The woman who would one day be the ruin of him came to him in a green brocade dress, inappropriate for this time of year. It was late spring, and yet the dress was a deep, rich, heavy color that reflected autumn or even winter. Spring colors were light and friendly: light green, blue, soft pink or yellow. This dress was the heavy color of death and solemnity, and it had very long sleeves. The holy man knew quite a bit about color. Before he had converted, he had been interested in fashion, dressmaking, textiles.
The church was a large and ornate place, huge and hollow. The ceiling was high and curved, with great wooden beams leading up to a single point. On the walls, stained-glass windows, each depicting a great event of the myths. Today, only dim light shone through. Outside it was raining.
The place felt haunted when no one occupied it. The pews were long and empty. The area at front, with its red rug and wide altar, was empty. Within his rooms at the back, dank and dim, the holy man prayed in utter silence. His lips moved and no sound emerged.
He heard a knock at his door. Dutifully, he rose from his kneeled position, taking his time—the thick white robe weighed him down. He dragged a chair to the door and sat down upon it. Reaching up, he unlatched a small door-within-the-door; it flipped open, revealing a window. Beyond was the woman, wearing her green brocade dress. Her lips were tight and pursed, lined with marks that suggested she was a smoker. But she was quite young, and her black hair was still vibrant, falling in artificial curls down her shoulders and past her back.
The woman had a deep and low voice, choked with smoke. "Holy man, bless thee."
"Woman, bless thee," he said in response. "What can I do for you?"
"I have a confession. I must confess." Her beady brown eyes darted back and forth, nervously. Her lips pursed even further. She looked almost on the verge of tears.
The holy man was already beginning to feel the makings of a foreboding hum in his chest. "Speak now, woman. The gods listen and forgive," he intoned, sounding far more confident than he truly was.
The woman looked to her left and right again as though she were searching for spies, although outside there was only the dim yellow-walled hallway, which was certain to be empty. She opened her mouth, kept it open for a moment, and then shut it. A tear came from her left eye, and then from her right. Her nose was running. Her face was quite red.
The priest was growing alarmed. That hum in his chest grew ever louder and more intense, perhaps a warning from the gods.
The woman opened her mouth again. She seemed to wrestle with the words before she spoke them. "I… Holy man, I… I have killed someone."
The holy man reacted with much more calmness than he felt. "Speak further," he probed.
"It was my brother. I—oh, may the Lord of the Pantheon have mercy on me. Please have mercy." She cracked on these last words and began to sob, burying her face in her green-globed hands. "I didn't know where else to go," she mumbled, hardly intelligible. "I have to tell someone. I have to."
Though inside he was bristling, the holy man maintained his serenity. "Woman, all crimes are forgivable. The Pantheon forgives. Even murder, forgivable."
"Please, I need hope," she cried out. Her sobs echoed against the walls outside. "I can't believe what I've done. I can't believe it. Oh, holy man. What have I done?"
"Tell me what you have done," he urged.
"Oh, I—I can't." She withdrew her face from her hands and looked at him. The tears stopped. Her eyes, her mouth, all turned stony. She shook her head. "I can't. I shouldn't have said a thing."
The priest felt the need to encourage her. "Woman, I cannot tell anyone what I have been told here. This is a sacred place."
"Yes," she said. "Yes."
"And so whatever you tell me is sacred also. Woman, I can never speak of what I have heard. You know this. The gods seal it. Even as it is spoken, the gods seal it."
"Yes," the woman said again. She drew a hand to her mouth, pressed against it, as though she were holding the words within her.
"Speak," said the priest. "Unshoulder your burdens. You do not know whether this day could be your last chance to do so."
The woman seemed to consider. Her red-rimmed eyes were bright with tears. "I don't know why I came here."
"I know why you came here," said the holy man, soothing her. "You came here because you understand that you did evil. You understand that evil is wrong. You understand that this burden of what you have done cannot be shouldered alone. Now I share the burden with you. And the gods seal whatever you say."
The woman looked away, at her feet; then, she turned around, looking back down the hallway. For a moment all the holy man could see was the back of her head, shiny black hair cascading down, a few strands out of place. The priest was suddenly reminded of his mother. She had had hair much like that, that color of deep black.
The woman turned back to face him and said, "My brother was not an intelligent man. He was not a good man. He drank and swore and consorted with criminals. But he was my brother."
