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The Case of the Cherry and Cranberry Cake

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Father Jim Sutton's place in the mainland was one of those old stone houses that bore the signs of centuries of use and abuse. Its stark grey stone walls had been scarred by fire and axe, damage that no amount of clinging vine could cover. It might have come straight out of an Agatha Christie novel, all the way down to the period film sheep that grazed on the rolling hills behind it.

The sun was low on the many-hued western horizon when Craggy Island parish's blue Ford curved out of the country road and up the short lane to park next to a row of other similarly modest and priestly cars. Father Harry Coyle's Toyota was an exception, as it was painted white with a glittery orange lightning bolt in honour of his idol, Ziggy Stardust. Father Hernandez's Porsche 930 also stood out, but Father O'Dwyer, the Spinmaster, only advertised his particular niche with a humble keyboard bumper sticker.

It was cold for May. Ted pulled his coat closer to himself as he stepped out of the car. The gesture was practically second nature after years on Craggy Island. The lights shining in the bottom floor windows invited him in with promises of companionship and indoor heating.

"Look at this, Ted," said Dougal. "It looks like half the people we know are here. Is that Father Byrne's car?"

"I'm afraid so," said Ted as he lifted Jack's wheelchair out of the trunk. "It looks like Father Sutton invited most of the priests from around the islands for his post-Easter dinner party this year. I bet he thinks he thinks he can unnerve me just before the All-Priests Over-75s Five-a-Side Indoors Football match next month. Well, let's see him try."

"Why would Father Sutton do that, Ted?"

"Not him, Father Dick Byrne!" Ted helped Father Jack into his chair, which woke him up. Ted deftly avoided a punch in the gut as he wheeled Jack up the gravelly driveway. "He's never happy unless he's fecking me off somehow. I don't mean to give him the satisfaction this time. I'm going to be jolly and mature and it will make him look like an arse. Oh, Sister Assumpta!" said Ted with a sudden laugh as the nun's shape coalesced out of the doorway. "I didn't see you there."

"It's the habit," said Sister Assumpta, who smiled at Ted and Dougal and grimaced in distaste at Father Jack. "It blends with the stone. I was just taking a bit of fresh air. Come on in, Fathers."

Ted thought he saw her stamp out a cigarette, or perhaps kick away a sweet wrapper into the bushes by the door, before leading them into the warmly lit hallway. Inside, the coarse house turned hospitable and homey. The walls were lined with wood and hung with the occasional landscape painting or cross-stitch work of the Blessed Virgin. The chatter of priests and the inevitable laughter of Father Dunne could be heard long before they rounded the corner into the sitting room, where a number of comfortable sofas and armchairs were arranged in a semi-circle around an open fireplace, with sidetables here and there bearing drinks and hors d'ouevres. Jack spotted the bottles and woke up the rest of the way.

A short, fat woman manouvred between the tables with a tray. She had very little in common with Mrs Doyle, aside from age and an apparent position of servitude. Where Mrs Doyle resembled a particularly docile wet rodent, this woman was built more like a mastiff, both in stature, her naturally dignified carriage, and the way the skin folded on her face in seemingly uneding layers.

"There you are, you old bastards," said Father Sutton, who had never seen reason to modulate his robust country manner. "Thought we'd have to start dinner without you. Jack you old dog, you've never looked better. Everyone, it's Father Crilly, Father McGuire and Father Hackett!" There was a general chorus of greetings.

Father Jack gave Sutton a bleary-eyed glare and gargled something that might have been 'gobshite' or the more friendly 'give me drink'. It had been even harder to tell since he'd passed out in the snow and half his face was permanently frozen in an angry grimace. Dr Sinnott did say it was likely to regain some mobility once the scars healed, but they hadn't been able to save his left ear. To add insult to injury, or rather more injury to injury, since the fall down the stairs last Tuesday one of his knees was almost certain to be permanently bust. Ted had had to replace him on the team with Father Cleary.

"Refreshments, Fathers?" said the dignified woman and offered a tray of tall glasses of sparkling wine.

"Ooh, soda!" Dougal reached for a glass. Ted had to pull his arm back.

"No, it's not soda," said Ted sternly. "Father McGuire doesn't drink, Miss, er?"

"Mrs Verney," said Father Sutton. "She is my housekeeper."

"Right," said Ted. Mrs Verney bowed with grace fit for a queen and retreated.

