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Saturday, September 29, 2012

     The second hand anxiety medicine sat on his kitchen table like a siren calling to passing ships. It tempted him with the promise of peaceful silence, and the opportunity to claim back the rectory parlor, and the big screen T.V.  He knew he should have flushed those things days ago, along with any goofy ideas brewing in the back of his head.  But as he watched the dog stretched out across the sofa, contentedly chewing on the last of the French bread, he had reached the point of no return.

     It had been an exhausting schedule of morning Masses, manic meetings, a drawn out funeral, and a handful of thoroughly depressing, home-bound visits.  The latte and doughnut he had gulped down earlier in the day was long gone, and by 3:00 PM, his 6 foot frame was running on empty.  On the way home, he had stopped at Carmen's Deli on 3rd and Sinclair, and ordered up an Italian sub.  Although not as remarkable as those he craved from Varano's in Boston's North End, it was a decidedly close second, and a suitable reward for his day long endeavors.

    Kevin kicked off his shoes, loosened his collar, and popped open a bottle of Guinness.  He left his dinner on the kitchen table, and went in search of the notes for Sunday's homily, figuring he would look those over while he enjoyed his meal.  It had taken longer than planned to locate the legal pad, and upon his return to the kitchen, he was greeted with the sight of the little nightmare gobbling down his sandwich, a slice of prosciutto hanging from between his teeth.

     He shooed the dog off the table with a fly swatter, the only thing within reach, and the animal reluctantly leaped to the floor, dragging the last length of bread into the parlor.  All that remained of the feast were a few slices of tomato, and several rings of purple onion.  Even the Guinness looked as if it had been sampled, and found wanting.  In disgust, Kevin threw the remnants of the sub in the trash, but saved the remaining ale and poured it into another glass.  There was no use wasting everything.

       A man was entitled to a little peace and quiet, even if he was in the service of the Lord, and some things were simply too much to bear.  Reaching across the table, he grabbed the pile of meds, and turned on his laptop.  A quick Google search directed him to a pharmaceutical website, and he quickly surmised that Irwin had been prescribed 2 mgs of lorazepam twice a day.  Figuring the kid weighed some where in the range of 70 lbs or so, he deducted that the dog would probably require a quarter of one pill, both at morning, and at night, to guarantee the quiet cooperation he so desperately sought.  The key objective was to calm the dog down a bit, make him more manageable, and not to over dose him to the point of being comatose.  To get this right, he needed to be sure of the exact weight of the dog, or at least do better than just a good guess.

      If this were any normal dog, Kevin could have scooped him up, gone upstairs to the bathroom, and weighed the two of them together on the digital scale.  Then he would have put the dog down, weighed himself alone, and figured out the difference.  But Basil Rathbone III was no ordinary dog.  He was a mean, awful beastie, and it would require logical thinking and commando strategy to get his fat little body up the stairs to the level bathroom floor, and onto the scale long enough to get an accurate reading.

      What he surely needed was some sort of bait, but as he didn't keep a very well stocked pantry, he was going to have to get creative.  Pushing things around the cupboard, he found an old can of Vienna sausages, and the last of the peanut butter, and figured the two would work nicely.  He opened the can of sausages and laid a trail from the doorway of the parlor, up the stairs, and right to the scale in the bathroom.  Then, using two fingers, he scooped out a glob of peanut butter and smeared it over the glass dial.  That finished, he sat back on the edge of the tub to wait for his prey.

      It didn't take long for the greedy little bastard to make his way up to the bathroom, stopping only long enough to gobble down the next sausage.  He growled at Kevin, and began to yap, until his sensitive nose caught scent of the peanut butter across the room.  He cautiously waddled over, and stepping on the scale, began to diligently lap off the treat in long-tongue swipes, grunting and smacking as he progressed.

       From his perch on the tub, Fr. Kevin had an impossible time seeing the numbers on the dial.  He changed positions to perch over the toilet, and moved in nearer to the scale.  The dog growled, but didn't stop his attack on the peanut butter.  Despite kneeling on the tank, and leaning in as close as he dared, the glass was too smeary to view well.  Did it read 18 lbs, or 28?  Figuring this was the best he was going to do, he climbed down from the toilet tank, and made his way downstairs.

