Chapter Fifteen

Carys used Monday to catch up on work for her accounting clients. She called Father Dave, and made an appointment to talk with him again Tuesday afternoon.

Jami spent some of the day thinking about photography. She sketched some layouts, thought about where to shoot, how to use lights. She fixed lunch, did laundry (they had the use of Mrs. Carmichael's washer and dryer) and spent much of the afternoon on the window seat writing.

In early afternoon, while Tam was still on campus, Carys looked up from her work and asked, "Jami? Do I take advantage of you?"

"What do you mean?"

Carys got up from the desk, stretched and flopped on the bed, looking at Jami. "I let you do too much of the housework, and you take care of the computer, and you have a steady job, which you're not real wild about."

Jami closed her laptop and set it down. "The job is necessary right now. It isn't very challenging, but I do like photography. As for housework, well, cooking is fun. You help with the other stuff whenever I ask. Taking care of computers I could do in my sleep."

"Okay, just checking," said Carys, pushing herself up on her elbows and working her shoulders back and forth.

"Are you sore?" asked Jami.

"Yes. I think the monitor needs to be higher for me."

"I'm sorry, Car. You've mentioned that before. I'll fix it." Jami stood up and walked to the desk.

"Not right now!"

"Yes, right now. It's mainly you who sits at that machine, and you're the one who suffers. Tam or I can sit on a pillow, if need be, but the chair won't adjust lower, so you have to scrunch and get a sore neck."

Jami took a ruler from the drawer, made a few measurements, and wrote them down. Then she pulled a couple of large photography books from the shelf. "Lift the monitor, please, Carys?"

Carys lifted the monitor while Jami positioned the books, then Carys sat in the chair.

"Is that high enough? Relax your shoulders and use the browser." Jami watched and didn't see Carys hunch up, so she was satisfied.

"Okay." She measured the height of the books. "Next time I'm at my parents' house I'll make a support for the monitor."

Carys turned in the chair to look at Jami. "See, you take care of me."

Jami kissed her nose. "Yep. And Tam will massage your shoulders as soon as she gets here."

"Why am I so lucky?" asked Carys.

"I don't know, dear, but I'm very glad you are."

* * *

Tuesday was overcast, cold, windy and it was beginning to snow as Carys rode the bus to her appointment with Father Dave. She stamped her boots on the steps, brushed snow off her coat and shook out her knit cap before entering the church building.

"Hello, Carys," said Father Dave when she knocked on the doorframe of his office. "Come in." He took in her red cheeks and added, "You look cold."

Carys shivered. "I'm fine. It's just windy."

"I know there's coffee," he said. "I just started a new pot going a bit ago. May I offer you a cup?"

"Please, just black." Carys put her hands on her face to warm her cheeks.

Father Dave returned with two mugs of coffee. Carys put her hands around hers, warming them. "Thank you!" Carys smiled.

"So. What has happened in your life since last Thursday?"

Carys thought for a moment, smiled to herself. "You probably don't want to know everything that's happened in my life, but the high points are, in order I think, we looked at the disk, Tam and I met with the lawyer again, Jami and Mrs. Carmichael took the disk from Jami's parents' house to Mrs. C's safe deposit box, we went with Tam to meet her mother, I talked with Crystal again, and I set a meeting to brainstorm about my performance troupe for tomorrow."

"You are a busy person."

"Well, yes. It's hard trying to do even half what I want to do!"

"I take it you don't spend many evenings in front of the television?"

"The what? Oh, we don't even have one. When would we watch television?"

Father Dave chuckled. "Do you know how unusual you are?"

"Um, that has been regularly pointed out to me for quite a few years."

"I don't mean that," frowned Father Dave. "I mean your entire approach to life."

"I suppose I am a little out of step with consumer society."

Father Dave looked at her, shook his head slightly.

"What?" asked Carys.

"Just wishing things were different," he said. "So you looked at the disk?"

"Yes." Carys sighed and grimaced. "We didn't look very far. It was disturbing, to say the least. Because of what we saw, and some things I'll get to in a minute, I no longer believe the disk is actually from a laptop of Kathy's. For one thing, it was used after she died."

Carys took a deep breath and looked at Father Dave. "The files that were used appear to be records of selling things, probably drugs and pornography. Jami says the disk is pretty full, mostly of porn. And it's nasty stuff."

She drummed her fingers against the coffee mug. "The lawyer is checking on some things. We need to decide whether to turn the disk over to the police, destroy it, or simply try to forget about it."

"That last option doesn't seem wise," said Father Dave, with raised eyebrows.

"No, it doesn't," agreed Carys. "I think the disk may have been sent to me to hurt me, either by messing with what I thought I knew about Kathy, or perhaps worse, as a set up." She related some of what Crystal had told her Saturday.

"Oh, my," Father Dave clucked. "You do have a mess on your hands, don't you?" He thought a moment, finished his coffee and set the mug on his cluttered desk. "I agree that it sounds like all Kathy meant you to have was the printed poems. And Carys?"

"Yes?"

