|Fr. Kevin waits for the trade-off|
For a second, it was as if his tongue had froze solid in his mouth. But when the words came, they were heated with both anger and fear. "Damn it! Who is this? Where's my sister? So help me God, if you hurt her I'll..."
"You'll do what, Father?" The deep voice on the other end of the line gave low chuckle. "From where I'm standin', I believe I got an offer ya just ain't gonna be able to refuse. So stop with the useless threats, close your mouth, and listen to me good."
Switching the phone to the other ear, Father Kevin leaned against the wall, and took several deep breaths. "Go ahead. I'm listening" Damn, Maureen. Why didn't you just come to the church with me?
Why did you have to be home alone? This wouldn't have happened...
"Well now, that's much better. There's no need for this to go and get all nasty. I'm a reasonable man. A business man. So we'll just handle this nice and polite like, and no body's gonna get hurt." The voice sighed, and continued. "I've been informed that you are in possession of some cash that belongs to me. A half mil' to be exact."
Kevin felt his heart tighten in his chest. "I...I'm not sure what...where would I..." This is about that case of money? The one in the rectory safe? Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit!
"Look, Father! I don't give a rat's ass how you came to have that money. Known' the two bitches involved, I'd have to guess you were an unsuspecting patsy. If that's the case...well then ya have my sympathy. On the other hand, you could be in this up to your fuckn' eyeballs. It wouldn't shock me none. Either way, I don't give a shit. I just want my money, and I'm gonna get it one way or the other. So if the red headed bitch I'm holdn' means anything to you, you're gonna do what I tell you. Are we clear?"
"Perfectly. What do you want me to do?" Why you, Maureen? You don't know anything about this.
The voice chuckled again. "Glad you see it my way. At 10:00 PM tonight, you will bring the money...all of it..to the corner of 43rd and Francisco. There's several abandoned buildings in the area. Go to the far end of the block. You'll see an empty store front called "The Thimble". Wait there. That's where we'll make the trade. Got it?"
"Good. And if all goes well, you'll have your prize back...and I'll have my mine."
Working to keep the pitch of his voice normal, Kevin pleaded. "Please...I'll bring you the money...just don't...don't hurt her, okay?" Please God, she's just a kid...
"She'll stay perfectly fine, Father O'Kenney. As long as you don't play games with me. And that includes dragging any local law enforcement into this...business...between us. Just bring the cash...alone...and then you can leave with the red head...alone. Simple, no?"
As much as he tried, he couldn't get his mouth to move. To form the words. To answer the questions. Oh God, oh God...Maureen. It's all my fault.
"Hello? You still there, Reverend?"
He coughed, and forced the words out, though they felt too large for the space between his teeth. "Yes, I'm still here." He needed to pull himself together. Grow a pair. For her sake. "I will see you tonight. With the money. Just don't hurt her." I can do this. I can. I will.
"That's all up to you, Father O'Kenney. Until tonight then."
The line went dead. He held the phone in his hand, and then ran to he kitchen to lose what was left of his lunch in the sink.
Stretched across the cool kitchen tile, Kevin went over plans in his head. It was already three in the afternoon. He had only seven hours until the meeting. In a part of town he had never been to. With no clue how to get there. He pulled himself to an upright position, and rinsed out his mouth with cold water. First things first. He needed to get the money out of the rectory safe, and check the amount. The man had said he wanted $500,000. He tried to remember how much was in there when he last counted it, but couldn't recall. He hoped the hell it was all there.
The parlor was still a mess, and things were scattered around the room. He thought about straightening up, but decided he'd deal with the cash issues first. Locking the front door, he headed back to the church, to unlock the safe in the back of the sacristy. With a mind a million miles away, he didn't notice the Sheriff's patrol car pull up, and was surprised by a voice behind him.
"Glad I caught you, Father." Seeing Kevin jump at the sound of his voice, he added,"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. I forgot to give you this when I saw you earlier." He held a silver ipod and a pair of ear buds in his hand. "It was mixed up with supplies from the cabin weekend. I figured it belonged to either you or Maureen."
Kevin had no desire to chit chat about ipods. And remembering the man's warnings about law enforcement, he wanted the Sheriff to be on his way. For all he knew, the guy had people watching.
