Será Joseph Cook

The Last Supper

2019.04.13 01:00 TheWelshWitch The Last Supper

You have been cordially invited to the Estate of Mr. J. P. Montgomery on Assateague Island, Virginia, for a dinner in your honor.
The preceding invitation was sent to ten persons — Hon. Mr. J. Thaddeus, 47, and Mrs. Ruth D. Davidson Allen, 45; Dr. James L. Curtis, 40; Mrs. Miriam M. Arden Ellis Thomas, 33; Mrs. Esther T. Thomas Fitzroy, 53, and Ms. Dinah M. Murray, 27; Fr. Peter P. Aherne, 37; Ms. Anna C. Harrington, 35; Mr. John A. Armstrong, 45, and Ms. Judith M. Day, 25. The guests arrived at Whitecliff Manor on Assateague Island, Virginia, on Sunday, May 1. Although the guests were all former friends of J. P. Montgomery, 57, most of them claimed to have no prior knowledge of other guests.
“The invitation said specifically that there was to be a dinner held in my honor,” Hon. Mr. Allen said after most of the guests introduced themselves to one another.
The guests murmured in agreement that their invitations said the same.
In confusion, Mrs. Thomas (formerly Ellis; née Arden) asked, “What does this mean?”
“It means that we have been invited here under false pretenses,” Fr. Aherne answered.
“Should we leave?” Mrs. Fitzroy — the aunt–in–law of Mrs. Thomas — asked.
“No,” Mr. Montgomery answered from the doorway of Whitecliff Manor as the guests turned to face him. “I had a purpose for inviting all of you here.”
With his secretary, Ms. Day, by his side, Mr. Armstrong said, “How did you know that we would accept the invitation?”
Mr. Montgomery chuckled as he answered, “It is unimportant.”
Before any of the guests could respond, he continued, “However, it is important that you have come. Will you come in?”
The guests regarded each other with suspicion as they approached the door of the manor, where they were greeted by the maid and the cook, whom Mr. Montgomery referred to as “Biddy” and “Mick,” respectively.
The guests were led into the front parlor of the manor in which they were greeted by a large reproduction of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.
As he laughed, Dr. Curtis said, “Is the painting a depiction of the evening ahead?”
“Perhaps,” Mr. Montgomery said as he entered the parlor. “If you will, I ask that you give your coats and hats to Biddy.”
The maid approached the guests, who gave her their coats and hats. I assisted Mrs. Fitzroy — my mistress — in handing her coat and hat to Biddy.
“Thank you, Dinah,” she said to me. After Biddy left the parlor with the guests’ belongings, a thunderclap was heard from outside. Mrs. Fitzroy continued, “Is it going to storm?”
“I believe ’tis, ma’am,” I answered.
“Shall we have a drink before dinner?” Mr. Montgomery asked the guests, all of whom nodded in agreement. After Biddy returned, she and Mick served the cocktails.
With a wave of his hand, Fr. Aherne dismissed Biddy, and he said, “Why are we here, Montgomery?”
Fr. Aherne was interrupted by Mr. Montgomery, who handed his drink to Mick, and he answered, “I believe the reason will be pleasing to you, Father. I have found God.”
Mrs. Thomas chuckled as she held her drink, “When?”
“It happened to me like St. Paul on the road to Damascus,” Mr. Montgomery said. “‘A light from Heaven shined round about me.’”
“You could never be a Christian,” Hon Mr. Allen retorted. “‘You cannot serve God and mammon.’”
After a brief pause, Mr. Montgomery continued, “Would you be interested in hearing how my conversion came about?”
“How?” Fr. Aherne asked.
“I am dying,” Mr. Montgomery answered. “The doctors have given me an estimated life expectancy of five months.”
The guests were stunned into silence. Was this an elaborate joke?
He continued, “I have observed that when one has a life expectancy of five months, one tends to look Heavenward.”
“Are you telling the truth?” Dr. Curtis asked, the other guests’ mouths agape.
“Yes,” Mr. Montgomery said as he drew closer to Dr. Curtis in the middle of the parlor.
Dr. Curtis asked a follow–up question, “What is your diagnosis?”
“Cancer,” Mr. Montgomery answered. “Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
“Why did you invite us here?” Mrs. Thomas asked.
With a sigh, Mr. Montgomery answered, “I wanted to make amends before my death.”
“Do any of you believe him?” Mr. Armstrong asked.
The guests once more murmured amongst themselves before Biddy entered the parlor and announced that dinner was ready to be served.
“Please,” Mr. Montgomery besought the guests. “The Apostles did not refuse Jesus to be present at His Last Supper.”
After a moment of hesitation, Fr. Aherne led the way for the guests to the dining room like Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. There were place cards for each of the guests — including myself — on the dining room table. We sat at our seats, and Biddy served the first course of the dinner. None of the guests ate much of their food.
“‘Eat, and drink, and be merry,’” Mr. Montgomery recited. “Do not let my news deter you from partaking in the feast at hand.”
As Biddy cleared the plates, Mick served the second course of the dinner. At the behest of Mr. Montgomery, the guests ate more of their food during the second course. Mr. Armstrong and Ms. Day shared a bottle of red wine, which was intercepted by Hon. Mr. Allen, who poured a glass of wine for each of the guests, excluding Fr. Aherne, who chose to drink ice water. After the second course of the dinner was finished, the appetites of most of the guests were sated. While the guests awaited dessert, they began to talk amongst themselves to relieve the tension in the dining room.
“Do you know the names of your servants, Joseph, or do you call them ‘Biddy’ and ‘Mick’ out of spite?” Mrs. Fitzroy asked.
“I have never thought it important to learn their names,” Mr. Montgomery answered. Before Biddy could return to the kitchen, he grabbed her gently by the arm, and he asked her, “What is your name?”
“Nora, sir.”
“Nora,” he repeated. “Nora, I apologize for calling you by a name that was not yours for all of the years that you have served me.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Do you forgive me?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Thank you,” Mr. Montgomery said as he released her arm from his grip, and she returned to the kitchen.
“Why, I believe that you were sincere in your apology, Joseph,” Mrs. Fitzroy said in astonishment.
“I was sincere, Esther,” he replied. “I must repent of my sins.”
“A toast to you, Saint Joseph Patrick Montgomery,” Mrs. Thomas said with wine glass in hand.
The newly rechristened Nora returned from the kitchen with the dessert, which she served as the guests continued to talk amongst themselves.
With a congenial smile, Mrs. Allen asked, “What is your line of business, Mr. Armstrong? My husband mentioned that you are a businessman.”
“I am a certified public accountant,” Mr. Armstrong answered. “Ms. Day is my secretary.”
