‘So, is this a date?’ asked Anglican Father Peter. While his eyes were still austere and penetrating, there was a smile teasing around his pressed lips.
Mabel and Peter were sitting down for dinner on the outdoor deck of a charming little Greek restaurant in Hatfield Square, a spot right in between Mabel’s home and Peter’s church, where Mabel just assumed he lived. This wasn’t true of course.
‘What? Ha! No man!’ replied Mabel. ‘You’re a priest! No man, Peter. Tsk.’ She gave an awkward giggle and hoped, for the sake of all things holy, that her cheeks were not as red as they felt.
Stick a fork in me, I’m done.
‘I’m not a priest. Not a catholic one.’
‘A what one then?’
‘What does that mean?’
The candlelight was casting shadows across Peter’s eyes so that Mabel couldn’t see the expression hidden in them. But there was enough light for her to notice the corner of his mouth curl into a smile. He moved slightly forward as if he wanted to say something significant. The shadows moved, and Mabel felt herself pinned down by his stare. For a moment she stopped breathing.
‘Are you guys ready to order?’ asked the overly sprightly (probably a student) waitress.
Peter sat back in his chair and smiled, looking down.
Mabel felt like tit-punching this waitress.
‘So yeah, at the end of the day I told him I thought it was probably not suicide.’
‘Despite the suicide note?’ asked Peter as they walked slowly towards their parked cars in a poorly lit part of Hatfield.
‘Yeah. A suicide note is only left behind in about 30% of suicides and I think this one is fake. There is definitely fowl play in that case.’
‘Then what now? What do you do next?’
‘I wait for the inquest. That’s a legal proceeding, much like a trial. The inquest magistrate looks at the evidence in the case docket, which au naturel includes my autopsy report, and then decides the mode of death, like, is it a murder or suicide or something else. Then, if the inquest magistrate finds it was a murder, the investigating officer must investigate and find a suspect!’
As Mabel was speaking a cool Pretoria breeze was kissing her face and dancing through her big wave of curls. She was feeling light and happy. No sign of the Black Wolf.
A tender, careful voice came from the darkness behind Mabel and Peter. They turned to find the small figure of Rhona Eckhart, assistant to Professor Serame Mokoena, head of the Forensic Medicine Department.
‘Rhona! What a nice surprise! I’m so glad to see you painting old P-town red and not just slaving away for the boss man!’
Rhona coughed out an awkward giggle. ‘No…I guess…no. I just wanted to say you mustn’t let today’s thing bring you down.’
‘What thing, Rhona?’
‘The thing about Professor Mokoena testifying in the inquest of your case. That suicide you handled last Friday.’
Mabel felt rage ascend from the same place the Black Wolf arose.
‘Mokoena testified in my case? In the inquest?’
From Mabel’s face Rhone could tell she hadn’t been privy to this piece of news.
‘Oh dear. Oh dear. I though you knew. Paul Hoffmann visited the Professor and asked him to help show the case was suicide. He told him all the evidence pointed to suicide and that your report differed. He showed the Professor the docket…oh dear…’
‘Did he testify in the inquest already?’ Mabel felt heat climbing up her neck into her head.
‘Today. He just came back and said “suicide” with a thumbs-up and went back to his office. I’m sorry Mabel. I thought you knew.’
‘Don’t tell me to breath.’ Mabel was livid and pacing up and down the length of her old Toyota. Peter was standing next to her, watching her break a crack into the road while her hair seemed wilder than ever.
‘I can’t believe Paul’s nerve! It was my case!’
‘I’m assuming this means no further investigation? No suspect?’
‘That’s exactly what it fucking means.’ Mabel stopped and turned to Peter. ‘I’m sorry Peter, I’m just so angry right now.’
‘Of course. I get it.’
‘I’m so over not being taken seriously. Really. It’s getting old now.’ Mabel could feel tears welling in her eyes and turned her back to Peter. ‘My own boss can’t even call me “Doctor Ackerman”. Did I tell you that? The best he can do is “Miss Ackerman.” Like I didn’t pass exactly the same medical school exams as all his male underlings…’
Mabel felt her anger manifest into hot tears.
This is the last bloody thing I want to do now. Cry. Like the bloody infant everyone thinks I am. High five, Mabel, you loser.
‘I take you seriously.’
Mabel turned back to him, faking a smile. ‘You have to, you’re my priest.’
In a move that Mabel later thought was unexpectedly swift and cat-like, Peter took out his hands from his jacket pockets and took Mabel by the waist. He shoved her back hard up against her old car. Then he pressed his own body tightly against hers. She looked up at him and meant to gasp, but his mouth was on hers, melting into her, slowly. She could no longer think. The anger was suffocated by…by something else. He moved in a slow, sensual rhythm that felt familiar to Mabel.
I can’t…I can’t feel my legs…
After a few seconds he withdrew from her mouth, taking care to leave her slowly. He kissed her on the cheek, then moved down to her neck. He kissed her neck, deeply, then finished each kiss with a soft sucking of her skin. He moved back to her mouth, kissed her one last time, and, when he pulled back his face from hers, softly licked her bottom lip. He hovered over her without uncurling his arms from her.
‘But…but you are a…’
‘I’m not a priest. If I want you to be mine, mine you’ll be.’
‘The feminist in me wants to tell you to go make mad love to yourself.’
‘And the rest of you?’
‘The rest of me will speak when blood has returned to it.’
Peter doesn’t really smile but thin lines appear next to his eyes. ‘How’s the anger feeling?’
‘Right now it’s feeling pretty good. I might get angry again later though…’
Peter smiled, this time for real.