Coffin: Part II Catching Whitefriars

Author and storyteller Tom Bradbury begin this incredible tale of mystery and intrigue with the first chapter titled, The Drunken Bricklayer. I pick up where he left off…

Jason peered inside the envelope and like the first one, found only an old photograph. This time it was of a large blue vase. On the back of the photo was written the single word, “Fourmaintraux”, and what appeared to be some sort of icon that resembled a hooded monk or friar and the initials “P. F.” When Jason saw the photo he knew what it meant. Matt was giving him another clue. He knew immediately where the clue would take him. What he didn’t know was why. What was so important about St. Peter’s Reigate in Surrey, England and why did Matt want him to go there next?

“Janice… wake up honey. I need to speak to you.” I said as I shook Janice gently.

She slowly opened her eyes and sat up, concerned. “What’s wrong? Has something happened to the girls? What time is it, Jason?”

“It’s early, not quite lunchtime. I need to leave town for a day or two. You’ll have to make arrangements for our girls. I won’t be here. Do you understand?” I replied.

She nodded she did and I stood up and left before she could ask me where I was going and for what reason. I would explain everything to her when I returned. I grabbed my bag and walked down to the bus stop. I would take the train to Surrey. It was cheaper and I needed time to think and rest before I visited St. Peters. I didn’t know for sure what to expect, but I had a good suspicion I would need my wit and strength to survive the next couple of days.

I boarded the 2 p.m. train to Surrey and found myself a seat away from others. I pulled the shade on the window and reclined my chair. Right before I closed my eyes, I noticed a man and woman board the train and take seats several rows away from me. I recognized the woman as the waitress who served me at Sally’s. She had changed clothes and was wearing a bonnet that covered her hair. I didn’t recognize the man but he had a familiar air about him.

I had no doubts they were following me. I didn’t feel challenged yet. The train ride to Surrey was almost 4 hours long. There was plenty of time to find out what those two were up to later. For now, I needed to think and the best way I did that was to close my eyes and let my mind wander. I awakened with a jolt. The man and woman were still in their seats and they appeared to be sleeping too. I reached into my bag and pulled out the envelope she had given me earlier and I withdrew the photograph.

The picture was of a blue vase, but not just any blue vase. It was a picture of a Whitefriars Blue Coffin Vase. There were only 2 vases ever made and only one of them was supposedly made by Pierre Fourmaintraux and stamped with his initials, P. F. and the infamous Whitefriars logo, the hooded friar. The legend was that Fourmaintraux secreted away his Blue Coffin Vase because it contained a map etched into the glass of the location of a fortune in gold French coins. The legend also stated Fourmaintraux left a clue about the location of the vase at St. Peters in Reigate.

I replaced the photograph in its envelope and prepared to disembark when the train slowed and pulled into Surrey Station. The conductor announced our arrival and I stood up to leave. As I made my way to the closest exit, I passed the man and woman who were still seated. The woman reached out and touched me on my arm and said,

“Excuse me, but aren’t you the young man who came into Sally’s earlier today looking for the Drunken Bricklayer?”

I was leery of them but replied I was. She continued, “Your name is Jason, right?”

“It is. Why are you here? Are you following me?”, I said.

She told me she wasn’t following me exactly but had hoped to run into me. She said she had unfinished business at St. Peters in Reigate. She also told me that she had additional information for me, but that I had left before she could tell me.

I nodded I understood. I still couldn’t place where I knew the man who was still seated beside her in complete silence. He wore a hat that covered his brow and dark sunglasses that protected his eyes. His nose and mouth were covered by a protective mask that many people wear nowadays to protect against infectious viruses. Before I could ask him if we knew each other, she continued…

“I never told you my name. It’s Bethany Ann. I am Matt’s oldest sister.”

Why didn’t she lead with this information, I thought to myself. This is important knowledge. I never knew Matt had an older sister. I wondered what else she knows that she isn’t telling me. I had lots of questions for her but the conductor announced the train would be departing the station in 2 minutes if we intended to disembark, now was the time.

I asked her if we could continue the conversation after we exited the train and she agreed. I turned and continued on my way off the train. Right before, I stepped down and onto the off-ramp, Bethany shouted,

” Jason, it’s important that you pay attention to the stained glass windows at St. Peters and Matt asked me to warn you about…”

The train lunged forward causing me to stumble off the train. As soon as I was out of the way, the train doors slammed shut and the train began moving forward. I had thought Bethany told me she was disembarking here too, but I could see her and her companion having conversation. They were still seated on the train and appeared completely oblivious to me. I left the train station and hailed a taxi to take me straight to St. Peters. I knew at this hour, the clergy was most likely preparing for mass and would have no time to attend to an out-of-town sightseer.

It didn’t take long for the taxi to steer its way towards St. Peter, but because of some celebration taking place and the large crowds, the driver stopped at the Heath Post Mill and let me out there. I paid the driver and walked briskly towards the main doors of the church. At the base of the steep stairs leading to the main doors, a young lady approached me and asked me if my name was Jason. This intrusion took me aback, but by now I was used to surprises. I nodded I was in fact, Jason.

She smiled and thrust a large brown envelope in my hand and then disappeared into the crowds again. I stared down at the envelope I was holding. It was the same size and shape as the one I had received in the mail earlier in the day. On the front of it was written my first name in the same handwriting as the other two. I tore open the seal and reached inside to remove another large photograph when I heard a shot ring out.

I felt the sting as the bullet struck me in the shoulder. The impact of the bullet spun me around and knocked me to the ground. I dropped the envelope and my bag. I could hear the crowds yelling and screaming and I could see people fleeing in all directions. Yet, no one was coming to assist me. The last thing I remember before I lost consciousness was the sight of a man standing on a balcony across from St. Peters. He was holding a rifle. He wore a hat that covered his brow, dark sunglasses that protected his eyes, and a mask that protected his nose and mouth from infectious viruses.