He was in his office standing by the window, looking out and thinking about Monifa when there was a knock on the door. “Eingeben,” he called.
The door opened and Gracelyn entered. “I brought you your mail,” she said, going over to his desk and putting it in the in-tray.
“Thank you,” he replied.
“Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?” she asked.
“Neither, thank you.” As she was about to leave, he said, “Come back in about ten minutes and I will give you a list of the pamphlets I would like to order for the parish.”
“Yes, Father Kiesler.” She left.
He lingered for a few more minutes at the window and then went over to the desk and sat down. After he finished reading the pamphlet, he marked down on the order form the pamphlets he wanted. Then, he reached for the stack of mail and went through it.
There were letters, cards, requests for prayers and bills. As he sorted them, his gaze fell on a white envelope with his name written neatly on it. There was no stamp or return address. Frowning, he picked up the letter opener. He slit open the envelop and looked inside
There were three newspaper clippings. The first was about Father Schmidt’s funeral. The words, “heart attack” were underlined and beside the word, “attack” was a question mark. The second clipping was of Sister Augustin’s death. The word, “accident” was underlined and had a question mark beside it.
When he saw the third clipping, he turned pale. It was about a Catholic priest who was arrested on suspicion of having sex with an underaged girl. The word, “on” was crossed out and “for” was written above it and the words, “suspicion of” were crossed out. A note had been tucked inside that clipping which he unfolded. On it was written, Revelation 22:14, 15 which said, “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” The words, “sexually immoral” and “murderers” were underlined.
Heart pounding, he sat back in the chair. Who had sent these clippings and written this note? Was it the person whom Father Schmidt said wanted to remain anonymous? It couldn’t be Sister Augustin as he had initially suspected because there would have been no reason for her to leave the first newspaper clipping. Besides, she was dead. Someone else knew about his relationship with Monifa but who? Was it one of the students? One of the Sisters? A member of the clergy? His hand trembled slightly as he dragged his fingers through his hair. What was he going to do now?
The knock on the door almost made him jump out of his skin. Scrambling the clippings and note, he hurriedly folded them and stuffed them back into the envelope which he put in the pocket of his cassock, intending to destroy its contents later. “Yes?”
Gracelyn went in and walked over to his desk. “I came to get the list of pamphlets you would like me to order,” she said.
He looked around for it and when he espied it, he gave it to her.
She took it, studying him closely. “Are you all right, Father?” she asked.
“Yes, yes, I’m all right.” He stood up suddenly. “I just need a bit of fresh air. I’ll be back in a little while.” He walked past her and out of the office.
Monifa was out walking, enjoying the warmth of the sun on her face. She stopped and facing the sun, she raised her face with her eyes closed. Its warmth felt wonderful on her skin. She stood like that for several minutes, before she opened her eyes and continued her walk.
Yesterday was her sixteenth birthday and she had spent the evening with Father Kiesler at the rectory. They had ice-cream as he told her exciting stories about medieval villages and voyagers. Afterwards, he gave her a neatly wrapped present. She eagerly opened it and gasped when she saw what was inside the plain white box. It was a Double Chain Birthstone Bracelet.
Her eyes sparkled. “It’s beautiful,” she exclaimed.
“You like it?”
“Yes!” She took it out of the box and gave it to him. “Could you put it on for me, please?”
He put it on her hand. “I’m happy you like it,” he said as she held out her hand so that she could admire it.
“Thank you, Jürgen.” They were sitting at the table. She got up and went around to his side and leaning over she kissed him on the mouth.
He reached up and clutching her head, he kissed her back passionately. She smiled now as she recalled what happened afterwards. His was the only present she had gotten but earlier in the day, all the girls from the dorm were gathered in the Hall to celebrate her birthday with cake, singing and fun activities. The school did that for every student celebrating a birthday.
Father Kiesler had joined in the celebration briefly before leaving to meet with an engaged couple in his office. The parish secretary, Gracelyn Mueller stopped by to wish her a happy birthday and went away with a slice of cake. It was a great celebration but the best was yet to come.
As soon as the coast was clear, she sneaked out of her room and literally ran down to the rectory where she celebrated the rest of her birthday with Father Kiesler. It was after eleven when she scurried back to the dorm and let herself into her room. She went to bed wearing the bracelet but took it off in the morning and put it back in its box and in a secret place in her drawer. It was the most precious thing she had ever owned in her life.
Now that she was sixteen, it meant that in two years she would be leaving the school. She tried not to think about it because the thought of never seeing Father Kiesler again was just too unbearable. It filled her with dread–more than the inevitability of death.
It was time to head back to the parish, she thought. She turned and was surprised to see Father Kiesler walking towards her. Happy to see him, she ran to him but her smile faded when she saw the expression on his face. “What’s the matter?” she asked.
“We need to talk,” he said urgently.