Perched on the edge of a chair in the sitting room of the rectory, Jimmie feels out of place. Not so long ago, a whole group would have met in the church basement to decide money matters. Now that the congregation was shrunken, Father Thomas ran things himself, and he preferred doing financial business here. Jimmie had drawn the short straw between the two churchwardens to assist him. Jimmie lets his eyes wander around the room and considers whether anything needed to be repaired or replaced, but all is in good condition. He gives his head a shake and with an effort tunes back into Tom's conversation with Jakob, the church's own prodigal son, back from McGill and all full of himself.
The newly credentialed financial advisor pauses and runs a hand through his David Beckham-esque hair. His eyes narrow for just a moment, making him look a bit like the weasel that lives in the gully at the rear of the churchyard. Father Tom and Jimmie share a quick glance, and Jimmie stifles a laugh.
"Tom. You've got to do something with the balance of Miss Agnes' bequest. We paid off the parish debts, we bought musical instruments for the school, and we renovated the day care. We endowed some scholarships and we topped up the hospital's new equipment fund."
"That we did, Jakob. All good works well in keeping with dear Miss Agnes' instructions," Tom says, tapping a document on his desk.
"But thanks to the ridiculously hot Toronto housing market, there's still a cool half-million left over," Jakob replies. "And what better place for a cool 500 large than Iceland? Global warming is making Iceland the place for real-estate investment. We get in, wait for the land rush, and get back out with three to four times ROI. Then you can buy a whole new CT scanner for the hospital, or whatever other good works you choose."
Jimmie stirs. "Didn't Miss Agnes stup-stip-stipulate that the money had to stay in the parish, or whatever?"
Jakob flashes him the side-eye but Tom responds. "No, Jimmie, just that it be used for the good of the parish and its parishioners. That wording kept the bequest out of the hands of the Diocese for now, but if we don't use it we're likely to find their helping hands helping themselves to what's left."
Jakob gives Jimmie an eyebrow-raised chin-nod and a flash of white teeth. "As long as the parish holds the investment, the actual location of that investment isn't material...it doesn't matter."
Father Tom spreads his hands. "Well, things were clear enough at the vestry meeting, as I recall. No one seemed comfortable with the idea of leaving the money in the bank." He smiles at Jimmie invitingly. "What did dear Mrs. Karrunesby say, Jimmie?"
Jimmie turns pink and looks at his shoes. "I can't say that in the rectory, Tom."
Father Tom laughs. "Go ahead, Jimmie, God's heard it all and worse besides."
Jimmie sighs and then does a pitch-perfect impression of Maddie Karrunesby. "You'd best not be lettin' those black-hearted goat- ...fondlers... from the bank get their slimy testicles on that money!" Tom and Jimmie convulse in laughter, and even Jakob allows himself a hearty chuckle. "I think, you know, she meant 'tentacles'."
Father Tom wipes his eyes. "Indeed, but that captures the sentiment. No one here trusts bankers and their lies. Jakob may have gone away to school but his family's our family and he'll do right by us." Jakob smiles expansively. "But," Tom continues, "we'll not buy anything sight unseen, either." Jimmie watches Jakob make the weasel-face again.
Jakob straightens in the wing chair. "OK, Tom, fair enough. Let's you and I fly up and check it out. We can grab a flight out of Stanfield and be there in no time." But Father Tom holds his palms up to slow things down.
"I'm not going anywhere, Jakob. I'm needed here, and I wouldn't know what I'm looking at anyway. Jimmie's your man. He's got no obligations and is sharper than he lets on." Jimmie half-rises as if to bolt from the room, but Tom gives Jimmie an intense priest look that pins him back to the seat.
Jimmie gathers his courage. "I'm not flying nowhere!" he says, crossing his arms. "I've never been in an airplane and I won't start now. I'll fly when the Lord God gives me wings and not before!" Jakob draws a deep, exasperated breath, but Father Tom just smiles.
"Well, Jimmie, it just so happens that Elsie down at the Travelcuts was telling me about this cruise they have. It seems that it's for a bunch of American doctors, but they had a lot of cancellations because some of them are scared to cross the border. Six days from here to Reykjavík. We'll get the two of you aboard...."
Jakob snorts. "A week on a cruise ship? As if! Let me know when the boat's going to dock and I'll fly in." He rises suddenly. "Glad we're settled though. Call me once Jimmie has the ticket booked and we'll get this done!" Jakob smiles at Tom, nods briskly at Jimmie, and lets himself out.
Father Tom sighs. "He's good people, Jimmie, he's just got a bit of big city on him. It'll wear off." Jimmie frowns, but Tom continues. "Now these cruises have two berths in the cabin, so we'll need to get you a roomie. Maybe young Sean, he's a likely lad. Always takin' those digital pictures, a tour of Iceland will be a dream come true for him. You're OK with Sean, right?" Jimmie nods, and Tom continues "I'll talk with him, commission him to photograph the churches up there, I hear they're spectacular."
Jimmie sighs deeply. "Sure, Tom, whatever. But you know I don't like this at all, at all." Tom nods knowingly.
"I do indeed, Jimmie. That's why you're going, just in case Jakob got a bit too much city on him at school in Montreal." Tom stands up and Jimmie follows him to the door. "You're a good man, Jimmie, and you know your way around a dollar." Tom claps Jimmie on the shoulder. "What happened to the plant wasn't your fault. Bankers!"
Jimmie quirks a smile. "Goats!" he says.
"Testicles!" the two men shout together, and Jimmie heads out chuckling.
reverse ... quest ... full speed ahead