|Sheriff Beckett and Fr. Kevin discuss plans in the cabin's kitchen|
"What do you mean she took the Escalade?" Maureen dropped her turkey sandwich back on the plate in front of her. "Does that mean we're stranded here...out in the middle of nowhere?'
The thought of having no means of escape made Kevin nervous too, but he held his tongue and let his sister worry for the both of them. No reason for all the O'Kenney siblings to look like cowards.
"Actually... no, we're not 'stuck' here. I keep a beater pick-up out back for work around the property. Worse case scenario...we could drive that back to Dollyville." Beckett tossed the rest of his meal in the trash, and placed the dirty dish in the sink. "But the rain has turned to ice, and driving that hunk of junk over slick roads in the dark would be stupid, especially with the baby on board. It'd be best to wait until morning to leave.
Maureen pursed her lips, and leaned on the breakfast bar, directing all the indignation she could muster toward the Sheriff. "And just what are we supposed to do until then? Sit around and wait for someone to come cut our throats?"
The Sheriff rubbed his forehead and sighed, speaking in a voice reserved for the very young, or mentally disabled. "Miss O'Kenney, you are in no danger of having your throat...or any other part of you...cut. It was pretty obvious from the crime scene that this murder was some kind of vendetta killing. It's common for drug lords to remove the hands or tongues of their victims as a sign of their displeasure at being crossed. That unfortunate woman must have been involved in some sort of shady dealings with some very bad people. So, unless you know that woman, or are yourself involved in any kind of business with drug lords, I'd say you were in no immediate danger."
At the mention of the woman, Fr. Kevin's stomach did a lurch. She had looked familiar. But then again, it was hard to tell with the odd angle of her head, lying detached from her neck. And with all that blood covering half her face, he hadn't had a real good look. If the Sheriff was right, then he must be mistaken about knowing her. After all, it wasn't like he had any contact with drug lords either. He turned his attention back to his sister, who he figured was brewing for a heads on confrontation.
But to his surprise, Maureen didn't say a word. No disagreement. No last word. She quietly slid off the stool, and left the kitchen without further comment. Kevin looked at the Sheriff, and shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of confusion. They could hear footsteps above their head, and knew when they heard the heavy bang of a door slamming, that Maureen had retired to her room upstairs.
"I'm sorry Maureen's so upset, Father. I full well understand that she's afraid. But I don't believe any of us are in real danger here. These type of people usually don't bother with anyone not within their circle. It's all business to them. You either do what your told, or they end their association with you. Permanently. I don't believe we will see any more of them around here." He paused, and made a face, as if thinking out loud. "Although, in all honesty, I am curious as to why that young woman was here in the first place. Plymouth County doesn't see much drug action. And how the hell does that baby tie in? It's all too weird to be simple coincidence." Beckett took a slug from an open can of Pepsi on the counter, and continued. "I guess we'll know more when the Sheriff's office identifies the vic. If she's involved with those kind of people, her prints will most likely be on file."
"Well, you'd know best, Sheriff. If you say we're in no danger, then I trust your expertise. Maureen will come around to thinking that too. I'm sure you're concerned with Miss McKre...I mean Cassie's... welfare if the roads are as bad as you say."
"Under most circumstances, she'd be fine driving herself. The Cadillac has all the bells and whistles. Practically drives itself. But it bothers me that she left without saying a word. And, it seems she only took a small tote bag, her laptop, and strangely enough, the rifle. Of course, if she's on her way back to Dollyville, she'd have what she needs at home, and we could always come back at some point to get what she left. Just odd, is all. I knew she was very upset, but I never figured she'd run off like that. Cassie can be...a bit ...impulsive, but she has always deferred to my...decisions. And if she's taken her meds, than I worry that her concentration is not what it should be. I'm thinking I should go after her. She hasn't been gone long, and the Escalade was low on gas. She's going to have to stop and fill up, and there's only one station within 50 miles. Maybe I can catch up with her there. You don't mind being here by yourself do you?"
Crossing his fingers for the white lie he was about to tell, Kevin forced a smile. "Absolutely not, Sheriff. Maureen and I will be fine until you get back. You go look for Cassie, and don't worry about the three of us. We'll be right here when you get back."
"Thanks, Father." Beckett bent down, and removed a small gun from an ankle holster Kevin had never noticed before. "I don't expect that you'll have any trouble, but take this 9mm in case. It's small, but does the job just fine. And it may make Maureen feel a bit safer if you have it."
He grabbed a black North Face jacket from a hook near the door, and slipped it on. "I'll have my cell with me, but if you need any help at all, dial 911 first. Don't waste time waiting for me." He stood by the back door waiting for the priest to confer.
Kevin could only nod his agreement, as the lump in his throat and the cold, little gun in his hand, kept him from forcing the words out. From the window in the kitchen, he watched the Sheriff make his way out back, and soon saw a pair of headlights pull around the cabin and disappear out of sight. He said a silent prayer that the Sheriff would return quickly, with, or without, the missing Cassie.
He had hoped the television would take his mind off murder and mayhem, but the drone of 376 channels instead lulled him into a deep sleep. He woke with a start, his neck stiff from being propped on one of the couch's cement like throw pillows. The cabin was quiet, and the clock on the mantle read 1:20 AM. He dragged himself off the sofa, and looked out the front windows. The sleet had turned to snow, and the trees surrounding the building were draped with a heavy coat. The ground was a solid
blanket of white, not a single tire track marring the surface. It appeared the Sheriff had not yet returned, and that was worrisome.
Leaving on a single dim lamp, Fr. Kevin checked the locks on the door, and made his way upstairs to bed. Maybe the Sheriff had ended up going all the way back to Dollyville in search of his errant bride to be, and there was a chance he wouldn't be back until morning. It seemed ridiculous to wait up all night, uncomfortable in the drafty great room.
He was half way up the stairs, when he remembered the 9mm sitting on the kitchen counter. Probably wasn't a good idea to leave it unattended, especially if Beckett returned to find it lying there.
He trudged back down, retrieved the gun, and with a final glance out the dark windows, turned in for the night.
The room was cold, and he shivered under the quilt. After several minutes of pillow smooshing, and cover adjusting, he finally got settled in, and was most almost asleep, when he heard a knock on the door. Without waiting for his response, Maureen poked her head inside, carrying the baby in her dresser drawer, an afghan thrown over her shoulders.
"Psst...Kev?" Are you up?"
"I am now. What's wrong, Mo?"
"I thought I heard something outside my window. Like a scratching noise. Scared the shit out of me." She stood at the foot of his bed, hair a mess, dark circles under her eyes, looking so woeful he felt guilty for not checking on her sooner. "Do you think...would it be okay...if maybe the baby and I could stay in here with you? I brought a blanket with me. I could just curl up on the floor. We won't keep you up, I promise"
"Sure you can stay in here. But, I'll take the floor. You can have the bed."
"Oh no, Kevin. I can't make you sleep on the floor. You know how bad your back gets."
Fr. Kevin flipped back the quilt, and swung himself out of the bed. "I'll be fine. Here, put the baby on the cedar chest. You'll be able to reach her from the bed if she cries." He took the dresser drawer from her, and set it on the sturdy surface. Turning to the bed, he held the quilt back, and motioned for his sister. "Hop in. I have it all warmed up for you."
"Are you sure? I feel awful about kicking you out of your bed, especially when I'm probably just being a big ole' baby."
"It's okay, Momo. It'll be like old times, when you were little and I had to sleep next to your bed in case the monster in the closet came out. I managed fine then, and I'll manage just fine now."
She stood on her tip-toes, and gave him a peck on the cheek before climbing under the covers. "Thanks Kevin. You're still the best brother, ever."
He chuckled, and rolled the afghan out on the floor. "Do you think you could spare a pillow for the best brother ever?"
She giggled, and tossed him a large feather pillow, aiming for his head. In that moment, he forgot all about drug lords and dead girls, preferring to remember the many nights he spent telling his baby sister stories as he lay on the floor next to her tiny bed. For the first time all weekend, his heart felt lighter.
He settled in on the rug, and it wasn't long before he could hear both his sister and the infant snoring in tandem. He might have fallen asleep for only a few minutes, when he heard banging coming from the rooms below. He reached under the bed, and pulled out the 9mm, not knowing what he'd do if the situation required him to use it. Careful not to wake the child or Maureen, he crawled to the door, and pushed it open. His heart pounding, he heard the footsteps coming closer up the stairs. With shaky hands, he pulled the pistol in front of his chest, and kneeling, pointed it toward the staircase.
The figure reached the landing, and seeing a gun pointed directly at him, stopped, and whispered in a frantic voice. "Shit, Father! Watch where you're pointing that damn gun. It's me! Ted Beckett."
Kevin placed the gun on the floor, and struggled to get off his knees to an upright position.
"Sheriff? Boy, am I ever glad to see you!"
"And I'm pretty happy you didn't shoot me in the head. Remind me to show you how to hold a gun properly. You're a menace with a weapon."
Embarrassed, Kevin stuttered an apology. "Sorry, Sheriff. Handling a gun is not part of my normal job description" Changing the subject, he continued. "Did you find Cassie? Is she safe?"
Weary, Beckett sat on the top stair. "I was able to track her to the gas station I mentioned earlier. Driving is absolutely miserable. I basically had to crawl the whole way there, and it took me twice as long as it normally would have. The attendant was able to identify her from my photograph. He said he thought she arrived there somewhere around 11:30 PM. Bought a huge amount of junk food, and several road maps. He wasn't sure, but he thought they were maps of Ohio, Maine and Florida."
"Why buy maps of those places? That doesn't make any sense at all."
"Beats the crap out of me, Father. The gas station guy said he tried chatting her up, but that she cut him off, and left in a hurry. Kept looking over her shoulder, like she was worried about being followed. I dialed her cell so many times, I've lost count. All my calls go right to voice mail."
"That sounds crazy, Sheriff. Who would be following her?" Kevin could sense the Sheriff's angst, and tried to offer some positive encouragement. "Did you check back in Dollyville? Maybe she just went home, and is sitting there waiting for you to come after her? You did say she was impulsive."
"I called a close friend of mine back home. Asked him to check the house for me. I knew it would take me hours to get there in the snow, and I was desperate for an answer. He called me back a short while ago. Said the house was dark and empty, and the Escalade wasn't anywhere to be seen." The Sheriff leaned his head against the railing, looking exhausted and worried.
Kevin knew he should say something to comfort the man, but was at a loss for words. He could offer nothing in the way of suggestions as to where the woman had disappeared to, or any reason she should have acted so strangely. "I'm sure she's fine, Sheriff. Maybe she just decided it was too bad to drive, and is holed up in some motel waiting for the weather to improve."
"Then why not call me and let me know she's okay?" The man stood up, and shoved his hands into his pocket, suddenly looking very tired. "No, Father. It's obvious. She's left me, and doesn't want to be found. Why... I can't tell you. But I do intend to find out."
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
|Fr. Kevin shares his room with Maureen and the baby|