THE CHAIR A novel by Sheila Willar Copyright 2016 Sheila Willar
June 16, 2017
CHAPTER 3 ............................ ROAD TRIP
Erin awoke early and heard a commotion in the hallway. In the dim light of dawn she could barely see Kelly, who was pulling luggage out of the hall closet.
“What are you doing?” whispered Erin.
“I’m going to see my father. He has to stop messing with Matthew and leave us alone,” she announced as she struggled with a suitcase.
“When are you going?”
“Right now! I’ve booked a flight that leaves at 8.”
“Cyprus. He’s at his house there,” explained Kelly as she pushed past Erin. “Sorry, I have to hurry.”
Erin’s eyes grew wide as she shouted, “We’re coming with you!”
“Book seats for me and Michael! We’re coming too!”
Erin flew into the living room to get Michael who was awakening from a tortuous sleep. In his dreams he had been reliving his last moments in Kinkerry when he was dismissed from the parish.
“What’s happening?” he asked concerned.
“Hurry, I need your help right away!”
Michael jumped up from the sofa and followed her, thinking that there was some sort of emergency, but when she asked him to help move the Irish Blue chair, he put on the brakes.
“Michael! Hurry up!” she yelled.
Erin took several cardboard boxes from her closet, taped them together and laid them on the floor. Then she pulled the mattress from off her bed and threw it onto the cardboard base.
“Quick! Help me!” she demanded as she tried to wiggle the top piece of the stone chair back and forth so that it would tip and fall onto the mattress.
Michael put his hands on the back of the chair and immediately felt a scorching charge of electricity surge through his hands and arms. He jumped back and began to shake.
“Try again,” urged Erin who eagerly wanted to beat the clock and catch the same flight as Kelly. “Here! Wrap your hands in this,” she said as she offered Michael a scarf.
Michael wasn’t a quitter. He was an athlete, an academic, a priest and a student of architecture, but he desperately wanted to distance himself from the Irish Blue menace.
After some disgruntled effort, Michael helped Erin roll both parts of the chair onto the mattress. Next they wrapped the priceless stones in the sheets from her bed and used tape and rope to secure cushioning around them. Then they slid the entire unit out to the front door.
“How do we get it down stairs?” asked Kelly.
“We’ll let the incline do most of the work. It should slide down easily on the cardboard,” answered Erin. “Michael, go get your car and back it up to the door. Kelly, come with me.”
Erin and Kelly gathered pillows and cushions from the sofa and layered them at the bottom of the steps as insurance against a failed plan. With Michael’s help, they gingerly pushed each of the contraband packages to the top of the stairs where the tufted parcels teetered on the brink of the well worn step. Kelly made the sign of the cross over her chest and forehead, as she gave each bundle a final push towards Erin and Michael who did their best to bear the weight and guide them down the hollow tunnel.
One by one, the two pieces of Irish Blue chair bumped its way down the stairs and rested by the door, where the trio of pirates grimaced and grunted as they loaded the stones into Michael’s car. Erin quickly locked the apartment door and without looking back they fled the scene in a hurry. The weight of the three passengers was a lot for Michael’s old car to handle, but with the added weight of the stone chair, the wheels rubbed against frame of the car and made awful scraping sounds when they hit a bump in the road.
“Turn here!” ordered Erin as she directed Michael to enter the university grounds. “We have to pack the chair before we get to the airport. We can’t ship a ball of stone that’s wrapped in pillows.”
It was just before dawn and the people at the materials lab in the Architecture Building were already busy at work. They shipped packages all over the world which required them to get an early start on the day. Erin had used the facility before to ship and receive artifacts for school projects and no one had asked any questions as long as the shipments were paid for.
She ran inside and soon the large garage door opened and out swung a boom that extracted the two pieces of the chair from the trunk of the car, and deftly loaded each into tube shaped shipping containers. A few minutes later, the boom returned one container to the trunk of Michael’s car and the other to the roof.
Erin printed off the customs and transport labels while Michael helped one of the students attach safety strapping around his car.
“It’ll be hard on the shocks, Father,” mused the student.
“Indeed,” winced Michael.
The trio drove to the airport in empty silence, neither willing to say anything, for fear of everything coming undone. They barely breathed a sigh of relief when the plane’s wheels left the ground and the hostess offered them refreshments.
Kelly began rehearsing what she would say to her father when she met him, Michael quickly fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion, and Erin stared out the window and wondered how she was going to get the chair from Cypress to Jerusalem.
Constable Riley was a brand new officer and had been given the mid-night shift to report all activity around Erin’s apartment. During his surveillance duty, he had almost fallen asleep several times, but at approximately 5 a.m. he heard a car’s engine start in the parking lot. Riley slouched low in his seat as he watched the priest’s car drive in reverse to the front door of the apartment. Suddenly two young women appeared and they loaded something heavy into the trunk of the car, and drove off in a hurry.
Riley was excited and was sure that these were the suspects that the Captain wanted him to track, so he called the police station to advise them and followed the suspect’s car.
