Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 30

THE evening was full of laughter and memories and the lemon tart was finished to the last crumb.

After coffee – real coffee, prepared by Sister Jan – they all retired to the sitting-room where Imelda had set a fire in the hearth. It looked comfortable and homely and Father Anderson settled down in the best easy chair to listen to the piece of music that Sister Emma had composed.

“This is called ‘Farewell Father’,” she said shyly and began to play. Joan felt tears well up in her eyes. The music spoke so profoundly of love, affection and loss but with little notes of joy and remembrance. As she looked around at her family of sisters Joan noticed that hers were not the only eyes that filled with tears.

“Oh! Dear Sister.” Father Anderson dabbed at his eyes with a large handkerchief. “That is the most wonderful gift I’ve ever been given.”

“I’ve written it out for you to take with you,” Emma said.

“I shall treasure it.” he replied. “And I think a round of applause is called for.” He clapped his hands and they all joined in. “Before I go,” he added, “there is one favour that Father George and I would like to ask.”

“What is it, Father?”

Father Anderson looked over to where Ben was sitting unobtrusively by the window, dressed neatly in the habit of the Stella Maris Sisters.

“Sister Benedict, we would dearly like to hear you play the piano for us.”

Father George nodded in agreement.

“You see, Ben Pearson – we know who you are.”

There was a long silence as the last notes of the “Moonlight Sonata” died away. Ben lowered the lid of the piano keyboard and turned to face Father Anderson.

“How did you know?” he asked simply.

Father Anderson smiled kindly.

“You didn’t think that these dear Sisters would have been given a task such as this to face alone, did you?”

“We had no idea that anyone else knew about Ben,” Joan objected.

“Mother Catherine wanted to keep Ben’s stay here as normal as possible,” Father Anderson replied. “It was planned that you would keep him as a guest, with only you, Sister Joan, and Sister Madeline knowing why he was really here.”

“I didn’t know why he was here,” Madeline said. “It wasn’t my place to ask about his wound or how he came about it. I just tended him as Sister asked.”

“And a very good job she made of it, too,” Ben ventured.

Father Anderson continued.

“As I’m leaving the parish, Mother Catherine thought it wise to let you know that someone on the outside knew about this, too. Naturally, Father George knows all about it as he will be taking on the task with you and will always be on call should the need arise.”

“What need might there be?” Joan asked quietly.

Father Anderson sighed.

“This is a situation of much importance. These villains must be stopped before their power spreads. Much more than art theft is involved. When these criminals are brought to justice it will enable the police to spread their net much wider here and on the continent.

“Sisters, your work here is more crucial than I think you realise. Benedict Pearson’s evidence and his ability to recognise just these few men will be invaluable. But the criminals know this, too, and will certainly be looking for him.”

“Oh, we’ll keep him safe, all right,” Imelda said stoutly. “The problem is to get him to wear his disguise.”

“So, Father,” Joan said, “how many more people know about this? I thought that Ben was completely incognito. Why, my own sisters have only just found out.”

“Sister Emma caught him shaving,” Madeline said.

“She was jolly shocked,” Imelda added.

“I can well imagine.” Father George laughed.

“PC Bradley, of course, is aware of the situation but will not interfere if all is going well. Just be assured that you are not alone.” Father Anderson smiled. “A few weeks more and it will all be over.”

“A few jolly weeks!” Imelda exclaimed.

“Yes, Sister,” Father George replied. “We’ll all have to make sure that Ben stays out of sight as much as possible. However, his disguise is very good, so there is no fear of recognition if things continue as they have been.”

Alison Cook