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Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!



   Wishing each and everyone of you...the very best in the coming New Year!

                                                       Happy 2013!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support of my characters and storyline.  I treasure all your very kind comments.  Drop me a line in 2013, and let me know what you're thinking.  I'd love to hear from more of you. 

              Best Wishes,

                     Vicki

The Truth Hurts...

Fr. Kevin and the Sheriff discuss the murder investigation


     The two hour plus ride back to Dollyville felt a whole lot longer.  The Sheriff drove grim faced, the fingers on his left hand gripping the steering with more force than required.  At the far end of the seat, Maureen watched the scenery fly by, waves of noticeable bitchiness rolling off her tense shoulders.  Fr. Kevin felt like a piece of cheese sandwiched between anger and discontent, and when the truck finally pulled in front of the rectory, he almost jumped out of his seat in a rush to have the ordeal over.

      Beckett left the engine idling, and dug through the truck bed for their belongings.  Despite attempts by Kevin to engage him in conversation, the Sheriff was silent until he and Maureen turned to leave.  "I apologize, Miss O'Kenney for my harsh words regarding my missing fi...," he paused, "regarding Cassie... McKreedy  It appears you are the better judge of character, as it seems I have been made to look like an ass."  Sliding back into the truck, he leaned across the seat to speak through the open passenger window.  "Father...I'll be in touch."  And putting the truck in drive, he accelerated down the street, leaving both Kevin and Maureen standing with mouths wide open.

                   ________________________________________________________

       The weeks before Christmas are some of the busiest for most churches, and Holy Family was no exception.  Fr. Kevin had just finished rehearsal with the youth group's pageant members, and was in the process of pulling out the holiday decorations.  Without a maintenance man, the heavy lifting was left to him, and added yet another responsibility to his ever growing list.  He had invited Maureen to join him over at the church, but she had begged off, preferring to stay at the rectory and work on the parlor tree.

         Since their weekend at the cabin, she had been quiet and sad, asking only once if he had heard anything regarding the baby, while carefully avoiding mentioning the Sheriff by name.  Kevin had hoped to chat with her about future plans, but in her current state of moodiness, he thought it unwise.
Secretly, he sympathized with his sister.  He too missed the camaraderie Beckett offered.  Away from his Boston home, the Sheriff was the closest thing he had to a buddy.  Despite their polar opposite personalities, they enjoyed each other's company, and had developed a sense of mutual respect, as well as a similar taste for micro brews, billiards, and Irish whiskey.  Several times in the past three weeks he had thought about picking up the phone and giving Beckett a call.  But the awkwardness of the time spent at the cabin kept him from doing just that, and instead, he busied himself with pastoral duties.  So when, not ten minutes later, the Sheriff pulled open the church doors, Fr. Kevin was sure the Lord worked in mysterious ways.  Or at least had a sharp sense of humor.

       The priest walked down the aisle to meet him half way.  "Afternoon, Sheriff.  Long time, no see."  He knew it was a lame thing to say, but was at a complete loss to think of anything more clever.  Beckett stuck out his hand to shake, and Kevin reciprocated, thinking the whole greeting was weird.  They had never felt the need to shake hands before.

      "Sorry I haven't gotten back to you, Father.  Things have been...hectic.  I wanted to get as much information as possible before I talked to you.  Do you have a few minutes?"

       "Of course I do.  I'm finished here for the afternoon."  They walked to the front of the church, and Kevin pointed to the first two pews.  "Have a seat Sheriff, unless you would like to discuss this in the privacy of the sacristy, or even the rectory?"

        "No.  Here is fine, thank you."  He slid across the pew, while the priest sat across from him, one pew in front.

        "Are you here on business, Sheriff?"  Kevin tried to keep the tone of his voice light, but he could feel the knot growing in the pit of his stomach.

         "Business?  Yeah, you could say that."  Beckett leaned forward, and folded his arms on the back of the pew in front of him.

          "Your business...or mine?" Kevin asked.  In the light from the altar area, he could see the weariness in the Sheriff' face.  Ted looked like a man heavily burdened.   One who had not slept well in several nights.

           Becket smiled, and it looked out of place with the rest of his body language.  "Maybe a little of both, Father O'Kenney."  He glanced around the church.  "Is Maureen around?"

           "No, she's over at the rectory.  Putting up the Christmas tree.  Or so she said.  If you need her, I could call over there."

            "God no!  I was hoping she wouldn't be here.  I'm not really in the mood to 'eat crow' right now.  I wanted to run a few things by you first."

            "Go right ahead then.  I'll help in any way I can."

           The Sheriff reached in his back pocket, and pulled out several sheets of paper.  "The investigation of both the murder, and the baby, have been in full swing over in Plymouth County.  Sheriff Fenton is an old friend, and he's been keeping me in the loop."  He lowered his eyes to the floor.  "Unfortunately, I haven't been returning the favor...for reasons I'll get to in a few minutes."  He handed one of the sheets to Kevin.  "Look familiar?"

            The sheet was covered with what appeared to be mug shots, and when Kevin looked closer, he was shocked.  "That looks like your...uh...like Ms. McKreedy!  And the blond...?  Is that the poor dead woman?"

             "Unfortunately, you're right on both accounts.  The dead woman is Elizabeth Ann Donahue...alias Liz O'Connell, Lizzie McKreedy, Elizabeth Michaels, and Liz Kelly.   Among other names.  These were the only official aliases on file, though I'm sure there are more we aren't aware of.  The woman on the left...the strawberry blond...is non other than my..um..former fiancee...Cassandra Maeve Donahue.  She also has a string of phony names...Cassie McKreedy being only one of them."  He frowned and took the sheet back from Kevin's hands.  "She lied about everything, Father.  Her name, her background.  Even her damn age and birth date!  She told me she was 28.  Turns out she'll be 33 next month.  I can't believe I was such an ass."

              "I don't know what to say, Sheriff.  She had us all fooled.  When I first met her, she had me convinced that she had lived here in Dollyville all her life.  Grew up in the same house she now owned after the death of her parents.  Later, I found out that she was just renting that Colonial.  The original owners were away in Europe.  For the life of me, I couldn't understand why she went through so much trouble to make up a story like that.  Why not just tell me the truth?"

