The Reverend Dodgson was on the verge of resigning his collar. He’d popped out to the post office to send out the parish newsletter and when he’d returned little Annie Summers – all of nine years old – was on her own in the graveyard eating an ice-cream. He approached cautiously, temptation making his heart hammer to the point where he thought it would escape his chest and fly into the sky proclaiming his guilt.
The child was humming as he approached – something in the pop charts he thought, since it sounded familiar. He cleared his throat and she turned to look at him with eyes that appeared far too mature for a pre-teen.
“Hello,” he said. “It’s Annie, isn’t it? Is your mother about?”
“Hello Father.” Annie smiled. “She’s gone to the supermarket. She said to wait here for her and I wasn’t to talk to strangers.”
“Very wise, your mother, but I’m not a stranger, am I?”
“It’s not ‘Father’, Annie, it’s ‘Reverend’. ‘Father’ is for the Catholics. May I sit down?”
“Of course Fa—Reverend.” Annie licked the ice cream with her little pink tongue.
“Good girl.” Reverend Dodgson gulped, tempted to pluck the object of his desire and run. He took a deep breath. “Where did you get the ice-cream, Annie? I want one just like it?”
Image: The Last Temptation by Val McDermid