The priest nodded.
"We grew up close," she said, staring not at the priest but beyond him, as though she were looking at a moving painting of her past. "He was always faster and stronger, but I was smarter. We played games. I wrote poetry sometimes and he laughed at it. We could talk for a very long time—we talked and argued and debated." Somewhat disjointedly, she added, "He hated politics and politicians."
Her eyes snapped and connected with the priest's without warning; it was like a lightning bolt. "Do you have a brother?"
He rattled off the standard response. "I am purged from my family of birth; we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of—"
"Bullshit!" she cried. "Do you have a brother or don't you?"
"Yes," said the priest, the word emerging stunned and bare.
"Imagine if you'd killed him. Just imagine."
The priest imagined it. He shuddered—not because it was hard to imagine, but because it wasn't at all.
The woman looked frustrated now, a deep scowl marring her thick eyebrows, her teeth bared in an almost-sneer. The holy man noticed offhand that the woman's teeth were yellow and crooked. She said, "I can't explain it to you—can't explain him. I can tell you things, I can tell you that we talked and he laughed at my poetry, but there's so much, so much more, and you won't know him. You'll never know him. I knew him, loved him, and I killed him anyway. You don't know what it is to know someone your whole life and kill them. It's…" She shook her head. The tears that spilled from her eyes were angry now. "Oh, if I could take it back…"
The holy man did not try to respond to this.
The woman didn't need encouragement now. She kept talking. "I—I gave him a choice. He could leave or I would kill him. And he decided to leave. I killed him anyhow. He did what I wanted and I killed him anyhow. Who am I? What the hell am I doing? I'm not the woman that I thought I was. I'm a woman who can kill her own brother. Holy man, I used a hammer. In the name of the Pantheon, I used a hammer. His skull was like—like—like the crust of a pie. It gave way. He twitched and screamed and there was blood all over, all on my dress and my skin. Oh!" She looked on the verge of hysterics.
After the woman had been silent for perhaps five seconds, the holy man ventured to speak. He attempted to sound confident. "Woman, you have done things that many men would balk at. But the gods forgive. The gods seal."
"The government doesn't seal," said the woman bitterly.
"The government can never know what you have told me, unless you choose so."
"They'll find out it was me. They will know. And even if I am not thrown in prison and left to rot, my heart will rot by itself. My soul will rot. I killed my own brother, and I know it. Oh, holy man, if there was a pill or a potion I could take to rid myself of all memories, I would down it in a second."
The priest tried, "Woman, let your memories be your punishment. The gods demand it."
"The gods demand it!" she cried. "In which book is that found? Which verse?"
"N-No book or verse," he stuttered, "but I believe it to be true. Your suffering will be your recollection. I see that you have already suffered a great deal."
"Not more than he did. He lived too long. I didn't do the job right."
"I'm sorry," she said abruptly. "I'm so sorry. I should never have told you. You don't deserve to know all this. You don't deserve to be haunted. Oh, I'm sorry. Holy man, can the gods forgive me? Can you?"
"The gods can," said the priest. "It is sealed." But I'm only a man, he didn't say.
"Sealed," repeated the woman. The single word echoed for a moment, bouncing in the dim hall. For a moment the priest felt intense gratitude that there was a door between himself and the woman in the green dress.
She was gone as quickly as she arrived.
The next day, the priest saddled his horse. He left the church in the care of a young servant girl who had already proven to be meticulous and devoted to the maintenance of the building, and before he left, he flipped her a gold coin. He rode his white horse for one day, and did not stop to rest or eat, through he grew tired and hungry.
In a nearby town, the priest found another church, smaller than his own and more poorly maintained. The place creaked wherever one walked; the wooden floorboards seemed almost rotten. Where the legs of the pews sat, the floor was sunken, and the priest feared that one day it all would snap and collapse. Bats lived in the darkness of the rafters; they could be seen high above, hanging dark and silent.
He entered with familiarity, knowing just where to walk so that the floor would not creak so much. He had lived here once. In the back chambers that were so like his own, he knocked on the door. He heard a voice from within as someone shuffled and knocked about the room: "Bless thee!"
"Holy man, bless thee," the priest responded with fondness; "but I did not come for a confession."
The window on the door snapped open, and a pair of familiar eyes peered out. "You!" cried the man within.
"Me," replied the priest with a warm smile that did not quite reach his eyes.
The door opened entirely and a small man in black robes burst out, enfolding the priest in an embrace. "Friend, friend," said the man; "how many years has it been?"
"Four years! In the name of the Pantheon. Too long. Come, have a drink! Have bread and wine! If I had known you were coming, a feast would be waiting for you: chicken and carrots and turnip and rhubarb pie. We have ample food in our backyard garden, and our coop is thriving. It has been a good four years without you." The other holy man drew away, guilty. "Of course, I don't mean—"
"I know what you meant, Kryz. Come along. Bread and wine is fine."
Later, the two holy men sat at a small wooden table in a dining room so tiny, the taller of the two men could barely stand upright. Plates of bread, cheese and fresh carrots, and cups of red wine, sat before each of them. Kryz devoured his, tearing with teeth and swallowing heartily; the other man picked and rearranged his food, unable to look his friend in the eye.
Kryz said, "I can take no more of this silence. You know I hate nothing more than sitting at a table and being the only one to talk! What is the matter with you?"
The holy man let out a breath. He said, "I came here as fast as I could. Something has happened. I can think of nothing else. It consumes me."
"What, my friend? What?"
"Do you remember when we were taught by Old Fred?"
"Yes, that lump of fat. Quite a teacher he was. He could barely get his letters straight; he knew almost nothing of theology. Thank the Pantheon that priests can learn along the way just as well. But what about him?"
"Old Fred taught me many things," said the holy man with a troubled look in his eye, "but he did not teach me one. He did not teach me what to do with a murderer."
Kryz stared at his friend blankly.
"Hypothetically speaking, of course," said the holy man, "if someone were to come to me and confess murder, I could not tell a soul. What is confessed is sealed in the eyes of the gods."
"Yes…" said Kryz slowly.
"But if I know something of it, and I do not tell the government, I am as guilty as the murderer himself. So says the law." The holy man buried his face in his hands. Muffled, he said, "Kryz, what would I do?"
Kryz was silent for a moment, then laughed. "You mean to say you've been consumed by this issue? This small moral quandary? You must not allow yourself to be swallowed by such things. It will ruin you, my friend."
The holy man, with gratefulness to the gods, realized that Kryz had misunderstood. "Yes," he lied. "I thought of the issue, and now I have been swallowed by it day and night."
"Fear not, my friend. Kryz the Wise is here to advise." Kryz raised a fork and gestured with it. "If a murderer confessed to me, I should think my loyalty to the state would trump my loyalty to the gods."
The holy man shook his head. "Kryz, I love the gods too much."
"More than your head?" Kryz chuckled. "No one loves the gods that much."
"I love my head equally as much as I love the gods," protested the priest. "And I love my neck also."
"Then you would be fucked, wouldn't you?" Kryz went red. "Pardon my language."
Shocked for a moment, the priest burst out laughing. "Do you speak like that around your congregation?" he demanded, momentarily forgetting his problem.
"Only when I want my sermons to be especially spicy."
The holy man laughed for another moment, but soon his issue returned to his mind, and he could laugh no more.
"I see you're truly troubled by this," said Kryz, searching the priest's face. "Is there anything at all I can do?"
The priest shook his head. "All I wanted was your advice. And you seem to have none on hand."
"I am no god. I cannot solve every theological or moral issue. But I can tell you what I would do." Kryz leaned forward; the front of his robe nearly brushed his plate. "I would tell the authorities. I would not stay silent."
"You would break the seal? Break faith with the Pantheon?"
Kryz shrugged, leaned back. "I love the gods. I worship the gods. I lead people every day to the gods. But in the end I am a coward. As I said, I love my head more."
The priest returned home and spent four days in prayer. Shut and sealed in his chamber, he leaned against his simple bed and spent time with the gods. He fasted and begged the Pantheon to lend him strength and lend him wisdom. Intermittently, he took confessions. Every time a knock sounded at his door, his heart leapt. He opened the window with trepidation, with shaking fingers, expecting to see a green dress and a black-haired woman beyond. But it was only a fat and bald old man looking to confess that he had stolen his neighbor's chicken. Or a blonde girl of sixteen wailing that she had given her virginity to her cousin, the baker's son. Or a thin man of eighty, tall and stooped, who leaned close to the window and admitted that many years ago, he had struck his wife.