               "Because lying is what she does best, Father.  She's made a career of it.  Although it appears that her lies are beginning to catch up with her."

               "Are the two women sisters?  They sure do resemble one another."

            " No, not sisters.  First cousins.  Cassie's ole' man was a seasoned con.  Spent the last eight years of his life behind bars for fraud.  I guess the daughter and niece picked up where he left off."

           "But why was the cousin murdered?  How does this all tie in with what went on at the cabin?  I'm rather confused."

           "Well, it's taken me the better part of the last few weeks, but I've finally made some sense of the whole thing.  According to Sheriff Fenton, the autopsy on the dead woman showed that she had recently given birth, so we ran DNA on the vic and the baby.  Turns out the murdered girl is the child's biological mother.  She must have dropped that infant off shortly before she was killed.  Once we identified the mother, her arrest record came up, so we knew she had a history of digital fraud and
theft.  When Fenton emailed me these mug shots, I realized Cassie was in some way involved.  Did some digging on my own using all the aliases of both women.  That's how I found this story from the New Orleans Picayune data files."  He handed a stack of copied sheets to Kevin, who began skimming the report.

         Kevin read the bulk of the story, and looked at Beckett with a puzzled expression.  "So this all has to do with a robbery at a laundry company?  Seems a rather extreme reaction to theft."

          "That's where you're wrong, Father.  There's a lot more to this story than that reporter covered.  I checked around.  That cleaning service was owned by a certain Vincent Marzano.  Are you familiar with the name?"

         "Can't say I am.  Should I be?"

          "Marzano is a mover and shaker among an established east coast syndicate family.  He apparently moved his operations to New Orleans somewhere in 2008.  Over the past four years, he's launched several successful business around the town, mainly for the purpose of laundering the family's drug money.  Law enforcement in most of the Louisiana parishes is pretty corrupt.  It was the perfect place to set up housekeeping of this sort."

       "So the two women were involved with the syndicate?"

       "No, I don't believe it started out that way.  It looks like they were fleeing from a con gone bad in Texas, and headed toward New Orleans.  They both took jobs with Marzano's company, Speedy Wash.  The business cleaned linens and such for restaurants and hotels in the area, and appeared to be doing booming business.  Cassie landed a job as a bookkeeper, and her cousin as a receptionist.  I don't think they realized who it was they were actually working for, but the profits the place was pulling in was too much of a temptation for seasoned cons.  Somehow, they were able to digitally steal about a half million dollars of laundered money.  Marzano's people noticed the missing money, and blamed the office manager.  He was found dead, face down in a tub of boiling water, his fingers and tongue gone, but no sign of the missing cash.  Shortly after his death, both woman left New Orleans.  Disappeared."

       "And that's when they ended up in Dollyville.  Hiding out in some small town where no one would think to look for them."

       "At least in Cassie's case.  I haven't been able to completely connect Elizabeth to Dollyville, but I'm sure she was here somewhere.  That's how she knew to mention you by name in that letter that came with the baby.  She must have figured out that Marzano had found them, and was on the run again.  I'm not sure if she had warned Cassie or not, although living with the town's Sheriff must have made her able to let her guard down a bit.  But finding the body in the woods, in the condition we described, would have spooked her.  It's not surprising that she ran off the way she did."

        "Do you think Marzano will try and track her down again?''

        "It's hard to say, Father.  If his money is still missing, he'll keep looking.  And he has a nasty reputation for holding a grudge.  If he thinks Cassie disrespected him, she won't be safe anywhere."

         They were quiet for a few minutes, the story being a lot to absorb.  Kevin was the first to speak, not sure if he should venture into the Sheriff's personal feelings. "Despite the terrible things she's done in the past, you did care for her, Ted.  You planned on making her your wife.  I know how you must be pretty worried about her safety."

          Beckett leaned back in the pew, looking suddenly much older than his 34 years.  "I'm not sure how I feel.  I don't want to see her end up like her cousin.  No one deserves to end their days in that manner.  But I do feel like I dodged a nightmare."  He pulled a small velvet box from his jacket pocket, and flipped it open.  Inside, nestled against blue satin, was the largest diamond Kevin had ever seen in someone's hand.  "I had planned on giving her this at Thanksgiving.  But the weekend was going so poorly, I decided I'd wait until Christmas.  Good thing.  It would have disappeared...along with my Escalade, my shotgun...and the $1,200 she stole out of my wallet."  He snapped the lid back on the box, and returned it to his jacket.  "I just can't believe I was so stupid.  I'm glad your sister isn't here to remind me of just how much.  I'd appreciate if you'd keep this information to yourself, Father.  At least for the time being.  I just don't need another woman snickering at me behind my back."

          "I may not be an expert regarding women, Sheriff.  But I think I know my sister well enough to know she wouldn't kick you when you're down.  In fact, she'd probably feel bad for you."

          "That's almost worse.  Sympathy for the dumb, hopeless sap."  He rose and stretched, and waited for Kevin to do the same.  "I guess I didn't know anything about the real Cassie.  She was whoever she wanted to be at that given moment.  I went through her closet after we came home, looking for any kind of clue to where she might have gone.  I found boxes and bags of designer shoes, handbags and clothes.  Most with the price tags still on.  She was constantly getting packages delivered, yet, she never seemed to have any type of income.  I'm sure now that she was stealing from some unsuspecting person.  Probably here in Dollyville.  And I never looked into it.  Never gave it a second thought.  What kind of damn sheriff am I?  Sleeping with the biggest thief in town.  Totally oblivious to what was happening right under my nose."  He shook his head in disgust, and began walking to the back of the church.

         "Don't be so hard on yourself, Sheriff.  I'm pretty sure you're not the first person to lose your heart to a beautiful woman."  Once again, a lame statement.  It was times like this, Kevin wished he was better at the personal counseling aspect of his vocation.

          "You're a nice guy, Father, and don't take this the wrong way, but I'm not sure I need ...or want advice on... relationships... from someone who lives his life celibate.  No offense."

