Sunday, August 19, 2012
Thanks to all of you who have followed this little mystery all summer long. Now that the new school year is about to begin, Madame Mystery will probably need to take a hiatus. Is there more coming? You betcha! I'm sure you're wondering...what exactly happened in NewOrleans that has left Elizabeth so angry and bitter? What will Fr. Kevin do with all that stolen money? And if Cassie now knows that Father has it, will she attempt to steal it back? Will the Sheriff figure out what his fiance is really like, and will it matter? Will Tessa Peppers actually go to prison? And who is the father of Elizabeth's baby?
I actually do know the answers to these questions, and more. I'm not sure when the next full post will be. Once I'm in "school mode" my entire focus is usually there. But who can tell? Maybe I will get itchy to continue the story earlier than next summer. In the mean time, Fr. Kevin now has his own Facebook account, and has promised to update his status and let us know what's going on in Dollyville. And once he figures out his ipad, he might even post some photos on his wall. You can friend him and have access to all his updates. Look for him on Facebook as "Kevin O'Kenney"...send a request, and he will add you as a friend. He also can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. ( There is no "e" between the 'n' and the 'y' in the email address...long story about why that came about)
So...until we meet at this spot again, I wish all of you the very best. I have truly appreciated all your support. It has been a thrill to have readers in six different continents, and I hope I was able to at least bring a smile to your hectic days.
Madame Mystery (aka Vicki)
It felt good, finally, to have something work as planned. Vindicated. Satisfied. Elizabeth McKreedy hit the button on the remote, and clicked the TV off. She had checked three different news shows, and they had all concurred. The old woman was in custody, and it looked like no one was the wiser. It was a shame that she was leaving without seeing the real bitch six feet under. That would have been icing on the cake. But this would have to do for now.
She was rather surprised that she didn't feel the stab of guilt. The good girl inside usually did. But there was no doubt that Peppers would get exactly what she deserved. It was righteous that she should go to prison for murdering that poor man, and if she had to pay for Liz's little sins too, what did it matter? Even if they found that cell phone, there was no way it could be traced back to her. The old hag would probably end up in a loony bin somewhere anyway. She was as crazy as they come, and no one would take a word she said seriously.
From under the motel mattress, the woman removed an old news paper clipping cut from the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Though the hair was a different color, and the woman in the photo wore thick glasses, there was no mistaking the perfect teeth and dimples. That job had been a disaster from the very beginning. She had warned Cassie that it was a mistake. But as always, Cassie went ahead and did what she wanted, leaving a trail of shit behind her. A trail Liz was forced to wade through. A dirty, humiliating trail that had cost her everything.
No more. She had to think about the two of them now. It was unfortunate that the priest had to be involved. He seemed a nice enough person. But his role was essential to the rest of Plan C, and she couldn't afford to get sentimental now. She took out her iphone, snapped a photo of the clipping, and sent it to her laptop. Liz knew the first thing Cassie would seek out would be a new computer. The hacking was part of who she was, and it wouldn't be long before she checked her email account. She quickly typed a bitter note, explaining where the rest of the money had gone, and attached a file with the photo of the news clipping. She could picture the fit Cassie would throw when she got this message, but by then, they both would be long gone and out of her reach.
She placed the last few belongings in the suitcase, and called for a ride. Checking that the room was void of anything personal, she closed the door behind her, and headed towards the motel's large dumpster. Confident she was truly alone, she lifted the lid and threw in the black hooded sweatshirt, and the pipe wrench, grimacing at the loud banging sound it made against the sides of the container.
That finished, she dragged her luggage to the main road to wait for the taxi. A wave of nausea hit her, and she felt the need to sit down on the bench. Patting her still flat stomach she whispered, "It's going to be alright little one, I promise. Just the two of us."
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Saturday, August 18, 2012
For the second time in 24 hours, Fr. O'Kenney returned home from the hospital in the wee hours of the morning. Although his left arm hurt like a sonofabitch, he was grateful that he was still alive, and not the lead story of last night's evening news.
Despite the problems of the ongoing investigation, the Sheriff had graciously offered to drive him home, and see that he got settled in. Kevin felt a little silly having Ted Beckett fuss over him like he was some kind of invalid, but the fact was, he really felt awful. He helped him off with his suit jacket, careful not to rearrange the bandages covering the upper part of his left arm.
"Been shot myself, Father. I sympathize. Sometimes the wounds in the fleshy parts hurt more than the serious ones."
Kevin hoped he'd never have the opportunity to compare, and took the Sheriff's word on it. He had seen a passing glance of himself in the hall mirror downstairs, and had shuddered. Eyes black and blue, swollen nose, his left arm all bandaged up, and dried blood decorating the front of his jacket. More like prize fighter than a pastor. Wonderful. The Bishop was sure to hear about this.
"I called Father Wilton over at St. Luke's. He's going to come and take care of your morning services for you. I hope that was okay? I figured you guys covered for one another."
"That's very thoughtful of you, Sheriff. I'm not sure I'm going to feel up to saying two Masses in a couple of hours."
"I thought not. Once those pain killers kick in, it's going to be lights out for several hours. Good thing too, 'cause when the initial shock wears off, that arm's gonna hurt like hell."
He couldn't imagine the thing hurting anymore than it all ready did, but felt it rude to contradict the Sheriff on an issue he had far more experience with. The man helped him into bed, fixing the blankets, and fluffing up the pillows for him, as if he were a kid with the flu. "So, Sheriff... what happens to Tessa Peppers now?"
"She's still at Jefferson Memorial, waiting on a psych eval and under 24 hour guard. You know, she did confess to stabbing Marco Rivera, and setting the fire at Su Casa."
"Really? Did she say why she did it?'
"Claims the Riveras had photos of her "little hobby"and were trying to blackmail her. They wanted her to change her Town Council vote regarding their liquor license application, and of course, a tidy sum of cash. Mrs. Peppers, on the other hand, wanted to purchase the land the restaurant sat on, and was hoping to force them out of business. Neither side was willing to negotiate, and it escalated from there. We found the matching glove to the red one you found, and empty gasoline cans tucked in a corner of her garage.
"But what about the gas explosion? And why come after me?"
"Peppers claims she had nothing to do with the explosion, but there was a large pipe wrench in her basement. And as far as her run in with you, she said she got a text yesterday afternoon from a number she didn't recognize. It said you were in on the "scam", and that you had her $80,000." The Sheriff narrowed his eyes, and bluntly asked the priest, "You wouldn't know anything about that, now would you Father O'Kenney?"
Kevin tried to keep his face as impassive as possible, and answered, "No Sheriff, of course not. I'm a little offended that you asked that."
"No offense meant, Father. Just doing my job. Tessa says she lost the cell phone over at the explosion site, so I'm going to see if I can find it and trace the number. Maybe shed some light on why she came at you."
"Sorry, Sheriff. It's been a long night."
"I understand, Father. And if you don't need anything else, I'm going to get going. I have to get down to the Court House to see about Tessa's arraignment, and Cassie is supposed to come home this afternoon. I have a full day in front of me."
"No, you go ahead, Sheriff. I'll be fine. And...ah...thanks for everything. I appreciate you seeing that I got home okay."
"Your welcome, Father. I'll probably swing around much later and check on you." With a nod to Kevin, the Sheriff made his way down the stairs and out the front door.
Kevin laid his head back on the pillows, and was almost asleep before he could finish the first decade of the rosary. He thought he heard the bedroom window open, but couldn't force his eyes lids to move, and drifted into relative unconsciousness. Brian saw that the lad was already asleep, and tip toed quietly over to the bed.
"Ya did good lad. Margaret is surely proud of ya today." The little man tucked the covers around the young priest, and softly patted his arm. Then, he placed the gold proof coin on the nightstand, and slid out the window the same way he'd come in.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Friday, August 17, 2012
After his long morning visit with Cassie McKreedy, Fr. Kevin O'Kenney was not unhappy that he was both single and celibate.