Each minor confession brought relief to the priest's heart. No murderous women came to his door.
On the fifth day, it was time for service. The priest stood at the front of the room, pacing back and forth behind his altar. He spoke confidently, giving a sermon on the love of the poor. He prayed that the congregation, who relied on him to be their rock, would not see him shake, or sweat, or scan the audience for a head of black hair.
At the end, when he retired to his chambers, he sank to the floor, nearly crying, and thanked the Pantheon profusely that he had not seen her.
"This woman is my penance," he said aloud to no one.
He fasted for three more days. On the fourth day, he broke.
Once again, the holy man saddled up his horse. The horse seemed resistant: it bucked and shied and gave protesting whinnies. It did not seem to want to go. The man did not wish to go, either. But it had to be done.
The horse gave him no more grief during the ride, but the holy man almost wished that it had. He rode down the streets of the small town, shivering all the way, though he wore a heavy cape over his robes. It was a very cold spring so far. The priest imagined that everyone on the streets stared at him as he went by. Some waved and called a friendly "Good morning, holy man!" The priest could hardly bring himself to return the greeting. He felt hot and was covered in sweat all at once, and his throat was full of lumps. Something was caught in his chest.
He imagined her. The woman with the black hair. He remembered when she had turned, when the back of her head, glossy hair flowing in mild waves, had reminded him so of his mother's. He imagined that head lying on the executioner's block. Rolling. Or perhaps they would hang her. He imagined her with neck broken, swinging. It was almost too much. More than once, the holy man nearly turned around, torn in half with guilt. But in the end, he always continued on the path, spurring his horse on with little kicks. He was resilient.
More than once, he wondered if he was betraying the gods. If they would punish him.
Coward, he called himself. Coward, coward, coward. The word spurred him on like his kicks spurred the horse. He would not be a coward. There was a verse in one of the holy books that read, Greater is the murderer than the coward. The priest had been mediating on this verse for many days.
Finally the man found himself where he had wanted, or perhaps desperately not wanted, to be. It was a large stone building—besides the church, the grandest in the town. It was perhaps fifty feet tall and had a pointed roof, pointing towards the heavens, the gods. It was foreboding.
The man tied his horse outside, and went to the steps. His hand touched the wooden door. He nearly opened it.
He saw her, black-haired, swinging.
With a cry of frustration, the man drew away. He stomped his feet like a child, cursing himself for a milksop, a weakling. But no matter how long he lingered, he found he could not do it.
Seven days later, that which he had feared most occurred. Someone knocked at his chamber door, and he unlatched the little window. Beyond was that familiar face which had haunted him. He found she looked different than he remembered: her nose was longer, her eyes were smaller, her hair was limper. His heart thrilled into a torturous speed, but he said nothing.
She said, "Holy man, bless thee."
"Woman, bless thee." His lips were numb.
"You're so much thinner." The woman sounded troubled. Today she wore a different dress, one of deep violet and of a thinner fabric; it came up around her neck, ending in white plumes.
"I have been fasting, woman." For a moment, the holy man wondered if it would offend the gods if he asked the woman to go away.
"Fasting?" She licked her lips. "For me?"
"Because of you," he admitted. "You have troubled me."
"Why have you come here? Is there another confession you wish to make?" He said the prescribed words automatically—"Speak now. The gods listen and forgive"—but he hoped beyond all hope that the woman would have nothing to say.
"No, no." She shook her head quickly. "I only came to ask. Have you told anyone?"
"I have told no one," he replied. "No soul knows what you have done. None but you or I."
She looked away. "I thought you would say something. To the government, or—" She cut herself off. "I regret speaking with you," she said, quieter. "I wish I hadn't."
"Your words here are sealed," said the holy man, with a hint of bitterness. "You know this."
"Yes, but—" Again, she cut herself off and did not continue.
The holy man noticed that the woman's eyes were nothing like his mother's. They were smaller and almond-shaped; they were the color of rich soil.
The priest said curtly, "I am bound to listen to your confessions, woman. If you have nothing to confess, then the Pantheon keep you." The woman could not have seen, but his hands were trembling.
The woman gave him a long look. He could not read her face. Then, she went down the hall, walking more slowly than the holy man would have liked. He shut the window before she was entirely gone.