"Why don't you drink, Father McGuire?" asked Father Sutton. "Did you use to have a problem with the old..." he mimed slurping a cocktail glass.

"Oh, is that Father Fintan Fay?" said Ted. "You've been looking forward to seeing Father Fay again, haven't you, Dougal?"

"Have I?"

"Yes, you have. Go on now."

Dougal wandered off. Ted leaned over to Father Sutton and lowered his voice. "I'm afraid Father McGuire has a terrible head for alcohol. And when he's drunk, he – well, let's just say it's not a good idea to get Dougal drunk. Don't spread that around, though. There's always some fool around who thinks its funny to get a priest legless on a glass of sherry."

"Ted, Ted, Ted," said a smarmy voice at Ted's elbow.

"Speak of the devil," muttered Ted, inappropriate as it was for the situation, and faced his nemesis.

"Took your time getting here. Couldn't find Ireland on a sunny day, could you?"

"You probably needed a map just to find your way out of your own house," said Ted, and then remembered his resolve. "Haha. Father Dick. Good to see you. Always joking. It's a laugh a minute with Father Dick Byrne." He took Dick's hand and shook it firmly. He hoped he managed to skirt the line between firm and death-grip, anyway.

Dick's eyes narrowed in suspicion. Ted felt like he was winning already. He wheeled Jack over to one of the tea tables and let him get settled downing glass after glass of anything alcoholic within reach. Dougal had engaged Fintan Fay and the elderly father's ubiquitous storytelling voice rose above the crowd, ooking and eeking its way through a very funny story about the Christening of the Kilkenny wild boy.

Ted was just getting really into a discussion about 70s psychedelic sci-fi with Father Coyle when a high-pitched scream pierced the general hubble. It was Father Fay, who had climbed up on top of the book-case and was screeching at something in his hand. Dougal spun in place like a dog surprised by its tail, then pointed at Father Fay. "He's got a mirror!"

Several priests tried to talk Father Fay down, but he was too distressed. He even refused such treats as nuts and bananas. It was Mrs Verney who, upon receiving permission from Father Sutton to overstep her usual sphere, got him down simply by pointing at him, and then pointing at the ground. She had that kind of a presence.

"Dougal, why would you give him a mirror?" Ted asked as soon as things calmed down, with Father Fay safely installed in the corner using his toes to eat nuts. "You know he can't stand mirrors."

"I didn't, Ted," said Dougal. "I just turned away for a moment and suddenly there he was, holding a hand-mirror."

Ted could tell it was the truth. Dougal was not the best of liars. "I bet it was Father Dick Byrne."

"Come on, now, Ted," said Dougal. "Why would Father Dick Byrne want to upset Father Fay?"

"I don't know. He's got to have some reason. Who else here would do that?"

Dougal looked around the room full of priests, but evidently found no answer.

The dinner gong reverberated through the room.

Dinner was laid out on a long table with a lily and daffodil centerpiece. A calligraphed card with a name was placed beside each plate. Ted found himself separated from Dougal by Dick, and from Jack by Cyril. The other priests – and Assumpta – were spread out around the table, Father Dunne's laughter ringing out a whole five priests away from Ted, and thank all the saints for that. Father Fay, much better now, had his special chair and was happily tearing into a banana.

The preliminaries, including a rather lengthy grace (priests like to try and outdo each other in these things), seemed to stretch on forever. It had been a long drive from the ferry and Ted was starting to get famished. Not even the sight of Dick Byrne's hated face could put him off his dinner now.

The first course was minestrone soup and bread rolls, and, in the nature of first courses, took much too long to get through, especially since Father Purcell was so busy explaining about different shapes of buttons that he'd hardly managed to eat a spoonful before Father Sutton finally broke the code of courtesy and called in the second course.

"This is grand, isn't it, Ted?" said Dougal from the other side of Father Dick as he cut into his side of veal. "Bit like in the movies. I haven't had so many spoons for one meal since my gran's big Sunday dinners."

Dick poured himself a glass of wine and turned to Dougal. "Fancy a drop?"

"I would," said Ted and took the bottle for himself before Dougal had a chance to answer. "Father Cyril, how about some cheesy custard?"

Dick picked up the custard before Ted could pile any on Cyril's plate. "You can't, Cyril, remember? What are you playing at?" he hissed at Ted once the custard was safely out of reach. "You know he's lactose-intolerant."

