Chapter IX

“Sir, the taxi is here.”

“Jack, grab my bags.”

And so we were off to Gatwick to catch a flight to some backward little town in Spain.  I never enjoy trips like that as my master gets cranky when he can’t find the things like edible food or interesting women.  Where I am really does not make a difference to me.  I am satisfied as long as I have a power source.  The flight from London to Madrid only took an hour and forty-five minutes.  The car ride would be another three hours.  I took a chance and booked us into a Bed and Breakfast as the hotel sounded less than par. When we got there Frank kicked back and called it a day. 

“Jack, wake me at seven in the morning.  I want to get a fast start on this.  I hope by the evening to write an article.  It has been over a week since I submitted something and I don’t want my editor to forget I am still alive.”

“We both powered down and at 6:55 AM I powered up and started the coffee machine in the room.  Once that was started I started playing a little Bach piece that Frank liked to wake up to.  It was a fast paced piece that helped Frank wake up in a good mood.  He preferred that to my just going over and waking him.  He hated that, felt it would lead to the end of human civilization if robots were allowed to order humans around.  He would fume about robot overlords sometimes when I reminded him of appointments, even when he had instructed me to remind him of it.  Humans!

Rather than room service we joined the others guests in the smallish dining room.  Breakfast was amazingly un-Spanish.  Eggs, bacon, toast, coffee, some odd looking juice and Spanish rice.  After that I called our car to the front door and we took off to the Convento de Santa Clara.  It turned out to be a rather unassuming building with a small church attached to it.

Frank gave it a quick look out the window and remarked, “This looks like the backwater of the Vatican to me.  I’m surprised Rome even remembered they owned this place.”

Once we got out of the car we noticed a few odd things.  The sign over the door had been spray painted over so you could barely make out the words “Convento de Santa Clara”.  Over by the church there was a stained glass window of the Holy Virgin, except her head had been smashed out.  In place was a paper photo of Lucia Sánchez Saolmil.  Frank asked me who the ‘ugly bitch’ was.  I told him her name and that she was one of the first feminists of Spain and that they were referred to as ‘Mujeres Libres’or Free Women.”

“When did this Free Lucia do her fighting?”

“She was active in the 1930s.”

“Well, let’s see who is home.”  We walked up to the church and entered the door.  There was no one inside and not a single candle was lit by the statues of the Virgin or of the saints.  In fact the statue of the Apostle Paul was knocked over and smashed into a dozen or so pieces.  I photographed everything I saw that was unusual or newsworthy and followed Frank as he walked out a side door by the altar.  It led to the living quarters of the nuns.  On the floor were bits of paper that I could see were from a Bible.  The whole place looked like a tornado had it gone through the place.  We entered a courtyard and saw that there had been a large fire in the center.  Burnt remnants of nun’s habits and books were among the ashes.  There were also four of five empty bottles of Chartreuse. 

“Must have been some party, Jack.  Make sure you get some good photos of where they had their fire.”  Frank was taking a closer look at what the sisters had burned when we heard someone talking just inside a door to more living quarters.  It was in Spanish, but I translated it to Frank. It was a male voice, obviously talking on a mobile phone.  The person sounded upset and was describing how it would take a lot of money to repair all the damage.  Frank motioned to me that we should go towards the voice.  When the priest saw us he quickly ended his conversation and turned to address us.

“¿Quién es, señor?”

“Sorry, me llamo Frank Huntington con el Wall Street Journal.  Do you speak English?”

“Si – Yes.  What are you doing here?

“I am investigating what happened here.  Were you the local priest in Carmona?”

“No, I am from Roma.  What is so important that an American reporter has come here?”

“I heard about the sisters.”

“Please do not refer to them as sisters; they are of the devil, Senor.”

“Can you tell me what did they do?”

“You can see that yourself.  They destroyed priceless statues that were hundreds of years old.  They burned books  - they burned Bibles!”


“Heaven knows what got into them.  They were loco.  It does not make sense.  The mother superior had been a nun for over forty years.  It does not make sense.”

“I heard they are now all atheists.”

“As I said, they are tools of the devil, Senor Huntington.”

“May I ask what your name is, Father?”

“I am Monsignor Angelo Pietro.”

“Monsignor Pietro, how did this happen?”

“That is what I am here to find out, Senor Huntington.  Do you know anything?”

“No, I just got here last night.  Where are the former sisters now?”

“They have rented a villa just out of town with money that they have stolen from the church.”

“Have you talked to them?”

“I tried, but they only resorted to rhetoric and not dialogue.  They are as the English say ‘mad as a hatter’.”

“Interesting reference to Alice in Wonderland.  Where are you staying, Monsignor?”

“I am staying at this wretched place, senor.”

“Can we have dinner tonight?   My guest.”

“That is most kind of you.  Perhaps you will find out more than I have.”

“Good, I will come by about six.  Until then.”

Frank walked back to the church and from there to the street.  While we were backtracking Frank asked me to research where the ladies of Satan were staying – that is, where was this villa they had rented.  I was able to find that information in articles from the local paper of Carmona.  We got into the car and I relayed electronically the destination and within seconds we were on our way.

It was easy to spot the villa.  Outside in red paint were anti-church sayings in Spanish.  I thought the saying “Lo invisible y lo no-existente se parecen mucho” was rather clever and translated it to Frank, “Mr. Huntington the slogan on the right says, “The invisible and the non-existent look alike.”  Frank chuckled and said the nuns have learned a lot in a short time.  We walked up to the door and knocked, seeing no doorbell.  No one came.  Frank knocked again and then I could hear some movement.  Finally, through the door came a voice of an old woman, “¿Quién está ahí? – or in English -  “Who's there?”  Frank answered in anglicized Spanish that he was a reporter and that his name was Frank Huntington.  After that I heard several voices debate what to do and then finally the door opened.

“Come in, Señor.  I am Lisa Lopez.”

“You speak English.”

“Yes, I am the only American who was part of the convent.  Have a seat, Señor.”


Frank sat down and I took a position against the wall.  Miss Lopez looked Hispanic and about forty years old.  There were about four other ladies in the room.  All were dressed in civilian clothes.  They all looked rather plain with short undefined hair styles.  I saw they wore absolutely no jewelry.  It seemed odd, since for most women in Spain a gold chain and cross seemed ubiquitous.  But these were not most women.  They had no god and no mother church. 

After taking in everything in the room Frank turned back to the woman and said, “The world would like to know your story.  The officials and the church are describing you all as crazy and evil.  I know that is highly unlikely.  What you did took courage.”

“Thank you, Mr. Huntington.  We want the world to know the truth.”

“How did it happen?”

“I can’t say, it all happened so fast.  We all woke up for morning prayer and out of habit we all went to chapel.  Mother Superior was at the front by the altar of our beloved Saint Clara.  We waited for her to start with an invocation when she broke down in tears.  All of a sudden she blurted out she did not believe in God.”

“How did all the sisters react to that?” asked Frank.

“Slowly, one by one each of us got up and said we felt the same way, too.  In a way it was a miracle.  We could not believe it that we all felt the same.”

“How is that possible?”

“I don’t know.  We all discovered we just woke up and felt different.  The next thing that happened was Mother Superior took off her Cornette and said, “The Church is a lie.”  One by one we uncovered our heads.  At that point some of the sisters started to cry.”


“I am not sure.  Some may have felt relief.  Some I think were scared.  They did not know what to think.  All our lives we have lived a very proscribed life.  Everything was planned out for us.”

“How did you feel Miss Lopez?”

“Confused, but happy.”

“Did any of the sisters not share this new belief that religion was a lie?”

“No, and that scared some of the sisters.  They wondered if we had been brainwashed somehow.”

“Did they have any suspicions on how that could have happened?”

“No.  Something that incredible could not be done to us.  I mean most did not believe in anything supernatural could happen to cause that.  That would be illogical.”

“What happened next?”

“The Mother Superior picked up the gold cross on the altar and smashed St. Clare.  It was such a surprise.  After that a kind of ecstasy took over us.  We all ran through the convent and the church and smashed all the religious symbols we could get our hands on.  Several of the sisters went to the storeroom and took paint cans and threw them against the murals and mosaics in the church.  We were all so happy.  We sang.  We danced. We drank the holy wine.  We felt liberated.”

“Had there been any secret discussions before this about religion being meaningless?”

“No, none at all.  That is what is so confusing.”

“You just all woke up and felt godless?”

“Si, Mr. Huntington.”

“How do you explain this?”

“We can’t.  We have discussed this and thought about it both after and before we were kicked out of the convent by the police.”

“What are your plans?”

“I want to go back to Los Angeles and be with my family.  I’m not sure what I will do.  I worked in the kitchen and helped do sewing for the poor, but I have no skills for the real world.”

“Have you talked to your family and told them about how you feel about God?”

“No.  I am afraid.  They were always proud of me being a nun.  What do you think I should do?”

“If your family loves you they will help you.  Meanwhile there will be lots of people who feel like you about God and will want to hear your story.   One of you should write a book about this.”

“A book?”

“Yes, a book.  It is not everyday a convent of nuns throws away their religion and becomes secular.  Many people would like to know what made you nonbelievers.”

“That includes us.  It has been a month and we still do not understand what caused us to give up religion.  It is a riddle to us.”

“Do you have any doubts that you did the right thing?”

“No.  We all feel very strong about that.  We are done with God and his son.”

“What would you tell other nuns who still believe?”

“Open your eyes.  Nothing we pray for comes true.  Nothing we do makes any difference.  In the end we all die and will never exist ever again.”

“I hope you find happiness in your new life.”

“I hope so too, Señor Huntington.”

“May I possibly speak to the Mother Superior?”

“I am sorry” she said and her voice chokes up with emotion.  After a few seconds she added, “She is dead.”

“Dead? How?” asked Frank rather surprised.

“By her hand, Señor.”


“We found her in her room, yesterday.  She had hanged herself.  Some of the sisters think she could not face the fact that she lived her life as a lie.  It is a feeling many of us feel.  So much lost time.  Our chances to marry a good man and raise a family are gone.  We are too old and now barren.  We have nothing to give to the world that is real.”

“Sister, I mean Señorita Lopez,” Frank said with some firmness, “you have a truth you have paid a great price for.  You need to save others from such a fate.  You can make a difference.  Being free of religion is a gift you can give others.  I am sorry the Mother Superior did not see that.”

“I worry about some of the other sisters taking their life.”

“I believe when I get your story out there will be people who will help you.  I know it sounds silly, but keep the faith.  Faith in yourselves and in truth.”

Miss Lopez started crying again.  Tear after tear rolled out of her eyes.  She looked so dejected.  Frank got up and gave her a hug.  He hugged her hard and long until he could feel her regaining her composure.

“Will you be all right?

“Yes, thank you.  I think I finally understand.  You are right.  We have much to give.  I must bid you goodbye so I can share what you have given me with my sisters.  Please tell the world, Señor.  Tell them everything.”

With that she left and with her the other former nuns who had silently stood by making only an occasional sobbing sound.  Frank did not say anything to me.  He just turned towards the door and walked to our car and crawled into the back seat.  After that we went to the bar in what would be considered the downtown of this small little town.


Chapter X


















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