Although he wished the best for the newly engaged couple, Kevin didn't envy Ted Beckett one little bit. She was beautiful. There was no denying that. And inherently charming when she wanted to be. But her good looks, and sunny disposition, seemed to be a secret weapon for obtaining her needs. Every toss of her hair, every twinkle in her eye, every dimpled smile was orchestrated to get a specific response. She had the ability to manipulate each situation to her benefit, using whatever was at her disposal to reach her goal. He was no stranger to that technique. He had watched his younger sister, Maureen, the last of eight siblings, use the same strategy to grab the upper hand when there was something in her way. Yup. The Sheriff would definately have his share of challenges.
He had decided not to spend the $12 for a cab back to Holy Family, so as he walked the three blocks from the bus stop, he kept an eye out for the missing Tessa Peppers. He would admit to the fact that the woman freaked him out. Yes, she was a seventy year old woman. But she was in no way frail or harmless. His swollen nose could attest to that. It was true that had found her annoying, rude and self serving, but capable of attempted murder was a whole different ballgame. He'd feel a lot better when the Sheriff had her in custody...again.
Today was the second Thursday of the month, which meant the Rosary Society would meet for their usual evening prayer service and social. He noticed that the air conditioning during the morning Masses seemed a bit hit or miss, so he'd probably need to tinker around with that before they gathered. Hopefully, that wouldn't take all afternoon, because after last night's excitement, he could really desired an afternoon nap. As he approached the church's garden, he was sure he heard some movement from behind the evergreens. Praying it wasn't Brian, he poked around and called out, "Hello? Who's over there?" For a second, he worried that it might be Tessa Peppers, ready to pounce out on him, but sheepishly realized that with her sheer size, the tree wouldn't hide her very well.
Finally, a young voice responded to his queary. "It's me, Father. Irwin."
"Irwin? What are you doing in there? You're going to get all chewed up by mosquitos." Realizing he sounded like his mother, he straightened his back and lowered his voice. "Like seriously, dude. That's not a good place to be playing."
"I'm not playing, Father. I'm hiding."
"Hiding from who?" And where's Patches?" Kevin knew the dog was never far from the boy, and from the way the pup reacted to him lately, he wanted advance notice of the canine's whereabouts.
"I'm hiding from Ole' Lady Peepers. And I'm not sure where Patches went. She threw a rock at him, he let out a yelp, and then he ran off somewhere. I'm real worried about him, Father"
"You saw Mrs. Peepers...I mean Mrs. Peppers? Where?"
"She was over by the house that blew up, poking around in the piles with a stick. She was all crazy like. Talking to herself and swearing. She's even wearing her pajamas and a robe! I asked her what she was looking for, and she threw that rock at Patches. I told her to leave my dog alone, and then she started chasing after me with the big stick. I ditched her on Quinn Street, and then I came here to hide."
"I'll let the Sheriff know what happened, Irwin. In the meantime, it would probably be a good idea if you just went back home. Maybe that's where Patches went. If he's not there, I'll help you look for him in a little while, okay? I just have a couple of things I need to do, and then we can track him down."
"Okay, Father O'Kenney. Thanks for helping me. But we gotta stay clear of Peepers. That lady's get a screw loose!"
He watched the boy scramble out of the greenery, and head down the street at a lively pace. Once he was sure the boy was safely on his way, he turned and entered the church, dialing the Sheriff's cell as he did so. The call went directly to voice mail, and Kevin left a message detailing what Irwin had told him That taken care of, he went to fuss with the church's thermostat, to see if he could get the thing working on a more consistent basis. Holy Family's air conditioning unit was well over twenty years old, and was definately in need of replacing. He thought about the money in the safe and wondered if he shouldn't maybe use it to replace the old machine. It wasn't like he was using it for himself, but he still felt uncomfortable even thinking about it.
The door in the back of the church opened and closed, and busy with his work on the thermostat, Father Kevin didn't pay much attention until it was too late.
"I need to talk to you, Father O'Kenney."
Kevin looked up to find Tessa Peppers standing two feet in front of him, pointing a hand gun at his chest. His heart caught in his throat, and in his head, he prayed for divine intervention. "Mrs. Peppers, let's just talk about how I can help you. You really don't need to use violence in the Lord's House. I'm more than happy to assisst you in any way I can."
"Cut the crap, you idiot. We both know why I'm here."
He was pretty sure he had no clue as to what she was talking about. Up until now, he hadn't had a whole lot of experience dealing with crazy people, but from what he saw on television, it was best not to get them all riled up. Trying to remain as calm as possible, a feeling he wished he could share with his bladder and his stomach, he put his hands up to show her he would not offer resistence. "Honestly, Mrs. Peppers. I...I don't understand what you want."
"You must think I'm some kind of senile, old fool, don't you. You and the rest of this stinkn' town. Well, I'm not putting up with that shit, do you hear me? I've come for my money!"
From his position at the front of the church, Kevin could see the main door open a crack, and Irwin Teller crawl around the last few pews. That young boy involved in this crisis was the very last thing he needed. The woman was unstable, and there was no telling what she would do. He wanted to yell to Irwin to get the hell out of there. Tell him to run like crazy, and get help. But he worried that calling attention to the hidden boy would be a big mistake. He turned his focus back to the woman with the gun on him.
"Mrs. Peppers, I have no idea what money you're talking about? Sunday's collection has already gone to the bank" For a second, he wondered if she meant the suit case in the church safe. But how could she possibly know about that? He had little time to ponder the question, because instantly he was shocked to see Irwin silently climb on the back of the pew, a large shovel in his hand. The one he had left inside the church vestibule earlier this morning.
"Listen you red headed fruit cake...if I don't get my $80,000 right now, the next funeral in this church is going to be yours." She raised her arm, pointing the gun towards his head.
It was then that Irwin reached up and hit her in the head with the back of the shovel. "That's for throwing rocks at my dog, Peepers!" The woman let out a grunt and fell face first onto the tiled floor. But not before the gun went off with a loud bang that echoed in the empty church.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Thursday, August 16, 2012
What the hell!? That priest was like a bad penny, always turning up at the wrong times and in the wrong places. She wanted to respect the man's position, but damn, he was getting to be a royal pain in the ass. The explosion should have been a sure thing. A fail safe plan to get rid of the bitch, and all the problems that seemed to cling to her like moss. And because of him, and that asshole Sheriff, she had to rethink her options. Now it looked like Plan B would also be a no-go.
She could understand the whole Beckett thing. Figures he'd be like all the rest, and fall for that slut. She attracted men simply by breathing. But what was the priest's deal? He couldn't possibly be hot for her too, could he? Had she read him all wrong? She hoped the hell not. Too much depended on him being exactly what his title said he was.
She watched the number lights on the elevator reach the sixth floor, and silently groaned. It was no use. Father O'Kenney had surely gone back to woman's room. Had he recognized her in the few fleeting seconds before the door closed? She couldn't be sure, and for the sake of both of them, she wouldn't take the risk. Prison was simply not an option. She'd need to regroup and start on Plan C.
Taking the pint of juice off the cart, she dumped it in the closest trash can, pushing it deeply towards the bottom. It wouldn't do to have someone notice it before it hit the dumpster. Satisfied that the container was hidden, she dragged the food cart into a storage closet, and pulled off the stiff pink uniform smock. Checking that the hallway was clear of people, she slipped out the rear exit, and never looked back.
Cassie heard the ting of the elevator reaching the 6th floor, and listened for the footsteps as they moved toward her room. She propped herself up in bed, fluffing her hair, and wetting her lips. It was about time. They had been gone almost an hour, and she was crawling out of her skin waiting to hear what was going on. She'd seen the look on Teddy's face when he came back into the room after his little visit with the nurse, and she knew him well enough to know he wasn't a happy camper. When he and the priest immediately disappeared for a sudden "breakfast", she knew something had to be up. Being left out of the loop made one vulnerable, and no way was she leaving herself in that position.
When only Fr. O'Kenney walked into the room, she was initially disappointed. But realizing an opportunity when she saw one, she decided on a change of plans. She laid her head back on the pillow, and gave a soft moan.
"Have a nice breakfast, Father?" Her voice came out as a soft whimper.
"I did. Thanks for asking, Ms. McKreedy. How are you feeling? Shall I call for a nurse?"
"Now, Father. I already told you. We're like family now, so I really want you to call me Cassie, okay?" She reached over and patted Kevin on the arm. "I'll be fine. Nothing to worry about. Just a little dizzy spell." She moved in the bed, and grimaced. "So Father, where's my wonderful fiance?"
"He asked me to apologize, Ms. McKr...I mean Cassie. He got a call from the...uh...secretary at the County Office, and he needed to check on something. Said he'd be back later this afternoon, and that you should get some rest"
"Poor Teddy. He's the one that needs some rest! Being a hero can be so exhausting. Don't worry about little ole' me, Fr. O'Kenney. I'll be just fine...alone here in my big ole' hospital bed. I'd better get use to his commitment to duty if I'm going to be the wife of Dollyville's only law man." She sighed loudly, tucked the blankets around her middle. "Besides, it gives the two of us a chance to have a nice little chat." Pointing to the chair nearest the bed, she gave him a dimpled smile and said, "Have a seat, Father, and make yourself comfortable."
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Ted Beckett pushed aside the plate, now bacon and egg free, and began to work on the remaining blueberry muffin. "Go ahead, Father. I'm listening," he encouraged, slathering gobs of butter on each of the pieces he had broken into quarters.
"I'm somewhat embarrassed to tell you where I got this information, Sheriff." Kevin hesitated, and in between bites, the Sheriff motioned for him to continue. "I was talking to this parishioner, a kid actually, by the name of Irwin Teller. Do you know him?
"Brown hair, glasses? Collects bugs in a jar? Yeah, I've run into him. Dug little holes all over my front lawn once. Really pissed me off. One of those smart ass kids this town is full of."
"Well, a few days ago he was telling me some rather upsetting things about Tessa Peppers. Said he saw her peeping into her neighbor's window, and taking pictures with her cell phone. I know he's just a kid, Sheriff Beckett, but he seemed genuinely afraid of the woman. He also claims she killed his friend's cat."
"As a matter of fact, Father, I've heard both of those stories before. Her neighbor, Joe Scutney, filed a complaint about a month ago. Went out to talk to Tessa, but she acted as if the whole thing was some kind a plan to derail her campaign. Insisted Joe Scutney was working for her opponent, and threw us both off her property. I figured she'd be embarrassed enough to stop, after being called out like that. Guess not."
"But do you think she's capable of trying to murder Ms. McKreedy? That seems like an awfully big leap from peeping in windows?"
"Father, after being Sheriff in this town for the past eight years, nothing surprises me anymore. People imagine small towns to be quiet, safe places, but Dollyville lays that myth to rest. We got all the same wackos the larger cities have...just less of them. I think we need to find Tessa Peppers, and the sooner the better." He finished the muffin, and licking his fingers, leaned back in his chair.
"By the way, Sheriff, as long as I have you sitting here, I wanted to ask about Marco Rivera's murder. Has there been any movement on that case?"
"I have a few leads I'm running down, but nothing substantial I'm afraid. I'm supposed to talk to Mrs. Rivera's sister later this week about the fire at Su Casa. She seems to think it has something to do with her brother-in-law's murder. But the cause of the fire was inconclusive, and witnesses saw Mrs. Rivera go back into the burning building after she had already safely escaped it. Sounds more like a run of bad luck for the family, not arson or murder."
Pulling out his cell phone, Kevin located the crime scene photos showing the residue on Marco's undershirt. "I had some ideas about these marks. I'm pretty sure they were caused by masking tape glue. It seems as if he had something taped to his chest. Important papers, maybe, that he didn't want anyone to see? That could be why he was wearing such heavy sweater on that hot day."
"Funny thing, father. I came up with the same thought. But if you measure the length and width between the residue marks, it comes to a bit less than 8 x 10 inches. Printer paper is usually 81/2 by 11, and it wouldn't fit between those four marks. But a photograph would. And after what you just told me about Peppers taking pictures, it's something I should probably look in to. You got a good eye, Father."
"Thanks, Sheriff. It's not like I don't trust the job you're doing. I just want justice for Mr. Rivera. The man deserved better than to be stabbed and left to die like a wounded animal on the front lawn."
Beckett pushed the chair away from the table and eased himself up. "I guess I better get moving, and find Tessa Peppers before she causes any more trouble. Do me a favor, Father O'Kenney?"
"Sure thing Sheriff. What do you need?"
"I'd appreciate if you went upstairs and said my goodbyes to Cassie for me. If I go back up there, I'll get stuck for another hour, and I really got to get back to work."
"No problem, Sheriff. I'll tell her you were suddenly called out on town business."
"Thanks, Father. I owe you one. And whatever you do, don't mention to her about Tessa Peppers being on the loose. I don't want to worry her. She'll be safe here in the hospital, and I'll have them add a security guard to her floor."
The Sheriff didn't wait for Kevin to comment, instead, turning and hustling out the cafeteria door like a man who was suddenly set free. The thought of having to deal with Cassie McKreedy on his own was not something he relished, but after all the man had been through in the last 24 hours, he didn't feel like he could refuse.
Grabbing the trays off the table, he stacked them in the correct bin, and made his way to the bank of elevators. He pushed the button marked "up", and when the elevator opened, stepped inside as it's only passenger. The doors were moving to close, when he saw a woman approaching with a small food cart. Trying to be polite, he rushed to hit the open button, but wasn't quite fast enough. As the doors came together, he caught a second look at the blond woman gripping the handle of her cart. She looked so familiar, and he was positive he had seen her before. But where that was, he couldn't be sure.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
"Really, Sheriff. Can't you just tell..."
The Sheriff put his finger to his lip as people gathered around the elevator. As they rode down to the cafeteria, Kevin jiggled his knee in worry over what it was the Sheriff needed to tell him. Was it something new about Marco's murder? Did he have an inside track on the explosion? Did he know about the money in the church safe? Or shit...maybe he knew about the nickel bag in the left hand corner of his sock drawer?
By the time the door slid open on the ground floor, his stomach was in a complete knot, but instead of finishing his conversation, the Sheriff joined the line of people selecting breakfast from the steam tables, piling his tray with scrambled eggs and bacon. Not sure what else to do, Kevin followed suit, although he was pretty sure if he tried to eat now, most of it would end up in a puddle in the parking lot. It wasn't until both men were settled at a table in the back of the room, that Beckett resumed his conversation.
"Sorry to go all cloak and dagger on ya, Father. But you know how the people in this town are. They think they have a bit of gossip, and they're like a dog with a bone." He stopped to chew on a piece of toast, and continued. "I got a call from the Fire Marshall this morning. He found the valve from the furnace, and it was obviously forced off. All the threads had been stripped. So the gas must have been pouring out at full speed."
"Did he know how long it was like that? Otherwise, how come it didn't blow up sooner? Not that I'm ungrateful it didn't, thank the Lord!"
"The Fire Marshall explained that. He said that to cause an explosion, there has to be gas saturation, you know, the filling of the house with the vapors, from 5 to 15 %. Any more or less, and it won't ignite. Then of course, you need something to ignite it. In the case of the explosion last night, it was bed time, so it appears no one was using any electrical appliances. In addition, the Franklins' had purchased a new pilot-less water heater about two years ago. It won't ignite until the water drops to a certain temperature. As far as he can figure, the water heater didn't go on, and the house over filled with natural gas. But when I kicked in the door, it let fresh air in, and the levels of saturation probably dropped to below 15%. A few minutes later, by coincidence, the hot water tank kicked on, and kaboom!"
"So what you're saying is... we just got lucky?"
"That's about the size of it, Father. You must have friends in high places." The Sheriff laughed at his own joke, and then suddenly went somber. "The important fact is someone planned the whole thing. Purposely forced the valve off in hopes of blowing that entire house up, and Cassie with it. Though for the life of me, I can't understand why."
Kevin watched the Sheriff scrape up the last of his eggs with his toast, and poked a fork around his own plate, wondering how to go ahead with the next part of the conversation. Taking a deep breath, he skirted the issue. "How long have you actually known Ms. McKreedy, Sheriff?"
The Sheriff thought about it a moment, and said, "Oh, I don't know. About three or four months, I think. I met her when she first came to town two years ago, but we didn't start seeing one another until just awhile back. The poor girl doesn't get out much. The agoraphobia keeps her rather sheltered. Why do you ask?'
"Are you sure there's nothing about her that would cause somebody to want to see her dead?"
Beckett narrowed his eyes at Fr. Kevin, and stopped in mid bite. "What are you getting at, Father O'Kenney?"
"Oh nothing specific, Sheriff. " He could tell he needed to tread very carefully around discussing Cassie McKreedy's faults with her new fiance. "It's just that...well...four months isn't a very long time to decide that you want to marry somebody. Not, of course, that I'm an expert on relationships, but I have counseled several couples during Pre-Cana. It's a big step."
"Yeah, it was a bit of a shock to me too, the whole wedding thing. When she cried last night about having no where to go, I offered to let her move in with me. To be honest with you, I wasn't really thinking about marriage. But you know, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. She's a wonderful girl, Father. And maybe it's time I thought about settling down. I'd feel better if I knew Cassie was cared for and safe. Especially with the news I just got before we came down."
He leaned across the table and whispered to Kevin. "The nurse came in to tell me that they can't find Tessa Peppers. I dropped her off at the hospital yesterday afternoon for a psych evaluation. Between the incident at the bank, and then her behavior with Cassie at the house, I thought it best. I was worried the old gal might be suffering from full blown dementia, and I thought it was prudent to get professional advice"
"So the hospital lost her?"
"They're not sure when she went missing. By law, we can hold her 72 hours while the psychiatrist does the evaluation. She was in bed at 8:30 when the nurse came in with her meds. The shift changed at 11, and the new nurse on duty came into the room, but seeing what she thought was Tessa sleeping, let her be. It wasn't until this morning that they noticed the figure under the blankets was just a pile of clothes Tessa had rigged to look as if she were there. Security checked all over the hospital, but it doesn't appear that she's in the building any longer. They're still going through security footage, but the administration decided it had better give me the heads up that she was gone."
"So you think she might of been the one to sabotage the gas valve at the Franklins?"
"I can't say for sure, Father. But I'd feel a whole lot better if she wasn't out wandering the streets. She can be...well...quite volatile. And of course, there have always been rumours. Complaints about her from other town's people. But nothing I could really prove or act on. And if I can be honest here, I worry about what might happen if she becomes Mayor. I might not be a psychiatrist, but if you ask me, that woman is a few sandwiches short of a picnic."
Still wrapped with indecision about whether to share Irwin's story with the Sheriff, Kevin put down his coffee cup, and motioned to the Sheriff to move in closer to him. "There's been something I've been meaning to tell you, Sheriff Beckett."
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Monday, August 13, 2012
With only two hours of restless sleep, Fr. Kevin had to work at getting through both the 6, and the 8:30 morning Masses. It was difficult to keep his concentration on the liturgy, when his wandering mind was elsewhere, skipping from the explosion, to the money stashed in the safe, and finally back to Marco's yet unsolved murder. He knew his parishioners wanted a full report on the happenings of the night before, but they were forced to be content with a quick handshake and the promise of a later chat. He wanted to stop by the hospital to check on Cassie before his meeting with the Sheriff, and he needed to squeeze breakfast or brunch somewhere in between the two.
Seeing Irwin Teller on the steps, waiting to speak with him, Fr. Kevin turned quickly to make his way back into the church before the kid could start with him.
"Father. Hey, Father O' Kenney, wait up! I gotta ask you something. Oh wow, your face still looks awful. It's like all purple and blue today. Awesome! Like a zombie or something."
"What do you want, Irwin? I'm kind a in a hurry this morning."
"I heard you were like a hero, Father. Rescued some lady. That true?"
"Not exactly. The Sheriff did most of the rescuing. But hey, it's been nice talking to you, Irwin. I really got to get going now." Kevin pushed the door open to make his escape.
"No wait, Father. I gotta ask you something."
"Really, Irwin. I gotta go...like right now. Official church business and all."
"I just wanted to know if I could borrow your big shovel? The red one over there by the grotto?"
"I guess it would be alright. But you know, people aren't going to like you digging up their lawns with that giant shovel. Maybe you want the little one we use for planting?"
"Oh no, Father. I'm not looking for bugs today."
"Then what do you need the shovel for?" Why he was letting himself open for further conversation, he didn't know.
"My friend Eddie Gerber says that there's all kinda cool stuff where that lady's house blew up. Said he found a busted ipod, a twenty dollar bill, and even some lady's underw..." Remembering who he was talking to, the kid blushed and went on. "Well, anyway, Father. I want to go over there and dig around. See what I can find for myself."
"Absolutely not! You kids shouldn't be over there. It could be dangerous. There might still be gas leaking, or something."
"Oh no, Father. The Fire Marshall was there already. He says it's all safe now."
"Still, those things don't belong to you, or Eddie Gerber. That stuff is Ms. McKreedy's, and Mr. and Mrs. Franklin's, and you should just leave it alone until the Sheriff can decide what to do."
"Aw, Father. You're no fun. Come on, Patches. Let's go find something else to do." The boy slid off the bench, and headed off, kicking a rock along as he did so. His dog suspiciously eyed Father O'Kenney, and let out a low growl before trotting after the boy.
Fr. Kevin went over and picked up the shovel, and propped it inside the church vestibule. No reason to leave it around to tempt the poor kid. As he went to the sacristy to change, he made a mental note to remind the Sheriff about Cassie's belongings scattered all over the neighborhood. He wondered if he should mention what Irwin had told him about Mrs. Peppers, but worried that the Sheriff might think he was a goof, listening to gossip spread by little kids. He'd have to think about that for awhile.
Too tired to bike over to the hospital, he decided to splurge and call for a cab. On the way there, the driver did his best to engage Kevin in a drawn out debate on the sensibilities of street parking, but he was in no mood for the recourse. After a few nods and smiles, he folded his hands, and closed his eyes, pretending to be deep in prayer, and after a bit, the driver lost interest.
Although he had been there just the night before, Jefferson Memorial was a sprawling complex, and he needed to ask for directions to find Cassie McKreedy's location. He was sent to the 6th floor, and was pleased to hear that she was well enough to be assigned a regular bed, out of intensive care. Finding the right room number, he knocked on the door, and although it was slightly opened, he waited to be invited in.
"It's okay. Come on in, Father O'Kenney," he heard a male voice say, responding to the knock.
He entered the room to find the Sheriff next to the bed, holding Cassie's right hand in his. For someone who only twelve hours before had entered the hospital unconscious and barely breathing, she looked mighty chipper. She had lost the hospital gown and was now attired in a frilly lace bed jacket, her hair pulled back with a silk ribbon, and sporting the pinkest lips he had ever seen.
"Ms. McKreedy, you seem to be much better this morning" the priest stammered.
"Oh, I am, Father! And I hear I have you and Teddy here to thank for that." She offered him her best smile, and then turned and sighed toward the Sheriff, giving his hand a tight squeeze.
"No thanks needed, Ms. McKreedy. It was the Sheriff that carried you out. I just happened to be there at the right moment."
"Oh Father, please call me Cassie. We're like family after all that excitement."
"Did the doctor say you'll be okay?"
"Oh yes. Just fine. Seems I might have gotten confused and mixed up my medications. Caused an interaction, the doc says. Silly me. Put me out cold. Never heard a thing."
"Well, I'm glad to hear you're going to be fine. That's wonderful news."
"Oh but, Father...you haven't heard the best news of all. Teddy and I are engaged!"
"Engaged?" The word slipped out of both men's mouths at the same time
She pouted at Teddy, and said, "Well, of course engaged! You don't think I'm the type of girl who would move in with a man without some intention of matrimony, do you? Really Teddy, what would Father O'Kenney think of us?" She continued on without batting an eye. "And of course, we'll want you to marry us at Holy Family, Father. Isn't that right, Teddy?'
Before the embarrassed Sheriff could reply, a nurse came in and asked to speak to him privately in the hall. Cassie waxed on about plans for the upcoming nuptials, and when Ted Beckett finally returned, Kevin could tell that something had drastically changed.
"Cassie, honey, I'm starving. Father and I are going to the cafeteria to grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. We'll be back in a bit."
The petite brunette stuck out her bottom lip, and whined, "Don't you be leaving me alone too long, okay? And bring me some chocolate when you come back."
It was obvious that Cassie had also noticed the change in the Sheriff's demeanor, but was chained to her bed by doctor's orders. Kevin was curious as to what had changed so suddenly in the last few minutes.
When the two men had left the room, and made it it to the end of the hall, Sheriff Beckett grabbed the priest by the arm to stop him. Leaning in he whispered, "I think we have a problem, Father. We need to talk somewhere privately."
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Gone. Everything. All of it. Simply gone. She had no money, no laptop, no home. Even her damn clothes were scattered around the neighborhood. Probably hanging in some asshole's tree. Her beautiful La Perla lingerie...her favorite pair of Manolo Blahnik pumps...the ones with the kitten heels... the Versace jacket...all gone in one giant fire ball.
Cassie McKreedy twisted her self out of the hospital bed sheets, and realizing the gown was fully open in back, turned and flopped into bed. How in the hell had this all happened? Right about now, she should have been on her way to the airport, with a boarding pass for an 11 AM flight to Tampa, and $80,000 worth of back-up cash in her makeup case. Instead, she was trapped in some damn hospital room, without a cent to her name, and not even a stitch of clothing covering her bare ass. She unconsiously reached for her iphone, and remembered that even that was gone. Poof! Not here anymore. Bye bye. This totally sucked.
While everyone was out of the room, she needed to get ahold of Dr. Patterson and explain what had happened. No way did she want the doc coming here, spilling the beans about her intended flight "home" to see her "brother, especially with Teddy stuck to her like glue. She had to admit, he was being such a sweetie. And from what the nurses had told her, she had him to thank for saving her life. He and that goofy priest. If they hadn't both been there, and smelled the gas when they had, pieces of her would be hanging in those trees right next to her fancy underwear. Shuddering at the thought, she pulled the covers tightly around herself to ward off the chill of her nearly close encounter with the Grim Reaper.
Freak accident? She wasn't sure. Teddy seemed to think so, but he did say that the Fire Marshall would be investigating. She didn't know much about those kind of things, furnaces, and gas leaks and the like. But if that crazy old bitch hadn't been locked up in the looney bin, she would have been more worried that someone was looking to take her out. The truth was, other than Tessa Peppers, she could not think of a single person who would want her dead. In fact, most people thought her simply charming.
She went through the list of old marks in her head. There was that incident in New Orleans, but that was over two years ago. If someone had been looking for her or Lizzie, they would have found them before now. It was doubtful the explosion had anything to do with that whole mess, but she'd check up on things when she got out of this land of sick people. She expected Teddy back shortly, hopefully with the list of clothes and necessities she had begged for. She pictured him in the drugstore looking for the Revlon lipstick shade Pouty Pink, and giggled. He really was terribly hung up on her. Poor guy. Completely and utterly smitten.
And it was because of that fact she could still pull herself out of this shitty mess. Without a dime to her name, and even the password codes in the suitcase gone, she was left using the only thing she still had left. Teddy. She was sure he'd jump at the idea of her moving in with him. Of taking their relationship a step further, and making it a bit more permanent. He did have that lovely old house, she thought, and as the town's only Sheriff, he probably did make a tidy income. The fact that he was hot, and "played" the same way she did, was a wonderful added bonus.
All was not lost. There was still that half million dollars. She just needed to find the stupid bitch. And in the meantime, life with the Teddy might not be a bad way to wait it out.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Saturday, August 11, 2012
The woman watched from her perch behind the garage. It was all happening wrong. The possibility of the Sheriff showing up had always been a risk. But the priest? Where in the hell had he come from? No, not him. It wasn't part of the plan. He shouldn't be here right now.
She closed her eyes, and with all her might, willed the priest to walk away. Go. Leave. Now. Her mantra, over and over again. As the priest remained standing in front of the house, she watched the Sheriff kick down the door. Watched him carry the heartless bitch out. Watched them all drive away with sirens blaring. And with fist clenched, and a moan escaping her lips, watched in utter frustration as the house blew apart, into a million pieces, without Cassie McKreedy inside.
Everything was a fog. Cassie McKreedy fought to drag herself from the deep. Heard voices. Saw lights. Hands on her pushing.
"It's going to be all right, Ms. McKreedy. You're at Jefferson Memorial. There's been an accident, but you're going to be fine. We're gonna take good care of you."
She tried to move her mouth. Tried to get the words out. But something was in the way. She couldn't find her tongue. Where was her tongue?
"Don't try to talk, miss. We've put a tube in."
Tried to think. What happened? Why here? Foggy head...hard to see.
"You are one lucky lady, you know that? Sheriff got you out just in time."
Teddy? Teddy's here? No. Not Teddy. No more. Have to leave.
"Ms. McKreedy, can you hear me? We need to know what you took? What drugs are you currently taking? Can you tell us?"
Cassie tried to push the words out...pushed hard...but it was like swimming in mud. Too thick. Too heavy. She felt herself slip back into the deep, dark emptiness.
It was almost 3:30 AM when the Sheriff dropped Fr. Kevin back at the rectory. He was tired. Near exhaustion from the stress and strain of last night's events. He crawled up the stairs to his bedroom, and kicked off his shoes. For awhile, he had been able to run on adrenaline, coping with the shock of nearly being blown up like the man of faith people expected him to be. But now...now that he was safe at home...the whole thing hit him like a punch to the gut.
He had never seen anything to match it. Not close up. First the roaring sound, and then the WHOOSH...all the walls of the huge house pushing outward and breaking apart into puzzle like pieces.
He shuddered at the thought that only a few seconds before, he had been standing on the now non-existent porch stairs. He bent his head in prayer and thanked the Lord for his rescue, and that of Cassie McKreedy.
The doctor had said she'd be okay. Talked about a possible drug interaction, but said her lungs appeared to have suffered no damage from the natural gas. He was grateful for the Sheriff's quick thinking, and his opinion of the man had grown after the trauma of the evening. He had a calm and collected head on his shoulders, and it was obvious he cared deeply for the young woman.
Hoping to catch at least a couple of hours of sleep before the 6 AM Mass, Kevin flopped face first into his bed, not even bothering to pull the covers down. He was too tired to worry about the money sitting in the church safe. Too tired to contemplate what might have happened tonight. Too tired to worry about the sense of evil that seemed to have settled over his parish the past month. He thought he saw Brian lurking near the end of his bed. Or maybe he was dreaming. Right now, he was too tired to care.
Copyright 2012 VictoriaRocus
Friday, August 10, 2012
Sitting in the rectory parlor, Fr. Kevin O'Kenney stared at the blue suitcase with a mixture of horror and curiosity. During his short tenure as a priest, he had remarkably heard quite a few strange confessions. But until now, no on had ever left an actual "gift" behind. And this one would cause him nothing but a headache.
For the average person, finding a suitcase full of money you couldn't possibly return, would be a reason to celebrate. For Kevin, it caused a growing state of angst and uncertainty. The woman had admitted to theft during the process of Reconciliation. She had told him that the money was taken from several people, and rather than return it herself, she had left him stuck with this financial albatross. By Canon Law, he was forbidden to speak to anyone, about anything, he had heard during the process of the sacrament. He couldn't go to the Sheriff, he couldn't ask around town, he couldn't even speak to the Bishop, who would certainly remind him of his vows concerning the process of Reconciliation. He was simply burdened with the problem of doing with it what he saw fit. And at the moment, he had no clue as to what that might be.
Kevin was sure other pastors wouldn't think twice about the dilemma. They'd figure the unexpected windfall was a gift from Heaven, and the money would make it's way into the parish building fund to finance a desired new project. For some reason, that plan made him uncomfortable, and knowing the people in this town as he did, they would surely keep at him about where the money for the project came from. He considered dumping the whole of it into some deserving charity, but it was a crazy amount of money, ($450, 000 to be exact...he counted) and deciding which specific one would take some serious thought.
Tired of sitting and grinding his teeth, he decided he'd try an evening walk to clear his head. Maybe even stop for a late snack and a double mocha latte. What he really wanted was a nicely rolled joint, but considering the situation, and the decisions he needed to make, it was probably a bad idea. So he slipped on his shoes and headed out the door, stopping first to deposit the suitcase and it's troublesome contents, into the church safe. He poked around in the bushes behind the building, on the off chance he might run into Brian, and insist he clean up the marshmallows still stuck to the stove's burners. But the little man was no where to be seen, so instead, he headed off in the direction of Starbricks to drown his problems in excessive amounts of caffeine.
Although it took him slightly out of the way, Kevin turned east to avoid going anywhere near the home of crazy old Peppers . He knew he should be more forgiving of the woman's issues. She was obviously elderly, alone, and fighting her own inner demons. But his nose still hurt like hell, and with the problem of the suitcase weighing on his mind, he was in no mood to forgive and forget. If a few additional blocks meant some peace and quiet, it was well worth the extra steps.
The night was overcast and moonless, and the humidity hinted at rain, leaving the streets of Dollyville silent and empty. Kevin was grateful for the opportunity to stroll unnoticed, his mind going over the events of the past few weeks. He rounded the corner, and headed past the home of Cassie McKreedy. He instantly corrected himself...the home of the missing Franklins, frowning as he remembered how the woman had lied to his face.
From the street to his left came a low voice, startling the priest out of his thoughts. "Nice night for a walk, eh Father?"
Kevin peered into the darkness to find Sheriff Beckett leaning against his patrol car. "It sure is. I guess the dreary weather has kept everyone else in tonight, huh?" Not being able to resist needling the elusive Sheriff a bit, he added, "What brings you out this evening, Sheriff? No trouble at the McKre...I mean the Franklin's home, I hope?"
The Sheriff walked toward the house's front porch. "No, no trouble now. I was just checking on Miss McKreedy, is all. She had a bit of trouble with Tessa Peppers this afternoon. Woman showed up screaming and cursing a blue streak. Claimed Ms. McKreedy stole her money, and insisted she wanted it returned."
At the mention of missing money, the sheriff had the priest's full attention. "Why would she think Ms. McKreedy had her money, Sheriff?"
"Well, I'm sure you know how Tessa behaves. Had a run in with her yourself, I hear," he smirked and motioned to Kevin's bandaged nose. "Seems the old gal might be suffering from Alzheimer's. Cassie...I mean Miss McKreedy...works as an accountant and financial planner. Handled some stocks for Tessa that went bad. Poor woman can't seem to understand that. Ms. McKreedy has been kind enough to not press charges, but I did want to make sure she was okay after all of the excitement. She's not well, you know."
Kevin wondered if Cassie had other reasons for not wanting to press charges, but held his tongue. He was about to remind the Sheriff about their scheduled meeting for tomorrow when the man stopped, and began sniffing loudly.
"Father, do you smell gas?"
The priest walked closer to the front steps, and breathed in through his nose. "As a matter a fact, I do. Gas leak somewhere, maybe?" As the two men moved closer to the porch, the smell became overwhelming.
The Sheriff raced up the front steps, and began pressing the bell, and pounding with his fists on the heavy door. He waited a moment or two, but there was no response. Shouting up towards the second floor windows he yelled, "Hello...Cassie? Are you there? I need for you to open the door, sweetheart. You need to get out of the house, hon." When she didn't answer, the Sheriff turned toward Kevin. "Father, call 911! Tell them we need a fire truck and an ambulance here right away...possible gas leak." He turned back towards the door, and with a solid thump, kicked it wide open.
From his spot on the sidewalk, Kevin could smell the natural gas pour from the open door. He pulled out his phone and quickly placed the call. As he was hanging up, he saw the Sheriff push through the opened exit with an unmoving Cassie in his arms. Alarmed at the sight, he asked, "Is she alright, Sheriff?"
"No! She's unconscious, Father! Get in the back seat of the patrol car. I'm going to lay her across your lap so she doesn't move around on the trip to the hospital."
"Shouldn't we wait for the fire department and the ambulance?"
"There's no time. I don't know how long she's been out, and how much gas she might have inhaled. Besides, the house was totally saturated. I'm not even sure it's safe for us to stay here."
Fr. Kevin awkwardly climbed into the back seat of the patrol car. The Sheriff positioned the comatose Cassie on his lap, and with sirens blaring, he begin to pull away from the curb. They had only moved to the end of the block, when a loud explosion rattled the car's windows. Looking out the back of the car, Fr. O'Kenney watched as Margie Franklin's dream house was blown into a million pieces.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Thursday, August 9, 2012
The moonless night, and the overcast sky, was a sign from the cosmos that she was good with the universe. Nothing would have felt right had it been one of those smooth, silky August evenings. The kind that just beg for a libation and a porch sit. Tonight the streets would be empty, the neighbors drawn to the hypnotic pull of summer reruns. It was a blessing of good will; the perfect night to take care of business.
She tugged on some dark slacks, and pulled the black sweatshirt over her head, smelling the gasoline from the last time she had worn it. It wouldn't do to think about that now. She needed to stay focused on the task at hand. It was lack of attention to details that got people caught. She allowed her rage to wrap around her like an invisible suit of armor, and let the humiliation and hurt of every perceived slight fortify her desire for vengeance.
Without a sound, the woman slipped out the back door, carrying a black tote bag, and using the alley and empty backyards to make her way unnoticed. Several minutes later, she arrived at her destination slightly winded, the pipe wrench in her bag weighing her down like a ship's anchor. Tucking herself between the side hedges, she patiently watched the window on the second floor that she knew was the woman's bedroom. Once the lights remained off for thirty minutes, she quietly made her way to the wooden door in back, the one that gave entrance to the house's basement.
The lock gave her no trouble, an easy jimmy with the pick, and she was in. It took a moment or two for her eyes to adjust to the blackness of the room, and she felt along the wall for the gas furnace. As she stumbled around in the dark, her toe met the leg of a wooden rocker, knocking it in to the wall with a loud thump. She held her breath, and moved to the staircase, waiting for the sounds of feet above her head. Worse case scenario, she could always bash her head in with the pipe wrench. Messy, but effective. When all remained quiet, she sighed heavily, and returned to the job she had come to do.
Using the heavy pipe wrench, she turned the valve on the pipe behind the furnace with more force than necessary. The knob came off in her hands, and she instantly smelled the pungent odor of natural gas spilling from the hole. Satisfied, she turned to seek out the hot water heater, planning to check the status of the pilot light, and quickly be on her way. It was a shock to find that at some point, the Franklins had purchased a new hot water heater, one with a pilot-less ignition. She swore to herself. When had that cheap bastard Franklin replaced it?
It meant that she'd have to wait until the water cooled off enough for the tank to automatically click on. She laid her hand on the unit, and felt the heat of the metal. Damn! It was still warm to her touch. It would probably be at least another twenty or thirty minutes before the tank went back on. She mentally did the math in her head. For the house to blow, the gas saturation would need to be 5 to 15% when the water heater ignited. Anymore or any less, and there would be no explosion, and no dead bitch. It would be close. If it took the whole 30 minutes for the tank to click on, then the gas saturation might be over the 15%, and she'd have to go back and open the basement door and windows, causing the levels to drop. It was risky, but couldn't be helped. She'd need to open those damn things, and then run like hell.
Picking up the tote bag, she made her way back out the door and across the yard. She decided to settle herself behind the garage of the house three doors away. It gave her the perfect view of the Franklin's large colonial. If luck were on her side, it wouldn't be long before they'd be picking up the pieces of the late Cassie McKreedy.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
From her second floor window, Cassie watched Teddy help the crazy bitch into his patrol car. For a while she had panicked, the fear choking up in her like a cobra around her throat. It had looked as if the whole thing was going to turn to shit, her luggage lying open on the bed half packed, and $4000 stuffed in the armoire. As much as the good ole' Sheriff had a thing for her, she still would have had some heavy explaining to do about the immediate hows and whys. But no worries now. Teddy had showed up only minutes after her call to him, finding Tessa Peppers screaming and banging on her door, and a frightened Cassie whimpering inside. After checking on her safety, he had been able to convince the old hag that she needed to leave with him, promising Cassie he'd call her later.
She hoped he wouldn't call at all tonight. It would just make things harder. She finished emptying the drawers, checking to be sure she had not missed any truly personal items. She slide the file folder with the account information in the false bottom of the largest case. Once in Tampa, it might be possible to wring a tiny bit more from several of the old accounts, and she'd need every penny to set up in a new location. Before unplugging the desk top computer, she printed up some phony paperwork showing Tessa's purchase of some now defunct stock. It never hurt to have your ducks in order, although she was pretty sure the old bitch had lost her credibility with that performance on the front porch.
Cassie locked the two largest of the cases and placed them on the floor next to the bed. She'd drag them down in the morning when she was fresher. Right now, she was near exhaustion. Leaving this time seemed more difficult than it had in the past. After nearly two years, she had come to feel comfortable in the little town. For the most part, they had stupidly handed over their money to her, and left her alone. But when she had wanted human companionship, her neighbors were willing to share bits and pieces of their lives, and that had made her feel more normal, and not so isolated with her issues.
And then, of course, there was Teddy. If she were honest with herself, she'd have to admit to caring for him more than any of the others. He was funny and charming, and seemed to genuinely care about her. In addition, he was not too hard on the eyes, and the way he had taken charge and handled the out of control Tessa was decidedly hot. With a sigh, she took the photo of the Sheriff off her night stand, and tucked it into her purse. It was the nature of her business, and not a whole lot could be done about it. She was wired differently then other people, there was no denying that. Maybe someday she could settle down to a vanilla lifestyle, but that time wasn't now.
At this moment, all she needed was a good night's sleep, and Dr. Patterson's help in leaving this house. Once she was safely ensconced on the plane, things would be better. She frowned at the irony of the fact that she felt safer in a tin box flying with the clouds then she did stepping out of her own home. It was the openness that did her in, and the tight confinement of the 747 was a relief. Besides, between the drug cocktail she was about to mix, and the hypnosis therapy Dr. Patterson would provide in the morning, she'd be okay until she could settle in Florida.
She grabbed the prescription bottles off the bathroom counter and popped the lids. Normally at night, she only took the Ambien. But with the events of the day lying in wait within her head, and the churning fear in her stomach about leaving, she decided to add a Xanax as well. The two combined would make her almost comatose, and that's just what she needed tonight; the ability to sink into oblivion, and not think about the trauma tomorrow's travels would bring.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Saturday, August 4, 2012
Hi loyal readers! It's that time of the year again...time to take the youngest child back to school! (Last time...yeah!) I will be away from home (and my minis) from Sunday, Aug. 5th until Tuesday, Aug. 7th, 2012. The next chapter in the story will be published on Wed., August 8th.
I appreciate all the support you've offered over the past 2 months, and promise not to leave you hanging before I return back to school myself. As always, if you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to leave them on this page, or send directly to me via email at email@example.com. I truly love hearing from you.
Please remember that the photos and posts found in this blog are the sole property of the author and may not be copied or reproduced in any way for commercial use.
Until next week, stay happy!
Reconciliation at Holy Family was, like the congregation itself, a bit old fashioned. As he slipped into the clean, pressed alb, Kevin let his mind wander back to his first few weeks as Pastor. His predecessor had scheduled time for Reconciliation once a week, alternating between Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Seeing no reason to change what his parishioners were familiar with, Fr. Kevin had decided to keep to the same days and times, hoping to make the transition a smooth one. On his very first scheduled day, he went to the church, settled himself into a pew at the front near the altar, and waited. Although he extended the wait time an additional hour, not a single penitent arrived. The same thing happened the following week, and the week after that, despite making God's mercy and forgiveness the subject of several homilies. It wasn't until a member of the church community thought to explain to the new Pastor that he was most definitely in the wrong spot to hear confessions.
Unlike the parish he was assigned to before this one, the community of Holy Family wanted nothing to do with face-to-face Reconciliation. He was directed to a small room off the sacristy, with a door on either end, and separated in the middle by an open space covered in a light weight, red curtain. This was, apparently, the one and only confessional on the church proper. He flushed remembering how he had thought the room a strange closet, and had begun to stack supplies in it. Once he had straightened out the whole business of location, he happily had a steady stream of faithful seeking the Lord's mercy on a regular basis. Normally, he missed the connection and bonding that came with a more personal approach to the sacrament, but today, with his face a colorful mosaic of bruises, he was happy to remain, like the mystical Oz, the man hidden behind the curtain.
He lay the purple stole over his shoulders, grabbed his rosary, and pulling the curtain across the opening, made himself comfortable in the quiet space. He was lost in prayer for quite some time when he heard the door on the other side open and close, and the fumbling of someone on the kneeler beyond the divider. He made the Sign of the Cross, and waited for the person to begin. After a moment or two, he heard a woman's hesitant voice begin in the traditional manner.
"Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was...well...um...a very long time ago."
Feeling for her discomfort, Fr. Kevin tried to encourage her. "You are most welcomed here. Start whenever you feel ready."
The woman opened up to him in a sudden gush of words. "Oh, Father. I'm not even sure where to begin. You see, I didn't mean for it all to go like this. It was supposed to be only for a little while, until I could get on my feet. But then, one thing lead to another, and it just got out of hand."
On the other side of the curtain, Kevin waited patiently for her to continue. When she said nothing for several minutes, he added, "Sin has a way of doing that. Just keeps piling up. But God's mercy and love can cross over the biggest piles. You'll feel better when you lay it all at His feet. Honest."
The woman sighed, and went on. "We stole some money, Father. Lots of it. From a whole lot of people that trusted us, and deserved better. And now I don't know what to do anymore. I just want out of this whole mess. I need to be able to start all over, fresh, in a new place. Be a better person than I've been."
Fr. Kevin wondered about the use of "we" in her confession, but added, "Then if you're truly sorry, you know what you need to do. You need to offer restitution...return that money and apologize for taking it in the first place. You won't feel better until you do so."
"I know that Father, and I wish I could. Honest I do! I'm so very sorry for everything I did. But...it's not only me at risk. If I tell, we'll both be arrested. I just can't let that happen, Father. Somebody else has to make this right. It can't be me."
Before he could make another comment, or even offer penance or absolution, he heard the sound of retreating footsteps and the opening and closing of the other door. Not wanting to break the privacy of the confessional, he waited silently on his side of the curtain. After thirty minutes or so, he doubted she'd return. Disheartened, he pushed aside the drape, and looked at the empty side of the room. On the kneeler rested a nondescript blue suitcase. He stood and picked the luggage up, noting that it was a lot heavier than it looked. There was no ID tag, no identification of any kind. Resting it on the table on his side of the confessional, he played with the closures, until they unlocked with a loud click. He hoped that maybe there was some way he could return it to the woman, because he was sure it was she that had left it. When he lifted the lid, he found himself staring, mouth open, at the largest amount of money he had ever seen.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Friday, August 3, 2012
This was bad, Cassie thought. Very, very bad. Neighbors began to stop what they were doing, and turned their attention to the front of Cassie's house. Even the mailman had halted dead in his tracks. Her plan was to slip quietly out of town, unnoticed. To disappear completely before people in Dollyville started figuring out that they were missing money, and that she was involved in some way. The crazy, old bitch on her porch could really screw things up.
"McKreedy...you thief! Where the hell is my Tom's Memorial Fund? I want it now!"
She needed to do something...and quickly. Daddy always told her, "When one door closes, honey, kick another one open." It was kicking time, for sure. Going to the front door, she unlocked the dead bolts, and holding it open just a crack, partially stuck her body out. As she did so, she could feel her throat close up a tiny bit more. "Mrs. Peppers? Hello." She grabbed the woman's hand and shook it profusely. "I was upstairs...vacuuming, and didn't hear the bell. Oh my, aren't we upset? What seems to be the problem, dear?" She spoke the words loud enough for the neighbors to hear, and pasted the sweetest smile she owned on her face.
Peppers was in no mood to be patronized. "You know damn well what's wrong, Missy! That money in the Memorial Fund? You stole it! Every last penny! I know it was you! You were the only one besides me that had access. Now let me in, so I can call the Sheriff"
As on cue, Cassie let her eyes water, and patted the old woman's hand. "Oh, poor Mrs. Peppers. You're having a problem with your memory again, aren't you dear?" She glanced over to her neighbors, who were so obviously listening, and gave a sad shake of her head. "Don't you remember, sweetie? You came to me six months ago, and wanted to invest in that stock you had read about it. You said it was a sure thing."
Tessa was momentarily confused, totally lost as to where Cassie was going with this conversation. "What the hell are you talking about, you damn bimbo?"
"You came to me and wanted to invest all of the fund. Said you could double Tom's money in no time." Cassie knew she had the attention of each and every gawking citizen, who were all busy whispering to each other. She raised the volume of her voice, and continued. "I tried to talk you out of it, Mrs. Peppers, honest I did. Remember? But you insisted you knew best, so I had a check made out in the full amount for the stock purchase." She made a mental note to jimmy up some stock documents as soon as she was done with the current crisis. "I'm so, so sorry that it didn't work out for you, honey. I truly am." She patted Tessa's hand once again. "You know how terribly unstable the Market is right now." She could see that even the mailman was nodding in neighborly sympathy.
A thought came to Tessa. She grabbed her hand away, and shouted, "You conniving bitch! I am no more senile than you are! I did no such thing! You're a damn thief and you stole my money! I'll show you how we handle garbage like you" She raised her hand to grab at Cassie.
Cassie, anticipating that Tessa wouldn't go quietly away, squeaked for the benefit of her audience, and slammed the door in the old woman's face. She grabbed her cell, and punched the number in for the Sheriff, while Peppers continued to bang and scream on her front porch "Oh Teddy! Come quick. Tessa Peppers has gone crazy! It must be the dementia. I've seen signs of it for months. She lost money on some stocks, and she believes I took it from her. She's screaming on my porch right now, threatening to kill me. Yes...she's totally lost it! No...I'm not over reacting. Didn't you tell me just yesterday that she made a fuss at the bank, and hit the priest in the face? She's violent, Teddy!" Cassie whimpered, and went on, " Oh Teddy...I'm so frightened. Please! You have to come right now. My throat! It feels like I can't breathe." She waited, phone in hand, and smiled. "Oh thank you, baby. I'll wait in side until you get here."
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
Thursday, August 2, 2012
She hated packing. Especially the here today-gone tomorrow type packing she seemed to find herself doing way too often. Cassie McKreedy moved through the house on a singular mission. She was allowing herself only three pieces of luggage. More than that, and it would be obvious to those watching that she wasn't coming back anytime soon. She could always replace things as needed when she got to Tampa, but she had come to love the big, quiet house, and the thought of leaving it made her sweat. This was all Lizzie's fault. A month or two more, and they could have been both been set for a long time. The therapy had started working, and there was enough cash to stay worry free for a few years. They would have had plenty of time to set up their next mark. Now, everything had turned to shit. Not in a million years would she have thought that Liz would pull a "runner" on her, but damn it, she'd be sorry when Cassie caught up with her.
The land phone rang again, and went directly to the answering machine like it had been doing since yesterday afternoon. She was sure it was probably either Tessa Peppers or the bank, and she had no intention of talking to either of them. Teddy had phoned her cell several times, and she had answered, not wanting him to make his way back to the house. But she had finally convinced him that she was going to be working on her therapy with Dr. Patterson, and couldn't be distracted. Hopefully, that would keep him off her ass for awhile.
She laid out the clothes for the large suitcase on the bed, and had just begun to sort through her shoes, when the cell phone buzzed on the nightstand. Seeing it was Dr. Patterson, Cassie took a deep breath and answered. "Good morning, Doctor. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. Well, as a matter of fact, I'm feeling terrible today. Yes, I'm following the treatment, but I received some terrible news last night, and it's caused me a great deal of anxiety" Cassie thought to herself that the statement wasn't much of lie. She really was totally freaked out. "No, it's not me. It's my brother...Bob...in Tampa. He's been in a serious car accident, and I need to go and be with him. Uh huh. Oh thank you, I really appreciate it. No, my flight's not until tomorrow afternoon. It was all I was able to get with such short notice. Yes, that would be great. And if you could refill the prescription for the Xanax I'd be ever so grateful. Well, I'm not sure how long I'll be there. It all depends on how injured he is. I might have to stay a while...until he can get back on his feet. Tomorrow morning? That would be perfect. Thanks so much, Dr. Patterson. I'll see you around 10 AM, then. Bye bye.
Cassie clicked off the phone, and smiled. That was easy enough. It was a shame she'd probably have to stiff Dr. Patterson on the bill. The woman had helped her make tremendous progress, and truly seemed to care about her welfare. But it couldn't be helped. There was no turning back now, and if Dr. Patterson was left with hurt feelings, well, then she could thank Lizzie for that. None of this was Cassie's fault. They had amassed that half a million over eighteen months, bit by bit, and no one had missed a penny. Both unsuspecting and trusting, her "clients" had accepted it as an increase in taxes, loss of revenue, or just bad financial luck. And twice a month, Lizzie would withdraw small amounts from a set up bogus account, so that no one would be the wiser. That had always been the corner stone of their success. "Slow and steady makes one ready. Getting greedy makes you needy." She smiled at the memory of her dad's lessons. If he were here now, he'd be pissed at her lack of judgement. Cleaning out that memorial fund had been a mistake born out of desperation, but it was too late to fix it now.
She pulled the make up case out of the armoire, and sorted out $1,200. She was just about to
pack the remaining cash in a black fanny pack, when she heard the chiming of the front door bell. "Please let it not be Teddy" she thought. "I'd never be able to explain all this." The overhang prevented her from seeing who was standing on the porch from the bedroom window, so she headed down the stairs toward the parlor, while heavy pounding was added to the chimes of the door bell.
"Cassandra McKreedy! You open this door immediately, do you hear me! I'm tired of you ignoring my phone calls. I damn well know you're in there! Open up now! We need to talk"
Cassie froze at the sound of the woman's voice. Fearing the worse, she peeked around the front window's drapes, only to draw back in shock. There on her front porch, in living color, stood a very red faced Tessa Peppers.
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus