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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Schooled in Murder

An Important Notice to Readers...

     Although this fiction blog is illustrated with photos of dolls, and dollhouse miniatures, the language and content of the storyline is intended for an adult audience.  Please be advised.

Thank You,

The Author

        The words stared back at him in mocking confusion.  Even if he could remember the prayers from rote memorization, they had surely changed since the mid 1800's.  Hell, they had changed only two years ago, and he still hadn't gotten all the new ones down the way he should.  Panic tussled in his head, as the congregation waited in curious attention for him to begin.  He opened his mouth, needing to say something...begin somewhere...when the words suddenly tumbled out in perfect Latin.  The tone of the voice sounded lower to his ear, and there was a slight accent of sort he couldn't quite place, but the Opening Prayer was surely being delivered.  Fr. Kevin could do nothing more than let his host lead the way, as he proceeded to say the entire Mass in such a manner.

           As the words spilled from his mouth in one language, he himself heard them in his head in modern English.  It was more than a bit disconcerting, and at times the dual prayers made him dizzy, but by some grace sent directly from the Almighty, the morning Mass was officially said.  If the faithful in the pews noticed anything odd, they kept it to themselves, answering with mumbled responses, and shuffling up to receive the Eucharist with the weary steps of the over burdened.

           There appeared to be no Recessional hymn, and after the final closing prayer, Fr. Kevin made his way to the back of the church, as was his custom back home in Dollyville.  It apparently was not the way of Fr. Murphy, and the congregation looked at him strangely, answering his cheerful greetings with startled stares and a few limp handshakes. The lone altar boy had not followed him, instead fleeing to the sacristy to change clothes and disappear before Kevin returned.  While he removed his vestments, he gave thanks for the power that had allowed him to complete the Mass as he had, and somewhere in the back of his brain, he heard a cynical voice concur.

          Alone at last, Kevin pulled the newspaper from the coat pocket, and spread it across a wobbly table. The front page story detailed the arrest of one John White Webster, a Harvard chemistry professor, for the murder of Dr. George Parkman.  Though a body hadn't been discovered, human remains were discovered buried under the privy of Webster's rooms at the university, and were thought to be those of the missing doctor.  The article went on with quotes from several sources who swore they could prove both Webster's innocence and guilt.

       So engrossed was he was in the story, that he never heard the footsteps behind him until the boy actually spoke.

          "Fr. Murphy?

           Startled, Kevin jumped and swung around, coming face to face with a boy near 10, dressed in a raggedy coat, several inches too long for him.  Embarrassed by his reaction, he lowered his voice, sounding gruffer than he intended.  "Yes...yes, I'm Fr. Murphy.  What can I do for you?"

          The boy took a step back, and stuck out a grimy hand hand clutching a folded note.  "Not lookn' for a hand out, Father.  I'm here on a job.  Been sent with this note."  He pushed the paper toward the priest with a shaky hand.  "Mr. Webster promised me an extra half cent if I came back with a reply."

         Kevin took the note from the youngster, and began to read its long, elegant lines...

      Father Murphy,

        It is my genuine hope that you have been able to uncover some information regarding my false arrest.  I have heard from the scuttle about the jail that gruesome discoveries have been made under the privy area of my rooms at the university.  I swear on God's Almighty judgement, Father, that I had nothing to do with the murder of  Dr. Parkman, if it so be his remains discovered.
     Please!  I beg of you... help me clear my name.  If not for my sake, but rather for that of my beloved wife and daughters, who are are made to bear the shame of this all.  As we discussed yesterday, I also need for you to somehow retrieve the notes from my most recent lab study.  I fear that my work is somehow tied into this whole debacle.
      I await your response with hopeful heart.
John W. Webster

     He stared at the note for several minutes, unsure as to what his role in all of this was.  This was not his body, and certainly not his period in time.  He had no connection to this man, Webster, or even to his body's host, Fr. Murphy.  Yet somehow, by a force or reason he couldn't begin to understand, he found himself smack dab in the middle of this horrible situation.  He had never believed in coincidence, trusting that all that went on in the universe was under the divine hand of God.  If his reasoning was thus true, then it had to be for decisions yet undetermined, that he had been sent here.  There was little else to do, then to follow the course set before him.  An image of Roxanne crossed his mind, and he prayed with his whole heart that she had remained safely back in Boston, and had not been dragged along into this crazy fiasco.

      While he contemplated this all, the boy tapped his foot in impatience.  "So...will ya be sendn' a reply, Father?  I can take it right back to the gentleman, Sir.  They pay me no mind about the jail, as I been known to sometime sweep the floors there."

       This Webster was surely expecting some kind of response, but what the hell could he tell him?  He knew nothing about the circumstances of this so-called murder, didn't know anything about the character of the man who had sent the note, or even, Lord help him, where the man was being held.  Yet, he felt driven to say something.  Offer some type of hope to a desperate soul.  Kevin looked about the sacristy for something to write with, or a piece of paper to compose a reply.  The space, however, was lacking any such niceties, and so he hoped the boy had a decent memory.

       "If I tell you what to say, do you think you could return to the gentleman and repeat it?'

        "Aye, Father.  Been told I've a fine head on me shoulders.  Never forgets a thing, I don't.  You tell me, and I'll get it right to him."

        Hesitating over what he wanted to disclose to anyone, Fr. Kevin decided to keep the message short and simple.  "Tell the gentleman that I am still examining things, and will meet with him as soon as possible."

       "Aye, Father.  Anything else?"

       Kevin thought a moment, and added, "Yes.  Tell him I am continuing to pray for he and his family during these difficult times."

       "Aye,  I'll tell him, Sir, just as youse told me."

       "Good boy.  Thank you, young man."  Then reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a half cent, and handed it to the lad.  "For your trouble."

        The boy beamed, and quickly pocketed the tip.  "Thank ya most kindly, Father.  Must be me lucky day."  And with that, he scampered off, leaving Fr. Kevin to ponder the fickleness of luck.

The mysterious washer woman

       If anything, the weather had worsened since leaving the rectory an hour before.  Fr. Kevin pulled the coat collar up tighter around his neck, wishing the scarf Maureen had knitted him last Christmas had time traveled with him.  The thought of Maureen instantly saddened him, and he wondered if he would ever see her, or any of his family, again.  The small voice he now assumed was his host, chided him, and pushed to the forefront the problems at hand.  If he were to be of any help to this John Webster, he needed more information than what he currently held.  But where to gather the missing pieces?
       He considered returning to the rectory to chat with his outspoken housekeeper.  She seemed the type to know the comings and goings of everything at hand.  Then, recalling her earlier tirade about his needing to stay away from the "devil's minions", he changed his mind.  It would be best if she knew little about his plan to aid John Webster, at least for the time being.  The newspaper had said that the crime had taken place on the grounds of Harvard University, and that seemed a logical place to start.  Having grown up in Boston, he had a general idea of where the place was.  Unfortunately the Boston he knew, and the one in front of him now, were very much different.

       Fr. Kevin turned the corner, and headed west toward the general direction of Harvard.  He was sure most people on the street could direct him to the place.  With his face buried in the collar of his coat, and his head down against the wind and sleet, he didn't notice anyone around him until someone reached out, and grabbed his sleeve.  He blinked in surprise at the woman in front of him, the same one that had delivered the laundry to the rectory earlier that morning.

        "Scuse me, Padre.  I need to talk to ya."  The voice was thick with accent, but held a sense of impatience that was strangely familiar.

         He nodded his approval, and she took a deep breath and continued, staring intently into his eyes as she spoke.  "Father...I'm lost.  Do you understand?  I don't belong here.  Not at all.  And...and I don't think you do either.  It was the watch.  The pocket watch."

          The words hit him like a sucker punch to the gut.  He pulled her closer, ignoring the disapproving stares from the people around them, and peered at her face, focusing all his attention on her dark brown eyes.  "Roxanne? that you?"

Copyright  2014 Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Cats, Conduct and Clergy Confusion


An Important Notice to Readers...

     Although this fiction blog is illustrated with photos of dolls, and dollhouse miniatures, the language and content of the storyline is intended for an adult audience.  Please be advised.

Thank You,

The Author

An unexpected visitor
    The 60 minute mandate had come and gone, and still she waited.  Every time she'd turn the key in the ignition, and put the jeep in reverse, something would keep her from following through.  How could he expect her to drive off, and just leave him stranded in the middle of nowhere?  Plus, how was she supposed to find this Garza person, and get back home on her own?  And once in Dollyville, what was she supposed to tell people when she returned home without the husband she left with?  She altered between tears and obscenities, railing at his absent self one moment, and mouthing prayers for his safety in another.  She was way beyond over heated, and her stomach rolled in waves of sour acid, so when she first thought she saw the movement several yards to her left, she ruled it a figment of her over worked imagination.

