The Squire and the Valet

by Scott Pearson


The broken and bloodied body of Father Crawford lay sprawled on the landing of the Mulberry Street entrance of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, illuminated in fits and starts by a flickering street light. It was a warm evening for April, still in the upper sixties at nine o’clock. Until Stephen Hugh Wilkins had come upon this gruesome scene, it had been a pleasant night for a long stroll. Now he felt chill as he dropped the bag of groceries he’d been lugging back to the Village from Alleva in Little Italy. It tipped over, spilling out packages of pasta and cheese onto the sidewalk.
       Wilkins scrambled clumsily over the low wrought-iron fence to check for signs of life, but wasn’t optimistic. The bloody tears in the black clothing suggested the deep claw wounds of a large animal, and a substantial amount of blood had run down the steps and pooled at the bottom. A smeared trail of blood led back through the open wine-red door of the cathedral. He knelt beside the body, which lay on its back, head hanging over the stairs, and felt for a pulse at wrists and neck with no luck. The patch of white at the front of the shirt collar was spattered with blood. Old St. Pat’s was one of the few Catholic churches still open in the transformed Manhattan following the Return of the Gods, and having its priest murdered would probably be the end of the historic cathedral. All these concerns were shoved aside, however, as he looked more closely at the body, trying to understand what had happened, how the priest had been attacked by a vicious animal inside the cathedral. Protruding from the priest’s left side was the shaft of an arrow.
       “No, not again,” Wilkins whispered, pulling back from the body. He had seen this arrow, or one exactly like it, before. The memory was as clear as a photograph although it was over seven hundred years old. . . .





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