"The Case of the Missing Mother Superior"
(A Patrick and Grace Mystery)
Janet Elaine Smith
"I can’t really tell you," Philip Douglas, the director of the Haven of Rest Homeless
Shelter said into the phone. "I expect them any time."
In the hush of his office, an intruder could easily have heard the bellowing of the
voice on the other end of the phone line.
"I’ll have them call you just as soon as they get here," he assured the raving
caller. "I’m sure it won’t be long."
He hung the phone up and turned his eyes heavenward. "Please, make them hurry," he said,
his prayer interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Come in," he called out, not wanting any interference right now. Maybe he should go
to the airport to meet them. Patrick O’Mally and Grace Johnson, his favorite retirees, were due back from Nebraska,
where they had solved the mystery of who had "done in" poor Walter, the cook from the homeless shelter.
He smiled as he thought of them, and how fast the time had passed since Patrick had
brought Grace to the shelter, alone as a new widow. She had certainly been a godsend to them.
"Hiya, Father," Patrick said cheerfully as he walked to the desk, his hand outstretched
to greet his friend. It didn’t matter that Philip Douglas had left the priesthood to marry Anne, the sexy lady lawyer
who had captured him away from his chosen role. "Once a priest, always a priest," Patrick had told Grace when he first took
her to meet him.
"Patrick! Grace!" Mr. Douglas said, hurrying around the big desk to embrace first one,
then the other. "Am I glad to see you!" He smiled as he added, "Boy, when God answers, He doesn’t fool around."
"Couldn’t stand the eggs, huh?" Patrick teased, referring to the runny, nearly
raw eggs Anne Douglas insisted on serving the men at the shelter.
"No," Mr. Douglas said, his expression suddenly turning very serious. "I can even tolerate
them. If only Father O’Brien would quit calling. I don’t know what’s bugging the old man, but he’s
about to drive me right up the wall."
Suddenly, Patrick began to laugh.
"It’s not funny!" Mr. Douglas insisted. "He’s almost beside himself. He
won’t tell me what’s bothering him. Says he has to talk to you as soon as you get back."
Patrick laughed again. "Remember the deaf man at the café in Albany?" he asked, winking
at Grace. She joined with him in laughter.
"Care to let me in on it?" Mr. Douglas asked. "I could sure use a good laugh."
"There was a deaf guy at the café," Patrick began to explain. "I presume it was his
son with him."
"The kid was waving his hands so fast, I swear he was screaming at his father, even
though he didn’t utter a sound," Grace said, picking up where Patrick left off.
Patrick kicked in with the next installment of the story. "His dad was sitting there,
shaking his head and doing sign language back just as fast and furious. I think he must have been trying to tell him to shut
"Then the father tapped his son on the arm," Grace said. "He pointed to his son, then
put his hands in front of him—both forming a fist—and twisted them one way then the other."
"He pointed to himself," Patrick said.
"Then he put his fingers like this," Grace continued, shaping the letter ‘w’
with her three middle fingers, "and pushed them up into the air."
"And that means…?" Mr. Douglas asked.
"Simple," Patrick answered. "You don’t even have to understand sign language to
figure that one out."
"You drive me up the wall," Grace explained as she repeated the gestures again.
Mr. Douglas, sensing the exasperation the father must have felt, could see the humor
in the situation. He laughed along with Patrick and Grace. The phone rang again.
"Haven of Rest. Philip Douglas speaking."
"Yes, they are right here. Just a minute, I’ll put Patrick on." He sighed deeply,
then handed the receiver to Patrick, shaking his head. "I don’t know what it is, but it sounds like a matter of life
or death," he whispered to Grace. "I’ve never seen him like this."
"Except the time they stole St. Patrick," Grace said, referring to the icon of St. Patrick
from St. Patrick’s Cathedral that she and Patrick had recovered for them.
"Yeah, right," Mr. Douglas said. "How could I forget that?"
"Come on, Gracie," Patrick said, pulling her towards the door. "We’ve got our
work cut out for us. I’ll explain on the way over to the cathedral." As he slammed the door shut, he called back to
Mr. Douglas, "Thanks, Father. I’ll fill you in as soon as I can. If he’ll let me."
"It’s the priest who has the sanctity of the confessional," Mr. Douglas called
after him, "not some retired cop."
"If we hurry we can catch the bus and not have to wait for the next round," Patrick
said, continuing to pull Grace along with him.
"Why don’t you take the delivery car?" Mr. Douglas suggested. He reached into
the desk drawer and pulled out a set of keys, then tossed them to Patrick. Patrick dropped Grace’s hand and made a first-rate
catch of the keys.
"Thanks, Father," he said.
And they disappeared from his sight.
"Lord," Mr. Douglas prayed, "I don’t know what it is this time. But I’m
asking you… No, I’m begging you to watch over them. You know what kind of messes they can get into…"
* * *
"Philip?" Anne Douglas asked as she poked her head in the door. "Do you have a couple
"For you, darling, always," he said, his face lighting up at the mere sight of her.
Yes, he told himself for the umpteenth time, it was worth every second of it. Nothing was as important to him as his wife.
Not even God or the church. God forgive him; he loved her too much for words.
* * *
"It’s Mother Superior," Father O’Brien said to Patrick and Grace as they
sat in his office. "She has just disappeared."
"Where did she go?" Patrick asked.
"Boy! You really can be so…" He paused, afraid of insulting him, especially now
when he needed his help so desperately.
"Dumb?" Patrick asked, saving him the embarrassment of putting his thoughts into words.
"You said it," Father O’Brien said, but he didn’t argue.
"Do you have any ideas at all? Or any clues?" Patrick asked.
"Only this," Father O’Brien said. He handed Patrick a crumpled note which read
Old habits die hard. "It was stuck on top of a pile of rumpled up old nun’s habits and there was a bottle of
Old English Furniture Polish beside them."
"Hmm," Grace said, looking thoughtful. "I think we’d better talk to Barbara."
She stood up and headed for the door.
"Barbara Parker?" Father O’Brien asked. "But we got that whole thing settled before.
Just because Cheryl tried to poison me, that doesn’t mean my housekeeper had anything to do with this."
"Maybe," Grace said. "Maybe not." Patrick shook his head and followed her. He might
be the cop, but Grace was the one with the tremendous instincts.
"Women’s intuition to the rescue," Patrick said to the old priest as he left.
"Catch you later."
And again, as they had done with Mr. Douglas, they vanished.