Angel Time_ The Songs of the Seraphim Page 0,1
had happened since then, as I’d drifted through the world waiting for those cell phone calls that always meant somebody was marked, and I had to get him.
I never killed women, but that’s not to say that I hadn’t before I became The Right Man’s vassal or serf, or knight, depending on how one chose to view it. He called me his knight. I thought of it in far more sinister terms, and nothing during these ten years had ever accustomed me to my function.
Often I even drove from the Mission Inn to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, south and closer to the coast, another secret place, where I felt unknown and sometimes even happy.
Now the Mission of San Juan Capistrano is a real mission. The Mission Inn is not. The Mission Inn is a tribute to the architecture and heritage of the Missions. But San Juan Capistrano is the real thing.
At Capistrano, I roamed the immense square garden, the open cloisters, and visited the narrow dim Serra Chapel—the oldest consecrated Catholic chapel in the state of California.
I loved the chapel. I loved that it was the only known sanctuary on the whole coast in which Blessed Junípero Serra, the great Franciscan, had actually said Mass. He might have said Mass in many another Mission chapel. In fact surely he had. But this was the only one about which everyone was certain.
There had been times in the past when I’d driven north to visit the Mission at Carmel, and look into the little cell there that they’d re-created and ascribed to Junípero Serra, and meditated on the simplicity of it: the chair, the narrow bed, the cross on the wall. All a saint needed.
And then there was San Juan Bautista, too, with its refectory and museum—and all the other Missions that had been so painstakingly restored.
I’d wanted to be a priest for a while when I was a boy, a Dominican, in fact, and the Dominicans and the Franciscans of the California missions were mixed in my mind because they were both mendicant orders. I respected them equally, and there was a part of me that belonged to that old dream.
I still read history books about the Franciscans and the Dominicans. I had an old biography of Thomas Aquinas saved from my school days, full of old notes. Reading history always soothed me. Reading history let me sink into ages safely gone by. Same with the Missions. They were islands not of our time.
It was the Serra Chapel in San Juan Capistrano that I visited most often.
I went there not to remember the devotion I’d known as a boy. That was gone forever. Fact was, I simply wanted the blueprint of the paths that I’d traveled in those early years. Maybe I just wanted to walk the sacred ground, walk through places of pilgrimage and sanctity because I couldn’t actually think about them too much.
I liked the beamed ceiling of the Serra Chapel, and its darkly painted walls. I felt calm in the quality of gloom inside it, the glimmer of the gold retablo at the far end of it—the golden framework that was behind the altar and fitted with statues and saints.
I loved the red sanctuary light burning to the left of the tabernacle. Sometimes I knelt right up there before the altar on one of the prie-dieux obviously intended for a bride and a groom.
Of course the golden retablo, or reredos, as it’s often called, hadn’t been there in the days of the early Franciscans. It had come later, during the restoration, but the chapel itself seemed to me to be very real. The Blessed Sacrament was in it. And the Blessed Sacrament, no matter what I believed, meant “real.”
How can I explain this?
I always knelt in the semidarkness for a very long time, and I’d always light a candle before I left, though for whom or what I couldn’t have said. Maybe I whispered, “This is in memory of you, Jacob, and you, Emily.” But it wasn’t a prayer. I didn’t believe in prayer any more than I believed in actual memory.
I craved rituals and monuments, and maps of meaning. I craved history in book and building and paint—and I believed in danger, and I believed in killing people whenever and wherever I was instructed to do it by my boss, whom in my heart of hearts I called simply The Right Man.
Last time I’d been to the Mission—scarcely a month ago—I’d spent an unusually long