He pulled the device from the Sheriff's hand. "Uh...yeah. It must be mine. Thanks for bringing it over. You know, I'd love to chat...but..uh...I have some important ..uh...things to do before... I ...ah... do other things. So, if you'll excuse me, I...uh...gotta get moving." Sounds so stupid. Just go, Sheriff. Please. Before you get Maureen killed.
Beckett tilted his head, and gave the priest a once over. "Are you okay, Father. You look a little pale?"
"I'm fine. Just a bit queasy is all. I think the tuna sandwich I had for lunch must have been spoiled...or something. Wow, Kevin. That was smooth. I am such an idiot.
"Well, I hope you feel better. Hey, by the way, is Maureen over at the rectory? I decided I better to tell her about the whole Cassie thing myself. Face the music, if you will."
Kevin crossed the fingers of his left hand, and moved it behind his back. "Ah, no. As a matter of fact, she went out for the evening. The whole evening." Damn it, Sheriff! Just go away and mind your own business. Just this once.
"Oh. I see. Did she go out alone?"
"Ah...no" As he talked, Kevin began moving toward the church door, leaving the Sheriff standing in the walk way. "A friend...someone from Boston came unexpectedly to visit. She went out for the evening with..um...him." The clock's ticking here. I need to take care of business.
"Oh. So it was a male friend? Somebody...um...significant?" Beckett shifted his weight to his other foot, and looked decidedly unhappy.
Damn it, Sheriff. I don't have time to soothe your festering male ego! "Uh...no. Come to think of it, it was a man and a woman. Husband and wife. I think they were friends from Boston College. That's where she went to school. Maureen was going to show them around, and then they were going to have dinner. Catch up a little." Okay, will that finally make you feel better, Becket? No man in Maureen's life. Now... just go away, or she won't have any life to share!
"Well, that's great. I'm sure she'll enjoy their company." He smiled thinly, and pulled his car keys from his pocket. "I guess I'd better let you get back to your church business. You have a nice evening, Father. Tell Maureen I'll be in touch."
"Okay, Sheriff. I'll let her know." Before the man could start another sentence, Kevin slipped into the darkened church, and headed toward the safe, looking over his shoulder to insure he wasn't being followed. With shaky fingers, he entered the combination, and pulled out the small, blue suitcase. Unlocking the latches, he began counting out the $20s in short piles. After several minutes, he finished, and then frantically began counting it all over again.
"Damn it! There's not enough here! There's only $450,000. I never touched a penny of this money. That's the way it must have come to me. What the hell am I going to do? I'm $50,000 short." Remembering where he was, he quickly made the sign of the cross, and fell to his knees in prayer.
At 9:00 PM, a taxi pulled up in front of Holy Family Rectory. Fr. Kevin O'Kenney was waiting on the front porch, a blue suitcase in one hand, a large velvet bag in the other. He slid into the taxi at the curb, and gave the driver an address on the other side of town. At first the man refused to take him to that location, claiming it was unsafe. But with much pleading, and the promise of a $20 tip, they were soon on their way.
Unlike many of his peers, the driver was a man of few words, and the 25 minute ride was a venture into silence. For that, the priest was grateful. He was lost in his own thoughts, his head and chest pounding, and his stomach doing hand stands. He thought about his sister. Of what she meant to him. And tried hard not to panic.
He had gathered all the cash he owned on this earth, minus the money for his transportation. $6,342 from savings. $1,256 from checking. Then, there was the secret account. The one his grandmother had set up just for him, held in both of their names. When he had entered the seminary, she had pressed the bank book into his hands, telling him that it was his emergency money. In case he ever needed it. For what ever. No one else in the family knew about the money. She had insisted it remain between the two of them. He had been shocked at the amount back then. $28,000. He remembered asking his Granny where it had come from. She laughed, and refused to answer him, and in Gaelic, had simply called it "a gift from heaven". They had never spoken about it again, and when she passed away, he had left the money sitting in the bank. Now, years later, his "emergency" had appeared, and he said a prayer of thanks to his beloved Granny. Even with the low interest rate given to savings account, he was able to withdraw a total of $32,785, all thanks to her foresight.
