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Authors: Gillian Galbraith

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BOOK: The Good Priest
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‘Well, I never! Thank goodness for that. After you'd been taken away in the ambulance I couldn't find it anywhere. I searched this place high and low, ransacked the whole house. Where on earth did you hide it?'

‘Like you said, somewhere “safe”. I put it somewhere safe.'

‘I can't tell you what a relief that is,' the policeman said, beaming widely and standing up as if he was ready to go.

‘I'd better take it with me now. Where is it? That strapping nun'll get it for me, no doubt.'

‘It's somewhere safe.'

‘Good. Can I have it now?'

‘No.'

‘Sorry, Vincent, what did you say?'

‘I said,' the priest replied, looking up into the man's red face and speaking more slowly, ‘no. You can't have it.'

‘But … but I need it for the investigation. If you've still got it, I need it. There's a murder inquiry under way. Three men have been killed, three priests, and that book will be very important evidence against the murderer. It'll form part of the evidence in the trial ‘

‘I know that, but you're not involved in the murder investigation, are you?'

‘No, no, I'm not. It's purely a Lothian and Borders police investigation now, because the Colinton killing was the first. They're heading it, taking the lead. But I'll take it to them. That's why I came – I'm to take it to them.'

‘Do you think I'm a complete fool, Donald?' the priest asked, elbowing himself up on his pillows in order to increase his height slightly.

‘No. I know you're not. I learned that early on.'

‘I'm glad to hear it. It took me a while, lying here … but everything, eventually, fitted together. All the little pieces of the jigsaw added up to make a complete picture, but not a very pretty one, sadly.'

‘And?'

‘And I realised, long ago, that the Church didn't want the book to be found, least of all by the police. Having seen its contents, I'm not surprised. If the press were to get hold of it, well, it would be a complete sensation, wouldn't it? It would blow everything wide open again. The embers of the scandal would be re-ignited yet again,
only this time, tenfold, a hundredfold, and in the heart of Scotland. Dominic seemed relieved when he realised it was you that I'd been talking to, and I know why now.'

‘He would be. It's natural. We know each other. Mostly socially, and through some sports schemes, youth schemes, we're both involved in.'

‘But to me, Donald, you denied knowing him at first. Then, on the night of the attack, you called him “Dominic”, even though I hadn't mentioned his first name. You're on first-name terms, nickname terms, with the man. Why hide it? That started me thinking. More importantly, James Mann's your brother-in-law, isn't he? I was slow, shamefully slow, in figuring that out … but when I remembered what your wife said it led me there. About Miss Mann, the tax inspector. What I don't know is whether you're trying to protect him because of your wife or because of yourself. I imagine it's him at the bottom of all of this. I know she's got you by “the short and curlies”, as you almost put it, and I know why. I spoke to a pal of mine in Kinnesswood; she told me the nature of your woman trouble. I understand she's called Jemima. So, maybe you've been doing these things for your wife … or yourself, I'll probably never know.'

‘You've quite lost me.'

‘You lost yourself. You're part of the cover-up.'

‘I'm trying to protect the Church.'

‘Don't make me laugh.'

‘Vincent, think what will happen if that book ever gets into the wrong hands. I told you, it's not even necessary to convict the killer. It could just disappear – there could
be a fire, a theft, a flood, God knows. But if it's gone, it's gone. Think of the
damage
it will do. I saved you from that maniac. He would have killed you too – he had three under his belt already, remember? I saved you. Now, I'm just trying to save my … everything. She said she'd leave me … I've got children, too.'

‘Damage? Don't talk to me about damage! The damage, the real damage, has already been done – and to children. Other people's children. I'm going to hand the book over to the Lothian and Borders Police, after I've made a copy of it, and once it is in their hands they will do what they must with it – act on the information that it contains. If, mysteriously, nothing happens, I'll go to the press myself.'

‘Vincent,' Keegan said pleadingly, ‘James wants it back – he really wants it. A great deal hangs on the safe recovery of that book. Rome is adamant that it must not get into the wrong hands. Things could change for you, radically, dramatically; things could get so much better. Gratitude can be shown in a million different ways. Like I said, it's not even necessary for the man's conviction, if that's what's worrying you. The deeds have been done. You can't undo them, any more than I can. What happened, happened. But it's in the past. Just give it to me – you could even say you'd done that, tell everyone that. I'll lose it. You wouldn't even have to explain. All you'd know, all you'd be responsible for, would be for handing it over to me. You wouldn't be criticised, not for handing it over to the police.'

‘Go now, just go!'

‘Vincent, Dominic will ensure …'

‘Get out of here.'

‘If you'd told me,' Sister Monica said, bringing in his supper tray, ‘that your “little printing job” amounted to a hundred and fifty pages, I would have declined it. Thanks to you we've run out of paper – ink too, and it costs a fortune. We should never have bought a Dell.'

‘But you've done it?' he replied, taking the tray from her and looking anxiously into her face.

‘Yes, of course I have. And I feel two hundred years older now,' she said quietly. ‘I read the odd pages of it while I was doing it. It sickened me. It made me feel so ashamed …'

‘You've done nothing of which to be ashamed,' Vincent said.

‘But didn't you feel that? Reading it? How could they do that?'

‘You had no part in it, I had no part in it, and we will have no part in it. We will make sure that the truth gets out.'

‘Do you ever wonder why you stay … ?'

‘Yes, often. It's not easy. I can't get excited about the knuckle-bones of saints any more, or any of that kind of thing. And I'm out of step too. Birth control, gay rights and women priests – bring them on, I say. I don't think the sky will fall in when they finally come. The only reason, the
only
reason, I stay is because I'm needed. I know I am. And for as long as I'm inside, still hanging on, I'll do my bit. What about you?'

‘I don't fancy being a bag lady.'

‘Fine. Now, tomorrow, if you'll let me, I intend to take the book to the police headquarters at Fettes and hand it over myself.'

‘I'll drive you there, happily. What will we do with the copy?'

‘We'll keep it secure, in my safe under the stairs. Just in case through any mischance of any kind something happens to the original. You've still got the copy on disc, I assume?'

‘Yes.'

‘It's even more important. Can you keep it somewhere safe, where no one will ever find it, in the Retreat? No one would ever expect it to be there.'

‘No problem. I'll toss out that
Sound of Music
DVD – no-one ever watches it. Not with all that “A flibbertygibbet, a will-of-the-wisp, a clown”, nonsense.'

‘Nonsense, is it? Remember, you removed the Nazis' carburettor. Nuns played their part in defeating the forces of evil … apparently.'

‘Apparently.'

‘Now, my wine glass? There seems to be no wine glass on my tray. What's that supposed to be?' he asked, pointing at a striped mug by his bowl of ice cream.

‘Tea – remember tea? A drink with jam and bread? Doh? My dear. You can fetch your own poison.'

Satan, satisfied that the coast was clear, sprang back onto the bed and padded towards his master, his back arched in greeting and his tail held high.

‘Shoo! Be off with you,' Sister Monica said, flapping her
huge hands at the creature. ‘That beast should not be on the bed.'

‘Talking of Nazis …'

A couple of days later, Father Vincent was sitting having tea with Barbara Duncan in her kitchen. By the butterdish was a vase of roses, some of their heads blowsy, their loosening petals edged with brown; others were no more than dark-red buds, the blooms still tightly furled. Self-conscious about his appearance, he fingered first the bruise on his forehead and then the sticking plaster that covered one side of his nose.

‘Another DIY mistake with a hammer, you say.'

‘Yes.'

‘I see.' Her sceptical tone left him in no doubt that she did not.

‘Where did those come from?' he asked, keen to distract her and gesturing at the vase.

‘That's the least of it. He's a pest, a complete pest. He “refreshes” them daily,' she replied curtly, stabbing the fruit-cake in front of her with the bread knife and starting to cut a slice from it.

‘Who?'

‘Mr Goodenough.'

‘Is he not then?'

‘Not what?' she said, through pursed lips, intent on the cake.

‘Good enough?'

‘Don't be flippant, please. It's serious. He's trying to batter me with blooms – court me with carnations, woo me
with weigelas, seduce me with salvias. Such horrid flowers too, the lot of them. Now he's riling me with roses – if he but knew it.'

‘When did this happen?' he asked, putting out his plate for the slice of cake she was offering him.

‘Hard to say, really. I gave him dinner myself that first night he came to stay, and I think he got quite the wrong idea. I thought he seemed all right then. He's in dog food, so to speak. Actually, he could bore for Britain about canine nutrition, dentition … perdition for me, of course. His hobby, I discovered, if you can believe it, is plotting all the radio masts in the country, and he's trying to persuade me to go out on “reccies” with him. He's just odd, very, very odd.'

‘Frankly,' he said, parroting her words about Sarah Houston back to her, ‘I'm amazed you were taken in by him. I saw it immediately.'

‘You never even spoke to him!'

‘I didn't need to …'

‘Vincent,' she replied, giggling out loud, ‘I am so glad that you are back. Now, tell me what happened to your face, and don't give me any of that nonsense about a hammer, eh?'

BOOK: The Good Priest
13.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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