“What does a certified public accountant do?”
As Mrs. Allen and Mr. Armstrong talked about the duties of an accountant, Mrs. Thomas asked, “Would anyone mind if I smoked a cigarette?”
“No,” Mr. Montgomery answered. “You may do as you please.”
Mrs. Thomas nodded her head as she withdrew a cigarette from her gilded case, which was lit by a match provided by Mr. Montgomery.
Mrs. Fitzroy rolled her eyes before she said, “Ms. Harrington, I was enthralled by your portrayal of Portia in The Merchant of Venice in the West End.”
“Thank you,” Ms. Harrington responded.
After he finished his dessert, Mr. Montgomery stood from his chair, which drew all of the eyes of the guests to him.
“If you will all excuse me,” he said. “I will return in a moment.”
The guests nodded their heads in unison, and Mr. Montgomery left the dining room.
“No one answered my question,” Mr. Armstrong said after his conversation with Mrs. Allen trailed off. “Does anyone believe that Montgomery has become a Christian?”
“Mr. Armstrong. . . .” Mrs. Allen began. “I believe a question of that nature would be best answered by Father Aherne.”
The eyes of the guests were now drawn to Fr. Aherne, who drank from his glass of ice water.
“I believe that we should give Mr. Montgomery the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “After all, St. Paul was a murderous Pharisee who participated in the stoning of St. Stephen before his conversion.”
“However, Mr. Montgomery is not a saint,” Mrs. Thomas said in between a drag of her cigarette.
“The point of the matter is that we cannot judge the soul of another based on previous experiences. His vices and virtues are known to God, and he will be judged accordingly,” Fr. Aherne concluded.
After a brief pause, Mrs. Fitzroy asked, “How do all of us know Mr. Montgomery, but not each other?”
“We are all in different social circles,” Mrs. Thomas answered.
“That is true, but we should have at least heard of each other,” Mr. Allen said. “Mr. Montgomery was always hosting a party.”
The guests murmured amongst themselves as the time began to pass by. Mr. Armstrong stood up from his seat, and he turned on the record player in the dining room. The voice of Doris Day echoed in the large dining room as she crooned “Que Será, Será.”
Que será, será / Whatever will be, will be / The future’s not ours to see / Que será, será. . . .
An hour passed by without the return of Mr. Montgomery. The first person to bring it to our attention was Mr. Armstrong.
“Where is our host?” Mr. Armstrong asked the guests.
“Shall we look for him?” Mrs. Fitzroy answered with a question of her own.
“That is what I intend to do.”
The guests stood up from their chairs, and they left the dining room to enter the parlor. In the parlor, Mr. Montgomery was discovered slouched against the wall on which was held the painting of The Last Supper. Dr. Curtis approached him, and he announced that he was unable to locate a pulse. He attempted to resuscitate Mr. Montgomery, but Dr. Curtis eventually conceded defeat, and he pronounced him dead of causes unknown. The eyes of the guests widened in shock. In his hands, Mr. Montgomery held a stack of index cards, and Dr. Curtis retrieved them.
“What is that?” Hon. Mr. Allen asked.
“A speech,” Dr. Curtis answered.
“And the subject of the speech?” Mrs. Fitzroy asked.
“The speech is entitled, ‘Laughing Sinners.’”
“What does that mean?” Mrs. Allen asked.
Dr. Curtis began to read the speech as written on the index cards, “‘Dearly beloved. . . . You know that Jesus Christ sat with His Apostles at the Last Supper, which included Judas, who would betray Him. As Scripture saith, ‘He ate with sinners.’ In like manner, I have also supped this evening with sinners. ‘Judge not, that you may not be judged.’ It is not out of judgment that I have sent for you, but charity. I have aided all of you in sin — a sin that crieth to Heaven for vengeance. ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ And yet all of us seated here have killed. The Honorable Mr. Allen, who sentenced a man to death for murder, a crime which the Honorable Mr. Allen was aware that the aforementioned man did not commit. Doctor Curtis, who diagnosed. . . .” Dr. Curtis trailed off.
“Read on,” Mr. Armstrong besought Dr. Curtis.
“No,” Hon. Mr. Allen said. “It is nothing but abominable lies.”
“Give it to me,” Mr. Armstrong said while he collected the index cards from Dr. Curtis. As he handed Fr. Aherne the index cards, he said, “He should read it.”
After a brief pause, Fr. Aherne continued the speech, “Doctor Curtis, who diagnosed a patient with psychosomaticism, and the patient died of a brain glioma three months later. Mrs. Thomas, who caused the death of her child while he was in her womb. Mrs. Fitzroy, whose neglect of her husband during his final illness caused his death. Father Aherne. . . .” Fr. Aherne trailed off briefly before he continued. “. . . .Father Aherne, whose driving while under the influence of alcohol caused the death of a child. Ms. Harrington — née Blumenthal — who killed herself per se by using a stage name to conceal her Jewish heritage. Mr. Armstrong, whose affair with his secretary, Ms. Day, has caused the death of his marriage to Mrs. Armstrong. With this dinner, I call upon all of us to repent of our sins. Penance, penance, penance. Regards, Mr. J. P. Montgomery.”
The guests exclaimed in unison that the claims that were made by Mr. Montgomery in the speech were erroneous. All of the guests attempted to retrieve their coats and hats to leave Whitecliff Manor, and Hon. Mr. and Mrs. Allen, Mr. Armstrong, and Ms. Day were the first to reach the road which led to the mainland. The guests continued to drive toward the mainland, but Mr. Armstrong lost control of the car in his hurry, which in turn caused Hon. Mr. Allen to crash his car into the passenger side of Mr. Armstrong’s car. Dr. Curtis approached the scene of the accident in his own car, and he discovered Mrs. Allen and Mr. Armstrong had each died on impact while Mr. Allen and Ms. Day were critically injured. Before Dr. Curtis could drive them back to the manor, Ms. Day died. As the remaining guests assisted Dr. Curtis in leading Hon. Mr. Allen to the parlor, they noticed that the figures of Judas Iscariot and the Apostles Sts. Peter, Andrew, James the Greater, and John were ripped off of the painting of The Last Supper.
After he laid the bloodied and bruised Hon. Mr. Allen on the couch in the parlor, Dr. Curtis asked Mrs. Fitzroy, “What happened to the painting?” She was unable to answer him in her state of shock, and therefore I answered for her.
“We do not know. Mrs. Fitzroy, Ms. Harrington, Mrs. Thomas, and I were on the porch. No one was in the manor proper while you and Father Aherne retrieved the body of the Honorable Mr. Allen.”
“Father Aherne did not assist me in retrieving the body of Mr. Allen. Do you know where he is?”
