12 October 1997
When I arrived, Dr. Harris was sitting in a local coffee shop, with a half-eaten panini getting cold next to an empty mug as she read a worn copy of The Hobbit. I went straight to the counter and ordered a muffin and coffee, and waited for each before sitting down opposite her. She didn't look up from her book, and we sat in silence for a moment as I stirred my coffee and unwrapped the muffin.
"I was questioned about Mr. Withenow," she finally said.
"About why they found him in a site of human ritual sacrifice?"
"About his money and connections, mostly. It seems the FBI is interested in anything with his name attached."
"Perhaps they were warned that his financial advice was in the service of a specific, and questionable, cause."
"Perhaps." I began to eat my muffin as we continued sitting quietly; my eyes wandering around the room, hers fixed to her reading. After about five minutes, she slid a bookmark between the pages and set the book down. She looked at me, as though sizing me up for the first time
"How is it so far?"
"As good was it was the last four times. How much of this stuff is real, Benedict?"
"Everything is real, somewhere. The spiritual plane contains all of mankind's dreams."
"And nightmares." I nodded. "And sometimes, these things really come through? This cult was really able to bring harm to the world?"
"They still are, Dr. Harris. This was just one small part of their network." She scowled, drumming her fingers on the table.
"And you, you go around hunting the things that go bump in the night?"
"Something like that."
"What happens to us?" I stopped, and slowly set my mug down.
"I try, you know," I said, softly. "I try to help people, to comfort them. It's part of my training as a priest. But I can't stick around, and if they don't go to a priest when I refer them-"
"Not everyone wants the help of another priest."
"I know. But that's why I wanted to talk to you before I leave. And the fact that you saw the problem yourself convinces me you're the right person." She stared at me for a moment, then slowly shook her head and leaned forward.
"You want me to start some kind of...mystics anonymous group? Therapy for the haunted?"
"That's a good name for it. And I've already secured you some initial funding, hopefully enough to get you going." I reached into my pocket and produced a cheque, which I slid across the table to her. She glanced down at it, then back to me.
"And what? You just leave some money behind and go traipsing off to kill more monsters?"
"No. I want to be an active part of this. The world needs people who care, Dr. Harris. I care, and you care, and together I hope we can help people who would be dismissed by anyone who doesn't know what we know."
"I know very little so far." She sat upright, pocketing the cheque and then folding her arms. "You'll need to explain a lot more to me before I can do much good here."
"My flight isn't for two days," I said. "If you're free, I can answer as many questions as possible before then."
"I'm never free," she said, putting her book away and grabbing her sandwich, "but I suppose you have already paid for my services." I nodded and we both stood and headed for the door. "If we're going to be partners, you can call me Francesca."
"If we're partners?"
"If you ever back out of this, I expect the more formal title from you." I chuckled as I held the door open for her.
Evidence compiled for use during the trial of Father Benedict de Monte.