The return trip to Saint Francis took a mere fifteen minutes; but the search for a parking spot took another twenty. By the time, I found a place for Old Gray, my blood pressure was rising high and my pledge to my saintly grandmother not to curse experienced a serious setback. Thus I was thankful for the two block walk to the church offices. It did give me a few minutes to pull my soul together before I talked to the good Father and the holy Sister.
The offices for the church were located in a classic Gothic stone building with deep green shingles and bright red doors that looked as if they had been salvaged from the set of Camelot. The main door had an engraved sign that gave the instruction, PLEASE RING FOR ASSISTANCE. So I did. That white button set off a cascade of chimes that seemed to go on forever, echoing from room to room. But it did provide for what it had promised.. The old-fashioned door latch clicked and the door opened.
"Welcome, my good sir, to the Church of Saint Francis of the Little Flowers. How can I be of service?" So spoke the miniature nun who stood before me. She couldn't have been taller than four foot four. She was almost hidden within the folds of her black habit, her antique face framed in white cloth coif. Her little girl's voice tickled me a bit, but her smile was so sweet, I dared not laugh. Yet it was her dark chocolate brown eyes that so fascinated me, quite remarkable they were. They were made all the more enchanting by her wire-rim spectacles. She repeated, "Good sir, how can I be of service to you?"
"Oh, I'm sorry." I pulled out my badge and went through the ritual, "Sister, I am Lieutenant Ian MacKenzie of the Boston Police Department. I'm here to follow up on the death of Archbishop Collins."
"Such a shock for us all. He looked to be in the best of health. So sad. Well, Officer, what can we do to help?"
"Sister, I was wondering if I could speak with Father Kelly."
"Yes, of course. Come in. Oh, excuse me. Where are my manners? I'm Sister Beatrice. I'm retired really, but they let me work here as a receptionist during the week. Keeps me active, you know. Father Kelly's office is just down the hall."
"Thank you, Sister." We passed in the hall two more nuns of a younger vintage, rather pretty in their way. A couple more doors and we were at the office of the Parish Administrator.
"Father Kelly, a Lieutenant MacKenzie to see you."
"Please send him in," came the voice hidden inside the office. When I entered I found not only a gently smiling Father Kelly but also a gently crying Sister Anne. She was seated on a brown velour couch, beneath a painting of Jesus walking on the water.
Father Kelly came around his desk to offer me his hand. "Lieutenant, I was not expecting to see you after this morning. Is there a problem?"
I looked over at the grieving Sister, but, considering the rather unique relationship she had with the deceased, decided to include her in the conversation. "Sister Anne, I was told that you were related to the Archbishop."
She nodded, then stood, "Yes, Officer, I was Johnny's younger sister."
From Archbishop John Francis Collins to Johnny, now that's a leap of familiarity. "My sincerest condolences, ma'am. I am sure that this has been a very painful morning especially for you."
"You're very kind, Officer. Thank you."
"Father, Sister, we don't yet know if it were accidental or intentional, but we have medical evidence that the Archbishop was poisoned."
With that the Sister gasped and Father Kelly stood silent as he pulled his eyes off of me and down to the hardwood floor. I assumed he was thinking through the implications of the words I had just offered.