With a shake of the head, I answered, “No, sir.”
“What of the cook and the maid?”
“I do not know.”
After a brief pause, Fr. Aherne emerged from the dining room with the cook and the maid.
“What happened to Mr. and Mrs. Allen?” Fr. Aherne asked.
“Mr. Allen is injured, but Mrs. Allen is dead,” Dr. Curtis answered. “Mr. Armstrong and Ms. Day are also dead.”
The remaining guests of the dinner party gathered in the parlor, and Fr. Aherne asked, “Who desecrated the painting?”
“I do not know,” Dr. Curtis answered.
“What are we supposed to do now?” Mrs. Thomas asked.
“We should phone the authorities,” Mrs. Fitzroy said.
“Indeed,” Dr. Curtis said as he entered the dining room and he approached the telephone. However, he returned the receiver into its cradle after he was unable to detect a dial tone. “The telephone is out.”
After most of the guests joined Dr. Curtis in the dining room, Ms. Harrington asked, “How?”
“One of you must have cut the wire,” Mrs. Thomas said.
“What do you mean, Miriam?” Mrs. Fitzroy asked.
“I am saying that one of you murdered Mr. Montgomery, and then you cut the wire for the telephone so that we would not be able to report it,” Miriam answered.
“Absurd,” Dr. Curtis said. “No one was outside in the rain to be able to cut the wire.”
“Are you certain of that?” Miriam asked.
Fr. Aherne joined the guests in the dining room, and he said with a sigh, “There was a panic after the discovery of Mr. Montgomery’s body, and a murderer could have used that to their advantage.”
“Who is saying that there was a murderer?” Mrs. Fitzroy asked.
“No one,” Dr. Curtis answered. “Mr. Montgomery could have died of natural causes.”
Miriam asked, rhetorically, “How did Jesus Christ pay for the sins of the world, Father?”
Before Fr. Aherne could respond, Miriam recited, “‘Christ died for our sins.’”
“What are you saying?” Ms. Harrington asked.
“It is a verse from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans in the New Testament,” Fr. Aherne answered. “‘Christ died for our sins, the just for the unjust: that He might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit.’”
“. . . .but sin never dies,” Miriam said. “Sin never dies.”
“What?” Dr. Curtis asked.
“It was five years ago. . . .” Miriam began, her voice quavering as tears welled in her eyes. “I had an affair with a married man while I was married to Ellis, my first husband. When I discovered that I was with child, I knew that I could not keep it. Could any of you imagine the scandal? ‘Wife of Prominent Businessman Gives Birth to Love Child.’ As much as I despised Ellis, I could not do that to him, and I could not do that to myself. Montgomery recommended a doctor who would perform the procedure for $2,500.”
In shock, Mrs. Fitzroy said, “Miriam. . . .”
“Do any of you not see what is happening? Mr. Montgomery was telling the truth in his speech. ‘And the wages of sin is death.’ There is one amongst us who is like an avenging angel, meting out the punishments for our sins. And if the Devil has come to take me to Hell, I wanted to confess to all of you before I may no longer have the chance.”
“If we are confessing our sins, I would like to say something,” Ms. Harrington began. “My name is not Harrington. I was born in a tenement in New York City. My parents were the observant Mr. and Mrs. Blumenthal. I am Jewish.”
Before any of the guests could respond, Ms. Harrington continued, “How could I fulfill my ambition of being an actress when my name itself disqualified me? No Jewish need apply. I had to kill Chana Blumenthal to be born again as Anna Harrington.”
After no one attempted to comfort Ms. Harrington, I approached her, and I held her right hand as she sobbed. She placed her left hand on top of my hand, and she said, “Thank you.”
“And you, Esther?” Mrs. Thomas asked Mrs. Fitzroy.
“What?”
“Have you no sin to confess?”
“No.”
“You placed your husband in a home that you knew was not good enough,” Miriam said.
“I had no idea. . . .” Esther said before she was interrupted.
“It caused him to lose the will to live,” Miriam exclaimed.
“Who are you to judge me? I loved my husband while you loved your husbands’ money.”
Before Miriam could continue speaking, Dr. Curtis said, “It is not productive at all to argue amongst ourselves.”
“What about yourself, Doctor?” Miriam asked.
“I misdiagnosed a patient,” Dr. Curtis answered. “However, it was not murder.”
“If you had been more thorough with your patient, they might have lived.”
“The life expectancy of a person with glioblastoma is a little over a year,” Dr. Curtis said. “If I had not misdiagnosed the patient, they still would have died. I am not a murderer.”
“With treatment, the patient could have had those months,” Miriam responded.
As Esther, Dr. Curtis, and Miriam argued, Fr. Aherne spoke amid the din of voices.
“It was around 8 P. M. After I awoke in my filthy, squalid apartment, I continued the bender that I had been on for the past three days. I had one more glass, and then I was out of alcohol. Although I was too intoxicated to drive, I needed a drink. I was able to drive most of the way without swerving. In an empty stretch of road, I noticed a child walking. She looked to be around twelve years of age. Her hands held a leash to which held a Golden Retriever. In my stupor, I lost the control of the steering wheel. She lay there unconscious on the asphalt, bloodied and bruised, and I continued driving. As I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw her lying there with her dog, who was barking frantically at his owner to regain consciousness. I was wracked with guilt, but I would not turn myself into the police. I could not go to jail. The newspaper reported the hit–and–run on the following day. ‘Local Girl Killed in Hit–And–Run.’ There were no witnesses. Her name was Frances (“Sissy”) Johnson, 14. She was a straight–A student, friendly, outgoing, and popular. She aspired to be a veterinarian. I did not even get out of the car to see if she was still alive. Her death contributed to my decision to join the priesthood, which would mean that no one would ever be hurt again. Montgomery was the one who gave me a reference to the seminary which set me on the path to priesthood.”
Anna, Dr. Curtis, Esther, and Miriam stood in the dining room with their mouths agape.
“And you have no sins to confess, Esther?” Miriam asked.
“No,” she answered. “I refuse to stand here and be likened to a murderer.”
Esther left the dining room, disappearing into the vastness of Whitecliff Manor. As the guests followed her, Miriam called out her name to no response. The guests thereafter gathered in the parlor, where Dr. Curtis discovered that Hon. Mr. Allen had died. Upon further investigation, Dr. Curtis found a pillow lying askew underneath the couch in the parlor. The Apostle St. Philip was ripped off of the painting of The Last Supper.
“Was he suffocated?” Anna asked.
“I cannot say,” Dr. Curtis answered with a sigh. “However, it appears that he was.”
