130 - Chicago
SEVERAL WEEKS AGO I arrived back at Mrs. Claire’s before John Smith. I debated if I were actually going to tell the women there about the details of our arrangement–that he’d be arriving shortly himself–but eventually I settled on not. They would find out soon enough; otherwise, it would only serve to complicate things further.
Amanda and Mrs. Claire had come through in spades, with a wide variety of gemstones and dried herbs. Personally, I wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart, but they’d helpfully divided them each into one of four piles. A quick pointer for each and I was good to go.
While I was looking over the notes I’d taken while on the phone with Sister Kat, Amanda was eying me the entire time. I didn’t think that she was trying to read the notes over my shoulder–my handwriting was poor enough that would have been difficult to begin with–but she was definitely thinking about something.
Well, I figured, either she would be out with it or it wasn’t so important after all.
The terminology that Sister Kat had given me was strange, but for the most part she’d acted as a translator. Overall, it seemed to be a mix of traditional Catholic teachings with something else that felt at once much older and much younger. And it was saying something to say that it felt much older than the Catholic Church, there aren’t many organizations on the fact of the Earth with such a long history.
We needed five of each stone, placed alternating in a circle. The distances had to be as precise as possible–although I couldn’t for the life of me guess why–so I traced the original circle with a trash can and used a tape measure to measure the distances. After that, the herbs were to be burned on a dish in the center, once again at a precise ratio–4 to 9.
All that was left then was to get the ashes–so the waiting game it was–and to say a series of prayers over the entire thing. Sister Kat had told me that it would be easier since I was a priest, but she hadn’t exactly explained why. Perhaps because I was already used to memorizing and reciting prayers such as she’d given me? It didn’t really looked that out of the ordinary to be honest, a pretty standard prayer asking for intersession and guidance for the dearly departed. Some of the phrasing was a bit strange–once again making me think of something old–but nothing to far out of the ordinary.
I had just finished running through everything that I was going to be required to say one last time when the door banged open without so much as a knock and John Smith strode into the room.
Even before I had time to react, I heard a sharp gasp from one of the girls–I couldn’t have told you which–and a muttered, “What is he doing here?”
“I asked him here,” I said, hoping that would be enough to head off any trouble. He was holding an urn too, so it looked as if his mission had been a success. “Shall we then?” I said to him, holding out my hands for the urn.
the way that Mrs. Claire and John glared at each other, one would think that there was more of a history between the two of them than what amounted to a business transaction gone sideways and a series of semi-empty threats. Not that ether of those was a particularly small thing to have to deal with, but that didn’t mean that it felt out of proportion.
Luckily for me, I had other things to do, to keep my mind on the task at hand. I looked into he urn, not knowing exactly what I was going to find there–I’d never actually had the opportunity to deal with people that had been cremated. In the Church, it was allowed, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t frowned upon.
Finally, it was time. Under my guidance, John had placed te urn in the center of the table, just beside the dish containing the proper ratio of herbs. Everything was ready, we were prepared as we were ever going to get.
So why did I feel so nervous?
After all, what was the worst that could go wrong?