"You mess with mine, I'll mess with yours," Ted shot back.

Father Dick gnashed his teeth for a moment. "Fine. They're off-limits. But we're not through yet, Crilly."




"I've never collected buttons myself," said Father Burcell from across the table, "but my mother used to take in Buttons Bimonthly. I think it was issue 4 of 1987, no, wait, 1986, I think, because I remember it had an advertisement for a folk song compilation by a County Monaghan group called, let's see, it was either Irish Troubadours or Troubadours of Ireland, or maybe Emerald Isle Bards, or Bards of Ireland..."

The next course was duck, which was rich and delicious. More than one priest could be seen surreptitiously loosening his belt. Conversation flowed and so did wine. Mrs Verney, followed by a harried-looking slip of a maid, sailed around the table making sure no-one ran out of anything, from napkins to blue cheese crackers to alcohol of whatever description. In this last she had her hands full with Fathers Hackett and Johnson.

The main course was cleared away and replaced with a dessert of three different kinds of cake, each vast enough to afford second helpings. Ted was near to bursting by now but took a piece of lemon and cream cake anyway, and was just trying to decide which spoon to use – or was it the small fork -- when the lights went down.

There was a feminine scream that Ted recognised as Father Terry, and the lights flickered back on.

Father Terry was shivering in a state of shock with a splattering of something red and sticky on his face. Next to him, Father Turay sat stock still in shock, and then slowly wiped some of the cherry and raspberry cake off his face.

"Somebody here have a problem with me?" said Father Turay, who was black, in a slow and patient voice that made every other person in the room feel extra-white. Ted looked around the room, but no-one was looking particularly guilty, though on some of these faces it was hard to tell.

Father Sutton shot up. "For Christ's sake! Mrs Verney!"

Mrs Verney disappeared for no more than two seconds by Ted's count before returning with a towel. Father Turay accepted it with the dignity of a king and followed Mrs Verney out, presumably to be lead to a washroom. It was strange how alike in manner a tall man and a small fat woman could be.

"Well, a big fecking thank you to you, whoever you are," said Father Sutton, who was given to outbursts. "I'll have your guts for garters if I ever find out which one of you it was. Trying to ruin my after-Easter party! You won't think it funny for long!"

Ted coughed loudly in a way that sounded eerily like 'fatherdickbyrne'.

"Now hold on!" cried Father Dick. "I'm not the one who has the largest collection of Nazi paraphernalia in Ireland!"

"Neither do I!" Ted spluttered. "I sold – gave that to the National Museum! I am not a racist!"

"Oh, that sounds believable!" Father Dick barked a laugh.

"It's more likely you did it, just to pin it on me! How childish can a grown man get?"

"If anyone here is childish, it's you!"

"No, you!"

"No, you!"

"You times one thousand!"

"You times a million, no backsies!"

"Shut up, you two," said Father Sutton. "Let's get back to the sitting room and have a stiff drink. I think we could all use one."

The priests – and Sister Assumpta – filed out of the dining room with some muffled shouts of 'drink!'

The girl who had waited on them at dinner stumbled around the room only just managing not to knock over the glasses she was balancing on a tray. She was soon unburdened and had to stumble back to the drinks cabinet for a refill. Ted had parked Father Jack in an armchair and Father Jim had somehow ended up sitting opposite him. The two old priests hadn't stopped eyeing each other suspiciously since the first course. Occasionally one would bark "DRINK!" to which the other would reply "GIRLS!", and then the two of them would fall back into baleful silence.

"It wasn't you, was it?" asked Sister Assumpta.

"What? No! That whole Nazi thing was just a big misunderstanding. I hosted the Craggy Island diversity event, you know. It almost became annual, but then they -- we – decided to save for a Chinese New Year parade instead."

Sister Assumpta gave him a quick beady-eye, but seemed satisfied. "Fair enough. If you do feel guilty about something, anything, and want to do a bit of penance, I did bring my Mattie Hislop copyrighted ascetic's kit."

"Ah, er, I'm all right, Sister," said Ted, who was trying not to imagine the kinds of things an ascetic's kit might hold.

Ted caught Father Dick Byrne's eye across the room. The villain rubbed the side of his face, giving Ted a surreptitious two-fingered salute. "Look at that bastard," he said to Dougal, since Sister Assumpta had caught the mournful eye of Father Kevin and bustled over to suggest a good whipping to lift his spirits. "Oh he's on top of the world, isn't he. He's not getting to me, Dougal, not this time. It will take a level head to figure this out, and that level head is going to have to be mine. Nobody else seems to realize it was obviously Father Dick Byrne who beaned Father Turay with the cherry and cranberry cake."

"Ted, Ted, don't be angry," said Dougal, put his arm around Ted and leaned against him. "Everything's fine. Everybody's fine. I'm fine. You're fine. Everybody's fine."

"Everybody? What about Father Turay? Father Terry isn't looking too hot either." Father Terry sat hugging himself on one of the sofas while Father Billy fanned him lightly with a Bible.

"The way I figure is, cake is good, right? So now Father Turay, he has all the cake, so he is good, too." Dougal leaned his head on Ted's shoulder. "Ah, Ted, I like you. Give us a kiss."

"Dougal!" Ted smelled his breath and then grabbed the tall drink in his hand. It smelled even more toxic than Dougal's breath.

That was it. That was definitely it. Ted's vision blurred. He remembered putting the glass down and settling Dougal down on a sofa, but the next thing he knew was the look on Father Dick Byrne's face as he held his bleeding nose. Ted shook out his hand. His knuckles felt like they were on fire, and he appeared to be shouting. "I fecking told you, Father fecking Dick Byrne!"

The enormity of what he'd done was only just dawning on him when he saw Dick's fist fly towards him as if in slow motion. Pain exploded on his jaw. He tasted blood.

For a moment both of them groaned and twisted into themselves, trying to cradle both their hands and their faces at the same time. Ted had never really punched anyone before. Nobody had told him that faces break fists just as easily as fists break faces.

Ted had just resolved to lunge again despite the pain because this was, after all, Father Dick Byrne and he wasn't about to surrender to that bastard, when several pairs of hands pulled him back. Dick Byrne was pushed back against the wall by Sister Assumpta and Father Hernandez while Ted's found himself arm in arm with Father Kevin and the Spinmaster.

"Everybody pipe the feck down!" roared Father Sutton. "Can somebody explain what the hell is going on?"

"I can," said a soft, self-satisfied voice that somehow cut through the general gaggle.

All eyes turned to see Father Fintan Stack sitting on one of the armchairs with a cigarette half-way to his lips. His diamond-studded cross was as shiny as ever. "Look at you idiots. Running around like a pack of big black hens. I know your secrets. Oh yes. I can tell you who the cake-thrower is. And I saw who swapped that little moron's soda for rum and whiskey, and who gave Father Fintan that mirror."

"Who?" demanded Father Sutton. "For crying out loud man, tell us who it was."

"Sure," said Father Stack and took a deep drag. "In exactly 30 minutes, when the clock strikes midnight."

More than a dozen priests gathered around Father Stack, all talking at once to try and convince him to lay it all out now. It was futile, as Ted knew very well. Father Stack did whatever he pleased. Instead of wasting his breath, with Jim Sutton's permission, Ted took Dougal upstairs before he started doodling rude pictures on Sutton's collection of mafia film novelizations.

It wasn't easy. Dougal lost his legs somewhere on the stairs and Ted had to half-drag him up. The slurred version of 'My Lovely Horse' he insisted on singing on the top of his voice didn't help either. The first door Ted tried turned out to lead to Jim's own bedroom and the second to an office, but the third led to a neatly turned guest bedroom. Ted manouevred Dougal unto the flower-patterned bedsheets, took off his shoes, and threw a loose blanket over him.

"Is it bedtime, Ted?"

"Yes, Dougal. Just have a little lie-in and clear your head. Mrs Verney will send up some strong coffee." There was a small private bathroom adjacent to the room, so Ted went in to wash the blood out of his mouth. Dick Byrne's fist had cut open his gum, but the bleeding was already stopping. His jaw still ached. Feck that fecking fecker. Ted really hated Father Dick Byrne.

He returned to the bedroom to see Dougal hopping on one leg to take off his left sock. The rest of his clothing was strewn around the floor. "Dougal!"

"Bedtime," Dougal explained. "I can't find my pajamas."

"Just put your shorts back on," said Ted, who felt they may have to do this item by item. "Then your T-shirt. Come on. You like your dinosaur T-shirt."

"Why are you still dressed, Ted?"

"Come on, Dougal. You'll catch your death."

"Hold on, hold on, I know," said Dougal. "We'll sleep in our underwear."

"That's right, Dougal. Put your shorts back on."

Dougal picked up his shorts, sat on the bed, pulled them up to his knees, and keeled over.

Ted was in no mood to dress an unconscious Dougal and so slapped his face gently a few times. "Come on! Dress first, then sleep."

"Dress for bed," said Dougal and started taking Ted's jacket off.

"For heaven's sake. All right." Ted shrugged off his jacket. "Now you."

Dougal kicked his shorts off.

Ted's hands were itching to pick Dougal up and shake some sense into the drunken lout, but a step from the hallway and a sense of premonition made him look up. Father Turay's expression puzzled Ted at first, then he remembered the position they were in and jumped off the bed with speed that should have won awards.

"This isn't what it looks like. You see, Father McGuire is very, very drunk." Dougal let out a huge belch. "See?"

"So you just decided to take advantage?"

"What? No! I was trying to get his clothes back on!"

"So you were all finished, then?"

"I never even got started!"

"Good thing I got here when I did, then."

"I am not a rapist!" spluttered Ted. "Or a racist!"

"Maybe not," said Father Turay, "but that doesn't mean I'm not homophobic."

"Ted, come to bed," Dougal insisted loudly.

Ted spun and shouted, "Dougal, for Christ's sake put your shorts on!" Dougal scrambled out of bed, fell over, and with a couple of tries managed to pull the short on the right limbs, albeit the wrong way around.

Father Turay did not look convinced, but said, "You better come along, Crilly. Mrs Verney tells me Father Stack is about to reveal all."

Ted half-expected to be asked to step into the library, but the house was not quite that large. The fire had been lit in the sitting room and some thoughtful soul sensitive to mood had dimmed the lights. It had began to rain outside, but that was only to be expected in the west coast of Ireland.

It was never entirely silent in a room full of priests, but every eye was turned towards Father Fintan Stack. Father Stack lounged against the mantel, smoking and smirking, while the large, theatrical clock over the fireplace ticked the last seconds to midnight. The moment the big hand hit 12, Father Jim Sutton lost it. "Now will you tell us what you know, you smug bastard?"

"I'm surprised a man like you is so eager to get it all out in the open." Father Stack lit another leisurely cigarette. "The things you get up to with that cow of a housekeeper of yours. Which do you like better, the riding crop or the saddle? Should I ask who that latex maid costume in your bedroom is for?"

Father Sutton turned the colour of a beet. Ted saw Mrs Verney standing attentively in the corner. She didn't turn a hair. What a woman. Ted had a sudden vision of her in latex and had to look away.

Stack flicked some ashes into the fire. "This is, what, the third year you've hosted this little Eastertide get-together? Quite a turn-up this year, isn't it? One might wonder why you invited Father Turay at all, after he got that cushy Donegal parish you'd had your eye on. Or Father Fay, your second cousin, whose portion of your great-grandfather's fortune would revert to you should he be declared legally insane."

Father Sutton gritted his teeth. "You're mad if you think I would do this to my own guests! And why would I ply young McGuire with drink? You can't find a motive for that."

"No motive at all, Father... except that you knew it would get those idiots Crilly and Byrne at each other's throats. You've always thought Crilly didn't take good enough care of your personal idol, Father Hackett."

"Arse!" shouted Jack.

"You don't, either," barked Sutton at Ted. "Just see the state of him!"

"Father Sutton, you did all this?" accused Sister Assumpta.

"No, I bloody didn't! The man just has a point about Crilly!"

"It wasn't him," said Father Stack. "Dirty bastard that he is."

"Who, then?" demanded Assumpta.

"How about you?"


"Isn't it strange that nobody saw who gave McGuire the drink, or who gave Father Fay the mirror? Assassins don't wear black, sister. Black stands out. Grey blends in."

Sister Assumpta drew herself up. "Really!"

"Didn't you have to pull some strings to get invited to an all-male, all-priest party? You may not have any motive to hurt Father Turay or the others, but you do have a motive to ruin Jim Sutton's day, don't you?"

"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about."

"You were close to Mrs Verney once, weren't you? Back in the good old days of your novitiate? She left the convent, not to marry a Mr Verney – she has never married. She just likes the gravity the title gives her. No, Mrs Verney left to join the celebrated ranks of the country's best-paid dominatrices."

