|Cassie in the cabin's Master Suite|
It was nearly 5:00 PM by the time they made it back to the cabin, cold, wet and thoroughly exhausted. The rain had let loose in a torrent of stinging, cold drops, soaking them to the skin, and making the last mile or so a true character builder. With Maureen's teeth chattering loud enough to hear, and Kevin's wet socks rubbing in his shoes, it was hard to tell who was more miserable. Oddly, the sheriff seemed impervious to the bad weather, setting a brisk pace, and having to stop every so often to let the other two stragglers catch up. When the log building came in sight, Fr. Kevin gave a sigh of relief, and literally pushed his sister towards the porch.
The group was met at the door by a very agitated Cassie, a wailing baby thrown over her left shoulder. "Where the hell have you people been? You've been gone almost six hours, and this freaking baby has been fussing for five of them. I'm going crazy stuck here." She moved to hand the baby to Maureen, but realizing she was sopping wet, drew the infant back across her chest, and turned toward Becket. "And you... I've been dialing your cell all afternoon. You didn't pick up once. What the hell is that all about? You know how I get, and you just leave me hanging? That's bullshit Teddy! I'm not playing second to anyone." She scowled at Maureen, walked toward the great room, and plopped the crying baby into her basket.
The younger O'Kenney trailed after her, leaving huge wet puddles with every step. "For your information, Cassie McKreedy, this day has been a complete nightmare! You know what we found in the woods? A dead girl, that's what! So don't you go railing on me about your afternoon. I'll never be able to get that horrible image out of my head."
Cassie whirled around to face Maureen, her face a distinct shade of gray. "A dead girl? What do you mean... dead? How did she die? Who was she? How did she get in the woods?" The words ran together like watercolors in the rain, with barely a breath between them.
Before either Beckett or Kevin could stop her, Maureen, near hysterics herself, went on. "How the hell should I know who she was. One minute we're walking along, then boom! I practically trip over a dead woman lying there in the dirt! It was the most horrible thing I have ever seen. Her throat was cut from ear to ear, and there was blood everywhere. The ground was soaked with it, and there were bugs crawling all over her face...all over her open eyes." She stopped and shuddered. "But the worse thing was her hand. It was...was...cut off at the wrist and jammed in her mouth. Like some kind of broken doll..."
Cassie gasped, and although her lips were moving, no sounds came forth. She teetered for a moment, then slumped to the floor in a dead faint.
An hour later, things were more under control, at least in appearance. Cassie was settled in an upstairs bedroom, Ted at her side, the baby had been changed, fed, and rocked back to sleep, and now in dry clothes, Kevin and Maureen rested in silence in the cabin's great room. Hard as they might, they could not ignore the loud conversation coming from the floor above them. Cassie's high pitched ranting floated down the stairs, followed by Beckett's low pitched timber. What ever was going on between the two of them, Kevin felt it shouldn't involve either he or his sister, and refused to allow Mo to drag him into speculation about what might be ensuing. In fact, he wished with his whole heart he were back in the quiet comfort of his rectory, watching one of several Thanksgiving Bowl games.
When the Sheriff finally made his way to join them, he didn't seem to be in any mood to discuss his personal business. He poked around a bit with the fire, and once satisfied with the level of flame, parked himself in an over stuffed chair, closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. "I'm afraid I need to apologize if you heard any of that conversation. This whole murder thing really has Cassie spooked, to the point she's working herself into a frenzy over it. I tried calming her down, but she's insisting that we leave immediately. I convinced her to take her meds, and I'm hoping she'll just sleep through the night. I really don't feel like driving all the way back in this bad weather." He leaned forward, placed his hands on his knees, and turned his attention to Maureen, who was curled in a corner of the sofa. "Look, I realize this wasn't the weekend get away you imagined, and for that I am truly sorry. I promise, we'll try this again, and it will be way better. Honest. You have to see this place when it snows. Just beautiful. And the cross country skiing is fabulous." He paused, looking so earnest, even Kevin felt bad for him. He hoped his sister would at least be polite, if not cordial.
But Maureen was...well... Maureen. She brushed a stray curl from her forehead, and looked at Beckett with cool, green eyes. "Please, Sheriff. Don't give it another thought. None of this is your fault, and you don't owe us any apologies." She went back to flipping through a magazine, and it was obvious the conversation was over on her end.
The Sheriff took her disinterest in stride, and rising from his chair, added, "Well, the invitation is always open... to both of you... if you change your mind. Now, how about we see to some supper? I've been thinking about those leftovers for the last three hours." Without waiting for an answer, he turned and headed toward the kitchen.
While her fiancee was making a turkey sandwich downstairs, Cassie McKreedy was pacing the floor of the cabin's Master Suite, her breathing shallow and quick. How in the hell had Marzano tracked her here...in the middle of nowhere. It had to be him. Who else would leave such a grotesque calling card? And that poor dead woman? Could it possibly be Lizzie? Oh damn, not her cousin. Why would she come back to Massachusetts? That made no sense. None at all. And that baby? Was it Lizzie's kid? That seemed impossible. Surely she would have known if her cousin had been pregnant, wouldn't she? Her head pounding, she began rummaging through the dresser drawers, pulling things out, until she found one of the hooded sweatshirts Teddy was so fond of wearing. This would do.
Cassie knew she should feel some deep seated grief, maybe even guilt, over the death of her own flesh and blood. But at this very moment, her only concern was escaping with her ass intact. She slipped the sweatshirt over her head, tucking her hair inside the hood until it was completely covered.
From the closet, she grabbed a pair of Ted's Levi's and pulled them on over her leggings. They were several sizes too big, and inches too long, but with a few rolls and tucks, she'd make it work. Dressed this way, if someone were watching the cabin, it would be hard to tell if the figure leaving was a man or woman.
For a second, she felt the loss of everything she was leaving behind, including Teddy. Would he be hurt? Miss her when she was gone? She shook the thought from her head. Ted Beckett's feelings wouldn't matter at all if she were dead. End up gutted like some damn fish in the market, her throat cut like poor pathetic Lizzie. Besides, Ted didn't truly know her. The real her. Only thought he did. And maybe that was a good thing.
She dug through the pockets of his damp jeans, and found the keys to the SUV. He had left his wallet on the dresser, and flipping it open, she took out a stack of folded bills, and slipped them in her back pocket. Again, a momentary stab of guilt. Teddy had been good to her. Didn't deserve her ripping him off, and disappearing without a word. She might have actually cared for him. At least a little. But sometimes, these things couldn't be helped. Maybe someday she'd make it up to him. Maybe. Someday.
Despite the stress of the day, appetites were hardy. The three of them dug into the Thanksgiving leftovers, perched on stools around the kitchen's breakfast bar. With mouths full, there was no need to speak. They munched quietly, each person contemplating the events of the horrible day, while the storm raged outside. With a clap of thunder, Maureen jumped a bit, and then narrowed her eyes, her attention focused toward the front of the cabin.
"Did you hear something? Sounded like it was coming from outside the cabin. A car, or something?" She held still, and listened intently.
Kevin stopped chewing, and listened for a moment. Confident it was only the rain, he went back to eating his sandwich. "Naw, it's just the storm, Maureen. You're awful jumpy tonight, and that's understandable. You know...considering what went on today."
The Sheriff nodded in agreement, but Kevin noticed he felt around for the Glock stuck in his waistband, and after a few moments of listening, Beckett wandered into the great room to check for himself. The baby was still sleeping peaceful in her make shift bed, and hearing nothing from above, he made his way upstairs to check on Cassie.
After several minutes, he was back in the kitchen, his lips pressed into a tight line. "Cassie's not upstairs. Anywhere. And the keys to the Escalade are missing, along with the hunting rifle. Damn, I think she may have taken off on her own."
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus