|Fr. Kevin takes the hospital elevator up to see his brother, Patrick|
"Back to Boston? How's that going to help with anything?" He hadn't meant it to sound so sarcastic, but it did, and he was rewarded with double dirty looks, Beckett's evil eye being downright hostile.
Fidgeting, Kevin couldn't express what he was really thinking. Having "Red the Wrecker" as part of your life was anything but calming. She had well earned the nasty nickname from her brothers for a multitude of reasons throughout the years. If your team was playing in the finals, and Maureen came to your championship game, you could count on kissing your trophy goodbye. If she insisted on helping you carry a long labored project to school, you knew it would end up in pieces somewhere along the way. And if you had the misfortune of borrowing her your car, you could absolutely count on it being returned with additional dings, dents and denials.
Although he loved her dearly, and was closer to her than any of his other siblings, he had to concede that Maureen attracted trouble like a bee to honey. Whenever disaster clung to his little sister, causing yet another familial upheaval, his brothers would complain bitterly over the end result, and their father would sigh, and mumble under his breath, "Bàthaidh toll beag long mhòr", which in Gaelic meant, "A little hole can sink a big ship." Inviting Maureen into your life, all five feet, 102 lbs of her, was akin to bidding a small hurricane come through your front door. Why Patrick, who gave her the nickname to begin with, would put out the welcome mat for "Red the Wrecker", was beyond his understanding.
Kevin looked toward Beckett, whose poker face had returned, and spoke nothing of what he was thinking. He already had a taste of Maureen's unique way of "handling things" with the recent 911 fiasco. He wondered what the Sheriff thought of her recent proclamation, but his neutral reply to her big announcement gave him no insight.
"Is that what you really want, Maureen? To move back to Boston?" Beckett spoke calmly, but the lowered timber of his voice expressed the slightest hint of discontent.
She looked down at her hands, unwilling to share the emotions on her face. "Of course it's not what I want! I love it here in Dollyville. Love my apartment. Love my job." Slightly embarrassed, she continued, "And of course I...absolutely don't want to leave you." Then remembering the brother standing next to her, added, "Either of you. But I have to do what's right. Patrick needs me now. He was there for me when Dad died, and when Mom's Alzheimer's got worse. Made sure I stayed at St. Brigid's. Saw to my tuition for Boston College. Helped me get my first job. How can I just walk away from him when he's sick and alone?"
Kevin could very well imagine the guilt trip his brother had likely laid on her in the few minutes she was with him. He was the all time "Guilt Master". " Mo, was this your idea? Or Patrick's?"
Thinking it over, she hesitated. "I guess it was both. Patrick's alone in the house. Ian and Colin are away at school, and even when they come home, they won't be able to make sure he eats right, or exercises everday. All that stuff you're supposed to do after a heart attack. Without Eileen there, he'd be lost." She turned toward her brother, and added, "He actually said he needed me, Kevin. You know how Patrick is. He doesn't usually share his feelings. How could I say no?"
This was a no win situation. As her brother, and a disciple of Christ, he should be applauding his sister's altruistic sacrifice. Supporting her desire to put her brother's needs before her own. But something bothered him about this whole tender moment, and Maureen's new found decision. He alone knew that Patrick had come to Dollyville for the sole purpose of making Maureen return home, and the reasoning behind his need to take her back. They had discussed this well in advance of Patrick's heart attack. Sat and chatted about it at the kitchen table of the rectory only yesterday morning. So, how likely was it that Pat was using his sudden ill health to further his plans? And now knowing about Eileen's departure from their home, he wondered if his brother was really seeking a built in housekeeper and nursemaid at the expense of his little sister's independence, or her personal happiness. Mo's desire for Patrick's approval would make her an easy target, and would allow his brother the opportunity to forgo having to work things out with his estranged wife. Or worse yet, lend him the ability to use her as a bargaining chip in his marital reconciliation. All unfair solutions in his mind.
He hated being disloyal to either of his siblings. And although it seemed a mite cowardly, Kevin hoped that Beckett cared enough for his sister to insist she stay, put his foot down so to speak, allowing him to avoid being the bad guy. He still had a few misgivings about the obvious differences between the two of them, but the Sheriff seemed quite devoted to Maureen, and she was obviously crazy about him. Her moving back home would surely put a damper on their budding relationship.
Instead, for reasons he didn't understand, it appeared Beckett wasn't going to bail him out. Although his expression remained blank, the rational tone of his words said volumes more. "I would hope you'd give this some serious consideration, Maureen. By your own admission, you and Patrick are completely at odds over a lot of things. I'd hate to see you make a rash decision. Especially after spending the night in the Emergency Room. Give yourself some time to think things over."
She sighed, the stress of the last several hours etched across her face. "You're right, Ted. I'll have to really weigh everything out. I'm pretty wiped now. I just want...to do the right thing."
Disappointed in Beckett's apparent lack of concern over Maureen's possible departure, and looking for a brief escape to think things out, Kevin checked the time on the large clock across the room. "It's almost 5 AM. I really need to get back to the church for the morning Masses." He turned his back on the Sheriff, cutting him out of the conversation, and spoke directly to his sister, "Mo, could you stay here with Patrick until he gets admitted to a regular room? I'll come right back after I'm done at church, then I'll stay, and you can go home, and get some rest. I'm sorry, but it's just too last minute to try and get someone else."
"No, you go ahead, Kev. I'll be fine." Distracted, she added, "But how are you going to get back to Holy Family? You came in the ambulance."
"I'll just grab a cab. Don't worry about me."
"I'd be happy to run you back, Father, if Maureen doesn't mind being here by herself for a bit. I can also stop by the deli and let the Schillers know what happened, and that you won't be in today."
Maureen immediately agreed for the both of them. "That would be great. Thanks for all your help." She squeezed Beckett's hand, and gave him a smile. "I'll sit with Pat in the Recovery Room until they move him to the cardiac floor. You can check with the desk to find out where we are when you get back."
Decision made despite Fr. Kevin's objections, they both kissed Maureen on the cheek, and watched her make her way back to the Recovery Room. Once satisfied that she was safely in place, the two men left through the emergency doors, both of them deep in thought.
After dropping a virtually silent Fr. Kevin off at Holy Family, Beckett drove the two blocks down to Schiller's Deli, and parked the car near the entrance to Maureen's apartment. She had asked him to pick up a sweatshirt from her closet, and the phone she'd had forgotten on the dressing table in her rush. He stopped inside the store to speak to the Schillers, who were genuinely concerned over the serious turns of events, and left with a herald of support for the family, a bag of fruit and vegetables, plus a fresh roast chicken they insisted he and Maureen would enjoy later that evening.
Like the majority of folk in Dollyville, they were caring, thoughtful people, and the main reason he appreciated his position as the town's Sheriff. It was the perfect place for him. Each time he came home from a difficult, life-sucking assignment, he counted his blessings for the normally quiet pace of life here. Couldn't remotely think of another place he'd rather live, or for that matter, another woman he'd rather spend time with. He didn't have clue as to why she had captivated him as she had. There had been other woman. More beautiful. More submissive in nature. But they weren't Maureen, the whole package that made her who she was. And the thought that she might possibly decide to leave, both he and the town, was simply unacceptable.
Unlocking the door, he traveled up the stairs, taking two steps at a time. Without Maureen in it, the flat felt tiny and dark, and impossibly quiet. He found the sweatshirt she had described, and grinned over the fact that she had specified a certain color, his favorite, simply for the purpose of sitting around the hospital, on the chance that he might be there with her. Locating the missing phone, he placed both items in a small plastic bag to take back with him.
He put away the produce and chicken, and as an after thought, grabbed a Pepsi from the fridge, despite the fact it was barely dawn. Caffeine, hot or cold, would still have the same effects, and taking a seat at her kitchen table, he grabbed a few minutes to relax before heading back to Jefferson Memorial. It was hard to believe the whole 911/handcuff episode had only been a few days before. Since the arrival of her older brother, thoughts of that whole exchange had been pushed to the back burner. He wondered what might have happened if he had misjudged the extent of her feelings for him. If she had called his bluff, and had told him to get lost for good. Tired, and not wishing to waste brain space on "what-ifs" of the past, he pushed them from his mind, and decided to concentrate on the Boston problem at hand.
Patrick O'Kenney was definitely a man who was used to taking charge, of getting his own way, and if he had already decided that he desired Maureen back in Boston with him, it wouldn't be easy to convince him otherwise. But Beckett himself was a force to be reckoned with. He had experience with men like her brother. They always had a weak spot, and once discovered, it was easy to manipulate. He hated to use his trump card this early in the game, but if he waited too long, things could get increasingly difficult to control. He needed to deal with the elder O'Kenney...ASAP.
Finishing his Pepsi, he pulled out his iphone to contact the station house, and do a quick check of email. Skipping over the spam, he picked through the messages, coming across one from a familiar source. He frowned, seriously thinking about deleting it without reading it first, but remembering the old adage about keeping one's enemies closer, he tapped the menacing email.
He expected a crazy, obscenity laced message, and not the image that popped up on the screen. The woman was in a traditional submissive pose, kneeling on her heels, sans clothes, her head bowed, and her palms up. Underneath the photo were the words Sir... take me back. He didn't need to see her face. He knew who it was. She was trouble he neither desired, or had time for. Without another thought, he hit the delete button, and the message disappeared into cyber space. Beckett shoved the phone back in his pocket, putting Cassie "McKreedy" Donaghue near the top of his ever growing list of problems that needed immediate attention.
News of his brother's heart attack had somehow made it's way through the parish community, and Fr. Kevin found himself the beneficiary of an abundance of well wishes, promises of prayers for Patrick's speedy recovery, and enough plates and casserole dishes to fill his fridge, and belly, for several days. It was the single bright spot amid a bevy of worries as he waited for the bus to take him back to the hospital.
He had worked hard at building a warm relationship between the parishioners and himself, and with the absence of the nasty Tessa Peppers to stir things up, and the popularity of his baby sister among the faithful, things around Holy Family had been going quite well, thank you very much. The parish budget was running in the black, all the pressing necessary repairs had been completed, and attendance at Sunday Mass, as well as weekly donations, had steadily increased since his arrival just about a year ago.
In a lot of ways, he had Maureen to thank. Since her appearance on his door step last October, she had been a pillar of support, offering suggestions when he asked, building up his confidence, and helping out where, and whenever, he needed her. It made him feel guilty for thinking of her as "Red the Wrecker", and as he boarded the #116 that would drop him off directly in front of Jefferson Memorial, he worried over how he might convince Patrick to let her stay with him in Dollyville.
He thought about playing the "poor, lonely me" card. Convincing Patrick that he felt isolated without the rest of the family around, and needed Maureen with him. He quickly discarded that idea. He doubted Patrick cared enough about him to be actually be concerned over his feelings. Kevin was 18 years younger than his brother. Born at the tail end of a long line of brothers he was closer to, and had more in common with. It was unlikely that Kevin's loneliness would move him in the least, and would in fact, make him the target of several nasty comments about "manning up" and "growing a pair".
He then considered stretching the truth a bit, and pleading that Maureen was under his "pastoral counseling" care, and that she needed more time with him as a spiritual advisor. It wouldn't be a total lie. She did often run things by him...when it suited her, and when she was pretty sure he'd give her the answers she wanted. But Patrick didn't need to know that part, and truthfully, his vocation did force some respect from his eldest brother. The whole thing crossed the line a bit, and it wasn't a great idea, but at the moment, it was the best one he had, and he owed it to Mo to at least try.
The bus dropped him off in front of the main entrance of the hospital, and instead of going back to the Emergency Room, he decided to check at the information desk, figuring by now Patrick would be settled in a regular room on the cardiac floor. He was correct in his assumption, and the usually surly attendant gave him the details in her politest voice, one he was sure she saved for clergy and VIPs. She directed him to a bank of elevators on the far left, and handed him a visitor's pass for the 7th floor.
He took the elevator up, remembering the last time he took the very same one to see Cassie McCreedy...or Donaghue...or whatever the hell her real name was...after that horrible house explosion. He involuntarily shuddered at the thought of the woman, and tried forcing himself to be less judgemental. It was obvious the woman had some type of mental problems. But from the first time he met her, he felt there was something inherently "icky" about her, and the fact that he thought she might have tried to poison him, as well as set him up with that Marzano character, didn't raise any warm, fuzzy feelings toward her. In truth, he was greatly relieved when she left town, and he would be quite content if he never saw the woman again.
His arrival on the 7th floor brought him back to the problems at hand. He located Room #723, and rapped on the door, preparing himself for the sight of his brother, gray in color, and hooked up to a nest of wires and gadgets. He heard Patrick's booming voice answer his knock, and pushed the door open, shocked to see the man sitting up, propped by several flat pillows, and looking like the cat that had swallowed the canary. More surprisingly was the sight of Sheriff Beckett, sitting comfortably in the chair next to his bed.
"Well look here, the prodigal son has returned! Come on in, Fr. Kevin. As you can see, they've released me from death's door, eh?" He laughed heartily, and seeing Kevin's puzzled look, added, "I'm feeling remarkably good, and ready for visitors. In fact, me and Sheriff Beckett have been gettn' to know one another for the past hour." He patted Beckett on the back, "Fine young man our Maureen has snagged, wouldn't ya say, Father?"
Kevin could only smile and blink, not sure what had transpired since he left a few hours ago. His brother looked in great shape for a man who had a serious heart attack only 10 hours before, and he seemed almost giddy with delight. It was strange, to say the least. And if his brother looked pleased, then Beckett looked downright smug. Something had definitely changed in the whole dynamics of their relationship. He looked around the room for his sister, and not seeing her asked, "Where's Maureen?"
Beckett leaned back in his chair, relaxed and confident. "She was exhausted, and starving too. I sent her down to the cafeteria to get something to eat. 'Course, she didn't want to leave her brother alone, but I promised I'd sit here with him until she came back, or you showed up." He turned back to Patrick. "I'm really impressed, Mr. O'Kenney, with how devoted your family is to one another. You're a lucky man"
"Why, Sheriff, I am most grateful for the compliment. I am indeed very blessed."
Kevin stood in the doorway, feeling has if he had entered another dimension of the universe. This was so far from the norm, he wasn't close to being able to explain it. He felt like an actor in a play, who was sorely missing several pages of the script.
Beckett rose from his chair, and offered it to Kevin. "Why don't you take this seat, Father. Now that you're here, I think I'll go join Maureen for some breakfast, and then drive her back home. She could really use the rest." He again turned toward Patrick, and put out his hand to shake. "You take care of yourself, Mr. O'Kenney. I'll be back tomorrow to pick you up when you're released. If you need anything, you just let your sister know, and I'll take care of it."
Patrick pumped Beckett's hand like a man grabbing onto a lifeline. "Thank you, Sheriff. For everything. I most certainly appreciate your keeping an eye out for my baby sister." He picked up a folded slip of paper off the nightstand, and waved it in the air. "And thanks too for the information. We'll have to talk when I get back to Boston."
"Count on it, Mr. O'Kenney." He turned to leave, passing Kevin, and winking as he did. "I'm sure I'll see you later, Father. Feel free to come have supper with Maureen and myself."
And without another word of explanation, he pushed out the door, leaving Kevin scratching his head over the odd turn of events.
|Jefferson Memorial Hospital, Dollyville, Massachusetts|
Copyright 2013 Victoria T. Rocus
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