Patrick’s agape mouth and boggled eyes peered at Samuel’s face, yet he didn’t see him. Instead, he saw Raymond’s jovial and cheerful state as he went around the farm, sowing seeds in the ridges.
Samuel sighed. “Do not look at me like that. You know what I am saying is true.”
Patrick’s face twitched and his head shook. “I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s wrong to want to work on the farm or…”
“Brother Samuel and Brother Patrick, would you eat in silence, please.” The voice of the Monk in charge of the refectory interjected their speech.
Both looked at him and bowed their head- a silent voice of sorry. For some minutes they ate in silence, exchanging curious and tensed glance. After five spoonfuls of rice in five minutes, Samuel dropped his spoon, took a gulp from the glass of water beside him and stood up.
Patrick squinted at him. “Where are you going to?”
“Brother Raymond is treading on a wrong part. Someone needs to pull him back.”
“And you think that person is you?” He dragged him back to the seat. “Look, you are not even sure of this thing. What if his intention of joining in the farm is pure? What if he is not what you think he is?”
“Well, there is only one way to find out, talking to him.”
“I really do not…”
“I will see you later.” Samuel stood up and walked out.
Patrick inhaled. His head turned and glanced at Samuel’s disappearing back. He sighed, turned and munched on his food, untroubled.
Christopher and Yurik sauntered towards the security house, tensed. Their hood covered their heads and better parts of their faces. Reatherford walked behind them, wearing his black shirt with a Roman collar. Their pattering footsteps showed how urgent their mission was.
The pilgrims that have come to witness the dedication stood in awe on the pavement, stealing glances at them. When Christopher twisted his head to talk to Reatherford, his hood slid backwards, revealing his face. The Pilgrim cheered and screamed. Some made an attempt to touch his flowing Habit or talk to him. But the security men standing a mile from each other on the walkways restricted their stampede. So they stood in distance, waving and smiling at him as he waved a blessing to them- in a hurried sign of the cross.
Mr Randan Oran, the Chief Security Officer was addressing the remaining officers in front of the Security house when the trio approached. The officers, dressed in their brown pants and ox-blood shirt bowed at the Prior. Randan removed his cap, turned towards the Prior and bowed- a silent greeting.
Christopher bowed also and stepped into the office, followed by Yurik and Reatherford.
Mr Randan pulled his scanty bears. “Report any suspicious move to me, whether by a Monk or a pilgrim. Now go!”
The Officers saluted him and dispersed. He pulled off his dark sun-shades and let out a deep sigh. His short but plump body wriggled as he hurried towards his office.
Christopher was sitting on a leather chair facing Randan’s wooden desk, his hood down. His right fist hit his left palm, in a distorted rhythm. Yurik stood behind him, his hands hidden inside the sleeves of his Habit.
Reatherford stood by the door, scaling the office. It was a medium size office, a litter bigger than the Security Offices he knew. The long wooden table separating Christopher and Randan has files placed on it, well arranged. By the right side of the office was a counter, holding different types and brands of guns. He boggled. They really were in for business. The left side was filled with packets of Torchlight and battery. He shrugged and returned his drifted attention to the desk.
“My men are all dispatched, Prior.” Randan stood behind his executive chair. He didn’t think it respectful to address the Prior while sitting. “And I promise, if the relic and the thief are still in the Priory, we will get him and bring back the relic to you.”
Christopher swallowed hard. “We have less than twenty-four hours to make this happen. That’s why I came, to make sure the message I sent was clearly received.”
“It was, Prior.” He glanced at Reatherford. “Father Reatherford was very emphatic on the urgency of the message.”
Christopher glanced at Reatherford. He lowered his head.
“I was thinking, Prior.” Randan drew Christopher’s attention. “The pilgrims are camped in different areas of the Priory. We thought of searching each camp but we don’t know how the Priory would see that.”
“Do whatever necessary to get back the relic. But nobody should know about this.”
Randan stared at him, confused. He didn’t know how to search someone’s camp, throw around their personal stuff without telling them why.
“Tell them the Prior ordered for a search for something important.” Reatherford stepped closer. “What it is should not be their business.”
Christopher stood up. “Feed me in with every development. And please Mr Randan, treat this as a matter of life and death.”
Randan nodded, again. “I will try my best, Prior.”
Christopher made for the door, then halted and turned. “Did you by any chance see Father Hysom today?”
“I didn’t personally see him, one of my men did. He said he hurried out of the Presbytery holding a bag.”
Christopher’s heart skipped. Raymond was right. Hysom did run out the Priory. He glanced at Reatherford and Yurik. “Do you think he is…?”
“I wouldn’t say for sure, Prior.” Randan stepped out from his chair. “I have sent words to the men at the first gate. Till I get a response from them, I can’t say anything.”
“But you should have stopped him anyway,” Reatherford said.
“Information about this got to us a few minutes ago,” Randan said. “Father Hysom is a Priest of the Benedictine Order and has been in this Priory for twenty years, there is…”
Christopher sneered at him. “Your men found Brother Alexander, injured and unconscious at the pathway. Did that not give you a reason to suspect something?”
“Brother Alexander has an impaired vision with a dislocated foot. My men figured he tripped and fell when the light went off last night. But not to worry, if Father Hysom is connected to this, we will find him.”
Christopher sighed with a nod. He pulled up his hood and stepped out of the office, devastated. He needed nobody to tell him that Hysom was the leak through which whoever stole the relic gained access into the Priory. His head swelled up as he feet made towards his office. Relics are treated as sacred and holy in the Catholic Church. And when lost, misplaced or stolen, the church treats it as urgent and important. He fluttered his eyes, trying to distract his head from the daunting thoughts of what he would face following the scandal. First, the Priory would be closed down and the Monks dispatched to other Priories. There, they would be kept in solitary for six months, with penance and community work. Then him, as the Prior would face an Episcopal panel, comprising of all the local ordinaries in his Ecclesiastical zone. After that, he would move to Rome, to face the panel of Cardinals, headed by the Pope.
“Father Hysom?” The words escaped his mouth.
Reatherford glanced at him. “Do you really think he is capable of something like that?”
Christopher glanced at him and scoffed. “I wasn’t expecting you to say that. You are the one telling me to suspect everybody. What are now talking about?”
“I think you are being overly worried, Prior.” Yurik hurried beside him. “Let’s allow Mr Randan do his work. I am sure he would get to the root of this.”
Christopher glanced at Yurik and wished he could understand the scary thought going on in his head. The trouble they all were about to witness. “You do know what will happen if the Bishop hears this, right?”
“But he has not.” Reatherford glimpsed at him. “And we won’t tell him. The thing is, there is still hope. And if he has not crossed the first gate, then…”
“And what if he has?” His feet hastened on the pavement, ignoring the cheering crowds who didn’t notice his troubled state.
“I don’t understand.” Yurik’s voice ushered them up the stairs leading to the office building. “Why would Father Hysom do something like this? What does he aim to achieve? Not like anybody or any Catholic Church would just buy a relic. Why would he do that?”
Reatherford stepped aside for Christopher to open his office. “You both didn’t know, do you?”
“Know what?” Christopher froze. The silver key stuck in the door knob. His eyes fixed on Reatherford, hoping his words would bring him hope and peace.
….the story continues….
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