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Sunday, January 27, 2013

And the winner is...

It's time to end the Rug Giveaway #2!  Thanks to all of you who entered.  I wish I could send you all a gift for being so nice!  But the winner of the rug is...


                  Maria...send me your address via email, and I will get this out to you, along with a few small surprises!


         And because I'm feeling really upbeat today, I've decided to draw for a second and third prize for some lovely little trinkets.  So, second prize goes to...


   
                                     Maite!  Please send me your address via email!  I will send you some surprises!

 And last, but certainly not least...

                   
       Shaairah...please send me your address via email, and soon you will receive some surprise goodies!


            Thanks again for all your support!  I'm thrilled to know so many of you from all over the world are enjoying the adventures of Fr. Kevin and company.  Hope you enjoy a little romance, 'cause things will certainly start heating up!     Have a great week!


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hello Dolly

Christmas Eve at the Rectory
   
     Despite the trauma of the whole Marzano incident, life at the rectory returned to normal fairly quickly.  With Christmas only a week away, there was just too much to do to spend time contemplating their near death experience at the hands of the syndicate.  Maureen seemed preoccupied and restless, and Kevin's antidote for her symptoms was work.  Lots and lots of work.  He assigned her the job of sorting, repairing and dividing up the pageant costumes.  When that was finished, he put her on the task of unpacking and arranging the church's vintage creche scene.  Upon discovering that the arm of Baby Jesus had somehow gone missing, Maureen, at her Pastor's request, was commissioned to create a new one out of paper mache and paint.  And of course, there were several trees at both the church and the rectory that needed her decorating expertise.

      Amid the chores, he had hoped that he'd be able to convince her to go back to Boston, and spend the holidays with the family.  Take some time to visit their mother...see old friends...and maybe, just maybe... be homesick enough for her old life to stay on in the city.  Kevin even promised to take the train and join her as soon as he finished his last Mass on Christmas day.  But she wanted no part of the discussion, going as far as to ask him if he wanted her to move out of the rectory.  So he dropped any mention of Boston, apologized for 'hurting' her feelings, and promised a quiet holiday, just the two of them.

     That left him with the unsavory task of calling his eldest brother, Patrick, to explain that he and Maureen would not be joining the O'Kenney clan for the holiday season.  Information he knew in advance would not go over well.  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were command family performances.   By his father's dictate, (and later Patrick's when his Pop was gone) there was never any discussion of compromise.  Those who married into the group, the unsuspecting in-laws, were brainwashed into forgoing any chance of seeing their own parents or siblings on these two specific days.  It was part of the whole marriage commitment.  The family reluctantly accepted the fact that Kevin's vocation required his presence at Mass on both days, but he was fully expected to join them at his earliest possible leave.  Deviating from the plan would make everyone unhappy, and it was with a sense of foreboding that Fr. Kevin made the call.

     He decided to contact his brother at the office during the day, rather than in the evening at his home.  He knew Patrick hated to be bothered at work, but figured he would be unable, or unwilling, to stay on the phone long.  The secretary put him hold for several minutes, and when his brother finally came on the line, he already seemed annoyed.

     "This better be an emergency, Kevin.  I'm swamped here.  Nothing wrong with Maureen, is there?"

     "No, Pat.  Mo's fine.  We're both fine.  Thanks for asking."  The wedge of sarcasm was wasted, as he knew his brother would never feel the least bit embarrassed over his obvious lack of concern.

     "So, what's so damn important that you're calling me at the Diocese?"

     "I'm ...ah...am calling about the ...holidays."

     "And it couldn't wait until later tonight?  Damn, you have no common sense, Kevin.  Most people have to actually work for a living, something I'm sure you don't get."

      Kevin ignored the dig, and tapped down his less than brotherly feelings towards Patrick.  "I'm sorry to bother you, Pat.  I just wanted to give you a head's up about Christmas.  Before you...went ahead with plans."

      "Head's up about what?  Spit it out, Kev.  I don't have all day to play around."

     "Um...Maureen and I won't be coming up to Boston this year.  This is a new assignment for me, and I want to make a good impression.  I figured I should stay around the parish this year.  Be available...and all that."  It wasn't a total lie.  He was actually looking forward to presiding over his first big church holiday as Pastor.  "With Christmas Eve on Thursday, and Christmas on a Friday this year, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for me to travel to Boston, and then have to travel back here for Sunday Mass.  I figured I'd just stay put.  Get to know my parishoners."

      "Well, I suppose I can see the logic of that.  Although, it's unlike you to put your career before a good time."

        Kevin grimaced at the suggestion that time spent with his family was "a good time".  It was more like an ordeal that one needed to gear up for, but he didn't reply.

      "So, why isn't Maureen coming by her self?  She's perfectly capable of getting her ass on a train and coming home alone.  She managed just fine when she slinked off in the first place.  You tell that girl I expect to see her face at Midnight Mass with the rest of the family.  She can stay with Jamie and his brood.  They probably could use an extra hand with all those kids."

      Bracing himself for the nastiness that was sure to come, Fr. Kevin tried to explain the situation.
"Well, she doesn't want me to be alone at Christmas.   Plus, she's trying to make a life for herself down here, so we thought it best if she passed on the regular...festivities.  At least this year."

     "So your willing to ruin everyone's holiday on Maureen's account? You know, Kevin...this is all your fault.  You have been spoiling that girl from the time she could crawl.  Making excuses, bailing her out.  Never made her take responsiblity for her own mistakes.  Now look what you've created!  A self-willed, selfish, little tramp, who can't get her shit together."

     "Don't call her that, Patrick.  I mean it."

     "What?  A tramp?  I'm just using the same term I'm sure everyone else is whispering behind our backs.  She brought this all on herself, Kevin.  And if you had an ounce of brains, you'd see it for yourself.  She never thinks before she does anything.  But, then again, neither do you.  The two of you are a matched set."

      "This conversation is over, Patrick.  Merry Christmas."  And then he ended the call, angry at himself for being goaded into an arguement he desperately had wanted to avoid.  Minutes later, his cell phone rang, this time with a call from his brother Jamie, followed by one from Sean,  and later, Jamie's wife, Megan.  He decided not to answer any of them.  He'd eventually have to call them all back.  Soothe hurt feelings, and explain his side.   But not now, when he was so angry, and liable to lose his temper.

    Throughout the day, Fr. Kevin had voice mail from practically every member of his family.  Some siding with Patrick, others obviously jealous at his opportunity to spend a nice, quiet, adults-only Christmas with their sister.  A few, mainly the in-laws, even called to thank him for standing up to the family bully.  But, despite the constant barrage of phone calls and texts, he, oddly enough, had not heard a single word from their gun-toting guardian angel.  The Sheriff had neither phoned, or stopped by, and for a reason he couldn't put into words, it made Kevin anxious.

     After dropping them off at the rectory a week ago, Beckett had seemingly dropped out of sight.  Maureen admitted that she had tried reaching him by both cell phone and email, but her texts and messages went unanswered.  She seemed worried, and obviously very unhappy, about the lack of communication, and suggested that maybe Kevin should call the Sheriff's Office, and see what was up.

     In one sense, Patrick was right.  When it came to his baby sister, Kevin had a hard time saying no.  It was rather silly to worry about the Sheriff, who seemed perfectly capable of taking care of himself.  After all, the man drove around with a loaded semi-automatic on his back seat.  But Maureen continued to pester him the way she always did, and he finally gave in, and dialed the number.

     "Good Afternoon.  Bristol County Sheriff's Office.  How can I direct your call?"

     "Hello.  This is Fr. O'Kenney over at Holy Family Church.  Is Sheriff Beckett in, please?"

     "I'm sorry.  Sheriff Beckett is off duty.  Deputy Sykes is the acting Sheriff for the next few weeks.  Would you like to speak with him."

     "No, that's alright.  It's of a personal nature.  Do you know where I can reach Sheriff Beckett"

     "I'm sorry.  I do not.  Did you try his cell?'

     "Yes, but he's not picking up.  Would you, by any chance, know where he might have gone."

     "I'm sorry, Father.  He didn't leave that information.  We were told to call his cell if there was an emergency."  The woman, trying to be helpful, added, "He took vacation time, so I'm guessing that he went to visit family for the holidays."

      "Well, that makes sense, I guess.  You wouldn't know where his family is from, would you?"

     "No, Father, I'm afraid I wouldn't.  The Sheriff doesn't discuss his personal business with us.  I am very sorry I can't help you."

        Fr. Kevin thanked the woman, and once he had ended the call, passed the information on to his sister, who had been standing next to him hanging on every word.  Her face fell with the news, but she shrugged her shoulders, and went back to the kitchen to finish her baking for the Women's Guild Christmas party.  He wished he could have eased her fears, given her something to be happy about after their experience the week before.  But it appeared that no matter how hard he tried, he wasn't going to be able to make anybody happy today.

               ______________________________________________________________

        Christmas came a week later, as it always does, in spite of trials, tribulations and things left undone.  The Christmas Eve pageant was a huge success, thanks in part to Maureen's genius ability to create something beautiful out of nothing.  The Virgin Mary looked resplendent in her new mantle of blue silk, which Fr. Kevin had a sneaking suspicion started life as the old parlor drapes.  And the children's choir, dressed in angel white with gossamer wings, gave the congregation the opportunity to snap several cell phone photos.  Even the new prosthetic arm added to Baby Jesus, was discussed and admired.

       The later Midnight Mass was a more subdued affair, but none the less beautiful in its own right.   The harmonious music, the flicker of a multitude of candles, and the smell of fresh pine in the tiny church, made the experience a moving one, not only for Fr. Kevin, but for his small flock as well.  Although he was exhausted after the long day, he returned to the rectory on a festive note.  Even Maureen, who had said little the entire week, seemed to be in a brighter mood, chattering on about the compliments everyone was sending the new Pastor's way, and hinting at something special she had planned.

        When they were growing up, it had always been a family custom to return from Midnight Mass to a traditional Irish breakfast, a treat Kevin had missed since the onset of his mother's Alzheimer's.  It was therefore a special delight to find that Maureen had surprised him with such a meal.  Where she had located Black and White pudding, rashers, and Irish sausage in Dollyville, he had no idea, but it was all there, lovingly prepared.  The thoughtfulness of the gesture made him teary, and he wished he had been able to come up with a special gift to match hers.  Alas, he had ended up settling for a Kindle Fire, which he had to purchase with his Master Card, being for all intensive purposes, totally broke.

        After the leisurely meal, Kevin built a small fire in the parlor fireplace, and they finished their tea amidst the glow of the flames, and the twinkling lights of the tree.  It was then he noticed the large shipping box stuck in the corner near the window.

        "Where did the box come from?  I didn't see it there earlier."

         Maureen made a face.  "It came after you left for the Family Mass.  Around 3:30 PM...Fed Ex.  It's stamped from Boston, and addressed to the both of us."

         "Don't you want to open it?  I can imagine the suspense is killing you."

         "No, not at all.  It's probably from someone in the family, and as far as I'm concerned, they can all keep their lousy gifts."  She put the tea cup down with a bang, and the contents sloshed over the side, and onto the saucer.

          "I know you're angry, Mo.  Our brothers can be asses, especially the older ones.  But it is Christmas morning, and in the spirit our Lord intended, I think we should at least attempt to be forgiving."  When she said nothing, he got up off the sofa, and with a sigh, dragged the package over to where he was sitting.  The outside packaging gave no indication of who sent it, so taking the letter opener from his desk, he slit the tape on the top.  Nestled inside piles of packing material, were two gifts, carefully wrapped in holiday paper.  Each package had a small card attached, the envelopes bearing their names.  "That's odd," Kevin remarked, sliding the second package toward his sister.

          "What's odd?"

          "The envelopes are addressed to 'Fr. Kevin O'Kenney' and Miss Maureen O'Kenney'."

          "So what's odd about that?"

          "If someone in the family had sent this, they would have written 'Kevin'...not 'Fr. O'Kenney'."  Intrigued, he tore open the envelope, and read the card inside.  "Um...yeah.  This isn't from our family, Maureen.  It's from Sheriff Beckett."

             Eyes wide, she lifted the gift into her lap.  "You open yours first, Kev."

            Tearing off the shiny paper, he lifted the lid.  Inside was another box, this one wooden with a gold metal clasp.  He pulled out the case, set it on his lap and undid the clasp.  Inside, wrapped in layers of gold tissue, were six cut crystal, Waterford rock glasses, and a bottle of Jameson Golden Reserve whiskey.  He held one of the glasses up to the light, the cuts catching the glow of the Christmas tree, and sending prisms of color across his face.  "Wow.  These are spectacular."  He lifted out the bottle and hoisted it to show Maureen.  "And something to toast the New Year, I expect."

       "What a nice gift, Kevin.  Very thoughtful."  She fingered the card on the top of her own the box.

       "Now you open yours, Mo."

       She slid the card out the envelope, and as she read, the corners of her mouth turned up, and her ears turned pink, but she opted not to share what had been written inside.  Carefully, she unwrapped the gift, saving the paper and ribbons, and putting them to the side.  Her box was wider and longer than his, and Kevin was glad it most likely didn't contain another Kindle Fire.  She raised the lid of the box, and pulling aside the tissue, she gasped.

       From his perch on the sofa, he couldn't see what was inside the box, so she raised it up to show him.  Glancing inside, he was confused, not understanding why Beckett would buy his sister a child's toy.  "Is that a doll?   The Sheriff gave you a doll for Christmas?"


          "Not just any doll, Kev.  It's...it's Betsy!"

          It took a second or two before his brain could access the memory... and then he remembered.
     She must have been only six years old... a few months shy of her 7th birthday.  The whole family had gone downtown to buy new clothes for Easter Sunday, as was the tradition his mother kept to.  They had stopped in at the Jordan Marsh to purchase dress shirts for their father and the older boys.  Maureen, tired and hungry, had begun to get whiny.  Hoping to finish her shopping in peace, his mother had ordered Kevin to take his sister to the toy department, and keep her occupied until the rest of the family was ready to leave.

       They had only been in the toy section a few minutes, when she first saw the doll.  It was a painted, china beauty, with a head full of dark curls, and round, friendly eyes.  She wore a pale blue crocheted dress, the stitches tiny and perfect, and her feet were covered in white socks and patent leather, Mary Jane shoes.  It was surely love at first sight, and right then and there, Maureen committed her heart to that doll.  Unfortunately, the $50 price tag hanging from the toy's arm made owning it an improbability.

       During the weeks leading up to her birthday, Maureen campaigned incessantly for the right to be the proud mama of the doll she had already named "Betsy".  While Maureen petitioned, Kevin worried.  He knew his father was frugal, and with eight children to feed, clothe and educate, there was no way he would agree to spend that amount of money on a toy.  So it was a shock to see the said doll in his sister's arms on the morning of her 7th birthday.  Unlike his jealous siblings, he was  thrilled for her, and relieved that her special day was not a tearful one.  He spent the rest of the day hiding out in the garage, making her a small doll bed out of old wood scraps, amid a torrent of constant teasing from his brothers.

      Betsy was Maureen's constant companion, and when the family took a rare vacation to Niagara Falls, she took the doll along, despite suggestions from her mother to leave it safely at home.
They had stopped for gas and to use the restroom somewhere in upstate New York.  Their father, in a generous mood, had allowed each child to pick out an ice cream treat from the station's large freezer, and at some point, Maureen must have laid the doll down to make her selection.

       They had been almost to the Canadian border when Mo suddenly realized that Betsy was not with her, and probably abandoned at the gas station.  She was in near hysterics, and convinced their exasperated father to go back to get her doll.  Turning the car around, he headed back the way they had come, a whole 132 miles, only to find that the doll was already gone.  Both of her parents had scolded her lack of responsibility, her mother reminding her that she had been told to leave the expensive toy at home.  To make matters worse, the family had lost so much time on the road, that a much anticipated miniature golf outing was canceled, causing her brothers to bombard Maureen with additional grief.

      She spent the rest of the trip wavering between tears and silence, and even Kevin could do little to cheer her up.  The doll was never spoken of again, and the little bed was shoved in the back of the closet. But there was several times in the future when Kevin would catch her sitting alone in her room, the doll bed in her lap, and know she was grieving her missing companion.

      And now, 17 years later, here the thing was.  In his sister's lap, like some phantom memory made real.  "You don't think this is the same exact doll, do you Mo?"

       "Of course not, Kevin.  I know it's not.  My original one had a chipped right finger.  I did that trying to stick her in the basket of my bike.  But it looks exactly like Betsy did the first day I got her.  Her dress is a tiny bit faded, but other than that, she's in perfect condition."  With a gentle touch, she ran her fingers through the doll's curls.  "I just can't believe it.  After all these years."

      "How did the Sheriff even know about Betsy?  It's unbelievable he was able to get the same type of doll."  For the life of him, he couldn't figure the whole thing out.  Maureen had only been living in Dollyville for a little over two months, and her contact with Beckett had been infrequent.  Or at least he thought it had.

       "Do you remember when I first got here.  The second day or so?  Ted offered to drive me over to some markets he knew to buy groceries?" Kevin nodded, so she continued. "Well, while we were in the car, we were chatting about a lot of stuff, and he asked me about growing up in Boston.  Somehow, the story of Betsy came up, and I told him how I lost her somewhere in New York."

       " But how did he know what the doll looked like?"

       "Oh that's easy.  I showed him that snapshot I keep in my wallet.  You know the one."

        He absolutely knew the one she spoke of.  He had a copy of it in the scrapbook of family photos she had made him for his Ordination.  It was an old Polaroid of he and Maureen, sitting on their front steps.  Their old dog, Bosco, sat between them, and the doll in question was firmly seated on his sister's lap.

         "I wonder where he got her?  Where do you find something like this?  It's obviously vintage, but in such wonderful condition." She laid the doll across her lap, and carefully fingered the fine crochet of the doll's dress.

         "Not sure.  Maybe Ebay, or a vintage toy dealer.  Probably took some heavy hunting to locate it."  He put his mug down on the carpet, and reached for the doll to take a closer look.  "It sure is in terrific shape.  Got to admit, it's a pretty awesome gift, Momo."

          "I know.  I wish he were here so I could thank him in person.  I can't remember ever getting a Christmas gift this...special."  Realizing what she had implied, and not wanting to hurt her brother's feelings, she quickly added.  "Oh, Kev, I'm sure your gift is wonderful too."

           He laughed, happy to see her joyful.  "Not to ruin the surprise or anything, but Beckett's gift trumps mine.  Easily.  And you know what?  That's okay.  You deserve something extra terrific after that awful episode last week."


          She lifted herself off the floor, and came over to kiss his cheek.  "Thanks, Kev.  You're just about the best big brother ever.  Merry Christmas.  I so glad we got to spend it together, just you and me."

        "Me too, Momo.  Thank you for the breakfast.  It was amazing."

       "You're most certainly welcome.  It was fun making it for you."  She yawned the words out.  "Well, I hate to break up the party, but I'm exhausted.  I think I'm going to turn in."  In her flannel pajamas and robe, her hair pulled up on the top of her head, and the doll in her arms, she looked so much younger than her 24 years.  "You should probably get some rest too, Kevin.  You have a few more Masses tomorrow."

         "Yeah, I will.  I want to make sure this fire is out, and then I'm going to turn in."

          "Okay.  Good night, Kevin."

          "Night, Mo."  He watched her pad up the stairs, and then used the poker to stir the embers.  Satisfied that the fire would safely die out on its own, he pulled the grate shut, and reached over to turn out the lamp.  Sitting on the table was Maureen's card from Beckett, carefully tucked inside the folded wrapping paper.  He stopped for a moment and listened.  There was no sound from upstairs, so he pulled the card out from under the paper.  She was his responsibilty.   And if there was going to be issues with the Sheriff, he needed to be prepared,  He was her brother, after all.

      He'd have to concede that the Sheriff's gift was exceptionally insightful of his sister's personality.  She wasn't the type to be impressed with the usual trappings of romance.  Expensive jewelry or pricey perfume wouldn't have made much of an impression.  The man knew her, that was for sure.  And whether that was a good thing or not was still open for discussion.  There was no doubt Beckett had numerous good points.  He was brave, charming, and obviously very intelligent.  But there were just too many unanswered questions, and they left Kevin bothered.

          He stood with the card in his hand, torn over what he should do.  Then, shaking his head, he slipped the card, unread, back under the wrapping, and turned off the light.

Beckett's special gift to Maureen
                                     

Copyright  2013 Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved

 

     


   

       



     

     

       

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Waitress, the Waffles and 'That' Wink..

Breakfast at the Waffle Castle
                                 
       Cautiously, Fr. Kevin shifted his sore body to the left, hoping for a better view of what was going on across the room.  The damn Sheriff was pawing his sister.  It was simply unthinkable.  Here he was...a road map of cuts and bruises. Exhausted and stressed to the breaking point.  Bubbling over with remorse and guilt. One would think the man could cut him a break.  Allow him a few hours of rest without worrying about some dude moving in on his sister.  He moved restlessly on the mattress, untangling his legs from the sheets and blankets.  The mousy squeak of the bed springs must have caught the Sheriff's attention, and he opened his eyes to find Kevin glaring at him.

         Beckett put a single finger to his lips, signaling the priest to keep quiet.  He removed his hand from that of the sleeping woman, slipped it gently under her blanket, and silently pushed himself off the floor.  Stretching his lean frame, the Sheriff moved close enough to Kevin to keep the volume of his voice to a whisper, but still be heard.

        "I'd hate to wake her up just yet.  She had a rough night. Woke up in a cold sweat...bad nightmare, I guess."  He twisted his neck to the left, and then to the right, seemingly trying to work out a kink.  "I had to promise I'd sit with her until she fell asleep, and once she was snoring, I didn't have the heart to move, and risk startling her."

          Kevin could feel his ears turn red and hot.  He sincerely hoped the Sheriff didn't have any idea of what he'd been thinking a few moments before.   How had he misjudged the man's good natured intentions?  Embarrassed, he found it hard to meet Beckett's eyes.  "Um...thanks Sheriff.  That was awfully nice of you.  I probably should have kept an eye on her myself.  Must have...ah... dozed off.  Sorry."

         Beckett yawned, and pulled his off his sweatshirt.  "No problem, Father.  Happy I could help."  He glanced at his cell phone to check for messages, and finding none, slid the device back in his pocket.  "No news yet.  I expect we'll hear something from my source in the next hour or two.  Then we can plan from there.  In the meantime, I think I'll wash up a bit.  Feel free to catch some additional shut eye.  I'll wake you if I hear anything."

          "I'll be fine, Sheriff.  You go ahead."

           Shrugging his shoulders, the Sheriff headed toward the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.  Kevin propped himself on a stack of pillows, too agitated to sleep.  He finished his morning prayers, and still jumpy, fumbled in the nightstand drawer until he found a copy of the Gideon Bible.  He tried to lose himself in the serenity of the Scriptures, but his mind refused to cooperate.  He worried about  his parishioners, who, in a few hours, would make their way to Holy Family for morning Mass.  They  would find the Church dark, and the doors locked.  And, if anyone bothered to check the rectory, they'd find more of the same scenario.  He would have a lot to answer for, and no clue as to how he would explain his absence to the community, or his Bishop.

       In the quiet of the room, Kevin could hear the water being turned off in the bathroom, and the low murmur of the Sheriff's voice.  He was obviously talking to someone on his phone, and Kevin assumed it probably had something to do with their current situation.  Knowing Beckett would only share minimal information, Fr. Kevin strained to hear the conversation.  From his spot on the bed, he could hear only bits and pieces, so he leaned against the nightstand to be closer to the bathroom door.  In the process, his elbow caught the base of the lamp, knocking it off the nightstand, and causing the glass base to hit the floor and shatter with loud bang.

        Immediately, the door flung open and Beckett moved into the room, only partially dressed, his Glock pointed toward the bed.  Across the way, Maureen was startled awake, her eyes saucers in her face, and her hands gripping the blanket.  Kevin instantly froze, all eyes, and a loaded gun, on him.

        "It was the lamp!  Just the lamp!  It fell off the nightstand."  Kevin, face red, tried to stay still, worried about the gun in Beckett's hand.

         The Sheriff lowered the pistol, and snapped the safety in place.  "Damn it, Father!  You and guns
don't mix.  How did the lamp end up on the floor in the first place?"  He retrieved his shirt and shoulder holster from the bathroom, and scowled at Kevin.  "It's like I can't leave you alone for five minutes without you getting yourself into some kind of trouble."

           From the sofa, Maureen spoke up, her voice shaky.  "I can't do this anymore.  I just want to go home."  She threw off the blanket, and began to hunt for her shoes.  "I'm leaving.  One way or the other, Sheriff.  If that criminal is out there, I'll...I'll...oh...I don't know what I'll do.  But I can't stay here a minute longer."  Her face was scrunched up, her lip trembling, and tears gathered at the corners of her eyes.

          "Hang in there, Maureen.  I've got good news.   I was just on the phone with my source.  It appears that Marzano and crew landed in New Orleans about thirty minutes ago.  My source insists you're in no immediate danger."  He buttoned his shirt, and pulled his arm through the shoulder holster, slipping the Glock into the empty spot.

     "What do you mean 'source'?  Are you saying you have a 'snitch' like person?"  She sniffed loudly, and grabbed a tissue to blow her nose.

      Beckett smiled, and answered, "Something like that.  Although, only Hollywood uses the term 'snitch'.  Anyway, it looks as if you and Kevin are off his radar."  Making a sour face, he continued.  "Unfortunately, I can't say the same thing for Cassie.  Marzano is determined to find her, and dispense punishment."

       "Cassie?  What the hell does Cassie have to do with any of this?  I thought that man was after Kevin?"  She caught the look between Beckett and her brother, and crossed her arms in stubborn defiance.  "Look you two, I've had enough of this macho bullshit...this 'you show me yours...I'll show you mine' crap  One of you better damn well tell me what the hell is going on!"

         The two men stared at each other in silence for what seemed like an eternity.  Maureen expected her brother to be the first to crack, and was surprised when Beckett sat on the sofa and motioned for her to join him.  "I wasn't purposely trying to hide things from you, Maureen.  In fact, I was on my way to see you yesterday...to let you know what I'd found out about Cassie.  That's when I ran into your brother.  He told me some goofy story about you being out for the evening. He was acting so weird, I decided to ride by the rectory, and take a look myself.  I wasn't sure what I'd find there.  When I pulled up, I saw the sod was all torn up across the lawn.  It looked like someone was dragged to the curb."

         "That was me," Maureen explained.  "I tried to be dead weight.  So it would be harder for them to move me."

          "Good girl.  You did exactly the right thing.  Because when I saw the lawn, I decided I'd better check the rectory.  I saw the footprints on the door...as if someone had kicked it in, and through the window, I could tell the room was trashed.  I knew then that Kevin wasn't telling me the whole story.  I decided to follow him, figuring whatever he was up to, it wasn't good...and that you were probably not safe."

        "Well, I'm thankful you did, Ted.  But that still doesn't explain where Cassie comes in."

         Becket sighed, and hands between his knees, began the whole Cassie saga, looking terribly embarrassed to be admitting his stupidity.  Kevin sat silent throughout his story, and when the Sheriff came to parts that were cloudy because of a certain priest's lack of information, he looked away.  He expected that his sister would not miss the opportunity to point out the Sheriff's male gullibility, and it was his turn to be surprised when she did the total opposite.

       "Oh, Ted, you poor man!"  She put her hands on top of his.  "You must feel absolutely awful.

        Picking through the carpet for broken pieces of lamp, Kevin couldn't believe his ears.  Poor man?  He must feel awful?  If anyone here deserves Maureen's sympathy ... Annoyed, he flung the glass in the wastebasket harder than he planed, causing Maureen and the Sheriff to break off their conversation.

     "You okay, Kev?"  She looked over towards her brother, but didn't remove her hands from the Sheriff's.

     "Just fabulous, Mo.  Don't let me interupt your Oprah moment over there."

      Beckett abruptly stood up, and pulled his hands away.  "I appreciate your concern, Maureen. That's really kind of you.   I'm just sorry that because of Cassandra  Donaghue, you had to suffer as you did.  If I could make it up to you, I would."  He  turned toward Kevin, " The same goes for you, Father." Gathering up the 223 and the black rifle case, he headed toward the odd back door.  "Now,  I'm sure you'd both like to get back home.  We'll be leaving soon.  Make sure you gather up all your things.  I'll meet you outside."

