The next morning Faloni woke early and arrived at seven o’clock to find Father Demetre waiting for him outside the front of the church. They both nodded a good morning to each other, and to Faloni’s interest, Father Demetre led him through the gate in the fence that separated the church from his house. He led him up the dirt path to the white front door and entered. Faloni followed behind, puzzled as to why they were here instead of inside the church.
Dark red carpet covered the floor of the house, matching the paneled wood walls of the hall. The carpet was lighter in the middle where it had been worn by the consistent walking of people visiting Father Demetre. This was not the first time that Faloni had been inside the Father’s house, nor walked the carpet, so he paid hardly any attention to the photos of Father Demetre and his family that lined the walls. The interesting thing about the photos was that they had been taken in a way that no matter where you stood in the hall, you were always being watched.
‘The boys would have moved him into a bed in the orphanage,’ Father Demetre explained, ‘but I told them to move him in here. That way I could keep an eye on him, just in case something happened.’
They walked past an open door which led into a sitting room and to a door further down the hall. Here, Father Demetre stopped and opening the door walked in.
As Faloni walked in he saw the boy lying tucked up in a bed so large it looked like it might have belonged to a giant. The boy’s eyes were closed and from his deep breathing they could tell that he was sleeping.
‘Anything happen in the night?’ asked Faloni as he checked the boy’s pulse and temperature. The boy had a slight fever.
Father Demetre shook his head. ‘He hasn’t moved since he was put to bed. He did wake up shortly after you left though. We gave him a little something to eat and then he went back to sleep again. We don’t know the last time he ate so we thought it best to see if he would eat something. As it was he ate it all.’
Faloni nodded. ‘That’s good,’ he said as he stood up and moved backwards away from the bed. Just then the boy started stirring.
He opened his eyes and gazed intently at Faloni and Father Demetre as they stood watching him silently by the door.
‘Father, perhaps you should bring in one of the older boys to look after him for a moment while we go out and look at where you found him?’ Faloni suggested. ‘The boy has a fever, but it is benign. We’ll wrap him up and get one of the boys to feed him some soup if you have any. Come, show me the way.’ Faloni ruffled the hair on the boy and smiled. ‘You’ll be fine and we’ll be back soon,’ he told the boy and then followed after Father Demetre.
It didn’t take them long to reach the graves. In daylight everything looked different and Father Demetre felt ashamed that he had felt scared.
The graves’ markers stood silent in the day, they were the same as he had seen them the night before, just simple pieces of wood hammered together with nails to create a cross.
Faloni knelt down beside one of the graves and ran a hand through the dirt. ‘It’s fresh,’ he said, dropping the cool, dark soil back where he had taken it. He patted the dirt from his hands on his trousers and turned to inspecting the grave marker.
‘There’s something written on this marker,’ he exclaimed with excitement as he ran a finger over grooves cut into the wood. They weren’t very deep and so what it said was hard to make out.
‘Looks to have been scratched by something, a knife probably. Not a very good job.’ He pulled out a small pocket knife that he always kept on his person and ran the blade along the grooves in the wood.
A short time later he had re-carved the name as best as he could by following the pattern. He replaced the pocket knife back into his pocket and stood up. Taking a step back he joined Father Demetre in gazing at his handy work.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘we have a name.’
The writing on the marker was simple. It said: Arthur Crash.
‘So his surname is ‘Crash’?’ Father Demetre asked after a moment.
Faloni shrugged. ‘It could be. These are the graves you found him next to. They are freshly filled, and that is the name on the marker. It must be. But what puzzles me about all this,’ he said, waving his arm to the graves, ‘is why you wouldn’t tell anybody about this? It’s a mystery. If you were here burying these people and the child was with you, wouldn’t you take him to the church, or home with you? Why leave him behind? There is something not right here with the boy, and he can’t tell us.’ He sighed sadly.
‘I suppose we’d better head back to the church,’ he said finally, breaking into their thoughts. He turned round and left, leaving Father Demetre to catch up with him after saying a short prayer.
‘So what do you suggest we do?’ Father Demetre asked once he had caught up with the doctor.
‘I would suggest we go to the local constabulary and ask about missing persons by the name of ‘Crash’, if that’s their real name, and ask to put out a call asking for any relations of the boy to come forwards. If no-one comes, do what you normally do with children that appear at the orphanage, take care of them.’
At the church Father Demetre watched Faloni walk down the street after they had said goodbye, and until he had turned around the bend and was lost to sight before heading back inside.
