With the Matin over, the Monks stepped out of the church in a coordinated commotion. Some of the curious ones clustered around Samuel and Patrick in the Sacristy, waiting for an explanation to the disarray that has arrested the Priory. Others went straight to the Presbytery, believing that whatever is hidden under the sun always comes out.
Going contrary to Priory’s order wasn’t a thing in the Priory and the two acolytes knew that. In silence, they arranged the sacred vessels in their cabinets. Not that the Summum Silentium was still on, but with the fear of not saying what they shouldn’t. The Brothers got tired of their silent treatment and dispersed, each making his own assumption and theory of what might have happened, yet none dared to speak up.
Patrick returned from the altar holding the Lectionary. He stood for a while, watching Samuel whose frenziness couldn’t get the chasuble in its right position. “Did the Prior say who was responsible?”
The chasuble fell off his hands and he picked it, same time, and same manner. “How does that work? If he knows who is responsible do you think we would be this troubled?”
Patrick sighed. He knew his question was useless but he needed to speak before his vocal organs burst in a denied access to perform their duties. His heavy feet trekked to the cabinet and shove the Lectionary in the shelf, in between Missals and Breviaries. “I don’t know how much I can keep up with this silence, it’s eating me up.”
“Silence doesn’t eat people, Brother Patrick.”
“Well, it’s easier not to know, than know and not tell, especially when a crime is involved.”
Samuel scoffed. The chasuble was finally hung. He inhaled and strode out of the Sacristy.
Patrick locked the door and went out. With every glance a Monk took on him, his heart jumped into his mouth, threatening to pull the words he was forbidden to speak out. He bent his head and squinted his way into the Presbytery. He stepped into the common room and his legs froze. The Monks, in groups, sat anxiously and scared, waiting for an explanation from anyone to calm their thirsty curiosity. He glanced at them and his heart pounded faster. They were looking, pleading within their noisy silence for his intervention.
He sighed, hit his legs on the floor in a calm manner and got them functional again. He made his way to his cell, ignoring their stares and calls. It would be better to avoid them than engage in what would risk the revealing of what was supposed to stay hidden.
As his feet stepped into the hallway, connecting the thirty-four cells on the ground floor, he leant on the wall and heaved a heavy sigh of relief. The serenity of the hallway brought a shower of peace to his troubled soul. He took in a deep air and made for his cell.
“Brother Patrick?” Raymond’s coarse voice jolted him.
He halted like a soldier under the order of his parade commander. His hands located the crucifix medal on his neck and didn’t go back until it crossed his face and shoulders in a hasty and distressed sign of the cross. “Brother Raymond.” He turned, feigning a smile that showcased every of his fear. “What are you doing here?” The arduous beat of his heart could be heard in his rickety voice.
“I came for you, brother.” Raymond stared into his fluttering eyes, clutching a book titled “Catholic Doctrines and Dogma” to his chest. “But it seemed you are not too well. What troubles you, brother?”
“Thank you for your concern, but I am fine.” He noticed the book on his chest. “You read a lot these days, brother.”
Raymond smiled. “Working in the Prior’s office has its good sides.”
Patrick nodded and collected the book. He read the title and flipped the pages. “I was wondering if you would help me get a book from the Prior’s shelf.”
Raymond released a satisfying smile.
“Understanding the Mystery of the Trinity by Fr Carlos Rice. I really need to study it for my Juniorate profession and there are limited copies in the Library.”
“Lucky you, I shelved it last week.” Raymond smiled again. His expression was that of someone who won a lottery without application. “But you know, the shelves are constantly rearranged, so pray I don’t get confused.”
He nodded as a chuckle escaped his mouth. He stretched his hand and Patrick returned the book. He made his way towards the stairs, to his cell which was on the first floor of the Presbytery. Mounting the second raisers, he reverted and called Patrick back.
Patrick closed the door of his cell and walked to him.
“I was wondering if you would be kind enough to satisfy my curiosity.”
