Friday, July 20, 2012
The remaining morning hours disappeared so quickly that Fr. O'Kenney was shocked when the grandfather clock in the rectory parlor chimed 1:00 pm. He had been able to track down Marita Rivera's sister, who was understandably distraught at the loss of yet another family member. Her brother-in-law owned a dry cleaners a few blocks away from the restaurant, and had immediately phoned her when the fire trucks had begun to arrive. She raced to the scene, but had gotten there just as the fireman were removing the charred remains of her sister from the smoldering ruins. She thanked Fr. Kevin for his kind concern, but turned down his offer of a memorial service for the deceased couple, as she was unsure what the family's next step would be.
After he hung up with the sister, the priest phoned Sheriff Beckett to relay this information, and to give him the grieving family's contact information. The Sheriff had been polite, but not very forthcoming with any knowledge on either the fire or the murder, and was noncommittal about a promise to update Fr. Kevin later in the day. Deciding he had done all he could for the moment, the frustrated young pastor trudged upstairs to get ready for his dreaded afternoon commitment.
Tessa Peppers lived only four blocks from the church, so Fr. O'Kenney decided he'd walk rather than take the bike. He was grateful that the day was cooler than it had been of late, as he was still feeling the results of his adventure the night before. Strolling the quiet neighborhood, the Peppers' residence was easy to spot, as the front of the house was covered in patriotic bunting, and the front lawn brandished a huge campaign sign suggesting that " A Vote for Tessa was a Vote For Change".
Carefully avoiding several concrete gnomes and plastic angels guarding the steps to the door, Fr. straightened his spine, and rang the bell.
Amid the yapping of her small dog, Tessa Peppers opened the door and ushered Kevin inside.
"Fr. O'Kenney...here you are, right on time. Welcome to my home! Please come in and make yourself comfortable."
Walking into the living room, Fr. Kevin felt as if he had entered a fifty year time warp. Everything in the room, from the sparkly teal drum chairs to the Danish faux fireplace with a chimney leading nowhere, screamed 1960's sitcom. The curved sofa in front of the window was so low to the ground that Kevin would have to bend himself nearly in half to sit on it. This in mind, he made his way to one of the drum chairs circled around the fireplace, but the deep throated growl of the dog mop enthroned on the matching chair, discouraged him from selecting that seat. With a sigh, he lowered himself to the tiny tot sofa, and perched awkwardly on the end of the cushion.
"Can I get you a cup of tea, Fr. O'Kenney. I have a lovely pot of Earl Grey steeping in the kitchen."
Despising tea, especially Earl Grey, it's smell reminding him of stagnant swamp water, Kevin politely replied, "Oh don't go to any special trouble, Mrs. Peppers. I 'll wait until the rest of the committee arrives. It's after two...I'm sure they'll be here any minute."
"Oh...no worries there, Father. I told the rest of the group to come at 2:30. I had hoped you and I could have a little talk before the rest of the committee arrived. I so feel that we got off on the wrong foot, don't you?"
At that very moment, Kevin knew exactly how a trapped animal feels. If he had been a fox, he would have chewed his own leg off in order to escape the prospect of a 30 minute one-on-one "chat" with Mrs. Peppers. "Well..um...Mrs. Peppers, I do want all my parishioners to feel like vital members of our parish community. But I want you to know it's perfectly alright for people to have a difference of opinion, and still respect on another"
"That's where you're wrong Father O'Kenney. Too many opinions just lead to chaos. Murders..fires and who knows what else! What this town needs is someone to take charge, and do what's best for the citizens of Dollyville." Plopping herself next to him on the sofa, Tessa continued, "I have lived here all my life. No one knows this town better than I do, and I will be it's next mayor, come hell or high water. And you, Father O'Kenney," poking a finger at his chest, "can be an asset or an obstacle. But I need to know what side of the fence you're sitting on."