"If that's so, then what Kathy said in her note, 'This is all that's left of the real me,' that applies only to the poems, not to all the ugliness you saw on the disk. You can let that go."

Carys closed her eyes. Father Dave leaned forward to grab her coffee as her hands loosened on it. She bent over, face in hands, for a few moments.

Sitting back up, she wiped her eyes on a sleeve. "Thank you. Thank you so much. That's the image I want to keep in my heart of Kathy. The frightened young girl I once knew who wrote those poems and sent them to me because she trusted me."

"I wish..." She scrunched up her face and put it in her hands again. "Why did she have to die!" When she looked up again Father Dave handed her a box of tissues.

Carys blew her nose and wiped her eyes. "I'm angry. If the Kathy who wrote those poems had been accepted by her parents, and by her church, she would probably still be alive and I wouldn't be going through this."

Father Dave returned the box of tissues to the top of the file cabinet next to his desk, then turned back to Carys. "You may be right." He looked past Carys to the wall of his tiny office, at a picture taken of the youth group that contained Kathy. After a moment he looked at Carys again and asked, "What are you going to do about the disk?"

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to give the disk to the police, just to protect myself. And that really bites!" She made a fist and hit her leg.

"Even if I believed that the police and the courts weren't out to get people like me, it wouldn't be an easy decision. Kathy's dead. Whatever she may have been involved with, it makes no difference to her now. But it does to her parents and her friends."

"You don't seem very happy with her parents."

"I'm not. But what's done is done. It's not my place to punish them, no matter what they did to Kathy." She looked the priest in the eyes. "And no, it's not even my place to judge them, but I believe they were wrong, just as I believe the Church is wrong in what it teaches about homosexuality and transsexuality.

"I'm not going to risk going to jail, and maybe dragging Jami and Tam and Zoe and Mrs. Carmichael along with me into this mess, to hide the truth about Kathy, not if it means also letting some asshole get away with what he may have done to her and probably is trying to do to me." She hit her palm with her fist in frustration. "It just bugs the crap out of me that there is no way out of this!"

Father Dave put his hands together and rested his chin on them. "Have you considered talking with Linda's brother Carl? If he was involved with Kathy in the way Crystal believes he was, then he's the person who is most likely responsible for sending the disk to you."

"Are you crazy!" Carys ran a hand through her hair. "Sorry. I just don't see how I could do that."

The priest leaned forward. "I might be able to arrange such a meeting, and mediate it. The family are members of the parish. I've seen Carl here from time to time."

Carys thought. "What would be the object of such a meeting?"

Sitting back in his chair, Father Dave said, "Your middle option, destroying the disk. If you go to the police, Carl is going to be in big trouble, no matter what he might believe. If, as Crystal seems to think, he is trying to go clean before college, it would be in his best interest to let you destroy the disk and say nothing."

"Why are you willing to involve yourself in this?"

"Even if none of the people who are involved with what is on that disk are directly identified, it seems to me that the potential for ruined lives is large if that disk is given to the police. If sending that disk to you was a poorly thought out impulse on Carl's part, he may be regretting his action. But I agree that you need to protect yourself."

Carys though for a moment. "How could I trust anything he says?"

"It sounds to me like he has more to loose in this than you do, by a long shot. You have in fact done nothing wrong. I'm willing to tell people that. He may have done a great deal that is wrong, and apparently quite a few people know that."

Carys thought a moment. "I need to discuss this with Jami and Tam. The lawyer, too, I suppose."

Father Dave nodded. "Go ahead. I'll see if I can make contact with Carl. That may take a few days to do discreetly."

"This would be just you, me and Carl, right?"

"I think that would be best. We'd all agree that anything said would go no further."

"Okay. Let's explore it, then. I really would prefer not to give that disk to the police." She looked at Father Dave. "Thank you, again."

"All in a day's work." He stood to open the door.

Carys gathered her jacket and hat. "Isn't your work saving souls or something?"

Father Dave picked up a glove that had fallen on the floor and handed it to Carys. "My work is doing what I believe in, and trying to make of the world a better place."

Their eyes met. Carys nodded, smiled and walked out the door.

* * *

"Why can't we be moral without religion?" said Carys. "Why do we have to pretend there is some god who will punish us if we don't do what we're told? Can't we outgrow that?"

"I don't think that's what religion is about," said Tam. "In terms of the big moral questions, most religions aren't that much different from each other. The golden rule is pretty universal."

"Right,"said Jami. "It's important things like what kind of food it's okay to eat that people spend their time killing each other over."

"Exactly! Can't we just talk about things and agree about things like reasonable people?"

"That's basically what the various United Nations agreements and conventions do," said Tam.

"I guess it just takes a lot of work," said Carys. "Humans aren't very reasonable creatures."

"I won't argue with that," said Jami, "but the idea that the people of Earth can work together cooperatively is pretty new. And maybe only in the past decade, thanks to the world wide web, is it actually beginning to happen."

"That's our generation, Carys," said Tam.

"So it is," said Carys, closing her eyes.