The Sins of Brother Curtis: A Story of Betrayal, Conviction, and the Mormon Church

Lisa Davis (2007)
Scribner, 2011.


Bobby had done the prison-release work, building and painting for the government, but ultimately he'd gone back to what he knew best, and did most prolifically. His small estate here was built with drug money.

Bobby's wife handed him the phone with a look and a shrug that told him the caller was unfamiliar, which meant suspicious.

"Yeah," he said into the phone.
"Is this Bobby Goodall?"
"Are you the Bobby Goodall who grew up in Southeast Portland in the late 1970s?"
"Bobby, my name is Tim Kosnoff. I'm a lawyer in Seattle and I represent a young man named Jeremiah Scott who is suing the Mormon Church. Can I ask you some questions?"

The Mormons. Bobby started thinking, but was distracted by the next question.

"Do you know Manny Saban?"

Bobby hadn't seen Manny in years. He hadn't seen anyone from the neighborhood in at least a decade, and even then it was only that he'd randomly run into someone's sister somewhere. His mind started to drift back to Manny's house and the park and the Dairy Queen and his friends.

And then Kosnoff dropped a bomb and it was like someone had changed the channel in Bobby's brain.

"Bobby," the lawyer said. "Did you know a man named Frank Curtis?"

Bobby stared at the ceiling, his mind racing, trying to absorb all that was coming at it; an impossible task. Frank Curtis. Brother Curtis. So many years ago. What the hell could this be?

"Yeah," he said. "I knew Frank Curtis."

The two men talked more about people and places in Portland. Kosnoff asked Bobby where he'd first met Frank Curtis and Bobby told him about the Duke Street neighborhood, the veterinary clinic, and then the junk yard apartment.

Bobby sensed that he'd passed some test. That he'd sufficiently convinced Kosnoff that he knew enough to be regarded as an insider. At some point he'd realized what it was that Kosnoff wanted to know, and, eventually, had told him about the sexual abuse.


Bobby hung up the phone and looked at his wife, who searched his face for information. He told her simply that the call had to do with a lawsuit about something that happened when he was a kid, and then grabbed the keys to his truck, walked out of the house and took off down the road to the bar.

 Emotion surrounded Bobby like some kind of poisonous gas. He had to get away from it. He sat down at a table and ordered a beer and a shot. The waitress paused. She asked again, just to be sure, and gave Bobby a long, sideways glance.

This was Bobby's place. It may as well have been his office, he did so much business here, meeting clients, making deals, delivering drugs.

Everyone knew Bobby, and everyone knew that he neither drank on the job nor used his own product. It was his version of professionalism, however perverted, a line that separated him from the junkies and the recreational users with whom he associated. He ran a prosperous business when he remained sober, and had a history that proved things would end badly if he didn't.

But this, here and now, was triage. Bobby had never planned on talking about Brother Curtis again. And he had to stop the sensation that seemed to be spreading from his brain into his internal organs, moving through his body like the booze and drugs he hoped would chase it away.

 Brother Curtis had done unspeakable things to Bobby's young body for years. But those wounds had healed. The emotional scars were permanent. The truth was that for all his abuse, Brother Curtis had taken care of Bobby. Brother Curtis had taken him fishing and pretty much everywhere else there was for a kid to go.

Brother Curtis paid attention to him when no one else did. Brother Curtis introduced Bobby to God.

They'd had a relationship, he and this older man. And then Brother Curtis left him without explanation.

In later years, Bobby Goodall had realized that Frank Curtis was a master manipulator. He'd come to call the old man "the chicken hawk" because of the way he'd preyed on Bobby and his friends.

But his hatred for all the other things that Brother Curtis did to him remained tangled up with the rest of his emotions. The memories came, and so did the pain.