“There is a murderer amongst us then,” Anna said. “There is.”
“Should we not find Esther?” Miriam asked.
“Yes,” Dr. Curtis said. “We should.”
Fr. Aherne, Anna, Miriam, and I followed Dr. Curtis into the foyer of Whitecliff Manor.
“I will find Mrs. Fitzroy,” Dr. Curtis said. “The rest of you stay in the parlor.”
Dr. Curtis disappeared into the darkness of the foyer while we returned to the parlor. The Apostles Sts. Bartholomew and Thomas were now ripped off of the painting which hung above the couch on which lay the deceased Hon. Mr. Allen. The guests sat around the parlor. Anna knelt by the window, and she prayed in Hebrew under her breath.
Sh’ma, Yisrael: Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad.”
As she sat on the chair next to the fireplace, Miriam withdrew a cigarette from her case, and she lit it with a match provided by Fr. Aherne.
“Thank you, Father,” Miriam said. “Did you know that I was raised Catholic?”
“No.”
“I wanted to be a nun when I grew up,” Miriam said. “And look at me now.”
“You can always receive absolution for your sins in the Sacrament of Penance,” Fr. Aherne said.
“Do you actually believe in God, Father?” Miriam asked.
“Yes.”
“Why?”
Before Fr. Aherne could answer, there was a scream. We ran to the foyer, where we found Esther at the top of the stairs with a bloodied knife and a lifeless Dr. Curtis at her feet.
“Esther. . . .” Miriam began. “What have you done?”
“I grew restless sitting in the kitchen. After I retrieved a knife from the block, I began to walk through the second floor of the manor. In the dark, I was accosted by someone, and I used the knife in self-defense. The one who accosted me was Dr. Curtis. . . .” Esther answered. “I did not mean to kill him.”
As we walked up the stairs toward Esther, she held the knife out in front of her. Before we could stop her, she ran off into the darkness of the manor. Fr. Aherne assumed the role of leader that Dr. Curtis had forfeited upon his death. He divided the guests into two groups — he would search for Esther with Miriam while I searched for her with Anna. We went our separate ways to search for my mistress. While we searched through the vast manor, we heard a scream before the shattering of glass. Anna and I looked out of the nearest window, and we were witness to Esther falling to her death from the third story. We hurried down the stairs to join Fr. Aherne and Miriam, the former of whom attempted to administer the Last Rites to Esther before she passed away, but to no avail.
“She has died,” Fr. Aherne pronounced. “May God have mercy on her soul.”
After Esther passed away, we noticed the servants’ car hidden in the shrubs behind the manor. Fr. Aherne approached the car, and he discovered the bodies of “Biddy” and “Mick,” both of whom had their throats slit. We returned to the parlor to regroup. The Apostles Sts. Matthew, James the Less, and Judas Thaddeus were ripped off of the painting of The Last Supper. Three Apostles, but two deaths. Who was next? We did not know who amongst us was the murderer, and therefore we regarded each other with suspicion. Jesus Christ and the Apostle St. Simon the Zealot remained on the painting. As I laid my head against a chair in the parlor, I began to drift off to sleep. It was nearly 3 A. M. I heard the whispers of Anna in Hebrew as she prayed before the fireplace.
I awoke to find the parlor empty except for the lifeless body of Hon. Mr. Allen. The Apostle St. Simon the Zealot was ripped off of the painting of The Last Supper. With the knife that Esther used to kill Dr. Curtis in purported self–defense, I searched the ground floor of the manor. When I reached the kitchen, I saw something through the rain outside. I opened the doors to the patio, and I went to investigate it. As I drew closer, I recognized what it was that I was seeing — the lifeless body of Anna hanging from the branch of a tree. I dropped the knife to the wet earth as I held my hand to my mouth in shock. I called out for Fr. Aherne and Miriam, but neither of them answered me. I turned around to return to the manor, but I was greeted by the sight of Fr. Aherne.
“Where is Mrs. Thomas, Father?”
“As Mrs. Thomas said, ‘The wages of sin is death.’ I hear the confessions of my parishioners each day. You would be surprised what an ordinary person confesses to their priest in the confessional. Adultery, murder, theft. A priest has heard everything, and their prescription can only be a penance. We can suggest turning yourself in to make reparation for your sin, but we cannot enforce doing so. ‘The seal of the confessional.’ If I should lose my life in the outside world to make reparation for my sin, why should I not ensure that others who have escaped justice also make reparation for their sins?”
“What are you saying?”
“I was the one who led Mr. Montgomery to the faith, and I was the one to convince him to make reparation for the sins he had committed through his abundant evil, iniquitous, and heinous thoughts, speech, pollution, suggestion, delectation, consent, words, and deeds. He suggested a dinner party to make amends with those whom he had led down the path of perjury, adultery, sacrilege, murder, theft, false witness, evil vices. As his confessor, I agreed with his idea. He did not know that I was also his confessor when he invited the pastor of his parish to the dinner party. It did not take much effort to add cyanide to his drink before Nora served it to him, which causes symptoms similar to a heart attack. He invited a group of laughing sinners — those who thought it unnecessary to make recompense for their sins, and indeed did not consider them to be sins at all. Before I took my own life, I wanted to mete justice upon those laughing sinners, who would join me in the everlasting fires of Hell.”
As the rain poured upon us, I asked, “You killed all of them?”
“No,” Fr. Aherne answered. “Mrs. Fitzroy actually killed Dr. Curtis in self–defense.”
“What sins did the cook and the maid commit?”
“I could not have any witnesses.”
“What sin have I committed?”
“You are also guilty of murder,” Fr. Aherne said. “You have killed your own will to serve those of higher social status.”
After the words of Fr. Aherne registered with me, I attempted to run away, but he lunged toward me. My attempts to gain control of the knife that he was holding were to no avail. I escaped his grip, and I gave him chase in the rain. Eventually, he backed me onto the precipice of the cliff, and he lunged at me once more. I moved away in time that he fell off of the edge of the cliff to his death in the sea below. When I was certain of his demise, I re–entered the manor, where I found the body of Miriam in the parlor. She had been stabbed to death. Jesus Christ had been ripped off of the painting of The Last Supper. I reached into the pocket of Esther’s coat, and I retrieved the keys to her automobile. I did not know how to drive, but I thought that I could drive far enough into civilization to be able to report the murders to the authorities. In the silence of the drive, I remembered the lyrics of "Que Será, Será," which played on the record player in the dining room of Whitecliff Manor.
Que será, será / Whatever will be, will be / The future’s not ours to see / Que será, será. . . .
submitted by TheWelshWitch to libraryofshadows [link] [comments]


2019.04.12 18:00 TheWelshWitch The Last Supper

You have been cordially invited to the Estate of Mr. J. P. Montgomery on Assateague Island, Virginia, for a dinner in your honor.