          "None taken. Although honestly... it's not like I sprang from my mother's womb a priest, you know.  Still, I guess you need to work this out on your own."  They arrived at the door, another awkward moment in the making.  "Is there anything I can do for you?  To help with the case?  Find Cassie?"

          "No.  This all comes down to good ole' investigative footwork.  Mark my words, Fr. O'Kenney, I will get to the bottom of all of this.  Find Cassie.  Find that missing money.  And end it once and for all."

           "Of that I have no doubt, Sheriff.  I'm here if you need me."

           "Thanks, Father.  I appreciate you listening to me vent."  He offered a wave of his hand, and walked back to his patrol car.

                             _____________________________________________

         It was already getting dark when Kevin made his way back to the rectory, so he didn't see the opened door until he was almost on top of it.  He frowned, and glumly hoped that it allowed the damn dog to slip out and run away.  Calling out to Maureen, he walked into the parlor and stopped dead.  The room was a mess, chairs over turned, cushions torn, drawers emptied and dumped in a pile on the floor.

        "Maureen?  Are you here?  Answer me!"  He ran through the house, his heart pounding, and cold sweat building on his forehead.  Each room was in the same state...and empty.  He found Basil stuffed in an upstairs closet, and for the first time since the pup arrived, he actually seemed happy to see Kevin.
But there was no sign of Maureen, and it was obvious there had been some big struggle.  He grabbed  his cell phone to dial Beckett, when suddenly, the device rang in his hand.  He looked at the caller ID, and read a number he didn't recognize.  He almost didn't answer, but fearing it might somehow be his sister, he clicked the button.

         "Hello?"

         "Fr. O'Kenney?"

         "Speaking.  Who is this?"

         "Father...I believe I have something that belongs to you.  And I think, maybe, that you have something that belongs to me.  I'm offering a trade."

Fr. Kevin comes home to trouble



Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
All Rights Reserved

 

       




     


           
     

       

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Rock-a-Bye Baby...

   

Beckett charms Maureen with his pancake flipping skills

       One would think, that after the kind of night he'd suffered through, sleeping in would be a well-deserved option.  But shortly after dawn, Fr. Kevin could hear the baby fussing, and his sister shuffling around the room.  He kept his eyes closed, pretending to be dozing, and after a few minutes, the two early birds left the room and headed downstairs.  Try as he might, he couldn't get back to sleep, and eventually gave into the morning sunlight streaming through the bedroom windows.

      He washed and dressed, then set things up for Mass.  When Maureen didn't return to join him, he figured she must be tied up with the little one, and started without her.  By the time he finished the last prayer, he could hear voices downstairs, and smell breakfast in the making.  Kevin ambled into the kitchen to find the Sheriff at the stove, spatula in hand, pancakes stuck to the ceiling and stove, and his sister and Beckett in a fit of giggles.  Normally, he would have found the scene amusing.  But today, the joviality seemed out of place.

      Maureen turned to greet him, her face flushed from laughing.  "Oh Kevin!  You missed it!  Ted was showing me his 'expertise' in the art of pancake flipping."

       "I guess I'm a bit rusty."  The Sheriff smiled, and pointed to the mess he had made of the kitchen.

         "Uh...so I see."  He stood there expressionless, his arms crossed in front of his chest.

       Maybe it was the tone of his voice, or his telling body language, but both Beckett and Maureen stopped laughing, and stared at him sheepishly.   In the months to come, he would look back on this moment, and feel guilty at stealing their bit of found joy in a terrible situation.  But right now, having no crystal ball to see into the future, he was just plain pissed.  There had been a young girl brutally murdered, and an orphaned baby left like a puppy on the doorstep.  Not to mention the fact that the Sheriff's own fiancee had gone missing only twelve hours before, and here he was, trying to charm another woman.  A woman who just happened to be the pastor's little sister.

      And what the hell was wrong with Maureen?  Hadn't she learned anything from her experience in Boston?  Why did she continually set her sights on men who belonged to someone else?  Was this some kind of game to her, or was she just naturally self-destructive? He was about to open his mouth and say something that he would undoubtedly regret, when, surely by divine intervention, the doorbell rang at the front of the cabin.  Beckett wiped his hands on a towel, and left to answer the door, while Maureen made herself busy fixing a fresh bottle for the baby, careful not to meet Kevin's face.

     They could hear the Sheriff talking to someone who answered in a woman's voice, but the volume was too low to hear what was being said.  They didn't have long to wait before Beckett called out to them from the great room.

      "Maureen.  Fr. Kevin.  Can you come out here, please?  And bring the baby with you."

      His sister lifted the baby from her basket, and bottle in hand, she and Kevin joined the Sheriff and his visitor, who rose from her perch on the sofa.

       "Mrs. Parker, these are friends of mine, Fr. Kevin O'Kenney, and his sister, Maureen O'Kenney.
They were also here when the baby was found on the porch."  Noticing their curious stares, the Sheriff explained.  "Mrs. Parker is with Children and Family Services here in Plymouth county.  She's come for the baby."

        Maureen paled, and held the baby closer.  "Come for the baby?  But I thought you...you said...the baby was coming back to Dollyville with us?  That she'd be placed there."

       "Well, that's what I originally thought, but policy here in Plymouth states that the infant must remain in the location it was found.  Just in case the mother, or extended family, might be in the area."

        It was clear that Maureen was at loss over the new developments, and she stumbled over the words.  "But...what about...about the n..."

        Before she could get the rest of the sentence out, Beckett suddenly cut her off, stepping in front of Maureen, sliding the baby out of her arms, and handing her over to the caseworker.  "Ms. O'Kenney has become quite attached to the child.  She's done a wonderful job of tending to her these past few days."

         "I can tell she's been well cared for by experts, Sheriff Beckett.  Thank the Lord she was left here with responsible people.  Who knows what the outcome might have been if the parent had chosen a different spot.  Ms. O'Kenney, you have our sincere gratitude."

       Seeing Maureen's stricken expression, Kevin felt awful, and put an arm around his sister's shoulder.  Her tenure as a social worker for Catholic Charities should have toughened her up, but every sad case still seemed to crush her heart.  He hoped the woman would take the baby and leave.  Soon.  Before Maureen lost her composure, and broke down in tears.

