Olivia slid like the night itself along the wall partly disguised by the vegetation that overran the brickwork. Hopefully it wasn't poison ivy or she might be in trouble. Her eyes had picked up the man standing by the hut that she and the doc had previously hidden in. The question was, should she scale the wall and enter the courtyard. Nope the nun who is working with the guy is due anytime and I don't have a crystal ball that will tell me the direction the nun is coming from. Stealthily she made her way closer to the man, who thankfully didn't appear to be interested in anything but the cigarette he was smoking. As she waited, her vision was slightly obscured as a small door that was partly concealed by the vegetation and darkness was opened and a shadowy figure appeared. Olivia quickly used the open door as a shield as the person furtively glanced around. It has to be a nun. Who else can it be? Her eyes were then fixed on the man who crunched out his cigarette in the gravel and stepped towards her.
"You have what I want?" His voice had a harshness that went with someone who had no respect for what the nun represented.
A shuffling of a load, which from Olivia's vantage point looked large, was dragged through the open door and deposited in front of the man. It is an oversized sack. His satisfied clearing of his throat was all the communication he offered. Watching closely, Olivia saw the man pull open the drawstrings and poke a flashlight inside and inspect the contents.
"We'll be in touch." He tried to pick up the load and struggled. Then nun helped him drag it towards his vehicle.
"When will you be in touch? Tomorrow, there will be lots of question, I need to leave now with the money." The mournful sound had a distinct lilt to it that Olivia was sure she could identify in the light of day. The fact that the night and the nun's habit prevented her seeing the woman was a frustrating situation for her. However, things got worse when the man who was about to place the sack in the trunk of the car heard a noise and stopped. His eyes were drawn to the trees where the doctor's car was parked.
Holding her breath, Olivia didn't have much time to wait as the man, with a speed that surprised her, ran towards the bushes and pulled out the doctor.
"What the hell are you doing?" Amelia shouted at the man with the few ounces of bravado she had in her body and that wasn't much.
The man didn't release her from the vice-like grip he had on her forearm as he peered into her eyes. His were a watery blue that could be described as dull filled with tempered anger. "I could ask the same of you, what were you doing in the bushes?"
Amelia had to think on her feet. She had been worried about the detective and foolishly thought that following her might have been a good idea. It would have been, had the man not returned to his car the very same time she had tripped over a rock and let out a small shout at the slight pain that had shot through her ankle. "My car's broken down if you want to know. What about you?"
The man looked her over carefully not convinced of her answer, "I'll take a look at your car, let's go."
"I'm not going into those bushes with you! You're a stranger to me!" Amelia announced in her most outraged tone. It was true this man was a stranger and she didn't like the look of him, he could murder her and leave her body hidden and who would know because the detective was nowhere to be seen.
"Why is your car in the bushes anyway, surely it would have been easier to stay on the main road for any help?" Amelia looked away towards the convent wall hoping a miracle would happen because the malevolent look in the man's eyes wasn't a good sign.
"Hey babe, what you doing out of the car I thought I told you to stay with it until I came back with help?" Olivia slid from her position after watching the scene unfold. The nun who had been there earlier disappeared through the gate slamming and locking it when she saw another person arrive.
Amelia had never wanted to see someone as much as she did the detective who appeared like a dark avenger to rescue her. Although she was somewhat embarrassed at her way of dealing with the problem, "I know, I know but…"
Olivia was as tall as the man who narrowed his eyes as he pierced her with a glance that would have intimidated most people, but not Olivia. She'd been on the receiving end of such stares before and it had never done anything for her except to increase the hackles she was feeling right now. "The lady doesn't like being touched by a stranger. So unless you're her long lost brother or uncle I'd release her if I was you."
Amelia winced at the words as, for a few seconds, the hand on her arm increased its pressure before she was released. "Did you get help? I might be able to help and repair your car for you. Or better still give you a lift to the nearest town?" His words would sound sincere to most people who weren't as attuned as Olivia was with slim balls like this guy.
There was a definite trade off of angry glances between Olivia and the man and, from Amelia's standpoint, she hoped the detective won out. "I have the gas, we simply ran out. Thanks for the offer though we appreciate it. Now we'll be on our way its getting late." Olivia moved to stand beside Amelia and the pressure the doctor felt on her arm this time was gentle but insistent as she perceptively moved slowly away from the man's reach.
Eyes locked like a fighter about to spar with its opponent. "As you wish, I'll wait around to see that everything is fine."
"Okay, thanks." Olivia steered Amelia towards the bushes and they quickly climbed into the car and shakily Amelia switched the ignition and the car roared into life as they headed out of the bushes and back on the road.
