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Underbelly

UNDERBELLY
CHAPTER 1 – COLD CASE
Reverend Craig Stuart swore to himself as he mistyped yet again and pulled the
sheet of paper from the new typewriter (a thoughtful present from a parishioner,
which he was determined to master) and crumpled it up and threw it across the
room, aiming for the bin, his shot as poor as his typing and causing him to swear
again, a little louder this time.
“Bugger.”
“Language, Reverend,” Mary Gillies said through the door, her erratic hearing
exceptional when he didn‟t want it to be, and he was pleased she had not heard
his earlier expletive. She opened the door to his small sanctum, smiling benignly
at him, and he gave up typing for the day. His brother would have to wait a little
longer for his letter – from the sound of things he would be out in India a while
longer, his brother furious that they wouldn‟t let him return home as soon as the
war was won, comparing himself to a slave in his polemic letters home. Reverend
Stuart knew that his reply, encouraging forbearance, would be unwelcome
whenever it arrived.
Mary Gillies was his housekeeper, a friendly Cumbrian who had wanted to help
at the church to feel more a part of her community, an elderly Englishwoman
living alone in the far north of Scotland. Reverend Stuart held her in high regard,
even if he did feel that she spent a little too much time at the church, which was
very noticeable due to the small size of the village church. He had wanted her to
be relaxed around him and had told her she didn‟t need to knock whenever she
wanted to see him in his private room – a mistake in retrospect.
“You‟ve got two gentlemen visitors, Reverend,” Mary said loudly.
“Are they from the parish?”
“No, no, no, no,” she said animatedly. “Do you want me to send them through?”
“Yes, yes,” he said, curious as to what amused her about the question but
unable to ask her for fear of her answering in a booming voice. He found out the
answer soon enough, quickly standing as the pair of priests entered, the elder
clad in fine red robes, seeming to be the epitome of a Vatican cardinal. He looked
to be around sixty and was bald with a dark grey beard and moustache. The
other priest looked half of his age and he looked more the ethnic Roman, though
his clothes were more standard, black garb with collar, and his build belonged
more to a circus strongman than a priest. The elder priest shook Reverend‟s
Stuart‟s hand, introducing himself as Father Alberto Rossi and then introduced
Father Umberto Sciali whose handshake, surprisingly, was weaker than Father
Rossi‟s. Reverend Stuart introduced himself and welcomed them to Ravensbeck
and offered them seats and asked them if they wanted anything to eat and drink,
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