Elwood relaxed his posture as he sat alone in the small, darkened cubicle that served as the priest's side of the Confessional box. Once again, the band was on the run – this was nothing new, as trouble seemed to follow them wherever they went. In this case, Buster had accidentally blown their cover by trying to sneak into a nightclub to find Mack, only to get caught by the club's bouncers. The police had been called, and both Buster and Mack had been questioned severely.
A sigh escaped Elwood's lips as he thought back to having reamed Buster out. The kid hadn't meant any harm, but his lack of discretion had cost them the roof over their heads at the nearby hotel. He hadn't spoken to Elwood since, giving only short, curt answers when spoken to, and maintaining a frosty, defiant silence, hiding whatever he was actually feeling behind the pair of sunglasses he wore in emulation of the men that had become his parental figures.
Once they were safe, Elwood reminded himself, he would need to take Buster aside and have a proper, man-to-man talk with him.
For now, however, the band of brothers sought refuge in and around the nearby church, waiting for word from the Monsignor that the coast was clear. Elwood had been hidden in the confessional. Mack was temporarily garbed in habit, “praying” in a chapel accessible via a very well concealed wooden doorway. Cab had been hidden in the church's giftshop backrooms. Buster... Elwood's heart skipped a beat. Shit. He hadn't seen the kid the entire time they'd been in the church, because there had been so much fuss and panic trying to get everyone hidden.
What if Buster had already been arrested and was on his way to juvenile detention? What if his suit, shades and hat were already being swapped for civilian clothing, his music taken away from him by authorities hoping a straight family would put him back on the “right” tracks?
Buster worked his tie loose, unbuttoning the top button on his shirt to release some of the heat that was making him drowsy and uncomfortable. He was still in the Bluesmobile, which was concealed by foliage, just behind the church's parking lot. He had managed to make himself as small and unobtrusive as possible, sitting in the footwell in the front of the car, now and then peeking up from behind the parapet of the door, through the window and leaves.
The Monsignor was putting up a brave act, talking animatedly with the police officer who was questioning him – probably for sightings of the band. The officer closed his notepad and tucked it into his pocket, gesturing to the doors. The Monsignor seemed to droop slightly in resignation, and then lead the officer into the church.
Shit, shit, shit.
Elwood and the others were in there. What if the Monsignor, despite hiding them, had made a last-minute heel-face-turn?
But what could he do, Buster questioned himself? His stealth apparently still needed work – he had been caught not long ago by bouncers at a nightclub while trying to find Mack. He hadn't meant any harm – in fact, he had been trying to help Elwood, because he had needed to talk to him. By instinct, Buster knew automatically where Mack was most likely to be and had gone to find him.
Elwood's barbed criticism and reproach had stung Buster – he hadn't meant for anything bad to happen. The man had become something roughly akin to a surrogate father for the boy, and his cold yet blazing fury had not only scared him, but, he had to admit... kinda left him with a nasty, twisting feeling in his chest, like something was squeezing his heart. And... there was something else that twinged at the back of his mind... Something that had left him unable to bring himself to speak to or approach Elwood since it had all gone down...
Buster dismissed the feeling as the officer and Monsignor disappeared into the church. He needed to warn Elwood pronto. Carefully opening the door, he slid out between the slim crack between the door and the chassis, and closed it silently behind him, surveying the grounds before him for the best way in...
Elwood barely breathed as he strained his hearing, listening for the sound of boots clomping on the wooden floor of the church. He could hear voices – the Monsignor's gentle assurances that all was well, and that he was sure the officer's search would be to his satisfaction. He grimaced; the only way that this search could be satisfying to the police was if they found proof that the Monsignor was hiding the band members.
The officer's shoes pounded down the aisle to the altar, followed by the footsteps of the Monsignor.
Buster carefully peered into the church, through the doorway of the Monsignor's vestry. Officer “Krupky” was still inspecting the altar, and had his back turned to the door. No obvious signs of Elwood's presence so far, either. Buster grimaced, hoping he hadn't been caught already.
Just across the hallway was the confessional – perhaps, Buster hoped, he could safely hide in there for the time being, until Krupky was done with his search.
With a furtive glance towards the altar, Buster slipped out of the vestry, and across to the confessional, opening and closing the door silently behind him.
Elwood's heart sped up as the door on the other side of the confessional opened and then closed. He hadn't heard footsteps approaching, surely the officer couldn't already be searching the small closets that had been designated for the sacrament?
A soft sigh from the closet next door was audible through the grille that separated the two. There was rustling as whoever it was sat down, kneeling on the floor. “Now really isn't a good time”, Elwood murmured.
In the closet in the other side, Buster winced, surprised by the muffled voice filtering through the grille. Great, he'd managed to walk in while the priest was actually in the box! Staring down at his hands, folded by habit on the shelf in front of the grille, he felt the twinging in the back of his head return, and his heart sank. What if something had happened to Elwood already? Maybe now was a good time. He had been invited to speak up by the priest's somewhat muffled greeting -- he hadn't actually caught what had been said, but he was sure it was the familiar patter of, "the Lord be with you".
Elwood waited, hoping he hadn't been discovered, his heart still racing. A young, and somewhat surprised voice, one that was oddly familiar to him, replied through the grille, “and also with you, Father”.
It had been a very long time since Elwood had last been on the receiving end of this particular sacrament, and now he was going to have to bluff his way through it for someone having a crisis of conscience while the police searched the church.
He could hear movement from within the closet next door, and squinting through the grille, could vaguely make out the sign of the cross being made.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” the young voice said. “It's been... six months since my last confession.”
Elwood shifted uncomfortably in his seat, and then nodded slowly. The young voice was muffled, but vaguely recognizable... it had also been six months since Buster had last been anywhere near a church, let alone confession. His own voice barely above a whisper, he warily replied, “go ahead, child...”
There was a pause on the other side. Was it actually Buster, and he had just realized that Elwood was only pretending to play the part of priest? “I...” The young voice stumbled over his words, then took a deep breath and hurriedly said, “I dishonoured my father.”
The young voice had a parent, then – it couldn't possibly be Buster, Elwood thought, a surge of relief running through him. However, then the voice went on.
“Well, he's not my father, not really. I just kind of look at him as such.” The voice paused, then added mournfully, “I really hope he's alright. We're... we're both in trouble at the moment, and... I don't know where he is...”
Elwood grimaced. That was Buster, alright. He couldn't break the illusion, now, not when their safety depended on remaining hidden and making a minimum of noise. “I'm sure your 'father' is safe and well,” he replied quietly, trying to sound comforting and hide his concern about the repercussions this could have.
On the other side of the grille, he could make out Buster nodding. “I hope so,” the boy responded with a sigh. “We haven't been talking since it all went down, and... I wouldn't want for this to be hanging over our heads, if one of us were to get caught or something.”
Leaning his head on the wall, Elwood hmmed, then said, “have you thought about apologizing to him?”
This only seemed to make Buster sound increasingly dejected. “I want to, but...” The boy shifted uncomfortably, picking at his sleeve. When he spoke again, his voice seemed... crackly, almost as if he was about to cry. “I know he's mad, and I'm kinda scared to talk to him. It kind of makes me feel... bad. 'Cause he took me in, and I didn't mean for anything bad to happen and... ”
Elwood raised his eyebrows at this. So that was why Buster had been so distant with him. He sighed. When this was over, perhaps he also owed the boy an apology.
Buster took a deep breath, releasing it slowly, and then looked up at the grille. “Do you think apologizing'll work?”
“I guarantee it,” Elwood responded softly. A comforting silence fell in both closets before he broke it with one last question. “Anything else?”
Buster went silent briefly, thinking, before adding, “well, I know I've said 'shit' a few times even after Elwood told me not to.”
Elwood smirked and shook his head. He knew as well as anybody else that old habits died hard.
“Very well, then.” This was the easiest part of the whole gig. “For the remission of sin, I recommend an our father and three hail marys.” Holding a hand to the grille, Elwood cleared his throat, and then quietly went on, pronouncing the formula as Buster bowed his head.
“God, the Father of mercies, through the death and the resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us, for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
He paused, allowing these words to sink in before finally adding the age-old affirmation: “amen”.