the church murder case (part fifteen)

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"Who was the dead man?" I asked. "Do you know who he was?" I thought this question engaged Ron's interest a bit, though she was clearly getting bored.

"He was a tramp," Father Frank said. "We called him Toledo, since it seemed he came from there. He was a bit dotty, including about his name. Harmless, but not totally..." He tapped his forehead, and my employer nodded. "He slept in the church some nights. I'm always flexible about people sleeping here, especially if it's cold out. One of the many things which my brother considers shocking and improper. I'm hoping that Toledo died of natural causes, and my brother decided to use his body to create that awful tableau."

Ron was starting to get bored again, rocking back and forth and looking around the room, so I said, "I want to know what happened to Ron." I turned to her. "I thought you'd gone away, though I was certainly glad when it turned out you were here."

She smiled. "You would have taken him, Dad."

I laughed. "That wasn't the question."

"Well, Father Frank caught me writing on the wall this morning. He sent a note to you guys, then he made me wait in a smelly little room, but then the loony guy came in–"

"In deference to Father Frank's feelings, maybe we could just call him by his name."

"Is this a quiz? I don't know his name."

I turned to Father Frank, half-expecting my employer to produce the name, but it was the priest who answered. "His name is Joe. Joseph."

She shrugged. "Okay. So, he came in and he told me I had to act like he was Father Frank when you got here. He showed me a gun and said he'd shoot you if I messed up.

"But I wasn't worried, because I thought you'd see through him, and you'd point at him and say, 'You're not Father Frank!' But you didn't say that, and then you took his side, against me." She was looking at the floor. "I was mad, so I went away...

"But then I started to think about the gun the loony guy had, and I knew I had to come back and rescue you."

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About Anthony Lee Collins

I write.
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