Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Spider’s Banquet - Chapter Two

The Spider’s Banquet | Crime Detective Mystery
by Julius Falconer

…‘Well, gentlemen,’ he said, ‘it does not require the brains of St Thomas Aquinas to guess what you have called about.  I shall be happy to help, but I don’t know that there is anything I can add to what you probably already know from the missing woman’s sister.’  He spoke in a quiet, measured tone of voice, the voice of a man of study and meditation.
‘No, maybe not,’ I replied, ‘but I need to start somewhere, and you are the obvious starting-point, as superior of this monastery.  We could hardly begin elsewhere without grave offence to protocol.’
He acknowledged my little joke with a nod of the head.
‘What would you like to know?’
‘Tell us, if you would, exactly what happened on Saturday, in so far as you have been able to piece it together.  It doesn’t matter at all if you repeat what we know already.’

‘Inspector,’ the abbot said, ‘I know so little.  One of our monks, Br Jude, had asked me for permission to receive his sister concerning a family matter.  I was happy to grant it, providing that the appointment did not entail missing any formal activity in the monastery.  I understand that his sister, Audrey I think she’s called, arrived punctually at ten a.m., conversed with her brother in this very room, and left an hour or so later.  And that’s all.’
‘Did anyone see her physically leave the monastery?’
The abbot paused, almost imperceptibly.  ‘No, I don’t believe anyone did.’
‘How was that?’
‘Well, Br Jude will tell you all this himself, but as far as I understand the matter, as Audrey rose to leave, the bell for sext rang, Brother Jude made his excuses, accompanied his sister to the front door and headed in the opposite direction to make sure he was not late for the Divine Office.  No porter was on duty during sext, and it was only when the elder Miss Fletcher knocked later on that we were made aware of her concern.’
‘You will understand, perhaps,’ he added drily, ‘that in a monastery answering the door and the phone is not our top priority.’
‘Quite so,’ I said. ‘Have you asked the other monks whether they saw the girl at all?’

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