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Located on a busy city block, St Michaels was surrounded by a tiny patch of manicured lawn dotted by low, bushy shrubs. The spiked, wrought-iron fence embedded into the sandstone retaining wall which enclosed it offered some degree of security as well as sanctuary. Typically all grand and massive, the cathedral was an impressive yet somehow imposing monument to the Church it represented.

Gothic in style, cusped arched walls adorned by trefoils rose to a gabled roof which supported needle-point spires and a central tall steeple, the belltower. By contrast a simple bronze botonny cross hung solemnly over the open doorway.

Scully locked the door of the rental car and stepped onto the sidewalk, her hands thrust deep in coat pockets. Wanting to sign off and go home, she had come here to wrap up her investigation, tie up loose ends and finally close the case. St Michaels was just a stop on the way to the airport. But as she stared up at its orthodox architectural lines and symbolic icons she felt her heart pounding, somehow caught in an emotional dilemma - a curious mixture of excitement, apprehension and above all else, shame.

The steps were huge slabs of granite, slightly worn in the centre, in part caused by the shoes of the faithful and years of natural weathering, and she took her time to climb towards the entrance. The enormous wooden double doors were set between fretted balustrades which curved slightly inwards, funnelling her towards the doors.

As she continued to mount the steps Scully also felt the heavy burden of conscience and realised that she had been thinking more and more about her spiritual neglect over the last few days. The Kevin Kryder case had been the cause for that. All the available evidence pointed to the fact that Kevin was a genuine stigmatic, and it had been impossible to avoid the issues of spiritualism, faith and religion in dealing with the boy. She had become personally involved and as a result her private thoughts had turned inward, to the present and to the past. Certainly she had been raised a Catholic, but the all-important Ďpractisingí had long ago fallen along the wayside. Guilt had never come into it - until now.

When Scully reached the top of the steps she paused to take in the view. Her eyes skimmed along a classic skyline - a bustling big city, its CBD winding down after a full dayís work where, at her feet a steady stream of vehicles thundered by in the chaos of the afternoon peakhour. A grey tinge of smog enveloped both the skyscrapers and the smaller angular box-like corporate buildings. The sun hung low and heavy.

Scully looked at her watch and then at her hands, aware that her palms were moist and, like a student about to enter an important exam, she quickly wiped them against the flanks of her coat. Finally she turned, drew a deep breath and walked inside.

The interior was a little too extravagant for her taste now, and inordinate, but nothing she hadnít expected. After all, you were meant to feel small, humbled, and she had to admit the desired effect was achieved. From the atrium through to the nave, high arched walls similar to those on the outside held aloft solid straight and cross beams and buttresses that reminded her of a human rib cage equally designed to protect the vital functions that were performed within it.

In a closed almost musty atmosphere that smelt like an old library, Scully walked forward slowly, with respect. There was quite a noticeable drop in temperature from cool to cold, and the fall of her heels echoed in the cavernous space, otherwise there was silence.

Diagonal shafts of multicoloured light poured from the stained glass windows and cut a swathe through the shadows. Each window fashioned as a splendid pictorial panel depicting a notable saint, all cast brilliant pools of blue green red and yellow onto the tiled floor and splashed over the many ranks of rose-coloured wooden pews. The flanking aisles were separated by an interlacing of smaller cusped arches that created a three-fold arcade effect. Ahead, before the apse there were shades of white, and gold from the ornate traditional alter. Behind and to either side of the alter the rear wall was decked by the magnificent silver and ivory array of the pipe organ. There was a feeling of quiet strength, and a calming. Scully had never been here before. Why then did she feel as if she belonged?

She had told herself she intended this to be an informal interview, just a few short questions to hopefully clarify one or two points in the investigation that still eluded her; to settle some troubling aspects of the case; to try and delete the discrepancies which existed. However, the further her steps brought her within the cathedral itself the more her rationale came into question and the excuses broke down. Somehow she suspected they could.

As usual there had been a difference of opinion between Mulder and herself. That was how they had always approached their work, but for the first time in her life she had seen faith at work; actual evidence of miracles. He hadnít seen anything of the kind and wouldnít accept the possibility of any. To him the case had taken a mundane turn to a murder investigation. The perpetrator, a fanatic in search of genuine stigmatics used religion as a justification, nothing more. Mulderís argument had been logical and convincing. Almost too convincing.

Was she simply hoping for miracles? Was she misreading the evidence because she was looking too hard? Wanting to believe it? She was so confused but she could not discuss this with Mulder. He just didnít understand.

Scully finally found herself at the head of the pews and before the empty choir stalls, which were set at right angles to the congregation. On the alter six tall white candles stood in gold holders. They acted as sentinels to a magnificent, almost platinum cross set between them. The age-old symbol of her faith caught the light and seemed to radiate bright beams from deep within itself, but it was the large painting mounted on the wall nearest to the confessional that demanded her attention. Taken by its simple beauty she found herself profoundly moved by the pain-filled yet serene face of the crucified Christ.

Scully heard the click of a doorlatch as it closed and realised she wasnít alone. She looked to the source of the sound. An elderly woman with a cane had emerged from the confessional. An old man (her husband?), apparently waiting for her, helped her to sit and then took her place.

Scully hadnít phoned to make an appointment thinking it unnecessary; hadnít even considered the routine of the church. As a consequence she would have to wait.

She turned back to the alter, paused only a moment then automatically fell back on her childhood training. She genuflected, acknowledging the established customs of the church, an action that had been drilled into her from the first moments of memory. She sat down as a thousand emotions raced through her.

In the reverent surroundings she sat with her head bowed, hands tightly clasped in her lap and finally allowed her conscience to berate her for not observing her faith as she knew she should.

Years it had been, clearly far too long, and yet it seemed she was still in favour. She didnít deserve to be. Without even being aware of when and how she had cast off these restrictive trappings, pushed them aside as she drifted away from the church in her youthful quest to live the life of her chosing. Hers was a single-minded pursuit of scholastic goals. In that determined paper chase there had been a subtle trade-off, a re-evaluation of priorities. While never actually abandoning her beliefs, science in effect had become her set religion. She had since learned, however, that faith, whatever name you gave it, couldnít be scientifically analysed. It simply existed or it didnít. In the end it was and always would be a personal choice. A conviction.

She felt unaccountably nervous and unable to understand why exactly. She heard the click of the doorlatch as it opened and her pulse suddenly quickened, palms again moist. She realised now that this had been a premeditated Ďspur of the momentí decision. The truth was she had been unerringly drawn here to serve a need which still apparently existed. She did not face the couple as they passed close by her and waited until they had left before rising to take her place. Finally, movement, wood sliding on wood, and Scully crossed herself.

"Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."

--end of file--

C L Goodwin 1997