As the street car came to a stop, Mrs. Robinson was already heading for the front door, along with a number of other passengers. I had to make a decision quickly and with far too little information for an informed one.
“L. A. Confidential,” I said.
“The movie, L. A. Confidential. Who was Rolo Tamasi?”
The giant beside me smiled. “He’s the reason Ed Exley became a cop. Rolo Tamasi was the name Exley gave to the purse snatcher who shot and killed his father and got away without being caught.”
“Okay. What’s your name?”
“Come on!” I said. “She’s about to get off. What’s your name?”
“Ignatius,” he said.
“Ig…?” I shook my head. “Okay, Iggy, I want to see you in my office tomorrow at 10:00, and we’re going to talk retainer and weekly rate and the whole kit along with the kaboodle. And I’m not going to come cheap.”
“Okay, fine. Just move!”
I went to the back door, but unfortunately Mrs. Robinson had apparently found the crowd at the front too daunting and also came to the back. As a result I exited before her and, once outside, was forced to stall for a few moments until I knew which way she was going. Thinking quickly, I pulled up my sleeve so that I’d look like some dude checking the time.
It would have been more convincing if I’d remembered to wear my watch.
Mrs. Robinson didn’t notice me, though, and as she and half a dozen other people began walking west along Queen, I followed at a safe distance.
It appeared that they all knew each other. They talked and laughed as they walked, turning up Noble Street, a block from the stop. They came to a building that looked like some kind of meeting hall from the ’40s. A man standing by the door greeted them as they entered, giving each one a pamphlet of some kind from the batch he was holding against his chest. I hesitated on the sidewalk wondering if I should go with them or not when he noticed me.
“Are you here for the service?” he asked.
“Uh — yes. I am.”
“No need to feel embarrassed. Come on in. We don’t bite.”
Not biting is always a favourable trait in a group, so I walked up to the door.
The papers he was holding turned out to be programs, with little to distinguish them from the kind of programs handed out in churches throughout the world. I glanced at it briefly and walked in.
The front door was at one end of a hallway with two doors along either wall — offices I presumed. At the other end, where the hallway branched off perpendicularly to the left and right, was a closed double door. On my right between two of the office doors was a table and sitting behind it a clean-cut young man with a donation box in front of him. I reached into my pocket, but as I did so he waved me off.
“You’re new here, aren’t you?”
“We never bleed newcomers for money. There’s plenty of time for that later,” he said with a grin infectious enough to warrant the attention of public health officials.
I thanked him and joined the cluster of people gathered in front of the double doors. When I got there I could see that the hallways here stretched to either side and then turned toward the back. Using my powerful deductive abilities, I deduced that the double doors led to a single large room nestled between the two corridors.
At that moment the doors opened and a woman wearing a simple, black ceremonial robe came out.
“We’re ready folks,” she said brightly. “Come on in and let’s have some fun.”
On either side of the room chairs had been set up facing what looked to be a simple altar, really more of a table, in the middle of the floor. The lights were on, but candles were placed all around the room, two rather fat ones sitting on the table/altar. At the back of the room was another set of double doors, closed. We filed in, and I took a seat up front so I could keep an eye on Mrs. Robinson, but that tactic failed when, instead of sitting down, she continued straight to the back of the room and through the double doors.
The man who’d been handing out programs out front now came through the same set of doors a moment later, and since I’d not seen him enter the room I figured he must have gone down one of the hallways on the side of the room and entered the back room from there.
“Hi guys,” he said cheerfully, still straightening out the robe he’d obviously thrown on just before entering.
“The ceremony will start in a couple of minutes, but there’s some housekeeping to do first.” He went over to an ornate chair situated to the right of the back doors and picked up a sheet of paper from the small table beside it.
“Okay,” he said while looking it over. “So far we’ve only got six people signed up for hospital visitations next week. Come on, brothers and sisters, we can do much better than that. I know it’s summer and a lot of our congregation is on vacation, but we’ve never had fewer than an even dozen in years. Next week is our turn at Princess Margaret, and I know for a fact that a number of you have either had cancer treatments there, or have had family and friends there. Some of these patients are all alone. They deserve better.”
He glanced at the paper again.
“Right — our annual picnic on Centre Island is next weekend. This year we’ve arranged to host it for kids from the Regent Park project. The funding has been spectacular — thank you all — and we’re going to show these kids a great time.”
The doors behind him opened a crack and someone spoke quietly to him.
He turned back to us.
“Well, that’s it for now. Anything else is in your programs, so be sure to read them carefully after the service. For now, I ask you to bow your heads and meditate quietly.”
He exited into the back room as the lights lowered. The room was now lit entirely by the candles, but there were enough to provide adequate illumination.
The back doors opened and a woman, dressed in the standard, simple black robe that seemed de rigueur for this crew, came out and picked up the two candles on the altar. She then stood there holding them, as though waiting to put them back.
A moment later a procession of five people came through the doors. The two in front and the two in back, of course, I didn’t know, but the one in the centre was Mrs. Robinson whose face was quite familiar to me.
And now, since she was completely naked, so was her body.
There are notes to this chapter, which can be found by hovering over the “Story Notes: No spoilers” tab at the top of the page.
Warning — Read the chapter first, otherwise the notes may be an inadvertent spoiler.
This is my eighth entry in the February writing challenge, “30 Minus 2 Days of Writing: III” (or 30M2DoW) issued by We Work for Cheese, the rules for which, such as they are, I am completely ignoring — except the attempt to post each day during the month.