pastor." Her tone is gently reassuring. "Tell me what happened so that I can figure out how best to help you. There are people who can sweep the church and make sure it's not bugged in any way." Hana won't help her right now, but that doesn't mean she won't help Joseph. "The police report said you fought with a friend." She reaches up to tip his jaw slightly sideways to take a better look at the bruises. "No 'friend' of yours did this. What was it they wanted?"

The mention of the police report gets a glance - a flare of distrust, but otherwise, he makes no protest, even as she goes to inspect the bruises on his face, wherein he simply stands still and gives her a twitch of an uncertain smile. "No, not a friend," Joseph agrees, some apology in his voice. For lying to the police, and all. "I couldn't tell you who he is — no one I recognised, he had — like a mask on. He was already in my apartment, going through my things - but I can't help but get the notion outta my head that he was waitin' for me too. I think he was there to make a point, that he was targetin' people I've associated with. People like Abigail, and my flock. He was flauntin' what he knew, which was why I didn't report it like I should've."

She listens intently, meeting his eyes with her blue ones. "Don't worry about what's in the report, Pastor," Elisabeth replies gently. "I'm more concerned with what's actually happened and how to keep it from happening again." She purses her lips thoughtfully. "Is he targeting people in you congregation, or merely people you've given visions to?" she asks mildly. "What exactly did he say to you?"

"I'm not so certain— just people who're close. I'm hopin' he's gonna steer away from the flock. But he made mention of a coupla names. like Abby. She got into contact with another friend of mine— look." Joseph raises a hand as if to placate or fend off argument, despite Elisabeth's gentle demeanor. "I've made enough of a mess of things by openin' my mouth, I don't want to— keep makin' those mistakes. If you're intimate with Abby's coterie, as you put it— you'll know Teo."

There's apology in the shrug of Joseph's shoulders, a twist of a smile. "I've given him the names've people this guy mention going after, and I trust him with information a damn sight more'n I trust myself. Y'can ask him. As for what happened— well. Alright." He leans against the black metal fencing that surrounds the church, takes a breath, then starts. "I tend to stay late at the church most nights, an' I got home around midnight or somethin'. He'd put my dog down with a tranq already, threw around some information that was— sorta meant to be confidential within the church. Nothin' in direct relation about the flock, but people I've helped.

"Then he said — " And the melodrama forces Joseph to give a rueful smile, a roll of black eyes skywards, though his tone of voice suggests he's far more rattled by it than a shrug would suggest; "He said he was lookin' to destroy everythin' I am and hunt down everyone I love. Big words, I guess. I think he just— he wanted to shake me up. He said some other stuff— when I asked him if there was anythin' I could say to stop him, he said that there was nothin' that us 'animals' could say to change anything. Makes me think he's got somethin' against people like us."

Elisabeth nods slightly to Teo's name, silently acknowledging that she knows him. Her attention is fully on the pastor. "I'll speak with him," she says quietly. She too leans against the fence, listening to the recital that he gives with every evidence of casual interest, not making a big deal of anything he tells her. An eyebrow goes up and she purses her lips on a deep sigh. "Sounds like if it's not an official Humanis First hit, the possibility exists that this person's a sympathizer. Which makes me a good bit leery. Your congregation, from all I know of it, is a good mix of people, powered and not." She considers. "There are several ways I can offer help to you…. most of them are even legal," she offers with a faint, teasing twinkle at him. "First, we can amend your police report to indicate all that was said to you, so that we can officially put a few plainclothes people on it for a while, make sure the black-and-whites are rolling by regularly. If you don't want that option…. you've already alerted Teo to the situation, which may mean we can get you some folks to spend some time here on a more regular basis and help keep an eye on both you and the place." She pauses and says softly, "What will it take to make you feel safe in your own walls again, Pastor?"

Joseph nods along to Elisabeth's words, silently considering as a summery wind blows silently through this space of muted city, tugging at his suit jacket in defiance of his arms coming to cross casually cross his chest. At her question, he lets out a sigh. "Well. Time heals all wounds, and if enough of it goes by and people don't get hurt, then that'll do nicely," he says. "But practically speaking— clearin' the place of bugs or whatever will do me fine for now, and makin' sure it stays that way. It wouldn't hurt to have some folks keep an eye on the place too, for now. But you'll understand that— we try an' cater to people who might not be so trusting if the place is obviously got police wanderin' around and checkin' in on things. It's not about legality, it's about belief that you won't be judged. And law's all about judgment." A beat, then he concedes, "Humanis First and the like are a heck of a lot worse, mind, but you see the dilemma."

Elisabeth nods. "Indeed, Pastor, I do," she says with a grimace. "Let me see what I can do with Teo to get you some coverage that's a little more off-the-record. And I'll have someone sweep the place, too, okay?" She pulls a card and a pen out of her jacket and jots down her cell phone number. "This is my office number and my cell's on the back. If you have any more trouble, you feel free to give me a call. A one-time thing's … something we can deal with under the table. A second hit on you, and I'm going to want to put a police presence here for you, Pastor — for the safety of your congregation. But we'll try it on the down-low first and hope that it isn't something that's going to happen again, okay?"

Taking his weight off the fence, Joseph holds out a hand for the card and nods once. "Understood. Thanks, Ms. Harrison — it's appreciated," he says. "I'm just sorry whoever this guy is found a weak point to get to at." Which is an unkind, self-deprecating euphemism for what he and his church turned out to be for the Ferrymen, but not one he bats an eye at as he slides the card into an inside pocket of his jacket.

Elisabeth smiles faintly. "His kind always do, Pastor. No one is ever impervious, no matter how much they want to be." Her expression is perhaps a touch weary now. "I'll do my best for you, though. I promise. Call if you need anything at all." She pushes off the fence and smiles at him slightly. "Gotta tell you, Pastor. Not sure I'd want your gift for anything. Take care."

Joseph gives her a brighter smile and a rueful shrug. "Not sure I'd want your profession, so there you go. We put ourselves out there anyways," he says, then lifts a hand in a wave. "You too," is added, before he's headed for the doors. At least there's comfort in the knowledge that paranoia will only be a temporary state.

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