“Before I start that typical ‘forgive me father yadda, yadda yadda,’ I must tell you something. It will help you understand the rest of the story, father. One of the things that constantly gets to me, is the lack of ownership. Most people would just shrug it off, but good or bad I can’t do that. Even the Good Book calls for accountability. So, when I pushed your brother off the roof of the building, I found I needed to confess, tell my side, so to speak. I wanted …no I needed to own up to my deed.”
The dismayed gasp from the other side of the partition was involuntary, as Nina knew it would be. She didn’t know how long she would have the priest’s attention and if she wanted to get out of there before, he made a scene she needed to finish quickly. “What’s the matter father, aren’t you going to forgive me for my sins. No hail Mary’s and tell me to repent. Or is your forgiveness only offered to pedophiles like your brother and yourself. That’s all-right father, I don’t want or need your forgiveness. The town of Hanover paid for my clean conscience and any forgiveness I might need. They were specific in their instructions. They wanted you to know pain, humiliation, fear and… justice. So, know this, I am coming for you. And you will know hell on earth. You can’t go to the police, or they will find out what sick pervert you are.”
“It’s not true. You couldn’t have killed him. I just talked to him.”
“Yes, you did. I was there when you were making dinner plans. What kind of human being are you that you couldn’t tell your baby brother was standing on the edge of a building holding on for dear life while you were prattling on about lamb chops and rosemary?”
No, I don’t believe you. It’s not …you couldn’t have … you murder.” The priest cried anguished.
Nina scoffed and continued in a condensing tone. “Tisk, tisk, a pervert priest calling names. What a shock! Well since you’re not going to give me a penance, I guess we are done. I trust I still have the seal of the confessional. It would make things a little awkward when the police investigate and question why you broke it for this but kept quiet about the gang member’s murder a couple of months back.”
Pleased with herself and how easy this job was going Nina adjusted the big floppy hat and wig, stood opened the confessional door and peered into the church. She knew it would be a mistake to try to leave. People noticed things like that and tended to remember after the fact. His shock and disbelief wouldn’t hold him much longer. Keeping with her disguise instead she hobbled over to one of the benches as far from the confessional as she could without making it obvious and sat down. Her goal was to look as if she had just come into the sprawling interior of the large catholic church.
She had only a minute to spare before the balding man in church robes burst out of the confessional wildly looking around. Which meant he had tried to call Jacob and received no answer.
“Did anyone see the woman? She would have left the confessional two minutes ago.” Jerimiah asked the almost empty room.
Several of the perishers looked up from their prayers and shook their heads. Even Nina turned to reply with a negative shake of the head. Several of the nuns who had been in the front row making supplications moved in the direction of the priest.
“Sister Mary Margret, call the police. There has been a murder.”
“A murder? Who? How do you know?” the nun’s agitated voice responded.
Jerimiah scrutinized the small congregation. The partition didn’t allow him a good look at the woman who confessed but of the six parishioners he didn’t see anyone who could be the voice in the cubical. He cursed his inattentiveness when she had first joined him. Maybe then he could have pointed her out to the police. If she thought he was going to hold the sanctity of the confessional sacred, she was wrong. “Jacob. She killed Jacob. The woman in the confessional.”
“But father, no one was in the confessional, and no one left.” A young woman in shorter version of the habit walked up joining the group of nuns.
“Elizabeth, “Mary Margret chided the novice. “This is none of your concern. Finish your duties and return to the convent.”
Nina was starting to get concerned. If the priest didn’t leave the church soon then her entire plan was toast. She pulled the walker she was using as a prop and dug through the bag in the basket and glanced at the cell phone screen. Placing her finger over the home screen she unlocked the streaming video. There was Jacob where she left him. He wasn’t dead yet, but she didn’t know how much time she still had.
Debating what to do was eating precious time, but if she called attention to herself now someone was bound to remember her. Yet just waiting for him to leave wasn’t working either. Indecision was eating at her, but she had never pulled anything this elaborate before. Against her better judgement she tucked the phone back into the bottom of her purse and made to stand when fate intervened
The church doors burst open, and three teenagers entered the great hall. They were laughing way too loud, pushing, and shoving each other. Someone eight feet away could smell the alcohol. The one who seemed to be the leader yelled “Yo Father, you got another one to pray for. The dude jumped.” He hiccupped, burst out laughing and singsong said, “my bad, you guys don’t pray for suckas who kill themselves.”
It was just the right push Jerimiah needed. The normally stoic priest pulled his robe up to his thighs and started running toward the door. He quickly looked over his shoulder and yelled, “call the police, she pushed him. It wasn’t suicide. She confessed.”
Nina was already standing and moving toward the door also when fate intervened again with the help of those same three very drunk teenagers. The four of them went down in a tangle of arms and legs. The nuns rushed forward to help Nina thinking she was the old lady she pretended to be and to chastise the boys.
“Look grandma’s fallen and she can’t get up,” the smart ass with the mouth said.
If she weren’t incognito Nina would have taught the demented morons a lesson, but she was, and they were smashed out of their minds and wouldn’t remember it anyway. So instead, she allowed the two sisters standing with Mary Margret to help her to her feet and mumbled in a feeble voice about being clumsy.
It wasn’t until the Novice Elizabeth placed her scattered bag back in the walker basket and handed her phone that Nina knew she had been made. She glanced down at the screen and almost breathed a sigh of relief the lock screen was in place. She glanced once more into the novice’s eyes to see if absolute knowledge was there. Nina’s heart dropped she didn’t know what gave her away to the nun in training, but the woman knew. If the girl weren’t going to give her away now it was something she would have to deal with later. She needed to get out of the church before the priest got to his brother’s house.
She held her breath waiting for the other shoe to drop and the novice to betray her. When the girl stepped back and bowed her head Nina knew Elizabeth wouldn’t say anything … for now. But that was a worry for another time. As she hobbled toward the door, she heard Mary Margret and Agnus Marie discussing calling the police and smiled. The plan was back on schedule. As she hobbled down the stairs one at a time her heart pounded against her chest as the novice ran forward to help her down the stairs.
“I know who you are. I promise I won’t tell anyone about you, but you must come back here tonight.”
Nina didn’t know what the girl knew but now she was against the clock. She waited until she was on the bottom step, and she said quietly, “If you know who I am do you think asking me to comeback is a good thing?”
A shiver ran up the girl’s frame and Nina wasn’t sure if it was from the biting November wind or fear but the look in the novice’s eyes showed that she was not going to cower. “No. But you are going to have to deal with me tonight or…”
Nina held up two heavily latex fingers and dropped her voice to a horse whisper, “It is not wise to threaten. Unforeseen consequences have been known to …happen.”
“Oh, I wasn’t threatening. But you will have to deal with me. Your kind doesn’t like loose ends. I will wait for you in the rectory tonight.” With that the novice turned and ran back up the concrete stairs and back into the large arched doorway.
Nina’s barrowed cadi was just down the block. She needed to get in and drive away without calling attention to herself in less than five minutes. If Braxton PD held to schedule the first police car would be here in seven minutes. Her disguise would hold up among the faithful of Saint Francis Catholic Church. But not for a detective’s interrogation. She hobbled a little less and pushed the walker a little faster and hoped everyone had cellphone tunnel vision.
She shoved the walker without folding it into the large back seat of the 1983 Cadillac. The car was ancient, but it fit her disguise so well she had to use it. It was a good thing too because as she closed the driver’s side door the first patrol car pulled up. Nina pulled away from the curb as two more patrol cars passed her. The jumper had not been part of her plan, but she was grateful his death would do some good.
The old brownstone apartment building was just around the corner. She had made good time considering. If her luck held old Mrs. Atkins would still be sleeping and never know that Nina borrowed her look and her car. She pulled the cadi into the parking space provided, even going as far as to put one wheel on the curb like its owner left it last night. The best thing about wearing as much latex as she was there wasn’t a lot of forensic evidence left behind. Just to be sure, a quick wipe of the seat as she got out of the car and pushed the door shut with her hip. Opening the door with the handkerchief she reached in and pulled out the walker.
So far so good Nina though placing the keys on the peg by the door. From there she started stripping, rolling the old lady’s garments and hair into a ball. By the time she got to the kitchen where the tiny washer dryer combo was, she was down to her bra and underwear. She shoved everything including the wig into the washer basin. Her latex face and hands were next when a sound alerted her to the presence of someone else moving around the apartment. She had just a second to grab the first piece of clothing in the dryer. To her horror it was the muumuu she gave Mrs. Atkins when she moved in.
Relief flooded Nina, it was Joanna Mrs. Atkins’ daytime nurse. She would look in on the old lady once a day and make sure she had taken her medicine. She was a simple woman and believed what Nina told her. It wouldn’t be hard to convince her that she had just been out for a run and threw the gown on to do some laundry.
“Is the Misses up?” Nina said gauging her new companion.
“Oh yes. She got up about half an hour ago. She was looking for you.”
It took everything in her power not to groan. That meant her alibi had been up for most of the visit with the priest. And while she was old Mrs. Atkins was sharp as a tack. There would be no fooling her.
“Halloween was yesterday. Why on earth are you carrying around that mask?”
How many times did she have to remind herself not to crow before the job was done? Here she was thinking how well things were going and everything was falling apart. If she weren’t careful, she would have to kill three more people tonight. Nina briefly looked to the heavens and silently said, “You could help. I was cleaning up for you.” Not expecting an answer or help she took a deep breath to respond and was saved.
“Joanna,” the raspy voice called from the back bedroom.
“I better go see what she wants.”
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