He watched her fingers shiver. Tremors descended onto the styrofoam cup, making her coffee quake.
“Miss Scott, I had the impression it would be easier to talk here. Is there some place else you might be more... relaxed?” His tone was level, his gaze unwavering. If she even glanced his way, he would grab the opportunity for eye contact. A good policeman could learn a lot without a word spoken.
“No. This is fine Inspector. I’m just shaken. I mean, you saw how he reacted, what he said about me. It's just... unbelievable.” Her voice trailed off.
“Let’s start at the beginning. How about your first name?”
He knew already. At the crime scene Wallace had been confronted by an elderly fellow. Cheeks flushed and beaded with sweat, the man’s jowls had danced over a strangely colored clerical collar. With a gravel voice, he had declared the crime solved.
“Jennifer Scott has robbed our holy family of it’s treasure.”
Firmly stepping past, Wallace encountered the crowded crime scene. Men in multi-colored robes yelled and pushed theatrically against uniformed officers. The police protectively surrounded a young woman cowering in the corner. Presumably the accused, although she didn’t look capable of robbery.
“Jennifer. Jennifer Scott.” She swallowed and looked at Wallace.
“And you’re a secretary in the church’s office, correct?”
“Yes, sir. Just a temp placement, but I started at Joseph’s Blessings about three months ago.”
“Your duties are clerical, nothing to do with the worship or religious activity?” Wallace needed to find out exactly what form of religious activity was going on.
“Um, no. The clerics were very private about that. My duties were reception, answering phones, cleaning. Oh, and I worked a little on the website.” Jennifer shuddered. “Most of the stuff on there creeps me out.”
A blush rose in her cheeks. “I don’t mean to sound disrespectful Mr. Wallace, but I’ve grown up a Christian. I know the Bible. And what they say on their site is just plain wrong.” She squirmed.
“Go on,” he prompted.
“Like the twelve tribes of Israel. The Bible mentions Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Joseph’s Blessings doctrine states that Joseph had another son, one who got heavily embroiled with the Egyptians. Because of that, his family was alienated from the Hebrews and not involved in the Exodus. That son possessed a fragment of the sacred Coat of Many Colors, given by Jacob.”
“And the site claims that when Mary and Joseph were in Egypt, with Jesus, they had a daughter. That daughter apparently stayed in Egypt and married an ancestor of ancient Joseph. They claim that their mission today is to reunite the family of Joseph and claim the blessings due to them.” Her eyes held a healthy dose of skepticism. “It all sounds pretty far-fetched.”
Wallace stifled a grin. “It sounds as if they’re out to gain something. And all of this is posted on their website?”
Another nod. Wallace went through a mental list of potential enemies those claims would wrought.
He spoke bluntly. “Do you know what they’ve accused you of stealing?”
She rose a few inches in her seat. “Yes. I mean, no, not exactly. But it was obviously something valuable. Why else would Father Shawn have threatened me?”
Wallace thought that Shawn seemed a rather un-Egyptian name.
“Extremely valuable information has gone missing from their secured hard drive.”
“A file?” Her head cocked.
“Not a file. A code. Apparently whoever possesses that code is in control of their financial resources.” He remembered that the hostile cleric had used the word treasure.
“Oh, the code...” she whispered.
Wallace jumped all over it. “Do you know about this?”
She seemed startled to have said that aloud. The blush shone again. “They talked about a ‘Code of Many Colors’ sometimes. I wasn’t supposed to hear, but occasionally they’d slip up. I thought they were ignorant, warping the biblical account even further, you know.”
“Were you ever told its location?”
“No. I thought it was another bumble in their philosophy. Was it like a list of numbers or something? An encryption?”
Wallace’s instincts shouted against disclosing information to his most likely suspect. But something about her carved away at his usual guard.
Jennifer Scott’s brains were in tact, yet she didn’t check her manners at the door. Blushing was actually quite becoming on her.
His logical thread pointed out the need for an insider. Jennifer must have information that would shed some light onto this many-colored case.
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