Amelia peered back and saw the man placing his load in the car as they quickly sped away from him. Removing her foot from the gas, she looked at the detective in fear. "I'm sorry…"
"Keep your foot down, he'll be trying to catch up with us. We need to get out of his vision at the next turn off." Olivia was looking back waiting to see the headlights appear in the back window. Seconds later they did as Olivia saw a turn off coming up. "Switch the lights off, now!"
About to protest, Olivia reached across her and switched the lights off. "I can't see where I'm going," Amelia appealed in shock.
"Makes two of you, he can't see you either. Keep your foot on the gas and when I say turn do it - don't argue."
Amelia gripped the steering wheel as she nervously waited for the instruction it didn't take long as Olivia shouted, "now turn left, don't brake go for it."
Without thinking, but hoping the sandwich she'd eaten earlier didn't come back to haunt her, she did as instructed and miraculously they were heading down a steep track. "Stop Doctor this should be okay."
With a heavy sigh she pulled the car to a stop and placed her head on the wheel. "You can drive from now on," Amelia cried out.
"Great, I knew you'd see it my way soon enough." Olivia picked up the remains of her tuna sandwich that had slid to the carpeted floor. She looked it over and picked off a few bits of fluff and dirt biting into it with relish.
Amelia had watched the detective from her slightly stooped position and nearly barfed inside the car as she watched the woman eat a grubby sandwich. "How can you eat that? It's full of germs."
Munching on the object in question, Olivia raised her eyes, "A few germs can't hurt anyone. In fact, they are good for you. Want a bite?" The aforementioned sandwich was placed in front of Amelia. She paled then turned a decidedly green tinge before opening the door open and rapidly ran towards the nearest tree and vomited.
"Guess not." Olivia mumbled through the last of the food. She was annoyed with the shrink for not staying in the car but was equally pleased with her adherence to her instructions when it mattered. Climbing out of the car, she walked around to stand a foot away from the doctor. "How are you feeling now?"
Groggily Amelia answered, "How do you think I feel detective?" She wanted it to be heavy on the sarcasm but knew she sounded pathetic.
She lightly touched Amelia's shoulder. "That good huh?" Olivia had a small smile that, had Amelia been looking, would have lit up the area with the flashing of her white teeth in the darkness. "It will be safe now, let's go. I think you've had enough for this evening."
Amelia felt the gentle touch of the detective and wondered how such a forceful woman could transmit that kind of feeling in a single touch. "I think you're right."
The drive back to the city had been in silence as Amelia had closed her eyes for a second and found that they were on the outskirts of the city when she opened them again. "Hey, I'm sorry I fell asleep on you."
Olivia's concentration was on the man and the goings on at the convent. Perhaps it has something to do with the nun who the doctor is treating. That sack had certainly been large enough to have a body of a small woman inside. The sound of the doctor waking rather than her words had Olivia glancing to her side to take in the woman's appearance. She looked dishevelled and tired. After a goodnights rest she'd look better.
"Where do you live?"
Blinking rapidly, Amelia wondered why she should ask that. "Oh take me to my office I'll sleep on the pull out there. I don't want to disturb anyone at home."
"Are you sure? I would think that your own bed rather than a substitute would be better after your day today." Olivia was surprised at the announcement, though it wasn't much better than what she was going to do tonight.
"Thanks for the concern Detective but I'll be fine." Amelia was slightly annoyed at the woman's interference. I'm the best judge of where I spend the night.
"Okay the office it is."
The silence extended for the next three blocks and then, as they neared her office, Amelia asked a pertinent question which she should have earlier. "Did you see who the nun was?"
Olivia smiled slightly. "Not exactly but I'd know her if she spoke again. I have a good ear for voices. Tomorrow when you go back to the convent I want to come with you and speak to a few of them."
Amelia's heart fluttered slightly and she didn't know why. "I thought you only offered twenty-four hours of your precious free time detective?"
"True I did but I want to know what's going on in that convent probably more than you do. And, I never let a case go cold if I can solve it."
The car was pulled to a halt outside the townhouse where Amelia worked.
Climbing out of the vehicle and realising it was her car, she peered at Olivia who wasn't making any move to get out of the driver's side. "Call it insurance that you'll take me with you if I still have your car. What time shall we leave?"
Surprised at how quickly this woman read her mind, it made Amelia wonder who the psychiatrist was at this moment. "As early as possible I think…don't you?"
"I'll be here at dawn. Just remember that when you open the door and wonder what I'm doing there to wake you up so early. Goodnight Doctor." Olivia switched the car into life moved off. As she did, Amelia stared whispering goodnight to the back of the retreating vehicle.