      He took one of the small pills, and using a small paring knife, cut the circle into equal quarters.  Or at least as near even, equal quarters as he could get using a dull paring knife with a cracked handle.  It was such a small amount.  How much of a difference could it make?  Besides, this was an extremely hyper dog.  A little bigger dose was sure to cause very little harm.  Cutting up the rest of the sausages, and mixing it with the remaining peanut butter, he crushed the piece of pill into the food with the back of a spoon, and plopped the mess onto a paper plate he placed on the floor.  He crossed his fingers, and hoped that the Tessa Pepper's nasty dog still had room in it's belly for a few extra bites.

       Done cleaning the scale of it's sticky paint job, the Westie meandered down the stairs to the kitchen to seek out a drink of water.  He quickly noticed the concoction on the paper plate, and after a few judging sniffs, cleaned the mess in a few large gulps.  With a belch and a grunt, the dog took itself to the parlor, and curled in a sunny, warm spot near the windows, for what the priest hoped was a long evening nap.

Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus


Sunday, September 23, 2012

      The dog had to go.  There really wasn't much else to debate.  The damn animal was systematically  driving him crazy.  The incessant barking and growling, the ripping and chewing of his personal items, and the peeing all over the furniture had finally succeeded into pushing him over the edge.  It was as if that four legged fiend were channeling the spirit of his crazy mistress, directly from her padded cell at the state hospital.  Apparently shooting him hadn't been enough.  Now Peppers had sic ed her mean little minion on him as a constant reminder of of her brooding ill will.

      Fr. Kevin scrapped the dirt with his brand new shovel, the old one now being held as state's evidence.  He had hoped that from this position at the front of the church, he'd be able to escape the sound of the Basil's grating yapping out the front window of the rectory.  But in the quiet of the Saturday afternoon, the sound carried over the wind, and echoed in between the buildings.  He turned up the volume on his ipod, and tried to think of something else, but his mind had stubbornly settled on the issue at hand.

      It hadn't been for lack of trying.  He had grown up with a variety of pets, and considered himself a certified dog person.  When Basil first took up residence, he had showered him with treats, toys and loads of personal attention, all without the least hint of them being acknowledged or appreciated.  The dog would begrudgingly sniff out the offering, and once it was firmly grasped within it's teeth, would back off and growl at him from an opposite corner.  He had taken over the rectory parlor, and whenever Kevin attempted to find a space in the room, the dog would stand on all fours, barking and yapping to warn him off.  It had gotten so bad, he had taken to spending the evenings in his room, watching television on the small 13 inch tucked on his dresser, rather than dealing with the dog's lack of hospitality.

    He considered calling the Sheriff a million times.  Explain that it was wasn't working out, and asking him to find another home for the psycho animal.  Something repeatedly stopped him from doing so.  Beckett always seemed so calm and collected, and it was obvious the townspeople respected him.  The last thing Fr. Kevin wanted, was to look like a loser in front of the man. To be forced to admit he couldn't handle a unruly mop of a dog.  In addition, the Bishop had recently called to congratulate him on becoming a dog owner, and suggested it was just the thing to make him seem more "real" to his parishioners.  After that conversation, he couldn't bring himself to say "no thanks".   Mo was right.  He really needed to grow a pair.

     Leaning the shovel against the building, he stretched out on the front stoop of the church, and removed the speaker buds from his ears.  In the distance he watched a small figure bicycle his way down the street and head towards the church.  He tried not to feel annoyed, and instead focused on the fact that he indeed owed that particular child his life.

     "Hey Father O'Kenney.  What's up?"  The boy dumped the bike on the church's lawn, and ambled over to the stairs.

     "Not much, Irwin.  How about you?  How's the new school year going?"

     "Aw, same as always, Father.  But now we get tons more homework in the 6th grade.  That really stinks."

     "Do you like your teachers?"

     The boy raised his eyebrows, and looked at him incredulously.  "Nobody likes teachers, Fr. O'Kenney.  They're just teachers.  You're not supposed to like 'em."

      Kevin nodded in agreement, trying hard to remember what it was like to be in the 6th grade.  That was the year he had known for sure he wanted to be a priest, a thought he kept entirely to himself in fear of being made the butt of the class' scorn.  But Sister Mary Agnes seemed to sense something in him, and Kevin spent the year basking in her favoritism.  The reverie made him smile.

     "How's your shoulder doin', Father?"

   "Pretty well healed, Irwin.  Thanks for asking.  How about you?  No nightmares or anything?"

   "Naw.  None at all.  My ma made me go see some head doctor.  She was worried that I might be tramalized. You know... seeing Peepers shoot you like that.  All that blood squirting out the hole in your arm."

    The priest's stomach turned at the mention of squirting blood.  "You mean traumatized?"

    "Yeah.  That's what I said...tramalized.  Doctor gave me some dumb 'ole pills to take.  Said it would help with my anziety.  But I don't like them at all.  They make me feel all goofy inside.  Like I'm a zombie or something."

       The two sat in silence awhile, lost in their own private thoughts.  Then the boy turned to the priest and out of no where asked, "Father O'Kenney, what days do you do Reconciliation in the church?"

       "Usually Wednesday or Saturday afternoons, Irwin.  From noon until 2:00pm"

       "So I guess it's over for today, huh?"

       "Technically.  But I can hear your confession right now, if you'd like?"

       "Right here outside?  We don't have to go inside behind the curtain?" The boy's face was a picture of shock.

       "Nope.  Right here on the steps, face to face, is just fine."

       "And it still works the same way?  You can't say anything, and I still get forgiven?"

       Something itchy wiggled at the back of Kevin's conscience, and he thought about the suitcase of money locked in the rectory safe "Yup.  Just like if we were inside the church."

        "Ok then."  Irwin plopped himself next to the priest, and made the sign of the cross.  He sighed long and hard, and began.  "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."  The boy paused to collect his thoughts, and continued,  "You see, Father O'Kenney, it's 'bout those pills.  The ones I just told you about?"

        "The ones for your anxiety?"

         "Yeah, those ones.  Well, like I said.  I really don't like them at all.  They make me all quiet like and dopey.  Ruins all the fun for me.  So when my mom gives me them twice a day, I don't swallow 'em.  I stick them in my cheek, and when she's not looking, I spit them out, and stick 'em in my pocket."
Irwin pulled out a small lump of tissue, with a handful of small white tablets wrapped inside, and laid it on the step.  "Then, I feel sorta bad, 'cause I know I'm being a liar."  He looked sheepishly down at his feet, and kicked a few loose stones, not all together comfortable with the face to face conversation.

         Kevin's mood lightened at the sincerity in the boy's countenance, and said the prayers for absolution.  Forcing Irwin to look him in the eye he went on to explain, "Your sins are forgiven, Irwin, but you can't keep lying to your mom about the pills.  She loves you, dude, and wants what's best for your health.  It's dangerous to play games with medicine, and you need to have a heart to heart talk  about it.  Maybe if she knows it makes you feel so icky, she and the doctor can figure out something else for you to take?"

        The boy didn't look convinced, but nodded in agreement. "But this is still 'tween you and me, right?"

       "Seriously now, promise me you're not going to cheek those pills anymore, Irwin."

       Irwin slid off the step and stood up, dusting the seat of his pants.  "I promise, Fr. O'Kenney."  He raised the bike up, and settled himself on the seat.  "Thanks for listening to my confession.  I gotta go now.  I was supposed to be home an hour ago."  And with a wave, the boy pedaled the bike down the street and out of sight.

        Realizing it was past 4:00, and Saturday evening Mass started at 5, Fr. Kevin rose stiffly off the steps and gathered up the yard tools.  Bending down to grab the clippers, he noticed the wad of tissue, stuffed with pills, still sitting where Irwin had placed it.  He stuck them in his pocket, thinking he could imagine why Irwin's mother might be reluctant to take him off any meds that would slow the hyper kid down.  He was constant noise and motion, and the thought of a few hours of peace and quiet would be hard for anyone to resist.  At that moment, a tiny seed of an idea bloomed in his brain.  He guessed Irwin might weigh somewhere around 70 lbs, and had pronounced to the priest that he took one pill, twice a day.  Kevin rubbed his chin, deep in thought.  As he slowly walked back to the rectory, he pondered just how much that damn dog weighed.

Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Actually...Fr. Kevin really does have a Facebook page.  You can friend him at "Kevin O'Kenney" and receive his status updates.  The poor guy can use all the friends he can get...especially with Cassie hot on the trail of the missing money!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

    Stealing some one's life had never been easier.  With the  onslaught of portable smart phones and tablets, people spread their private bits and pieces across the Internet like a Saturday morning garage sale.  It was all on display, and ready for the taking... if one knew where to shop.  And when it came to personal identities, she was an experienced bargain hunter.

   In the three hours she had been at it, Cassie McKreedy had set up four bogus credit card accounts, two different banking statements, and titled herself with an MBA from the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University.  All in all, a very profitable Tuesday afternoon.  Curled up on the antique divan in Teddy's sun room, she felt like the proverbial cat who had been allowed to swallow the family canary.  Considering that her own cousin had attempted to blow her up, and that she had been left virtually homeless and penniless, things had turned out rather well.  She was firmly ensconced in both Teddy's life and home, and with a few hours spent at her new laptop, she was once again in the financial black.

    With the necessities taken care of, she could finally focus on the two things that mattered most: retrieving the missing half million, and finding that pathetic bitch, Lizzie.  The PI she had hired a month ago had  tracked her down to a cheap motel outside of town.  But she was no longer there, and the trail had gone cold. Despite days searching the web, Cassie could find no digital trace of her.  That wasn't surprising.  She had learned at the same knee Cassie had.  She wasn't apt to make stupid blunders.  But sooner or later, she'd turn up, and they'd take care of this New Orleans business, once and for all.

     In the meantime, she'd concentrate on getting her money back from that dumb shit priest.  That's where Liz had made her biggest mistake.  She'd thought she had been so damn clever, leaving it with the pastor over at Holy Family, figuring it was safely out of Cassie's reach.  Like the fact he was a priest  was going to keep her from something that was rightfully hers?  Fat chance.  She'd broken bigger taboos than that before, and a Roman collar wasn't going to be much of a deterrent.  It was hers, and she'd have it back, to hell with the costs.

      If luck was on her side, O'Kenney would have placed the money in an account separate from the general church fund.  It was human nature.  A pile of money no one knew about, and he was prohibited from speaking publicly on?  It was as good as his now. Surely he had found a nice little hidey hole in some obscure bank or safety deposit box, hadn't he?  That's what the average person would do, believing the money was safer in there then stuffed in some mattress.  It was that naive belief, and the desire to blab all over the Internet, that usually made her job so damn easy.

    She began by checking to see if he was part of the social networking rage.  For some ungodly reason, people felt the need to bare their soul to all of the world.  It appeared that he was not on Twitter, but a quick google check found an account registered with Facebook.  He had his privacy settings fixed loosely, so it was easy enough enough to read the personal information on his profile page.  Birth date was listed as July 2, 1982, and hometown was Boston, Massachusetts.  That would make it a breeze to track him, opening the door to loads of possible information.  He had completed his education at St. Paul's Seminary, and had been ordained in May of 2006. Maybe he still had his seminary email account  set up?  It was crazy how many people kept those things around long after they were needed.  Lastly, she checked through his list of friends, and noticed a number of people with the same last name, probably family members, whose accounts could possibly be pumped for additional facts.  She copied the details, and began her search.

      The minutes turned into hours, and after an exploring every avenue of possible leads, she had come up empty handed.  Her back ached, and her eyes burned from staring at the lit screen.  Undoubtedly, Kevin O'Kenney had to be the most boring person she'd ever met.  She had quickly located his personal accounts at the bank in town, and because he had stupidly used his birth date as a password, she'd easily hacked in.  It was a regular checking account with a balance of $640, a far stretch from the $500,000 she was looking for. The savings account held all of $76.  What a joke.  It also appeared that he had never rented a  safety deposit box, or set up an off shore account anywhere in the world, and in fact, didn't even hold a U.S. passport.

     She was able to discover that his mother was a patient at a nursing home in Boston, but the payment for that was being handled by someone named Maureen, who was probably his younger sister, and who had even less in her checking account then her dull brother.  Dead end after dead end.  Frustrated, she slammed the cover down on the laptop.  This was getting her nowhere fast.  She must be missing something, but what that was, she was at a loss to figure out.

     Wandering over to the window, Cassie stared off into space.  Was it possible he still had the money within reach?  Dumb as that was, it was a genuine possibility.  She needed an opportunity to pump him for a bit more information, find a way to get him to say more than he might have planned.   It wasn't as hard as it sounded.  Most people, if given the chance, loved to talk about themselves, and O'Kenney was no different than any other man.  They were really all the same.
    It was all a matter of finding his Achilles heel.  Everyone had one.  In the priest's case, she didn't think it was sex.  The few times she had tried to outrageously flirt with him, using her best tried and true moves, he had turned a polite, but cold shoulder.  She could tell that she wasn't going to get anywhere with that maneuver.  It was obvious he was either gay, or unbelievably committed to his vows.  In any case, she'd have to take another route.  Determining what that was would be the biggest challenge, and to do so, she'd need to spend more one on one time with him.

      She'd start with a little dinner party right here at Teddy's.  They had been talking about an engagement party of sorts, and this would be just the opportunity she needed.  Invite a few of the neighbors, make a fabulous meal, and pour a few strong drinks in him, and things might just go her way.  Yes, indeed.  She knew just the thing to make her little clergy birdie sing.

Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus


Sunday, September 9, 2012

      As the Sheriff's patrol car pulled away, Kevin swore under his breath.  How in the hell had he ended up being responsible for this nasty, little dog?  Worse yet, it was Tessa Peppers' nasty, little dog.  That made the whole situation a total nightmare.  He grabbed the carrier and dragged it inside the rectory parlor, keeping the thing at arm's length to avoid a snarling confrontation.

      Placing the tote on the sofa, he headed off to the kitchen to finish his lunch. He had a half baked idea that if he left the dog sit alone awhile, it might quiet down.  A hefty slice of lemon pound cake, and a cold Red Bull completed his meal as he tucked himself in front of his lap top.  After several minutes, he heard only silence from the other room, and the inner animal lover guilted him into investigating.  The Westie had curled itself into a ball near the back of the bag, his head resting solemnly on his paws.  Basil looked at the priest with sad, brown eyes, a picture of remorse and humility.

   Always a sucker for pitiful puppy looks, Kevin unlatched the carrier and pulled the dog out.  "Poor doggie.  I guess it's not your fault your mistress is a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic."  The dog stared at him with weary eyes, but refrained from expressing any opinion.  "You can stay out if you promise to be a good boy, and behave yourself."

     He placed Basil on the floor, watching him explore and sniff his new surroundings.  Not quite ready to trust the dog on its own, Fr. Kevin toted his laptop into the parlor and made himself comfortable on the sofa, one eye on the pup, and the other on his Facebook.  Somewhere between a move on Words with Friends, and a kitten video that was sure to go viral, his cell phone buzzed in the pocket of his shorts.  Pulling it out, and glancing at the caller ID, he smiled.

      "Hey, baby sister!  What's up?"

      "Don't you dare "baby sister" me, you ass!  You get shot by some crazy woman, and I have to find out from Patrick...a week later?  That's low, Kevin."

       "Come on, Mo.  I didn't want you to worry.  I'm fine.  Perfectly fine, honest."

       "That's not the point.  I'm not a kid anymore, damn it!  You should have called me first.  Instead, you call that dumb ass, Patrick. We've always been there for each other, Kev.  You could have been killed.  It should have been me there with you in the hospital...not Pat."

        "Calm down, Maureen.  Pat wasn't at the hospital either.  No one was.  Okay, well maybe the Sheriff was, but no one else.  It was a flesh wound, and they sent me home the same night.  Patrick's the emergency contact on my phone.  They must have notified him automatically."

        "Why'd you make him your contact, and not me?"

        Kevin could hear her pout through the phone line.  "Because Patrick lives down south, Maureen.  You're in Boston.  It didn't make sense to have you listed when you're hours away."

        "Well, I want you to change it to my number right now.  I don't care where I'm living.  You have them call me, Kev.  Honestly, you can't believe what a pompous jerk Patrick is being about the whole thing.  Acting all 'eldest son' like, when he hasn't even called Ma in a month."

         Patrick and Maureen were like fire and ice, so it was no use trying to convince her of anything different.  Kevin tried to change the subject.  "How's Ma doing in the new place?'

         "She seems to be adjusting.  It's hard to know what she really understands.  Some days are good, others bad.  She does seem to remember who you are, though.  Has your ordination photo on her nightstand, and every nurse in the place has heard the story of 'my son, Kevin, the priest'.  Unfortunately, she's taken to only speaking in Gaelic.  Drives the rest of us crazy, especially me, since I totally suck at it.  Never was any good with languages."

          Kevin's heart squeezed at the thought of his mother.  He hadn't seen her since his transfer, and she had already been slipping away.  "You're not going to tell her about the shooting, are you?  I don't..."  Before he could finish the sentence, his eye caught the four-legged terror in the act of chewing  the sole of his good dress shoes.  "No...No!  Bad doggie!  Drop that shoe right now!"

         Basil looked up from his chomping, and let out a deep, menacing growl.  It was obvious he had no intention of giving up his new prize possession.  Kevin stuck out his hand to snatch the shoe, and was met with the snapping of jaws, moving only in enough time to save the fingers on his right hand.  Deciding it might be easier to just get another pair, he returned to his phone call.

        "Sorry, Mo.  I was trying to get my shoe away from the dog."

         "You got a dog, and you didn't even call to tell me?  Shit, Kevin, what the hell's happened to you?"

         Kevin grimaced.  Maureen was a petite red head, all sweetness and curls, and blessed with the mouth of the most seasoned truck driver.  When she was angry, she could spew more obscenities then were bantered about on the docks of Boston's harbor.  "I didn't get a dog, was dumped on me.  I'm just doing the Sheriff a favor 'cause he's a good guy.  I need a dog in the rectory like I need a hole in my head.  Especially this damn mutt."

         "I see we've yet to grow a pair, Kevin.  When you gonna learn to open your trap and say 'no' when you need to?"

          "Geez, Maureen.  Do you have to be so vulgar?  I mean, come on.  We're not kids anymore."

          There was dead silence on the other end, and he knew he had hurt her feelings.  Never a good idea in dealing with his youngest sibling.  She knew him better than any person on the planet, and life felt out of sync when she was angry with him.  "Hey, Momo, you know I'd didn't mean anything by that.  I'm just freaked out by all this.  Don't say anything to the others, but I almost shit my pants when that gun went off.  And I'm pretty sure I actually pissed myself"

           She giggled on the other end, and he knew he had wormed his way back into her good graces.

         "Am I forgiven, Mo?"

         "Ah, quite the irony, Kev.  Me forgiving you.  She laughed, and added, "You're still my best bud, Kevlar, and I won't even make you do penance. But don't make a habit of it."  Her voice dropped, and she suddenly sounded somber.  " I'm just glad you're okay.  I don't know what I'd do if something had happened to you.  I honestly thought I was gonna pass out when Patrick told me the whole story. Seriously, bro, my heart stopped." There was a pause on her end, both of them thinking of what might have been.

      When she finally spoke again, Maureen was back to her charming self.  "Which, by the way, padre, brings me to the reason I called in the first place.  I have vacation days coming in late October, and I thought maybe I'd drive down and spend some time with you.  See your church, meet the know, the whole nine yards."

          As much as he loved his sister, Kevin froze with the thought of playing tour guide and babysitter to Maureen O'Kenney.  She was as demanding as they came, and he already felt overwhelmed by the pending trial, as well as his pastoral duties.  Plus, what the hell was he going to do about Brian? There was no good way to explain fairy folk in your bushes to anytime.  But there was no way he could disappoint her.  And if he was to be honest with himself, he had been feeling a bit homesick since the shooting.  Maybe a visit from Maureen was just what he needed.

         "Sure, Momo.  I'd love to see you."

         "Oh, Kevin, that's awesome.  October can't get here soon enough!  We're going to have so much fun. You just wait and see."

Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus


Sunday, September 2, 2012

      Kevin wiped up the last of the lasagna with a piece of bread, and leaned back in the chair, his hands crossed over his stuffed belly.  If there was anything positive about getting shot, it had to be the fridge full of casserole dishes and Tupper Ware bowls.  The ladies of the parish seemed to believe he'd heal much quicker on a steady diet of elbow macaroni and cream of mushroom soup, with an occasional bundt cake thrown in for good measure.  Not that he was complaining, mind you.  He hadn't eaten this well since his transfer out of St. Benedict's. And he had to admit it felt rather nice to be fussed over.

     For the first time since his arrival at Holy Family, Fr. O'Kenney felt like he finally belonged.  The church community had rallied around him in the weeks after the shooting, offering help with the day to day chores, as well as plenty of prayers and good wishes.  He was a bit surprised, though, that no one had mentioned Tessa Peppers. Not one single word. Nada. Zippo. Nothing.  Plenty odd that they didn't seem to be in the least bit shocked that one of their own was accused of murder, arson and assault.  Or maybe, he was just politely being left out of the loop. He wasn't quite sure. In Dollyville, things were never the way you'd expect.