“Follow at a distance and stay out of trouble,” advised the dispatch officer indifferently. “I don’t have extra manpower right now, so you’re on your own. And don’t do anything stupid.” It was almost time to change shift and the dispatcher didn’t care much about a university prank or a lost chair.
Riley cleverly kept out of sight and discretely followed them to the airport where he collected information about the flight to Cypress, including the names of Erin and her two companions, as well as the name and address of the person to whom they were visiting. Riley also recorded the waybill numbers that were used to ship the two containers.
He hoped that Sergeant Carbury would be impressed.
Father Edmund was the kind of priest who kept his ear to the ground. He attended a lot of government and municipal functions, including tea’s and socials where he often learned more from the locals than he did from more stately sources. He had a boisterous personality and gift for the gab and when Sergeant Carbury called to ask about Father Michael, he was more than happy to oblige, for he was sure that he would gain more from the conversation, than he would give.
Sergeant Carbury learned that the whole church was abuzz about Father Michael, who had recently fled his parish. Father Edmund said that Michael had been sequestered for questioning but that he had disappeared.
Sergeant Carbury explained that Michael had been seen in Dublin that evening and may have been involved in the theft of a “special” chair from the university. When Father Edmund heard mention of “the chair” he clamped his mouth shut tighter than a seasoned poker player and feigned a perfectly blank stare.
“Come now. You’re not holding out on me now are you?” asked the sergeant.
Father Edmund pretended to be busy pouring a cup of tea. He wanted to buy some time to think.
“The church is not really interested in Michael,” offered Edmund. “Don’t get me wrong. There is a great deal of disturbance concerning him but most would rather keep it quiet. The whereabouts of “the chair” however is non-negotiable. It’s all a matter of “timing” you see and not everyone is eager for change. Whoever has the chair has control of time itself.”
“You’re speaking above my head father. Can you come down a level or two and explain what you mean?” asked the sergeant.
“Some church historians believe that the Irish Blue chapel where the chair was found is a “tuning fork” from heaven, and that it will bring an end to religion and politics as we know it. That my friend, makes a lot of people very nervous.”
“And the chair?”
“The chair is a different kettle of fish altogether,” explained Edmund. “The chair has the power to cause one's heart to skip a beat.”
“What do you mean?”
Father Edmund wrestled with how much information he should give the sergeant. “The chair can dis-annul time.”
“It can extend time and prolong an era, or stop time and fold the doors shut on an age.”
“Plainly Father. Is any of this remotely true?”
Edmund laughed. “The chair offers unlimited power to the one who sits in it, but will kill the occupant if they have a single dark thought. It is said that the devil himself will not sit in that chair, but is vein to have humans sit in it for him.”
“What does the church want with it?”
“It’s a fools game. The chair is best left buried. There are very few priests in the world who could pass such a test.”
“Then the whereabouts of the chair is important to the church?” prodded Sergeant Carbury.
“I would impress upon you that to some people in the church, the whereabouts of that chair is more important than the whereabouts of a nuclear device. Does that tell you what you came here to find out?” asked Edmund with a glint in his eyes.
“Indeed it does,” sighed the sergeant who didn't believe even half of what the Father said.
"You'll let me know personally if you find it?" asked Edmund as he peered over the top of his bifocals.
"I'll do my best Father," he answered diplomatically.
The sergeant thanked Father Edmund and went home for a night’s rest. During his rounds the next morning at the police station, he was greeted by an exuberant Constable Riley who was bursting with information. Sergeant Carbury swore out loud when he heard that the priest and his accomplices had left the country without being stopped. While he couldn't be sure that the chair was in the containers that were shipped to Cyprus, he would have bet his last coin that Father Michael and Erin had transported the elusive relic out of the country.
The sergeant felt compelled to track it down and return the chair to Ireland for patriotic reasons, not religious ones. He also wanted to be careful with whom he shared the information. There was no money in the budget for chasing relics around the Mediterranean, and he didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of his superiors by implying that he believed in the “supernatural”. Neither did he want the case stripped from his control and given to someone else, especially someone who might be tempted to keep the chair for themselves.
Sergeant Carbury knew just who to call, so he contacted veteran detectives Aiden and Declan, who had been taking a few days vacation, and enlisted them in some extracurricular police work, in Cyprus. He pulled some favours with people he knew at the airlines and discretely shipped the detectives off to track down the chair. He told the Captain of the force that the officers were on an extended fishing trip and would be back in a few days time.
Matthew’s emotions twisted and turned in the wind. He loved Kelly dearly but he equally loved the idea of making something of himself. Kelly’s father had sparked the idea of greatness and told him he could become an important lawyer or politician one day. Matthew’s ego had been so whipped into a froth that he hadn’t considered the consequences of moving to England to finish his degree.
Matthew weighed his two options with angst. Kelly or Mr. Clancy’s ideas? Finally, he couldn’t imagine a life without her by his side, so he took a deep breath and phoned her to set things straight. However, she didn’t answer and after a call with Mr. Clancy, he learned that Kelly was on her way to Cypress.
“Why don’t you come too,” urged Mr. Clancy. “We can clear the whole thing up.”
“Sure,” answered Matthew hesitantly.
“Besides,” explained Mr. Clancy, “things are a lot less complicated here.”