The priest heard a knock at his door one month later. He rose from his meditative position and dutifully dragged his chair to the door, unlatching the window. Behind the door stood a man the priest recognized, a faithful member of the congregation. A young man, a soldier who regularly patrolled the town.
"Matthias, bless thee," said the priest.
"Holy man, bless thee," said Matthias. The young man's face was lined; he would not look the priest in the eye. "I have a confession."
"Speak now, Matthias. The gods listen and forgive."
Matthias removed his knit brown cap, revealing a head of sandy hair—it was autumn now, and cold—and wrung it in his hands. "I have had anger towards a fellow soldier, Roger. I have thoughts of killing him."
"Speak further. Unburden yourself."
"Roger speaks of things that should not be spoken of," Matthias said, his tone growing more accusational. "He says he has lain with my sister. He says he has lain with Mary. I am afraid he will get her with child."
"Perhaps it is Roger who should confess and not you."
"Roger will never confess. He is not a churchgoer. He speaks against the gods."
"And what have you done that is worthy of confession?"
"Each time I see Roger, when we patrol together, I hate him more. I have thoughts of killing him. I imagine the ways I would do it. Every time he speaks of my sister, my hatred grows. Holy man, please forgive me. Gods, please forgive me."
"Which was the latest example of your hatred?" pressed the priest.
"Just yesterday. Roger and I were in the woods, and we happened upon a dead body, holy man. Dead a long time, head all smashed. Roger pointed at the dead body and he said, 'That's what your sister looks like when I'm done with her.' I wanted to kill him so badly, but I—"
But the priest's body had gone cold and still. He said, "What body?"
Confused, Matthias said, "What?"
"What body, Matthias?" said the holy man with impatience. "You said you had found a body with its head smashed."
"Yes, holy man. We reported it to our superiors. An investigation is forthcoming. They believe they know who it is. But Roger—"
"We will speak of Roger in a minute. Who do they believe it is?"
"George Black," said Matthias. "They believe his sister killed him."
Two weeks later, the priest saddled up his steadfast white horse and rode a long way. He rode past two, three, four different towns, each time stopping for food and rest. On the fifth town, he slept in a small inn run by the town baker and his wife. The delicious smell of bread permeated his room, but the holy man felt sick. Each time he tried to eat, he could barely swallow a morsel. He saw the woman's face everywhere he went. It nearly made him angry, now.
He reached the sixth town only after two days. It was a larger town, six times the size of his own home, and the streets were paved and bustled with activity, peddlers selling their wares and women carting their children about. The holy man went to the center of the town, where sat a circular building of steel and stone. It was the only court within a hundred miles.
Within was a great hall, circular and framed by a spiral of rows, seats all the way down. At the very bottom was a flat area. There stood a great wooden platform with three seats: the seats of the three judges. There was another, smaller seat situated below the platform, humble and low. The seat where would sit the accused.
There was a trial in session today, but very few people were in attendance. The seats were sparsely populated, the hall nearly silent. The holy man sat in the very top row, in the shadows, looking down at the proceedings with wary eyes. He had not worn his robes today. He sat there dressed as a commoner. And even so, he feared that his bearings would give him away. After so many years wearing the robes, would they still weigh him down even when he did not wear them? Was his way of sitting the way priests sat? Would people know who he was?
Below, in the smaller seat, was the woman with black hair. He knew now that her name was Elizabeth Smith. Above her sat three stately old man, some with long white beards.
Sickness rose in the holy man's throat, bile that stung him and left a bitter aftertaste, as he listened to the proceedings.
"You waive your right to a trial?" said Judge Carpenter, an opulently fat man with brown streaked through his gray beard. His voice boomed through the place, carried and echoed by the curved walls. "You waive your right to an attorney?"
"I need neither." Elizabeth Smith's voice was smaller and thinner than the priest recalled. "I admit what I've done."
"You confess openly that you are the killer of George Black; you do so under your own will; you realize that your confession will place you in immediate danger of the death sentence." It was three questions in one.
"Yes," said Elizabeth Smith, her voice cracking and breaking on the single syllable.
"Very well." The judges glanced at one another. "Then the only proceeding that remains is our decision of what your sentence shall be. Since you have no attorney, have you anything to say in your own defense, madam?"
