|Maureen tends to the newest guest|
Scrunched into the corner of the sofa, blanket to her chin, Cassie whined to Kevin. "Aren't you going to go out there and check on him? Some thing's obviously wrong!"
Fr. Kevin griped the rifle tighter across his chest. "The Sheriff specifically said to stay inside. I think we should listen to him."
From under her breath, Cassie mumbled something nasty, and Kevin was pretty sure she called him a "chicken shit". Apparently his sister heard it too, because behind him, he felt her stiffen. He prayed that the Sheriff would return soon, before he he was forced to follow him out the door.
The point became moot as the Sheriff pushed through the heavy wooden door, a large wicker basket in his arms. The strange noise was muffled, softened by soggy yarn blanket stretched over the top. "This... you're not going to believe," Beckett warned.
Kevin expected a basket full of kittens. Or possibly, some wet and frightened puppies. He was therefore shocked when Beckett whipped off the cloth, revealing a very damp, howling baby girl.
For a moment, everyone was too stunned to speak, until Cassie broke the spell. "It's a baby", she murmured.
"Duh. Ya think?" Maureen shot Cassie a snotty look, and leaned over the basket, lifting up the baby, and cuddling her at chest level. "Oh, you poor little angel! Who would do such a horrible thing? Oh my gosh, she's soaking wet. Ted, do you have some clean towels I could use to dry her off?"
The Sheriff wandered off, and returned shortly with a stack of soft, cotton towels. He handed a few to Maureen, and used the remaining one to dry himself off. "This whole thing is weird. The basket was just tossed on the porch. I almost tripped over it in the dark." Raking the towel through his wet hair, he continued, "My cabin is set in the middle of nowhere, on private property. Why would anyone decide to leave a baby here? There's a small town just about 15 miles east. Much more populated. So why not leave the baby at the local hospital, or the fire station there, where someone would find her right away? It just doesn't make sense."
Maureen rummaged through the basket with her free arm, the baby finally quieting down. "Well, at least they sent some supplies along. There's several fresh diapers, two clean sleepers, and some bottles and powdered formula. We're okay for a little while." As she removed the items and placed them on the sofa, a damp envelope fluttered from inside one of the sleepers, and fell to the floor.
Beckett leaned down and retrieved the scrap. Flipping it over, he read the wording scribbled across the front, and made a face. "Uh...Fr. O'Kenney...this is addressed to you." He handed it to Kevin, who stood there, not sure what to do with the envelope.
"Open it up, Kev. Maybe it will tell us who this baby belongs to." Ignoring the oddity that the letter was addressed to her own brother, she tucked the dozing infant in her arms, and sat in a wooden rocker near the fireplace.
Fr. Kevin picked at the sealed letter, careful not to rip the wet paper, and pulled out a single sheet.
Reading the letter, his eyes grew wide, but he didn't say a word. Stunned, he handed the letter to the Sheriff, who read it aloud to the group.
"Dear Fr. O'Kenney,
I am so sorry. I tried to keep you out of this whole mess, but things have changed for the worse. I can no longer handle any of this on my own. Please take good care of Marissa, and do what you think best."
Beckett peered intently at the note, bringing it closer to his face. "I can't seem to read the signature. The ink has run from the rain. It looks like it begins with an 'L', or maybe a 'P', but the rest of it is just too smeary to figure out."
The room remained silent for nearly a full minute, all eyes directed at Kevin, who could feel the heat rising from under his collar. He knew he should say something, but was at a total loss for words. He had no idea what the letter meant, or who it was from. It hadn't made a bit of sense to him.
The Sheriff cleared his throat, hesitated, and then asked, "So, Father, what do you know about
Kevin looked across the room to his sister, whose expression he couldn't read. Next to him, Cassie propped herself on the end of the sofa, with what seemed to be a smirk set across her face. "Honestly, Sheriff. I don't know any more than the rest of you! As far as I know, none of my parishioners were... expecting...I...I...have no idea who...who this baby belongs to. Or how it got here." He knew the stammering made him sound guilty, but he was totally freaked, and couldn't get the words out clearly.
Beckett rubbed his hand across his face in frustration. " You have to know something, Father. Whoever left this baby obviously knew you were going to be here. And the note seems to imply that you were somehow...involved."
"Well, I did tell everyone at Thanksgiving Mass this morning that I was going to be at your cabin for the week end, but that was all. I didn't even know where this place was myself." Snapping his fingers, he suddenly remembered something important, and continued, "But, there was this strange white Volvo that seemed to be following us for the last hour or so. I wanted to say something sooner, but felt you'd think I was nuts. And then, about a mile before we got here, it turned off in another direction."
"A car was following us, and you didn't think maybe you should tell me? Damn, Father, none of this makes any sense. I feel like we're missing key points here."
Cassie leaned in, pointing a red lacquered nail at the baby. "And I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but that baby has some fine looking red hair." She let out a giggle, and shook a finger at Fr. Kevin. "Looks like somebody's been a very naughty boy."
From her position across the room, Maureen quickly jumped up, startling the sleeping baby, who let out a yowl. " Just what are you implying, Cassie McKreedy? You shut your filthy little mouth, or I'll close it for you! That is not my brother's baby! Kevin would never break his vows!"
Cassie crossed the room, meeting Maureen halfway. "You are so naive, you silly bitch. Men are men. What they do for a living doesn't matter. Inside, they're all the same. Something I'm sure you already know, little Miss Dumped." She turned and looked directly at Kevin, "And we all have our secrets, don't we, Father?"
Kevin saw the rage in his sister's face, and should have anticipated what was going to happen next. Before he could stop her, she plopped the crying baby into his arms, and went head first into Cassie, grabbing a hunk of hair, and twisting. It was obvious that Cassie was no stranger to street brawls, and used her free hand to sock Maureen straight in the gut. In a matter of seconds, the two were rolling around the leather sofa, punches and kicks flying in every direction.
He wanted to intervene, to stop the fracas before anyone truly got hurt, but he wasn't sure what to do with the howling baby in his arms. The Sheriff however, got to them first, pulling both apart, and grabbing a woman in each arm.
"Knock it off, ladies! Right now!" The harder they struggled, the tighter he held them. "You look absolutely ridiculous, and I'm embarrassed for you both. Now, you will cease this childish behavior immediately!"
Kevin hoped Beckett wasn't going to actually release them. He was pretty sure a little scolding wasn't going to stop either of those hellions from going at it again. But to his amazement, the women looked sheepish, and after a few seconds, he released his hold, and they quietly went to opposite sides of the room.
Staring them both down, the Sheriff continued, "Now...Father Kevin and I are going outside to bring in the rest of the luggage, and supplies. You ladies will act like civilized human beings while we are gone. When I return, we will all work together to get this food warmed up, and we will have a polite, adult, Thanksgiving dinner. Have I made myself clear?" He waited until he had affirmation from each of the two woman, and then said, "Good. Father, if you would please give me a hand?" And without another word, he turned and stomped out of the cabin.
Completely mortified, and not wanting to deal with either of the women on his own, he plopped the squalling baby into Maureen's arms, and silently followed the Sheriff to the car.
The women kept to their word, and avoided coming no closer than three feet to each other. Once everything was unpacked, the four of them methodically warmed the food, and set the table, all in relative silence, while their newest visitor observed from her spot in an emptied bureau drawer. It was, in Kevin's opinion, the most awkward Thanksgiving dinner he had ever attended, and he was most thankful when it ended, and he could retire to the privacy of one of Beckett's guest rooms.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
|Thanksgiving Dinner...the hard way.|