          The Sheriff disappeared into the kitchen, and returned with the basket the child had arrived in, along with the remaining formula and diapers.  Kevin thought about the note that came with the baby, but a firm look from Beckett kept him from asking.

          "Here you go, Mrs. Parker.  This is the basket she was found in, and uh...everything that was in it.  Can I help you carry all this to the car?"  As he talked, it was obvious the Sheriff was herding the woman towards the door.

       "That would be very helpful.  Thank you, Sheriff."  Taking the pink and blue afghan and wrapping it around the infant, Mrs. Parker reached out to shake hands all around.  "Father, Ms. O'Kenney...on behalf of Plymouth County, we surely appreciate your kindness.  We'll take good care of this little angel."

         Maureen, patted the soft, red down on the top of the baby's head, and asked in a small voice, "Will she be placed in foster care?"

       "Why yes, of course, dear.  We'll find her a lovely temporary home until we can locate a blood relative."

         Over the course of her career, Kevin had heard his sister tell more than one horrible tale of foster care gone wrong, and of defenseless children who seemed to fall through the cracks of bureaucracy.  He didn't wait for Mo to begin sharing her opinion, and taking the case worker by the arm, offered to bless the baby as he maneuvered she and the child outside, and into the waiting car.

        Neither he or the Sheriff said a word as Parker's car pulled out of the driveway and headed toward town.  They lingered and watched as the car drove out of sight, not anxious to face Maureen's wrath over what she would perceive as disloyalty and cold heartedness.  And true to form, she was standing in the middle of the room, eyes narrowed, and hands on hips.  A red headed time bomb waiting to verbally shred everything in her path.

       "Damn it!  Why didn't either of you tell that woman about the frickn' note in the basket?  It's obvious that who ever left this baby knows Kevin!  Knew he'd be here!  So it's gotta be someone from the parish who followed us out here.  Maybe the same person that was driving the white Volvo Kevin saw on our ride up?  There's no way they're gonna find any family here in Plymouth, 'cause the Mama is surely from Dollyville.  And you two morons let that case worker drag that poor child into foster care.  She'll be passed around like a damn box of peanuts!  How could you be so cruel?"  In her rage, she tore off her left slipper, and flung it at her brother, clipping him along side his head.

     The Sheriff was in her face before she could whip off the other slipper.  "Use some damn common sense, Maureen.  You're acting like a spoiled child!  Do you recall how Cassie reacted to the letter...and the baby's red hair?"

      "That's because Cassie's a bit..."  She saw the expression on Beckett's face, and decided to change her verbiage.  "She's not a very kind person.  No one else would think such terrible things about Kevin."

      "You can't be that naive?  Of course they'd think the same thing.  It would a juicy, lewd, little story.  The kind people love to comment on, and then spread around.  Can you imagine what that type of nasty gossip would do to your brother's reputation?  Good God, girl...wise up!"  He waited a few seconds to let the realization sink in, and then continued.  "Both Sheriff Jenkins and I feel the baby has some connection to the dead woman.  It's just too much of a coincidence.  Once they do an autopsy on the body, they'll be able to tell if she had recently given birth.  If it appears she has, then we test the vic's DNA, and the baby's, and see if there is a match.  Do you really want your brother involved in a nasty, violent murder investigation that he probably has nothing do with?"

         Kevin could feel the heat rise from under his collar, and make its way up to his cheeks.  After the whole incident with Tessa Peppers, the Bishop had scolded him, and insisted he keep his nose out of
criminal business.  How would he ever explain being tied up with that poor girl's horrible murder, or for that matter, an abandoned baby left specifically to him?  He had thought the dead woman looked a bit familiar, but he certainly didn't know who she was, or whether or not the baby belonged to her.  And although he felt a mite guilty for not doing more, he was grateful that the Sheriff believed his innocence, and felt inclined to keep him out of the whole mess.

         Maureen pondered Beckett's words before answering.  "But won't the other Sheriff think it's odd that the baby was dropped at your cabin?  Why here, and not somewhere in the town?"

         "You make a valid point, Maureen.  But the body was found less than three miles from here, and if the woman and the baby are connected, as we think, then it's plausible she dropped the child at the only place she could find if she was being chased.  There's not another home near here for miles."  He turned and looked pointedly at Kevin.  "And if you know anything at all about either the baby, or the
the vic, I suggest you tell me right now."

         Blushing, Kevin stammered out an answer.  "Honest, Sheriff.  There's almost nothing I can add.
I don't have a clue as to who left this baby.  No one sought my counsel about an unexpected pregnancy, or asked my advice about placing their baby.  We have channels set up for that, and I would have directed the woman to them."  Returning the Sheriff's glare, he continued.  "And if you are asking, or insinuating, that I am the father of that child, I most emphatically say no.  I would have hoped by now that you knew me well enough to have answered that question on your own."

       "Look Father...I didn't mean to piss you off.  I just want to get all the pieces in order.  This has gone beyond an orphaned baby to a major murder investigation.  I can't help you if you're keeping things from me."

       "If you ask me, Sheriff, maybe you should look to your own missing fiancee."  Maureen pointed her finger at Beckett, and huffed, "She certainly took off in a hurry.  Right after we came back from the woods.  Maybe she knew more than she was telling?  Why else would she run off like that?"

       The Sheriff, near exasperation, exploded.  "Don't think I haven't thought of that myself, Miss O'Kenney!  But it's so 'nice' of you to bring it up.  You know, it was obvious you never thought much
of Cassie, although I don't see how your personal feelings have anything to do with what's going down  here.   I resent you trying to drag her into this mess. "

         Kevin could sense that the conversation had gotten well out of hand, and was moving toward a downward spiral.  He stepped between his sister and Beckett, acting as barrier.  "This bickering is not helping the situation.  May I suggest we pack up, and head back home as soon as possible?  There's no reason to linger here.  If Cassie ends up anywhere, it will probably be back home."  He turned his attention toward his sister, and warned, "And the Sheriff is right.  His relationship with his fiancee is none of your business.  I'd rather you didn't bring it up again."  He knew he would hurt her feelings, but it couldn't be helped.  He would deal with that when they returned home to the rectory, without the Sheriff as an audience.

