Saturday, November 3, 2012
Despite the stormy beginning, the rest of the week was rather pleasant and stress free. From what he could tell, Maureen had no further contact with the Sheriff. That was, of course, unless you wanted to count the two pounds of imported dried mushrooms he had dropped off on Tuesday. Mo seemed tickled with the offering, but in Kevin's mind, dehydrated fungi did not constitute a romantic gift, so he relaxed and breathed a sigh of relief.
His sister spent her hours tagging along on parish business, bonding with the cursed dog, and puttering around the rectory kitchen. She took great delight in fixing dinner every evening, drawing out each course with detailed descriptions of the various ingredients, asking his opinion, and then disagreeing with everything he said. It was like having the old Maureen back, the one he remembered from home. The problem was, she was carefully avoiding any mention of her life back in Boston. Not a word about her job as a case worker. No mention of a social life or current beau. Not even a single insult hurled toward Patrick, or any of her other siblings. It was definitely weird.
But he was enjoying her company, and hesitated to screw things up by poking and prodding the sore spots. He figured that she would tell him when she was good and ready. Though he loved her dearly, he had to admit to the fact that Mo was somewhat of a "drama queen", dragging out bad news and minor issues into week long traumas. This current bump in the road was probably just more of the same, and whatever it was, they'd simply deal with it and move on.
Kevin sighed, and shoved Sunday's Homily draft back into the folder. He should have probably already been in the shower, and getting dressed for tonight's command performance. Any plan to politely beg off had been dashed by a phone call from both Ted, and Cassie, reminding him of the date and time, and insisting that Maureen was invited as well. His sister was looking forward to an evening out, and had been getting "ready" since mid afternoon. There was no putting off the inevitable, despite his misgivings.
An hour later, he was tapping his foot, dressed and ready to leave, taxi in the driveway, waiting for Mo to make her way down. After several calls up the stairs, she finally appeared, and immediately began pitching a fit about what he was wearing.
"Oh hell, Kevin! You're really not going to wear that, are you?
He looked down at his best black suit, clearly confused. "What's wrong with this? It's my best black suit."
"You look like a damn undertaker!"
He flushed, but held his ground, "This is what people expect their Pastor to look like."
"For Pete's sake, we're going to a party...not the Vatican. Can't you at least lose the jacket? I'll feel like I'm walking in with the Grim Reaper."
In compromise, he shrugged off the jacket, slipped on a knit sweater hanging on the hook in the hall, and asked, "Better?"
"It'll do. Now let's go already. I don't want to end up late."
As he watched her teeter out the door on five inch stilettos, he was glad he had decided on a taxi, rather than walking the eight blocks to the Sheriff's home. He could just imagine the racket she'd raise. Instead, Maureen was quiet on the ride over, but was clearly shocked when the car pulled up in front of Beckett's stately Victorian.
"Holy shit! This is Ted's house? It's a freaking mansion! How the hell does he afford this on a Sheriff's salary?"
"Well, I didn't feel it was polite to ask, but the same thought did cross my mind the first time I saw it. I'm kinda pumped about getting a chance to see the inside."
She nodded in agreement, and the two made their way up the porch stairs. They were greeted at the door by an unsmiling housekeeper, and led into the dining room where Ted and Cassie were talking to several other guests.
Cassie saw them first, and was at their side in seconds flat, leaving the people she was talking with in mid-sentence. "Fr. O'Kenney, I'm so glad you could make it!" She turned and looked at Maureen, narrowing her eyes, but keeping the full teeth smile firmly in place. "And this must be your 'little' sister. I've heard so much about you. Teddy says you're quite the cook...Mimi, is it?"
Despite wearing heels, Cassie was still several inches taller than the petite Maureen, and for a moment, Kevin thought she might actually pat his sister's head. Fearing a showdown, he quickly jumped in and took his sister by the arm. "Cassie, I'd like you to meet my sister, Maureen O'Kenney.
Maureen, this is Ted's fiancee, Cassie McKreedy."
Maureen stuck out a hand, and Cassie coolly accepted it. "I'm pleased to meet you, Ms. McKreedy."
"You must call me Cassie, my dear. All my friends do, and I'm sure we'll be best buddies before you know it." She took a sip of wine from the glass she was holding, leaving a blood red lipstick imprint on the side, and continued. " Although I must admit, when Fr. O'Kenney said his baby sister was coming to town to visit, I expected a giggling, teenage girl...not such a charming...and beautiful ... young woman. The women in this town will need to lock up their men." The smile was still pasted to her face, but her eyes said something entirely different.
"How nice of you to say...Cassie. I look forward to getting to know you... better."
Kevin could hear the tiny bit of growl in Mo's voice, and a knot grew in the pit of his stomach. He was about to jump into the conversation, when they were interrupted by the housekeeper, who required Cassie's assistance in the kitchen. She excused herself, promising to return shortly.
When she was safely out of the room, Ted wandered over to the two of them, handing Kevin a bottle of Guinness, and Cassie a glass of Cabernet. How he knew she preferred full-bodied reds over dry whites, he didn't really want to know, but Mo seemed quite satisfied with his selection. After a few minutes of chit chat, he asked Kevin's permission to introduce his sister to some of the other guests, and taking her by the arm, led her to a group of young people across the room, leaving Kevin standing alone with his ale.
