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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Don't Go Breakn' my Heart

 
A trip to the Emergency Room
   They dressed quickly in worried silence, and were out the door in a matter of minutes.  It didn't make sense to bother with the Mustang, which was covered in several inches of snow, and so they instead chose to walk the two blocks down to the rectory.

    Though it was already late March, someone had forgotten to notify Spring that her arrival had gone past fashionably late.  The sidewalks were slick and icy, making walking difficult, and the cold bit their face as they hustled down the street.  About midway to their destination, they were able to see the EMTs pulling a stretcher out the rectory door, followed by Fr. Kevin, his coat thrown over his arm.  Maureen, realizing it must be her older brother, Patrick, on the stretcher, broke into a run.  Out of breath, her nose running from the cold, she caught up to Kevin, as he was about to climb into the back of the ambulance.

     "Kev...what's wrong?  What's the matter with Patrick?"  She tried to see inside the vehicle, but her view was blocked by a bevy of uniformed personnel, hooking her brother up to all manner of wires.

     "Mo, I'm glad you're here.  I was going to call you when we got to the hospital.  They think Pat is having a heart attack.  They're taking him straight to Jefferson Memorial.  I'm going to ride with him in the ambulance.  You go with Ted, and meet us there.  He'll know where to go.  That's where they took me when I was shot."

       "Oh, Kevin, will he be all right?  I'm scared."

       "I'm not sure.  He looked pretty awful, Mo, and he was in a lot of pain.  We have to pray."  Behind him, one of the paramedics called for him to hurry,  "Look...I gotta go.  We'll talk at the hospital, okay."  He turned to speak to the Sheriff, who now stood next to Maureen."  Please take care of my sister, Beckett.  I'll catch up with you guys at the hospital ER."

      Ted nodded, and taking Maureen by the arm, led her back to where the Mustang was parked.  Seeing the ambulance speed away, sirens blaring, her tears began in earnest. Ted gave her a quick hug, and brushing off the passenger door, had her slide inside while he finished clearing off the car.  It took a only a few swipes, and he joined her.  Tugging under his seat, he pulled out a domed cherry light, and reaching up through the window, put it on the top of the hood.  With their own flashing lights, they took off in pursuit of the ambulance.

_______________________________

     The Emergency Room of Jefferson Memorial was surprisingly empty .  As it was the only trauma center in town, the drab painted room was usually filled to capacity with the community's walking wounded.  This early Friday morning, the youngest O'Kenney siblings, and the Sheriff, shared the room with one reeking drunk, an elderly woman with a walker, and a set of frantic parents parent rocking a screeching baby.  After arriving at the ER, Patrick was rushed into a room full of harried doctors and nurses, and Kevin was ushered to the waiting room with the promise that someone would keep him updated.  He had hoped to administer the Sacrament of the Sick to his brother, but was pushed out of the room before he could entirely finish.

     In all truth, he was greatly relieved when his sister and the Sheriff finally made it to the hospital.  Having Maureen there made him feel better, and Beckett was, as usual, a calm and confident presence.  They had only been waiting 10 minutes, when the cardiologist came out to speak to them about Pat's condition.  Dr. Salmon confirmed that Patrick indeed was suffering from cardiac arrest, due to a 100% blockage of his stenotic left main coronary artery.  They were prepping him for what they hoped would be a routine angioplasty, and an insertion of a stent, but required next of kin's signature allowing them to preform by-pass surgery if necessary.

    Kevin had been desperately trying to reach Patrick's wife, Eileen, for the past hour, without success.  He couldn't, for the life of him, figure out why at 2:30AM, she wouldn't be home to answer the phone, and assumed she must be sleeping too heavily to hear it.  As he and Maureen were the only family members available, Kevin was forced to give his approval for full chest cutting surgery if the doctor found that Patrick required it.  Once the release was signed, the doctor was off, leaving the three of them to worry and wait.

  Tired of pacing, Fr. Kevin took out his rosary and began praying, and Maureen followed suit.  Beckett watched them for a few awhile, but feeling awkward, went off in search of a coffee respite.  When Maureen was sure that Ted was out of ear shot, she stopped in mid decade, and spoke in hushed tones to her brother.

   "This is all my fault, you know.  I'm to blame for Patrick having this heart attack.  All the stress I caused him."  She gripped the rosary tighter in her hand, and rubbed her fingers over the smooth beads.  "First with all that...stuff...that happened in Boston."

   Kevin only nodded.  She knew damned well she had told him all about the Boston incident under the sanctity of the confessional, and he wasn't able to discuss it. But his focus right this moment was on Patrick, and he was in no mood to have a pastoral discussion with his errant sister.

   She took his silence as an invitation to continue.  "Pat was mortified by all the gossip about me around the diocese.  That last time I met with him before I left Boston, he was so angry, and his face got all red and sweaty.  I should have known something was wrong.  It was stupid to just run off like I did.  Should have listened to him, and stayed in Boston.  Now I've gone and given him a heart attack."  She grabbed the sleeve of Kevin's coat, and whined,  "If anything happens to him, Kev, I don't know how I'll ever live with myself."

   Years of dealing with his sister's drama had taught him the expected response.  She wanted...needed... to be righted, rescued, and repeatedly reassured.  And in normal circumstances, as her older brother, he had been happy to play that role.  But sitting here in the emergency room, his head pounding from the generous amount of Jameson imbued over dinner, his stomach rolling with worry, he just didn't have it in him, and his response sounded nasty, even to his own ears.

   "That's a totally stupid statement, Mo.  Believe it or not, this is about Patrick... not you.  You heard the doctor.  His artery is totally clogged.  And it's no surprise.  Look at the way he eats and drinks.  The man has an absolute aversion to anything healthy.  He lives on red meat and alcohol.  And frankly, he should know better.  Especially after Dad."

    Her expression changed from stricken to annoyed, but the appearance of Ted with the coffee saved him from sisterly retribution.  She closed her mouth, and turned her attention towards her beau, reaching for the paper cup he offered  "Thanks, Ted.  You're such a sweetie."  She turned her back on her brother, squeezed Beckett's  hand, and smiled.  "I'm so glad it's you here with me.  I'd be lost without you."

    Satisfied that Maureen was occupied with the Sheriff, Kevin used the opportunity to slip away and use his cell phone.  It was a pain to walk clear down the hall to another room just to make a phone call, but the ER walls were covered with signs forbidding their use.  In addition, it was somewhat of a relief to let Beckett handle Mo for a bit, a job he clearly relished.

    Once in the other lounge, Kevin tried dialing Patrick's house phone, but there was still no answer, which left him terribly uneasy.  He didn't have Eileen's cell number, so having no other choice, and desperately needing to unburden himself of sole responsibility, he dialed his brother Jaimie.  He listened to it ring a few times before someone picked it up, and answered in a sleep roughed voice.

   "Hello?"

   "Jaimie?  It's Kevin."  He paused, and thinking further explanation was necessary, added,  "Your brother."

    "I know who the hell you are, Kev.  It's like 3:00AM.  What's wrong?"

    "I'm calling about Patrick.  He's...we're at the hospital. Me and Maureen. And Patrick.  They think he had a heart attack.  He's in surgery now... having angioplasty.  Or at least we hope it's just angioplasty.  They couldn't be sure how much damage he'd suffered."

    "Shit!  Are you sure?"

    "Ummm...yeah.  I'm sure.  I'm calling from the hospital.  We talked to the cardiologist about half hour ago."

     "Damn.  I was worried about him.  His last blood test was awful.  Did the doc say Pat was gonna be okay?"

     "He was non-committal.  But he said he'd come out and talk to us as soon as he was done working on Pat, so I can't talk long.  I need to be there when he comes back.  Plus, I don't want to leave Maureen in the waiting room by herself."  He decided there was no reason to mention Beckett.  At least not now.

     "I understand.  Let me know what's going on as soon as you hear, okay.  I'll take care of notifying everyone else.  You just focus on Pat at your end."

     "Thanks, Jaimie.  That would sure be helpful.  I'll call you back as soon as we talk to the doctor.  Hey, before I hang up, do you have Eileen's cell number.  I've tried calling their house a dozen times, and she doesn't answer.  I'm hoping she keeps her cell close by."

      There was dead silence on the other end, and then he heard Jaimie sigh.  "I guess you don't know."

      "Know what?"

      "I'm sure Patrick meant to tell you.  He just probably hadn't gotten around to it."

      "Tell me what, Jaimie?  Stop playing games, and spit it out."

      "Eileen left him.  Right after the holidays.  Packed up, and moved out.  Never said a word in advance.  Pat came home from work sometime the first week of January, and she was gone.  All I know is she's hired a lawyer, and won't talk to the rest of us.  Keeps insisting it's "for the best".  I tried talking to Patrick about it, but he just gets defensive. You know how he is.  All bluster and bark."

       The news left Kevin stunned.  Patrick and Eileen had been together for almost twenty-five years.  And although his brother had been difficult to live with, he had thought their marriage unshakable.  It was hard to know which was worse.  The fact that the two of them seemed on the verge of splitting up, or the realization that not one of his siblings had bothered to tell him.

      "Wow.  I don't know what to say.  It's hard to think about the two of them not being together." He wanted to rail at Jaimie for leaving him out of the loop.  For once again excluding him among the brothers.  But this was neither the time, nor the place, to air his grievances, so he swallowed his hurt feelings, and finished the conversation.  "Well, we have to tell her, Jaimie.  About the heart attack.  They were married for twenty-five years.  She has a right to know.  Plus, I think it's her place to tell Ian and Colin.  We shouldn't be calling them at school to tell them about their dad.  Not without talking to Eileen first."

      "You're probably right, Kev.  But, it can't be me.  I called her right after she moved out, and the conversation didn't go well.  We haven't spoken since.  I doubt she'd even listen to me."

      "Then give me her cell number, and I'll try calling her.  She's always been a very compassionate woman, as well as pretty level headed.  I'm confident she'll want to come down here, and be with Patrick."

       "Suit yourself, Kevin.  But I'm telling you...whatever went down between the two them was serious shit, and I'm not sure a few words from you, as pretty as they might be, is going to change things."

       "I have to at least try, Jaimie.  It's the right thing to do."

      Phone numbers were exchanged, as well as promises to keep in touch.  Kevin hung up on Jamie with a heavy heart, and if he thought the whole drama couldn't get any worse, he was sadly mistaken.  He reached his sister-in-law, who was polite, but firm in her decision to remain in Boston.  She immediately committed to calling her sons about their father's illness, but cut off any conversation regarding the issues between she and her estranged husband, leaving Kevin with little more to say.

     As he walked back to the ER waiting room, he wondered what he'd say to Maureen.  Eileen was her godmother, and when she went to live with them during her high school years, they had become very close.  He hated to add to the already heightened stress of the day, knowing his sister would take the news badly.

    So when he sat her down to explain the situation, and watched as she didn't bat an eye, he was momentarily confused.  But then she spoke, and suddenly everything was clear.

    "Well good for, her!  She finally got the guts to do it!  I don't know why the hell she waited as long  as she did."

      "Are you telling me that you knew about this in advance?  And you said nothing?  Didn't try to talk her out it?  Didn't at least try and warn Patrick she was contemplating leaving him?  What the hell were you thinking Maureen?"

     Beckett, hoping to avoid a major scene, injected, "Look guys, maybe you can discuss..."

     Kevin was back at him in an instant.  "This is family business, Beckett.  It's no concern of yours, so butt out!"

     The Sheriff raised his hands in mock surrender, and closed his mouth.

     Maureen grabbed at his sleeve, and pulled herself closer, scowling at her brother.  "You leave Ted alone, Kevin.  He's here with me, and if you don't like it, too damn bad!  We both know that Patrick is a jerk, and Eileen's had to deal with his controlling ways long enough.  No woman should have to put up with a man telling her what to do."

    Next to her, Beckett arched an eyebrow over the comment, but wisely, held his tongue.  Round Two was interrupted by the reappearance of Dr. Salmon with news about their brother.

    "The procedure went well.  We cleaned out the artery, and put in a stent to keep it clear.  He has blockage in two other areas, but it's prudent to wait on those until he's more stable.  They're taking him to recovery now, and he'll be there for about three hours until we can be sure the incision isn't going to bleed.  Your brother is a very lucky man, Father.  If you hadn't been as quick to get him here as you were, I doubt he would have survived this heart attack. They call this type of blockage "The Widow Maker".  He's going to have to make some serious life style changes if he wants to avoid a repeat of tonight."

    Kevin stood, and shook the man's hand.  "Thank you, Doctor.  We certainly appreciate all you've done.  Can we see him?"

    "You can stay with him in the Recovery Room, but only one of you at a time.  After we're sure the incision is clotted, we'll admit him to the Cardiac Unit.  He can have regular visitors there.  I'll be around later this morning to check on him."

   With a handshake all around, the cardiologist left, and Kevin headed toward the recovery area to be with his brother.  He hadn't even considered offering Maureen the opportunity, feeling her siding with his sister-in-law, Eileen, was equal to sibling treason.  No matter how hard, and how often they fought among themselves, the eight of them had always stood firm in defending one another from those outside the family.  Maureen's breach of loyalty was beyond his immediate understanding and forgiveness, and he left her in the waiting room with Beckett without an additional word.

    A nurse pointed him in the right direction, and he found Patrick in a small curtained room near the back of the station.  He pushed aside the cloth to find his brother lying inert on a gurney, his face the color of gray ash, and his eyes closed.  At first, his heart skipped a beat, as the eldest O'Kenney looked like he was no longer among the living.  But a quick glance at the monitor screen told him otherwise.  The arching lines on the monitor showed a heart beating strong and healthy, and he was instantly relieved.

   The RR nurse noticed Kevin standing there, and shook Patrick's shoulder.  "Mr. O'Kenney, you have a visitor."

   Patrick opened one blood shot, green eye, the same color as Maureen's, and peered at his brother in the doorway.  "Ah, Fr. Kevin.  I hope you're not here to give me Last Rites."  He chuckled weakly at his own joke, and spoke to the nurse.  "My little brother here is the Pastor at Holy Family Church.  Pretty impressive, huh?"

   The nurse patted Patrick's arm.  "You're lucky to have such a caring family, Mr. O'Kenney.  Especially one with connections upstairs.  You were needing them tonight."  She pointed heavenwards, smiling as she did so.

    "That I am, ma'am.  That I am."  He pointed to a chair next to the bed.  "Sit, Kevin.  They tell me I'm gonna be here awhile."

      Kevin slid into the chair, and took his brother's hand.  "How ya feeln', Pat?"

      Patrick smiled weakly.  "Guess about as good as can be expected.  I was awake for the whole procedure, ya know.  Rather disconcerting to watch on a TV screen while they stick wires up your leg, and into your heart."

      Kevin nodded, having nothing to compare with.  "I called Jaimie.  He's gonna notify the rest of the family.  He's sends his best, and says to tell you not to be slackn' off down here."

      Patrick grinned.  "Ya gotta love, Jaimie.  He always tells ya like it is."  He shifted in the bed, trying to pull himself to a sitting position, causing the nurse to come over, and push him back down.

      "You know the rules, Mr. O'Kenney.  No moving for at least three hours.  We don't want to open up that incision, do we?"

       Patrick gave her a mock salute, but settled himself back down, resuming his conversation with Kevin.  "Kev, I want you to call my boys.  You have a way of making things sound not so bad, and I don't want either of them freaking out, and coming down here.  They're four weeks from the end of the semester.  They need to keep their focus on their studies, and finish strong."

       Kevin's nephews were both away at school.  Ian was a senior at Georgetown, and Colin was at Loyola in New Orleans, and they were the pride of their father's existence.  But discussing the boys meant discussing their mother, and Kevin was apprehensive about what would come next.  "Sure, Pat.  I'll call both Ian, and Colin."  He wrung his hands, and decided to just get the hard part over with.  "Jaimie told me about Eileen.  About the two of you."  He waited for a response, and when there was none, he continued.  "I called her and told her about what was happening here."

     Patrick looked away.  "And she's not coming, right?"

     Kevin shook his head.  "No.  But, she sends her best.  Hopes you're feeling better soon."

     The flash of contempt in his brother's eyes reminded Kevin more of the real Patrick.  "Just as well.  I'm through with that woman."

      "Look, Pat.  I know sometimes people get trapped in an argument, and it seems like there's no way out.  But, you guys love each other and I know if you would just sit down and..."

      "Spare me the Pre-Cana bullshit, Kevin.  You have no idea of what it's like in the real world.  Where you got people coming at you from all directions. If she thinks she's better off without me, so be it."

      "You have to at least try, Patrick.  For the the sake of your family."

       "Drop it, Kevin.  I'm not discussing my marital issues with you."  He closed his eyes, and stayed silent for a few moments, then asked, "Is Red here?"

        "Yes, she's in the ER waiting room."

       "Why don't you go, and send her in here.  I need to speak to her."  He turned his head, and stared at the wall, a signal that Kevin had been officially dismissed.

         A mix of emotions, Kevin headed back to the Maureen and Beckett.  "He wants to see, you Maureen."

         She grabbed her purse, ran a brush through her hair, and slid some lip gloss over her lips.  When she noticed the two men looking at her curiously, she stated, "He always comments if I look messy.  I'm trying to avoid riling him up."  Then standing up, she marched off in the direction Kevin had just come from.

         The two of them watched her walk away, and Beckett asked, "How is he?"

        Kevin made a face, not wanting the Sheriff to know that he had been replaced by Maureen without a second thought.  "I guess he's doing well.  He's back to being his usual asshole self."

