I hated going over to the human sector. They looked enough like us that they didn’t seem so freaky on the outside any more. They shopped in our shops, ate in our restaurants, wore our clothes … but they just weren’t like us. And now one of them was dead.
Daria drove while I said a prayer to Sophia to take the deceased’s soul home – if humans had a soul. There was a lot of debate about that. I didn’t have a lot of time to ponder the question at the moment, though; Daria was taking curves so fast that the sled’s blades were making sparks on the road. “It’s not a rush! The h… the victim is already dead.”
“Well, we don’t really know that. Their physiology is different. The victim might be…”
“One of their own reported it. They should know the signs of human death. It wasn’t one of ours.”
“Oh.” Daria slowed down a little, but what she considered slow was still too fast for me! Soon we passed the school which bordered their sector and New Baty. The buildings were more spread out here. Even though they were a little smaller than us, humans seemed to need more space. Daria pulled up to a low, flat building with a sign painted on the door: St. Marianne of Molokai Convent. I looked at Daria and sighed.
“I guess I’ll change, then.”
“Good idea!” She had known where we were going, and prepared already.
I changed into my feminine side, put on my scarf, and we got out of the sled. I looked at the convent and saw a window cloth move. Still, no one opened the door until we used the knocker. “I’m Pyan and this is Daria. We’re from the New Baty Legal Team. I understand someone from here reported an untimely death?” A woman wearing an awful lot of black cloth nodded and led us inside.
There were no quilts on any of the walls. Instead, there were flat images of dour people as well as pieces of wood with a dead human on them. With such cheerful surroundings it didn’t seem all that surprising that one of them died. As we walked down the hall, I wondered if the victim simply died of misery. However, when I saw the dark stain on the back of her head covering, I knew that it wouldn’t be that simple.
“This is Sister Evangeline,” our hostess said without emotion. She winced when Daria reached for Sr. Evangeline’s head covering, though.
“I need to move it to look at the wound,” she said to Sr. All-in-black.
While Daria did her job, I spoke to the woman. “What can you tell me about what happened?”
“Well, Sr. Evangeline wasn’t at Morning Prayer, so when we finished, Sr. Mary Gerard came to look for her and found her like this. Then she came to me and I contacted you.”
“I need to speak to Sr. Mary Gerard, then.” I didn’t understand why she wasn’t already in the room, since she was the one who found the body. The greeter made a noise and then left. Daria and I looked at each other. We had already been cautioned at work to be sensitive to the religions of the humans, but it wasn’t always easy.
I looked around the room. It didn’t seem alien so much as disorienting. There were no marks on the walls of this room for hanging quilts, although it looked like a sleeping room. There was something like a sofa with blankets on it, as well as a chair. There was a small flat table with a basin on it as well. The furniture made the room seem cluttered, though, and there was really no room on the floor to sleep, even for humans.
There seemed to be a small room attached to this one, but it turned out to be a tiny space with black clothes hanging in it that were the same as what greeter had on. The greeter returned with another member of their group, and made that sound again. I shut the door and turned to face the one who’d first found the victim.
“What can you tell us?”
“Well, as Sr. Margaret James already told you, Sr. Evangeline wasn’t at morning prayer. After it was over, I came in here to see if she was all right, but she was on the floor, just like that.” She pointed to the body.
“Was anyone else missing from morning prayer?”
“Oh, no. Everyone was there. It isn’t right to miss it!” She sounded like a school child repeating her lessons back to a teacher.
“Was anyone late?”
“Oh, no. Everyone was on time. It isn’t right to be late either.”
“Does everyone here feel this way? This is a rule?”
“Well then, why didn’t you worry when Sr. Evangeline didn’t show up?”
“Oh, but we did. We talked about it after Morning Prayer. ‘Why wasn’t Sr. Evangeline here?’ we asked each other. We did worry.”
“But you didn’t go check on her?”
“Of course we did. When morning prayer was over.”
“Why did you wait?”
“Well, we couldn’t leave, could we? Then whoever left, they’d be missing Morning Prayer, too! That just wouldn’t do.”
“But if Sr. Evangeline was in danger, don’t you think she might’ve appreciated the help?”
“Oh, no. She’s the most adamant of all about the rules. She wouldn’t be pleased if we missed Morning Prayer for anything.” Daria made a noise that sounded like a suppressed groan.
“OK. Did she, um, work or anything?” I didn’t know if this group worked, as I can’t say I ever actually ran into anyone dressed like this before. My question was met with silence. Finally, the greeter spoke.
“Thank you, Sr. Mary Gerard. You may go back to your duties now.”
Daria addressed the greeter. “Sister … Margaret James? We need to ask these questions because it seems pretty clear that Sr. Evangeline was murdered. We can’t find out who did it if we don’t get honest answers to our questions.” Daria looked at the woman directly in the eyes. She knew a lot about humans, apparently.
“She worked in our school.”
“You mean the Gregory Frost Learning Center?”
“What school then?”
“We had our own school. St. Marianne of Molokai Elementary School.” Daria nearly choked.
“No, it isn’t a public school like your school. Lots of our kids, well, the human kids go to your school. Gregory Frost. Our school is for the Catholic children. They need to stay Catholic, even here. God didn’t say to change religions if you move.” This time I jumped in.
“You know this is illegal.” I didn’t know how to sound culturally sensitive and still get the job done, so I tried to make a connection from thin air. “Have you been threatened by anyone who wants your school closed?”
“No, really, I’m not sure if anyone knows about it besides Catholics. If the other parents don’t see our children in your public school, they probably think they’re being homeschooled.”
“They’re being what?” Daria exploded, almost changing into her masculine side.
“Homeschooled. Some parents kept their kids home and didn’t send them to school. Said they were teaching them at home. Really, though, while some were being schooled, others were just being homed. Of course, once parochial schools became illegal, so did homeschooling.”
Daria and I just looked at each other. We had a dead lady in black on the floor, and a really weird educational history that these people came from. We also didn’t have any apparent signs of grief yet, but there was no telling what might be normal for this bunch.
“Was there anyone who might want to harm Sr. Evangeline? Anything negative you heard?”
“Why no, of course not. She was just a sweet little old nun. She brought plenty of people closer to Jesus. The children at the school loved her; they greeted her each morning with a smile and said ‘Good morning’ to her. She was always willing to be a substitute if anyone was sick. She was a real asset to our community. I can’t imagine why this happened. Really, maybe she just fell and bumped her head. She’s pretty old, you know.”
“Well need to speak to the others who live here.”
“I’m sure that’s not necessary. We were all in Morning Prayer. None of us could have done this! Besides, we’re nuns.” I looked at Daria, and she shrugged. “It means we’ve given our lives to God. It means we’re holier than ordinary people.” That part Daria had no problem understanding!
Well, it turns out that Sr. Margaret James was right about our not needing to meet with the other sisters. They all said the same thing. The victim didn’t come to Morning Prayer, so afterwards they sent the youngest in the group to find her. While she could possibly be strong enough to do away with the victim, everyone spoke glowingly of the deceased. We would have to check out this illegal school they were a part of.