The preceding invitation was sent to ten persons — Hon. Mr. J. Thaddeus, 47, and Mrs. Ruth D. Davidson Allen, 45; Dr. James L. Curtis, 40; Mrs. Miriam M. Arden Ellis Thomas, 33; Mrs. Esther T. Thomas Fitzroy, 53, and Ms. Dinah M. Murray, 27; Fr. Peter P. Aherne, 37; Ms. Anna C. Harrington, 35; Mr. John A. Armstrong, 45, and Ms. Judith M. Day, 25. The guests arrived at Whitecliff Manor on Assateague Island, Virginia, on Sunday, May 1. Although the guests were all former friends of J. P. Montgomery, 57, most of them claimed to have no prior knowledge of other guests.
“The invitation said specifically that there was to be a dinner held in my honor,” Hon. Mr. Allen said after most of the guests introduced themselves to one another.
The guests murmured in agreement that their invitations said the same.
In confusion, Mrs. Thomas (formerly Ellis; née Arden) asked, “What does this mean?”
“It means that we have been invited here under false pretenses,” Fr. Aherne answered.
“Should we leave?” Mrs. Fitzroy — the aunt–in–law of Mrs. Thomas — asked.
“No,” Mr. Montgomery answered from the doorway of Whitecliff Manor as the guests turned to face him. “I had a purpose for inviting all of you here.”
With his secretary, Ms. Day, by his side, Mr. Armstrong said, “How did you know that we would accept the invitation?”
Mr. Montgomery chuckled as he answered, “It is unimportant.”
Before any of the guests could respond, he continued, “However, it is important that you have come. Will you come in?”
The guests regarded each other with suspicion as they approached the door of the manor, where they were greeted by the maid and the cook, whom Mr. Montgomery referred to as “Biddy” and “Mick,” respectively.
The guests were led into the front parlor of the manor in which they were greeted by a large reproduction of The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.
As he laughed, Dr. Curtis said, “Is the painting a depiction of the evening ahead?”
“Perhaps,” Mr. Montgomery said as he entered the parlor. “If you will, I ask that you give your coats and hats to Biddy.”
The maid approached the guests, who gave her their coats and hats. I assisted Mrs. Fitzroy — my mistress — in handing her coat and hat to Biddy.
“Thank you, Dinah,” she said to me. After Biddy left the parlor with the guests’ belongings, a thunderclap was heard from outside. Mrs. Fitzroy continued, “Is it going to storm?”
“I believe ’tis, ma’am,” I answered.
“Shall we have a drink before dinner?” Mr. Montgomery asked the guests, all of whom nodded in agreement. After Biddy returned, she and Mick served the cocktails.
With a wave of his hand, Fr. Aherne dismissed Biddy, and he said, “Why are we here, Montgomery?”
Fr. Aherne was interrupted by Mr. Montgomery, who handed his drink to Mick, and he answered, “I believe the reason will be pleasing to you, Father. I have found God.”
Mrs. Thomas chuckled as she held her drink, “When?”
“It happened to me like St. Paul on the road to Damascus,” Mr. Montgomery said. “‘A light from Heaven shined round about me.’”
“You could never be a Christian,” Hon Mr. Allen retorted. “‘You cannot serve God and mammon.’”
After a brief pause, Mr. Montgomery continued, “Would you be interested in hearing how my conversion came about?”
“How?” Fr. Aherne asked.
“I am dying,” Mr. Montgomery answered. “The doctors have given me an estimated life expectancy of five months.”
The guests were stunned into silence. Was this an elaborate joke?
He continued, “I have observed that when one has a life expectancy of five months, one tends to look Heavenward.”
“Are you telling the truth?” Dr. Curtis asked, the other guests’ mouths agape.
“Yes,” Mr. Montgomery said as he drew closer to Dr. Curtis in the middle of the parlor.
Dr. Curtis asked a follow–up question, “What is your diagnosis?”
“Cancer,” Mr. Montgomery answered. “Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
“Why did you invite us here?” Mrs. Thomas asked.
With a sigh, Mr. Montgomery answered, “I wanted to make amends before my death.”
“Do any of you believe him?” Mr. Armstrong asked.
The guests once more murmured amongst themselves before Biddy entered the parlor and announced that dinner was ready to be served.
“Please,” Mr. Montgomery besought the guests. “The Apostles did not refuse Jesus to be present at His Last Supper.”
After a moment of hesitation, Fr. Aherne led the way for the guests to the dining room like Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. There were place cards for each of the guests — including myself — on the dining room table. We sat at our seats, and Biddy served the first course of the dinner. None of the guests ate much of their food.
“‘Eat, and drink, and be merry,’” Mr. Montgomery recited. “Do not let my news deter you from partaking in the feast at hand.”
As Biddy cleared the plates, Mick served the second course of the dinner. At the behest of Mr. Montgomery, the guests ate more of their food during the second course. Mr. Armstrong and Ms. Day shared a bottle of red wine, which was intercepted by Hon. Mr. Allen, who poured a glass of wine for each of the guests, excluding Fr. Aherne, who chose to drink ice water. After the second course of the dinner was finished, the appetites of most of the guests were sated. While the guests awaited dessert, they began to talk amongst themselves to relieve the tension in the dining room.
“Do you know the names of your servants, Joseph, or do you call them ‘Biddy’ and ‘Mick’ out of spite?” Mrs. Fitzroy asked.
“I have never thought it important to learn their names,” Mr. Montgomery answered. Before Biddy could return to the kitchen, he grabbed her gently by the arm, and he asked her, “What is your name?”
“Nora, sir.”
“Nora,” he repeated. “Nora, I apologize for calling you by a name that was not yours for all of the years that you have served me.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Do you forgive me?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Thank you,” Mr. Montgomery said as he released her arm from his grip, and she returned to the kitchen.
“Why, I believe that you were sincere in your apology, Joseph,” Mrs. Fitzroy said in astonishment.
“I was sincere, Esther,” he replied. “I must repent of my sins.”
“A toast to you, Saint Joseph Patrick Montgomery,” Mrs. Thomas said with wine glass in hand.
The newly rechristened Nora returned from the kitchen with the dessert, which she served as the guests continued to talk amongst themselves.
With a congenial smile, Mrs. Allen asked, “What is your line of business, Mr. Armstrong? My husband mentioned that you are a businessman.”
“I am a certified public accountant,” Mr. Armstrong answered. “Ms. Day is my secretary.”
“What does a certified public accountant do?”
