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Chapter 1

Sunday, 19 June 2005

Their costumes for the party were delivered well before the Count’s Fancy Dress Ball. The coat of fake chain mail and a simple cream-colored tunic similar to the Templars satisfied Skip. “See? No need for us to choose our own costumes,” he said. “I thought I would be Squire Simeon, or maybe Count Manuel, but the tag says ‘Sir Jacques the Wanderer.’ Wasn’t he Gilles’ cousin who sought the Holy Tub his whole life?”

“Yes,” Gus said, “a warrior, like Allie said, and a trickster who inspired those Jack folktales like the one with the beanstalk.” He looked ruefully at his own medieval outfit of a blue tunic, hood topped with pointed hat, large purse, and loose hose. “She said I was to be a poet. This looks as romantic as a butcher.”

“Near enough,” Allie said coming into the room, “You’re supposed to be the renowned Jürgen, the poet laureate of pawnbrokers. What you deserve for leaving it to me.”

“Not as dashing as I’d though,” Gus grimaced. “I really hoped for something a bit–” He didn’t finish the sentence once he noticed her outfit.

Allie was dressed as a 1920s flapper. “What do you think, boys?’ she said, posing in a short white sequined skirt with a feathered boa and fan.

“Wow, looking sharp tonight, sis,” Skip said.

“Antoinette, isn’t it?” Gus guessed, “Madame Hélène’s grandmother?”

“You got it. Everybody expects me to do Blessed Madeleine. Too bad, because I came to party; a little drinking and dancing,” she said, breaking into an impromptu shimmy.

“Don’t get your hopes up, Gus. Angelique sent her congratulations but wanted me to tell you she won’t be there. She plans on joining the midnight vigil in the South Transept again, chaperoned by Hélène, no doubt, but you’re welcome to come. So, did you two fight already?”

“Not really, I just stuck my foot in my mouth at the first chance,” Gus began, interrupted by a knock on the door. It was a bellboy with a message from Hermann which tersely but apologetically confirmed Doc’s award would not be given at the final session. Gus read it aloud, crumpled it, and tossed it over his shoulder. “The good news is Raimondo’s out of the running, too. We accomplished that much anyway. Great, let’s go.”

Soon, they were walking amidst a steady trickle of other fancily-dressed tubbers uphill towards the Chateau as the Sun declined. Skip and Gus described their recent encounters.

“Everybody wants us on their side,” Gus said. “Too bad we still don’t have anything to play them against each other.”

“Actually,” Allie said, “we may be closer than you think.”

“Mind explaining how?” Skip asked. “It’d be nice to know what these mysterious hints of yours mean. How will Alfini’s painting help us find the Jesus Pot?”

“I’m not sure, yet,” Allie said. “But it’s important: why did the priest’s killer desecrate the painting and break the statue’s hands? The latter might be because Alfini thought their gestures were significant. But vandalism wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. Paint was brought by the killer along with the hammer.”

“Why? What did the painting originally show?” Gus asked.

“Ever notice how elevated the viewpoint is? It’s almost as high as Mary hovering in the sky.” They both looked at her blankly.

“No? Trust me. It means the viewer is looking down upon the landscape through the scaffolding below the Virgin. This forms a nice grid behind which Alfini depicted the whole layout of Maureven almost the entire distance to Storisende.”

“It’s a map?” Skip asked.

“More like an aerial view, but yes, I believe it served the same purpose. But I’m still not sure why. Or what the killer tried to cover. Maybe Mom’s notes will help.”



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“That very night,
with praise and thanksgiving
we flogged and bathed each other in the full assurance of Heaven’s grace.
No embrace was spared among us,
I admit,
for it was revealed to us that we had passed the test. ”

– Fr. Martin the Sanguine Miracles of the
Scolding Virgin

c. 1357

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