         "Sound advice, Father.  Let's plan on leaving in an hour.  Now, if you'll both excuse me, I'm going to go clean up the pancakes."  He abruptly turned on his heels and headed toward the kitchen.

           Maureen gave her brother a long, cold stare, and marched up the stairs, hopefully to dress and pack up her belongings.  Fr. Kevin sighed, said a silent prayer for patience, and followed suit.

                              ______________________________________________


        In less than an hour, they were ready to leave, their belongings strapped down in the back of the pick-up, and the three of them squashed together in the front.  Conversation was at a bare minimum, with unsaid words hanging like a thick curtain between them.  It was almost a relief when Beckett's cell phone rang, breaking the uncomfortable silence in he truck.

        "Beckett here.   Oh hello, Sheriff Fenton.  What's up?  Uh huh.  You did?  That's great.  Yeah, I have a few minutes, go ahead.  No, we were getting ready to head back to Dollyville.   No, it's fine.  Just give me the basics now, and you can send the rest to my email.  I can check it from my iphone. Really, it won't be a problem.  Elizabeth Donahue?  No, the name doesn't ring a bell.  She was, huh?  I suppose you'll want to do a DNA swab on the infant.  A Mrs. Parker from Children and Family Services picked her up a few hours ago.  Yeah, check with their office on where the baby was placed. Uh huh.  No, I agree.  Well, it clears up a few things at least.  It's a shame that such a young woman got herself mixed up in that kind of business.  Yeah, I know.  But you never get used to it.  Well, thanks for keeping me in the loop.  Appreciate it.  If there's any connection on my end, let me know.  Be glad to offer my assistance.  Thanks, Sheriff...and I'll look for that email."

         Without a word to either of his passengers, Beckett pulled out of the cabin's driveway and headed
toward home.  A few minutes later, his phone beeped, signaling an incoming email.  The highway was virtually deserted, yet the sheriff pulled off to the side, and flipped on the emergency lights before  attending to the cell phone.  Maureen stared out the window, doing her best to ignore everyone in the truck, but Kevin watched as the Sheriff read over the contents of the message.  It took several minutes, and through it all, Beckett stayed silent, his eyes wide, and his lips pressed together in a tight line.  When he was finished, he slammed the cell phone into the cup holder, and pulled back onto the road, foot to the gas, and driving with a renewed sense of urgency.

                          _________________________________________________    
     

         In a run down motel room, somewhere off the Ohio Turnpike, a young woman toweled dry
her newly colored hair, the red dye still clinging to the bowl of the sink.  Facing the unfamiliar reflection in the mirror, she picked up a pair of new scissors, and began to clip away.


Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus
     

       

   

     

           



       





Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Greetings...


                 Wishing you all a very happy and blessed Christmas!  Thank you so much for your support of my "little literary endeavor".   I hope you enjoy reading about these "mini" characters as much as I enjoy writing about them.

Vicki  aka "Madame Mystery"

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gone...But Not Forgotten

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



                             

         

       


     

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Big Trouble from the Big Easy

Cassie in the cabin's Master Suite
             

        It was nearly 5:00 PM by the time they made it back to the cabin, cold, wet and thoroughly exhausted.  The rain had let loose in a torrent of stinging, cold drops, soaking them to the skin, and making the last mile or so a true character builder.  With Maureen's teeth chattering loud enough to hear, and Kevin's wet socks rubbing in his shoes, it was hard to tell who was more miserable.  Oddly, the sheriff seemed impervious to the bad weather, setting a brisk pace, and having to stop every so often to let the other two stragglers catch up.  When the log building came in sight,  Fr. Kevin gave a sigh of relief, and literally pushed his sister towards the porch.

      The group was met at the door by a very agitated Cassie, a wailing baby thrown over her left shoulder.  "Where the hell have you people been?  You've been gone almost six hours, and this freaking baby has been fussing for five of them.  I'm going crazy stuck here."  She moved to hand the baby to Maureen, but realizing she was sopping wet, drew the infant back across her chest, and turned toward  Becket.  "And you... I've been dialing your cell all afternoon.  You didn't pick up once.  What the hell is that all about?  You know how I get, and you just leave me hanging?  That's bullshit Teddy! I'm not playing second to anyone."  She scowled at Maureen, walked toward the great room, and plopped the crying baby into her basket.

      The younger O'Kenney trailed after her, leaving huge wet puddles with every step.  "For your information, Cassie McKreedy, this day has been a complete nightmare!  You know what we found in the woods?  A dead girl, that's what!  So don't you go railing on me about your afternoon.  I'll never be able to get that horrible image out of my head."

       Cassie whirled around to face Maureen, her face a distinct shade of gray.  "A dead girl?  What do you mean... dead?  How did she die?  Who was she?  How did she get in the woods?"  The words ran together like watercolors in the rain, with barely a breath between them.

        Before either Beckett or Kevin could stop her, Maureen, near hysterics herself, went on.  "How the hell should I know who she was.  One minute we're walking along, then boom!  I practically trip over a dead woman lying there in the dirt!  It was the most horrible thing I have ever seen.  Her throat was cut from ear to ear, and there was blood everywhere.  The ground was soaked with it, and there were bugs crawling all over her face...all over her open eyes."  She stopped and shuddered.  "But the worse thing was her hand.  It was...was...cut off at the wrist and jammed in her mouth.  Like some kind of broken doll..."

          Cassie gasped, and although her lips were moving, no sounds came forth.  She teetered for a moment, then slumped to the floor in a dead faint.

            ____________________________________________________________________

           An hour later, things were more under control, at least in appearance.  Cassie was settled in an upstairs bedroom, Ted at her side, the baby had been changed, fed, and rocked back to sleep, and now in dry clothes, Kevin and Maureen rested in silence in the cabin's great room.  Hard as they might, they could not ignore the loud conversation coming from the floor above them.  Cassie's high pitched ranting floated down the stairs, followed by Beckett's low pitched timber.  What ever was going on between the two of them, Kevin felt it shouldn't involve either he or his sister, and refused to allow Mo to drag him into speculation about what might be ensuing.  In fact, he wished with his whole heart he were back in the quiet comfort of his rectory, watching one of several Thanksgiving Bowl games.