        But when the desert brush began to sway in the breeze less heat, Maureen shielded her eyes, and squinted a better look.  There was something moving about the landscape, too far to make out a discern able shape, but large enough to know it was out there.  She reached under her seat for the pistol Ted  left.  He had instructed her to use the gun as a last resort, not trusting her amateur marksmanship status to be of any aid, but counting on it giving her a few extra minutes of escape time.  Problem remained, she wasn't sure what it was she needed to be escaping from.

        She stared off in the distance, watching the heat shimmer in wavy ribbons across the dusty expanse.  Whatever it was moved on four legs, and she was momentarily relieved that she wouldn't have to shoot a living, breathing, human being.  Then, the animal made its appearance for a brief second, as it moved from one patch of scrub to another.  It was sleek and heavily muscled, it's tawny coat splattered with rosette spots in shades of brown and black.  Her brain initially registered tiger, but she knew that was wrong.  No tigers here in Mexico.  Something else...similar...but different.  Her mind flashed back to a tourist brochure she had picked up in the hotel lobby.  A lapse that seemed like a dozen weeks ago, but had only been a few days.  The pamphlet had listed information about the fauna and wildlife of the Yucatan Peninsula, and this animal had been there.  Sacred to the ancient people of this area, and in danger of extinction.

           The jaguar stretched out in the low lying bushes, seemingly content to watch her from the safety of the 50 yards of space between them.  It rested its large, blunt head on its front paws, its tail flicking from side to side like an over grown house cat.  She wondered how fast it moved, and whether it could out run the jeep before she could put it in reverse and make her escape. Then, considered whether she could actually aim well enough to shoot it if it came to that.  Weighing the possibilities, she turned the key in the ignition, deciding on flight as the safest option.  The noise of the engine startled the big cat, and it jumped to its feet, taking small steps toward her, one large paw in front of another  Maureen lifted the pistol up in her right hand, and steadied it with her left, going through the steps as Ted had instructed.  She pointed the pistol at the jaguar, her shaking hands betraying the absolute terror of the situation.  Then suddenly, the cat stopped, and turned its head to the left, its attention centered on something else.

            "Easy, baby.  Lower the pistol...nice and slow."

             Startled she swung around, the gun still pointed in front of her, and her hands moving in jerky tremors.  Her husband put his hands up, still standing behind the rear of the truck.

             "It's me, baby.  It's okay.  Put the gun on the floor, and slide over to the passenger side.  Nice and slow.  Don't make any sudden movements, okay?"

             "But...but there's a...a jaguar out there.  It's coming towards us.  It's gonna attack for sure."

             "I see it, sweetheart.  Jaguars rarely attack humans, and they're a protected species.  This one must have wandered away from the conservation corridor the Mexican government has set up.  I'd rather not have to shoot it.  Just do as I say, and it'll be alright.  I promise.  Now put the Sig on the floor of the jeep, and shift yourself over to the other seat as smoothly as you can."

        As she complied with his instructions, Ted moved around the side of the jeep, keeping one eye on the animal, and one hand on the weapon in his waistband.  The jaguar eyed the man with an interested stare, but moved no close.  Beckett carefully opened the door, and angled himself into the driver's seat.  Shifting the vehicle into reverse, he slowly backed the car onto the main road, picking up speed only after they were out of the cat's space.

        For several minutes, neither of them said a word, alone in their private thoughts as they headed toward the rural air strip.  It was Beckett who broke the silence first.  "According to my watch, I've been gone nearly two hours.  I didn't expect to still find you there, after I gave you specific orders to leave after one."

       She glared at him.  "I didn't want to just...just leave you there.  I kept hoping you were delayed a bit, and that you'd show up any minute.   Then...then the jaguar came, and I didn't know what to do.  I...I thought..."

       "Are you ever capable of just doing what you're told?  Of simply being obedient?"

       "But, Ted..."

       "No, buts, baby.  I assure you, my dear, we will revisit this conversation upon our return.  In the meantime, I've secured a plane.   You ready to go home?"
Beckett returns
The Roman Missal
       As much as he to read the horrifying details regarding this place and time he found himself in, the priest in him was drawn to the commitment of Mass.  He rolled the newspaper up, and stuck it in the pocket of his coat, and headed down the street toward the church.  Not knowing the layout of the place, he entered through the main doors, traipsing up the aisle to the stares of the congregation.  He assumed the church was built similar to those of modern times, and expected the sacristy to be somewhere behind the sanctuary area.  What he'd find there was unclear.

