There are many clichés that become apparent to the outside world, family and friends when one becomes known to have a knack for solving unsolvable mysteries or just catching killers. It is amazing how many will make the joke to study the world’s ultimate serial killer, Mrs. Fletcher, seriously think on it, that woman was around a lot of death. Or the ultimate “in joke” of it being Colonel Mustard in the library with the wrench, the unhelpful jokes from reports of “did the butler do it?” The smart ass retort in one’s mind in these moments is to always simply say, “Aliens dude, it was the aliens.”
Discard the sucker stick into the gutter before stepping into the old church building of St. Andrew’s United Church. An elderly lady meets him at the door, offers to take his black wool ¾ coat, he declines, she leads him to the office area where three old men sit, prim and proper in suits. Sure he hadn’t been to church in a while, but even the last time he had set foot in one formality had long given up the ghost, Holy Ghost? But the three balding men in suits looked uncomfortable to have invited him into their inner sanctum. The nice lady, who looks dressed like a school marm goes through the motions offering coffee, he accepts a cup, church coffee is probably the cheapest per cup in the world, but somehow manages to taste the best.
They are seated in a “tea area” in the minister’s office. Wing back chairs, love seats, the man in the coat removes his black fedora and sits comfortably in a wing back, rests the hat on his blue jeans knee, removes leather gloves and places them in pockets. He notes one of the men staring at his black eye patch, or is it the scars that creep up his neck. “Well aren’t we a collection of light reflectors.” Subtle gasps, as his coffee arrives.
The balding man in the grey suit speaks up, he is the one in the middle of the three. “Mr. Speare, we invited you here to discuss a rather sensitive matter.”
Speare smiled, sensitive matter, another cliché of those with something to hide. A group of men calling him for a clandestine meeting in the church office, yet not one of them have identified themselves as the minister whose office they are sitting in. The church lady keeps giving a cross eye glance back to him as well during the conversation.
Speare takes another sip of coffee while carefully studying each of the three men. The one on the speaker’s left has sweat beads forming on his bald cul de sac. The one on the right has a steely gave, one that speaks to the probability of some point in his life having taken a life. The speaker continues. “Three months ago our minister was murdered in the sanctuary after hours. The police chalked it up to a smash and grab robbery gone awry.” Speare studies the speaker. The man has a greying mustache that barely touches the corner of his top lip.
Sweat is forming there as well, his lips purse during each statement like it is leaving a bad taste in his mouth. Why if they are seeking truth would the speaking of this search leave a bad taste in his mouth? This should be a time of speaking freedom, the cool customer has a steady gaze into the speaker’s temple, like a sniper rifle sight. The true power of the trio is there, but how to draw that out so that they know he knows where the power lies in this situation.
“I remember reading about that break in. Reverend Rex O’Neil wasn’t it?” The speaker nods, the articles Speare had read had laid out O’Neil’s fall from prominence from the Roman Catholic Church, into being clergy in the United Church after he had found love with a male parishioner. They had married and settled into this church where O’Neil could live out his calling in a theological safe home. Some had stated it was a hate crime, only in this day and age who cared who shared whose bed as long as they were consenting adults. It was easier to chock the death up to him surprising a burglar trying to get the offertory money, or whatever else could be grabbed. Again, something else that did not add up in this day and age, right after church services the money would be counted and deposited into the local bank drop box, Speare couldn’t think of any church that would keep money on hand for any length of time. Glancing around the office, the technology wasn’t of the kind that would attract a burglar either.
The calm face almost cracked around the crow’s feet when Speare showed he had some knowledge of the church minister. Cul de sac sweat started moving into a drip from beads. The speaker was looking for words. It was Speare after another sip of coffee that finally spoke. “First I am not going to be hired by 3 nameless guys in bad suits, so I needs names, second, are you hiring me to find a killer or was there something taken that day…”
On the word taken, the unshakeable one blinked. Bingo. The speaker answers first, “Mr. Speare, I am Harvey Gould, board chair” He points to the one on his left, “this is Jerome O’Neil,” the widow, and then nods to the somber one, “Geoff Hasselback, finance.” Speare lets his good eye bore into Harvey. One of the important rules of life coaching, and of psychological assessments, let the silence do the heavy lifting. “We believe, as does our congregation that our minister was murdered, the police do not. We wish to hire you to find a killer.”
The key piece, the supposed burglar was never found. But three months, was three months, there would not be much to go on within the sanctuary itself as it has been well trampled since the incident. Speare nods, what is left out in the statement is as powerful as what they said to him. “Alright. It is just a murder you want me to look into or is there something more?” Geoff shifts ever so slightly in his chair. There is more to this than meets the eye, but it will take digging to dig it out.
“Yes just a murder, I want to find who killed my husband and why.” Jerome O’Neil said.
A very clear statement. “Alright then, I will follow the evidence where ever it takes me to the truth, you gents ready for that?” The three nod. Speare rises and places his hat back on, shakes hands and makes his way out of the office towards the sanctuary to take a look in piece and quite.
It is a unique floor pattern, mostly tile, yet the outside frame was carpet of about two feet, and then a strip of carpet up the centre. Where the strip met the bottom step of the two steps to get up to the stage where the choir and podium were. Speare clicked on his flash light and it illuminated some subtle rust stains within the carpet still. The click of old school nursing shoes, the coffee bringer.
“Hello ma’am.” Speare doesn’t turn around to greet the new person in the sanctuary.
She walks softly, with the faintest of clicks of the shoes on linoleum. She hands Speare a fresh cup of coffee for him to sip on as he turns from a squat and sits on the step. “Thank you Mrs.….”
The lady smiles, her wrinkles seem to sparkle with the shade of silver her hair is. Looks almost like Sophia from Golden Girls. “Mrs. Lowery, Jane please.”
“Thank you Jane. You appear to be uncomfortable with what the church has hired me for.” A statement not a question, see where she goes with it.
Jane shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot, her gaze goes to the toes of her shoes, she won’t look at Speare’s eye, although that rarely says anything, due to the burns and missing eye there are many who refuse eye contact. Then there are those that hold a fiery eye contact as if they are saying “I refuse to see your pain”.
“They are not telling you everything.” Jane said.
The sanctuary door creaks open again, Speare glances up to see Geoff standing in the doorway. Jane looks to the new intruder, and quickly lets Speare know that the door at the back of the sanctuary is to the kitchen where he can leave his empty mug when he is done. Speare thanks her, and notes to follow up with Jane Lowery at another time for she appears to know more than she is saying about this simple burglary and murder.
Geoff walks up, but chooses not to use the centre aisle, rather he takes to the carpeted border against the wall of the sanctuary and makes an “L” movement towards the steps where Speare is seated. Speare takes a sip and studies the man that locks into his eye and refuses to break eye contact. A battle of wills, that Speare is unsure if Geoff knows what he has entered into it. What is the finance guy from the church hiding? What control does he have over the other two? Why is Jane Lowery so skittish to be over heard discussing the death of her minister in front of him?
What dark secrets lie in the soul of this church?
“Here is your retainer, we expect weekly updates with expenses submitted, and cheques receipted.” Geoff stated.
Speare takes the check and folds it into his jean pocket. He nods agreement to the statement. Geoff sought him out specifically for an Alpha Male play in the business relationship, to assert that Speare understood who was in charge. Speare just smiled. Everything was a clue in understanding something, and revealing another truth.
Speare watched as Geoff left the sanctuary. “What an odd little man.”