“There were never such devoted sisters.”
—Irving Berlin

Sister Camilla lay on her cot in a humid haze. She tried to sleep but couldn’t. Whenever she closed her eyes, a river of blood rushed toward her like the swift currents of the Congo. Outside, the “Lumumba, Lumumba” chants grew louder. Was it only Wednesday she’d told Mary Seraphia, “We’ll get through this, Sister,” then let the nun go alone for supplies into Kolwezi by riverboat? Traveling up-country was dangerous, but someone had to go, and Camilla was occupied at the mission. Amazing how things could pile up.

Camilla rose, fetched the candle by her bedside and went out into the corridor. It was late, after Vespers, but she knew she’d find Father in the chapel. Father Dominic with his kind face and strong arms, even his name implied an affinity with the Lord.

Camilla wasn’t alone in these thoughts. No. Hadn’t she caught Sister Mary lingering in the garden on more than one occasion, watching Father cut back the green wildness with a machete? “On my way to feed the livestock,” Sister Mary would say, or hang the clothes or fetch the mail, and Camilla would toss her a knowing look.

Camilla passed a partially open window and thought she saw, reflected in the candlelight, a flash of metal. Was someone watching her? Ridiculous what she could imagine in this hellish place. She took a deep breath, let it out, and then pulled open the chapel door.

From The Katanga Herald, Belgian Congo, June 6, 1960

Malonga Township was stunned Friday when a fire of unknown origin destroyed Immaculate Heart Mission. Local authorities discovered the charred remains of Father Dominic Bertram and Sister Camilla Hume among the chapel ruins. A preliminary autopsy revealed deep, pre-mortem lacerations about the head and neck on both bodies. Sister Mary Seraphia, upon her return from Kolwezi, described her colleagues as “very dedicated to their work in the Congo” and attributed the tragedy to the recent political unrest. “Besides,” she said, “what else could account for such violence?”


Paul Alan Fahey

Paul Alan Fahey is a writer who resides in Nipomo, California. His short stories have recently appeared in Gertrude, The African American Review, Long Story Short and in the Sisters in Crime anthology, Somewhere in Crime. He is currently editing an anthology of personal essays called THE OTHER MAN wherein noted gay writers describe being the other man, suffering the other man or having their lives affected by infidelity. Paul is a member of NightWriters, the premiere writing organization of the central California coast.

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