While Fr. Chrys was listening with horrified stupefaction to Sister Clara’s narration, downtown at the teaching hospital CSP Charles Kanayo was with Dr Chikelu, the Pathologist.
Charles stood beside the autopsy table and Dana’s lifeless body was across the waist-high aluminium fixture. There was a plastic brisk-like appliance under her back which made her chest to protrude upwards.
Dr Chikelu’s gloved hands moved over the body as he spoke. “I’ll be opening her up in a matter of minutes to begin the toxicology tests.”
“Right.” Charles nodded. Though he’d been dealing with dead bodies all through his career, he’d never managed to get over his aversion for seeing bodies lying across the autopsy table. “So, what is your verdict so far? You think she could have been murdered?”
Dr Chikelu shrugged and picked up a large scalpel. “So far nothing points to that. Much as I told you earlier, the swelling on the back of her skull could have been caused by a backward fall on a hard surface or against a tree trunk. The slight cut on her hand could most likely have been the result of that fall and not necessarily the consequence of rough handling as clearly nothing on her body shows any case of that. Rough handling, I mean.”
He flicked up his eyes to give him a glance. “There are no forceful hand prints or any scratches other than the one on her arm. If someone was trying to physically restrain or molest her maybe, there would be finger prints on her neck and upper arms,” he touched the scalpel to the said body parts, “since she was wearing a sleeveless night dress.”
Charles nodded again, took a cautious step closer. “So, there’s no sign of force or…”
“Physical trauma.” Dr Chikelu finished. “Whatever killed our little lady here did not come in physical contact with her person; at least not visibly.”
“So, it couldn’t have been attempted robbery or rape gone wrong.” Charles felt his belly pitch as Dr Chikelu’s Y-shaped scalpel prodded Dana’s lower abdomen.
“Definitely not rape as there was no presence of seminal fluid. Robbery I think has to be determined by you.” Dr Chikelu’s shoulders lifted in shrug. “From my end, no physical evidence to show she came in contact with anybody who might have been a threat.”
“Well, nothing was taken from the home or any forceful entry into the house to show an attempt at robbery or any such.” Charles swallowed the rise of nausea and blew out a short frustrated breath. “So, you might consider this just natural causes?”
Dr Chikelu angled his head ponderously. He was a pathologist who didn’t like to draw conclusions until he was done with a body. But this had happened in a Christian Home for young people and so far nothing points to the unusual.
“I can’t be sure until we are done with the poison tests.” He said diffidently. “Even that is going to be somewhat limited as we don’t have the right equipment for thorough toxicology forensic tests here.” He shook his head as if disputing a claim. “But then again, why would anyone go to such lengths to acquire a poison that cannot be easily detected just to kill a sixteen year old girl in a Christian Home for young people, huh?”
“My thought exactly. It’s a home of about ten people and the majority of them teenagers like our girl lying here. Although you can’t rule out homicide based on age; anyone can be caught in its web given the right motivation. But this is a Christian home for Christ’s sake.”
Charles knew that was probably a poor defence but he couldn’t help it. Fr. Chrys was one of his longest friends and he knew him. And the children were under his guardianship and he just couldn’t imagine such a crime as diabolic as murder taking place there.
“Well, the toxicology tests for any form of poisoning will either confirm or rule out any question of foul play.” Dr Chikelu cut into his thoughts. “So, we’ll just have to wait and see. Meanwhile, I’m about to begin use of this scalpel, so unless you want to see inside the human anatomy…” He left the words hanging with a wink.
“No, thanks. I’m off. Just being here terrifies my tummy.” Charles aimed for the door to the autopsy lab. “I’ll expect a full report when you are done, Doc. Talk later.” He was out of the room just as the doctor was bending again over the body.
▪ ♦ ▪
BACK in his office, Fr. Chrys wore now an exasperated expression. “Sister Clara just because you prayed novena after novena for God to rid the home of Dana doesn’t mean that was what killed her.” Though he tried to keep his voice patient, the hint of annoyance wasn’t quite hidden.
“Maybe. But I believe that God did answer my prayers.”
“No, he did not!” Fr. Chrys snapped. Then he took a deep breath to calm himself. “Sister Clara,” he tried again, his voice over patient, “you and I know that God is not a man that he succumbs to our every whim and demand. He is God and He hears and answers only our prayers with good motives, and all in accordance to His holy will.”
“Then maybe removing Dana from our home since she was corrupting the others was His will which was why He answered my prayers.” Sister Clara argued, and then added quickly when he expelled a hissing breath. “Father, I only came because I’m beginning to feel guilty because I wished that poor girl ill. Yes, she was troublesome and a bad influence, but still she was also God’s child and maybe I should have been more patient and lenient.”
“What you should have been was more open with me.” Fr. Chrys reproved sternly. “I am the Spiritual Director here and it is my duty to guide the children in every way. You’re here to assist me in this and not to hide facts from me.”
“I’m sorry, Father. But sincerely I thought I could handle it. And when I couldn’t, I turned to God. But with Dana mercifully gone now…” Once more conscious of her uncharitable thoughts, Sister Clara left the words to trail off. “Well, I think maybe things can go back to normal now. At least after her burial.”
“Dana wasn’t the only problem in the home.” Fr. Chrys said. Sister Clara was obviously not aware of the immoral relationship between Anthony and Justina. “But we’ll discuss all of that when her autopsy’s over and we can lay her to rest.”
“Yes, of course, Father. But I wonder why the Police are still holding her body.” More at ease with her conscience, Sister Clara could think of that rather worrisome bit. “I mean what do they actually think, that we killed her?”
Fr. Chrys shook his head and pushed back his chair to get to his feet. He could feel the beginnings of a headache and needed to be alone. “It is just simple Police procedure, Sister. And Charles’s in charge, so all will be over soon.”
“I pray so, Father.” She wanted this completely over. It would be better that way. “I’ll take my leave now, Father. Thank you for listening as always.”
“I’ll walk you out.” Fr. Chrys offered.
While she went towards the kitchen, he stepped out on the veranda. Weary, he pressed his hand to his temple, absently rubbing against the increasing throbs.
Under the big mimosa tree by the church building, he saw Anthony and Dominic seated, talking. He contemplated calling out to them to join him for a quick prayer section before the evening Mass, but quickly decided against it.
He needed to pray and speak to God alone. His heart felt too uneasy.