     He had been present at Mrs. Peppers' arraignment, and if he had witnessed anything stranger, he couldn't remember.  She had appeared in front of the judge in a yellow rain coat and polka dot galoshes, her gray hair tied up with a funky purple scarf. The old girl had waved to everyone seated in the gallery, smiling widely and clacking her dentures.  Everyone, that is, except her Pastor.  She had located him sitting in the back row, his arm still in the sling from the emergency room. Instead of the remorse he had expected to see, she had looked him square in the eye, and had forcefully stuck up her middle finger.  The judge had threatened to hold her in contempt, while her novice public defender tried to regain control of his client.  Amidst the circus atmosphere, it came as no surprise when the lawyer entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The judge denied bail, and Tessa was remitted to the care of the the state mental hospital until her court date in October.

     Kevin shook his head, and pushed away from the table.  It was definitely not in keeping with his role as a Shepard to the flock, but he felt much better knowing that crazy woman was locked up, and no where near the rectory.  He still had nightmares about looking down the barrel of a hand gun pointed directly at his chest.  Even thinking about it now made him shaky. He was decidely creeped out enough to consider the weed still buried in his sock drawer.  He wondered, as he cleaned the crumbs off the table, whether he had time for a quick toke or two before physical therapy.

     Before he could he even ponder the problems involved, his attention was shifted to the rectory's front door bell.  Dressed in only his gym shorts, he wasn't really presentable for company, but a quick look out the window revealed he had little to worry about regarding his appearance.  Ted Becket stood uncomfortably on the porch, a small pet carrier in his hands.  Since the night of the shooting, the two men had forged a tentative bond of mutual admiration. During the hours following his assault, Kevin had discovered that the Sheriff was not the rude, patronizing bastard he had originally thought he was.  And the Sheriff surprisingly witnessed that the young priest had more moxie and wits than he had previously judged him to possess.

      "Hey, Sheriff.  What brings you to Holy Family today?  Have time for some lunch?  I still have half a lasagna in the fridge I'd be happy to share."

       "Don't tempt me, Father.  I'd like nothing more than to plant myself over a plate of pasta right now.  The morning's been brutal, and I'm swamped all afternoon.  Just don't have the time today.  I'll take a rain check, though."

       "Not even time for a Pepsi, or something?"

       "Really, Father.  Can't do it today.  I'm loaded down with tons of paperwork, and I have a 2:00 PM appointment with Joe Scutney.  Something about filing a missing person's report."  He shifted the package in his arms, and shuffled his feet.  "Actually, I just stopped over to see if you might be willing to do me a huge favor." From the carrier in his arms, there came a low growl, and a high pitched yap.

       "Anything, Sheriff.  After all that's happened, how could I refuse to lend a hand?"

       "I'm glad you said that, because I'm really stuck here."  He placed the moving baggage on the porch, and stretched out his back before continuing. " Since the day after the Holy Family, I've been fostering Tessa Pepper's dog.  I couldn't see the little guy going to the pound, him being a pampered house pet his whole life.  Wouldn't survive among the strays.  So I took him home with me, figuring it would only be a few days until the ole' gal could post bond.  Well, as you know, the judge denied bond, and she's been sent to the mental hospital outside town. I have no idea when she'll be released, if at all. The trial's not until the end of October,  and I just can't keep this dog."

      Kevin knew what was coming next.  He racked his brain for any excuse that wouldn't be an outright lie.  As of late, he and dogs...dogs of any kind...did not get along.  He wasn't sure what had changed, but worried that it had something to do with the arrival of Brian in his life, and the last thing he needed was to move one into his home.  "Gee, Sheriff.  I'm not sure I can a dog in
the rectory.  There might be like some kind of um..diocese rule about pets and stuff."

     "Oh no, don't worry about that, Father Kevin.  I checked with Fr. Wilton over at St. Luke's before I thought about asking you. I wasn't sure what the rules were for you guys, me being a Methodist and all. But he assured me that it would be fine, and in fact, he relayed that the Bishop had several beagles he had given a home to."

    "I would love to help you out, Sheriff, but..."

     "You'd be doing me a big favor, Father.  Tessa's dog and my mutt Maggie just can't seem to live in peace.  And now that I have Cassie with me, well...every thing's been a big adjustment.  I need to simplify my life a bit."  The Sheriff picked up the carrier, and handed it to Kevin.  "I'd consider it a personal favor, Father."

       Reluctantly, Fr. O'Kenney reached for the handle.  "You're sure there's no one else?"

      "Positive.  I've asked all over town, and couldn't get a single person willing to take him.  Everyone was nice enough, but they all had some reason or another that they couldn't take poor Basil.  Can't figure it out myself.  How much trouble can one little doggy be?"

Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus