Friday, 13 August 2010
Father Ignatius parked the car outside Somerton Towers and out he came with Monsignor Thomas and Sister Martha.
Monsignor Thomas was a small man, rather rotund in stature with a red chubby face which looked like an over ripe tomato. His short body and little legs made him walk like an overfed duck, waddling from side to side as he moved.
Despite her sixty-something age, Sister Martha was very energetic and could out-run anyone half her age. She headed for the front door first and opened it for the Monsignor.
The three walked through the foyer and headed for the elevator only to be met by Theodore Luxton-Joyce, the eccentric millionaire well known to Father Ignatius.
“Hello Padre …” he shouted at the top of his voice attracting the attention of everyone in the foyer, “rather unusual seeing you here … don’t tell me you’re a businessman in priest’s clothing …” he chortled loudly.
Before Father Ignatius had time to respond to Theodore a bell rang once and the elevator doors slid open. The four of them waited for the elevator to empty and then they entered as the doors slid shut again.
Theodore was first at the controls.
“Where are you going Padre …” he asked.
“Right to the top …” replied Father Ignatius.
“Ah … same here … 13th floor … right to the top … nearer to Heaven … here we go …” joked Theodore.
The elevator moved swiftly upwards as they stood quietly looking at the numbers change on the illuminated control panel. As it reached the figure 12 it stopped violently with a loud screeching noise. Monsignor Thomas lost his footing and nearly rolled on the floor like a giant pumpkin had he not been caught by Sister Martha and Father Ignatius simultaneously.
“Blast!!!” shouted Theodore, then realizing what he’d said, “Oh … I’m ever so sorry Padre … and you too Padre … and … eh … Miss … eh … Sister … sorry Sister …”
They said nothing and as they recovered slowly from the shock Theodore took control once again. “Ah … this panel here … it should have a phone,” he said as he pulled it open.
He picked up the phone and after a second or two a voice was heard to say: “Engineers here … how can we help you?”
“Well … I’d thought you’d deliver us a pizza …” replied Theodore angrily, “but in the meantime perhaps you’d care to let us out of this cage …”
“Which elevator are you in?” asked the engineer.
“I didn’t happen to ask as I got in … it’s the one on the left in Somerton Towers …” snorted Theodore.
“Ah yes sir … it has just shown up on our emergency panel … we’ll be with you shortly …” replied the engineer as Theodore put the phone back in its place.
“Well … I hope they won’t keep us waiting for hours …” he said angrily, “I have an important meeting in a few minutes’ time …”
“I’m sure they’re doing all they can,” said Father Ignatius calmly.
“I don’t like confined spaces …” he grumbled.
“May I suggest you loosen your tie a bit Sir, and take short breaths to calm you a little …” suggested Sister Martha.
“Oh … I’m calm alright …” he retorted, “I’ve always been calm … born calm … that’s me … not crying like the rest of humanity … but I have an important meeting you know …”
Then looking up he added.
“Now normally in films there’s a trap door in the ceiling … I could find it and we can escape …”
“I hope you don’t expect me to climb up there …” said Monsignor Thomas; “I would not fit through any trap door … no matter how large …” he smiled nervously.
Theodore looked at him and politely bit his lip before saying anything.
“I tell you what Padre …” said Theodore finally, “I’ll climb up there myself … I bet there’s a lever up there which will release the door open … I’ve seen it done in films many times you know …”
“There’s no need for that …” interrupted Father Ignatius gently, fearing a heart attack or worse mishap happening to the elderly eccentric, “I’m sure the engineers will be here in no time …”
“But … but … you’re denying me the opportunity to impress your friends here Padre!” said Theodore winking at Father Ignatius with a smile.
“No one is climbing anywhere …” said Sister Martha having missed the joke completely, “let’s remain calm until help arrives. Perhaps we could recite the Rosary …”
“That would take years …” interrupted Theodore without thinking, “eh … what I meant to say … oh never mind …
“Padre … you have not introduced me to your friends … How do you do Sister and Padre … I’m Theodore Luxton-Joyce …”
“This is Sister Martha from the Convent near St Vincent Church,” said Father Ignatius introducing his companions, “and this is Monsignor Thomas representing the Bishop …”
“The Bishop? That sounds grand …” said Theodore.