Faloni had said that he would ask about missing persons when he was at the inspector’s place this afternoon and that he would come back as soon as he found out something.
Father Demetre always called Faloni every time a new child showed up. And as far as he knew, the doctor didn’t mind coming out to see them. Faloni always liked children, and had four of them himself which he’d raised after his wife had died. Two, the eldest boys had grown and moved out, and the other two, a boy and girl were still at home and in school.
Whenever Faloni had a spare day in the week he would head over to the church to spend a day teaching. All the children from the orphanage were taught in the church while all the other children went to the local school. It was just the way it worked.
The village they all lived in was not large; it had been built round about the 18th century and a lot of the early buildings still stood, some were just the framework with new bricks laid down. The village had a few shops, some from when the village was first built and others from now. All the important ones lined the main street.
A lot of the citizens lived either atop their shops or behind them, and the church was the oldest building in the village, it stood tall and proud at the end of the main street.
The church though did not look tall and proud. In actual fact it was rather run down. It was always having repairs done, like most of the houses in the village. But the people were happy to live there. It was home. No matter how run down things got, it would never fall apart because there was always somebody with something to offer to help put the buildings back together again.
There was only one hotel in the village, and that was where most of the money was made. The country and mountainside was beautiful and many tourists would come to stay and sightsee. Some of the villagers would hire themselves out as guides to the tourists; the rest would stay at home and ignore them. They didn’t think they should be hiring themselves out to strangers. Strangers were not always welcome. Yet the village always did well enough to support everybody. It always had. It was the oldest in the country.
Demetre’s great grandfather had been the priest once upon a time here; he was the reason Demetre had decided to become one himself.
He had grown up in another village, so when he had joined the church in this one, he wasn’t very welcomed by some of the older generation. But after a while he seemed to catch on well with the local customs and they soon accepted him as their new priest.
After checking on the other boys in the orphanage to make sure they had eaten their lunch, he headed back to his room to see how the boy was fairing.
Faloni had given him some advice as to what to do, so he would follow it. Not all the work with the orphanage was done by Faloni though; a lot of it was done by Father Demetre.
When he walked into his room back at the house he discovered one of the other young orphans sitting on the ground playing with a couple of toy cars with the boy, who was out of bed and looked well and happy.
‘Father!’ the other boy cried, scrambling to his feet as soon as he saw Father Demetre standing in the doorway.
‘It is all right,’ Demetre told him. Walking over, he knelt down next to the new child and held a hand against his forehead. ‘The fever seems to have gone down, but I would advise you to continue to stay in bed,’ he said, lifting the boy up and placing him back into the bed and pulling the blankets up. ‘You can stay here and play with your cars until you are well, and then you will be moved in with the other boys. They’ll help you settle in. Won’t you?’ he said, turning now to the boy behind who nodded.
‘Good, now head back to your studies,’ commanded Demetre. ‘You can’t be slacking off while the others aren’t.’ The boy nodded again.
‘Goodbye, little silenzioso lutto,’ the boy said before running out of the room.
Demetre turned back to the other child. ‘Now I can’t continue to call you boy, so what should I call you, hmm? I guess we will just have to wait for Faloni to come back with some news on you, won’t we?’
The boy, munching happily on one of the toy cars, seemed to pay him no attention. Demetre rose to his feet and said, ‘I have things to do, you’ll be all right here.’ Then he walked to the door, and turning off the light, closed it behind him with a soft click.
The next day Faloni didn’t stop by the orphanage, or the day after. Demetre wasn’t exactly worried about that. Faloni was after all the only doctor in the village; he couldn’t be expected to stop by every day, but even so.
It was a whole week before Faloni had a free moment to stop by. He had seen Demetre now and again in the street, but never had time to stop and chat about what he had found out.
He arrived at the church shortly after ten on a Monday morning; midmorning recess had just started by the sounds coming from the back of the church of kids having fun.
Father Demetre answered the door after Faloni had knocked twice, and looked extremely pleased to see him.
‘Come in, come in!’ he cried, opening the door wide.
‘I haven’t got long, maybe half an hour before my next appointment. I thought I should drop by, see how Jonathan is doing,’ Faloni explained, stepping inside.
‘Jonathan?’ Father Demetre’s face scrunched up in puzzlement at hearing a foreign name. He knew the names of all the children in the orphanage.