           When the Sheriff finally made his way to join them, he didn't seem to be in any mood to discuss his personal business.  He poked around a bit with the fire, and once satisfied with the level of flame, parked himself in an over stuffed chair, closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead.  "I'm afraid I need to apologize if you heard any of that conversation.  This whole murder thing really has Cassie spooked, to the point she's working herself into a frenzy over it.  I tried calming her down, but she's insisting that we leave immediately.  I convinced her to take her meds, and I'm hoping she'll just sleep through the night.  I really don't feel like driving all the way back in this bad weather."  He leaned forward, placed his hands on his knees, and turned his attention to Maureen, who was curled in a corner of the sofa.  "Look, I realize this wasn't the weekend get away you imagined, and for that I am truly sorry.  I promise, we'll try this again, and it will be way better.  Honest.  You have to see this place when it snows.  Just beautiful.  And the cross country skiing is fabulous."  He paused, looking so earnest, even Kevin felt bad for him.  He hoped his sister would at least be polite, if not cordial.

          But Maureen was...well... Maureen.  She brushed a stray curl from her forehead, and looked at  Beckett with cool, green eyes.  "Please, Sheriff.  Don't give it another thought.   None of this is your fault, and you don't owe us any apologies."  She went back to flipping through a magazine, and it was obvious the conversation was over on her end.

        The Sheriff took her disinterest in stride, and rising from his chair, added, "Well, the invitation is always open... to both of you... if you change your mind.  Now, how about we see to some supper?  I've been thinking about those leftovers for the last three hours."  Without waiting for an answer, he turned and headed toward the kitchen.

                   _____________________________________________________________

        While her fiancee was making a turkey sandwich downstairs, Cassie McKreedy was pacing the floor of the cabin's Master Suite, her breathing shallow and quick. How in the hell had Marzano tracked her here...in the middle of nowhere.  It had to be him.  Who else would leave such a grotesque calling card?  And that poor dead woman?  Could it possibly be Lizzie?  Oh damn, not her cousin.  Why would she come back to Massachusetts?  That made no sense.  None at all.  And that baby?  Was it Lizzie's kid?  That seemed impossible.  Surely she would have known if her cousin had been pregnant, wouldn't she?  Her head pounding, she began rummaging through the dresser drawers, pulling things out, until she found one of the hooded sweatshirts Teddy was so fond of wearing.  This would do.

         Cassie knew she should feel some deep seated grief, maybe even guilt, over the death of her own flesh and blood. But at this very moment, her only concern was escaping with her ass intact.  She slipped the sweatshirt over her head, tucking her hair inside the hood until it was completely covered.
From the closet, she grabbed a pair of Ted's Levi's and pulled them on over her leggings.  They were several sizes too big, and inches too long, but with a few rolls and tucks, she'd make it work.  Dressed this way, if someone were watching the cabin, it would be hard to tell if the figure leaving was a man or woman.

      For a second, she felt the loss of everything she was leaving behind, including Teddy.  Would he be hurt?  Miss her when she was gone?  She shook the thought from her head.  Ted Beckett's feelings wouldn't matter at all if she were dead.  End up gutted like some damn fish in the market, her throat cut like poor pathetic Lizzie.  Besides, Ted didn't truly know her.  The real her. Only thought he did.  And maybe that was a good thing.

         She dug through the pockets of his damp jeans, and found the keys to the SUV.  He had left his wallet on the dresser, and flipping it open, she took out a stack of folded bills, and slipped them in her back pocket.  Again, a momentary stab of guilt.  Teddy had been good to her.  Didn't deserve her ripping him off, and disappearing without a word.  She might have actually cared for him.  At least a little.  But sometimes, these things couldn't be helped.  Maybe someday she'd make it up to him.  Maybe.  Someday.

                      ________________________________________________________

       Despite the stress of the day, appetites were hardy.  The three of them dug into the Thanksgiving leftovers, perched on stools around the kitchen's breakfast bar.  With mouths full, there was no need to speak.  They munched quietly, each person contemplating the events of the horrible day, while the storm raged outside.  With a clap of thunder, Maureen jumped a bit, and then narrowed her eyes, her attention focused toward the front of the cabin.

       "Did you hear something?  Sounded like it was coming from outside the cabin. A car, or something?"  She held still, and listened intently.

       Kevin stopped chewing, and listened for a moment.  Confident it was only the rain, he went back to eating his sandwich.  "Naw, it's just the storm, Maureen.  You're awful jumpy tonight, and that's understandable.  You know...considering what went on today."

      The Sheriff nodded in agreement, but Kevin noticed he felt around for the Glock stuck in his waistband, and after a few moments of listening, Beckett wandered into the great room to check for himself.  The baby was still sleeping peaceful in her make shift bed, and hearing nothing from above, he made his way upstairs to check on Cassie.


    After several minutes, he was back in the kitchen, his lips pressed into a tight line. "Cassie's not upstairs.  Anywhere.  And the keys to the Escalade are missing, along with the hunting rifle.  Damn, I think she may have taken off on her own."


Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus

     





         

           

       

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Into the Woods...

Morning Mass in the cabin bedroom
   

      Despite the fact that the bed was twice the size of his attic mattress, luxuriously dressed with feather pillows, and a soft patchwork quilt, Fr. Kevin O'Kenney had a rough  night.  When he did sleep, he had wildly frightening dreams in which an army of red headed babies with sharp pointed fingernails chased him through the pouring rain.  But for most of the hours after midnight, he tossed and turned, rumpling the bed coverings into a tangled mess, and staring aimlessly into the black.

         By 5AM, he finally gave up and hauled himself out of bed.  He hadn't thought to pack a robe, so he slipped on his old clothes, and padded down the hall in search of the bathroom the Sheriff had pointed out the night before.  The cabin was quiet and dark, the only sound being a slight whimper coming from behind the door of his sister's room.  Maureen had volunteered to take the baby for the night, and no one had declined the offer. The two of them hadn't really spoken about the ramifications of the surprise visitor, but he was sure once they were alone, she'd have plenty to say.  Forever the champion of the underdog, there was no doubt she'd advocate for this baby like a mama bear with her cubs, whether or not she had any business doing so.