"All right, then!" exclaimed Assumpta. "I do know her! Only I know her as Mother Peter Igneus. It was my novitiate under her that prepared me for the Order of Mattie Hislop. She disgraced the convent and continues to disgrace the very practice of Christian penitence with her perverted bedroom games! And you, Father Sutton – you ought to be ashamed of yourself!"

"So... it was you, Sister, who frightened Father Fay, hit Father Turay with the cake, and gave Father McGuire the whiskey and rum?"

"No," said Father Stack. "She was just going to take some incriminating photographs and show them to the bishop. She has a camera hidden in the bushes just outside the main entrance."

"Anyone else?" said Ted, who knew Father Stack in a way most of the others didn't.

"Shall we talk about Father O'Dwyer?" said Stack, circling around the hapless priest's chair. The Spinmaster's beard shivered in anticipation. He was thinner than the last time Ted had seen him and his ponytail had an unwashed look. "How he lost every penny he ever had to his name at the horse races? All he has left is that car, and he's about to lose that too. If his family hadn't stepped in and effectively frozen his assets, he'd be in debt prison by now. He's a sorry excuse for a man, going down the same dark road his father and grandfather did."

"How does that give him a motive to throw cakes?"

"It doesn't, I just thought you ought to know."

"I can't take the suspense anymore," moaned Father Sutton. "Who was it?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Father Stack spread his arms and took a showmanlike bow. "It was me!"

"But why?" Sutton roared.

Father Stack shrugged, grinned, and put his cigarette out on the carpet.

The stunned silence was broken by the sound of a car pulling up outside. "That will be my ride," said Father Stack. "This was more fun than I thought it would be, Sutton, you old pervert. See you all in hell, Fathers."

Somehow Father Stack was out the door before the room exploded into outrage. By the time some of the bigger lads were out the door, the taxi was already curving out of the driveway.

It would be about half an hour's drive to the bed and breakfast Ted had booked for their party for the outing. Ted could really use a bit of sleep and an aspirin or three. He gave Father Jack a bottle of whiskey and trudged upstairs to collect Dougal.

There was an empty coffee cup on the side table. Dougal's clothes were where Ted had last seen them, but Dougal wasn't. Ted was too tired and too hurting to panic now, so he just counted his lucky stars that the shorts weren't among them and so presumably were still on Dougal. He checked the bathroom, then the office, and then, with some dread, peeked into Sutton's bedroom.

"Ted!" Dougal greeted him cheerfully. "What do you think?"

"Oh, God."

"This must be the biggest horse costume I've ever seen. Do you think Father Sutton would mind that I tried it on?"

"Yes, Dougal. Just take it off, put it back exactly where it was, and go get dressed. We're going."

Ted closed the door quietly and went to stand vigil at the top of the stairs, but not before he snuck a lonely bottle of something strong out of the sitting room. He may have been the designated driver, but as soon as he got the to B&B, he was going to drink and drink until that sight was scrubbed clean out of his memory. He watched guests file out in twos and threes. Some of them shook Father Sutton's hand while others just shook their fists. Father Dick Byrne noticed Ted on his way out, and they exchanged glares of open hatred.

An idea came to Ted.

Dougal appeared behind him, still tucking his shirt inside. "All right there, Ted?"

"All right. You go on to the car. I want to talk to Father Sutton."

Some fifteen minutes later Ted climbed inside the blue Ford Cortina.

"Where's Father Jack?" asked Dougal.

"He's with people who want him and love him," said Ted. "At least for now. I asked Father Sutton if he'd mind Jack staying for a couple of weeks."

"And he went for it?"

"He was delighted. I think he still thinks of Jack the way he used to be, before his head went septic."

"What an eejit!" Dougal laughed. "So it'll be just you and me then, Ted, eh? And Mrs Doyle."

"Not quite." The backdoor of the car opened and Mrs Verney climbed in, followed by a modest suitcase. "Mrs Verney is coming to stay with us for a while."

"What, as our housekeeper? What about Mrs Doyle?"

"Father Crilly has kindly offered me sanctuary," said Mrs Verney. "My position here has been compromised tonight. I mean to take some time out, reflect upon my choices, and consider my future."

"She will be our guest, Dougal. And she's promised to help me out on one little thing..."

Ted actually smiled as he started the car. The rules of the All-Priests Over-75s Five-a-Side Indoors Football allowed a maximum of two assistant coaches. If anyone was going to motivate a fivesome of ancient priests, she was sitting in the back of his car right now. Dick Byrne was going down.