        The church itself was badly in need of repair, the floor buckled in several spots, and the pews listing to one side in a definite slant.  Fr. Kevin located the door to the sacristy, which of course, was  hanging off its hinges, and swung it open with a loud creak.  The room beyond was not in much better shape.  The wind blew in from a window that had one pane missing, and several dingy albs were thrown over the back of a wooden chair.

         "Pardon, Father.  Would ya think you'll be startn' the Mass, soon.  Me's shift starts in nearly an hour, and I kin not be shown' there late."

          The priest turned in the direction of the voice, coming face to face with a young man in his late teens, already dressed in the clothes of an altar server.

           Embarrassed by his tardiness, Kevin mumbled an apology, and pulled one of two soiled chasubles from the closet.  The boy watched in silence as he pulled the alb over his head, wrinkling his noise at the sour smell of unwashed bodies.  Once dressed, he motioned to his altar server.  "Is everything ready for Mass?"

           The teen looked at him oddly, and nodded.  "Aye, Father Murphy.  As it is every morning.  I've added extra hosts, it bein' a feast day and all."

            Relief flooded Kevin's body.  At least he would have the necessary sacramentals to get through the saying of Mass.  They headed through the creaky door, and he followed the boy to the back of the Church for the opening procession.  As he walked up the aisle, he took notice of the congregation from the corner of his eyes.  Working people, faces etched with years of hard work and less luck.  They kept their eyes downward, or focused on the altar in front, almost none of them giving him the slightest attention.

            As he made his way up to the altar, he worked on centering his mind to the liturgy ahead.  He might find himself in a different time and in a different body, but the soul was still his very own.  Of this fact he was strangely positive.  He was still Kevin O'Kenney, consecrated disciple of Christ, and he would say Mass for these people in the truest sense of the word.  He started to make his way to the back of the altar, only to realize there was no back.  The altar stood flush against the wall, and for a second, he was confused.  Then, he remembered that the position of the priest facing the congregation was a relatively new change, one coming only about 50 years ago in his time, at the direction of the the Second Vatican Council.  He quickly changed his location, putting himself  in front of the altar, with his back to the faithful.  It felt strange and unnatural, and he forced himself not to feel as if eyes bored into the back of his head.  He wondered how the priests of old managed to have any kind of connection with the rest of the church community, isolated this way with their back to everyone else.  From somewheres in the last corner of his brain, he could make out what seemed like another grunt of annoyance from his host, and he mentally brushed it aside, concentrating instead on the opening prayers.

       He was grateful to see the Roman Missal laid open on the altar, a guide book to the prayers used for Mass in that specific time.  He stepped confidently to the altar, and let his eyes peruse the page.  His mouth opened, but no words came out.  Every word on the aged, brown paper was printed in the language of the church, one he had never found a reason to learn in his modern seminary days.  As the altar boy and the people in pews waited in confusion, Fr. Kevin stared at the words in Latin, and began to sweat.
Fr. Kevin says Mass

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2014
All Rights Reserved



Saturday, February 8, 2014

"Extra, Extra...Read All About It..."


An Important Notice to Readers...

     Although this fiction blog is illustrated with photos of dolls, and dollhouse miniatures, the language and content of the storyline is intended for an adult audience.  Please be advised.

Thank You,

The Author

Boston's North End, 1849
      He stood at the window and watched her walk away, catching the moment when she turned yet again, and looked back toward the rectory.  Even several feet away, Fr. Kevin could sense her angst, a connection he wasn't sure was to him, or the man whose body he now seemed to be inhabiting.  He mouthed a silent prayer in hopes that Fr. Murphy wasn't the cause of this young woman's problems, or worse yet, involved with her in some inappropriate manner.  His main objective needed to be focused on returning home to his own time and space, and not on the comings and goings of this one.

         As a kid, he had read his fair share of science fiction nonsense.  Knew that according to the fictional commandments of time travel, one had to be careful not to change anything in the past, as it might have disastrous effects on the future.  But that had all been make-believe.  Stories someone created out of their own personal imagination.  As far as he could tell, this was the real thing.  He was truly stuck here, in a yet undetermined year, in a body that was not his own, fully conscious of his own personal history and opinions.  In addition, he seemed to have shifting thoughts that were not his own, ideas and emotions that were totally foreign to his nature.  Those, he assumed, belonged to his host, a man Kevin wasn't sure he liked very much.