        Beckett refused to comment, as anything he might say would lead to being told once again to mind his own business.  So instead, he picked up an old magazine from the rack near the door, and pretended to be interested in an article about natural garden composting.

        They waited in uncomfortable unease, until about fifteen minutes later, when Maureen returned to the waiting room, eyes swollen and red.  Alarmed, both of them stood up.

       "Mo, what's wrong?  Did something happen to Pat?"

       Beckett grabbed her waist, and led her to a chair to sit.  "What's up, sweetheart?  Why were you crying?"

        Taking a tissue from her purse, she blow her nose none too daintily, and with a loud sniffle announced, "When Patrick goes back home, I'm leaving with him.  I'm moving back to Boston."



Copyright 2013  Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved


 

   

 



   

     

   

   

 

 

   


Monday, March 25, 2013

My Day Job...

Yours truly as the Evil Queen from Snow White, with my good friend and teaching partner, Donna, as "Granny" from Little Red Riding Hood                  
   So...as I've mentioned before, I am a full time teacher, part time author.  And when I'm not writing for this blog, or chasing the "book fantasy", I am writing for my students.  Today was our 2nd Annual 8th Grade Live Mystery Event.  I wrote the story premise, and developed the characters for a "Whodunit" style mystery based on popular fairy tale and children's book characters.  Each student (29 of them) went into this story with the motive, means, and opportunity to have committed the scandalous murder of 'Ole King Cole.  My good friend and teaching partner, Donna, is our Jr. High Science teacher.  She creatively teaches a very intensive 5 week course on lab forensics, while I handle the literary end of the whole mystery concept.

   Part live theater, and part science class, this event was 8 weeks in the making.  It was great to see the kids so engaged and excited, and it made all the hard work truly worthwhile.  Some days this job is awesome.  Today was one of those days!

      Just thought I'd share a little more about who I am when I'm not living in Dollyville.  Thanks again for supporting my forever writing dream.



Don't mess with the Evil Queen!


 

 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dinner is Served

Maureen and Beckett
         

   Still grasping Patrick's hand in his, Beckett continued, "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir.  Maureen has told me so much about you."

   Patrick broke off the contact, pursing his lips as he did so.  "Well then, you have the advantage, Sheriff...as I only learned of your existence two hours ago."  He motioned toward the empty chair next to Maureen.  "Please...have a seat."

   Beckett slid into the chair next to Maureen, and leaned back, putting a possessive arm around the back of her chair.  Beside him, he felt her stiffen, and he rubbed his thumb across the bare skin of her back, working at keeping the grin off his face as she sucked in her breath.

   The waiter came by to take drink orders, and to offer refills.  Joining the other men, Ted requested a shot of Jameson neat, while Maureen continued to play with her still full glass of chardonnay.  The tension around the table was as thick as ocean fog, and so noticeable, that even the waiter seemed glad to escape.   When he was safely out of ear shot, Patrick leaned on the table, hands under his chin, and directed his glare at Maureen's beau.

    "So Beckett, just how long have you been carrying on with my baby sister?"

      Maureen looked down at her folded hands, and Kevin took shelter behind his menu.  But the Sheriff seemed perfectly at ease.  He turned toward Maureen and spoke, forcing her to look at him rather than the hands in her lap.  "When was it we started dating, darlin'?  Early part of February, wasn't it?"  Maureen could only nod, her green eyes wide like saucers.   He knew she must be worried about what he might tell her brother, but there was a sense of trust in her face that was ever endearing.  "Of course, we owe it all to Kevin here.  If it wasn't for him, we'd never had met.

      Kevin dropped the menu down with a jerk, his face held in full check.  It was obvious he was also wondering what Beckett would say to his eldest brother, and his eyes did not hold the same level of trust as his sister's.  That was understandable.  He and the priest had gone toe to toe on several occasions, but Kevin had always been a straight up guy, and Ted respected that.  In addition, it was clear that he adored his little sister, and for that reason alone, they shared a bond.

      Patrick grunted, and looked at Kevin.  "You introduced these two, Kev?"

      Before Kevin could answer, Beckett jumped in.  "Actually, Mr. O'Kenney, I stopped in at the rectory to see Fr. Kevin, and to my surprise, there was your sister.  She so charmingly invited me to stay for breakfast, and I have to say, I was smitten right then and there."

      Next to him, both Maureen and Kevin blinked in surprise, but for two completely different reasons.  With Maureen, it was because it was the first time Ted had acknowledged the same thing she had felt the moment she laid eyes on him.  And with Kevin, it was because he knew damn well that at that time in history, the Sheriff was supposedly in love, and promised in marriage, to another woman.  Inside their churning minds, both O'Kenney siblings wondered how much of what Beckett had said was true, and how much was simply for Patrick's benefit.

          The waiter returned with their drinks, and Patrick offered a toast.  "To family.  Nothing should come before that."

      The others raised their glasses, answering his sentiments.  Beckett lifted his glass and added, "Slainte chuig na fir, agus go mair fidh na mna deo." ("Health to the men, and may the women live forever)

     Draining his glass, Patrick sat the glass back on the table with a thump.  "Ah yes...the women.  Living forever while they damn well suck the life out of the males they claim to care for. " It was a morose and bitter comment, one that left the table uncomfortable and silent.  He motioned for the return of the waiter, and ordered yet another shot of whiskey.  Then turning his attention back to Beckett, he asked the question out of the blue.  "Sheriff... may I ask just how old you are?"

    Kevin appeared shocked at the rudeness of his brother, and Maureen turned a deep shade of pink.   She leaned toward Patrick, speaking in a low whisper.  "Patrick, stop.  Please. I'm begging you."

       But Beckett himself seemed nonplussed by the blatant interrogation.  He shifted his arm so it was undeniably wrapped around Maureen's shoulders, and smiled.  "I was 34 last November, Mr. O'Kenney.  Why do you ask?"

      "Well, my friend, it's just that my sister is... so much younger.  Can't understand the appeal of a mere slip of a girl for a man so much more...sophisticated."  His last few words came out as more of a slur, a tribute to the preceding shots of Jameson.

        Ted ran his fingers over Maureen's bare shoulder, ignoring the glares from both of her brothers.  "I do appreciate your concern, sir.  If I were in your place, I might feel the same way.  But the fact is, Maureen is an intelligent, mature woman, and most assuredly capable of making her own decisions regarding her...personal relationships.  Truth be told, I consider myself a very lucky man, Mr. O'Kenney."

        Sitting beside him, Maureen flushed, but it was unclear whether it was Ted's words giving her that reaction, or the small circles he was making on the skin of her arm.  Further discussion was shelved with the reappearance of the waiter desiring to take their dinner orders.  As she opened her menu to make her selection, Ted slipped it out of her hands, and she looked at him curiously.

       "Allow me, sweetheart?"  He put his hand over hers, and gave it a squeeze.

      She assumed he meant to select her dinner for her, and although it seemed weird, and rather old fashioned, there was no may she could refuse him.  Definitely not in front of her brothers.  And certainly not with the way he was looking at her at that moment.  Maureen smiled, suddenly much too warm.  "Sure Ted.  Go ahead."

        Next to her, Kevin gave his sister an odd look, and Patrick shook the ice in his glass.  "Alright Beckett, who is that next to you, and what did you do with Maureen?" He swallowed the remaining mouthful, smacking his lips as he did so.  "Seriously, brother...what are you trying to pull here?"

       "Pull?  Not sure what you mean, sir."  The smile was firmly etched on Beckett's face, but someone observing closer would have noticed the tightening of his jaw, and the slight arch of the left eyebrow.

       "Gentlemen...I do believe the waiter would like us to order."  Forcing a break in the storm, Kevin opened his menu, and turned to the young man standing awkwardly to the side.  "I think I'll try the Rib Eye.  How 'bout you, Pat?"

________________________________

       If Kevin thought that the decision about dinner would change the direction of Patrick's conversation, he was dead wrong.  The waiter had only moved steps away before Patrick continued his deposition like grilling of Maureen's guest.  "Don't get me wrong, Sheriff.  You seem like a normal enough guy.  But when it comes to our sister, we are a might particular.  I hope you can understand my concern."

     "I most certainly do, Mr. O'Kenney.  Wouldn't have it any other way."

      "Good to hear, Sheriff.  And since we're working on getting to know one another, why don't you go ahead and call me Patrick.  You're making me feel damn ancient with all this title shit."

     "That's very... friendly of you...Patrick.  And I hope you'll call me Ted."

     "Fair enough...Ted.  So, tell me a little about yourself."

     "Honestly, there's not much to tell.  I'm Sheriff here in Dollyville.  Have been for nearly two years now.  Love the town.  Think the people are great.  Enjoy my work."

      Patrick narrowed his eyes, and looked shrewdly at Beckett's smiling form.  "Oh come now, Ted.  Surely there must be more.  Have you lived here all your life?"

     "No.  I'm originally from Bridgeport, Conneticut.  Went to school in Michigan, and then did my graduate studies here in Massachusetts.  Loved the area, and decided to make it my permanent home."

     "Is that right? What school?"

     "I have my law degree from Harvard."

      There was no denying Patrick's surprise.  He stopped in mid sip, the glass held an inch from his lips.  "You?  From Harvard?  Did you pass the bar?"

       "As a matter of fact, I did.  On the first try."

       It took Patrick several seconds to process this information, before he bluntly asked, "Then why the hell aren't you practicing law, Beckett?  How can you be satisfied being Sheriff in some tiny back woods town after studying at Harvard?  Frankly, it seems a total waste to me."

     Appearing to give his answer some thought, Beckett leaned closer to the table, and out of the view of her brothers, moved his left hand up Maureen's thigh.  Beside him, she gave no indication of the action going on below the safety of the tablecloth, other than a flutter of her eyelids, as she turned her head to look at him, and await his answer.

      For the first time since his arrival, Beckett seemed somber.  "I couldn't see myself as a lawyer, no matter how hard I tried.  It bored me to tears.  All of it.  So, not sure of what I wanted to do, I went into the military.  Served in the Army, and eventually was recruited by Special Forces, where I saw three tours of duty in Afghanistan. When I got home, criminal justice just seemed the obvious alternative.  Initially, I accepted a position here as Deputy, but when the Sheriff chose to retire about two years ago, I decided to run for the office.  And the rest, as they say, was history."

      There was little Patrick could say to that without looking like a complete ass.  He certainly couldn't disparage a man's service to his country, nor could he knock a law degree from one of the country's most prestigious institutions.  But he had no intention of giving up that easily.  He grunted what was meant as approval, and added,  "That's very admirable, Ted.  A man's gotta do what makes him happy.  But I suspect after the demands of Special Forces, you must find life here a tad dull.  Not to mention financially challenging for a man with a taste for Armani."

       Having been on her best behavior the entire evening, Maureen could hold it in no longer.  Thinking she was helping him out, she professed,  "But Patrick, that's not a problem at all.  You see, Ted's fa..."  She felt a sharp pinch to the soft, fleshy skin on the inside of her thigh, and was forced to use every ounce of self control not to let out a yelp.

      "Ted's what, Red?  Finish your sentence, please."

       It was now painfully obvious to her that Ted did not want her spilling the beans about his family connections.  Why, she wasn't sure?  There was no doubt in her mind that her older brother would be duly impressed to know that her new boyfriend was a member of one of the richest families on the East Coast.  And for once in her life, she wanted Patrick to be proud of her, if for nothing else then the idea that someone like Ted Beckett would find her special.  But if telling all meant that Ted would be upset with her, it wasn't worth it.  If he wanted his secret kept, than keep it she would.   "Oh...um...I was going to say that...um...Ted's... father bought him the suit.  As a gift."  She looked at Ted, begging for help in any way he could offer.

       Ted smiled, and leaning over, kissed Maureen chastely on the cheek, leaving that left hand firmly where it was.  "Yes.  It was a gift.  When I came back from Afghanistan."

       Patrick nodded, seemingly appeased.  They were saved from further uncomfortable discussion by the arrival of the waiter with their dinner.  Hungry, everyone settled into their meals, and the talk centered exclusively on the taste of the food  And because one needed both hands to manage the array of silverware spread across the linen, both of Beckett's magically appeared back on the table.

___________________________________________

     Amazingly, the rest of the evening proceeded without incident.  The food was exceptional, and took the focus off of Beckett.  The boys spent the reminder of the time discussing their picks for the NCAA Tournament, congenially arguing over who would make the Final Four, while Maureen took delight in quietly observing the important men in her life.

    To her left , Kevin leaned back in his chair, smiling and laughing while his brother draw imaginary brackets on the tablecloth with a butter knife.  Patrick, his cheeks flushed with several shots of Jameson, was busy extolling the virtues of Louisville's shooting capabilities, while Ted countered with statistics regarding Indiana's defense.  The sight of the three of them, finally comfortable with one another, was a joy to behold, and gave her hope, that maybe this time, she might have her heart's desire.

     Somehow, with a good deal of male posturing, the check was paid, split between Ted and Kevin, and the group made their way to the Mustang.  The four of them in the compact car was a tight fit, but Maureen was grateful to know her brothers would make it safely back to the rectory, as neither was feeling much pain.  And once Kevin and Patrick were tucked safely in bed for the night, she and Ted would have the rest of the evening together.

      When they arrived at Holy Family, it took several minutes for the two O'Kenney brothers to unfold their six foot frames out of the Mustang's back seat.  There was much discussion on when and where they would meet up the following day, and gratuitous handshakes all around.  From the front seat, Maureen giggled as she watched Ted try to hold up both of her brothers long enough for them to get to the front door.

       Ted returned to the car, a silly grin on his face.  "Those two are going to feel really bad tomorrow."

       "You don't know us O'Kenneys, Ted.  We have this uncanny ability to bounce back."

        Laughing, he backed out of the rectory driveway, and turned the car down the street toward the deli.  Pulling the car in front of the building, he left it idling, and took Maureen's hands in his own.  "Well, baby, we survived dinner with both of your brothers...the saintly and the sarcastic."

       "Thank you, Ted.  For putting up with the two of them.  They mean well, you know.  Even Patrick."

       "I know, sweetheart.  I'm glad they care so much about you."  He leaned over the console and kissed her, long and deep enough to make her light headed.  "I'll call you tomorrow, okay?  We'll make plans for the weekend.  Somehow, I don't think I've escaped Patrick's clutches just yet."

       She looked at him incredulously.  "You're not coming in?  Staying?"

       "I wasn't really planning on it.  You said yourself, only this morning, that it'd be a problem if Patrick knew I was staying here.  And after meeting him, I figure you're probably right."

       "But...they're both practically comatose, especially Patrick.  It'll be fine."

        "No, baby.  I don't think so.  We'll have plenty of time when he leaves.  It's for the best."

        For a second, she thought about spitting out something sarcastic, and stamping off.  Helping him out of that black suit was the only thing she had focused on during that horrible dinner, and now he was attempting to give her the brush off. "Not fair, Ted. Are you going to make me beg?"

        He took her hand from on top of the console, and brought it to his lips.  "As a matter of fact, baby, I am.  Repeatedly."

        She felt a shiver run up her back, and a thought came to her about something he had said a few days earlier.  "Please come up and stay...Sir."

        He smiled, kissed her hand again, and put the car in park.  "Now, how could I ever refuse such a sweet request like that, darlin'  Especially when you're wearing that dress."

_______________________________

      She wasn't sure what woke her up.  It was still dark, so it had to be before 6:00 AM.  Ted was peacefully snoring next to her, has arm flung across her middle.  The apartment itself was quiet, but she thought she heard the sound of heavy engines idling outside, like those belonging to very large trucks.
She glanced around the room through the glass of the screen, listening closely to the noises, which to her ear, seemed to be staying put. It was then she noticed the red flashing lights reflected in the window next to her kitchen.  She freed herself from Ted's grasp, and grabbing her robe, went to investigate.

     Her movement woke him, and he grumbled, his face buried in the pillow.  "Why are you up, Maureen?  It's way too early."

     "I hear something weird outside.  It sounds like trucks.  And there seems to be some kind of flashing light by my window."

       He sighed, and pulled off the blankets, planning on checking out the situation.  Before he could free himself, he heard her gasp.

      "Oh, no!  Ted, come here quick!  There are fire trucks and an ambulance in front of the rectory.  Something is terribly wrong!  We have to get over there right now!"


Copyright 2013 Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved

   

       

     

   

     


     

   

     












   


     

     

   

     

     


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Oh, Brother!

Fr. Kevin gives up his room...again!
 
      His brother pushed his way past the door, stamping the snow off his shoes on the mat in the foyer.  "The ride down here was miserable.  Train was late leaving the city, and it was packed with kids from Boston U leaving on break."  He slipped off his coat, and handed it to the priest, wandering into the parlor as he spoke.  "So, this is your rectory.  Kinda small, isn't it?"

     Already tired of the nasty comments, Kevin hung the coat in the hall closet, and followed behind Patrick as he explored his surroundings, eventually answering the insult.  "It suits me just fine.  I'm the only priest serving this parish, so I get the whole place to myself."  He watched his eldest sibling travel around the room, picking things up, and putting them down, and was reminded of Brian, whom, come to think of it, he hadn't seen or heard from in several weeks. While Patrick's attention was on a rather handsome sculpture of the Last Supper, Kevin sent a quick text to his sister, warning her about their brother's arrival.  Then, feeling bad about the subterfuge, and trying to be polite, he asked, "Are you hungry?  Can I get you a cup of coffee, or maybe some breakfast."

     "As I recall, Kev, you weren't much of a cook, but beggars can't be choosers.  I was running late, so I wasn't able to pick up anything before I left, and I surely wasn't going to eat any of that over-priced swill on the train.  Actually, I'm famished."  They walked to the kitchen, and Patrick plopped himself down in the seat Kevin had been warming only moments before.  Picking up the coffee cup, he took a sip, made a face, and handed it back to his younger brother.  "This is ice cold.  How 'bout you get me a hot cup?"  He then began to fill the plate with the meal Kevin had been looking forward to for the past three hours.

     In good pastoral tradition, Fr. Kevin would have sworn under his breath, and prayed for patience.  But on this particular morning, he was far too busy worrying about the nature of his brother's visit, and how he would explain his sister's current state of affairs.  He poured a fresh cup of coffee, and placed it in front of Patrick, watching him shovel in eggs and bacon.  "So Pat, what...um...brings you to Dollyville?"

      Instead of answering the question, he posed one of his own, slurping his coffee as he did so.  "Where's Red the Wrecker?"

     "Come on, Patrick.  You know she hates it when you call her that.  Always has.  Can't we all try to get along while you're here."  He sat himself down across the table.  "By the way, just how long will you be staying?"

       Holding the sugar bowl out for a refill, his mouth crammed with the last of the bacon, Patrick shrugged.  "Depends."

       "Depends on what?"

       "How long it takes Red to come to her senses."

       "Her senses?  I don't understand.  Come to her senses about what?"

        "About returning to her family responsibilities in Boston.  She's played around here on vacation long enough.  She needs to come back home, and see to Ma.  She was the one visiting everyday, handling the nursing home, and other stuff.  Since Maureen's been gone, it's been a nightmare for the rest of us.   I tried making a schedule.  Had the different families taking turns, but it didn't work out at all.  Sometimes there were six of us there on the same day, and other times, no one came for an entire week. That just won't do, Kevin."

         Guilt stabbed at Kevin's heart over the lack of involvement he himself had with his mother.   He had wanted to get back to Boston during the holidays, just to check in on her.  But with all that was going on in Dollyville, he had never gotten the chance.  Here it was March, and he still had not made the trip.  Plus, as far as Maureen was concerned, he would bet every last penny he owned that there was no way Maureen was heading back to Boston.  Zero chance she was leaving Ted Beckett behind, and moving back home to live under Patrick's thumb.

         "Where is that girl, anyway?  She can't possibly still be in bed?  It's nearly 11.  It's just like you to spoil her rotten."

        There was no escaping.  He would have to tell Patrick everything, and take all the abuse that would surely follow. He got up from the table, took a deep breath, and jumped in.  "Well, Pat...she doesn't actually live here anymore."  He busied himself at the sink in hopes of avoiding his brother's glare, grimacing at the sound of the cup banging down on the table.

        "Doesn't live here with you?  Where the hell is she?  Couldn't you keep track of your own sister for a few weeks?  Damn it, Kevin!  You better hope she didn't run off and get herself into trouble.  She's a pro at that."

          It was almost impossible for him to bite his tongue.  A few weeks?  More like five months!  He felt he had done a damn good job of keeping her reined in.  She was, in fact, a grown woman, and it wasn't like he could keep her chained up in the rectory.  In his defense, she had only moved a block away.  Walking distance.  What more did his pain in the ass brother want?  He straightened his shoulders, and attempting to grow a backbone, placed himself directly across from Patrick.  "Look...she wanted a place of her own.  Some privacy is all.  There was a small flat down the street from the church, and she had her heart set on it.  You know how she is when she gets something in her head.  I figured it was close enough for me to keep an eye on her."

       Patrick grunted, and began an attack on the pancakes, having already finished the eggs, bacon and sausages.  Still chewing, and now waving a knife at Kevin, he continued his tirade.   "I hope the hell she didn't sign a lease.  It would take a lot of fussing to break it without it costing a shit load of money.  What I can't understand is, where is she getting the cash to pay the rent?  She's got to be out of savings by now.  Never was any good at managing money, that one."  A thought came to him, and narrowing his eyes, he asked, "You wouldn't be stupid enough to be funding this nonsense, would you?"

        "No, I'm not paying her rent.  She actually has...um...a job.  Here in town."

        "A job?  That fast?  In his economy?  I'm surprised a piss pot town like this has a whole lot of social services?  Is she working for the county, or a private organization?"

        Telling him about the job was going to be the hardest part of all this.  Patrick had been the one to steer her toward social work, and the one one who had paid the bill for four years of under graduate study at Boston College.  He had covered all her expenses, allowing her to focus exclusively on her studies, and she had graduated Magna Cum Laude at the top of her class.  He would surely consider her job at the deli a personal insult, and a huge slap in the face.  Things were about to get ugly.  "It's like this Pat...Maureen was really upset and depressed when she came here.  About all that stuff that went on back in Boston.  She kinda felt she needed to get away from social work.  At least for awhile.  You know...clear her head a bit. "

       "So what the hell is she doing 'while she clears her head'?  You better not tell me she's some kind of frickn' waitress, Kevin.  Too much of my damn money went into funding her education, and I'll be damned if I'm going sit around and let her pour coffee for a living."  He shoved the plate away with enough force that it slid clear across the table.

       There had to be some way to spin this.  Allow some time for he and Maureen to figure things out.  Mentally crossing his fingers, he stuttered out the only white lie he could think of.  "Oh no, Patrick.  She's not a waitress.  She's working in...marketing.  In the grocery industry."

       "Marketing?"  He thought a moment, and made a face.  "I suppose it's acceptable.  But I made some inquiries back home.  Called in a few favors, and lined up an interview for her with a private Methodist organization that handles foreign adoptions.  It's a perfect job for Red."  He finished the last of the coffee in the cup, and handed to Kevin to refill.  "What time does she get home after work?  I really need to have a talk with her."

          Kevin could feel the sweat build around his collar.  He was a terrible liar, and this whole conversation was heading out of control.  "I'm not sure of the exact time, but I'll give her call, let her know you're in town, and maybe plan for us to meet for dinner somewhere."

        "No.  I want to surprise her.  Just find out when she'll be home, and we'll meet at her apartment before we go out.  I'm curious see to see Red's new place."

       He could only nod.  The element of surprise was definitely gone.  His iPhone had been buzzing in his pocket non-stop since he had texted her earlier, and although he hadn't read any of the incoming messages, he was pretty sure Maureen was going ballistic on her end.  "Sure, Pat.  Sounds like a plan."

       Having finished almost all of Kevin's breakfast, Patrick pushed away from the table.  "So...why don't you show me where to put my bags, and a place to wash up a little.  Then you can give me the fifty cent tour of your church and parish."

       Leading the way up to the rectory's only bedroom, Fr. Kevin thought about the lumpy mattress in the attic space he had only vacated a few weeks before, and wondered why these kinds of things kept happening to him.

         __________________________________________________
Some Beckett in the morning

 
         Thursday mornings were always the best.  Maureen didn't go into work until noon, and it was the day she always cooked him a big breakfast.  Even after their separation of a few weeks, she went right back to the routine, moving about the flat wearing nothing but his dress shirt, the ipod ear buds stuck in her ears to avoid waking him with her music.

      He was seldom ever asleep.  Sometimes he would lay there, eyes closed, listening to her sing along with the tunes.  Often he watched her flit around the kitchen through the opaque glass of the screen, hoping she'd need to reach for something higher up, and allowing her bare ass to appear below the hiked up hem of his shirt.  He wasn't sure why that drove him absolutely crazy.  But it did.  Big time.

    Yesterday had been a gamble.  He hadn't been sure how she'd react to the whole handcuff thing.  There had always been the distinct possibility she might have thrown him out on his ear, slamming the door on any further contact.  And as much as it would have killed him to do so, similar to ripping his heart directly from his chest, he would have conceded defeat, and permanently bowed out of her life.  But as fate would have it, she had surrendered.  Wonderfully and deliciously so, and the thought of it had him considering the delay of breakfast.  Maybe skipping it entirely.

    Before he could put that plan into action, she screeched so loudly he jumped to a sitting position, banging his head on the brass headboard.  "Hell, Maureen!  Are you okay?"  He was next to her in a second, brandishing the Glock, and wearing not a stitch of clothing.  "What's wrong, babe?"

      She shoved her iphone toward his face.  "It's awful news!  Just terrible!  Look!"

      He brought the phone to eye level, and read the message.  "It just says your brother Patrick is here in town.  Why are you so freaked out?"

       She took the phone back from his hand, and noticing his nudity, blushed.  "I'll explain.  But first... maybe you could put some pants on.  You're very...distracting that way."

      He grinned, and pulled her closer.  "Well, baby, then go ahead and let me distract you."

      Maureen lingered there a moment or two, then pushed away from him.  "No, Ted.  This serious.  Patrick is here for only one reason.  To make me go back to Boston with him."

      He sighed, walking to the bathroom, where he grabbed a bath towel and wrapped it around his middle.  "Maureen, you are 24 years old.  An adult.  He can't 'make' you do anything you don't want do."

      She pulled out a chair and motioned for him to sit, setting a cup of coffee, and his breakfast, in front of him.  "You don't know Patrick.  He gets what he wants, and he has been bossing me around forever."

      Ted dug into his omelet, already familiar with Maureen's everyday drama.  "Sweetheart, I'm sure you're exaggerating.  He's probably just here for a visit.  Neither you or Kevin went home for Christmas, so it's not surprising he'd want to see how you both are doing."

     Frustrated, she plopped in the chair across from him, not interested in eating.  "Patrick doesn't care about any body's feelings.  He just wants to be every one's lord and master.  He hasn't figured out that I can't be ordered around."

     Beckett looked up, and raised his eyebrows, but didn't comment.  He most certainly didn't agree with her self-assessment about not being submissive, but now wasn't time to have that discussion.  There was no way he wanted her to lump him into the same category as her older brother.

    She fiddled with her silverware, lamenting on the past.  "My dad passed away the Spring after my freshman year.  I was almost 15, and my Mom had early on set Alzheimer's.  I was the only one still at home.  Kevin had left for the seminary, and the rest of my brothers were either married, or living on their own."  Her face scrunched up, and he hoped she wouldn't cry.  He had a hard time handling her tears.  To her benefit, she sucked up the grief, and continued. " I tried to tell Patrick that I could do it.  Take care of both Mom and me.  But he wouldn't listen.  He hired a full time care taker for her, and made me move in with him."

     This was information he wasn't aware of.  He had always figured she had lived at home until leaving for college.  Now knowing, that as a teenager, she had lived with her eldest brother, explained some of the animosity between them.  Having spent the last few months with her, he guessed she must have been a real handful during those years between the ages of 15 and 20.  Hell, she was still a handful.  Not wanting to appear as if he were taking sides, he tried to stay neutral.  "That must have been difficult for you both."

       Apparently, that was the wrong answer.  Her dander was up immediately, and the lip came out  in a full pout.  "Not for us both!  Only for me!  Patrick made me his household slave girl!  I had this whole list of chores, and I was expected to babysit for my two nephews all the time.  He never let me have any fun."

     He worked hard at staying focused on her story, but the image of Maureen as a slave girl took instant control of his mind  He was glad to be wearing the towel, as his lack of attention to the story at hand would have been graphically obvious.  Pulling his chair closer to the table, he nodded for her to go on.

      "I lived with Patrick and Eileen all through high school.  The whole time.  Eileen was wonderful to me.  More like the big sister I didn't have.  But Patrick...he was mean.  Constantly expecting me to produce top grades...be the best on the soccer team...president of the Student Council!  Nothing I ever did was good enough. This one time... Eileen and I went shopping for my prom dress, and I picked out the most gorgeous outfit.  Eileen let me have it, shoes and all.  But Patrick took one look, said it was too revealing, and made me take it back.  Then he made me try on every dress in the store for him before he finally consented to buy one.  He's a total jerk."

     "Is it possible he just wanted what was best for you, Mo?  Maybe after your dad was gone, your brother felt like he needed to be responsible for you.  I can understand that."

     "What?  You're taking Patrick's side over mine?  You don't even know him!"

     "I'm not taking any one's side, hon.  I'm just playing devil's advocate.  Besides, I'd rather set my own opinion of the man once I meet him."

      "Fine.  Whatever, Ted.  You'll see for yourself."  She trounced across the room, and began pulling clothes from her closet and bureau drawer.  "Look, I gotta get ready for work.  I'm gonna use the shower first, okay?"

      Beckett forced a repentive smile across his face.  "Don't be mad at me, Maureen.  I just want to keep an open mind when I meet your family members.  Did you hear anymore from Kevin?  Are they coming over here?"

      "God, no!  Are you crazy?  Patrick can't know that you and I... um...that you spend nights here.  He'd go crazy on me!  We'll have to figure something different out while he's here."

      "You could always come stay with me at my house?"

      Her face went ashen, and she didn't say anything.  It was obvious she wasn't ready yet to cross that bridge, so Beckett let the comment go unanswered.  "Honestly, I don't get what the big deal is.  Kevin knows I stay here.  He got over it.  Patrick, will too."

      "It's not the same!  Kevin is my favorite brother.  We're like best friends, and he wants me to be happy.  Patrick...well...he acts as if he's my father, or something.  And he's not.  I had a father, and now he's dead.  End of story."

       She had said it herself.  Patrick was the father figure in her life, whether she wanted to admit it or not, and Beckett made a mental note to treat him as such when he met him.  "It's fine, Maureen.  Whatever you want me to do.  If you don't want me here while your brother is in town I understand.  We'll work it out."

      She nodded, seemingly appeased, and soon he heard the water running in the shower.  On any other occasion, he might have joined her there, and stretched their time together a bit longer.  But it was clear that her mind, and her mood, were set on the problems of her family, and so he poured himself another cup of coffee, and finished his breakfast alone.

        ____________________________________________________

    Plans for the evening were set among at least 75 text messages.  It was decided that Kevin and Patrick would walk over to Maureen's apartment sometime around 7:00 PM, and from there they would take a cab over to Chez La Rose, Dollyville's one and only up scale restaurant.  Beckett would join them there, after he was released from court, where he was scheduled to testify on an arrest he had made several months before.

    The early part of the evening had not gone smoothly.  Kevin and Patrick arrived on time, only to find Maureen not quite finished dressing, which immediately set her oldest brother off about her lack of punctuality.  Although he seemed to like the dog, and thought the apartment adequate for the low rent she was paying, he wandered around pointing out each and every flaw as he found it, and made her dig out a copy of her lease so he could examine "the fine print".  Then, somehow, it had come out that Maureen's "marketing" job was actually in the deli downstairs, and both the stubborn red head, and her saintly brother, got an earful about trying to "pull the wool" over Patrick's eyes.
Happy family reunion...not!
             

     The cab was late picking them up, and they arrived well after their reservation time, which caused a hassle at the restaurant.  It was only because of Kevin's calm conversation, and his obvious Roman collar, that they were finally seated at a table in the furthest corner of the room.

      Maureen was secretly grateful that Ted had yet to arrive, being held up in court by a stubborn judge.  She would have been mortified to have him observe how her brother talked to her as if she were still a silly child.  It hadn't helped the situation when Patrick commented on the fact that she looked as if she had put on weight, making her self conscious about the very tight emerald silk sheath she was wearing, that until that very moment, had been her favorite dress.

     And when he finished chewing up both Kevin and Maureen, Patrick began to work over the still absent Beckett.  "So, Red, where the hell is your Sheriff Andy Taylor?  Maybe he 'moseyed' over to the diner instead?"  He chuckled at his own joke, and sipped at his second shot of Jameson.

      "His name is Beckett, Patrick.  Ted Beckett. And you better be polite to him when he gets here." Despite the bravado of the words, Maureen was busy tying the napkin on her lap into dozens of tiny knots, while Kevin buried his face behind the menu, worrying how he would ever be able to pay for this extravagant fiasco of a dinner.

        The two younger O'Kenneys were saved from further duress by the appearance of Sheriff Beckett, who was being led to the table by a hovering Maitre D.  Patrick had his back to the door, and was oblivious to his arrival, but the other two sat staring in mutual shock.  So much so, that Fr. Kevin nudged his sister in the ribs, and whispered that she should close her mouth

         In the entire time the younger O'Kenneys had known Ted Beckett, they had found him to be as practical and down to earth as anyone they had known growing up among Boston's working class.  They both knew he had money.  Apparently lots of it.  But he was never ostentatious, and seldom threw his wealth around town.  In the five months since Maureen had met him, she had seen him in ...and out...of most of his wardrobe, consisting of his duty uniform, several pairs of dress slacks and jeans, sweaters, and unending supply of tailored, button down dress shirts. But she had never seen Ted...her Ted...look like this.

         He moved toward the table like a man who knew he owned the world, dressed in a very dark, custom fitted designer suit, which from her guess was probably Armani.  He wore a tailored, cream  dress shirt with French cuffs, which were held together with some type of monogrammed cuff links, and finished with a blue silk tie that matched the exact shade of his eyes.  The attention of every woman in that room, and several men as well, were on Beckett has he stopped at their table

        Walking around, he stopped at Maureen first, kissed her on the cheek, and told her she looked stunning.  Then he made his way to her two brothers, who both had stood upon his arrival.  Kevin introduced Beckett to his older brother, who himself seemed surprised at the impressive figure in front of him.

        "Nice to meet you, Sheriff Beckett.  Must say, you're not what I was expecting."

        Beckett smiled, stuck out his hand, and replied,  "No, I imagine I'm not, Mr. O'Kenney.
And turning toward Maureen, he gave her a wink.



Copyright 2013 Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved
     


  

     
   

   

        
  


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Don't Stand So Close

Beckett comes back
 

   As he walked to his car, Beckett took notice of the time.  He obviously didn't want to leave her too long.  Just long enough to make her sweat a bit, and wonder what might happen next.  An hour or so was just about right.  Gave him enough time to stop at home, and take care of a few things, before he needed to return.

   He made his way to the patrol car, hastily parked crooked at the curb, and saw her brother racing down the street toward the deli.  It made sense that someone must have seen him arrive, sirens blaring, and notified the priest that something important was happening at the location.  The last thing he needed, was for Kevin to interfere.  It had been obvious to him from day one, that as her big brother, he was prone to spoil her rotten, and regularly overlook her manipulative behavior.  He wondered if the rest of the brothers were the same way.  He had only heard her mention the oldest, Patrick, in less than endearing terms.  He assumed that the elder brother must be the one to hold her to some kind of accountability, but he wasn't sure of the others.  Crazy as he was about her, and there was no denying she was constantly in his thoughts, he simply wasn't going to allow her free reign to walk all over him.  It just wasn't part of his dom personality.  If this relationship was to continue, he needed to deal with his lovely, little brat

     "Sheriff, is everything alright?  Is Maureen okay?"  Out of breath, Kevin's words came out in huffing little pauses.

      "She's perfectly fine, Father.   It was a false alarm...of sorts."

      The priest made a face.  "Of sorts?  I'm not sure what you mean."

      Beckett leaned on the car, and crossed his arms.  Given a choice, he'd rather not have people know what she had done.  It would be harder to let it go unpunished if large numbers of people were aware of her conscious law breaking.  But he reasoned that her brother would be unwilling to leave it at that, so he explained.  "It seems Maureen devised a novel way to have me come see her, so she called 911, and claimed that someone had broken in, and had robbed and assaulted her. I raced straight over, fearing the worse.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I was extremely relieved to find her safe and sound.  Greatly so.  But the fact that she knowingly called in a false report is a problem legal wise that  I'm going to have to deal with."

      Fr. Kevin turned several shades of pink, bearing an uncanny resemblance to his sister when she was embarrassed.  "I am most heartily sorry, Sheriff.  If there are any fines that need to be paid, let me know, and I'll take care of it.  Do you think she'll have to go to court over this."

      "I'm trying to avoid that, Father.  The less people that know of this indiscretion, the better.  I can't make any promises, but I'll see what I can do."

     Kevin stuck out his hand for Beckett to shake.  "Thank you, Sheriff.  You have no idea how much I appreciate your help with this...unfortunate situation.  Maureen means well...she really does.  It's just that she...doesn't think things out before jumping into them."  He paused, not sure he wanted to continue.  "And she was pretty darn broken up over the two of you parting ways.  I know that doesn't excuse her behavior, but I felt you should know."  He wrung his hands, obviously uncomfortable about talking behind her back.

     "I appreciate your honesty, Father.  I have to admit to some misery myself.  I'm not clear as to how this will all work out, but I do care for Maureen."

      "That's good to know, Ted.  If you'll excuse me, I'm going to have a little chat with her right now."

       Beckett grabbed the priest's arm, stopping him from continuing upstairs.  "If you don't mind, Fr. Kevin, I'd prefer to handle this myself.  The less people involved... the better for Maureen."  He looked the man in the eye, and let the threat of prosecution hang there.   He was pretty sure her big brother would not approve of his methods to reign in his little sister, and for a second, he thought that the priest might ignore him.  But slowly, he nodded his agreement.

       "If it means that Maureen can avoid being arrested, than I'm behind you, Sheriff.  Sometimes I'd just like to shake that girl.  I don't know how I'd begin to explain her going to jail to the rest of the family."  He turned back toward the direction of the rectory, but added before leaving.  "I'm trusting you with my sister's welfare, Beckett, something I don't take lightly.  Please don't make me regret it."

        "You have my word, Father."  He watched the priest walk all the way to the church before climbing into the patrol car, and heading home.

                 _________________________________________


       She wasn't sure what hurt more.  Her arms were achy from being pulled around back, but mostly from her banging them against the slats of the chair, trying to get loose.  Her ass was numb from slouching in the wooden seat, and twice, she had almost tipped over sideways in an attempt to free herself.  And the damn metal cuffs were beginning to rub the sore skin around her wrists raw.  But it was the humiliation that made her blush.  Caused the heat to gather at her forehead, and work itself down to her toes.

        Maybe she had set her expectations too high.  In her head, the whole scene was a romantic fantasy, and although in some instances, handcuffs could seem erotic, in her case, it only reminded her that she had screwed up.  Big time.   She fretted over the idea that he might actually arrest her.  Really haul her ass down to the station and book her.  Fingerprint her.  Take that awful profile photo with one of those little name things.  How would she ever explain all this to Kevin?  Or the rest of the family?  She'd be mortified to have them know that she was goofy enough over some man that she did something illegal. They were sure to make all kinds of nasty comments, especially after the incident in Boston that had cost her a job she loved.  And all that didn't even begin to cover her feelings for Beckett.  She'd just want to curl up and die while he locked her in a cell, anger and disappointment painted across his face.

         Tears of self pity burned in the corners of her eyes, and she worked at not letting them build up, and run down her cheeks.  That would be the ultimate embarrassment.  He'd return to find her face covered with runny mascara and snot.  What the hell was the matter with her anyway?  Why couldn't she just fall for regular guys who actually cared for her back?  She had set her sights on Ted Beckett from the first moment she had met him in the kitchen of the rectory, and discovering that he was engaged to someone else hadn't slowed her down a bit.  She had flirted outrageously, using any excuse to spend time with him.  So when that horrible McCreedy woman suddenly disappeared, it was as if God were answering her private, pleading prayers.  

        Now the whole thing had turned into a disaster, and her tears refused to stay put.  She guessed he'd probably return soon, and want answers.  What in the hell could she say to him that wouldn't make her sound like a stupid, blathering idiot?  She doubted at this point that her lame excuses about it being all his fault would get her anywhere.  He was certainly to blame for not being upfront.  That was a fact.   But she was the one who had run off in the middle of the night.  She was the one who had broken into a locked room.  She was the one who called 911 instead of just phoning him, and apologizing like a normal person.  The best she could hope for now was to avoid arrest, and not embarrass her family any further.

      There was a noise at the door down the stairs, and she heard a key in the lock.  She prayed that it was Beckett, and not her brother, both of whom she had given keys.  She'd die a thousand deaths if Kevin found her in this position.  No way would she be able to make him understand, and the embarrassing confrontation with Ted that was sure to happen, would make everything a million times worse.  The less people that knew of her stupidity and humiliation, the better.

         She thought about calling out for help, but decided that silence was her best option, and when Ted's dark head appeared at the top of the stairs, she was hugely relieved.  He didn't utter a word, but instead bent down to greet the dog, whose traitorous tail wagging and hand slobbering greatly annoyed her.  She noticed he had changed clothes, and that his hair was still damp.  Realizing that he had gone home, to leisurely shower and change, while she sat there in absolute misery, sparked an ember of anger.  She quickly worked at wiping her runny nose and tear stained face in the sleeve of her sweater, hoping to hide any sign of surrender.
         ____________________________________________________

      He wasn't sure what to expect when he returned to her apartment.  They hadn't been together long enough for him to anticipate her moods or reactions.  If he had to take a guess, he figured she'd still be spitting mad, so the appearance of her teary face and red nose almost shook his resolve.  He focused his attention on the dog, giving her the opportunity to think about his arrival, and speak first.

      It took a few moments, but she gave in.  Through gritted teeth, she mumbled, "You either arrest me, or let me go right this minute.  This is police brutality, Beckett.  I know my rights."

      He pulled up the other kitchen chair in front of her, and sat on it backwards, facing her.  "I have no intention of arresting you.  Would hate to see your poor brother stuck with the unfortunate job of having to come bail you out.  How embarrassing for him."  He propped his arms on the chair back, and continued, "I'll let you go...shortly.  After we've had a little chat."
 
       "Then... you can just go to hell, Mr. Asshole.  Because there is no way I'm speaking to you...ever
again."  Her voice came out raspy and strained, caused by a combination of her earlier yelling and the recent sobbing.

        Sighing, Beckett rose, and wandered over to the fridge.  Digging around, he pulled out a bottle of water, an apple, and a drinking straw from the drawer under the counter.  He unscrewed the top, stuck the straw in the opening, and put it near her lips.  "Drink some."

        "Fuck you, Beckett.  I don't want anything from you.  Just let me go, and then get out the hell of my apartment."

         He narrowed his eyes, and lowered the tone of his voice.  "I said drink some.  You're obviously thirsty."

         She blinked, and her cheeks flushed, but she put her lips to the straw, and took a sip.

          Well, well...you're just full of surprises aren't you, darlin'.  The corner of his mouth turned up, and he pulled the bottle away from her mouth and placed it on the table.  Taking a bite of the apple, he swallowed, and resumed the conversation.  "Now, I'd like to uncuff you.  But I need you to promise that you're going to behave like a sane, mature adult.  No cheap shots, verbal... or otherwise.  Are we clear, sugar?"  He took another bite, and watched her face.

        She said nothing, but nodded her head.  Beckett left his chair, went behind hers, and slipping the key into the lock, slid the handcuffs off her wrist, rubbing them as he did so.  Maureen pulled her arms away from him, and wrapped them around her middle.  Her body language was undoubtedly frosty, but she was staying put, so he took that as a good sign.  He sat back down, and offered her a bite of the apple, which she vigorously refused with a shake of her head.  He shrugged, and went on.  "Now that we're nice and calm, maybe you can explain what possessed you to call 911 with a horrible lie."

        She turned her head, and refused to look at him.  "It seemed like a good idea at the time.  You hadn't called me in over two weeks.  I guess...I...um... just wanted to get your attention."

         "Well, that you did.  So now that you have it, Maureen, what is you want from me?"  He used his hand to turn her chin toward him, so that she was forced to look at him directly .

        She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out, and when she finally spoke, her words surprised him.  "I ...I need to use the bathroom.  Can I get up?"

         He tried not smile, but her deference to his command of the situation pleased him.  Now, that was damn sweet, sugar.  He nodded his approval, and she escaped behind the beaded curtain to the tiny bathroom.  He kept his back turned to allow her privacy, but could hear the water in the sink running for several minutes.  When she returned, her face was scrubbed clean and pink, and her composure was set in place.  She took her spot across from him, and folded her hands in her lap.

          Not wanting to loose the momentum of the situation, he leaned forward and took her hands in his.  "I'm very sorry, Maureen, that I didn't tell you about the Red Room before that day.  We hadn't been together very long, and it's not...well...something you just drop on someone without an explanation.  I truly regret that you were frightened by the things...the equipment... you saw."

       She took her hands away, but he pulled them right back, this time holding them with a firmer grip.  She blushed, but left them there. "For your information, I wasn't "frightened" by the junk in there.
I'm not a child, you know.  I've...seen things."

        He worked at not smiling, as to do so would put her on the defensive.  But he was pretty sure the floggers and chains in the Red Room must have scared the shit out of her. "Okay, you weren't afraid.  I believe you.  Then why did you run off with no explanation?  No note.  No text.  Not even a 'Drop dead, Beckett.'  Nothing.  Just left me to worry about your well being."  At this point, it made no sense to bring up the fact that she had evaded his privacy, and picked a locked door in his home. That whole discussion could wait for another time.

         As he remained calm, her confidence returned.  "It was those awful pictures.  They freaked me out."

          He wasn't expecting that.  "You mean the paintings?"

         "Of course, the paintings!  I assume you're artist?"  There was no ignoring the emotion in her tone.  The artwork had bothered her.

          "I am.  And this bothers you why?  Honestly, I think it's some of my best stuff."

          "That's my point!"  She suddenly jumped up from the chair, and began pacing the floor. "They're very...intimate.  Like you were able to see inside those women's soul.  All of them.  It freaks me out."

        He wasn't prepared for that particular reaction, and it threw him off his game.  He hadn't expected her to feel the emotion of his work, and he wasn't sure how to react.  Most people never saw beyond the basic subject matter, and it both shocked and impressed him that she did.  "Freaked you out bad enough to run off?  That seems extreme."

      "You don't understand!  There were six of them!  All different women!  And then you said you...you wanted to paint me.  I don't want to be the next tied up lady on that wall in that room.  I just can't be number seven.  I can't."

        It was Beckett's turn to pace.  He wandered back and forth, weighing his words, and finally stood in front of her.  "Look, Mo.  It's can't be news to you that I've been with other women.  For God's sake, I was engaged to someone else when we met.  Those other women...the ones  I painted...we had a different type of...relationship.  And they're long gone.  No longer part of my life.  When I was with you...it was only you.  But I'm not gong to stand here and apologize for, or justify, my life before you were part of it.  My past is simply my past, as your is yours.  Can't you just accept that?"

       She leaned back on the sink, her green eyes locked onto his.  "So...you don't want to paint me...like that?"

       He raised his shoulders in a sign of resignation.  "No.  Not if you don't want me to.  But I was kinda hoping you'd keep an open mind."  He stepped in front of her, and leaning in, trapped her with his arms against the counter.  "So darlin'...either you want to try this again...or you don't.  No games.  No running away.  If you want me to go, just say so.  I'll be on my way, out of your life, and we'll both forget about the whole 911 thing."

     It was hard to think straight with him so close.  She'd be crazy not to stand her ground.  Insist that he
get rid of those not so gentle reminders of the women who came before her.  Shame him into dismantling that awful room piece by piece.  Demand a solid commitment.  But she knew in her heart that he'd agree to none of them.  If she had a single brain cell left in her head, she'd show the arrogant son of bitch right to the door.  Move on, and try and forget him.  But the thought of never seeing him again, never hearing him laugh, or never touching his hair, made her physically ill.  And so, despite every sensible thought that her brain could produce, she put her arms around his neck.  "I don't want you to go, but I'm not sure how to start over."

     He smiled, his eyes never leaving hers, as he began to open the buttons on her sweater.  "Well, that's  easy enough, love.  We work on the making up part first."
Decision time for Maureen

           ________________________________________________


       As he shoveled the several inches of freshly fallen snow off the church stairs, Fr. Kevin O'Kenney wondered if he'd ever have a moment of peace again.  The first few months of this assignment were like a long lost dream.  Holy Family was a small parish in a small town.  There were no hassles that usually came with a large demanding congregation.  No attached school to cause financial burdens he'd need to solve.  And as a bonus, it came with a comfortable little rectory he shared with no one. It should have been perfect.

       But then his gardener had been murdered on the church's front lawn, followed by the man's wife, in a suspicious fire, a few weeks later.  There had been that whole awful thing with crazy Tessa Peppers that ended with him getting shot.  Finally, there had been the money left in the confessional that had almost gotten both he and his sister killed.  It was just too much to comprehend.  And now, he worried that his baby sister would be hauled off to jail for a stupid prank she should have known better than to try.  He was beginning to feel like Job in the Old Testament.

       He propped the shovel against the church's door, and walked down the street toward the deli.  He was nearly there when he noticed the Sheriff's black Mustang parked in front, covered with a thick blanket of snow.  It was obvious that the car had been parked there since the night before, and he deduced that Beckett and his sister had worked through their differences.  It made him feel guilty that he had most surely compromised his sister's morality for the sake of saving the family from the embarrassment and trouble of her arrest.  But the fact was, the two of them seemed to actually care about each other, and he was sure they would have probably worked their way back together eventually.  He'd let God worry about his sister's path, as he had enough trouble managing his own.

       Wishing to avoid another awkward moment, he decided against a morning visit, and made his way back to the rectory for some well deserved breakfast.

          _________________________________________________

       It was nearly 10:00AM before Fr. Kevin finally sat down to eat.  On his walk back to the church, he had noticed that the over hang above the church entrance seemed weighted down by the heavy snow, and hoping to avoid any expensive damage, he decided he needed to clear it off before he did anything else.  It had taken almost two hours, and by the time he had finished, he was completely exhausted, and near starving.  He had gone all out for his meal, cooking both bacon and sausage, as well as a stack of pancakes, and several scrambled eggs.  Now, settled with the newspaper, a huge cup of coffee, and the pile of food, he planned on an hour of peace and quiet.

       So when he heard a car pull up in front of the rectory, and picked up the sound of loud voices in the midst of an argument, he did his best to ignore it.  But it was impossible to ignore the repeated banging on his front door, and the incessant ringing of the bell, and so shoving himself away from the table in a less than charitable mood, he went to investigate.

        Through the front windows he could make out a figure of a man in a suit and top coat standing on his doorstep, but the glass was too frosty to allow for a clear view.  For a second, a shot of fear ran up his spine, remembering the figure of Marzano standing at his feet while his goons beat the crap out of him.  But the man on his stoop looked taller and younger than the supposed mob boss, so Kevin pushed aside his apprehension, and opened the door.

        Upon seeing his visitor, the shocked priest would have traded back for Marzano.  For a second, he was speechless, and the guest, impatient with waiting, barked at him first.

        "Well, don't just stand there gawking, you big dope!  Grab these bags and invite me in."

        As he stared wide eyed at his oldest brother, Kevin picked up the suitcases, and finally found his tongue.  "This is sure a surprise, Patrick.  I didn't... expect you.  What are you doing here in Dollyville?"

An unexpected visitor


Copyright 2013 Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved