Part 11: Live in Peace
Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11
Jim hurried back to the cabin, worried about what state of mind Blair would be in after having spent some time alone with Alex Barnes. By the time he got back, Simon was already there with a couple of black and whites. As he came around the corner, he saw Sister Maggie sitting in the back of an ambulance, paramedics looking at her arm. Where was Alex? He walked up to Blair who was talking to Simon.
Jim filled them in on what happened to Sister Catherine. Simon sent a couple of guys out to the ravine to check on the body. “It’s too bad we couldn’t have gotten Alex on this one, too. I was sure the two cases were connected. I want a full report on my desk in the morning.” Simon headed to his car. He turned back to them as he got in. “And don’t think I don’t know there’s something else going on here. Whatever it is, I’m not sure I want to know—especially if it has to do with you-know-what.” He drove away.
Jim took a step towards Simon like he wanted to stop him and tell him something. Blair shook his head, his eyes wide with apprehension and something else… Jim had seen that look before. It said, “trust me, Jim. Follow my lead. I know what I’m doing”. Jim waited while Simon, the officers, and the EMTs left. Sister Maggie had raised a fuss, insisting that she could come in later to have her arm looked at. She said she had something more important to do first. Jim kept glancing around. One question burned in his brain. Where’s Alex Barnes?
As soon as everyone was gone, Jim exploded. “Alright, Sandburg! What’s going on here! Where’s Barnes? Don’t even tell me she got away. And what did you tell Simon? He didn’t know she was here, did he?”
“Jim. Calm down, man.”
“I AM CALM! But if I don’t start getting some good answers..!”
“She’s still here—hidden under the cabin.”
“WHAT!?” Jim headed for the house, but Blair was faster and cut him off. “Get out of my way, Sandburg.”
“No. Not until you listen to me.”
“I can’t believe this! We were both so worried about me losing it over Alex and instead it’s you.”
“Why? All you had to do was tell Simon where she was.”
“Is this some kind of Guide hormone thing?”
“Jim, SHUT UP! I swear if you don’t let me explain before you go off half-cocked, this usually non-violent person is going to punch your lights out. That woman…that girl in there is not the same person who killed me, Jim.”
“She try to tell you she’s reformed?”
“She’s not reformed. She’s completely different. There’s nothing left of Alex.”
“It doesn’t matter if she suddenly ‘got religion’, Sandburg. She’s wanted by the law.”
“I know that. But the law tries to be fair, Jim. It tries to give everyone equal treatment. But justice is a loftier pursuit, man. Justice is giving everyone what they deserve. I got the justice I wanted—Alex Barnes is dead. But the girl in there is alive and well and she’s not Alex. She doesn’t deserve to pay for Alex’s crimes.”
Sister Maggie had stood back, letting them talk alone. This was obviously a sore point between them. But now she saw Detective Ellison soften at his partner’s passionate plea. He was wavering. She needed to have her say now as well. “Detective? We need to talk.”
After talking to Jim for almost an hour while Blair walked down the beach with Lexie, Maggie could see the detective was still reluctant, but at least willing to keep listening. “You should talk to her. She doesn’t bite—unless maybe you try to take a chocolate chip cookie from her.” Maggie waved Blair over. He left Lexie playing in the wet sand. Maggie and Blair walked up the beach a little, leaving Jim and Lexie behind. Jim stood watching her for the longest time, not daring to move any closer.
Maggie looked out over the water with a little smile. “Whoever said there were three stages to life was definitely mistaken. It looks like I’m about to enter stage four. There was my normal, average, all-American-girl upbringing. Then the time I spent working for the government. The sisterhood. And now…this. A Guide. Isn’t that what you said?”
“Yep. It’ll be your job to help her learn how to use her senses and not lose herself in them.”
“Ah, yes. The ‘zone-out’ factor you mentioned. We’ve done that a couple of times already. Does it get easier?”
“Believe it or not, it does. Don’t tell Jim, but a lot of it’s instinct. I’ll make sure you get some of my notes to help you in any case. So what will you do now?”
