OFFICE OF THE DEAD - Free Chapter of a Monastic Mystery Book
This document contains a free chapter, chapter one, from a book called Office of the Dead. The Office of the Dead books are a series of monastic mystery books that are set in contemporary times and in various locations throughout the world.

January 03rd 2009 - Chapter 1

Chill bit into the night air. Ice blue illuminated the room and washed over him like water color, making the midnight shadow on his jaw seem blacker and his eyes more hollow. He read from the computer screen out loud as he stood before it: "But if anyone leads astray one of these little ones who believes in me, he would be better off thrown in the depths of the sea with a millstone hung around his neck!"
"What in the name of God does that mean?" mumbled Detective David Gold.
"It's a quotation from the Christian Gospel," whispered a small pleasant voice from behind him. Dr. Chantal Fleur was called in on this case because she was a friend of the family and she was well aware that the detective didn't seem too comfortable with either of those facts. Her healthy looking chin-length brown hair bounced as she stepped back from Gold when he responded.
"I go to temple from time to time but must have missed that one," he stated, as his two hundred plus pounds turned toward the forensic psychologist behind him. Gold reverenced Christ as a great prophet. "I suppose Jesus is the one who said what's on the screen. You would know more about that than me, having gone through Catholic school."
"That's what one would think," she said, "but these days I'm pretty much of an agnostic. You know, not believing in or denying the existence of God. How about we turn on the lights and take a look around, Detective?"

"Sounds okay to me," he said half-heartedly. "Just don't touch anything or interfere with what we are doing in any way. My men are out at the pool guarding the crime scene and just waiting for the coroner to arrive and when he does, they will be all over the place in here."
Wailing and sobbing penetrated the office from outside and made them both reflexively look out the window toward the pool. Chantal left abruptly and rushed toward a lanky looking man slumped in a beach chair sobbing. In his mid-fifties, silver hair, completely distraught, he was the husband of the victim. An officer stood by him, inwardly hoping that his presence would be of some comfort, although the officer had nothing to say.
"John, let's go in the house and talk."
The man eventually rose from the beach chair as if in a trance and followed Chantal through the office, past the computer with the cryptic message, and into the early American living room. Behind them the garish red and blue lights of police cars and the rescue squad whirled, flooding the atmosphere with a harsh carnival mood. The coroner was there now, removing a woman's body from the pool. Even though it was only shortly after midnight, he looked unshaven and half asleep.
"When did you last see Beth, John?" asked Chantal in a voice as soothing and gentle as stringed music.
"About eight o'clock," he replied numbly. "I went over to my office to see patients this evening as usual and did a little paper work afterwards, returning here close to eleven. She was nowhere to be found. I couldn't even find a note from her and all I saw was that sentence on the computer screen. Is that some indirect type of suicide note?"
"I can't say yet, John, but we'll put it all together, I promise you. Right now we need to keep the focus on you."

"Dr. Fleur, can you come in here for a moment please?" Detective Gold boomed from the next room.
"Concentrate on some deep and easy breathing, John. Say the word 'one' or 'Jesus' each time you exhale. I'll be back as soon as I can."
She went into Beth's office. Gold's angry face met hers. His eyes bored holes through her skull.
"Please don't interrogate Dr. Johnson-Angelo. We want to keep him fresh for our people."
"I am just here as a friend, Detective; I'm not doing any interrogating. He is obviously in psychological shock and I am trying to minimize his symptoms."
"Sure you're not interrogating anyone, Doctor."
"Listen, I know that you don't like me, or perhaps it's just that you don't like my presence here. In either case, permit me to tell you that Beth and I went to grade school and high school together; we've been friends all our lives. We were split up for only a few years when she entered the Visitation Monastery in Wilmington, Delaware. The Order she entered was a cloistered one and we didn't see each other during my college years, but later, with the changes in the Church which came about through Vatican Council II, rules were relaxed and we got to see each other more frequently. She left religious life in the early seventies during a lot of the turbulence following the Council. She was progressive and her Order was not progressive enough for her. Beth worked hard and continued her education, getting an STD--that's a Doctorate in Sacred Theology."

The detective didn't seem impressed and responded smugly. "The way I hear it, this lady was not only too progressive for the Order she was in, but for the rest of the Church as well."
"Yes," Chantal countered with a tone of pride in her voice. "She had articles published in scholarly journals on everything from the Church's response to the poor, to the role of women in society and the Church. She was a scholar; she was a thinker. Beth was a prayerful woman. She made people uncomfortable sometimes, but that's because I think she was prophetic."
"Prophetic?" interrupted the detective. "Isn't that a Jewish concept?"
"The tradition continued into Christianity. Many people think that prophets are similar to fortune tellers, but actually they are women and men who believe that they have a message from the Lord for the rest of society. Most of the time we don't want to hear the message. They got their fortune teller reputation because in the Jewish Bible, at least, they would often say that if such-and-such a behavior or attitude wasn't changed, something negative would occur, and it often did."
"Doctor, why would this lady want to kill herself?"
"I don't think Beth did, Detective."
"Well," the investigator mumbled in a dubious tone, "when the coroner is through we'll know whether it's suicide or murder. Please stay away from everyone involved--Okay?"
"I'll not disrupt your investigation, Detective, but my friend needs me at this time."

A blue uniformed police officer trying to mask his anxiety by an abrupt air and confident gait came into the room. He couldn't have been more than twenty-two years of age. "The coroner just left with the body, sir, and the team wants to come into the house now and gather evidence in here."
"Fine, officer, send them in." Eyeing Chantal, Gold continued: "On second thought, Doctor," he said, "maybe you can be of some help. Why not take the husband out for a little walk or something until we're through."
"Suits me fine, Detective."

Contact Member:
Brother Bernard Seif, SMC, EdD, DNM
420 Frantz Road - Salesian Monastery (Not 414, which is an internet error)
Brodheadsville, PA 18322-7722
United States / e-mail:
iUniverse, Inc. Publishers