“Thankfully, very thankfully, Effete Mann Sloughheart has had copies of all of her legal records sent to us, in PDF via electronic transfer, today. And all forthcoming legal documentation will be sent to us immediately in the same manner,” Suĳnwe explained. “She has also agreed to meet with us later this week for at least one hour; that will be very crucial.”
Morris was sitting in his chair, hunched forward, his face coated with tears after the trauma of telling all to Grace and Suĳnwe Caring and Dr. Sage Wiseman. Grace was gently rubbing his back while they talked. The information Morris had relayed was highly disturbing, saddening, and enraging, but also strategically necessary in bringing down the Reverend Fen Sloughheart.
“What you have so boldly shared with us today, Morris,” Suĳnwe said as he looked over at the young man with nothing but kindness and sympathy, “is so very, very important. Oh my dear young man, I know it hurt, but this has been so vitally important … I cannot find words strong enough to describe the import of what you have relayed to us.”
“Yes,” Grace continued. “And we are standing with you, Morris … all the way. You are surrounded by a group of people – not just us – who love you and care about you, difficult as that may be to believe right now. But you are not alone. Reverend Joy Brighterday, Dr. Sage Wiseman and all of us here at Phoenix Rising … your new friends, Able and Moxie and Blue Poorman … Lucent Keener and so many others are all in your corner, ready to fight for you. And we will!”
Morris started crying again. He’d never been so saturated by love, with the exception of his mother; he was overwhelmed. In fact, he wished his mother was with him to experience this, but all in good time. She was, or had been, with Lucent Keener and Morris knew Lucent was a good person. She would do everything she could to take good care of his mom, if she hadn’t already. His mother might actually be at home by now. It was getting along well into the afternoon. She probably was at home, hopefully resting peacefully and comfortably enough.
“So, what do we have so far, in terms of likely charges,” Sage asked.
“Well,” Grace responded with a deep breath, “this would certainly be a case of aggravated sexual battery, which is classified as a third degree felony, possibly a second degree. This would be true for Morris’ mother, as well, based upon what Morris has shared with us. Of course, we’ll have to talk with her, too. Anyway, we’re looking at, potentially at least, two separate third degree felony charges of sexual battery. Obviously – well, to us here in this room – Fen Sloughheart certainly engaged in psychological manipulation, coupled with gross degradation and insinuated threats, which ultimately pushed Morris to the act of committing crime on his behalf … but, as I think you know, that will be quite tricky to prove in court.” Dr. Wiseman nodded. “However, with Effete offering her own testimony, we may very well be able to add multiple charges of aggravated sexual battery; that remains to be seen. Naturally, we’ll push hard for maximum sentencing…”
“This means, though,” Suĳnwe interjected, “that when we strike we have to be absolutely certain we hit and hit perfectly. And by the way, Phoenix Rising does not bargain, most especially in cases such as this one. It only remains to be seen just how far and how deep Sloughheart’s criminal activity goes. Something tells me we are now only looking at the tip of the ice-berg.” Heavy silence followed for a few moments.
“I know it’s bound to take time, and I’m in trouble anyway, which I should be,” Morris looked up with red, burning eyes. “But I hate it… I just hate it… I hate him! I hate what he’s done, what he’s doing, and everything about him! I hate myself for ever getting sucked in by him! I can’t believe I was so stupid! Why … how can he just go on and on and on? All of these years, and … people expect me to believe in some loving, righteous God?” Morris felt badly after he blurted it out. He knew these were very kind and gracious people, who also happened to be people of faith, but what was out was out.
“First of all, Morris Graver,” Suĳnwe looked at him and placed a gentle hand on his knee. “We don’t know what kind of trouble you’re in, but you have been ruthlessly abused and greatly, deeply traumatized. That makes all the difference in the world on its own accord. Add to this the fact that you have struggled very painfully with depression since at least pre-adolescence, and you are and have been vulnerable – not at all stupid, Morris, quite understandably vulnerable – and well… The court will certainly take all of this into very serious consideration. We cannot make promises, and we dare not even predict, but I will tell you to please try not to worry so much. I do believe you will come through this whole agonizing legal process better than you are now imagining. In my heart, I know you will.”
“As for your question about Fen Sloughheart and God, you remind me of the question the prophet, Jeremiah, asked: ‘Why do the wicked prosper and the treacherous live at ease?’ Often times it does seem as if the wicked prosper and that individuals, such as Fen Sloughheart, live at ease. In fact, much of the time the wicked seem to get away with their evil over and over and over again, or as you said, they go on and on and on for years. Why? This is an important, perennial question and, my young friend, I must admit in all honesty that I do not know the answer. Working as we do in in our chosen field, this is particularly frustrating, too … most especially, I think, as we struggle to maintain our faith.”
“One verse of Scripture we find it very important to remember as we continue our life work is found in St. Paul’s Second Letter to St. Timothy,” Grace interjected. “He writes, ‘For these things I suffer, but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him until that day.’ Of course, this is a double-edged sword and also why it is so appropriate for us here at Phoenix Rising. You see, if we expect God to keep what we have committed to him, then we are also responsible to keep that which has been committed to us.”
“Yes, most certainly, such as in your situation, Morris,” Suĳnwe picked up. “You have come here to us, and you have trusted us, and you have committed your case to us. Will we be faithful? You see, in a very real sense we believe that we are called to be, one might say, the eyes and ears, the hands and feet of God in the world, and specifically for people just like you and your mother … the hurting, the suffering, the grieving, as well as the persecuted and marginalized and so forth.”
“What say you, Doctor?” Grace asked with a broad smile, already anticipating the answer.
“There is one central reason I entered the field of psychology. It was to help hurting people,” Sage responded slowly and very thoughtfully. “And there is one reason I continue in this field. It is because I continue to find hurting people who need help … just like me.” She faintly smiled as she looked at Morris. “You know, I have asked the same question about God in relation to the overwhelming pain and suffering we see in the world. I’ve grappled with the question regarding my own life. I’ve asked, ‘Why me? What have I done that was so horrible that I deserve this?’”
“So far, I haven’t found an altogether satisfactory answer, but I do know from the depths of my soul that I want to help hurting people precisely because I myself have been helped. There have been others, who have been to me the eyes and ears, the hands and feet of God. They have seen me, heard me, held me and even carried me … and so I, too, want to be the eyes and ears, hands and feet of God. Very importantly, though, all of this is grounded and rooted in the firm belief that God was first, foremost and primarily his own eyes and ears, hands and feet about 2,000 years ago … quite literally. This is the point to which my heart and mind always return when I’m struggling with the question of immense pain and suffering. It is, one might say, a cross-centered frame of reference: God did not eliminate our pain and suffering; instead, God entered into our pain and suffering. This does not put an end to the question, to be sure, but for me, and others as well, it is at least the starting point … the fundamentally crucial starting point.”
Suĳnwe and Grace looked at Sage then Morris. They both concluded that, all in all, this had been an arduous but good day for this sorely damaged young man. Morris looked totally spent, yet also greatly relieved, like an enormous burden had rolled off his shoulders. Suĳnwe and Grace knew well enough that he still had a long way to go in healing, but their confidence in Dr. Sage Wiseman was solid and unwavering. She not only had superb education, plenty of training and experience, not to mention down-to-earth common sense; Sage also had the rare gift of authentic empathy. She could and would get down in the trenches with Morris; she would walk the path of healing with him as far as she possibly could, sparing nothing, yet all the while maintaining an admirable professionalism sadly lacking in so many counselors.