the deacon mystery (part thirteen)

This story started here.

When I returned to the table, I was sure that my face told at least part of the story. Elsa nodded as I sat down.

“Your boss?” she asked. “Time to go to work?”

“No, and yes. There’s been a murder, and my presence has been requested. Immediately, if not sooner. (In fact, ‘requested’ is not really the most accurate word.) But that wasn’t Miss Sleet — it was the sheriff.”

“So, where are we going?” She waved a hand. “Of course I’m driving you. There’s been a murder, everything is urgent, and you’re going to wait around for the jitney? Besides, I can’t go home now anyway — the island is cut off for the night. Where are we going?”

I looked at my half-full bottle of beer and sighed. “The Presbyterian church. In town.”

“You’ll have to give me directions,” she said as I took out my wallet. She caught my eye. “I’m a Quaker — how would I know where it is?”

I smiled at that, and I laid some bills on the bar as we headed for the door.

At least we hadn’t got around to ordering dinner.

 

Elsa opened the door of her van and hoisted herself up into the driver’s seat. She reached down, lifted and folded her wheelchair, and slid it into its usual position behind her seat. I had watched this process before, more than once, and this time it seemed somewhat less smooth than usual.

I went around and opened the passenger door. “Are you okay to drive?” I asked.

She smiled as I climbed in and fastened my seat belt. “Probably. We’ll find out, won’t we?”

A few minutes later, as we were barreling through the darkness, I thought of suggesting that perhaps I should drive, but I wasn’t exactly completely sober either, and her van was customized for her use, so I didn’t say anything, even as she careened out onto the highway, narrowly avoiding oncoming traffic, yelling, “Whooo hoo!”

I consoled myself with the thought that the “Whooo hoo!” had probably been deliberate, designed to see how I would react. I remained, to the best of my ability, stoic.

“Any details you can share?” she asked as we zipped along.

“I have none at the moment, shareable or not. There’s been a murder, and apparently a rather bloody one. Sheriff Rhonda was trying to reach my employer, and she didn’t believe me when I said that I had no idea where she was or how to reach her. So, she was not in a forthcoming or bantering mood.”

 
There were several cars parked around the church. including two police cars and an ambulance. Elsa pulled up in front of the building, which did not have any visible accommodations for a wheelchair.

“I think I’ll go get something to eat,” she said.

I nodded. “The sheriff did say that the scene in there is pretty bloody. Thanks for the ride.”

“I’m going to try, once again, to see if I can find a decent roast beef sandwich in this town.”

I got out and closed the door. “If you succeed, let me know.”

She nodded and drove off.

Two deputies stood on the wide stairs which led up to the front doors of the church. One held up his hand as I approached. He started to say something, but I said, “Marshall O’Connor. Sheriff White told me to come here.”

He shrugged. “ID?” I showed him my driver’s license and he jerked his finger over his shoulder. “Upstairs,” he said. “The padre’s office.”

I ascended the narrow stairs and went through a swinging door and into a hallway. There were several doors, but only one was open, so I went there.

It was a small office, full of books and papers, and there was a dead body slumped on the desk.

I assumed it was Dr. Deacon, the priest. It was apparently his office, and the top of his head and the dark clothes looked familiar. The cause of death wasn’t immediately apparent, but there was a lot of blood on the desk blotter.

Sheriff Rhonda looked up. “O’Connor. You were at the Rat, right? By the college?” I nodded. “Then how in God’s holy name did you get here so fast?” She seemed prepared to be outraged that anybody had the nerve to drive through her town even more recklessly than she did.

“Miss Peabody drove me.”

“Miss…” She shook her head. “Never mind. Are you still maintaining that you can’t reach your boss?”

“I believe I was quite clear on the phone, sheriff.” I tapped a Bible on the desk. “I’d be willing to swear on this, if it didn’t have blood on it.”

 

 
To be continued…

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