“Yes … I represent the Bishop …” said the Monsignor with a smile.
“I must say … I’ve never been trapped in an elevator with two priests and a nun …” laughed Theodore, “in fact I’ve never been trapped in an elevator ever …
“Can you imagine … if the elevator cables broke and we fell to our death … the newspaper headlines tomorrow would say … Nun and two priests go down!!!
Ha … ha … ha …” he laughed heartily.
They smiled politely and said nothing. Theodore looked at his watch and said,
“Damn those engineers … my meeting should have started twenty minutes ago.
“It’s very important … what? It’s a hearing about some stupid objection or other … Coston Enterprises are being blocked by some non-sense argument from some group or other …”
“Did you say Coston Enterprises?” asked Father Ignatius politely.
“Yes … that’s me …” replied Theodore, “I own Coston Enterprises … we hope to build a farm on a stretch of land up the hill West of town … pigs mainly … high demand for pork these days … bacon … sausages … pork chops and all that … I had my eyes on two pieces of land to choose from, so I settled West of town … just up the hill …
“Unfortunately some group or other has complained to the Local Authority. Spoiling the environment … they say. What nonsense I say … That’s what this meeting is all about … I’ve come to put an end to all their objections … can’t stand in the way of farming you know … business is business after all … what?”
“That’s us, Theodore!” said Father Ignatius.
“Us what?” asked Theodore, still not getting the point.
“We are the ones who objected to your proposals,” continued Father Ignatius as Sister Martha stopped reciting the Rosary abruptly, and the Monsignor gestured secretly to Father Ignatius to say nothing more.
“What?” shouted Theodore, “you are the Diocesan Property Holdings Trust Fund? Why didn’t you say so … old boy?”
“Yes … Theodore …” continued Father Ignatius, “it’s a Trust Fund managed by the Bishop. The Monsignor and I represent St Vincent Church, Sister Martha represents the Convent nearby.
“The land you propose to farm on backs onto our joint land, the Church and the Convent. And we feel that a pig’s farm … well … it may cause some smell … and …”
“Some smell !!!” shouted Theodore, “Some smell you say? It will be a right proper stinko Padre … I can assure you … have you never been on a pig’s farm … what? They do smell to high Heaven I tell you … but that’s what pigs do … they smell all right … but they taste nice too …”
“Yes … quite …” mumbled Father Ignatius politely.
“Well … why did you not tell me Padre? Instead of all this objection nonsense … I’ve had to read reams of papers because of you … well not read them exactly … just looked at the headings and decided it was all nonsense.
“You have my phone number have you not? You could have rung me or Rose … that’s my wife …” he said to the Monsignor and Sister Martha, “jolly nice woman … what? The Padre here married us … I wouldn’t have had the courage if it wasn’t for him …
“Yes … you should have phoned me Padre and we could have discussed it over a cup of chai and biscuits …”
“I didn’t know you own Coston Enterprises …” said Father Ignatius.
“And how was I to know you’re the Diocesan Property something or other …” chuckled Theodore, “ha … ha … just had a thought Padre … the stink from the pig’s farm wouldn’t half compete with your incense on Sunday … what?”
“So … we objected on the grounds …” Father Ignatius hesitated.
“Oh … think nothing of it … Padre” interrupted Theodore, “I’ll build the farm on the other piece of land … nearer the highway … easier access and all that …
“I can always plant various vegetables just behind your land … no objection to that I hope? Or would you prefer sweet smelling flowers … what?”
Father Ignatius looked at the Monsignor who shook his head and smiled. Sister Martha said that they’d have no objection either to turning the land to arable use. Just then the engineers opened the elevator doors and let them out.
“Well then …” suggested Theodore, “I propose we go to the Grand Hotel to celebrate with a sumptuous lunch … my treat … I used to go there with Rose you know … jolly nice … the restaurant that is … oh … and Rose too … of course … she’s jolly nice too … what?”