Hours after Sister Riegel had stopped by his office to see him, Father Kiesler walked in. “I apologize for being late,” he said to Gracelyn. “Something came up.” Truth be told, he had been in the “secret” room with Monifa.
When she hadn’t shown up to the rectory last night and he became very worried, wondering what had happened. This morning, he hoped that he would see her and find out. On his way to the office, he ran into her.
She was on her way to the rectory to see him. They met up in the area between the rectory and the parish. When she saw him, she hurried towards him and he quickened his pace.
“What happened to you last night?” he asked when they reached each other.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I couldn’t come. One of the sisters came into my room to check on me. I pretended to be fast asleep. After she left, I waited for a while and then, I got out of bed. I quickly changed into my clothes and used my nightdress and dressing gown to look like I was still lying there. I slipped on my shoes and went to open the door but it was locked. I thought I heard a key turning in the lock but I wasn’t sure. When I turned the knob and pulled, nothing happened. The door wouldn’t open. It was locked.”
“I wonder why she locked your door.”
“I don’t know. Before she came into my room, I thought I heard her call out to someone. Maybe that other person told her to lock it after checking on me.”
“I waited for you and was extremely disappointed and worried when you didn’t show up.”
“I was so upset when I found that the door was locked. I was hoping that I would bump into you so that I could explain. I had to take off my clothes and change into my nightgown. It took a long time for me to fall asleep.”
“I laid awake thinking about you and how badly I wanted to be with you.”
“Do you still want to be with me?”
“Yes!” His face became flushed and his eyes were lit with desire.”
She smiled coyly up at him. “Then, come and show me.”
He watched as she ran ahead of him in the direction of their “secret” place and followed her. She was already undressed when he got there and in a matter of minutes, he was naked. They came together like two magnets and began to kiss wildly as their hunger for each other consumed them. His cassock was spread on the floor and they tumbled onto it. After kissing her all over her body, driving her crazy, he nudged her legs apart and entered her. She clung to him as he began to move his hips. Their moans mingled in the air.
“Father Kiesler?” Gracelyn’s voice broke his reverie and he smiled apologetically.
“I’m sorry, Miss Mueller. Were you saying something?”
“Yes, Father. I was just letting you know that Sister Riegel stopped by earlier. She left a note on your keyboard.”
“I’m going to make myself a cup of tea, shall I make some for you too?”
“Yes, thank you.”
After she left, he sat down behind the desk and read the note which said, “Father Kiesler, I need to see you regarding a very puzzling and disturbing matter. Please meet me in the sacristy at 8pm tonight and I will explain further. Sister Riegel.
What puzzling and disturbing matter? Did she know something about the newspaper clippings? Did she know who was sending them to him? Or was she the culprit? He quickly dismissed that thought. No, it couldn’t be her. Perhaps she knew something and was anxious to tell him tonight when it was more convenient.
He folded the note and slipped it into the pocket of his cassock. Reaching for the mail, he warily sorted through it and was relieved when he didn’t find an plain white envelope with no stamp or address. Weeks had passed since he had received the one with the news clippings. He had torn them into pieces and flushed them down the toilet. He hadn’t mentioned anything about them to Monifa because he didn’t want to worry her. Instead, he had just reiterated how important it was for them to be careful that no one found out about them. He was really looking forward to seeing her tonight after his meeting with Sister Riegel.
It was precisely eight o’clock when he entered the sacristy. Sister Riegel had her back turned to him.
He slowly approached her, his heart pounding. “Sister Riegel?”
She turned. “Hello, Father Kiesler.
He gasped in shock. It wasn’t Sister Riegel who stood there but Gracelyn Mueller.
“You’re right on time. I guess you’re really anxious to find out what was the puzzling and disturbing matter Sister Riegel mentioned in her note.”
“What are you doing here? Why are you dressed as a nun and where’s Sister Riegel?” he demanded when he recovered.
“I’ve always wanted to dress like a nun, just to get an idea of what it’s like. To be honest, I don’t know how anyone can wear this get-up every day. Sister Riegel regretfully couldn’t make it so I came in her place.”
“What is this all about?”
“I’ll tell you what this is about, Father Kiesler. It’s about you and that girl.”
He stared at her. “You mean…?”
“Yes, I know all about your sordid affair with her. It was I who saw you and her in the library and it was I who wrote an anonymous note to Sister Augustin. That night I had worked late and before I left, I decided that I would return a book I had borrowed. So, after I locked the office, I went to the library. Can you imagine how shocked I was when I opened the door, thinking that the room was empty and saw you with that little black whore? I stood there and watched the two of you. When I saw the look on your face and heard you moaning as she did disgusting things to you, I was sick to my stomach. I closed the door and left. I was shaking with anger. I wanted to punish you. All night, I tried to figure out how I would do that and in the morning, I went to the office very early, wrote the note and left it outside of Sister Augustin’s door. I knocked to make sure that she saw it and got out of there quickly. No one saw me. I was at my desk when she went into Father Schmidt’s office and I knew that she was there to show him the note. I was pleased about that and was sure that Father Schmidt would send that wretched girl away but he told me that he was going to transfer you to another parish. I couldn’t let him do that. So, I had to find a way to prevent that from happening.”
“How did you do that?” His mind was whirling. This felt so surreal. He had wanted answers but he hadn’t been at all prepared for this.
“I stole some chemical barium acetate when I visited a friend who is a Chemistry teacher while he was preoccupied. Before I took Father Schmidt’s lunch to him, I slipped a spoonful of barium acetate in his Sauerkraut Soup and stirred it in. I brought it to him.”
“It was poison not a heart attack which killed him…?” He felt sick.
“As far as the coroner was concerned it was a heart attack which killed him.”
“Why did you do it?”
“I’ve already told you. I had to stop him from sending you away.”
“You murdered a priest, a man of God because of me?”
“Yes. I did it because I love you, Jürgen. I’ve been in love with you ever since you came to the parish but you never noticed me. To you, I was just the plain, efficient secretary and nothing more.”
“But what about the professor you’re dating?”
“I ended my relationship with him on the same day I met you.”
He leaned against the sacristy credens, his face ashen. This couldn’t be happening. He wasn’t standing there with the parish secretary dressed as a nun who confessed that she murdered Father Schmidt. “I can’t believe that you killed someone in cold blood.”
“I didn’t do it in cold blood. I didn’t want to do it at all because I was very fond of him but he left me no choice.”
Dread filled him as he returned her gaze. “Sister Augustin?”
“Yes. One morning when I was clearing out Father Schmidt’s desk, Sister Augustin came to see me. She seemed troubled so I pressed her about it until she told me what the matter was. Apparently, she saw me put something in Father Schmidt’s soup on the day he died. I told her that it was a herbal tonic which he usually took to help him with his digestion. She seemed to believe me but I couldn’t be sure. The next morning when she went for her walk, I was waiting for her. She didn’t hear me sneaking up behind her. It happened so fast.”
“You killed her too?”
“Yes. I couldn’t take the chance of her telling someone else about the soup, especially when I had visited a Chemistry lab a couple of days before.”
“You murdered her and you murdered Father Schmidt. What about–what about Sister Riegel? What have you done with her?”
“Nothing. I had no reason to harm her.”
“Then, why are you here instead of her?”
“She got an urgent phone call. A family member has fallen ill and she had to leave for Berlin right away. I gave her a ride to the train station. She asked me to let you know.”
Relief washed over him. “I’m sorry about the family member but thankful that Sister Riegel’s safe.”
“I told I had no reason to harm her. She didn’t see my face which is what actually saved her life.”
“See your face?”
“Yes. She caught me in the girls’ dorm but I had my back turned towards her so she didn’t know that it was me. She called out to me twice but I didn’t turn around. Instead, I went away.”
“What were you doing there?”
“I was checking on one of the girls.”
“Your little whore.”
“Monifa? I swear if you lay one hand on her–“
“Don’t worry. She’s safe. I wasn’t going to do anything except check to make sure she was there in her room and not with you. It seems to me that she spends more time in your bed than in her own.”
“You have killed two people.”
“As far as everyone else is concerned the cause of the first death was a medical condition and the second was an accident. They were the only two people who knew about your sordid affair. All you have to do is to keep your head on and no one else will find out about it.”
“Someone else knows. They sent me news clippings and a note.”
“That was me. I wanted to scare you into ending your relationship with the girl but it doesn’t seem to have worked. You’re still sneaking around with her, aren’t you? Well, as of this moment, it’s over between you two. Stop seeing her or better yet, send her away or else, I will have her arrested for the murders. I will make it look like she committed them because someone found out that she had been sleeping with one of the priests.”
“You can’t do that.”
“I can and I will.”
“I won’t let you do it.”
“Then, send her away.”
“No! She will stay at the rectory with me.”
“You still don’t get it, do you, Jürgen? Beggers can’t be choosers. Either you do things my way or else…”
“I’ll do whatever it takes to protect her.”
“I’ll give you 48 hours to find another school for her. I want her gone, Jürgen. And if she isn’t transferred when the 48 hours are up, you’ll have another death on your hands.” And with that, she turned and walked out of the sacristy.
He sank to the ground and buried his face in his hands. What on earth was he going to do? Send Monifa away and save her life or let her stay and risk something bad happening to her? Should he call the police and report Gracelyn but where was his proof and it would be his word against hers. He had more reason to commit the murders than she. He had 48 hours to figure out what to do.