       Maureen slipped on her jacket, and pulled Kevin's sweater off the chair.  "You need help, Kevin?  It's going to be hard getting this bulky thing over the bandages."

        Using the bed to push himself up, Kevin ignored her offer of assisstance.  He was tired, crabby and sore. He hadn't had his morning coffee, and despite the whole shitty situation, he was starving.  "No, Maureen.  I'll do it myself.  Just go and get in the car."

        She pursed her lips, and tossed the sweater on the bed.   Without another word, she turned and followed Beckett out to the car, leaving her brother to stew in his own discontent.  He struggled for several minutes to pull his arms through the tight sleeves, and when he finally finished, realized that he had put the damn thing on backwards.  Deciding he'd rather look stupid than put himself through that agony a second time, he slid the Bible back in the lampless nightstand, and joined his sister and Beckett in the car.

         The back seat of the Mustang was no more comfortable this morning than it had been the night before, but the Sheriff had promised a stop for coffee and breakfast, and just the thought of that made him feel better.  It was a bit before 7 AM, the air was crisp and cold, and some of the tension of the early hours had slipped away.  They had moved from the back roads of the night before, and traveled via the interstate for about five miles, when Beckett pulled the car into the lot of the Waffle Castle.  The building's stone facade came complete with fake wooden draw bridge, and large concrete dragon.

       Maureen hid a smirk, and the three of them made their way to the restaurant.  The hostess appeared to recognize Beckett, and hustled to seat them at a sunny table near an arched window, dropping the menus before she left.  As they perused the selections, the waitress, a young blonde woman with a nylon uniform stretched across her ample bosom, stopped at their table, and threw an arm around the Sheriff."

       "Teddy...long time, no see.  How ya doin, baby?"

        Beckett gave the girl his best smile, all teeth and dimples.  "Hey, Jeannie.  What's up, sweetheart?"

        Kevin felt his sister stiffen next to him, and wished they'd had to stopped at McDonald's instead.  The waitress gave Kevin and Maureen the once over, and turned her attention back to the Sheriff, nodding toward the siblings.

     "You here on business, Sheriff?"

     Ted folded his arms across his chest, and leaned back in the chair.  "Now, Jeannie, hon, you know I can't tell you that.  Besides, what makes you think I didn't drive all the way out here to see you."

      "Aw, Teddy. You are so full of shit.   Charmn'...but still full of shit."  She pulled her pad out of her uniform pocket.  "So, what can I get you folks?

                                 ________________________________________________

     Beckett was right.  The waffles were delicious.  And despite his sister doing a slow burn next to him, he attacked his plate like a man on a mission, guzzling an entire carafe of black coffee to wash it down.  The Sheriff seemed to be enjoying his breakfast as well, while Maureen pushed her scrambled eggs into little piles along the edge of her plate.

       Waitress Jeannie had returned to their table several times to refresh beverages, drop off additional butter and syrup, and to flirt outrageously with both men.  She had run her hands through Kevin's red hair, and questioned him on whether what she had heard about 'gingers" was true.  The Sheriff seemed to find the whole thing terribly amusing, but it embarrassed the hell out of him.  He wondered if the woman was purposely teasing him because he was a priest, and then realized in horror that he wasn't wearing his Roman collar.  Beckett had ended up cutting it off him the night before, because it had been soaked with blood from his nose.  The blood had dried, and the cloth had stuck to his skin, requiring the Sheriff to slice the whole thing off with an elaborate pocket knife.

      The woman couldn't know he was a Catholic priest, and from his outward appearance... the broken nose, the cuts and bruises, the dried blood on his backward sweater... probably thought he was some thug the Sheriff was hauling off to jail.  And although she paid him some minor interest, it was surely Beckett she had in her sights.  She was quite clever in the way she developed opportunities to allow him a glance down the the front of her uniform, and with every table visit, managed to handle some part of the Sheriff's upper anatomy.

     If Kevin was able to notice the little romance going on though breakfast, he had to assume so did Maureen.  He could tell from her body language that she was totally pissed, and he hoped they could leave without a scene.  There was no doubt that if the situation had been different, his sister would have given Jeannie the Waitress a run for her money.  But sitting at the table, her hair a mess, her cheek black and blue, and wearing the same rumpled clothes for two days, she apparently had admitted defeat.  When the woman dropped the check off at the table, Kevin was relieved.  With his belly full, and his caffeine fix attended to, he was ready to be on his way back home, still hoping to avoid an impending confrontation.

     But as fate would have it, Jeannie the Waitress was not ready to give up.  In a last ditch attempt, she bent over, giving all three of them a look at her generous rear, and with dramatic flourish, printed her cell phone number across the top of the check.

     Folding the check in half, and pressing it into Beckett's hand, she drawled, "You be sure to give me a call, Sheriff.  It's been way too long, sugar."

     Beckett took her obvious come on in stride, and standing up from the table, whispered something into her ear that made the woman giggle, and pushed Maureen over the edge.  Slamming her chair into the table, she stormed out of the restaurant, leaving Kevin a few steps behind her.  He found her waiting next to the car, face grim, and arms crossed over her chest.

       "Maureen, don't be up..."

       "Shut up, Kev.  I don't want to talk about it.  Just leave me alone."

         He wanted to offer a sympathetic ear, but the Sheriff's arrival at the car held him back.  He unlocked the car, and Maureen tried to race Kevin to the back seat, but unsuccessful, was forced to take her place in the front next to Beckett.  He could tell from the set of her face that she would have her say, and although it seemed cowardly, Kevin wanted no part of it.  As they cruised along, he stretched out across the seat, and pretended to have fallen asleep, leaving Beckett and his sister to work out their differences without his input.

         Attempts by the Sheriff to engage Maureen in conversation were met with terse, sarcastic, mono- syllabes, or with silence.  Tired of her behavior, he lost patience, and complained.  "For Christ sake, Maureen.  What the hell is your problem now?"

         "As if you don't know, Sheriff Beckett."

         "I have no idea what you're talking about.  You change moods so often, a guy needs a scorecard just to know when it's okay to speak to you."

          Her cheeks flushed with anger, and she spat out the words. "You think this is about me?  Okay Sheriff Romeo, tell me this...why the hell do you have your own personal motel room?  A room stocked with disposable toothbrushes, and snacks, and God knows what else!  It's totally creepy that you have some kinda 'love nest' hideaway."

        He looked at her incredulously, and then grinned.  "You actually think I bring women there?  To..uh...I mean for the purpose of...um..seduction?"  He began to laugh, and despite a dirty look from Maureen, he couldn't make himself stop.  Tears rolled down his cheeks, and when he finally was able to speak, he explained.  "Oh Maureen, that room is a safe house.  A place I use to stash people I don't want found for one reason or another."

          "You mean, like a witness protection kind of thing?"  The words seemed to stick in her throat.

         "Exactly like that." He reached over the car's console, and took her hand. "Be assured, my dear...that if I was planning seduction, it would be a whole lot more... memorable."  Then he winked at her, a wink that held so much promise, she blushed a deep pink from ear to ear.

          For all of thirty seconds, she seemed at a loss for words. Then, Beckett could see the wheels turning in her head, and she pulled her hand out of his.  "Sounds all very nice, Sheriff.  But what about that...that... waitress over at the Waffle Castle.   I doubt she was one of your so called witnesses.  Seemed more like a friend...a close, personal friend."

       He chuckled.  "Why Miss O'Kenney...I do believe you're jealous."

     "I am no such thing!  It's just the way that woman was throwing herself at you...well, it was disgusting.   And frankly, from where I was sitting, you were eating up."

     "And here I was... thinking I was just being polite.  Jeannie is just... an aquintance."

     "Right.  That's why she insisted you take her phone number.  Made sure we all knew it too."

     "Is that what's bothering you?"  He dug in his pocket, and pulled out the check from the restaurant.  Crumpling it in his free hand, he rolled down the window and let the wind take it.  "Satisfied?  No more phone number."

       The corner of her mouth turned up, and giving Beckett a wink of her own, she scolded,  "Really, Sheriff.  Someone in your position should know better than to litter."

       From the back seat, Kevin grimaced, thinking that lame come backs were obviously something that ran in the O'Kenney family.

                      ______________________________________________________

       The rest of the ride back to Dollyville was uneventful.  Maureen and the Sheriff seemed content to chit chat about things of little importance.  For that, Fr. Kevin was grateful.  He already felt like he'd eavesdropped on a conversation that was intensely personal.  On the other hand, it gave him some sense of how things were between his sister and Ted Beckett.  As her older brother, he felt the need to keep an eye on things. And if he couldn't convince her to return to her old life in Boston, then he damn well better keep her out of trouble here.

       They pulled up in front of the rectory shortly before noon.  It seemed to Kevin as if a life time had passed since he first got that phone call from Marzano.  In actuality, it had been less than 24 hours.  Now, there were only three items on his agenda.  First, he wanted to pray in his church. In front of his altar.  Deep, faith filled prayers of thanksgiving.  Next, a hot shower.  The kind that uses every drop of warm water in the tank.  And finally, a nap.  A very long one, with the shades closed, and a pillow over his head.

         Beckett walked both Maureen and he to the door.  For a second or two, there was awkward silence.  What did you say to someone who, for lack of better words, saved your sorry ass?  Someone who was willing to risk their own safety to see to you and yours?  Fr. Kevin stuck his hand out, and  Beckett took it.  "Sheriff.  Bless you.  I can't begin to thank you for coming to our rescue without even being asked.  I am forever grateful, and in your debt."

       "You owe me nothing, Father.  I couldn't have done anything else.  I'm just glad it worked out the way it did, and that you're both safe."

        Maureen looked first at the Sheriff, and then at her brother.  Kevin knew a hint when he saw one.  He excused himself, and went inside, closing the rectory door, and offering them a tiny bit of privacy.

        Beckett spoke first.  "Well, it's been quite an adventure."

        "Adventure?  That's putting it mildly."  She tried to squeak out a laugh, but it came out flat.  "Ted...I...I'm not sure how to thank you either.  You probably saved our lives.  Mine and Kevin's."  She put her hand out to shake his.

      Ignoring her outstretched hand, the Sheriff leaned in and took hold of her chin.  He ran his thumb across the bruise on the right cheek, and then across her lips.  She stood perfectly still, and he kissed her.  Pulling away, he whispered in a low voice, "You take care of yourself, Maureen O'Kenney."
     
       When she didn't answer him, he turned and walked to the Mustang, and seconds later, he was gone.

       It would be the last time they'd see Ted Beckett for several weeks, and in that time, Maureen would think of a hundred things she could have said...should have said... before he left.


Beckett and Maureen
                                         
Copyright 2013 Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved
   
     



     

     

               



     



     


       

     



     

         



Sunday, January 13, 2013

Inquiring Minds Want to Know...

Over the past few months, I've received several questions asking about my blog...its characters, the scenes and miniatures, the story line, etc.  I've decided to answer them all here in one fell swoop.  So here it goes...

How did you come up with the storyline and characters for Mini Mayhem?

I didn't find the storyline...it found me.  I promised myself last school year, that I would take the advice I give my students, and work on my writing skills everyday.  Knew that if I didn't make a solid commitment, I would undoubtedly find 500 other things to do during my summer break.  So, on the first day of vacation, I started a blog, even though I knew absolutely nothing about blogging.  I selected Google Blogspot because it seemed the easiest to set up.

I decided I would write fiction, so that I would always have something new to write about everyday, and thought adding my minis would be a fun way to combine two things I loved. It would also give me an opportunity to take and post photos.  On day one, I was sitting in my living room, trying to figure out how to start my story, saw my mini church across the room, and just started typing.  No outline. No premise.  I broke every single rule I give my students.  But each day, the story just took shape, and the characters began to develop.  After the first week, I started penciling in a plot line.  It took off from there, and I have active plot outlined for several weeks in advance.

From the photos you post with the story, it looks like you have loads and loads of minis.  Just how many dollhouses do you have?

LOL...I do have minis spread throughout the house.  My youngest son likes to tell people the blog is published from his bedroom at home while he's away at school.  Currently, I have 8 1:12 dollhouse or buildings in various stages of "unfinished".  I also have a few metal, vinyl, and pressboard vintage houses, and a 1:24 colonial.  The furniture from all of these gets moved around for various "scenes", and everyone once in awhile, I have to build something from scratch, like Cassie's and Ted's Red Room.  I am currently working on another 'project' for an upcoming scene.  But that's a secret.

Is Fr. Kevin based on a real person?

Fr. Kevin is based on the personalities of a few different people, none of whom are priests.  (although I think one of them would have made a good one!)

When you write your characters, do you have specific people in mind?

I have photos of real people I sometimes use when describing physical features and movements.  I thought about posting my photos to the blog, but I think it is more fun to let you imagine them the way you want.  (Although my Sheriff Beckett is quite yummy!  LOL)

Why did you make Sheriff Ted Beckett a brunette.  I pictured him as a blonde!

Sorry, he always had dark hair and blue-green eyes in my head.  But you go ahead and make him a blonde if you like.

Will the Sheriff and Maureen eventually hook up?  If so when?

No comment.  LOL ( You don't really want to know ahead of time, do you?)

Will we see any more of Cassie?

What do you think?

Will we find out who is the father of dead Lizzie's baby?

Yes.  I actually gave you clues to that in September I think.

You write a lot about Irish people.  Are you Irish?

Nope.  I just live in Chicago...a city in which St. Patrick's Day is a 3 day event.  The Gaelic and Celtic mythology come from research.  Just so much fun to write.

Will we hear anything more about Brian?

Probably.  He's taken a back seat to all the Marzano issues, but I suspect he will show back up again when things calm down.

Sometimes Fr. Kevin does things that don't seem "priest like".  Why do you write him that way?

Nobody is perfect.  Nobody...clergy included.  Besides, who wants to read about 'perfect' people?  It's rather boring, and doesn't leave your character room to grow.  But I am very careful not to cross the line with him.  I have nothing but the utmost respect for those who are called to serve God in that manner.  Honestly, I think he's a great guy.  Someone I'd like to have as a friend.

Do you have any other works published?  Will you turn Fr. Kevin and friends into a book, so we don't have to wait a week in between chapters?

I am not a professional, and have no other works published. (But I'm thrilled to have you think it's a possibility)  This blog is my "writer's workshop"...a chance for me to try things out.  I have dreams of turning Mini Mayhem into an e-book or two.  But that's just in the "hoping' stages.  Until then, you'll have to wait for each chapter as I post them.

I truly appreciate all your support.  If you think you know someone who might enjoy this type of writing, please share the link.  I'd be most appreciative.   And as always, your comments and emails mean so much to me.  Thanks for taking the time to write them!

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved 2013



Thursday, January 10, 2013

The 'No Tell' Motel

Hiding from Marzano

    Kevin turned his head, the tiny movement causing a stabbing pain to bloom behind his eyes.  She was right.  The car seemed to be following them on the opposite side of the street, remaining in the shadows and avoiding the slices of light thrown from the few working street lamps.

  "Don't run, Mo.  It will show that you're afraid."

  "Kev, it's a car, not a stray dog.  I think we should run like hell."

   He could see the panic in her eyes.  Wanted to tell her it would be okay.  But he was near the breaking point himself.  If there was a spot on his body that didn't throb, he'd be hard pressed to find it, and each step he took was a challenge.  Running was simply not an option.  "Maybe you're right, Momo. So... this is what we're going to do.  When I say run, you take off.  Head for the strip mall three blocks down.  Wait by the diner."  Kevin gave her hand a tight squeeze.  "I'll stay here.  Distract the car."  He bent forward, rubbing his cramping calves.  "If it turns out the car is nothing...then I'll meet you there." Good Lord willing.

    Maureen stopped dead in her tracks.  "I'm not just going to leave you here, Kevin.  Like some kind of damn coward."  She put her arm through his.  "You saved my life.  You had the shit kicked out of you on my account.  How could you think I'd run off and leave you to...whatever?"  She wiped at a spot of dried blood on his sweater, and patted his arm.  "We'll deal together...no matter what."

    He wanted to explain it all.  Confess that it was because of him...and that cursed case of money...that she had been abudcted in the first place. Damn Mo.  Why couldn't you have stayed in Boston?  Find a normal guy. Have babies. Be happy.  It was all right there, waiting to come spilling out.  But the seal of the confessional held his tongue. "Maureen... I'm so..." The regret was put on hold as the black Mustang crossed to the wrong side of the street, and slid silently next to the curb where they were standing.

     The tinted driver's window rolled down, and Beckett, dressed in black from head to toe, leaned through the space.  "Hate to break up this tender family moment, but I need for you to get into this car as quickly as possible."

     Filled with relief, they walked to the other side of the car.  Maureen pulled open the passenger door, and pushed the bucket seat forward.  "You get in the back, Kev.  That way you can stretch out across the seat, and be more comfortable."

      There was no way folding his sore, six foot frame into that tiny space was going to offer any comfort, but he was too grateful to argue.  He bent downward to climb in back, when he noticed the weapon lying across the seat.  "Um...Sheriff?  There's a gun back here.  A big one."

       "It's a Bushmaster 223. Top of the line.  Just lay it on the floor, Father, and get in."

       "I'm...uh...not sure I want to touch it."

        "Damn it, Father.  The safety's on.  It's perfectly safe.  Will you just get in car?  I'm not sure this is the best place to linger."

      Kevin pushed the 223 to the floor, and slid his rear onto the seat.  Curling up his long legs, he tried to find a position that didn't cause him breath sucking pain.  Do people actually ever sit in the back of a Mustang?  How?  He watched his sister settle into the seat next to Beckett.  The Sheriff checked his rear view mirrors, shifted the car into drive, and  pulled away from the street.  Lord...I have no idea why the Sheriff is here...but thank you anyway.

     "Thanks, Sheriff.  Your timing is perfect."  He leaned his head on the window, and took a deep breath.  "How...did you know we were here?"

     "I've been following you since this afternoon, Father."

      Maureen came instantly to his defense.  "You saw what happened to Kevin...and you just watched?  What the hell is the matter with you?  Why didn't you stop those guys from hurting him?"   Her voice sounded high and strained.

     "As you might recall,  Maureen, you had a gun stuck in the small of your back.  If I had reacted hastily, there's a pretty good chance you'd be dead right now. Maybe Kevin too.  Your brother is in pretty good shape.  I was willing to risk the beating if it meant you'd both be able to walk away.  Either way, I had him covered.  If things had gone south, I was prepared to take action."

         "Don't blame the Sheriff, Mo.  He did the right thing.  This is all my fault anyway."  Here it comes.  All the questions I can't answer.  Maybe Maureen will understand.  But the Sheriff? Never.

         "I can't figure out any of this!  How did you know Kev needed help?  And why are those horrible people after us?  We're nobodies.  Does it have anything to do with what happened at the cabin?"

          "Yeah, Father.  Those are good questions.  Maybe you could shed some light as to how you managed to get yourself mixed up with Vincent Marzano?  And where you got all that money to ransom your sister."

           From his vantage point in the back seat, Kevin said nothing.  He could feel the heat of the Sheriff's glare, and see the confusion in his sister's eyes.  But he could offer them no answers.  "I'm sorry.  I'm not going to be able to tell you."

          The Sheriff drove the Mustang into the lot of a brightly lit drug store, put the car in park, but left the engine running.  He turned around, and leaned over the seat.  "That's bullshit, Fr. O'Kenney.  Total bullshit.  You put your sister in danger.  You compromised your reputation.  You brought evil people  into my unsuspecting town.  And then you have the audacity to sit there in your misery and pain, and refuse to explain why?  You're really some piece of work."  He threw open the car door, and focused on Maureen, ignoring Kevin completely.  "I need to pick up a few things.  Lock the car doors.  If you feel threatened, lay on the horn, and I'll be right back."  With a quick turn, he was out of the Mustang, slamming the door so hard the windows rattled.

      Maureen knelt on the seat facing her brother.  "Kev, I'm really freaked.  What's going on?  Who's Marzano, and why..why is he bothering us?  Please.  You have to tell me what's going on."

   "Mo...I want to tell you everything.  Honest I do.  I feel so guilty that you're involved in any of this.  But I can't.  It has to do with...with a sacrament.  My vow of silence is sacred.  You understand that, don't you?  Don't hate me, Momo.  I couldn't bear it.

     He looked so pitiful, so broken and banged up, it was hard for her to hold back her tears.  "Oh, Kevin.  Are you telling me this whole mess...me getting kidnapped...you getting beat up...all has to do with something that happened in the confessional?"  When he looked away in silence, she knew she had her answer.   She slid stone-faced back into her seat, knowing her brother would say no more on the subject.

     In a matter of minutes, Beckett returned to the car, a phantom image all in black, looking out of place in the harsh, glaring lights of the drugstore.  He was carrying two plastic bags, which he threw hastily into the trunk.  Getting into the Mustang, he was quickly aware of the silence and tension in the car. Something had passed between the two siblings, but he refrained from questioning either of them.  There would be time for that later.

     As they headed east away from Dollyville, Maureen realized that they were not moving in the direction of the rectory, drawing the first words out of any one's mouth in several minutes  "This isn't the way back to town.  Aren't we going home?  Back to the rectory?"

     Fr. Kevin pushed himself up from the seat, and twisted around to look out the back window.  "Sheriff?  What's going on?  Where are we going?  I appreciate all your help, but..."

     "It would be stupid to head back to the rectory without being sure of Marzano's intention.  It appears he intends to keep you alive, but there's no reason we should get sloppy.  The man does nothing without purpose, and until I can pinpoint what that might be, I'd rather be safe than sorry.  We're going to lie low for a bit, until I get the information I need.  I know a place. "

    "Like I said, Sheriff.  I'm grateful for the help, but the man has his money.  I believe he's done with me...with us.  So all this cloak and dagger stuff... it's really unneccessary.  Just take us home. Please."

     "You're being very cavalier, Father.  But unlike you, I'm not willing to risk your life...or Maureen's, over 'maybes'. We're going to do this my way.  You owe me that much."   And without taking his eyes off the road, Beckett tapped a screen on the dashboard and the car was suddenly filled with the strains of Brahms Concerto in D Major, so loud that nothing more could be discussed

      They drove through miles of dark back roads, and several small towns before pulling over a crushed gravel road leading to a small, low rise motel.  The Sheriff drove past the office without registering or picking up a key, and parked in the back of the end unit.  He retrieved the bags from the trunk, along with a long black case.  With Maureen's assistance, he helped Kevin hobble out of the Mustang's back seat, and grabbed the 223 off the floor before locking the car.  The trio entered the room from an oddly placed back door, which required Beckett to code in a series of numbers.

      He flipped a switch on the rear wall, and lights blazed across the room.  The decor was typical of hundreds of similiar chain motels across the country.  Bland walls.  Beige carpeting. Double bed with faded comforter, and a no name TV perched on a veneer bureau.  Undoubtedly, the lumpy sofa on the far wall opened up to a sofa bed, but only if you moved the table and chair out of it's way.  To to the exhausted priest, the mediocre accomodations seemed comparable to a suite at the Four Seasons.  He longed to curl up on the rock hard mattress, flip through endless cable channels, and forget every moment of this miserable day.  But there was his sister to consider, and what was sure to be endless questions from the somber Sheriff.

      Maureen wandered the room, examining the lack luster furniture,  She plopped onto the sofa, the weariness of the day etched in her face.  "Just why are we here, Sheriff?  And for how long?"

      "You are here, Miss O'Kenney, for your own safety.  As for how long?  Well, that will depend on how soon I can get confirmation that Vincent Marzano and company has moved on.  Both from Massechuets, and having an interest in the two of you.  The fact that your brother refuses to reveal his involvement is making my job a lot tougher."

       Rising from the sofa, and standing toe to toe with the Sheriff, Maureen scolded, "Just leave my brother alone.  He has his reasons.  None of which someone like you would understand."

       Beckett forced a tight smile.  "Oh.  So that's how it's going to be.  Two against one.  Apparently neither of you understand just how much danger you're in.  You want to play games?  Go ahead...keep  your secrets."  He shook his head in disgust.  "I thought you both were smarter than that."  Picking up the bag from the drugstore, he crossed the room to where Fr. Kevin had propped himself on the bed.  "I'm tired of arguing about this.  You don't want to help me?  Fine.  Don't.  But damned if I'm gonna sit back and watch Marzano take the two of you out.  Not if I can help it."  He pulled several packages of tape and bandages from the bag, along with antiseptic and cotton balls.  "Come give me a hand, Maureen.  I'm guessing Kevin has some broken ribs.  We'll need to wrap them."

                      ________________________________________________________

       It took the best of an hour to tend to Kevin's 'battle' wounds, and by the time they had finished, both he, and his nursemaids, were thoroughly annoyed and exhausted.  Becket had insisted on wrapping his entire rib cage, and their tugging and pulling had caused him more than a little pain.  Maureen had bandaged his nose as best she could, but it had been broken only months before, the cartilage already soft and damaged, and the wrap didn't offer him much in the way of comfort or support.

      Because he was in such miserable shape, it was insisted upon that he should take dominion over the only bed in the room.  Maureen took possession of the sofa bed, but when they pulled it out for her, the center sagged so badly, she opted to just stretch out across it, sans the bed part.  The Sheriff offered them something to eat or drink from the bureau door, which strangely enough, held a sampling of instant soups, coffees, and teas, as well as bottled water and several packets of crackers and beef jerky.

       The fact that this motel room in the middle of no where seemed "stocked" for guests, had a unique back door, as well as a strange key pad entry system, left Fr. Kevin puzzled.  Added to that was the missing explanation of why the Sheriff had to take a call from his cell phone in the bathroom...with the door closed.  Being left without answers raised the anxiety level of both he and his sister.

        When he finally got the nerve to question the Sheriff about his concerns, Beckett shot him a dirty look, and calmly stated that he would answer Kevin's questions just as soon as Kevin finished answering his.  Calling a stalemate, and in no mood to get into a pissing match about who would 'break' first, the priest rolled over, pulled the covers around his head, and pretended to be asleep.

         In the process of "pretending",  he must have actually dozed off.  Fr. Kevin woke with a start, and checking the watch on his nightstand, realized he had been sleeping for about 3 hours.  It was nearly 5 AM, and still dark outside.  The only light in the room came from a slit under the dropped window shade, the neon glare of the "No Vacancy" sign flashing for an obviously empty motel.  The weirdness of that concept gave him pause, but his train of thought was abruptly interupted.  In the tiny bit of light, he could see across the room to where his sister was softly snoring on the sofa, her left hand hanging down and entwined in the Sheriff's, who was propped, eyes closed, on the floor next to her.

Looking out for Maureen
                         
     
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved 2013
   

 


          

         



   





Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Brand New Give Away for a New Year!

   In celebration of the New Year, six months on Google Blogger, and 10,000 page views, I am offering a Give Away!

   The Give Away is for the beautiful cross stitch rug seen in the photo above, and a small extra surprise. ( Sorry! The furniture, doll and doggie are not included in this contest, and are props only)  The rug is done in shades of ivory, French blue, sage green, and two different shades of pink and rose.  It's simple, yet elegant design, would work well in a variety of settings and time periods.

I would love to send this rug, and a little surprise, to you if you are my lucky reader!

Here are the rules!

1.)   You must be a follower of this blog.
2.)   You must leave a comment on one of the story posts, and not on this Give Away page.  Your
        comment must relate to the story line or one of the characters, and not just state that you wish to
        win the rug.  (Sorry to sound so picky.  I have been hit with loads of spam lately, mostly from
        eastern Europe, that sound like they are following this blog, but are actually attempts to post their
        own links to my readers.  This contest is for all the wonderful people who faithfully read my
        weekly attempts at story telling.)  If you are commenting as "Anonymous" leave your first name
        and the first letter of your last name in the comment box so I can count your entry.  If you have
        a blog of your own, this won't be necessary.
 3.)   One entry per post will be counted, but you may comment on each new post every week until the
        contest ends for multiple entries.
4.)    Earn yet another entry by posting the link to this Give Away on your own blog.

      This contest will close on January 26th, at 8:00 PM  US Central Time

Good Luck ...and thanks for your continued support!

Madame Mystery aka Vicki


A Note to My Readers...

Please be advised that although this blog is illustrated with photos of dolls, and dollhouse miniatures, the content is written for a mature audience.  The plot, language and themes are directed toward adult readers.


The contents of this blog, each and every post, is under the exclusive ownership of the author, and may not be copied without written permission.  All Rights Reserved 2013

Let's Make a Deal

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?"

          "I understand."

          "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."


Copyright 2013 Victoria Rocus
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