Murder at the National Cathedral

Murder at the National Cathedral by Margaret Truman Page A

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Authors: Margaret Truman
times were far afield. Naturally, visions of their wedding day in the Bethlehem Chapel kept returning, Paul’s handsome, smiling face bestowing God’s grace upon their union, the implied playfulness in his voice and the twinkle in his eye, his easy banter with them outside the cathedral. As those pleasant thoughts ebbed and flowed, there was also a natural anger. How senseless, how wrong, for this dynamic man to have his life end in such a brutal and wanton fashion.
    Smith looked around. Two distant cousins of Singletary’s sat together at the far end of a pew. Chief of Homicide Terrence Finnerty was in the crowd along with what Smith assumed were other representatives from the MPD. The Word of Peace contingent numbered in the hundreds. Whole inner-city classes of schoolchildren, mostly black and Hispanic, had been brought to the service by their teachers. The vice president of the United States had made a last-minutedecision to attend, which had thrown the security people into turmoil. He sat quietly with his wife and two Cabinet members, a dozen Secret Service agents surrounding their entourage.
    Most of the other mourners, Smith decided, were people who probably had had no direct contact with Paul Singletary, people who were saddened and outraged by his murder and who’d come to pay their simple respects to a man they didn’t know but whose reputation for good works had touched each of them in some unspoken, intangible way.
    The choir was a combination of the cathedral’s boys’ and men’s choirs. They lined both sides of the aisle of the chancel and sanctuary that led to the high altar. From outside came the constant whir of a helicopter hovering above. Barked orders through a bullhorn on occasion added yet another alien sound.
    Reverend Armstrong read a section from the Scriptures, its words acclaiming all who carry out the Lord’s good work on earth by comforting the sick and ministering to the poor. The message was so fitting that as she reached the end of the verse, her voice broke and it was apparent that she had to fight for control to complete the reading. Her near-breakdown brought sobs from people throughout the congregation.
    Jonathon Merle was next. In contrast to Canon Armstrong, he was more patrician and steely than ever. He read from the Gospel in a flat, businesslike tone, his eyes never leaving the printed page, his cadence that of a man getting through a ritual as coolly and perhaps even as quickly as possible.
    Bishop St. James sat in the great carved stone Glastonbury Cathedra, “the bishop’s chair.” When Merle had completed his duties at the pulpit, St. James slowly stood and walked to take his place. Mac Smith noticed the fatigue in his friend’s gait. It was confirmed when he started to speak,his voice heavy and weary, a sense of profound sadness clinging to every word.
    “Reverend Canon Paul Singletary loved many things in this life, but mostly he loved the God he served so admirably. He was a man whose spirit could be lifted by music, and there were always favorite hymns that he would listen to when in need of personal renewal. One of them speaks eloquently of the blessed rest in our Saviour’s hands that he has undoubtedly found. I know he is with us today and will take delight in once again hearing this hymn that meant so much to him.”
    St. James returned to his stone chair as choirmaster Wilfred Nickelson conducted the combined choirs. The magnificent ringing sound of the accompanying organ seemed to lift the voices up a hundred feet to the gray shadows of the nave’s ceiling.
    “Now the laborer’s task is o’er;
    Now the battle day is past;
    Now upon the farther shore
    Lands the voyager at last.
    Father, in thy gracious keeping
    Leave we now thy servant sleeping.”
    Joey Kelsch, who stood at the front of the boys’ choir, delivered the final two lines of each verse as a solo. Early in the hymn, the words soared from his lips and throat. Then, as he began the later lines

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