The Case of the Incontinent Curate - V
Further adventures of our fearless sleuthette.
"Oh Ned, I'm so glad you made it here in time!" Nancy whispered to her friend, as they met outside the chancellor's parlor. "Perhaps between your discoveries and mine we'll be able to get to the bottom of this riddle or enigma."
"I hope so," replied Ned, "but here's Father Bud just now."
"Come in, come in!" boomed a sunny clergyman in a cheery voice. "Why don't you sit down and tell me, in total candor of course, the full results of your investigations?"
"I'll go first," said Ned, "since Nancy asked me to sleuth out the Mystery of the Maculated Mattress Pad -- the reason why so many Cape Cod clergy were moonlighting, so to speak." He took a deep breath and plunged into his story.
"You remember Father Spags, the lovable Boston priest who took a sabbatical to run a bed & breakfast in Yarmouthport on the Cape before being arraigned for an incident with a lad that never took place and who was practically a grown man, for God's sake? Well Spags's roommate had a friend who had a friend who knew Shawn Schirmer, an exceptionally obliging youth. You see, after Father Bernie's handyman Paul croaked his party chum Jon and hid the stiff, he left his own car in Father's Bernie's driveway and drove the dearly departed Jon's car to a supermarket and ditched it there, then called Shawn to drive back to Father Bernie's house. Shawn admits he was special friends with Paul and special friends with Fr. Bernie and special friends with Fr. Don, a priest in good standing, who was also on leave from the church working to help sex criminals satiate themselves back into good citizens -- as happened with his patient Paul, who became a special friend of Fr. Don and Fr. Bernie as well. What we might call the Halter & Hosiery Society. Clear so far?
"Perfectly," said the beaming priest.
"Now comes the tricky part," continued Ned. "When Jon's corpse turned up and Paul got busted, some people wanted to ask Fr. Bernie why Paul was both his boyfriend and on his payroll, but Fr. Bernie is a shy man and insisted his conversations with Paul were protected by a seal of confession -- a seal so sacred that it lasted nearly five weeks, after which Fr. Bernie arranged a lie detector test to prove he knew nothing about the knife in Jon's head and that Paul was outstanding with a lawn mower."
"Truly outstanding with a mower!" interrupted Nancy. "I've come back today from the Probate Court and found that Fr. Bernie rewrote his will to leave the choice bits to Paul -- the better part of four million dollars. He also set aside ten thousand for Father Gil, who also lives on Cape Cod and who, coincidentally, is on leave from the church for the same reasons as Father Spags!"
"Small world!" exclaimed Ned.
"Small world!" exclaimed Father Bud.
"Small world!" agreed Nancy. "Although in Father Gil's case there were six boys the sensitive incident didn't happen with. Now it's sweet of Fr. Bernie to provide for his yard help and fellow priests so generously, but there's a teeny problem in that it seems Fr. Bernie didn't pay for his properties with his own money but with parish funds and -- let's just say some people have suspicious minds."
"Deplorable!" said the priest, shaking his head.
"Well," she resumed, "it all comes out right in the end. No jail for Fr. Gil. No jail for Fr. Don. No jail for Fr. Bernie -- though the diocese did convince him to give back ...?"
The clergyman coughed. "One million three hundred thousand," he said, reaching into a drawer. He pulled out a brick of crisp thousand dollar notes and began dealing them onto the desk blotter.
"So Ned and I," continued Nancy, looking intently at the growing stack and winking to her friend, "have concluded that Fr. Spags's B&B and Fr. Don's therapy service and Fr. Bernie's interesting investments are all understandable responses to a common problem."
Father Bud looked up from his desk.
"I said" Nancy repeated, "they are understandable responses to a common problem." Another twenty bills were added to the pile. "These fine men were protecting themselves against underfunding of the diocesan pension fund."
"Nancy, you're a marvel!" breathed Ned, as he stood and helped her into her sky-blue gabardine jacket.
"Just a matter of paying attention," Nancy replied modestly, patting her plump pocketbook. "The regrettable history recounted here today -- is history."
"Phoenix on the phone for you, Miss Drew," said a secretary, trotting into the room. "They say it's urgent."
"Heavens!" gasped Nancy. "What can this mean ...?"
To be continued.
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