This story is the 3rd installment of Whitaker’s return to Earth for vindication and justice in a future civilization that appears ideal on the surface. Although this story can stand on its own, for the first installment CLICK HERE and for the 2nd CLICK HERE .
“You look like you must be Brother Whitaker. Am I correct?”
“Who wants to know?”
“I’m Brother Calumet. I was told you would be arriving planet-side today and to offer our hospitality at St. Andrew’s Monastery. I can get you through the spaceport very quickly.”
“Who sent you?”
“Father Umberto Battelli who says he knows you since you were a pup.”
“What do you think? Has the planet changed much since you were last here, Brother Whitaker?”
“Modernization, I guess. I expected as much, Brother.”
“Mm…Father Battelli refers to the planet as a cosmic lighthouse. It’s a riddle of his that we’ve all failed to solve, Brother Whitaker.”
“Sounds like him.”
Monastery of St. Andrews…
“Roberto, finally, I get to see you before I die. You look very fine–you grew to be a handsome man.”
“You’re making me blush, Father. You look younger than I expected. Taking those life-extension pills, are we? What does that say about a priest’s expectation of the afterlife?”
“Heaven’s crowded right now. I had to go on a waiting list. Come–sit and we’ll catch up and drink good cognac, yes?”
Whitaker actually enjoyed chatting with the old priest after years in the asteroid. He hesitated to tell Father Battelli anything leading up to the circumstances of his release. The most important lesson that Whitaker learned in prison was never to trust anyone. Especially a disingenuous priest who could be the one who sold him down the river–the one who might have actually killed Brother Hightower. Unfortunately, he did not have any evidence, though in his gut he knew it to be true–something his ethics professor, Charles Mycroft, called intangible proof. You don’t have to sit in a chair or touch it to know that it exists.
Whitaker spent the next few days adjusting to freedom and to Earth. Early one morning, a Brother brought him a letter delivered by messenger–such an unusual occurrence that a small crowd of Brothers formed around him as he opened the envelope. After reading the letter, Whitaker told the crowd of Brothers that it was from a friend and he was going to meet with him that day. Strangely, the Brothers applauded and wished him well. Whitaker was reminded how boring was monastic life and the kindnesses of the Brothers that made the life bearable.
Later that day, Whitaker headed for the University. Cambrioxford was the largest university in the System, and Mycroft would be lecturing there. The letter was from Mycroft’s brother, Solmes Mycroft, a legendary detective and apparently, a follower of Whitaker’s case. According to his letter, his brother, Charles, would be arriving from Europa that very morning, having arranged a guest lecture year at the University. Both Mycrofts made changes in their lives to aid Whitaker in his quest for vindication, and justice for the real murderer of Brother Hightower. Whitaker almost felt warm and fuzzy inside but decided it was just indigestion. The very blind, Brother Levolor, was the Brother Chef’s assistant and lunch was a bit heavy with spices.
Whitaker met with the Mycroft brothers in Charles’s new office. Typically, Charles hugged him whereas Solmes nodded at him. Solmes did not care for human contact, unless it was with an attractive woman. Solmes explained that he belonged to a group that annually engaged in an event called Detective Wars, where all the best detectives in the system worked a cold case–a real case from the past that remained unsolved. Solmes committed the detectives to solving Whitaker’s decade-old case, in which he was convicted for the murder of Brother Hightower at the home of the monastic order of St. Andrew, on Earth. Whitaker was sentenced to life imprisonment on the Pisces Prison Asteroid. If Whitaker had not won the lottery that released him from prison and reinstated his citizen status, he would be on the asteroid heading out of the system–a one-way trip.
Whitaker revealed to the Mycrofts his theory about the night of Hightower’s murder, and his belief that Father Battelli was somehow involved in it–he might even be the murderer. He also told them about the wooden key and the prison director’s advise to hold onto the key because “keys open doors”. He showed the key to the Mycroft brothers.
“This is the key, Robert? Looks very old. Someone has treated the wood to keep it from decomposing. I would suggest that a wooden key opens a wooden door, wouldn’t you, Charles?”
“Most certainly, Solmes. The old, traditional monasteries, such as St. Francis on Europa, and St. Andrews here on Earth, are built of stone and wood. Are all the doors wooden, Robert?”
“Yes, except for the valuables room, the Book Shed, and Father Battelli’s office, which have fireproof doors at St. Andrews.”
“Yes, Charles. I can vouch for the monastery here, now and ten years ago–it was the same then. I had recently moved to the main monastery on Earth as part of my new position as chief scientist for the order. When will the Detective Wars take place, Solmes?”
“In one week and will last exactly two weeks. I hesitate to let you stay at the monastery, Whitaker. If Battelli is the murderer, then your life is in danger. However, being on the inside would be in our favor. If you choose to leave, Charles is staying at my home and you are welcome to stay as well. I would suggest you make that decision straight away.”
“Watch out, Robert. When working a case, Solmes drinks a bucket of tea almost daily and he doesn’t make tea. You and I would be making him a “spot” of tea day and night.”
“I’m staying at the monastery, for now. If nothing else, I’d like to try the key on the doors….”
“Be very careful, Whitaker. Don’t let anyone see the key, and by whatever means, do not let Battelli get it. There’s a reason you so easily acquired that key in prison. Battelli may be behind your release, for some ulterior motive we have yet to identify.”
“What makes you think that, Solmes?” Whitaker had not at all considered that possibility.”
“Charles, this is the same cognac that Battelli drinks.” It was Solmes who answered Whitaker.
“I brought the cognac, Whitaker. It is from Battelli’s very own collection of expensive cognac. I would say it costs more than the monastery’s annual budget. It is rather good, isn’t it?”
Whitaker was suddenly reminded that he had broken his own rule: never trust anyone….
Inspiration Monday: Cosmic Lighthouse at Be Kind Rewrite
Prompts: Cosmic Lighthouse, Intangible Proof, Book Shed, Bucket of Tea, Detective Wars
Word Count: 1000+
Special thanks to the divine Ms Stephanie Orges for hosting Inspiration Monday. Contrary to a bit of gossip going around, Stephanie is not holding our pets hostage to guarantee our participation in the weekly challenge.