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Friday, August 17, 2012

      After his long morning visit with Cassie McKreedy, Fr. Kevin O'Kenney was not unhappy that he was both single and celibate.
   Although he wished the best for the newly engaged couple, Kevin didn't envy Ted Beckett one little bit.  She was beautiful.  There was no denying that.  And inherently charming when she wanted to be.  But her good looks, and sunny disposition, seemed to be a secret weapon for obtaining her needs.  Every toss of her hair, every twinkle in her eye, every dimpled smile was orchestrated to get a specific response.  She had the ability to manipulate each situation to her benefit, using whatever was at her disposal to reach her goal.  He was no stranger to that technique.  He had watched his younger sister, Maureen, the last of eight siblings, use the same strategy to grab the upper hand when there was something in her way.  Yup.  The Sheriff would definately have his share of challenges.

          He had decided not to spend the $12 for a cab back to Holy Family, so as he walked the three blocks from the bus stop, he kept an eye out for the missing Tessa Peppers.  He would admit to the fact that the woman freaked him out.  Yes, she was a seventy year old woman.  But she was in no way frail or harmless.  His swollen nose could attest to that.   It was true that had found her annoying, rude and self serving, but capable of attempted murder was a whole different ballgame.  He'd feel a lot better when the Sheriff had her in custody...again.

            Today was the second Thursday of the month, which meant the Rosary Society would meet for their usual evening prayer service and social.  He noticed that the air conditioning during the morning Masses seemed a bit hit or miss, so he'd probably need to tinker around with that before they gathered.  Hopefully, that wouldn't take all afternoon, because after last night's excitement, he could really desired an afternoon nap.  As he approached the church's garden, he was sure he heard some movement from behind the evergreens.  Praying it wasn't Brian, he poked around and called out, "Hello?  Who's over there?"  For a second, he worried that it might be Tessa Peppers, ready to pounce out on him, but sheepishly realized that with her sheer size, the tree wouldn't hide her very well.

             Finally, a young voice responded to his queary. "It's me, Father.  Irwin."

            "Irwin?  What are you doing in there?  You're going to get all chewed up by mosquitos."  Realizing he sounded like his mother, he straightened his back and lowered his voice.  "Like seriously, dude.  That's not a good place to be playing."

            "I'm not playing, Father.  I'm hiding."

            "Hiding from who?" And where's Patches?"  Kevin knew the dog was never far from the boy, and from the way the pup reacted to him lately, he wanted advance notice of the canine's whereabouts.

             "I'm hiding from Ole' Lady Peepers.  And I'm not sure where Patches went.  She threw a rock at him, he let out a yelp, and then he ran off somewhere.  I'm real worried about him, Father"

              "You saw Mrs. Peepers...I mean Mrs. Peppers?  Where?"

             "She was over by the house that blew up, poking around in the piles with a stick.  She was all crazy like.  Talking to herself and swearing. She's even wearing her pajamas and a robe! I asked her what she was looking for, and she threw that rock at Patches.  I told her to leave my dog alone, and then she started chasing after me with the big stick.  I ditched her on Quinn Street, and then I came here to hide."

            "I'll let the Sheriff know what happened, Irwin.  In the meantime, it would probably be a good idea if you just went back home.  Maybe that's where Patches went.  If he's not there, I'll help you look for him in a little while, okay?  I just have a couple of things I need to do, and then we can track him down."

             "Okay, Father O'Kenney.  Thanks for helping me.  But we gotta stay clear of Peepers.  That lady's get a screw loose!"

             He watched the boy scramble out of the greenery, and head down the street at a lively pace. Once he was sure the boy was safely on his way, he turned and entered the church, dialing the Sheriff's cell as he did so.  The call went directly to voice mail, and Kevin left a message detailing what Irwin had told him  That taken care of, he went to fuss with the church's thermostat, to see if he could get the thing working on a more consistent basis.  Holy Family's air conditioning unit was well over twenty years old, and was definately in need of replacing.  He thought about the money in the safe and wondered if he shouldn't maybe use it to replace the old machine.  It wasn't like he was using it for himself, but he still felt uncomfortable even thinking about it.

          The door in the back of the church opened and closed, and busy with his work on the thermostat, Father Kevin didn't pay much attention until it was too late.

          "I need to talk to you, Father O'Kenney."

           Kevin looked up to find Tessa Peppers standing two feet in front of him, pointing a hand gun at his chest.  His heart caught in his throat, and in his head, he prayed for divine intervention.  "Mrs. Peppers, let's just talk about how I can help you.  You really don't need to use violence in the Lord's House.  I'm more than happy to assisst you in any way I can."

            "Cut the crap, you idiot.  We both know why I'm here."

             He was pretty sure he had no clue as to what she was talking about.  Up until now, he hadn't had a whole lot of experience dealing with crazy people, but from what he saw on television, it was best not to get them all riled up. Trying to remain as calm as possible, a feeling he wished he could share with his bladder and his stomach, he put his hands up to show her he would not offer resistence.  "Honestly, Mrs. Peppers.  I...I don't understand what you want."

           "You must think I'm some kind of senile, old fool, don't you.  You and the rest of this stinkn' town.  Well, I'm not putting up with that shit, do you hear me?  I've come for my money!"

          From his position at the front of the church, Kevin could see the main door open a crack, and Irwin Teller crawl around the last few pews.  That young boy involved in this crisis was the very last thing he needed.  The woman was unstable, and there was no telling what she would do.  He wanted to  yell to Irwin to get the hell out of there.  Tell him to run like crazy, and get help.  But he worried that calling attention to the hidden boy would be a big mistake.  He turned his focus back to the woman with the gun on him.

     "Mrs. Peppers, I have no idea what money you're talking about?  Sunday's collection has already gone to the bank"  For a second, he wondered if she meant the suit case in the church safe.  But how could she possibly know about that?  He had little time to ponder the question, because instantly he was shocked to see Irwin silently climb on the back of the pew, a large shovel in his hand.  The one he had left inside the church vestibule earlier this morning.

      "Listen you red headed fruit cake...if I don't get my $80,000 right now, the next funeral in this church is going to be yours." She raised her arm, pointing the gun towards his head.

        It was then that Irwin reached up and hit her in the head with the back of the shovel.  "That's for throwing rocks at my dog, Peepers!"  The woman let out a grunt and fell face first onto the tiled floor.  But not before the gun went off with a loud bang that echoed in the empty church.

Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus




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