Chapter Two

Table awoke to the sound of Sister Juniper falling down the stairs. She was ordinarily quite graceful, but lately she seemed to have extreme difficulty navigating the wide stone steps of the monastery, particularly when wearing the long traditional robe of the Monks of Antana.

This morning, Table did not hear the familiar footsteps of monks hastening to her aid. He shuffled out of bed and down the stairs to see what kind of shape Juniper was in after today's fall. It was perhaps the first time he had seen her so soon after a tumble. Her hair was askew, her robes were twisted around her ankles, and she was muttering to herself sourly.

"Here now, Juni, what's all this about, then?" said Table. She turned her face to look up at him briefly, then went back to straightening her robes.

"Didn't mean to wake you, Table. I won't be a moment, there, all set!" she said quickly, and dashed down the rest of the stairs, this time clutching her robes in both hands to keep them out of the way of her hurrying feet.

Table leaned against the wall for a moment while he fished a cigar out from a pocket and lit it. "Well," he said to himself, "something is most certainly amiss, and not just in Tantallon."

Picckard was on his second bottle by the time Table arrived. In a rare fit of goodwill, Stubby had agreed to mind the constabulary for the day; Picckard now looked forward to a long dull day of lager, pretzels, and some solitary fishing along the coast. He listened with a sympathetic ear while Table puffed away at his Royal Select and described the events of the day before.

"Hrm, Tantallon, aye," said Picckard. "Some rough sorts movin' in 'round there, I see. Nothin' t'be done, I don't s'pose, but ach, hope it stays down there. Just me 'n Stub 'n the watchman here."

"And yet, Constable, that's three men more than Tantallon can rely on in such matters!" Table waved his cigar around. "Broad daylight, I tell you! Stabbed in broad daylight and nothing to be done? Why, it makes me sick, it does. By Antana, must I hunt the murderer down myself to see any justice around here?"

Picckard chuckled and lifted his bottle, only to find it was empty. Time to be off, he thought, or he'd be listening to this rambling all day and might as well have stayed at work. "Well," he muttered as he stood up and strapped on his pack of fishing gear. "Tell ye what, friend. If ye do, tell me who 'tis and I'll handle the rest."

Brother Table lingered, pondering this remark. Surely vengeance was not a suitable pursuit for a peaceful monk, but would Antana prefer the alternative? One murder, left unchecked, might beget others. He placed his fallen cigar butt in a trash bag and made his way to confession.