Father Kiesler’s Decision

After agonizing over what to do, he decided that it would be best to send Monifa away for her safety and once she was gone, he knew what he needed to do. In his hand, he had the letter in which he had written about everything, including his relationship with her, although he didn’t mention her by name and the murders of Father Schmidt and Sister Augustin. It was his surety that justice would be done in the event that something happened to him.

He read it over to make sure it was satisfactory and then, he took it over to the desk and signed it. He placed it into an envelope, sealed and addressed it. He left his office and went to the sacristy where he changed into his black cassock.

He drove to the house of a friend whom he trusted implicitly and spent a hour telling her everything and why it was imperative that Monifa stayed with her until the situation was under control. She agreed to take the girl in. “I can do with the help and company,” she told him.

“Thank you, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.”

“Be careful, Father,” she said.

He handed her the envelope. “Guard this with your life,” he said. “If anything should happen to me, the police will have all the evidence they need in this letter to make the arrest.”

She took the envelope from him. “I’ll lock it away in my safe.”

“Promise me that you will take very good care of Monifa.”

“I will but I expect that when this is over, you will take care of her yourself.”

“If I manage to get through this, I will leave the priesthood and marry her as soon as she turns 18.”

“It’s a shame that your love for this girl had such tragic consequences.”

“Yes, it is. I had no idea that it would cost two people their lives. I will never be able to forgive myself for that.”

“I hope you will one of these days. You’re so good at giving others absolution. I hope that you will do the same for yourself.”

“I will bring Monifa here tomorrow morning. Thank you again. I will forever be indebted to you.”

“Goodbye, Father.”

“Goodbye.”

He felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted off his shoulders. When he returned to the parish, he asked one of the Sisters to have Monifa meet him in the sanctuary. While he waited there for her, he knelt and prayed. When he turned around, she was standing at the back, watching him. Rising to his feet, he went over to her. “Let’s go for a walk,” he suggested.

They left the sanctuary and went some distance away from the parish. When they were completely alone and safe from being observed, he stopped and turned to face her. “Monifa, I’m taking you to Mrs. Wiesenthal.”

She stared at him. “Who’s Mrs. Wiesenthal and why are you taking me to her?”

“She’s a Jewish widow whom I’ve known for years. I’m taking you to her because it isn’t safe for you to stay here at the Parish anymore.”

“What do you mean it isn’t safe?” she asked. “Is it because someone found out about us and you’re worried that they will tell the bishop?”

“I’m not worried about the bishop finding out about us anymore. Your life is in danger and the only way I can protect you is to send you away.”

“I don’t understand what you mean that my life is in danger. Why am I in danger?”

He reached for her hands and held them, his expression urgent as his eyes met her wide and bewildered ones. “What I’m about to tell is going to shock you,” he warned her. “And you’ll understand why it’s imperative that you leave here.”

Heart pounding, she replied, “Tell me.”

He told her everything and by the time he was finished, she was trembling. He pulled her into his arms and held her tightly. “I blame myself for everything,” he said. “If I had been more careful, we wouldn’t have been discovered and Father Schmidt and Sister Augustin would still be alive.”

“I’m sorry they’re dead and-and I feel responsible too but I don’t want to leave you.”

He drew back to gaze down at her tear streaked face. “You have to, Monifa.”

“Why can’t I move into the rectory with you? You said you needed a housekeeper.”

“I can’t take the chance of her coming there to harm you because I decided not to send you away. No, tomorrow, I will take you to Mrs. Wiesenthal.”

“How long do you want me to stay with her?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Will I ever see you again?”

“Of course, you will, mein Liebling.” He hoped with all his heart that they would be together after this mess was over but there was always the chance that things might not go as planned. It was still his word against Gracelyn’s. She could convince the police that it was he who committed the murders and that he did so out of fear of being found out because in addition to being defrocked, he would have been charged with having sexual relations with a minor. He would have done anything to prevent that–even resorting to murder.

Would they believe him because he was a priest or would they believe her because under that amiable and unassuming demeanor was a cunning and devious mind? Or worst yet, she might make good on her threat and frame Monifa for the murders. It was clear that she was jealous of the girl because of him. He was shocked when she told him that she was in love with him. He had no clue and that seemed to infuriate her. Even if he weren’t a priest and had never met and fallen in love with Monifa, he still wouldn’t have been attracted to Gracelyn.

“I promise that we will be together again,” he told Monifa now. He hoped with all of his heart that he would be able to keep this promise.

He couldn’t tell her that he was planning to meet Gracelyn in the sacristy to let her know what he decided and that he would have a tape recorder on him. If things went as planned, he would have her confession on tape and hand it over to the police as additional evidence. Her own mouth would convict her.

“Can I come to the rectory later?” Monifa asked.

“Of course. I’ll be waiting for you as usual. It will be our last night together for a while, though.”

“How will you explain my leaving?”

“I’ll tell the Sisters that you’re spending the rest of the summer with a friend.”

“Will you visit me at Mrs. Wiesenthal.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” He imagined Gracelyn following him there and then, both Monifa and Mrs. Wiesenthal would be in danger. He couldn’t take that chance. “I can telephone, though, on the weekends to see how you’re doing.”

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“All right.” It was better than nothing. “I’ll pack my bag before dinner.”

“We’d better head back,” he said.

“You go ahead. I’ll stay here for a while.”

“All right. I’ll see you later.”

She nodded. “Yes.”

Since they were alone, he leaned down and kissed her on the mouth. “I love you,” he murmured when he drew back, his eyes darkening on her upturned face.

“I love you too,” she said. She felt close to tears again but blinked them back.

After gently caressing her cheek with his knuckles, he turned and walked away. She watched him go and then she leaned against the tree and closing her eyes, she let the tears fall again.

That night, when all was quiet, Monifa sneaked out of the dorm and made her way to the rectory. Father Kiesler was waiting for her. After locking the door, he took her by the hand and led her to the bedroom. He undressed her and then himself. The coverlet was pulled back and they climbed into the bed. Their lovemaking was passionate, intense and emotional. When it was over, they lay there, holding each other for a long time. And then, it was time for her to go.

While she got dressed, he put on a dressing-gown and made up the bed. They went into the foyer and stood facing each other. She fought to fight back the tears and he fought the temptation to have her spend the night with him and then, leave at dawn. They hugged tightly and when they drew back, her eyes were brimming with tears.

Groaning, he cupped her face between her hands and kissed her tenderly on the mouth. “We’ll be together again soon, I promise,” he muttered thickly when he raised his head.

She nodded, wanting to believe that with all her heart.

He wiped her tears away with his thumbs.

“I love you, Jürgen,” she murmured huskily.

“And I love you, Monifa.”

They kissed and hugged again and then, he saw her to the door. He stood there, watching her until she was no longer in sight. He locked the door and turned off the light. In the morning, he would call for the taxi to pick her up and take her to Mrs. Wiesenthal.

Halfway to the dorm, Monifa was grabbed from behind. Before she had time to scream, something was clamped over her nose and mouth and even as she struggled, she felt herself losing consciousness.

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