Yurik glanced at Raymond. Their eyes met and she lowered his head. He stared at him for some seconds, wondering if his lowered head was due to guilt or respect. “Brother Raymond.” He walked towards him. “Are you sure of what you are saying?”
Raymond’s heart skipped with Yurik’s breath falling on his head. He nodded, tensed.
Yurik stared at him for some seconds before turning to Christopher. “This does not mean anything, Prior, right?”
Christopher looked at him, then at Raymond and the dumbfounded Reatherford. He shook his head- not in disaffirmation but in confusion.
“This might mean nothing,” Raymond raised his head. “But Brother Benalis is broken out of Solitary and Brother Hysom was the last person that visited him. It couldn’t have been just a coincidence that both of them are missing. He should be probed, Prior.” He lowered his head with his last word, again.
“I think we should call the Convergence, Prior.” Reatherford pulled a chair to himself but did not seat. “If he is the one, we can still apprehend him before he gets to town.”
Christopher halted the pensive activity of his hand and looked at Reatherford, then at Yurik and Raymond. He sighed. “Can I have a minute with Brother Raymond?”
“We do not have…”
“One minute!” His voice overshadowed Reatherford’s concerned voice. Both exchanged a tensed glance. He nodded and Reatherford walked out, followed by Yurik.
Raymond stood by the door; head still lowered shivering like a cold child.
Christopher stood from his seat and ambled towards him. With every step he made, Raymond’s heart raced, sending his heart out of the rib cage. When Christopher approached and tapped his shoulder, his heart stopped for some seconds and the saliva in his mouth tasted blood. Christopher dropped his hand and locked the door. He turned and sighed. A soft smile emitted from his mouth.
“When you got accepted into this Priory last two years, you had a very rough time adjusting to the many rules. But your enthusiasm and zeal to learn and adapt made me love you.” He smiled again. “I then took it up myself to coach you, which is why you work as my secretary- a post no Postulant has ever held since the institution of this Priory.” He inhaled and walked closer to Raymond. “I take you as my son, and I believe you will not lie to me.”
Raymond squinted at him and lowered his head, again.
He stalled and raised his head, in a slow and steady motion.
“I am going to ask you to repeat what you said earlier personally to me like a son would to his father. That way I would know you are not lying.”
“Why would I slander a brother, Prior?” Raymond’s lips shuddered. “It is against God’s commandment and that would make me a sinner.”
“Say it again, and this time, think and be sure.”
Raymond took in a deep air and opened his mouth, repeating exactly the same thing he said earlier, the way he said it. “I am not saying he is the one with the relic, Prior. I am just saying he should be probed. The move he made and brother Benalis’ escape couldn’t have just been a mere coincidence.”
Christopher nodded and smiled, softly. “Call Father and brother Yurik as you go.”
Raymond bowed and walked out.
Reatherford and Yurik sauntered back into the office.
“Send words to the Head of Security.” Christopher ambled back to his seat, his gaze on Reatherford. “They are to search anybody who comes in or goes out of this Priory, no matter who. Let every kilometre of the fence have an officer watching it.” He turned to Yurik. “Call a convergence. I want to address the Brothers.”
Reatherford hastened out of the office. Yurik stalled for some time, his lips shaking like some words were trying to vibrate out. Christopher’s eyes met with his and he lowered his head.
“Now, Brother Yurik.” Christopher sneered at him.
He nodded and walked out. He walked into Raymond’s office. His flashing eyes glanced at him as he typed on the computer. He sighed and made for the door. Few steps away, he stopped and walked back to him. “You do know the implication of what you said?”
Raymond stopped typing, his eyes fixed on the computer screen. “Forgive me brother; I only said what I saw. I don’t think there is something wrong in giving such information in a situation like this.”
Yurik smiled. “Of course.” He stared at him for sometime before heading towards the exit door.
The Sacristy was filled with Monks who rushed out of the refectory distressed. Bell was the utmost communication means in the Priory, bearing its message in the number of times it was tolled. This time, it was tolled one long time and that signified emergency, and during an emergency, the Sacristy became their muster point.
They stood in groups, mumbling. Their eyes flashed around in fear as they wait with anxiety the confirmation to their suspicion. Patrick meandered through them searching for Raymond. And with the footsteps of Christopher, he took a position beside Samuel. The unheard noise in the room withered, turning the room into a cemetery.