What a day this had been! And I still don't know what is going on. All she knew for sure was that something wasn't right at the convent and it may or may not have anything to do with Sister Marie. All she could hope was that the detective, who wasn't saying much, but her body language spoke volumes, was worried, really worried and that made her jittery but safe at the same time. With those precarious thoughts running through her head maybe she'd have to analyse herself.
+ + +
The insistent ringing of the doorbell woke Amelia from her slumber. It had been a heavy sleep and one she felt hadn't rejuvenated her as much as she had hoped. When she finally dragged on a robe, wearily padded to the door and, after blinking at the person who had arrived at such an unforgiving hour, opened it slowly.
"What time is it?"
A slow smile crossed Olivia's lips as she casually lounged against the door-jam. Exactly as she'd predicted - the doctor wasn't ready. In fact she looked like she hadn't slept at all, hmm going to be an interesting day, she thought as she finally spoke, "I guess it's around seven A.M. I don't like wearing a watch therefore that would be my guesstimate."
"Okay, you'd better come inside or the neighbours will wonder what's going on." Olivia passed Amelia and glanced at the woman's attire. A fleecy dressing gown in a dull purple colour did nothing to enhance her look. The slippers she wore had seen better days as the toes popped out on both feet. Clearly fashion sense when it came to choosing her bedtime attire wasn't her strong point.
Self-consciously Amelia glanced down at her clothes, when she saw the derisive glance she was being given, and wrapped the collar of her favourite robe closer to her neck. What does it matter what this woman thinks of me? It doesn't! Though she had to admit she noticed that the detective was dressed in another tight fitting leather outfit in deep crimson. Amelia had the feeling that leather was part of this woman in everything she wore. "You didn't happen to notice if Starbucks on the corner was open yet did you?"
"It isn't, although I guess by the time you're ready it might be and we can take a couple on the road with us." Olivia knew that some folks had to have a morning fix of caffeine before they were human - Max her partner for one.
"Sounds good. I'll take a quick shower and change and we'll be on our way. You can wait here or in my office its up to you." Amelia walked into her office. She had the luxury of a fully fitted bathroom, though tiny, in what used to be a storage area off the room. The detective was left in the outer sanctum.
Olivia ignored the invitation to follow Amelia instead choose to walk around the lobby comparing it with the office she shared with Max; they were poles apart. The office was freshly painted in natural hues, which she guessed was to help the patients who came to her for consultations, nothing glaring to distract them. The walls either had simple landscape watercolours or certificates and awards attributed to both the women who resided here. When compared to the run down place she and Max had - the only thing on their walls was peeling paint - the mental image of the type of sleazy work that they might carry out and often did came to mind.
As she thought about her work she wondered about the message Max had left her. He had taken a job which required surveillance work, which was usually her domain. He rarely left the office these days and she was happy about that. He might not have told her personally but she had read the letter from the doctors about his poor health. His cell hadn't worked when she'd gone back to the office the night before nor had he answered at home. She noticed the batteries charging and she grimaced. He's forgotten to charge them again. She'd have to have serious words with him about that-again! This meant that he was still on the case, but exactly where had her puzzled. There had been no message left of a change of venue and when she'd arrived at the location he'd written down it was all in darkness except for the security guard who had eyed her suspiciously when she'd asked for the time. Midnight is way too late for Max to be on a case. She'd have to have words with him later when she arrived back from the convent.
"Are you interested in art detective?" Amelia's voice punctured her thoughts of her partner and brought her back to the here and now.
Switching her gaze to the doctor, she saw she was much more presentable though way too conservative in her book. Her eyes raked over the doctor's sober, black knee length skirt with the classic white blouse and black jacket. You really can't get much more conservative than that Olivia's thought. This woman needs to have a session with a fashion stylist. "Not particularly. Why do you ask?"
With a shrug Amelia pointed to the landscape. It was a picture that her parents had bought her of the view of a place they went on vacation to for several summers when she had been young. "You were staring intently at the picture. Do you know where it is?"
Olivia shook her head as Amelia smiled relating the location and why it was hanging on her wall. "That's great, now shall we get on."
The simple dismissal of her explanation brought a lump to Amelia's throat. The detective was only interested in the case and not personalities. How different that made them fundamentally. "I need to leave a note for Teal otherwise she'll wonder where I am."
"Okay, I'll meet you at the car." Olivia left the room rapidly leaving Amelia to wonder, not for the first time, how this person ticked. She was most definitely totally different to anyone she had ever met before. Even her patients and some of them had been weird.
Fifteen minutes later, after securing a coffee and a bagel to take on their journey, they were on the road. "Thanks for the coffee and breakfast. I'm not much of an early morning person."