His eyes boggled as he looked ardently at him. His heart beat increased, pushing his ribcage apart. He knew what he was about to ask and he was not ready to deal with it, at least not yet.
Two monks strolled across the hallway, putting a hold to the words that were about to fall out of Raymond’s mouth, while given Patrick a moment of relaxation and peace. He smiled at them as they approached and walked by. His eyes rested on their evanescing back till they both dispersed into their various cells.
“There is a rumour.” He drew Patrick’s wandering attention. “Some said that something very bad happened in the church last night.”
Patrick restrained, his lips shuddered in fear and utmost carefulness. He swallowed hard, selecting his words to avoid saying what he can’t take back. “Nothing happened.”
“Oh, forgive me. Perhaps my hearing aid and maybe my sight too are failing me. I am sorry.”
Patrick shrugged with a simulated smile and made to leave, His heart pounded right inside his mouth. His lips shook in an ejaculatory prayer to Mother Mary asking her to intercede for him and send Raymond away. But his prayers were said with less faith.
“Brother Patrick,” Raymond’s voice forced an Amen from his mouth. He turned. “Forgive me but I am just worried. I didn’t see the relic at the altar this morning, and it’s kind of scary. Did you and Brother Samuel move it before the Matin?”
Patrick stood, staring at him. His head could not conceive any defensive answer, not that fast, and telling the truth was not an option either. He inhaled. Raymond was only a Postulant and he would rather walk out on him than falling into the angry hands of the Prior. “We are done here,” he said and turned to go.
Raymond threw his hands into the air. “Oh, is that it? Very well then, you just saved me the stress of going through the Prior’s massive shelf.”
Patrick turned and watched him clamber the stairs, unperturbed. He watched his only opportunity of ever getting the book he has searched for a long time disappear right before him. He looked around; the hallway was becoming crowded. Monks were strolling in and out of their cells in preparation for the Lauds. He took a deep breath and ran up the stairs. “Brother Patrick.”
Raymond smiled. He got him where he wanted him. His manipulative attributes never for once failed him, and when he took his first step up that stairs seconds ago, he knew his trap has caught the right animal.
“I wasn’t supposed to tell a soul.” Patrick’s voice came, way too below a whisper.
He smiled a bit broad. “You are lucky then because I am not a soul. I am Raymond Majid.”
Patrick sneered at him. His instinct ministered to him to walk away, but his desires persuaded him to stay. He needed the book anyway, and Raymond was the easiest way of getting it. He smiled back, making him feel like his joke worked on him. “You will not tell anybody this, do you understand?”
“The church was burglarized last night and…”
Approaching footsteps shut him up. He stretched his hand, and Raymond stared at him in a wild confusion. “Give me the book,” he said.
Raymond handed the book over to him. He buried his face in it and only muttered a simple greeting to the Monks who passed them and entered their cells.
“The thief injured Brother Alexander and made away with the relic,” he said after making sure no one was in a hearing range.
“Holy Mother of God!” Raymond’s thumb engraved a rushed sigh of the cross on his face. “Did he say who it was? I mean did he see his face?”
“No. He has been unconscious since then.”
Raymond sighed, relieving stress and worry.
“I don’t understand anyway, just why would someone desecrate Holy Objects, incurring unending curse on himself?”
Raymond scoffed and collected his book. “Human minds are like a guest house. With each dawn come different guests. The least entertained leave as they come, but the most entertained stick around for one or two nights, refiguring our minds and thinking. It’s up to us to know the calibre of the guest to most entertain.”
Patrick stared at him for awhile, wondering what engineered the long meditative sermon on life. He furrowed his face. He did not need any sermon about life at the moment, not even from Postulant who still has years and stuff to learn about spiritual and monastic life. “Is that written in that book?”
Raymond shook his head and then pointed at his head. “It came from here.”
The bell started tolling. Patrick looked at his wristwatch- it was 7:30.
“Now if you will excuse me, I have to get ready for the Lauds.” Raymond smiled.
Patrick nodded and watched him as he continued his climbing, praying to God that his secret remained a secret even after being told.
….The story continues….
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