Home > Come Back to Me (Waters of Time #1)(9)

Come Back to Me (Waters of Time #1)(9)
Author: Jody Hedlund

Harrison turned on the flashlight of his phone, shining it onto the container and examining it from all angles. “If my hunch is correct, this is the St. Thomas ampulla that was stolen from Canterbury Cathedral three weeks ago when it was brought there for display with the Esztergom relic.”

Marian raised her brow. “Why would Dad have a stolen ampulla? And what in the world is the Esztergom relic?”

“The Esztergom is thought to be a bone from the elbow of Thomas Becket. The bone has been on display at various cathedrals around the country, including Westminster and St. Margaret’s Church. Even St. Michael’s in Harbledown before arriving in Canterbury.”

“You’re kidding. How can anyone care about a piece of elbow bone from a dead archbishop?” In fact, how could anyone know if such a bone had once belonged to Becket? Maybe it came from another dead person and was passed off as Becket’s with the hope of making money.

Harrison shrugged as though he didn’t get the fascination either. “During the last Sunday afternoon of Becket Week, mass was held in the crypt of the cathedral. The ampulla went missing after that.”

If Dad had taken it, how would he have managed such a feat? And more importantly, why? “Dad isn’t a thief. He’s eccentric at times, but he’d never steal something out of the cathedral.”

“Sorry, love. The fleurs-de-lys decorating the edges and the details of Becket on both sides most certainly makes it a St. Thomas ampulla.” Harrison studied the flask as if it was a long-lost treasure.

Though faded, the front had an engraving of angels flying over Becket. The back depicted the famous saint being attacked by the knights who killed him.

“How do you know this is the one stolen from Becket Week? There are probably lots of ampullae around the area.”

“Actually, no. The Kentish Gazette ran a big article about the crime. Historians and museum curators know of only three original St. Thomas ampullae that still exist.”

“Maybe this isn’t an original.” Even as she said the words, she had the sinking feeling Harrison was right about its authenticity. But she couldn’t believe Dad had stolen it.

Harrison lifted the flask to his nose and sniffed. He tipped it over much the same way she had earlier in the viewing room at the bank. Then he attempted to peer down the narrow opening.

“The more I try to comprehend what’s happened to Dad, the more complicated things seem to get and the less I understand of what he actually did.”

Harrison scrutinized the container a moment longer before holding it out to her. “Rumor has it that the original ampulla held holy water, in particular holy water mixed with blood from St. Thomas Becket himself.”

As she took the ampulla, a scoffing laugh begged for release. Water with blood from Becket was as foolish as his elbow bone. But Harrison continued before she could voice her sarcasm. “The holy water was thought to cure diseases. The monks bottled the water in ampullae like this and sold it to pilgrims.”

Bojing slowed the Bentley, and ahead, Marian glimpsed Harrison’s estate, Chesterfield Park. As the car drew to a stop in front of imposing iron gates, Marian tried to make sense of everything—particularly the facts that her dad might have drugged himself into a coma and had likely stolen an important relic from Canterbury Cathedral.

What had he been thinking? Maybe that was the problem. What if he’d developed a mental illness that had caused him to behave irrationally?

She exhaled her frustration. He hadn’t sounded demented or irrational during their last phone call. Distracted, yes. But he’d been as sharp and intelligent as usual.

Bojing rolled down his window and spoke into the intercom. A moment later, the gates swung open to admit them. Harrison’s driver directed the car down a long paved driveway that circled an elegant yard. With several flower beds in full bloom, the vibrant green grass made the stately palatial-sized manor stand out all the more.

Marian gaped as she usually did as they drew closer to the mansion built in Anglo-Italian style with its magnificent stonework, many large-paned cross windows, gated porch entrance with two arches and a cupola, and a striking hall tower on the east end. The manor was three stories high with a grandeur that was breathtaking.

Harrison had once explained that the original house had been built by the Durham family in the 1300s. King Edward III had awarded Sir Durham the land for daring deeds that had helped the English defeat the French at Crecy.

Apparently, the original structure had been much less lavish. After it had been ransacked during the English Civil War, it had been reconstructed and enlarged, especially during Victorian times. In the 1880s, the mansion had passed to the Burlington family, who were distant relatives of the Durhams. Harrison’s grandparents and parents invested enormous amounts of capital into restoring the interior to some of its rich historical heritage.

For several decades, the Burlington family opened parts of the mansion and gardens to tourists. But after Harrison inherited the estate, he made it his private residence and ended the public viewing.

Bojing rolled the Bentley to a stop across from the entrance, and Marian tried to envision the house the way it had been in the 1300s, smaller, less ornate, but surely just as magnificent. Bojing exited the car, rounded to the trunk, and began removing Harrison’s wheelchair. Harrison opened his door and pivoted in readiness for Bojing.

Marian gathered up the papers and ampulla and stepped out of the car to find that the evening had grown considerably cooler. She wished now she’d thought to bring a sweater. The sun had begun to fade, turning the sky a royal blue like the pieces of colored glass in the cathedral window. The vibrant blue reflected off the manor’s stones, turning the gray to lavender.

Weariness overtook her. In addition to jet lag and sleep deprivation, worry and the strain of the attack were beginning to take a toll. She wanted to return to the hospital and be with Dad, but she had the feeling Harrison would insist she get a good night’s sleep first here at Chesterfield Park, where hopefully she would be safe. She decided that she wouldn’t argue with him. This time.

She closed the car door and faced the imposing porch entrance that was reminiscent of a gatehouse found on a castle, albeit slightly smaller in size. She fumbled with the ampulla and tightened her grip on it. She couldn’t let anything happen to the relic until she figured out why Dad had it.

She brought the opening to her nose and sniffed again as she had earlier. What if the rumors were true, and it had held liquid of some kind? And what if Dad had consumed it?

Whatever fluid it had contained could have been quite old and had an adverse effect on him. Even if the hospital’s blood tests hadn’t revealed traces of anything out of the ordinary in his system, she was suddenly overcome with the suspicion that whatever had been in the flask was related to his coma in some way.

Knowing Dad, he’d likely poured the contents into a disposable tube and placed the ampulla into his safety deposit box to keep from being caught with the incriminating evidence. The hospital personnel had indicated he’d fallen unconscious in the main lobby shortly after he arrived, but they hadn’t mentioned him having a container on him. Nothing of the sort had been in the plastic bag of his possessions. But if he’d had something, it could have rolled away, been tossed in the trash, or even kicked into a corner by a passerby.

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