Not Finding Jesus On The Cross
Snow was falling and temperatures remained below freezing during January, and neither James nor Nigel was able to visit Marie. They’d both called and said they wouldn’t have time to come on weekend visits for a while, and both invited Marie to come to London whenever she felt like a change from country life. She appreciated the invite, but the fact was that she was glad her writing time wasn’t going to be interrupted by socializing on weekends, and she began to spend more time reading and researching at the manor. She made good use of her alone time at the library, but ever more often stayed back when John was home, when they share a glass or two of port, smoke a few cigarillos, and talk.
One day Marie was sitting at the large desk with several books in front of her taking notes, when John, home unusually early from work, entered the library. He greeted Marie, walked over to the tray filled with bottles of liquor, lifted a bottle of Southern Comfort to show her, and after she nodded poured some into whiskey glasses and said, “The woman who disappeared before last Christmas has been found.”
Marie thought his expression seemed grim for such good news. She took the glass from John and asked, “Is that good or bad?”
John said evenly, “Bad. Seems she was killed,” “Seems?” Marie said.
John took the bottle from the sideboard before he sat down in the chair next to the desk and said, “It appears that the police are trying to keep the murder out of the news for now, but Duncan found out from a friend who works as a cleaner at the Bristol police station that her body was found in the woods about a hundred miles from here.”
“Is that reliable information coming from a cleaner?” Marie asked.
John said, “You would be amazed by what such people know and never reveal, but they will tell a friend, and the friend talks to someone like me, and I’m telling you.”
Marie took a sip of her drink and said, “But why the secrecy?” “I think it’s because the woman was a public prosecutor, and
her murder might be an act of revenge.”
“So that means the police are looking for a specific killer,” Marie said.
John replied, “I guess so.”
“From what I heard, she was visiting relatives in this area when she disappeared, so how come her body was found so far away?” Marie asked, not expecting an answer. “
Well, that’s for the police to find out,” John said, and continued. “I still think you’d be better off staying here until her killer is found.”
Again Marie said she appreciated John’s offer, explaining that she saw no reason to do so since it seemed like the murder of the lawyer was not a random killing, and that her body had been found far from where she’d disappeared. John had to admit that there was some logic to Marie’s reasoning, but he wanted her to have the protection of a weapon, just in case.
He took one of the pistols from his late uncle’s collection, showed Marie how to use it, and gave her a box of ammunition. Then he told her to practice, keep the pistol loaded, and keep it close to her at all times. Marie thanked him and said that although she liked the independence of living at the cottage, she had to admit that she felt a certain fear and that having a weapon would give her a greater feeling of security and peace of mind.
It was a Friday near the end of January when Marie was ready to send the first part of her manuscript to her publisher. She’d just gotten dressed and was about to cycle with MJ to the post office when she heard a car arriving and MJ barking. It was Nigel, who’d been at the manor taking photos of the work he’d done for John. He’d planned to drive back to London that day but changed his mind and decided to stay the weekend at the cottage. When he apologized for not informing her, she said it was ridiculous for him to think he wasn’t welcome in his own house—and after all, she was happy to see him. Marie suggested they drive to the village together, but Nigel wasn’t in the mood and said he was looking forward to relaxing in a hot bath with a glass of vino. He gave Marie the key to his car and told her to come back quickly, to scrub his back and cook him dinner.
“You don’t want much do you.” She said smiling.
Nigel replied cheekily, “No, but prepare the bath before you go.”
By the time Marie came back from the village, Nigel had prepared dinner, opened a bottle of red wine, laid the table, and lit candles. “Are you trying to seduce me?” she asked.
“Yes. Is it working?” he asked. “Absolutely!”
Over dinner, Nigel told Marie how his restoration work at the manor had led John to recommend him to the head of the historical foundation, a Mr. Crow, and that he’d been given the job to refurbish and repair parts of the interior of the castle and chapel. He still had to finish a job in London and had not planned to prepare working for the historical foundation as yet, but while he was at the cottage, he wanted to make use of his time and get an impression of the work to be done. He reminded Marie that she’d asked him to visit the chapel with her some time, so he asked her to join him to check it out the next day.
It was a cold, grey morning when Nigel and Marie drove to the village to pick up the keys from Mr. Crow’s home, and it had started to snow again by the time they arrived at the historical site. The interior of the castle had been modernized with a few electric lights, but it was still too dim for Nigel to see much on a dark, wintry day. He told Marie that he was glad he’d made this impromptu visit because now he knew he’d need to bring his own set of powerful halogen lamps.
They then walked around the castle to the chapel, which was unlocked as it had been when Marie had sought shelter from the rain, and like the previous time she saw candlelight flickering at the altar. Nigel was looking for a light switch, but when he found none he followed Marie.
“Nigel what’s that up on the cross?” Maria asked. Nigel, trying to be funny, said, “Jesus?”
Marie began screaming, “Oh my God, oh my God—oh fuck, oh my God fuck!” and turned towards Nigel, her hands covering her face. Nigel turned to find out what had made her scream and saw the figure of a blood-smeared man without hands, hanging upside-down on the cross of Christ.
He held Marie and said, “Easy, girl—easy.” Marie then turned away from Nigel, thinking for a moment that the horror in front of her might not be authentic, but when she walked closer, with Nigel alongside, she saw that the mutilated body was indeed real.
“It’s like the story Duncan told,” Marie said. “My God, Nigel. Who would do such a thing?”
“I don’t know,” Nigel said, as shocked as Marie. Then he took her by the hand. “Come on—quickly. We must go and inform the police right now.”
After informing the police of their grisly fi nd, Nigel returned to the chapel with the constable on duty while Marie stayed back at the station. The female officer left in attendance introduced herself to Marie as Amanda and noticed that Marie was shaking like a leaf. “What you need is a nice cup of tea,” she said.
Marie, grateful for the familiar English remedy for everything, took a sip, and when Amanda placed an arm around her shoulder, Marie rested her head on it and started to cry.
The officer held Marie, stroked her hair, and said soothingly, “There, there—it’s just the shock. It’s good to cry, good that you’re letting it out.” Having such a comforting woman by her side was helping Marie get over the initial shock, and soon she stopped crying and began to talk about what she’d seen instead.
After Nigel returned with the constable and their statements had been recorded, Nigel drove Marie back to the cottage. As soon as they arrived, she told him about the invitation to the manor, showed Nigel the pistol John had given her, and told him that she was really spooked now and no longer felt safe alone at the cottage.
Nigel then called John to ask if it was all right to bring Marie over to stay, and John replied, “Of course, but why the sudden change of mind?” Nigel said that it would be better to explain in person and that as soon as Marie packed her bags they’d drive over.
John received Marie and Nigel, who had also brought MJ, an hour later and told them to leave their suitcases in the foyer. He then took them into the drawing room for a drink. When they sat down, Nigel told John about their grim discovery at the chapel.