He had sold the gold coin, the one he had used to tempt Brian into making an appearance, for $896.00. He knew it was probably worth more, but without the necessary time to shop it around, he had settled for what he could get. That gave him a total of $491,279.00 in cash. He was still short over $8,000.00, and out of options. He thought about calling Patrick, or one of his other older brothers, but knew they would not hand over the money without questions. Sean and Jamie were cops, and Patrick was a lawyer. He knew they would insist on police involvement, and there was no way he was willing to risk Maureen's life for their help. The only person in Dollyville he could have possibly asked was Ted Beckett. But that wasn't possible either. For the same reasons.
Out of resources, he had sunk low enough to search the bushes around the church for help from Brian. But there was no sign of the little man, and maybe, all things considered, that was a good thing.
Not knowing what else to do, he had tried calling the man back at the number on his cell phone's caller ID. Maybe he could explain the missing money. Ask to be able to make payments. But not surprising, the number had been disconnected. He was dealing with criminals here, not the local loan company. These were people willing to cut a young woman's throat.
Then he had remembered the only other item in the sacristy safe. The last thing he had of any value. Dragging it to three different pawn shops around town, he had hoped to get the remaining cash he needed to make up the difference. But all three had refused it for various reasons. Sitting in the taxi, Maureen's life on the line, he prayed the man on the phone was truly the business man he claimed to be.
The taxi came to a stop at the corner of 43rd and Francisco. The area was deserted and dark, with several broken or burned out street lights. The driver put the car in park, and turned around to face Kevin. "This is your stop, Father. You sure you want me to leave you here? Like I said before, this ain't a good part of town."
He handed the man the fare, and the promised tip. "No. This is where I have to be."
The driver took the money, and asked, "You want I should wait for you? I could cut ya a deal on the fare back."
The thought of having someplace to escape was tempting. His own personal "get away' car. But he didn't feel right dragging an innocent man into what could potentially be a dangerous situation. With a sigh, he replied, "Thanks for the offer. But I'm not sure how long I'll be. You better just go."
"Have it your way, Father." And without waiting for a response, the taxi pulled away, leaving Kevin alone on the corner.
The priest lifted his shoulders, and made his way east down the block, watching for the sign the man had described. At the end of the street, he found the store bearing a broken down sign with the
name "The Thimble" in faded letters. He stepped onto the porch, and looked at his watch. It was only
9:40 PM. He still had 20 minutes to go, and leaning against the dirty window ledge, he watched and waited for some sign of the man, or his sister.
All around, he saw clusters of shadows come and go, but none of them came near the store. He shivered, both from the cold and his own fear, and blew on his hands to keep them warm. Just before 10:00, a dark sedan pulled around from the back of the building, and stopped a few feet from where Kevin was standing. A large man with no neck got out from the driver's side, and walked around to the other side of the car, paying the priest no mind. He opened the door, and an older man, small and dark, made his way to where Kevin was waiting.
"Fr. O'Kenney. Nice to see you. I like a man who's prompt. You have my money I presume?"
Kevin stood upright, and though he was several inches taller than the man in front of him, he could feel the malevolence roll off, making the guy seem larger than life. "I have the money. But...I ...I want to see my sister first."
The man laughed, and nodded to the no neck guy. "You sure got yourself some balls, Father. I gotta give you that. But don't think you can be calling the shots here."
Kevin watched as No Neck said something to someone inside the car. From the other passenger door, a second man moved outside, tugging at someone still seated. From his vantage point, he could see Maureen's red hair, tangled and loose, and his heart gave a tug. The second man, who looked as thick as No Neck, pulled his sister around to the front of the car. She appeared to be able to walk on her own, and except for the tape across her mouth, and her wrists tied in front of her, she looked to be in good shape.
"Okay. You've seen her. Now hand over my money."
No Neck took the suitcase from Kevin's hands. The little man nodded, and the large thug began to count the cash inside.
Before he could finish, Kevin spoke up in the loudest voice he could muster. "It's...it's going to be short. I wanted to tell you that."
The man's anger was obvious. "What the fuck do you mean 'it's short"? I thought I made myself perfectly clear. $500,000. You got a hearing problem, you stupid shit?"
Fr. Kevin looked over at Maureen, whose eyes were wide and terrified. "I tried to call you. To explain. I never had all $500,000 to begin with. When it was left with me, there was already $50,000 missing. I didn't touch a penny. I swear to you. I...I cashed out everything I had to make up the difference. There's $491,279.00 in cash. And this..." he reached into the velvet bag and removed his chalice. The one his parents had proudly presented him on his Ordination. " The whole bowl part is gold. Solid. The stem and foot is genuine sterling, and the emerald is real. I know my parents paid a lot for it. $6,000...six years ago. With the price of gold so high, it's gotta be worth more now. Maybe double." He handed the chalice to the man. "Take it. It's all I have."
The man touched the chalice tentatively, as if he were holding a poisonous snake. He took the corner of his scarf, rubbed the gold bowl, and turning it over, read the inscription on the bottom.
He shook his head, looked at Kevin, and muttered. "What kind a man do you think I am? I was raised Catholic. I know what this is. How the hell can you be offering this thing to me?" He held it out at arm's length. "My sainted mama would be rollin' in her grave if I dealt this. Besides, there ain't no market for these kinda religious things."
In that moment, Kevin lost all sense of pride. "Please...just take it. I have nothing else. Just let my sister go. Take me instead."
The man was quiet for a second, then made a noise of disgust. He walked up to the priest, and grabbed him by the sweater. "You're willing to trade your ass for hers?"
His legs barely keeping him standing, Kevin nodded. "Yes. Whatever you want. Just leave her alone."
The man placed the chalice back into the velvet bag, and propped it on the same windowsill Kevin had been leaning against only a half hour before. He spoke quietly to No Neck, and nodded toward the other man. "Okay. You have a deal, Reverend."
Before Kevin could say another word, or move from the spot he seemed nailed, No Neck was on him. The first punch hit him squarely in the face. He could hear the crunch, feel the oozing blood, and knew his nose was broken once again. He went down on his knees with a fist to his gut, and felt the heel of a boot pounding his lower back and kidneys. He grunted while the blows came one after another. After what felt like an eternity, the beating was over.
"Nice doing business with ya, Father O'Kenney."
Curled up on the ground, he could could hear footsteps running toward him, and in a distance, a car engine starting. Maureen was on her knees in front of him, tears running down her cheeks. She used the corner of her wrap to wipe the blood and snot off his face. "Oh, Kevin. Kevin. Are you alright? Say something, please. Talk to me."
He choked on the words, and they came out in a gurgle. "I'm okay. Just let me catch my breath."
Maureen sat on the porch, Kevin's head in her hands, until he felt able to stand. It hurt too much to speak, and so they walked in silence, though he knew she had questions. Questions he couldn't answer. The velvet bag rubbed against his sore right arm arm, where he had stuck it under his sweater, and his back throbbed in rhythm with each movement he took.
When he he finally had enough breath to speak, he stopped, and faced Maureen. "Mo...are you alright? Did they...hurt you?"
"No Kev. I'm fine." Seeing his face, the broken nose, his eye swollen shut, the tears began again.
"I told them I was studying to be a nun." Maureen sniffed, and wiped her runny nose in her sleeve. "Told 'em I was a novitiate. I guess since you're a priest, they figured vocations must run in the family or something. They believed me, so the short man made them leave 'the nun' alone."
He tried to grin at his sister's ability to lie so easily, but opening his mouth made the split in his lip burn. Kevin patted the purple and black bruise on her cheek, and moaned. "Someone hit that beautiful face."
"Well, it was more like a slap. I was fighting to get away, and the big guy grabbed my boo...my chest. So I kneed him in the groin. Just like you showed me before I went to college. He sorta didn't like it, so he gave my a slap." She rubbed the spot gingerly. "The guy in charge was pretty pissed about him hittn' me. After that, they all just left me alone."
He put his arm through hers, and tried to pick up the pace of his steps. When they were a few blocks away, his sister asked for his cell phone. He slipped it out of his back pocket, only to find that it had been damaged in the beating. Unusable. They walked slowly down the street, looking for a gas station...a convenience store... anywhere that might have a public phone. Some way they could call for a ride back to the rectory.
It was his sister who noticed the car first. She squeezed his arm, and whispered, "Kevin...there's a car following us. A black Mustang...with it's lights off."
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