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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

           "Really, Sheriff.  Can't you just tell..."

         The Sheriff put his finger to his lip as people gathered around the elevator.  As they rode down to the cafeteria, Kevin jiggled his knee in worry over what it was the Sheriff needed to tell him.  Was it something new about Marco's murder?  Did he have an inside track on the explosion?  Did he know about the money in the church safe?  Or shit...maybe he knew about the nickel bag in the left hand corner of his sock drawer?

          By the time the door slid open on the ground floor, his stomach was in a complete knot, but instead of finishing his conversation, the Sheriff joined the line of people selecting breakfast from the steam tables, piling his tray with  scrambled eggs and bacon.  Not sure what else to do, Kevin followed suit, although he was pretty sure if he tried to eat now, most of it would end up in a puddle in the parking lot.  It wasn't until both men were settled at a table in the back of the room, that Beckett resumed his conversation.

             "Sorry to go all cloak and dagger on ya, Father.  But you know how the people in this town are.  They think they have a bit of gossip, and they're like a dog with a bone."  He stopped to chew on a piece of toast, and continued.  "I got a call from the Fire Marshall this morning.  He found the valve from the furnace, and it was obviously forced off.  All the threads had been stripped.  So the gas must have been pouring out at full speed."

            "Did he know how long it was like that?  Otherwise, how come it didn't blow up sooner?  Not that I'm ungrateful it didn't, thank the Lord!"

             "The Fire Marshall explained that.  He said that to cause an explosion, there has to be gas saturation, you know, the filling of the house with the vapors, from 5 to 15 %.  Any more or less, and it won't ignite.  Then of course, you need something to ignite it.  In the case of the explosion last night, it was bed time, so it appears no one was using any electrical appliances.  In addition, the Franklins' had purchased a new pilot-less water heater about two years ago.  It won't ignite until the water drops to a certain temperature.  As far as he can figure, the water heater didn't go on, and the house over filled with natural gas.  But when I kicked in the door, it let fresh air in, and the levels of saturation probably dropped to below 15%.  A few minutes later, by coincidence, the hot water tank kicked on, and kaboom!"

               "So what you're saying is... we just got lucky?"

               "That's  about the size of it, Father. You must have friends in high places."  The Sheriff laughed at his own joke, and then suddenly went somber.  "The important fact is someone planned the whole thing.  Purposely forced the valve off in hopes of blowing that entire house up, and Cassie with it.  Though for the life of me, I can't understand why."

               Kevin watched the Sheriff scrape up the last of his eggs with his toast, and poked a fork around his own plate, wondering how to go ahead with the next part of the conversation. Taking a deep breath, he skirted the issue. "How long have you actually known Ms. McKreedy, Sheriff?"

              The Sheriff thought about it a moment, and said, "Oh, I don't know.  About three or four months, I think.  I met her when she first came to town two years ago, but we didn't start seeing one another until just awhile back.  The poor girl doesn't get out much.  The agoraphobia keeps her rather sheltered.  Why do you ask?'

            "Are you sure there's nothing about her that would cause somebody to want to see her dead?"

            Beckett narrowed his eyes at Fr. Kevin, and stopped in mid bite.  "What are you getting at, Father O'Kenney?"

            "Oh nothing specific, Sheriff. "  He could tell he needed to tread very carefully around discussing Cassie McKreedy's faults with her new fiance.  "It's just that...well...four months isn't a very long time to decide that you want to marry somebody.  Not, of course, that I'm an expert on relationships, but I have counseled several couples during Pre-Cana.  It's a big step."

            "Yeah, it was a bit of a shock to me too, the whole wedding thing.  When she cried last night about having no where to go, I offered to let her move in with me.  To be honest with you, I wasn't really thinking about marriage.  But you know, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.  She's a wonderful girl, Father.  And maybe it's time I thought about settling down.  I'd feel better if I knew Cassie was cared for and safe.  Especially with the news I just got before we came down."

          He leaned across the table and whispered to Kevin.  "The nurse came in to tell me that they can't find Tessa Peppers.  I dropped her off at the hospital yesterday afternoon for a psych evaluation.  Between the incident at the bank, and then her behavior with Cassie at the house, I thought it best.  I was worried the old gal might be suffering from full blown dementia, and I thought it was prudent to get professional advice"

             "So the hospital lost her?"

              "They're not sure when she went missing.  By law, we can hold her 72 hours while the psychiatrist does the evaluation.  She was in bed at 8:30 when the nurse came in with her meds.  The shift changed at 11, and the new nurse on duty came into the room, but seeing what she thought was Tessa sleeping, let her be.  It wasn't until this morning that they noticed the figure under the blankets was just a pile of clothes Tessa had rigged to look as if she were there.  Security checked all over the hospital, but it doesn't appear that she's in the building any longer.  They're still going through security footage, but the administration decided it had better give me the heads up that she was gone."

              "So you think she might of been the one to sabotage the gas valve at the Franklins?"

              "I can't say for sure, Father.  But I'd feel a whole lot better if she wasn't out wandering the streets.  She can be...well...quite volatile.  And of course, there have always been rumours.  Complaints about her from other town's people.  But nothing I could really prove or act on.  And if I can be honest here, I worry about what might happen if she becomes Mayor.  I might not be a psychiatrist, but if you ask me, that woman is a few sandwiches short of a picnic."

               Still wrapped with indecision about whether to share Irwin's story with the Sheriff, Kevin put down his coffee cup, and motioned to the Sheriff to move in closer to him.  "There's been something I've been meaning to tell you, Sheriff Beckett."

Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus





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