"No problem." Olivia barely acknowledged the attempt at conversation and after several tries Amelia closed her eyes and remarkably slept all the way back to the convent. The slowing down of the car had Amelia jolting herself from her snooze and stare wide-eyed at the imposing walls of the convent. She'd slept through another reasonable drive with the detective, which was usual for her. In fact, the extra nap had done her a world of good. She was feeling much better than when they left. Although, looking at the clock on the dashboard and the time, it wasn't surprising - it was nine-thirty.
"Hey, I'm sorry I've done it again. What must you think of me?" Amelia tried to offer an apology. It was dismissed much like the earlier conversation about the painting.
"You obviously needed the rest. Okay, do we drive inside or ring that monster of a bell?" Olivia hadn't minded the peace that the doctor had afforded her by sleeping through the journey. She wasn't one for small talk and had a single minded attitude to her work - you get the job done as fast as possible with as few casualties along the way as possible.
Amelia gave the detective a wry glance, as she replied, "Sorry we have to ring the bell and then walk to the main building. It's quite a pretty walk …but of course that wouldn't interest you."
"Architecture is a powerful medium doctor. It can transmit a lot about the people inside if you know how to read it properly." Olivia offered up her reply to the doctor as they left the car and she hauled on the rope that ran the bell inside the courtyard.
With a second look at the detective, she wondered if she should pursue the subject, when the gigantic oak door, with iron stays across to strengthen it, opened with the creaking of aged and worn hinges. The nun that looked at them with an enquiring gaze sucked in a breath unable to look away from Olivia, who had to admit from a conservative background, looked intimidating and you couldn't get any more conservative than this place.
"Hello, I'm Doctor West. I'd like to see Mother Superior please."
The nun, unable to stop her eyes from straying to Olivia who winked at her shamelessly, allowed them inside the courtyard. Amelia shook her head when she saw that the young nun's cheeks were flaming red when she rushed off in the direction of the main entrance. The detective appeared to have a tick in the eye.
"Do we follow or was it something you said?" Olivia remarked. She was busily directing her gaze around the courtyard with its array of columns she had come into contact with the night before but now, seeing them in broad daylight, she finally got her bearings. Her eyes looked over at the windows that overlooked the courtyard and saw how easily they could be breached. Once inside the yard there were plenty of places to hide if your business was less than savoury. It would be interesting to find out what was behind the windows them and how accessible the nun's quarters were in conjunction to anyone forcing a window open and gaining entry to the main building.
"More like something you did. But no we wait for a nun to take us inside," Amelia muttered as she absently watched the nun talking to another of her order. It was hard to judge from this distance if it was anyone she had met from her previous visits.
Sedately the other nun walked over to them and Amelia recognised her as the nun who had taken her to the Mother previously. This nun was much older and her eyes were a pale green flecked with brown. Her expression was unfriendly which surprised Amelia. "Hello again Sister. I need to speak with Mother if she's free."
The surly features didn't change and Amelia wondered if this was her usual facial expression. She hoped not for the sake of the people who asked for help. Then the eyes of the nun fixed on Olivia and her expression was in marked contrast to that of the younger nun earlier. There was no fascination there. Nope it was sheer distaste as she took in the detective's clothing clearly outlining her sinewy muscled body. "Who is this person Doctor?"
Amelia felt the significant bristle the remark gained from the detective who turned to observe the older nun in a frank and malevolent stare that sent shivers down her back. Goodness only knew what it did to the nun, who looked taken aback at the silent appraisal. "This is my… associate Ms. Santos. I need her assistance on a few matters. Of course I'll explain everything to the Mother when I see her."
At the word associate, Olivia turned her brilliant dark gaze on the doctor and, to Amelia's pleasant surprise, gave her a wink that was accompanied by an approving grin. For some reason it felt good that she had done something at last to please the detective.
"This way please. I'll enquire if you can be seen. I know you are not on her schedule today."
Unexpectedly, the nun speedily moved towards the main building and they had to run to catch up with her. They were allowed inside the vestibule and told to wait while she found out if Mother Superior was available to accommodate another meeting today.
Olivia had her arms crossed over her ample chest as she glanced around at the tapestries on the wall. "Do you do this kind of thing often?"
Shocked, not by the question but, by the fact that the detective was speaking to her, she wondered what she meant. "Sorry I don't understand. Do what often?"
"Help out the church. I hate this kind of stuffy discipline. It reminds of school and I hated being there." Olivia didn't know why she explained herself or why she actually asked the question.
Amelia didn't press home any advantage she was feeling at the detective's opening up a little as she explained. "Quite a lot really. You could say they are my best clients. I was brought up in church run educational establishments…this isn't a lot different really. You do get used to it in time I can vouch for that."
Olivia watched the doctor and saw a smile play on her average features which gave her a glow that made her prettier. It was clear to her that the doctor had happy memories of the church and happy to dispel any notion that it was an outdated medium to express one's self. "I don't think it would suit me. I'm a bit of rebel. Never could get used to authority figures."
Drawn to investigate further, Amelia asked quietly, "Yet you joined the police force. Surely they have lots of discipline and rules to follow."
The dark gaze caught hers and there was a message behind the half closed eyelids that dared her to evaluate her words at her own peril. "I made a mistake, I'm not there anymore. It's much easier to work for myself. No one else to worry about and if you screw up you can only blame yourself."
The heavy internal door that Amelia knew led down the main corridor to the Mother Superior's office opened. Another nun beckoned them forward silently and they followed in silence. The only sound they heard was the tip tapping of their feet on the old paved floors. The nun opened a side door that led to a small ante room where the older nun was waiting. This looked like a small office and Amelia suspected that the older nun, who had disapproved of their visit, was probably the second to the Mother.
"Mother Superior will see you now. I'll show you inside." With a strong knock on the door, the older nun opened it under the instruction of enter.
Entering the room, Amelia felt that there was a significant change in the atmosphere today from the previous occasion she was here. The room bristled with pent up anger or that's how Amelia judge it to be and sucked in a breath waiting for the bomb to drop. She guessed that she had only herself to blame as she hadn't returned with the sister the previous evening and explained everything.
"I wasn't expecting you today Doctor West and who is your… friend?" The Mother asked. Her voice held a cold penetrating tone that chilled Amelia as she moved closer to the large desk.
"Sorry about not giving you notice Mother, but I thought you would understand that I might turn up out of the blue because of the circumstances involved. My associate is Ms. Santos. She helps with compiling background factors that might help us to find out the truth of the situation. I'm hoping that you will extend her the courtesy you have me in this delicate situation."
Olivia was listening and watching the exchange. She could glean a great deal from the interchange between them and in particular how she would be viewed on the case. From the charge in the room she wasn't going to go down well.
The Mother's face was difficult to decipher even for Amelia who had experience in the field. The words spoken however left them in no doubt about her feelings on the matter. "I told you Doctor that under no circumstances were outsiders to be involved in this situation. You promised me that you would respect that part of the intrusion into our affairs here and what do you do? You bring a stranger inside the convent who apparently knows everything. Please tell me Doctor how am I to trust you now?"
It was true she had said she wasn't going to speak with anyone on the outside about this. "I know how this looks Mother but please let me explain."
Amelia's plea appeared to turn on deaf ears and she was astounded when the detective's deceptively quiet voice intervened in the conversation.
"I understand your need for privacy Mother and Doctor West did not betray your trust. I was requested to help in this case by Father Johansson so if you want to chastise anyone I guess you'd better call him. If you don't want me here, I'll leave and not breathe a word of any of this to another soul. As a professional courtesy to Doctor West, I'd be obliged if you would allow me to check over the frontage of the building and the general grounds for any signs of a break-in."
Amelia's grateful smile flashed at the detective. She couldn't have said it better. The woman was quite eloquent when she wanted to be. "I think it would be beneficial for both of us Mother. Ms. Santos is very able in that particular department and you can count on her to be thorough."
Tapping a finger on her desk in frustration, the Mother considered the plea from the two women in the room. Perhaps it won't be such an inconvenience. There had been mention of unusual footsteps after dark in recent months, but nothing substantiated. "I will allow this on the proviso that Ms. Santos does not communicate with any of my Order except for Sister Augustine. She will take her around the grounds and buildings. Is that perfectly clear?"
"Absolutely clear Mother." Amelia spoke quickly not allowing the detective the opportunity to say anything different. Turning to Olivia, she gave the detective a roll of her eyes to go with the flow. There was a minor facial twitch and Amelia wasn't sure if the detective was laughing at her but she didn't have time to ponder that point at that moment.
The Mother called for Sister Augustine to enter and the nun, who had been less than friendly to them, entered. After issuing relevant instructions, Olivia left with the nun and Amelia sighed thinking that the detective was far more intimidating than the nun and she knew, if pushed, which side she'd chose.
"Now doctor what can I do for you? I take it this isn't a social call."
Amelia almost laughed and stopped herself in time because that comment was definitely not said in jest. "Two things really. First, I wanted to find out how the news of Sister Marie's pregnancy has been taken."
There was a shuffle of papers and Amelia was sure it was a nervous reaction to her question. Perhaps the Sister hadn't told them her news. That particular idea was soon dissolved as the Mother began to speak. "Sister Marie informed us of the initial findings of the doctor." The words were spoken brusquely.
Something isn't right. Mother Superior had a definite nervous appearance and her simple comment made matters worse in Amelia's mind. "I feel that you are somewhat astonished at the findings Mother."
The nun stood up and walked over to the window that had a view of the main courtyard. Her eyes followed her second and the outsider as they walked over to the vestry area. Her thoughts were in disarray. Am I astonished? It is hard to take in that one of my nuns is pregnant but I could forgive the broken vows if that is the truth of it. However, for Sister Marie to remain constant in her belief that she is chosen by God to bear his child is a slap in the face for our Order and all who had committed themselves to God's work! And, from Sister Marie of all my nuns…that is the most astonishing thing in all this.
"I know it's hard Mother but Sister Marie needs help and I'm sure over time we can solve this mystery." Amelia softly entreated the nun who didn't turn to face her but the rigid backbone told Amelia that she had made a decision.
"I agree with your diagnosis Doctor. That is why we sent Sister Marie to an institution this morning that can help her. Hopefully when the confinement is over she can begin a new life on the outside."
The matter-of-fact words echoed in the room. What's going on here? This wasn't the plan. She was here to help the nun not have her sent to an asylum. That poor creature wouldn't last a week in a place like that, it is criminal! Scrapping back the chair Amelia stood up and crossed the small divide between the two of them and placed a hand on the Mother Superior's arm forcing the nun to face her.
"Why? Why have you done that? I can help her without her leaving here, I know I can." Amelia pleaded in earnest. As she did so she saw the closed expression in the older woman's face. She had seen that particular look far too many times in her life and church personnel had it down pat in spades.
The nun moved away back to her seat and closed her eyes briefly before sucking in a deep breath. "I had no choice Doctor. Obviously Sister Marie has broken her vows and has been with a man. She must now bear the consequences of her actions. I cannot have the rest of the convent upset in such a way. It was the wisest thing to send her away. I have it on good authority that the hospital will take good care of her until she is… better."
Placing her hands on the desk and facing the nun, Amelia felt like screaming but she knew the ways of the church, in particular Mother Superiors. There was no forcing them to see sense but there had to be another way. "Can you give me the address of the hospital? I'd like to visit the Sister. She needs friendly faces right now not a sterile environment set on making her life a misery. What did you do bundle her away in the dead of night kicking and screaming?" Exasperation was evident in every syllable.
"Hardly Doctor, we told Sister Marie of our deliberations and she agreed with the decision. You make it sound like we are evil and that is far from the truth."
Under her breath Amelia whispered, "Doesn't look like it to me." Then she saw that the nun had heard her and moved away from the desk and looked out onto the courtyard where the detective was busy looking at the window frames and doors. There was no need for that now. Basically, as far as this convent was concerned, the case was over and as they were an Order outside the normal church there was no peer pressure to bring to bear on them. "Will you tell me where you've sent Sister Marie?"
For a few moments there was silence, then the Mother pushed over a card and as Amelia took it she sucked in a heavy breath as she saw the name of the hospital. Shaking her head, Amelia walked over to the door and wished the Mother a good day. Getting out of the room was her first priority as she felt sick to her stomach. And these people call themselves the hands of God!
Now to catch up with the detective! We have a mission to complete.
+ + +
Olivia had been in the presence of the aura this nun transmitted many times in her life. It was no sweat and conversely she could handle it better than someone being nice to her. At least the nun was being honest about her feelings, though it did make her smile. After all, weren't all nuns supposed to be charitable to poor folks like herself who didn't have the same view on life? She had been given the details of the assignment by Teal, whom she'd found to be quite amusing and genuine, and also had read her mind by providing information about this particular order. The notes were concise but limited, which wasn't a surprise when she read the details. Normally under the Catholic Church it would have been relatively easy to find out about a particular convent as they had records going back centuries. This order was different. Though there was a link centuries ago, its affiliations were with its work and not the Catholic Church. Apparently, in the late eighteenth century there had been a split from the mainstream church in Europe. There were those that wanted to remain untainted in their ways and carry on as they had since the order was first ordained in the late fifteenth century. They used much of their funds to charter a ship to the new world where they set up this convent. From and outsider's perspective, the original brick and stone masonry still exists in the old nunnery's architecture. The whole expedition had been carefully planned and executed to such a degree one wouldn't know that this place hadn't been here since the 1400's. From the sparse information known about this specific order, she could glean that they kept to themselves except for their work, which was apparently lucrative even back when it was first founded in the country. Consequently, they had been able to remain relatively unscathed with the passing of time and changes in the modern day life. It appeared on the surface that the order was being true to the original concept. Although the question had to be asked after what they had witnessed last night -was it?
"Sister Augustine, what time do you order lights out?" Olivia's eyes scanned another window for any sign of breach. Once again there wasn't any evidence at all and they were almost to the end of the corridor.
The nun gave the outsider a severe glance and with a sniff of the air, almost like saying, what's it to do with you, she replied, "We don't order our sisters Ms. Santos. It is a personal choice when sleep is required. However, the convent is officially classed as sleeping around eight-thirty. Why do you ask?"
"No reason really. Except…have you heard any strange footsteps after curfew or has anyone?" Olivia glanced towards the nun and was glad she had as the older woman stiffened at the question. This should be interesting.
"I have no personal knowledge of such a thing." The stilted words were forced just as Olivia expected they would be. She would bet her pay check for the year that the nun, if not lying, was definitely withholding the truth.
Straightening her body, Olivia looked like a predator ready to pounce as she folded her arms across her chest and waited for more. Her eyes bored into the old nun's. The silence dragged out between them. Olivia knew she had the patience to wait and suspected that the nun did too. Maybe we aren't so different after all. "Look Sister, I'm here to help. You can accept it with good grace or you can simply clam up and tell me nothing and I'll be gone. Then this will be a problem that might never be solved and you'll go to your grave not knowing the truth. How would you feel about that? Knowing you had opportunity to find out but never did."
The nun took a moment to consider the words and then shrugged so forcibly that the beads around her neck rattled. "Mother told me to show you all the windows and doors here in the courtyard. Are you almost finished?"
Olivia knew when she was beaten… for now, there is always another way to skin a cat.
"Are you almost finished with your survey Det… Ms. Santos?" Amelia West broke into the conversation with a despondent tone.
Both women turned to the doctor and her grim expression told its own story. At least to Olivia who paused a few seconds before replying. "I have a couple more to go, why don't you two sit there on that bench until I'm done. Won't be long."
It was true it wouldn't take long however, if she was lucky, maybe the doctor might find out what they needed to know. If she was a good judge of character behaviour, which she was, she was certain the doctor would ask what they had discussed with her usual forthrightness.
"Okay, don't take too long we need to get back to the city." Olivia inclined her head and walked away towards the last of the windows and the final door she hadn't checked.
Amelia walked towards the bench and sat down. She was exhausted or felt that way after her talk with the Mother Superior. How could she do what she did? It isn't right!
"You look troubled doctor, can I help?" It was a civil and almost sympathetic question. But, that was hard to believe since the nun was surely part of the team that had expelled Sister Marie out of her home. And, though it was hard to believe for the masses, a nun did consider the convent her home and was happy there.
Anguished eyes stared into the pale brown of the nun's. "Hardly." Her harsh tone was not lost on the nun who sat down next to Amelia and spoke again.
"You know of the decision to send Sister Marie away?"
"Of course I do! How could you do that to her? She needs help not exile."
A hand that had seen hard labour in its life was placed gently on Amelia's hands that clenched together in her lap. "Where she has gone they will provide her with that help Doctor. Sister Marie agreed to leave. We did not force her - that isn't our way. You of all people should understand that."
Dragging her hand away, Amelia glared at the woman. "My church wouldn't do what you have done. And, you call yourself the Saviour of Souls. Who is saving Sister Marie's soul right now Sister Augustine, who?"
A long silence ensued or it seemed that way and then the nun spoke again. "Mother was distressed as we all were at the outcome of our deliberations. How could we continue to have Sister Marie under our roof when she is clearly demented and in need of constant attention? We cannot offer her the expert help she will receive at the hospital. When the baby is born, Sister Marie will have choices. We have not totally abandoned her…it isn't our way no matter what you think Doctor."
Scathingly Amelia gazed at the nun. "Choices? What are those I wonder? To be locked away for good if she doesn't change her story? Be ostracised into the outside world without possessions and friends? Or lose her child perhaps? I can't believe that she became such an embarrassment that you would discard her without a care. It isn't right! Do you hear me, it isn't right!!" Amelia's voice had risen to such a level that Olivia had heard her and decided it was time to go and save the doctor from the grouchy nun. But, other nuns who were passing in the courtyard had also heard and turned to stare at what was disrupting their contemplations.
Sister Augustine gave the nuns that had stopped close to them a disapproving look and they moved on quickly, "Doctor, Sister Marie is a gifted individual and she will be sorely missed here. If, at this moment, we had any other choice we would have taken them believe me. Now I must go. Your associate has completed her task. Good day to you Doctor."
Olivia arrived as the nun left them and she raised her eyebrows in question, "I hope she didn't leave on my account."
Standing abruptly, Amelia gave the detective a direct look. Her eyes were blank in reaction to her emotion venting itself on the old nun. Now she needed to think. "Let's go I need to get out of here."
"Okay, then will you tell me what the problem is Doc?" Olivia didn't want to push the woman but she looked like she needed a stiff drink. Who wouldn't after being inside this mausoleum? Kind of made one wonder how the women, who choose this kind of life, ticked. Weird, definitely weird.