         Once showered and dressed in fresh clothes, Fr. Kevin felt a tad bit better.  He thought about wandering down to the kitchen, and making some coffee, but feared he might run into Cassie, an option he wanted to avoid at all costs.  Instead he headed back to his room.  Maureen had promised to join him for Mass at 7AM, so he moved a side table over, and readied himself for the liturgy.  Everything in order, he plopped himself into the rocker, and waited for his sister to make her appearance.

           At some point, he must have dozed off, because the rap on the door startled him awake.  It was his sister, as expected, the baby asleep in her arms, and dark circles under her eyes.

          "Morning, Kev.  You sleep as bad as I did?"

          "Worse, probably.  I had a head full of nightmares I couldn't shake."  He looked down at the sleeping baby, and shuddered.

           "No doubt.  This whole thing is frickn' crazy.  Like some kind of goofy soap opera drama.  Why
track you all the way out here?  It just doesn't make sense."

            He couldn't stand the 600 pound gorilla in the room, and finally asked, "You don't really believe this is my baby, do you Mo?  I know you tried to beat the shit out of Cassie for saying so, but I need to hear it from your own lips.  Just between the two of us."

            "Of course not, Kevin.  I knew the moment I saw this kid it wasn't an O'Kenny baby.  Look how much hair she has!  All the babies in our family are bald until their first birthday"  Seeing the stricken look in her brother's eyes, she sighed, and added, "Lighten up, Kev.  I was just teasing.  Of course I never believed for one minute that you would break your vows.  How could you possibly think otherwise.  I think I know you better than any other soul on this planet.  Nobody's perfect, but
when it comes to your devotion to God and the Church, no one is more rock solid.  And I dare someone to say otherwise."

        He leaned down and kissed her cheek.  "Thanks Momo.  You don't know how much that means to me."

       "No thanks necessary, big brother.  Now, you better get going with Mass.  I don't know how
much longer this tiny tot is going to stay sleeping.  I'm sure she's due for a change and a bottle."

        Fr. Kevin slipped on his alb, and began the opening prayers.  The peacefulness of the liturgy and the sight of his sister, content with infant on lap, calmed his troubled mind, and although it was just the two of them, Mass felt perfectly right.  If this whole baby mess was his current cross to carry, he was grateful for the presence of his younger sister at his side for moral support.

      They had just finished up, and the baby began to make her presence known, when there was a knock on he door, and the Sheriff stuck his head in.  "May I come in?", he asked.

     Maureen looked away, setting her lips in a grim line, and said nothing, forcing Kevin to reply.
"Sure, Sheriff.  We were just finishing up Mass."  He pulled off the alb, and folded it into a neat square, while he talked.

     "I didn't mean to interrupt your service.  I can come back later if you'd like." He spoke directly to Maureen, who was doing her best to completely ignore him.

      "It's fine.  We're finished anyway.  What did you need?"  It was obvious that his sister wasn't going to say a word to the man, so Kevin answered for them both.

       "Well, I just stopped up to tell that I made some breakfast, so your welcome to come down and have a bite, if you're hungry.  Fresh coffee too."

       The thought of fresh coffee was enticing, but he wasn't about to cross Mo over it.  Hopefully, she was hungry enough to consent to the presence of the Sheriff, and his troublesome fiancee. Luckily, Beckett solved the issue for them.

        "Cassie's zonked out, and not much of a breakfast eater anyway.  So it'd be just the three of us.  I was hoping the two of you might be interested in a brisk hike this morning.   The weather's cleared, and I really would like to show you around the area.  Try to make something worthwhile out of the bad start to the weekend."

          Kevin waited for some kind of sign from his sister.  He wouldn't mind getting out the confines of this cabin, but again, would follow her direction.  After a moment or two of silence, Mo turned around to face the Sheriff, chin held high, and eyes narrowed.

        "And just what am I supposed to do with this baby?  Strap her to my back like an Indian squaw and tramp through the woods, while you lead on like Big Chief Know It All?"

       The Sheriff turned a light shade of red, and Kevin wasn't sure how this whole thing was going to go down.  Beckett hadn't struck him as someone used to being insulted, but apparently his sister didn't seem to care.

        The Sheriff leaned against the door, folded his arms across his chest and responded.  "Miss O'Kenney, I have apologized profusely for yesterday's fiasco, despite the fact I don't think I am entirely to blame.  It is still my hope that I can act the part of the good host, and try to salvage something of this weekend.  I did call some of my contacts at the Department of Children and Family Services about the child.  But because of the holiday, no one can get here until Saturday afternoon.  Until then, that baby remains my responsibility.  As Cassie will not agree to leaving the cabin, she has volunteered to keep an eye on the little one while we're out.  In fact, if the lake was calm enough, I thought maybe we could take the boat out for a bit.  Of course, if you'd rather stay inside with Cassie, that's perfectly fine too.   Far be it for me to force my company on you."

       It was Maureen's turn to blush, and Kevin could see the wheels turning in her head.  Whenever she was thinking hard about something, she would twist a strand of hair around her index finger, and at this moment, the strand was in a tight little knot.  Finally, she released the lock, and stood up, causing the baby to let out a howl.  "I need to see to this child's diaper and breakfast.  Then, maybe, I'll think about your offer."  And with that, she made her way out of the room, being careful to put a wide berth between she and the Sheriff.

                              _________________________________________________

   
   Two hours later, the group of three headed out into the woods behind the cabin.  Breakfast had been another somber, silent affair, with Cassie making an appearance only a few minutes before they left.  She begrudgingly settled herself on the sofa, the baby tucked next to her in the little basket she had arrived in, and hadn't acknowledged either Kevin or Maureen.  Not that he minded the lack of conversation.  The least amount of contact he had with the woman, the better, and the idea of a couple of hours of fresh air appealed to him.

      He was also glad that Maureen had decided to relent and join them.  He hadn't wanted to leave her alone with Cassie, but was looking forward to walking off some of last night's angst, and when she had thrown on her poncho, he was genuinely relieved.  The Sheriff looked pleased as well, chatting amicably, and pointing out various fauna and wildlife as they walked through a path of towering trees.

      The Sheriff's property was vast, seemingly going on for miles.  They had walked for about an hour, when Maureen tugged on Kevin's sweater, and whispered into his ear.  He tried not to smirk, as she looked rather desperate, and called out to the Sheriff, who had wandered a few feet away.

     "Sheriff, do you think we could chill for a few minutes.  Maureen needs...um...to make a pit stop."

      Becket wandered back, and pointed to spot densely populated with tall, full evergreens.  "You should have plenty of privacy over there, Maureen.  We'll wait here for you."

        Maureen moved toward the trees, her cheeks as bright as the curls on her head, and the two men made themselves comfortable while she was gone.  The Sheriff reached into his backpack, pulled out a thermos of steaming coffee, and two tin cups, offering Kevin first dibs.  Sipping the custom brew, Kevin leaned against the oak, and gave thanks that the day had taken a more cheerful direction.  He surely spoke a bit to soon, as the quiet of the day was shattered by Maureen's piercing screams.

        Both men reacted at the same time, dropping the cups and rushing into the grove.  Maureen stood with her back to them, staring at a body of a young woman, her throat cut, her right hand sliced off, and jammed into her lifeless mouth.

       Shocked, Kevin could only stare, as the sheriff removed his Glock from the back of his waistband, and bent over the body.  From the gaping wound across her throat, and the excessive amount of blood pooling around her head, the priest was pretty sure the poor woman was dead, but watched as the Sheriff tried to find a pulse.  Rising, Beckett stuck the gun back in his pants, and pulled out a cell phone, dialing what Kevin presumed, was the local law enforcement.

       Maureen had buried her head in his shoulder, avoiding having to look at the awful scene a moment longer.  But for some odd reason, Kevin couldn't keep his eyes off the unfortunate victim.  He had a strange feeling that he had seen this woman before.  Where, he wasn't sure, and he racked his brain trying to place the face.

       Beckett finished his call, and walked over to where he and his sister were huddled.  "I'm sorry, but we're stuck until Sheriff Fenton can get here. This is out of my jurisdiction, but someone needs to secure the crime scene.  I'd send you back to the cabin, but I'm not sure you'd be able to find it, and I'd hate to think of you guys wandering around these woods lost, especially since..."  He left the words hanging heavy in the air.

      "It's fine, Sheriff.  We'll wait here with you."  He nodded toward Maureen, "If you could keep an eye on my sister, I'd like to pray for the victim."

       "Sure thing, Father.  But stay three feet away from the vic, and don't touch anything.  I'm afraid we've already contaminated the scene...no need to make it worse. "

         He sat his sister on a nearby log, and Beckett sat next to her, giving her personal space, but staying close enough to offer assistance.  Kevin neared the body as best as he could, and prayed for her departed soul, which he hoped was at peace after such a violent end.  Still, he could couldn't shake the feeling that she was not a stranger.  The shape of her face, the tilt to her nose looked oddly familiar. He debated sharing his feelings with the Sheriff, remembering the man's annoyance at not being told about the phantom Volvo.

        And he meant to.  Really, he did.  But then the local Sheriff and the crime scene people arrived, and things got hairy.  Beckett was busy discussing evidence with Fenton's team, and Maureen, watching everything unfold, suddenly lost her breakfast behind the log they were sitting on.  In her defense, Kevin himself found the murder especially gruesome.  The throat wound was bad enough, but the hand shoved in the poor girl's mouth seemed unusually personal and cruel.

       Fenton took their statements, and after exchanging business cards and handshakes with Sheriff Beckett, the three were free to go.  Maybe it was the drop in the temperature, the gathering clouds that signaled impending rain, or the sight of the dead girl burned into his brain.  The woods seemed darker, more menacing, than they had earlier in the day.  Thinking of Maureen, he worked at keeping his cool, but was happy when the Sheriff picked up the pace of his strides.  He'd be happy when they reached the safety of cabin, and then frowned at the irony of that statement.

Copyright 2012 Victoria Rocus

Murder most foul...
       

   

 



     

   
   
     

       

         

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A note from our sponsor...

 Dear Readers,

    Last Tuesday, November 27th, 2012, I suffered a major attack.  I am here today, still writing this blog, because both my husband and I knew the warning signs, and took them seriously.  I am only 53, and have no markers indicating I was at risk.  I have never smoked, do not have diabetes, always had normal cholesterol levels, and do not have a serous family history of heart disease.  There was no warning signs.  I felt fine all day, went to bed, and woke up shortly after feeling queasy.  Within minutes, I was vomiting, sweating, and had tremendous back and chest pain, as well as shortness of breath.
   My husband gave me an aspirin to chew, and called 911.  In less than an hour, I was being prepped for emergency angioplasty.  There was a 100% blockage in a main artery.  A stent was put in, and I'm home recovering.  Of course, this means serious life changes in diet and exercise, as well as a myriad of daily prescription drugs.  And I will need to return for additional angioplasty sometime after the 1st of the year for two other arteries with blockage.  But I consider myself lucky.  If I had questioned my symptoms, fearing ridicule, I would surely have gone into cardiac arrest, and things might be different today.

     This blog receives nearly 2000 page views a month from all over the world.  In gratitude for my life, I am posting this chart of heart attack symptoms.  If it saves at least one life, it will have been worth it.

Thank you for your kindness and support,

Vicki  aka "madame Mystery"

SymptomDescription
Chest discomfort or painThis discomfort or pain can feel like a tight ache, pressure, fullness or squeezing in the center of your chest lasting more than a few minutes. This discomfort may come and go.
Upper body painPain or discomfort may spread beyond your chest to your shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth or jaw. You may have upper body pain with no chest discomfort.
Stomach painPain may extend downward into your abdominal area and may feel like heartburn.
Shortness of breathYou may pant for breath or try to take in deep breaths. This often occurs before you develop chest discomfort or you may not experience any chest discomfort.
AnxietyYou may feel a sense of doom or feel as if you're having a panic attack for no apparent reason.
LightheadednessIn addition to chest pressure, you may feel dizzy or feel like you might pass out.
SweatingYou may suddenly break into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.
Nausea and vomitingYou may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.





HEARTBEAT