"I'm sure it was an accident," I told Father Cash, as he sat at the end of the narrow sofa that just this morning had been Sella's bed. "She was enjoying the waves and the seagulls, and her foot slipped."
He rubbed his eyes but refused to look at me. "It's very thoughtful of you to reassure me, but lying is a sin. Either Sella was killed or she wanted to die."
"Wanting to die and committing suicide aren't the same thing. Maybe it was an impulsive act, or she simply made a situation and let it happen."
"She had stones in her pockets and her ankles were tied together. That's hardly 'letting it happen'."
I had nothing to say to this.
"If someone murdered that sweet girl...."
"Why would anyone around here want to murder her? She knew no one but us. And besides, if someone wanted to drown her, they would've tied her arms and her legs, but only her legs were tied. She could've done that herself."
"But that would mean she took her own life." Father Cash shook his head. "That's a very grave sin."
My first instinct was to point out that no one, not even the pillars of his useless religion, had ever held back from doing what they wanted just because it was a sin. The pain on his face was so genuine, though, that I edged closer and reached for his hand, struggling to find words that were both honest and kind. "Even if she sinned, it was because she wasn't in her right mind. I'm sure Jesus understands."
Father Cash pulled away. "You know nothing about Jesus."
So much for honesty and kindness. "Look, we can wonder all day long, but without any evidence one way or the other—"
"Exactly." He turned on me, his eyes welling with angry tears. "She left no note. She didn't put her things in order. She went out expecting to be right back. Something bad is going on."
"Perhaps so," I said, more to quiet him than because I agreed.
"We have to find out who did this, and why."
Clearly he was out of his mind. Even if Sella had been murdered, which I doubted, playing detective was a dangerous game. "That's what the cops are for, you know."
He waved a dismissive hand. "Those incompetents say it's a suicide."
"Maybe you should hire a detective, then."
"Don't mock me, Judith. You know I have no money. I don't even know how I'm going to pay for the funeral."
He had gone to the window by now, where he pulled back a corner of the industrial brown curtain to gaze out at the darkness. I stared at his back, wondering if I should ask the obvious question. He solved the problem for me.
"I tried to reach Lena..."
"Still no luck."
Father Cash shook his head and let the drape fall back into place. "I know you think I'm imagining things, but how can I not think something is very wrong when my sister falls off the earth and her daughter turns up in this forsaken place, only to end up dead a few weeks later?"
"I can see how that would worry you," I admitted.
"Worry?" He came over and took my hand with haunted earnestness. "Judith, my sister is a kind, gentle woman, who wouldn't just disappear for no reason. And Sella was a good kid, who would never run away from home unless something terrible had happened."
I held my breath, knowing whatever I said, it would be the wrong thing.
"Please help me."
Our eyes locked, and it was I who looked away first. "I'm sorry, but if I knew how to unravel someone else's life, I'd fix my own, first."
Father Cash dropped my hand. "Of course."
His cool tone chilled me like a Cold Haven wind. "I'm flattered that you asked. Really. It's just that—"
"You can't. I understand." He started toward the door. "It's probably time for you to go. I'm tired, and there's a lot for me to do."
I took a few tentative steps toward the door, which he was now holding open for me. Clearly he didn't intend for me to linger. "If you want, I can come back tomorrow and help you go through her things."
Father Cash forced a smile that didn't extend to his eyes. "Thank you, dear, but I know you're busy, and it's something I should do myself."
He closed the door behind me, and after a confused moment standing on his battered welcome mat, I headed up the stairs. I was almost to my own flat when I realized just how angry he really was.
He hadn't offered me his usual priestly blessing.