No Human Enemy (Suzie Mountford Mysteries)

No Human Enemy (Suzie Mountford Mysteries) by John Gardner Read Free Book Online

Book: No Human Enemy (Suzie Mountford Mysteries) by John Gardner Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Gardner
have the facts.’
    ‘Detective Chief Superintendent,’ Tommy corrected, jealous of his rank, and Mother Rachel spread her hands in apology. Then Tommy broke the news that two of her novices were dead, killed by a flying bomb, one was in hospital, and there was another body. ‘A male, dressed as a novice, with his throat cut.’
    ‘A man? Dressed as a…? As a novice? A man? And his throat cut? That’s very unusual in a religious house.’
    ‘I’m afraid so, Mother, yes.’
    ‘Right,’ thought Suzie, ‘dead unusual in a religious house.’
    ‘Someone dressed in drag, eh?’ Mother Rachel said in her loudest voice, again taking them by surprise. ‘Oh my dear Superintendent, we know all the words, and that’s what they are, only words – though perish the thought if people ever become so degraded to use the worst of them in ordinary speech.’
    ‘Amen to that,’ Sister Eunice said solemnly, making the sign of the cross.
    ‘What do you wish us to do?’ Mother Rachel, serious now.
    ‘We would like you to formally identify the bodies,’ Tommy dropped his voice. ‘Also I’d like you to look at the male corpse and tell us if you recognise him. Are any men allowed into the convent?’
    ‘Oh, yes. Father Sheldon, the vicar of St James’s, and his three curates, Fathers Carefull, Judge and Evans. Good priests all of them. In the constitution the good Canon Brooking laid down for us all those years ago, he made it the specific job of the priests of St James’s, to minister to us. This saves much trouble.’
    ‘Anybody else, apart from the clergy?’
    ‘We have a gardener, Mr Cobbs, and he usually has two young men to assist him. They don’t stay long these days as they are quickly called up to serve in the Forces, so we have had a member of the Land Army – a nice cheery girl called Topsy – posted to us … a land girl. I am told she spends a lot of her spare time at the palais de danse and in the Grove public house, but what is one to do? Mr Cobbs made a remark about her giving a new meaning to back to the land.’ She paused, sighing. ‘I expect all our lay staff to come to the sung mass on Sunday and they mostly do.’
    ‘We grow all our own vegetables, and keep chickens also,’ Sister Eunice told them, apparently harking back to Mr Cobb and his team.
    ‘We also have a general odd-job man, Mr Taylor, who gets in specialists if we need help.’
    ‘Like in that terrible winter of 1939/40,’ Eunice added. ‘We had an awful time with the water pipes and cisterns being frozen. Dear Mr Taylor, he worked positive miracles.’
    ‘Of course you’d recognise any of these gentlemen?’
    ‘But of course. We know them well.’
    ‘Then I think we should take both of you down to the hospital, and the mortuary, so you can view the bodies. Then, perhaps, we could come back here and you may be able to give us some details. Parents, addresses, that kind of thing.’
    ‘Yes.’ A cloud seemed to cross Mother Rachel’s face. ‘We shall, of course, have to inform the unfortunate victims’ families. I do so hate that kind of thing.’
    ‘I think you can probably leave that to us,’ Tommy told her, and the Mother Superior nodded, looking relieved.
    As she stood up Tommy asked, ‘And they are the only men who come into the convent: Mr Cobb, Mr Taylor, and the clergy?’
    Mother Rachel sat down again. ‘No, there are odd priests of course. Some of them very odd. We have people who come to take retreats – times of devotion and meditation. And once a month we have a different preacher of a Sunday. Some good … some … well, last month we had an RAF padre. He was not a success; announced that his sermon was “Shooting a line for God”. Not the best of starts.’ She swallowed hard. ‘Alas, he continued to talk about a Christian death being a wizard prang for God. I really cannot stand slangy people. The way that one talked we’d be using slang in the responses – “The Lord be with you.” –

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