“Brothers,” Christopher said as he got to the front, facing them with a strong confidence. “It must have, in fact, or in rumour, or maybe by simple observation come to your notice that there was a burglary in the church last night. Well, it is true and the burglars left with the Holy relic of Saint Benedict. And they put Brother Alexander in a coma.” Christopher paused to allow the ensued faint, yet loud mumble to die off.
Their eyes flashed around, searching for Samuel and Patrick in the small crowd, like to reprimand them for keeping them in the dark.
“But as much as it is strange and disturbing, I want no fear or doubt from anyone as regarding the dedication and investiture. I and Father Reatherford will make sure the relic is found before tomorrow. And for record’s sake, Brother Benalis whose unruly habit merited him solitary is missing, so he is our first suspect, for now.”
The Monks gaped on the mention of the name. Brother Benalis was a good man, a dedicated Novice whose only flaw was his hunger for finger nails.
“Go about your normal duties and at the same time, look out for him. And should anyone see Brother Hysom, kindly notify me, Father Reatherford or Brother Yurik. Peace be unto you.”
“And with your spirit,” the Monks said and dispersed.
Their walk to the refectory was filled with the same doubt and fear Christopher charged them not to have. Some queried the involvement of Brother Benalis while other wondered why something so sacred could be stolen in the holiest place of the church and God keeps quiet. Others simply walked back, opened their plate of white rice and stew and resumed their food.
Patrick sat down, opened his plate and then remembered that he has not seen Raymond since after the Lauds. He looked around the refectory. He was not there. He looked around again and saw Samuel strolling in like one climbing a mountain with a heavy load on his shoulder. He watched him sit, open his food and stare at the meal, distressed. He stood up, picked his food and walked to him. He dropped his plate and sat on the empty seat beside him. “What is wrong, brother?”
Samuel squinted at him and sighed. He picked his spoon and shook his head. On a second thought, he dropped the spoon and looked at Patrick. “I fear for Father Hysom.”
“Why? What happened?”
Samuel looked around, dragged his chair closer to Patrick and leant forward. “He is wanted because Brother Raymond alleged he saw him and Brother Benalis zap across the church with a bag that was swollen.”
Patrick gasped. His eyes widened as he looked around. “How do you know this?”
“I overheard the Prior and Father Reatherford talking while I was waiting to lock the sacristy. But that cannot be, right?”
Patrick heaved a sigh of relief and started turning his food. “In the journey of life,” his voice was indifferent. “Everybody is a suspect.” He took a spoonful of rice into his mouth, chewed on it and pushed it down his digestive track.
Samuel sneered at him. “You mean you believe Brother Raymond’s story?”
He shook his head. “I didn’t say so. But Brother Raymond is a good man and he has no reason to lie against anybody, not even brother Hysom, a priest and his superior.” He stirred his rice.
“Maybe he has no reason to lie against anybody, but I am sure he has one to lie against Brother Hysom.”
Patrick stared at him- a stare that asked the five W and an H question at a go.
“Don’t look at me like that. You and I know that Brother Raymond holds a grudge against Father Hysom.”
“No. That knowledge is for you alone. I do not know. All brothers share one thing in common, and that is Love.”
“You don’t get it.” Samuel looked around again and pushed his mouth closer to Patrick’s ear. “For two months now, Brother Raymond has been joining us at the farm every Wednesday when he is not supposed to. Have you stopped to wonder why he does that?”
“Why should I wonder? Why should I investigate a brother who clearly said he loves nature and wants a break from the monotonous work of typing in a computer?”
“Be wise like a serpent, Brother. Why does that monotony come only on Wednesdays?”
Patrick stares at him, confused.
“It’s because Wednesdays are the pastoral council meeting days, which holds in Prior’s office and Father Hysom is one of them. Brother Raymond goes to the farm because he doesn’t want to be in the same room with him. Why, because he hates him. It’s a simple logic.”
“Stop saying the word hate.” Patrick scowled at him. “And this is just an assumption. You better eat your rice and pray the relic is found before tomorrow. I don’t want anything to interrupt my investiture into the Juniorate tomorrow.”
“Okay. I will eat my rice and pray after you tell me why Brother Raymond wasn’t at the Convergence.”
Patrick dropped his spoon and looked at Samuel. No one dodges a Convergence in the Priory unless you are in the Hospital. He sighed. Maybe Samuel was right. Maybe Raymond has an ulterior motive for giving out such information against Hysom. Maybe the information wasn’t true. He inhaled, his eyes fixed on the glaring eyes of Samuel.
…the story continues….
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