Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 24

SO Madeline must have known the truth all along,” Imelda said. “She would have had to tend him.”

“She knows some of the story,” Joan agreed. “But not everything.”

“We would have looked after him,” Clare said. “Poor young man. I would have seen that he had plenty of nourishment.”

“But you did just that, Clare.” Joan smiled. “Without even seeing through his disguise.”

“A little brandy would perhaps be helpful,” Sister Jan suggested. “It would bring colour to his pale face.”

Joan smiled.

“And how would we have explained that to the supermarket check-out girl?”

“People would talk,” Sister Amy agreed.

“And his cover would soon be blown,” Louise, who was a fan of TV mysteries, added.

“I made cocoa for him sometimes in the evening,” Emma said. “And he sat with me in the chapel while I practised the hymns. I never even noticed a whisker!”

“I must say he makes a jolly impressive nun.” Imelda nodded. “I never guessed for a moment.”

“So what would he be doing now?” Clare wanted to know. “Up there in the guest room at the top of the house, having scared the life out of poor Sister Emma. He must be wondering what in heaven’s name to do next!”

“I think he should join us here,” Joan decided. She turned to Imelda. “Would you go and fetch him, Sister?”

“You bet I will.” Imelda went to the door. “And I promise to be kind.”

After a short while Imelda came back, and behind her was a young man wearing blue jeans and a white shirt. His hair was short and wavy. They had known that it was light brown for the headdress of their Order didn’t cover all of the hair. However, without the habit he looked completely different and somehow taller. He stood silent in the room, a look of uncertain apology on his pale face.

“I’m so sorry,” he said at last. “I didn’t mean to frighten Sister Emma.” The hand that he brought up to his cheek was shaking. “I’ve spoiled everything, haven’t I?”

“Certainly not.” Joan spoke briskly. “You are still here, you are still in our care, and no-one else knows about you.”

“You’re safer now that we all know,” Imelda said. “And you won’t have to pretend any more. Now, that will be a relief, won’t it?”

“It certainly will,” he agreed. “It’s hard pretending to be a nun.”

“Sometimes it’s jolly hard being a real one.” Imelda smiled.

“Have you told them everything?” The young man addressed Joan.

“They know the bare facts but no details,” Joan replied.

“It’s best that they know everything – it’s only fair,” he said.

“Would you like to sit?” Jan asked. “You look as if you might fall down.”

She found a chair and helped him into it and the sisters all took seats, waiting to hear his story.

“I’d been working at a club all evening. It was very late at night, after midnight, and everyone had left. I stayed on to gather all my music together . . .”

“Are you a musician, then?” Emma asked.

“Yes, a pianist like you.” He smiled. “I’m British, studying music and languages at the Sorbonne, and the job in the club helps with funds a bit. Anyway, I was gathering my music sheets and working out a programme for the following night. It was quiet  – I always enjoy that time. I put my music into my briefcase and prepared to leave by the side door that leads into an alley. I have a key to lock that one. When I opened the door I heard some talking outside, raised voices, an argument about something. I saw the men – they’re often in the club, but they’re definitely quite dodgy types.”

“Weren’t you scared?” Emma  asked.

“I certainly was. They were arguing over a rolled-up canvas. I realised that it must have been something to do with a reported robbery at one of the art galleries. There have been a few of those lately – it’s been in all the papers. The police have been unable to get a lead on any of the gang.” He smiled wryly. “They appear to be experts in their field.”

“Old hands at the game.” Sister Louise nodded sagely.

“They’re very dangerous old hands and not afraid to use weapons. I don’t mean to frighten you.”

“We’re not frightened,” Imelda said. “Go on with the story.”

“Anyway, I thought I hadn’t been noticed but one of the gang must have heard the door as I pulled the bar to shut it. He drew a gun and fired. The bullet went into my shoulder.”

Alison Cook