After Sister Dana's elucidation of "the facts" with regard to her journal, Melanie was persuaded that Julian had taken it. She did recall his visit (albeit hazily). She recalled many, many things, and, as her recollections accelerated, the alleged theft (temporarily) dwindled in significance. Before long she and Sister Dana were racing, in an enthusiastic whirl, toward Sister Zoe's quarters.

 

 

The elder nun, of course, was overjoyed—though she tempered her outward response with an inward reservation. This apparently complete recovery was a most encouraging turn of events. The girl, however, could yet be vulnerable to setbacks. Certain gaps in memory might persist.

Sister Zoe adjudged it would be prudent to secure essential data first, while the opportunity lasted.

In their excitement, the missing journal might easily have been ignored, but at its mention Sister Zoe was quick to see its import. She exchanged some words, aside, with Sister Dana, who was then dispatched. This had seemed fortuitous, affording as it did the chance to interview Melanie alone without neglecting Julian (about whom the nun was legitimately concerned). So, under an injunction to "be tactful and considerate," Sister Dana rushed off to fetch Mr. Papp.

 

 

The cheek of it, the unabashed nerve of stealing from a helpless girl, stealing something as sacred as a diary, incensed the young nun. It was cowardly. It was mean. And it was typical. She was almost glad. This, most certainly, would be the final straw. Yet Melanie, alas, would go away; that was now inevitable. But at least the girl’s tormentor would be scourged. She would see to that! If only she could nab the fiend red-handed—though Sister Zoe had simply said, "Find him. No accusations; we have no real proof he has taken it. Just send him to me." But so obvious was his guilt—especially if she found him wearing his glasses—that it was unimaginable he would have the gall to deny it.

She climbed the stairs to Julian’s room. Without knocking she bolted in. He was not there. She made a rapid search. But the journal was not among his things. She found his photographs, however. Filth! She pocketed the one of Mercedes. She marched into the bathroom and confiscated his box of prophylactics. Evidence was mounting. Now, if only she could prove, in addition to his sexual depravity, that Julian Papp was also a low-down thief! She left his room and hastened from the dormitory.

Where next? He was not in the rec. room; she had passed that way en route. Perhaps the cafeteria. The rock salt crunched beneath he stalwart step. Patient or no, Julian must be punished. This catering to his "suicidal tendencies" was absurd. It was time he faced reality, took responsibility for his malicious acts, and suffered the consequences. What if Melanie had not recovered? What if his attack had caused irreparable damage? Why Sister Zoe had tolerated all he had done she could not fathom. The man, the "boy," was unquestionably a menace.

He was not in the cafeteria. ‘Where doth the devil’s loathsome serpent coil?’ She clenched her fists and headed toward the library.

 

 

At the sound of footsteps Julian calmly exchanged the journal for a look-alike book, then waited. Soon he heard a throat being cleared behind him. He closed his finger between some pages and turned. The nun fell for the bait. In triumph, she snatched the counterfeit from his hands.

"Sister wants to see you, thief."

She glowered at his dark glasses.

"Interested in existentialism, are you?"

"What?"

He grinned as she opened the book. She slammed it closed.

"Where is it?"

He answered by turning up his palm to accept the book’s return. His smugness maddened the nun still further. She wanted to slap his ghastly face. She clutched the crucifix of her rosary to subdue her temper.

"We know you stole it. You’re evil, Julian. Evil."

"So have me excommunicated."

Casually, he pretended to resume his reading.

"Sister meant right now!"

He turned again.

"Listen, you." He paused. The 'poisoned pawn' would lure, he resolved, no takers. "Go tell Ms. Zoe—and use these very words—that Julian says he’ll come when he’s fucking ready."

She could not stand it. He had seen right through her, and what was worse, he had not even deigned to answer her heated charge. Had she stayed a fraction longer she would have strangled him—or would have tried to. In a rage, she turned, and stormed off down the aisle.

 

Sister Zoe, reviewing...

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