“We can’t stay in Cascade. She’s too well known here. I can’t take her to another convent and put the sisters there at odds with the law and the government. I think…I think this is a complete overhaul of my life again.”
“I understand that. Jim changed everything. I never had a real home, a feeling of belonging until I got mixed up in his life. It was scary at first and we both fought it so hard. But now we’re exactly where we want to be.”
“I’m not worried about what may come. I’ve been having doubts lately, anyway, about my place in the sisterhood. I think I became a nun because I needed to feel like I could do something worthwhile again, be somebody worthwhile.
I was on a mission in Nicaragua, undercover as a nun of all things. That’s where I met Agnes, the nun who’s now Mother Superior here at Mary of the Woods. I had a dream that the nuns were going to be killed. I ignored it until it became more and more insistent, appearing to me when I was awake, too. I finally broke my cover and warned them, but I’d waited to long. Some of them believed me, some of them didn’t. Several were injured and two of them died because I didn’t listen to my instincts in the first place. That’s when I started losing faith in myself and what I was doing.
Then I was sent overseas on another mission. One of my own people betrayed me, left me at the mercy of the enemy. The CIA wrote me off a casualty. But I escaped. I survived.” She couldn’t stop the shiver that ran through her body as she remembered the things she had endured to be able to say that. “I wasn’t the same anymore, though—physically, mentally, or emotionally. I was so empty inside and I needed something to fill the void. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. Every day got harder. And then I remembered how peaceful and content the nuns at the convent had been. I needed something like that so I turned to the church. Becoming a nun took a lot of time, commitment, and work, but I did it. I was at another convent before I came to this one. I requested Mary of the Woods because of the peaceful surroundings, though.”
Blair snorted in amusement. “You must not have read the tourist brochure about the high level of abnormal criminal activity in Cascade.”
Sister Maggie laughed. She let a few moments of contented silence drift by before she continued. “Mother Agnes was worried I was running away from my problems instead of running to God. I told myself she was wrong. I think now she might have been right. And here I am. Ready to start again. Only this time it feels more right than anything I’ve ever done.”
“I can definitely relate to that. Being a Sentinel’s friend, partner, and Guide is hard work, but once you accept the whole package, you won’t want to go back. It requires loyalty, commitment, patience, friendship, understanding, and two supremely important things, communication and trust. If you don’t really work on the last two, you’ll be constantly at odds with each other. Jim and I learned that the hard way. But the rewards are worth all the hard work and heartache—nothing is more important than this.”
Maggie nodded, watching Lexie play in the sand.
Jim hadn’t intended to go over to Lexie. For some reason his feet just took him there. Without realizing it, he was standing beside her.
She looked up at him with big, round, innocent eyes—eyes that were glad to see him. “Oh, goody! You’re here! The funny jungle man said you’d come, but I wasn’t sure.”
“Funny jungle man?”
“Yeah. He has a weird name. Ina… Inka… I don’t remember. But he has brown skin an’dark hair an’…” She whispered conspiratorially. “…he doesn’t wear a lot of clothes.” She giggled and grabbed his hand, pulling him down to sit next to her.
Jim was so stunned he let her. His voice was a whisper. “Incacha.”
Her eyes widened. “You know the jungle man?”
“He was…is a friend of mine.”
He’s nice. I like him.” She pointed at the sand. “Look what I made.”
Jim tore his eyes away from her face to look. It was an oddly shaped lump of wet sand. “Uh…it’s a very nice sand castle.”
She pouted like a little girl. “It’s not a sand castle, dummy.”
Sister Maggie’s voice cut through the air like a buzz saw. “Lexie! That was uncalled for.”
Lexie blushed and hung her head. “I’m sorry, Mister. But it’s not a sand castle. It’s a cat. See? Here’s the head and here’s the tail. It’s the cat the jungle man gave me. I think I used to have a different one but it went away. The jungle man said I needed a new one because I’m new, too. I don’t know what that means. He talks funny sometimes.”
An awkward smile formed on Jim’s face. “I don’t always understand him, either, but he’s always right.”