Cassie was true to her word. Returning back to her guests, her eyes darted around the room, and finding Maureen chatting with a handsome young man who was not her Teddy, she seemed satisfied. She lead Kevin over to the buffet table, and insisted on fixing him a plate, piling it high with fried calamari, toasted ravioli, creamy pasta, and a variety of salads. When the plate was loaded, she settled the two of them on the sofa, she with the single glass of wine, and he with a plate of food spilling into his lap.
"I'm so glad you came this evening, Father O'Kenney. We never get a chance to chat one on one. You simply must tell me everything that's happening at Holy Family. I've decided its time to become more involved in my church community. Besides, it gets so lonely here with Teddy working all the time."
And so it went for a good hour or so. Cassie grilling him on the business end of his church, he carefully trying to avoid giving her too much information, and the bottle of Guinness magically replaced whenever it was near empty. Kevin didn't much enjoy her company, and found her choice of topics odd for a social gathering of this sort. But her focus seemed completely on him, and not on his sister, or the fact that her fiancee only had eyes for the tiny red head across the room. He would do what he had to do to get through this stressful evening, thankful that in a week, Maureen would be safely back in Boston, and away from the problems here in Dollyville. Unfortunately, after four bottles of ale, he needed to wrangle himself out of Cassie's reach, and find a restroom.
"Excuse me, Cassie. I'm really enjoying our conversation, and I don't mean to be rude, but can you point me in the direction of the restroom?"
"Why certainly, Father. We have several. There's one on this floor, right down the hallway, and to your right. There's also one two flights up, and to the left, and one on the main level as well. Take your pick." She laughed, and patted the seat he had just vacated, "And don't you worry. I'll be waiting right here for you to get back."
Kevin nodded, and headed toward the restroom down the hall. Finding that room occupied, and not wanting to wait, he decided to search out another, but couldn't remember whether Cassie had said two flights up, or two flights down. Deciding on down, he headed past the kitchen and towards the narrow staircase. The housekeeper, her hands in a sink full of dishes, gave him a disapproving frown, but said nothing as he passed.
The stairs were poorly lit and steep, and when he reached the bottom, he noticed an oak door a few feet to the right. Glad that there was not a line of people waiting to use it, he rapped on the wood, and when no one answered, turned the knob and walked in. The room was pitch black, and he ran his hand along the side, looking for the light switch. There was a small button, and when he pushed it, a set of globe lamps to his left and right flickered dimly on.
For a few seconds, he stood there in total shock, mouth open and eyes wide. He wasn't sure where he was, but it certainly wasn't the bathroom. The room was narrow and long, with a low mirrored ceiling, and thick walls enveloped in red, flocked paper. Its floor was covered with rough tile designed to resemble black stone, and everywhere he looked, he saw chains, ropes, whips and handcuffs. The room could best be described as a cross between a budget Las Vegas bordello, and something directly out of the Spanish Inquisition. Despite his vocation, Kevin had a pretty good idea of what went on in this room, and blushing at the thought, he turned fifty shades of pink.
Embarrassed at stumbling across his hosts' most private moments, he turned to leave as quickly and quietly as possible. Somewhere upstairs, a door open and closed, and before he could make his way out, a sudden draft pulled the heavy door shut with a loud click. He searched frantically for the door knob, but was shocked to find none existed on this side of the frame. Sweat gathered around his collar, both from the stuffiness of the closed off area, and his growing panic at being locked in this horrible little room. He considered pounding and shouting to get the attention of the people upstairs, but decided he'd rather not be found standing in this kinky playroom, explaining how he got there.
In spite of being totally freaked out, desperately trying not to touch a single thing, and still needing to pee, he deduced that there must be a hidden spring release somewhere along the door frame. Beginning at the top, and moving his hands carefully down the door, he pressed and tapped, and after a few minutes, located a small indention. He pressed on it with his thumb, and the door sprung open a few inches. Without hesitating, he turned off the lights, hurried out the door, and trotted back up the stairs.
He wasn't sure how long he had been gone, but the Italian food had been cleared away, and trays of desserts had taken its place. At any other time, Kevin would have bellied up to the table, and tasted a bit of everything. Sweets were his downfall. But his experience in the "Red Room" had left him queasy and sweaty, and even the call of chocolate dipped cannoli could not tempt him. Cassie was no longer on the sofa, or anywhere in sight, for that matter, and he was sure when she returned, he'd have to somehow explain his long absence. Right now, he just wanted to find his sister and go home. He was feeling worse by the minute, and the octopus and ale were churning in his stomach like a science experiment gone wrong. Looking around the room for Maureen, he was side lined by Esther Shidley, one of his long time parishioners.
"Fr. O'Kenney, I've been looking all over for you! Before I went home, I just had to tell you how delightful I found your sister. Such a lovely, young woman...and so friendly and personable. You must be so happy about her good news."
"Good news, Mrs. Shidley? I'm not sure I know what you mean?"
"Why, Fr. O'Kenney...surely you must already know that your sister has decided to make Dollyville her permanent home, don't you?"
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus