|The group arrives at Beckett's cabin|
It was clear that punctuality was a code the Sheriff lived by. He arrived, as promised, at exactly twelve noon. Not a minute earlier. Not a minute later. Because he seemed a creature of habit, Kevin expected him to be driving the familiar black and white patrol car, so he was caught off guard when a new, black, Cadillac Escalade pulled into the rectory driveway.
Ted slid out the driver's side of the SUV, leaving the huge car idling. "Happy Thanksgiving, Father. We about ready to go?"
"Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Sheriff. I'm ready. Just waiting on Maureen. She's wrapping up a few goodies she made for the weekend."
Beckett looked at the watch on his wrist, and at the darkening sky. "I'd like to get on the road as soon as possible, 'specially with this storm following us the whole way. Some of the back roads can be a little nasty when they're wet."
As if on cue, Maureen stepped out, balancing her luggage and several bulky shopping bags in both hands. "Happy Thanksgiving, Ted. You can't believe how excited I am. This is going to be so awesome!"
The Sheriff gave her a warm smile, amused by her apparent enthusiasm. "We aim to please, Miss Momo. Here...let me give you a hand with the bags."
He trotted to her side, relieving her of the heavy load, and making Kevin feel a bit guilty that he hadn't thought to help her first. He locked the front door of the rectory, and joined them near the car.
"I was just telling your brother, Mo, that we should get a move on. I'd like to try and out race this storm. Rather not drive in a 'Nor Easter if I don't have to. By the way, what did you do with Basil while we're gone?"
"Mrs. Hoffman, from down the street, offered to take him for me. I thought it best to leave him behind."
"I agree. My Maggie loves the cabin, but hates the drive in the car. And with a possible thunderstorm brewing, she'd be a mess. I kenneled her with Doc Kinter over at the animal hospital.
From his perspective, Kevin was happy to be dog free. Although Basil had stopped snarling at him, the animal's eyes followed him with suspicion and distrust. For the life of him, Kevin couldn't understand what had changed in his make-up to make dogs in general dislike him so much. He was sure it had something to do with Brian, but as he hadn't seen the little man in almost three weeks, he had hoped whatever it was it would've worn off. Obviously, "it" still clung to him.
Ted opened the passenger door, and ushered them both in. Maureen slid across the seat, and the priest followed. Cassie sat stiffly in the front, and when Kevin offered a greeting, she didn't answer, instead offering him a wave of her hand. He just knew Mo would have to respond to the blatant dismissal. It wasn't in her nature to ignore a slight of any kind.
While Beckett arranged the luggage, boxes and bags in the back of the truck, Maureen leaned over the front seat, forcing Cassie to acknowledge her. "Oh Cassie, thank you so much for including us in your weekend away. It's going to be so much fun. I've never been away for the holiday before. Thanksgiving in our family has always been pretty much a circus. Too many people, too many whiny kids. Just the four of us, and adult conversation, will be a real treat."
Cassie turned around, giving Maureen a look that would freeze water. "You are most welcome, my dear. It will be...a change of pace... for sure."
Before she could face forward again, Kevin noticed the glazed look in her eyes, and the dilated pupils. All week, he had wondered how she was going to handle the long drive with her agoraphobia issues, and now could tell the woman was most assuredly stoned. Utterly and completely zoned out. If they were lucky, it would make for a much more peaceful drive.
For the first hour or so, the three of them engaged in general, convivial chit chat, while Cassie sat in stone cold silence. Occasionally, there was a slight snore from the front seat, but etiquette kept anyone from commenting on it. Then the winds and rain began in earnest, and the Sheriff's attention was forced on maneuvering down the slick, dark roads. Kevin and Maureen, watched out the window, each lost in their own musings. He wondered what is was his sister was thinking about, and why it seemed that the same white Volvo had been following them for the past 60 miles. He thought about mentioning it to the Sheriff, but scolded himself for being silly, and kept his worries to himself.
The rain was coming down in straight, heavy sheets when the Escalade finally pulled up in front of Beckett's cabin. The word "cabin" however, was a bit of an understatement. A better description might have been "country estate". Though made of rough hewn logs, the home rose several stories
up, with a large wooden porch that ran across the entire length, and an attached garage made to shelter at least three vehicles. Even through the torrential downpour, Kevin could see a lake set about 50 yards back, a large boathouse hanging on it's shore. This was definitely not your average little summer hide away. He turned to look at Mo, whose eyes were as big as saucers, and whose mouth was hanging slightly opened. Even the normally cool and collected Cassie looked a bit stunned, and Kevin was pretty sure she had never been here before.
The Sheriff seemed nonplussed about their reaction to his home. "Here we are folks. I suggest we leave all the luggage and supplies here, and make a run for it. I'll light a nice fire, we can relax, have a drink, and wait for the rain to let up a little."
The three of them, coats over their heads, made a dash to the covered porch, only to realize Cassie was still sitting in the car. Beckett unlocked the front door, and suddenly concerned, ran back to the Escalade to check on his fiancee. The sound of conversation was covered by the pounding of the rain, but Kevin could see Cassie adamantly shaking her head. In an instance, the Sheriff had scooped her off the seat, and kicking the car door closed with his foot, headed toward them.
"Welcome to my home away from home," he said, urging them forward and inside.
The front door opened up into a great room with a soaring cathedral ceiling, and a massive stone fireplace. He gently laid Cassie on the leather sofa in front of the fire place, and helped Maureen off with her sopping wrap. Seeing that both the women were attended to, he disappeared around the corner, and returned shortly with a bottle of French burgundy, and an unopened bottle of Jameson.
"I was hoping you'd do the honors, Father, while I fix us a nice, roaring fire." He handed the bottles to Kevin, and pointed to a wooden sideboard against the wall near the staircase. "You'll find glasses, ice, and mixers over there. Make mine straight whiskey, no ice. How about you ladies? What would you like?"
Some color had finally returned to Cassie's face, and she replied in a shaky voice, "A glass of burgundy might be good."
Maureen still seemed overwhelmed by the sheer size of the room, but politely answered
that a glass of wine would also be fine with her. While the Sheriff worked on building a suitable fire, Kevin fixed the drinks, and took stock of his surroundings. The place was masculine in every respect, but gave the impression of good taste and money. Lots and lots of money. All of it spoke of sizable wealth. The large Victorian back in Dollyville, the brand new Cadillac parked outside, and now, this showplace vacation home sitting on acres and acres of pristine real estate. All of it expensive, and decidedly out of the reach of someone on a county Sheriff's salary. Kevin silently wondered what the hell he and his sister were doing out in the middle of nowhere, with two people that neither of them knew the first thing about. A tiny spark of fear niggled at the back of his head, and he thought again about the phantom white Volvo.
Satisfied with his work on the fire, Beckett settled himself on the sofa, but not before grabbing two fuzzy blankets from a cabinet near the fireplace. He throw one across Mo's lap, careful to cover her still wet feet, and the other he tucked gently around the reclining Cassie.
"Well, now, this is more like it. Slainte!" He took a long sip from the glass of Jameson, and put his stocking feet up on the wooden coffee table. "I hope the rain slows down a bit, so we can get the stuff out of the car. I don't know about you people, but I'm near starving. There's a full Thanksgiving dinner out there that just needs some warming before we can enjoy it."
Kevin watched the rain pour down the windows in wet, twisting ribbons. "It doesn't look so bad right now. Should the two of us maybe try and unload the groceries? I'm a bit famished myself." As if to answer the pending question, there was a bright flash of lightening throwing shadows across the room, followed by a shaking clap of thunder. "Then again, maybe not."
The group sat around the fire, enjoying the crackling of the flames, and the quiet patter of rain. Fr. Kevin closed his eyes, and let the heat of the whiskey warm his stomach, and loosen the knots in his shoulders. He might have actually dozed off for a second or two, when the silence in the room was shattered by a piercing wail from somewhere outside. He jumped awake, slopping some of drink across the front of his sweater.
Bolting up from the sofa, Cassie squealed in her drug and wine haze. "Oh my God!
Teddy, honey, what's making that awful noise?"
Maureen had pulled the blanket tightly around her. "It...it sounds like a wounded animal. Poor thing." Her naturally pale complexion had gone a full shade lighter, making the few scattered freckles across her nose stand out even more. Outside, the wailing continued, and his sister shuddered.
"I should probably go and check it out. Make sure our belongings are secured out there." Ted pushed himself off the sofa, and slipped his feet back into his wet shoes.
Not really wanting to see what made that noise, but feeling he should offer, Kevin hesitated and then added, "I'll go with you Sheriff."
Beckett grabbed his shoulder holster and the 40 caliber Glock pistol from the hook on the wall. "No, Father. You stay here and keep an eye on the ladies." Thinking for a second, he reached for the shotgun hanging over the fireplace, and handed it to the priest. "Ever use one of these, Padre?"
He hated to admit it, but he had never so much as touched a paint ball gun. "Not really, Sheriff. But hopefully, I won't need to use it."
The Sheriff shrugged, and pointed to the safety. "I advise you, then, to leave this safety on until I say differently. Wouldn't want you shooting off your own foot." Speaking to the women in a voice that left no room for discussion, he directed, "Ladies, wait here with Fr. Kevin. Everything is going to be fine. I'm just going to go out for a minute and see what's up. Then we'll work on dinner."
With the Glock in hand, he opened the front door. The wind and rain blew in with gale force, causing the flames to shift in the fireplace, while the high pitched keening sound rang in their ears.
Maureen jumped from her chair, and hid behind her brother, who stood jiggling his left leg, rifle in hand. There was the sound of stumbling, and a solid thump, and through the howling rain, they heard the Sheriff angrily exclaim, "Damn! That really hurt! And what the hell is this?"
Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
|Fr. Kevin "on guard" inside the cabin|