Back in Father Frank's office, we resumed our seats. Ron had gone off to wreak havoc somewhere else.
"My initial questions were not unimportant," the priest began. He opened one of his desk drawers and brought out a large glass ashtray, which he slid across the desk to my employer. "You always say people should bring their problems to you."
"True, though we don't claim that we'll always be able to solve them." She tapped her ash into the ashtray.
"Well, my first concern was whether you'd even see this situation as a problem." Seeing her impatience, he continued. "The diocese wants to close this church."
She nodded. "I see. And you wondered whether we'd care one way or the other, or if we'd even welcome it."
He raised his eyebrows, clearly asking the question.
"Well," she said. "speaking just for myself, do I want this church to close? No, I don't. From a personal point of view, I would like it to close someday for lack of interest. But there is clearly interest now. You have a large congregation, one which is quite active in the community. For example, I know that your church has taken on almost total responsibility for staffing the hospital on Saturdays, including arranging for replacements when one or more volunteers are going to be unavailable. I don't have to tell you what a help that is to the regular staff.
"There are several other factors as well, but I'm still not sure why you wanted to start our conversation with a discussion of some issues where you already know that we disagree."
"The bishop is very much in favor of dialog. Even if it does not yield immediate results."
"So, you want to be able to report to him that you're talking with us. Even..." She frowned. "By the way, I do hope that 'dialog' isn't being used as a verb. If you're reporting that you're 'dialogging' with us..." She shuddered. "I might have to abandon you to your fate."
The priest shook his head. "No, I have never said that. I will, however, tell you that my bishop has said exactly that. Twice."
She shuddered again, delicately. "Then we will have to help you triumph over him. Please describe the situation. You are about to tell me that you have a mystery for me to solve. Let's suspend discussion of these other topics and move right to that."
"Well, there is a connection, since there has been a murder here. That will–"
"Indeed. Now this all starts to make some sense. You want this murder solved, in such a way that the bishop never hears about it. Because it might sway his decision about closing the church."
"That would be ideal, of course. For various reasons, however, I suspect that it will not be possible."
She smiled. "I'm sure I don't need to tell you that I make no guarantees." She stood up. "Let's go. I'm impatient to see this."
He smiled. "One might almost think that you like it when one person murders another."
"One might almost think you're chiding me for enjoying the very thing you want me to do for you."