As Mrs. Allen and Mr. Armstrong talked about the duties of an accountant, Mrs. Thomas asked, “Would anyone mind if I smoked a cigarette?”
“No,” Mr. Montgomery answered. “You may do as you please.”
Mrs. Thomas nodded her head as she withdrew a cigarette from her gilded case, which was lit by a match provided by Mr. Montgomery.
Mrs. Fitzroy rolled her eyes before she said, “Ms. Harrington, I was enthralled by your portrayal of Portia in The Merchant of Venice in the West End.”
“Thank you,” Ms. Harrington responded.
After he finished his dessert, Mr. Montgomery stood from his chair, which drew all of the eyes of the guests to him.
“If you will all excuse me,” he said. “I will return in a moment.”
The guests nodded their heads in unison, and Mr. Montgomery left the dining room.
“No one answered my question,” Mr. Armstrong said after his conversation with Mrs. Allen trailed off. “Does anyone believe that Montgomery has become a Christian?”
“Mr. Armstrong. . . .” Mrs. Allen began. “I believe a question of that nature would be best answered by Father Aherne.”
The eyes of the guests were now drawn to Fr. Aherne, who drank from his glass of ice water.
“I believe that we should give Mr. Montgomery the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “After all, St. Paul was a murderous Pharisee who participated in the stoning of St. Stephen before his conversion.”
“However, Mr. Montgomery is not a saint,” Mrs. Thomas said in between a drag of her cigarette.
“The point of the matter is that we cannot judge the soul of another based on previous experiences. His vices and virtues are known to God, and he will be judged accordingly,” Fr. Aherne concluded.
After a brief pause, Mrs. Fitzroy asked, “How do all of us know Mr. Montgomery, but not each other?”
“We are all in different social circles,” Mrs. Thomas answered.
“That is true, but we should have at least heard of each other,” Mr. Allen said. “Mr. Montgomery was always hosting a party.”
The guests murmured amongst themselves as the time began to pass by. Mr. Armstrong stood up from his seat, and he turned on the record player in the dining room. The voice of Doris Day echoed in the large dining room as she crooned “Que Será, Será.”
Que será, será / Whatever will be, will be / The future’s not ours to see / Que será, será. . . .
An hour passed by without the return of Mr. Montgomery. The first person to bring it to our attention was Mr. Armstrong.
“Where is our host?” Mr. Armstrong asked the guests.
“Shall we look for him?” Mrs. Fitzroy answered with a question of her own.
“That is what I intend to do.”
The guests stood up from their chairs, and they left the dining room to enter the parlor. In the parlor, Mr. Montgomery was discovered slouched against the wall on which was held the painting of The Last Supper. Dr. Curtis approached him, and he announced that he was unable to locate a pulse. He attempted to resuscitate Mr. Montgomery, but Dr. Curtis eventually conceded defeat, and he pronounced him dead of causes unknown. The eyes of the guests widened in shock. In his hands, Mr. Montgomery held a stack of index cards, and Dr. Curtis retrieved them.
“What is that?” Hon. Mr. Allen asked.
“A speech,” Dr. Curtis answered.
“And the subject of the speech?” Mrs. Fitzroy asked.
“The speech is entitled, ‘Laughing Sinners.’”
“What does that mean?” Mrs. Allen asked.
Dr. Curtis began to read the speech as written on the index cards, “‘Dearly beloved. . . . You know that Jesus Christ sat with His Apostles at the Last Supper, which included Judas, who would betray Him. As Scripture saith, ‘He ate with sinners.’ In like manner, I have also supped this evening with sinners. ‘Judge not, that you may not be judged.’ It is not out of judgment that I have sent for you, but charity. I have aided all of you in sin — a sin that crieth to Heaven for vengeance. ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ And yet all of us seated here have killed. The Honorable Mr. Allen, who sentenced a man to death for murder, a crime which the Honorable Mr. Allen was aware that the aforementioned man did not commit. Doctor Curtis, who diagnosed. . . .” Dr. Curtis trailed off.
“Read on,” Mr. Armstrong besought Dr. Curtis.
“No,” Hon. Mr. Allen said. “It is nothing but abominable lies.”
“Give it to me,” Mr. Armstrong said while he collected the index cards from Dr. Curtis. As he handed Fr. Aherne the index cards, he said, “He should read it.”
After a brief pause, Fr. Aherne continued the speech, “Doctor Curtis, who diagnosed a patient with psychosomaticism, and the patient died of a brain glioma three months later. Mrs. Thomas, who caused the death of her child while he was in her womb. Mrs. Fitzroy, whose neglect of her husband during his final illness caused his death. Father Aherne. . . .” Fr. Aherne trailed off briefly before he continued. “. . . .Father Aherne, whose driving while under the influence of alcohol caused the death of a child. Ms. Harrington — née Blumenthal — who killed herself per se by using a stage name to conceal her Jewish heritage. Mr. Armstrong, whose affair with his secretary, Ms. Day, has caused the death of his marriage to Mrs. Armstrong. With this dinner, I call upon all of us to repent of our sins. Penance, penance, penance. Regards, Mr. J. P. Montgomery.”
The guests exclaimed in unison that the claims that were made by Mr. Montgomery in the speech were erroneous. All of the guests attempted to retrieve their coats and hats to leave Whitecliff Manor, and Hon. Mr. and Mrs. Allen, Mr. Armstrong, and Ms. Day were the first to reach the road which led to the mainland. The guests continued to drive toward the mainland, but Mr. Armstrong lost control of the car in his hurry, which in turn caused Hon. Mr. Allen to crash his car into the passenger side of Mr. Armstrong’s car. Dr. Curtis approached the scene of the accident in his own car, and he discovered Mrs. Allen and Mr. Armstrong had each died on impact while Mr. Allen and Ms. Day were critically injured. Before Dr. Curtis could drive them back to the manor, Ms. Day died. As the remaining guests assisted Dr. Curtis in leading Hon. Mr. Allen to the parlor, they noticed that the figures of Judas Iscariot and the Apostles Sts. Peter, Andrew, James the Greater, and John were ripped off of the painting of The Last Supper.
After he laid the bloodied and bruised Hon. Mr. Allen on the couch in the parlor, Dr. Curtis asked Mrs. Fitzroy, “What happened to the painting?” She was unable to answer him in her state of shock, and therefore I answered for her.
“We do not know. Mrs. Fitzroy, Ms. Harrington, Mrs. Thomas, and I were on the porch. No one was in the manor proper while you and Father Aherne retrieved the body of the Honorable Mr. Allen.”
“Father Aherne did not assist me in retrieving the body of Mr. Allen. Do you know where he is?”
With a shake of the head, I answered, “No, sir.”
