Because―” Her eyes snapped open and she grinned. “―because I’m the best.”
Maris said nothing, but it was clear that Olivia wasn’t wrong.
The Deathsniffer chuckled, and reached down to loop her arms under her assistant’s elbow, yanking him up to his feet. “Well,” she said as Chris struggled in half-hearted protest, “Please, don’t keep us waiting! Lead the way, Officer!”
bove all other places of worship in Darrington, there loomed The Cathedral of the Blessed Heart of the Holy Family. The massive cathedral had been built long before Richard Lowry had even been born, and it had grown as Darrington had blossomed from a small university town into the centre of Tarlish life. It boasted a grand sanctuary, luxurious quarters for its holy family, the largest congregation in Tarland, and six full towers, each with a set of bells that clanged and bonged every day at noon. Heart Church, as it was called, was the centre of spiritual life in Darrington, and it had been defiled with murder.
In the oppressive heat, the carriage was sweltering and full to bursting. Chris focused on his notebook. He didn’t weave, only listened.
“It’s important that we keep this a secret,” Maris was saying. “No reporters can hear about this and snap some photographs of you investigating, Faraday. The last thing we need is hysteria. That means
There was a pout in Olivia’s voice. She shifted unhappily. “I’m always discreet.”
“But the other families need to be warned,” Mother Greta protested. “If an evil spiritbinder is killing our children, we need to protect them!”
“We’ll do what we can,” Maris assured. “We don’t intend to leave the holy families in the dark about this. But that said, this absolutely can’t reach the press, and I need you to be discreet as well, Mother.”
Chris let the conversation drift away from him, staring down at the book. He should be noting everything, but his thoughts were so full of Fernand that he knew the notes would be unreadable. For more reasons than one.
Fernand had been a believer. A conservative old fellow, always supporting the traditional ways, always praying before a meal, and always attending Heart Church for services every evening. Sometimes, he’d even made time for morning services. Chris had teased him, and Fernand had not found it funny.
Belief is important, young master,
he’d said stiffly.
If anything, I should be trying to get you to come with me. You, of all people, need something to bring you hope and joy.
Hope and joy would be in short supply in Heart Church today. It would have broken Fernand’s heart to hear that his beloved house of worship had become a murder scene.
Something shoved him.
Startled, Chris swung his gaze over to see Olivia staring at him, lips pressed in a line. “Hello,” she said, not quite friendly. “Do I pay you to daydream?”
Chris ducked his head. “No, ma’am.”
“I didn’t think so! Though if I did, I’d hire you for the position, because you’re very good at it. Now,” Olivia said before Chris could feebly protest. “Please, Missus Milton, continue telling us about the rest of your… ‘family.’”
Mother Greta looked obviously perturbed at being called by her surname. Which was Olivia’s intent. She always managed to find the mode of address that would most irritate the person she used it on. Usually given names. This was a special exception. The priestess smoothed her habit.
“There’s my husband and the Church Father, Otis. We married and graduated from Maiden and Youth status only a few years ago. He’s a good man. Our parents, Harriet and Thaddeus Townsend, are very old now. They didn’t hear anything at all last night, and poor Grandmother Harriet, especially… she’s inconsolable about what happened. She was so close with the children.” Mother Greta hung her head. “Lachlan, of course. Oh, poor Lachlan. He was the most lovely young man. Polite, sweet,