The last few weeks of Pastor Joe’s life flashed in front of his eyes in a blur. It wasn’t his whole life, like you sometimes hear about, only his life from the time that he met her. It was as if that time was the only time in his whole life that had mattered. And as he lay there with his blood draining from him, he remembered.
He met her for the first time two and a half weeks ago. She showed up at the Easter mass, wildly dressed and contrasting dramatically with the conservative members of his congregation. He couldn’t help but to be drawn to her. She had bleached blond hair that beckoned him like a beacon. She wore a low-cut top and high-cut skirt with fishnet stockings and stiletto heels with the confidence of a temptress. But her heavily made-up eyes hinted at a vulnerable little girl who needed help. At the end of his service, she asked him for that help.
In the privacy of his office, she introduced herself as Josephine and admitted to being a “lady of the evening”. She wanted to leave the life and start over fresh, but she feared what her pimp might do to her if she left. She had no place to go and no other way of supporting herself. As she spoke, she swung one fish-netted leg back and forth, almost hypnotizing Pastor Joe with its motion. The shiny black stiletto on her foot caught the one ray of sunshine that crept in through the blinds of the window, further distracting him. When the silence following her confession dragged on, he finally cleared his throat and offered the usual useless advice for these cases. Tell the police. Go back to your family. Leave the city. But even as he offered these solutions, he could see the disappointment on her face. She then told him he had been her last hope, and as suddenly as she appeared that day, she left.
Pastor Joe found himself thinking about Josephine all the time, about her halo of blond hair, her full blood-red lips, her temptress body. He had been so caught off guard with the feelings she had awoken in him that he had never thought to ask her where she was staying or where he could contact her. And now, her face and body were permanently etched in his memory. He could almost still smell her perfume lingering in his office. He found himself preparing his sermons and tailoring them towards the sex trade and the exploitation of innocent women. His congregants were starting to wonder what was going on with him. The mysterious Josephine was starting to permeate his every thought and insinuate herself into every aspect of his simple life.
He decided he needed to see her again. If he could talk to her again and offer her better options for her problem, then maybe he could move on and stop thinking about her all the time. He would never admit to himself that he lusted after someone like her, and for the first time since he had become a pastor, he couldn’t control the feelings. So instead he found himself driving through the less respectable parts of town at night, the areas he warned his parishioners about, checking street corners, looking for a halo of bleached blond hair. And after three nights of looking, one night, he finally found her.
Unsure what to do, he pulled over across the street from the corner she was working. He still felt the same pull, the same attraction he had the first time he had met her, and as he watched her strutting around, leaning into cars, peddling her body, the feelings intensified. He wasn’t used to these feelings and didn’t know how to deal with them. As he grappled with lust and desire, Josephine got into a car and left with someone. Pastor Joe hurried after them and followed them. They drove a couple of blocks and then turned into an alley. Pastor Joe pulled over before the alley and got out of his car. He had images of himself rescuing Josephine from the horny stranger, saving her from degrading herself. And as he approached the parked car, that is exactly what he expected to do. But the car was rocking back and forth and he knew he was too late. Not wanting to leave, he hid behind a garbage can and waited, for what, he didn’t know.
Finally, a few minutes later, Josephine stumbled from the car, doing up her blouse and fixing her skirt. Her blood red lipstick was smeared, her bleached blond hair a mess, and Pastor Joe didn’t think he had ever seen anything as beautiful as she was in that moment. Then the car pulled away, and Josephine walked right by the garbage can Pastor Joe was hiding behind. The scent of her perfume wafted towards him, and he found himself inhaling deeply, eyes closed in ecstasy. He pictured her in his mind even as he could still hear the clip clop of her stiletto heels on the pavement and when the sound was gone, he opened his eyes and came back to reality. This became his routine for the next few weeks.
Even as he delivered his sermons, warning people against the evils of greed and temptation, encouraging people to be good, all he could think about was night time, when he could sneak out and spy on Josephine. And each time he did so, he became bolder, sometimes actually watching her as she pleasured her customers, knowing he couldn’t be with her but deriving pleasure from watching her with other men. The moral dilemma he struggled with eventually caused two personalities to develop in him: The righteous preacher and the depraved sinner, each with their own thoughts and actions.
Josephine surprised him one day and showed up for his service. At the end of the sermon, she asked to speak with him again. She asked if he could act as a counselor to her since she could not afford to pay for one. She wanted help discovering why she was who she was. She felt ready to repent, and change. She was going to try and give up her trade and look for honest work. Could he help her? As a Pastor, he often counseled people with their problems, offering God’s love and understanding. So he could not turn down her request. He would see her three times a week in the afternoons as well as look into the various organizations he supported to see if any of them could find Josephine work.
By day, he counseled her. By night, he stalked her, part of him hoping she would turn another trick, another part of him hoping she wouldn’t. Half of him loved her for her soul, and each minute they spent together only increased his feelings. The other half of him lusted after her body, and imagined doing wonderfully sinful and depraved things with her. Soon the line between the two halves became blurred and Pastor Joe felt he needed to distance himself from the sinner. So he tried to separate from that half by imagining it was a whole other person and not part of him at all. When he thought of the sinner, he imagined a different face and eyes. He dressed differently from Pastor Joe and looked as evil and depraved as his thoughts and actions were. He would refer to the sinner as “Jay” and completely remove Jay from himself. Pastor Joe would remain his pious self, inwardly and outwardly. It would only be Jay who would derive pleasure from watching Josephine satisfy men for money, while Pastor Joe would be try his best to make sure she would never have to again.
One day, something happened that completely severed the two halves of Pastor Joe and Jay so that they were no longer aware of the existence of the other: Josephine quit tricking. She found a job waitressing at the corner diner and was making a new start. She had even met a decent guy through one of the support groups Pastor Joe had referred her to and she was falling in love with him. Pastor Joe’s stomach sank and his vision started to cloud. With this news, something started to happen to him.
Josephine happily hugged Pastor Joe as she gushed about how his counseling and his friendship had helped her and how she could not have done it without him. It was the first time they had ever had direct physical contact and Pastor Joe became overwhelmed with feelings. He started to sweat and swallow convulsively. He was confused and scared, ashamed and aroused. As he struggled to deal with these feelings, to try and contain them, Jay took over. He then ran his hands over Josephine’s back until they rested dangerously close to her bottom and bare legs. He would have continued if she hadn’t stiffened and pulled away, as if she had sensed the change in him. She looked at him curiously, and Jay simply smiled serenely. He wished her well and congratulated her on her new found love, even as his eyes raked over her possessively.
As she left, she told Pastor Joe that he should come visit her in the diner and that they should keep in touch, but that she no longer needed his counseling. She then bade him goodbye and walked out of the office. As soon as she left, the smile disappeared from his face replaced by an angry grimace. Jay smashed his fists against the desk and then threw everything on the floor. Enraged, he started hitting himself, with brutal blows to his stomach and face. He was a wild man who had lost complete control.
He walked by a wall-hanging mirror and saw an image of Pastor Joe. He did not want to look like Pastor Joe ever again. He rummaged in the cupboard and found a purple gabardine suit. He quickly changed into it. Then he found some old Halloween make-up at the bottom of one of the desk drawers. He carefully used the white make-up to completely cover his face. He then applied the black make-up around his eyes. When he looked in the mirror again, he saw the man he wanted to be. He would take care of everything.
As Jay headed towards the diner where Josephine worked, his anger increased. It was one thing when Josephine slept with men for a living, when her very survival depended on the money she was making. Jay enjoyed watching her when it was just her body involved. However, it was quite another thing for her to give herself romantically to a man, with both her body and her heart. Jay would no longer be able to watch her like he used to, would no longer be able to pretend that she imagined she was with him when she had sex with strangers, because now she would be making love. She should have been giving her heart and body to him, not some loser from a support group of society’s dregs. Jay had Pastor Joe to thank for that. Now it would be up to Jay to handle this problem and the solution was simple. If he couldn’t have Josephine, no one would.
He waited outside the diner for Josephine to finish her shift. The white and black make-up was still intact, if just a bit runny. He had changed into one of Pastor Joe’s white suits so that Josephine would not know it was Jay who was waiting for her. While inwardly Jay seethed with rage at Josephine for betraying him, outwardly he had to appear calm. He didn’t know exactly what he was going to do when he saw her, but he knew he had to approach her as Pastor Joe.
It was late at night when Josephine finally came out of the diner, which worked to Jay’s advantage as the darkness hid the sinister make-up he was wearing. Josephine was genuinely happy to see Pastor Joe waiting for her and she eagerly ran over to him. He told her he was coming for a late snack, but he could walk her home first if she liked. Josephine then told him something that nearly made him lose control: she was on her way to see her new lover. Chills went up and down Jay’s spine as he pictured her cuddling with some other man, but he simply smiled and offered to drive her to her new love’s place so that they could catch up. Josephine appeared to be thrilled with the idea and happily put her arm through Jay’s to walk with him to his car. Again, he was jolted by the physical contact with her. Surrounded by her unique scent, with her perfect little hand sitting on his arm, Jay was convinced more than ever that he could not let someone else have her. He knew what he needed to do.
Jay told Josephine that he needed to stop at the church to get something for her. It was a surprise, something he got her for being able to turn her life around. She smiled with excitement and eagerly agreed to the detour. As he drove, he tried not to leer at her bare legs, revealed by the short skirt of her waitressing uniform. He tried not to notice her breasts swaying from the motion of the car, barely concealed behind the tight waitressing blouse. Instead he concentrated on what he would do once he got her alone in the church. Thinking about the actions he needed to take didn’t bring him any joy, but he knew they would bring release from his anger and misery. He could think of no other way.
As they entered the church, Jay asked Josephine to close her eyes for her “surprise” He guided her to the altar and asked her to wait behind the pulpit. She did as he asked, and he couldn’t help but to feel regret at what he had to do. He walked by her, memorizing every detail of her appearance. She looked like a fallen angel, with her halo of bleached blond hair, her overly made-up face with the black eyeliner and blood-red lipstick, her provocative clothes, all hiding the soul of a troubled girl. Suddenly Pastor Joe tried to emerge, but Jay held him back. He quickly grabbed the knife he had tucked into the suit before putting it on, and approached her carefully from behind.
Suddenly, Jay went flying back, landing on his back and knocking over plants and candle holders. Josephine opened her eyes and turned around. She screamed when she saw Pastor Joe’s ghoulishly made up face and watched in horror as he rolled around on the ground, clutching a knife. She was rooted to the spot, so shocked at what she was witnessing. There appeared to be two people wrestling with each other and arguing, but she could only hear Pastor Joe’s voice – one angry, one soothing. Then he was standing up again, the knife gleaming in his hands, approaching her. He was muttering something about her having to die. She tried to run but tripped down the stairs and landed on her hands and knees. Jay tackled her, crudely running his hands up and down her legs. She kicked him and managed to get up and run to his office where she planned on locking the door. But Jay was faster and managed to get in before she could close the door on him. He closed the door behind him and she was completely trapped. All she could do was beg Pastor Joe to stop what he was doing and reason with him. It was the sound of her voice that finally got through to Pastor Joe, causing him to reemerge. He knew what he had to do to prevent her from being harmed. He turned the knife on himself and plunged it into his stomach, splattering blood on his face. But he continued on and buried the knife into his chest, desperate to stop himself. Weak with pain, he fell to his knees, clutching at the knife. He then pulled it out, tossed it aside, and collapsed on his back.
Josephine screamed in horror as she watched Pastor Joe stab himself. She ran to the door, opening it with the intention of escaping and never looking back. But something made her turn around to look at the man who had been her friend. He was the first person to ever be kind to her and help her without asking for anything in return. Yet he had just tried to kill her for reasons unknown to her. Unsure what to do, she stood there are watched him from a safe distance. But as the blood stains on his white suit got bigger, she knew she had to help him. She kicked the knife away from him and knelt down to help him up to the couch. He kept mumbling something about someone being gone, about how someone would no longer be a danger to her. She assumed he was talking nonsense, delusional from loss of blood.
She wanted to get up to call for help, but he wouldn’t let her, holding her next to him by grabbing her wrist with surprising strength. He didn’t want to be saved, for if he lived, there was a chance Jay would live again too. So he asked her just to sit with him. She carefully removed the handkerchief from the pocket on his jacket and gently removed the blood spatters from his face. He took her other hand and held it in his, then peacefully closed his eyes. She would never know anything that had happened with Jay, and that was for the best. He hoped her memories of him would be nice and offer her comfort when he was gone. He opened his eyes one last time to see her precious face, for he felt the end was near. Behind her, he thought he saw the shadow of someone standing in the hall outside. If he didn’t know better, he would swear it was someone in a purple suit with a white face. He convinced himself he must be imagining things. And when he saw the shadow enter the room and sneak up behind Josephine, he could do nothing but pray it was an illusion. But as he drew his last breath, he left the world with the sound of Josephine’s blood curdling scream still ringing in his ears.