“What of the cook and the maid?”
“I do not know.”
After a brief pause, Fr. Aherne emerged from the dining room with the cook and the maid.
“What happened to Mr. and Mrs. Allen?” Fr. Aherne asked.
“Mr. Allen is injured, but Mrs. Allen is dead,” Dr. Curtis answered. “Mr. Armstrong and Ms. Day are also dead.”
The remaining guests of the dinner party gathered in the parlor, and Fr. Aherne asked, “Who desecrated the painting?”
“I do not know,” Dr. Curtis answered.
“What are we supposed to do now?” Mrs. Thomas asked.
“We should phone the authorities,” Mrs. Fitzroy said.
“Indeed,” Dr. Curtis said as he entered the dining room and he approached the telephone. However, he returned the receiver into its cradle after he was unable to detect a dial tone. “The telephone is out.”
After most of the guests joined Dr. Curtis in the dining room, Ms. Harrington asked, “How?”
“One of you must have cut the wire,” Mrs. Thomas said.
“What do you mean, Miriam?” Mrs. Fitzroy asked.
“I am saying that one of you murdered Mr. Montgomery, and then you cut the wire for the telephone so that we would not be able to report it,” Miriam answered.
“Absurd,” Dr. Curtis said. “No one was outside in the rain to be able to cut the wire.”
“Are you certain of that?” Miriam asked.
Fr. Aherne joined the guests in the dining room, and he said with a sigh, “There was a panic after the discovery of Mr. Montgomery’s body, and a murderer could have used that to their advantage.”
“Who is saying that there was a murderer?” Mrs. Fitzroy asked.
“No one,” Dr. Curtis answered. “Mr. Montgomery could have died of natural causes.”
Miriam asked, rhetorically, “How did Jesus Christ pay for the sins of the world, Father?”
Before Fr. Aherne could respond, Miriam recited, “‘Christ died for our sins.’”
“What are you saying?” Ms. Harrington asked.
“It is a verse from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans in the New Testament,” Fr. Aherne answered. “‘Christ died for our sins, the just for the unjust: that He might offer us to God, being put to death indeed in the flesh, but enlivened in the spirit.’”
“. . . .but sin never dies,” Miriam said. “Sin never dies.”
“What?” Dr. Curtis asked.
“It was five years ago. . . .” Miriam began, her voice quavering as tears welled in her eyes. “I had an affair with a married man while I was married to Ellis, my first husband. When I discovered that I was with child, I knew that I could not keep it. Could any of you imagine the scandal? ‘Wife of Prominent Businessman Gives Birth to Love Child.’ As much as I despised Ellis, I could not do that to him, and I could not do that to myself. Montgomery recommended a doctor who would perform the procedure for $2,500.”
In shock, Mrs. Fitzroy said, “Miriam. . . .”
“Do any of you not see what is happening? Mr. Montgomery was telling the truth in his speech. ‘And the wages of sin is death.’ There is one amongst us who is like an avenging angel, meting out the punishments for our sins. And if the Devil has come to take me to Hell, I wanted to confess to all of you before I may no longer have the chance.”
“If we are confessing our sins, I would like to say something,” Ms. Harrington began. “My name is not Harrington. I was born in a tenement in New York City. My parents were the observant Mr. and Mrs. Blumenthal. I am Jewish.”
Before any of the guests could respond, Ms. Harrington continued, “How could I fulfill my ambition of being an actress when my name itself disqualified me? No Jewish need apply. I had to kill Chana Blumenthal to be born again as Anna Harrington.”
After no one attempted to comfort Ms. Harrington, I approached her, and I held her right hand as she sobbed. She placed her left hand on top of my hand, and she said, “Thank you.”
“And you, Esther?” Mrs. Thomas asked Mrs. Fitzroy.
“What?”
“Have you no sin to confess?”
“No.”
“You placed your husband in a home that you knew was not good enough,” Miriam said.
“I had no idea. . . .” Esther said before she was interrupted.
“It caused him to lose the will to live,” Miriam exclaimed.
“Who are you to judge me? I loved my husband while you loved your husbands’ money.”
Before Miriam could continue speaking, Dr. Curtis said, “It is not productive at all to argue amongst ourselves.”
“What about yourself, Doctor?” Miriam asked.
“I misdiagnosed a patient,” Dr. Curtis answered. “However, it was not murder.”
“If you had been more thorough with your patient, they might have lived.”
“The life expectancy of a person with glioblastoma is a little over a year,” Dr. Curtis said. “If I had not misdiagnosed the patient, they still would have died. I am not a murderer.”
“With treatment, the patient could have had those months,” Miriam responded.
As Esther, Dr. Curtis, and Miriam argued, Fr. Aherne spoke amid the din of voices.
“It was around 8 P. M. After I awoke in my filthy, squalid apartment, I continued the bender that I had been on for the past three days. I had one more glass, and then I was out of alcohol. Although I was too intoxicated to drive, I needed a drink. I was able to drive most of the way without swerving. In an empty stretch of road, I noticed a child walking. She looked to be around twelve years of age. Her hands held a leash to which held a Golden Retriever. In my stupor, I lost the control of the steering wheel. She lay there unconscious on the asphalt, bloodied and bruised, and I continued driving. As I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw her lying there with her dog, who was barking frantically at his owner to regain consciousness. I was wracked with guilt, but I would not turn myself into the police. I could not go to jail. The newspaper reported the hit–and–run on the following day. ‘Local Girl Killed in Hit–And–Run.’ There were no witnesses. Her name was Frances (“Sissy”) Johnson, 14. She was a straight–A student, friendly, outgoing, and popular. She aspired to be a veterinarian. I did not even get out of the car to see if she was still alive. Her death contributed to my decision to join the priesthood, which would mean that no one would ever be hurt again. Montgomery was the one who gave me a reference to the seminary which set me on the path to priesthood.”
Anna, Dr. Curtis, Esther, and Miriam stood in the dining room with their mouths agape.
“And you have no sins to confess, Esther?” Miriam asked.
“No,” she answered. “I refuse to stand here and be likened to a murderer.”
Esther left the dining room, disappearing into the vastness of Whitecliff Manor. As the guests followed her, Miriam called out her name to no response. The guests thereafter gathered in the parlor, where Dr. Curtis discovered that Hon. Mr. Allen had died. Upon further investigation, Dr. Curtis found a pillow lying askew underneath the couch in the parlor. The Apostle St. Philip was ripped off of the painting of The Last Supper.
“Was he suffocated?” Anna asked.
“I cannot say,” Dr. Curtis answered with a sigh. “However, it appears that he was.”
“There is a murderer amongst us then,” Anna said. “There is.”
“Should we not find Esther?” Miriam asked.
“Yes,” Dr. Curtis said. “We should.”
Fr. Aherne, Anna, Miriam, and I followed Dr. Curtis into the foyer of Whitecliff Manor.
“I will find Mrs. Fitzroy,” Dr. Curtis said. “The rest of you stay in the parlor.”
Dr. Curtis disappeared into the darkness of the foyer while we returned to the parlor. The Apostles Sts. Bartholomew and Thomas were now ripped off of the painting which hung above the couch on which lay the deceased Hon. Mr. Allen. The guests sat around the parlor. Anna knelt by the window, and she prayed in Hebrew under her breath.
Sh’ma, Yisrael: Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad.”
As she sat on the chair next to the fireplace, Miriam withdrew a cigarette from her case, and she lit it with a match provided by Fr. Aherne.
“Thank you, Father,” Miriam said. “Did you know that I was raised Catholic?”
“No.”
“I wanted to be a nun when I grew up,” Miriam said. “And look at me now.”
“You can always receive absolution for your sins in the Sacrament of Penance,” Fr. Aherne said.
“Do you actually believe in God, Father?” Miriam asked.
“Yes.”
“Why?”
Before Fr. Aherne could answer, there was a scream. We ran to the foyer, where we found Esther at the top of the stairs with a bloodied knife and a lifeless Dr. Curtis at her feet.
“Esther. . . .” Miriam began. “What have you done?”
“I grew restless sitting in the kitchen. After I retrieved a knife from the block, I began to walk through the second floor of the manor. In the dark, I was accosted by someone, and I used the knife in self-defense. The one who accosted me was Dr. Curtis. . . .” Esther answered. “I did not mean to kill him.”
As we walked up the stairs toward Esther, she held the knife out in front of her. Before we could stop her, she ran off into the darkness of the manor. Fr. Aherne assumed the role of leader that Dr. Curtis had forfeited upon his death. He divided the guests into two groups — he would search for Esther with Miriam while I searched for her with Anna. We went our separate ways to search for my mistress. While we searched through the vast manor, we heard a scream before the shattering of glass. Anna and I looked out of the nearest window, and we were witness to Esther falling to her death from the third story. We hurried down the stairs to join Fr. Aherne and Miriam, the former of whom attempted to administer the Last Rites to Esther before she passed away, but to no avail.
“She has died,” Fr. Aherne pronounced. “May God have mercy on her soul.”
After Esther passed away, we noticed the servants’ car hidden in the shrubs behind the manor. Fr. Aherne approached the car, and he discovered the bodies of “Biddy” and “Mick,” both of whom had their throats slit. We returned to the parlor to regroup. The Apostles Sts. Matthew, James the Less, and Judas Thaddeus were ripped off of the painting of The Last Supper. Three Apostles, but two deaths. Who was next? We did not know who amongst us was the murderer, and therefore we regarded each other with suspicion. Jesus Christ and the Apostle St. Simon the Zealot remained on the painting. As I laid my head against a chair in the parlor, I began to drift off to sleep. It was nearly 3 A. M. I heard the whispers of Anna in Hebrew as she prayed before the fireplace.
I awoke to find the parlor empty except for the lifeless body of Hon. Mr. Allen. The Apostle St. Simon the Zealot was ripped off of the painting of The Last Supper. With the knife that Esther used to kill Dr. Curtis in purported self–defense, I searched the ground floor of the manor. When I reached the kitchen, I saw something through the rain outside. I opened the doors to the patio, and I went to investigate it. As I drew closer, I recognized what it was that I was seeing — the lifeless body of Anna hanging from the branch of a tree. I dropped the knife to the wet earth as I held my hand to my mouth in shock. I called out for Fr. Aherne and Miriam, but neither of them answered me. I turned around to return to the manor, but I was greeted by the sight of Fr. Aherne. The rain continued its downpour and the wind blew around me.
“Father?”
“My child. . . .” He began as he stepped forward into the rain. “As Mrs. Thomas said, ‘The wages of sin is death.’ I hear the confessions of my parishioners each day. You would be surprised what an ordinary person confesses to their priest in the confessional. Adultery, murder, theft. A priest has heard everything, and their prescription can only be a penance. We can suggest turning yourself in to make reparation for your sin, but we cannot enforce doing so. ‘The seal of the confessional.’ If I should lose my life in the outside world to make reparation for my sin, why should I not ensure that others who have escaped justice also make reparation for their sins?”
“What are you saying?”
“I was the one who led Mr. Montgomery to the faith, and I was the one to convince him to make reparation for the sins he had committed through his abundant evil, iniquitous, and heinous thoughts, speech, pollution, suggestion, delectation, consent, words, and deeds. He suggested a dinner party to make amends with those whom he had led down the path of perjury, adultery, sacrilege, murder, theft, false witness, evil vices. As his confessor, I agreed with his idea. He did not know that I was also his confessor when he invited the pastor of his parish to the dinner party. It did not take much effort to add cyanide to his drink before Nora served it to him, which causes symptoms similar to a heart attack. He invited a group of laughing sinners — those who thought it unnecessary to make recompense for their sins, and indeed did not consider them to be sins at all. Before I took my own life, I wanted to mete justice upon those laughing sinners, who would join me in the everlasting fires of Hell.”
As the rain poured upon us, I asked, “You killed all of them?”
“No,” Fr. Aherne answered. “Mrs. Fitzroy actually killed Dr. Curtis in self–defense.”
“What sins did the cook and the maid commit?”
“I could not have any witnesses.”
“What sin have I committed?”
“You are also guilty of murder,” Fr. Aherne said. “You have killed your own will to serve those of higher social status.”
After the words of Fr. Aherne registered in my mind, I attempted to run away, but he lunged toward me. My attempts to gain control of the knife that he was holding were to no avail. I escaped his grip, and I gave him chase. Eventually, he backed me onto the precipice of the cliff, and he lunged at me once more. I moved away in time that he fell off of the edge of the cliff to his death. I stood in the tempest watching Fr. Aherne’s body be washed away in the sea below. When I was certain of his demise, I re–entered the manor, where I found the body of Miriam in the parlor. She had been stabbed to death. Jesus Christ had been ripped off of the painting of The Last Supper. It was now an empty table. I reached into the pocket of Esther’s coat, and I retrieved the keys to her automobile. I did not know how to drive, but I thought that I could drive far enough to be able to report the murders to the authorities. In the silence of the drive, I remembered the lyrics of "Que Será, Será," which played on the record player in the dining room of Whitecliff Manor.
Que será, será / Whatever will be, will be / The future’s not ours to see / Que será, será. . . .
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