My nerves were not soothed by MacDougal's new habit of ending his every remark with the words, "in jail."
"I can see, gentlemen, that you're all a bit soggy round the collar," I said soothingly. "But I can assure you that this sort of thing happens all the time."
Three pairs of eyes shot wide open, like school doors on the last day of term.
"That is to say," I added quickly," not all the time. Never, in fact."
"Look, Bishop --" MacDougal began.
"Except for today, of course," I added as a point of clarification.
"But one of your priests is in jail!"
"When you get down to it, you know, canonically and so forth, he's not really one of my priests."
The last day of term effect was repeated.
"He's sort of on loan, don't you know. The agency sent him round, in a manner of speaking. An expert on the old Missal, and all that. So naturally Monsignor DiPietro didn't know who he was."
"But he attacked him and had him put in jail!"
"Yes, well, you see, old Stinker DiPietro's a bit old fashioned. You can't just spring a chap like young Thos. on him and expect him not to counter with a left hook and a call to the lads at the station."
"I tell you, that old fellow's a madman! He should be locked away, not running a fine parish like St. Aldhelm's!"
"Ah, oh," I said with delicacy. "The former nuncio, you know."
"They're great friends. Knew each other in seminary, I gather." It was hard for me to imagine Cardinal Fratricidelli as a seminarian. My own days in seminary were passed mostly in paralyzing fear of dropping the heavy brass candlestick I carried in procession whenever a visiting archbishop offered Mass. Cardinal Fratricidelli might have squeezed a brass candlestick in two, but he would never have dropped one.
"In any case, the as-was nuncio had recommended Stinker for his current assignment." I passed a hand across the troubled brow. "They still keep in touch."