Elizabeth was silent for so long that the judge began to say, "Very we—"
She interrupted him. "By the Lord of the Pantheon, sir," she said, "I do have something to say. I want everyone to know what has happened. I want everyone to know why I did what I did."
Dryly, Judge Carpenter said, "What a marvelous happenstance. I was about to ask you that very question."
Elizabeth looked quietly wild, like a black sky that can break into a downpour at any moment. She said, "Do you know that I have a daughter? Her name is Joan. She is sixteen. Only a girl."
"Go on," said Judge Baker. The tall and slender old man had a reed-thin voice, like that of a child.
"I loved my brother," said Elizabeth, "but my love for Joan is greater. I would kill anyone for her, even my own brother. Since she was a girl of twelve I had seen George look at her—" She collapsed into sudden sobs, muffled weeping hidden by her hands.
Tear-choked and strained, she continued. "She is sixteen now, a woman, but she is still my baby. When I caught him with her—in intimate relations—the sight I saw would have struck any man down, were he looking at his own daughter with her uncle. I cannot name the emotion that I felt. It was anger and horror and fear. They quickly covered themselves and I saw that Joan was crying like mad. My brother made haste to leave. I could only think that if Joan were to get with child, I couldn't afford its upkeep.
"As he made to leave our house, George touched my daughter on the shoulder and said that he would come to her soon. I lunged toward him and grabbed him by the arm. All I felt was anger and fear, now. I knew this must be taken care of. I told him he must never return, and before I knew it, a hammer was in my hand.
"George looked at the hammer, and looked at me, and he knew I meant the threat. He looked afraid. H-He started to…" She shook and trembled; the holy man watched with wide eyes. "He started to beg for his life. By the gods, George knew I meant to kill him. He knew me better than anyone.
"I said—by the gods, I remember exactly what I said. I said to him, 'George Black, if you do not leave this instant and never return, and never see us again, I will kill you; by the gods, I swear it, I will kill you with this hammer.' I held up the hammer and he flinched away. He said he would n-n-never come back, ever again, and he swore it upon the Pantheon. He made to leave, but as he was halfway out the door, I suddenly understood that I could not let him go."
She was silent now. Even from far up, the holy man could see her lip tremble and her nose run. Her face was blotched red and white, scrunched into the expression one makes when one is trying desperately not to dissolve. The audience was quiet enough that a single breath could be heard. The holy man could think only one thought: a plea to the gods that the woman with black hair would not mention him, that he would be irrelevant to her story.
Finally, Elizabeth finished. "In the back of the head, I s-s-struck him. He did not see me as I came. I struck him and he fell, and then I struck him again, and again and again until he did not move or breathe. Joan screamed at me all the while, but I did not listen to her.
"I will never forget what I did afterwards. I was more peaceful than I have ever been in my life. I said to Joan, 'Help me clean up this mess.' When she did not move, I became the stern mother: 'Clean up this mess or I will throw you out.' She helped me clear away the blood and the brains, and take the body into the woods, all without speaking a single word to each other. That night she went to her bed, and I went to my bed, and I feared that when I woke, she would not be there, and I would not see her again. But she was there.
"Every day, Joan did not speak a word to me, but she stayed in my house. On the seventh day after the murder, she came to me and spoke for the first time. She said, 'Mother, thank you. What you did was right.' I only looked at her. I couldn't understand. If Joan thought that what I had done was right…" She inhaled sharply. "All was lost.
"The very next day, I went to a holy man and confessed what I had done. I let everything out. I told him of the death, of how I had done it. To unburden myself before a man of authority was beyond what I could have hoped for. It felt like the heaviest load had been lifted from my shoulders and shared with another."
"If it was so cathartic for you to share your crime," said Judge Carpenter gravely, "then why did you not confess further to the authorities?"
Elizabeth opened her mouth, then closed it. She opened it again. She said, "I am a widow, and I have no brothers left. If I am hung, or thrown in prison, Joan will have nothing."
Meanwhile, in the upper rows, the holy man sat, utterly still. He barely dared to breathe. Please, he begged the Pantheon.
The Pantheon ignored him. Judge Brown, the third old man, cleared his throat. "Who was this holy man to whom you confessed? We have heard nothing from him."
The holy man prayed fervently, harder than he had ever prayed in his life.
Elizabeth, suddenly and with a connection like lightning, looked straight into the holy man's eyes. "He is there," she said, and pointed. "He has been watching."