Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Padre Pio

The girl was bored in the police station playroom—a room meant for smaller children, to provide a distraction, a return to normalcy, to get their minds off of why they were there in the first place.

“It breaks my heart to see her in there. She’s so serious.” Det. Finlay said, looking through the one-way glass at the girl staring with disinterest at the stuffed animals and coloring books. “We should have an iPad in the kids’ room. Something more age appropriate. She’s gotta be ten or eleven—too old for that baby stuff.”


Sgt. Jimenez rubbed his mustache. “She’s nine. Put in a request to the captain.”

“That’ll go right to the circular file. Poor kid’s father gets shot, now she’s stuck here. The perps in the cells have it better.”

“So, go talk to her. Bronx Social Services won’t be here until the morning. Somebody should make her comfortable.”

“And it should be me—because I’m a woman,” Finlay said. “Female cops are always called in for the assist when you need somebody to talk to traumatized kids.” Her nostrils flared and she spoke to Jimenez with a raised voice, “I don’t have kids, you’ve got three, why don’t you talk to her?”

“You know how it works, kids are more comfortable around female officers. It’s biological. And you actually seem to give a shit. It’s not an order, just a strong suggestion. Reach out to the kid. She’s from Ireland. I don’t know— talk about something Irish with her.”

Finlay observed the girl through the playroom window. Her experience taught her that witnesses to violent crime either express grief through an uncontrollable outpouring of emotion or quiet shock. Something about the kid’s casual demeanor bothered her. There was no shock or emotion, only what appeared to be apathy. Finlay thought, maybe the younger generation is so desensitized to simulated violence that the reality of it doesn’t even bother them, or maybe they’re too self-centered to care.


Finlay entered the room and smiled at the girl. “Hi Grainne, I’m Lori. Your name, it’s pronounced Grawn-Ya, not Granny, right?”

The child was humorless, regarding the detective’s attempts to put her at ease with disdain. When asked about her favorite singer, she tugged at the One Direction button pinned to the collar of her denim jacket, and said nothing. Small talk with the nine-year-old was useless.

“Your father is in the hospital right now. He’s going to be okay,” Finlay said, “He was shot in both hands. His wounds are serious, but not life-threatening. Do you understand what that means? You’ll be able to see him soon.”

“Padre Pio,” Grainne said

“Excuse me?”

“It’s called a Padre Pio,” Grainne said, showing the first glimpse of emotion. “It’s a Padre Pio, named after some old Italian saint who had the stigmatas in his hands, like.”

“I’ve never heard of that before.” Finlay switched roles from social worker to detective. “What causes it?”

“Only God or the RA can make it happen,” Grainne said with wide-awake eyes, “and it only happens to saints or traitors.”

“But, sweetie, it happened to your father.”

“Da’s no saint,” Grainne said, looking into the detective’s eyes and cracking a half smile. “He put his hands together like he was saying his prayers, so the bullet could go through both hands and make a proper Pio.”

“Grainne, can I get you a soda? Something from the vending machine?”

“The biggest threat to the cause isn’t the enemy. The biggest threat is internal: traitors—like my father.”

“Sweetie, hold that thought. I’ll be back in a minute. We can talk then.”


Finlay left the room abruptly, running to Jimenez’s office. “Sarge, there’s no mother in the picture, right? Fuck! We need someone to serve as a guardian for this kid. I can’t legally question her without one, and you wouldn’t believe what she’s saying.”

“Slow down. There’s a priest talking to the desk sergeant; he’s asking about the girl. He can be in the room with you.”

“Boss, how could he know that’s she’s with us and not at the hospital with her father?”