"Please detective, let's go I need to make some enquiries. By the way, how much do you charge for your services?"
Puzzled but intrigued, Olivia answered and then asked sarcastically, "Does this mean you want to keep me around? And there I was thinking you didn't care."
Amelia gave her a cynical look. "You don't know what I care about detective and it's highly doubtful you ever will."
Olivia smiled slowly as she watched the retreating back. Now there is a challenge if ever there was one. And I love challenges especially when it involves the workings of another woman's emotions. Adjusting her walking speed, she caught up to the doctor.
+ + +
Axel Randal had expected his contact to provide the package as requested. What he hadn't been prepared for was interference from his wife. Why he'd married her he could hardly remember and then it came to him, oh yeah her family inheritance. He wasn't one to balk at the chance of having his hands on a two million dollar fortune. He had wisely persuaded his besotted wife to loan him half and within a year he'd doubled it and his fortunes had progressed steadily along that track for the next ten years. Whereas his wife's money had been old money founded in cattle in Wyoming, his was, shall we say, of a more nefarious nature. He'd invested in prostitution, pornography, seedy clubs and finally the most lucrative of all, drugs. Having been born on the wrong side of the tracks living with the scum of the earth, he'd won a scholarship to college. Actually he persuaded the head teacher of the high school to bump up his grades, which had been easy since the teacher had a liking for young women, the younger the better. Then, he insinuated himself into a group of high flyers with wealthy parents and more money than brains. That was how he'd met Danielle. Her brother was a friend of his - at least as much of a friend as someone with his limited resources could muster. Steven Frobisher had been weak and, had it not been for his sister, he would probably have been the one to put the bullet in the guy's head a year later. Frobisher hadn't paid his bills to the right people and when that happened the end result was always a fore gone conclusion - death. He had the opportunity to save him by putting in a good word, however if he'd done that Danielle's fortune would have been a pittance. A dead brother was an excellent solution to his financial needs. She'd fallen for his solicitous attention after the event and six months later they'd married and he'd graduated with remarkably an honour's degree. That had been bought too but no one but him and the lecturer who had given him the exam papers prior to the event would ever know. Besides, the old man was long dead now…another loose-end sewn up.
Standing at his desk, he pulled at his strong chin which had a half day's stubble. His attractive features had been his blessing especially when he was in the company of powerful women. Right now, Deputy District Attorney Sheila Crawford was high on his list to corrupt. His one motto was that everyone had a price and he just had to find hers. His wife, on the other hand, had gone too far and it was time she found out the man she truly had married was not the respectable businessman who professed to love her. He didn't, in fact he'd never loved anyone but himself and he was more than happy with that situation. Not even the birth of the one child he reluctantly agreed they could have, had any call on his emotions. The boy reminded him of Steven. If he ended up as weak as his deceased uncle then he'd be dead before he was twenty-one too. His mother spoiled him too much. Maybe it was time to send him to that military academy that he hated the thought of. Might make him into a man.
The meeting the night had been successful until some bumbling security guard had decided it was time to check out the conference room. The precise instruction to all security was that any meeting on the top floor was strictly closed to everyone including them. The gentlemen in the room had made it clear that the guard was dispensable and would be removed without delay. Delay wasn't in his vocabulary as he had his personal security take care of the problem. Complete with a painless interrogation with his very own truth serum developed in his lab. They shot the guard full of a drug that within twenty-four hours would disappear without a trace and then threw him off the bridge into the water. His body would wash up in a day or two. That was enough time for there to be no evidence drugs or what happened to him other than the obvious… drowning. Even his clothes had been changed to prevent them from heading in his company's direction. The old man hadn't lasted long under the drug. His description of who had sent him and the name had been conclusive. What had made the murder even more important to carry out immediately was that the man had recognised a couple of his associates, one in particular. That had been his death warrant not that he was going to obtain a get out of jail free card. The question now was how to handle Danielle. Killing her wouldn't be as easy. Too many of his respectable friends would be inquisitive. Maybe her death wouldn't be of any benefit, although divorce might be as devastating for her social position. After all, her money was a pittance to what he had made over the years and, as he'd found out in his early years in their social click, you had to have vast amounts of money and not a trickle as Danielle had. There wasn't a divorce lawyer in the country who would want to go up against him because he'd have the best.
A card lay on his desk and he spun it around gazing at the spinning letters upon the plain business card he'd plucked from the wallet of… Max Anderton, Private Detective. Hmm, a visit by his people to the Anderton-Santos Detective Agency was the next step. Although, right now analysing the package when it arrived was the most important aspect of his agenda of the day. In two hours he'd know if they had been successful in producing what could only be described as the second coming.
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