“Excuse me, young ladies,” he asked, “may I ask you a question? I am looking for a particular item that belonged to my abbey, a Celtic cross made of silver. Would you have it, by any chance?”
And on these words, he revealed his clerical collar. There was an uneasy silence as the girls looked at each others, their faces red and their hands shaking with conflicting emotions. Eventually, Sally confessed they had the cross.
“Sally!” Rebecca scolded.
“Becca, he's a priest! We can trust him! Besides, you wanted to know about that weird stuff happening, didn't you?”
“Weird stuff?” the priest asked as he sat down at their table. He looked increasingly nervous as he cast his eyes on Rebecca. “So, you have the cross, don't you?” The girl nodded. “And,” he continued, “you noticed unusual events since you found it?”
“We were attacked last week,” she confessed. “Some junkies, and... the cross, like, exploded you know, big white light, it was freaky... and... there's also...”
“An eerie feeling when you're alone? Like a presence? Visions, or nightmares? Did you also feel an increase of physical strength?”
“Yes! How do you know that? What does it mean?”
“May I see it, please?”
Slowly, reluctantly, the girl reached for her bag and took out the silver cross. At the sight of it, the priest gasped, and looked as though he had just seen a ghost. “This is It,” he murmured in admiration. “This is the Headless Cross...” then he whispered something that sounded like a prayer, but the girls couldn't understand anything, until they realized he was actually praying in French.
“Are you going to take it back?” Rebecca asked anxiously.
“It was my intention, yes, but now, in the light of what you told me...”
“What do you mean?”
“All these strange events you have experienced are caused by the Cross. It means It has chosen you to be the next Bearer. I don't know why that is, It never chose anyone else but us before, much less a woman...”
“Okay, so now can you explain what all this bearer and stuff means? And who is us?”
“Yes, I owe you an explanation, of course...”
There was a noise, and he looked around nervously to see Mr Starkweather busy sorting books on a shelf not far from them. A quick examination, however, revealed he was not actually sorting anything, just pretending, and from time to time he was casting suspicious looks at the priest.
“Could we talk somewhere else?” the priest asked. “Somewhere more quiet?”
For a moment Rebecca was suspicious, remembering what her parents told her about following strangers. Sally seemed way more eager to trust him, but Sally would never consider a priest capable of doing anything wrong. Eventually, Rebecca agreed, but only if it was a place of her choice. As they were on their way out, Rebecca stopped by the desk to borrow the books, and as the priest was out of range, Mr Starkweather took this opportunity to ask the girl:
“Do you know this man?”
“No... just met him... he just wants to talk... about something...”
“I don't like this, Rebecca. Do you have a phone?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Okay, then if you really want to talk to him, take him to a public place you know, and if he tries anything funny, call the police at once. Am I clear?”
“Yes. But don't worry, Mr Starkweather, that was already my intention.”
She felt his hand touch hers, and she felt cold steel in her palm. She looked: it was a metal letter opener. “I know it's not much,” he resumed, “but a firm stab to the leg could save your life. Have a nice day, and take care.”
Rebecca was so confused by this unexpected gift that she could barely mumble a thank-you. She felt frightened now, at the prospect of having to stab a man if anything went wrong. But she had the perfect place in mind to take the priest, if he ever tried to act strange: Fuccinelli's.