‘Ah, yes, I forgot I hadn’t told you. I found out who the boy was you found last week. His name’s Jonathan Crash. Apparently he and his family, the ones the graves were for, were on holiday here. And according to Inspector Claudius, they died in a car crash just south from here, on the Alps. Jonathan was the only survivour.’
‘Then, how did they get here? And how did the boy survive?’ Demetre asked slowly, still looking puzzled as he led the way to where the boys were playing outside.
‘That’s the thing, the police don’t know. They don’t know anything. They are investigating, looking for people who might have known the Crash family, and any reasons why their car might have been on the road that night. No-one seems to remember them, what they did or why they were on the road. They’re a mystery.’
‘It is puzzling,’ agreed Father Demetre. ‘But didn’t you say they were on holiday here?’ he asked a moment later.
‘I said ‘apparently’ they were. That’s what the police think anyway. They found a car, down the side of the mountain road, smashed, but not enough for them not to find out some things about it. They also found baggage belonging to the family. There wasn’t much in them I’m told, just clothes really, and passports. I’ve got it all in my house; I’ll bring it down here when I have more time. It all belongs to Jonathan now, provided he is actually who we think he is.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well we’ve only got the name on the grave markers as to their identity, and a passport with his name on it was found in the baggage, but that doesn’t mean that he is actually Jonathan Crash, or that the people buried are his family. The picture on his passport looks like him, but he might not be, or they might not be. That’s why the police will be coming down here sometime soon to see about digging up the bodies to do a DNA check.’
‘They can’t dig up the graves!’ cried Father Demetre in horror. ‘It’s their final resting place, it would be disrespectful!’
‘But maybe it would also be disrespectful to leave them there, unknown. The world not even sure if their son, if it is their son truly is their son. What life will the boy lead if no-one knows who he really is? And talking about him, is this him?’
They had stepped outside into a gathering of children of all ages. Sitting in the middle of a small group of children along the far wall that ran around the yard, and writing something on the ground, was Jonathan.
‘He seems quite at home here,’ remarked Faloni.
What Faloni had said before had given Father Demetre something to think about. It would be wrong to just leave them alone and let the world have no idea who they were, or if their son really is their son. He nodded absently in reply to Faloni’s question.
‘Yes, he fits in quite well,’ he told him. ‘In the short time he has been here he has learnt how to write. He can’t write much, but he knows more than some of the others that have been here longer.’
Faloni shook his head in wonder. ‘It’s amazing,’ he said. ‘And is he well?’
Demetre nodded. ‘Very. You can check him if you like.’
‘I might, just to make sure.’ Faloni headed out to the group sitting on the ground and squeezed himself down in between a couple of the children. In the middle on the dirt Jonathan was busy writing on the ground. He looked up when he noticed Faloni watching him.
He sat and watched Faloni for about five seconds before writing something on the ground and pointing from it to Faloni.
Faloni leaned over and read what was written in the dirt. It was a bit hard to read upside down, and it was scratched into the dirt, and a couple of letters were missing, but Faloni understood it. It said ‘Thank you.’
Faloni smiled. ‘You’re welcome,’ he replied. ‘I see you are doing well,’ he remarked. Jonathan nodded. ‘And you write well for someone of your age.’ Jonathan smiled and pointed back to what was written in the dirt. Faloni continued to smile.
‘Well it’s good to see you doing well; I have other people to look after so I will be taking my leave. Do you understand all that?’ The boy nodded. ‘Good,’ replied Faloni, getting to his feet. ‘Until later then, little Jonathan.’
Jonathan nodded again and went back to writing in the dirt and Faloni wandered back over to where Demetre was standing watching them.
‘He is doing well,’ Faloni told him.
‘I said so,’ Father Demetre told him. ‘Come, a drink before you leave?’
‘Thank you, but no. I should be heading back. Though I said I have half an hour, illnesses never pay any attention.’
Demetre laughed, it was slightly higher than most laughs and a couple of the children looked over in their directions. ‘Neither do the wants of children,’ Demetre continued, unaware of the attention.
‘By the way,’ he stopped and looked back at Jonathan. ‘Is there anyone? Does he have family?’
‘The police didn’t know when I saw them. They are still trying to find out.’
‘Well, Jonathan is welcome to stay here for as long as he needs to.’
‘I’ll make sure the inspector knows. Good day, Father,’ Faloni said as he took his leave. ‘I’ll try and pop in later in the week for teaching.’
‘I will see you there. Good day.’