       The whole thing was beyond preposterous.  There was no such thing as time travel, yet here he found himself in this position.  For a fleeting second, he tossed about the notion that if he were here, then maybe this Fr. Murphy had somehow inhabited his body back in Dollyville.  The thought made him queasy, so he quickly brushed it aside, choosing instead to focus his attention on the here and now, and just how to escape it.  The first plan of action was to figure out exactly where in time he was.  He was still obviously in Boston, but the date was still a mystery.  It was somewhere in the 1800's as his clothes and surroundings indicated.  Other than that, he hadn't a clue to the specifics.  He had considered coming right out and asking the housekeeper, but had decided against it.  She already sensed something was amiss about his whole presence, and seemed to be giving him the sign for the evil eye every time his back was turned.  Asking her odd questions would only serve to make matters worse.

          Still at the window, he caught sight of a news boy hawking papers at the end of the street, and an answer to his dilemma quickly bloomed.  The newspaper was sure to have today's date, as well as information about the here and now.   He pulled a worn overcoat from the hall tree next to the door, and slid his arms into the sleeves.  The garment reeked of sweat, stale tobacco and more than a bit of alcohol.  The cuffs were thread bare, and the left pocket sported a gaping hole.  The right one, however, was luckily in tact, and held an assortment of coins, enough it was hoped, to purchase a paper.  Belting the coat at the waist, he started to pull at the door, just as the housekeeper made her return into the room.

          "Lord sakes, I was wonderin' when you'd get to leavn'!  Tis half past eight already, Father.  It's unseemly the way you keep the faithful waitin' on ya.  Third time this week.  You best hurry if ya plan on hearn' confessions too."

            A wall of panic shoot up around him.  Maneuvering around the small confines of the rectory was one thing.  Finding the church, and saying Mass in front of a strange congregation, in a body not his own, was completely another.  Even if he could find the church, and manage to get through the Mass, would it still count?  And hear confessions?  As who?  Fr. Kevin O'Kenney? Or as Fr. Sean Murphy?  Would the absolution even work the same?  He stammered out the words.  "Uhmm...Mass.  Yes.  Yes.  Will you be attending as well, Mrs. McBride?"  The woman at least might be able to clue him in on the generalities of the routine.

           "On a Saturday?  With the larder and cupboards as bare as a bone?  Lord sakes, Fr. Murphy, I've but two hands, is all.  Who be doing the marketn' if I spent me time on bended knees.  Prayer is all fine and good, Father.  But it takes a might more than that to fill the belly.  Besides, the Almighty says to keep his Sabbath holy. He never made any rules regardn' the rest of the week.  If Sundays be good enough for the Lord, then it be right fine with me, Father.  So you's just run along and see to your faithful, and leave me to my work."  With a grunt, the rotund woman handed him a black bowler hat from the hall tree, and shooed him out the door.

             If nothing else, the gale force winds of Boston winters were the same in this time as they would be in the future.  The icy spray caught Kevin full in the face, and he turned up the collar of the coat to block the bad weather.  From the street in front of the rectory, he could see the church set back a few feet.  The wooden building, like the neighborhood around it, looked neglected and run-down, the shutters hanging askew and banging against the side of the building with every gust.  He could hear the newsboy calling out the sale of his papers, and he hesitated only a moment, before turning away from the church to the other end of the block.  Dodging the carriages who paid him no mind, he made his way to the corner, digging the change out of his pocket, and offering it to the grimy young man, who stared at him in confusion.

           "Aye, many copies ya be wantn?"

           "Just one please."

            The boy looked at the pile of coins in the priest's hand suspiciously, as if the whole event was a test of his honesty.  Then with chapped, red fingers, plucked what appeared to be a penny from Kevin's hand.  "Aye, Sir.  Just one"  He rolled the printed paper into a bundle, and handed it to him.

           Grateful for some blessed information, Kevin dug through the coins again, and pulled out what looked similar to a modern dime, and handed it to the boy.

           The lad's eyes grew large and round, watery blue marbles in his pale, dirty face, and he stared first at the coin, and then up at the man's face."  "A half dime, Sir?  For me?"

            From the kid's reaction, Kevin realized he had just been given the moniker of "big tipper".  He had no clue what a half dime was, but assumed it was worth five cents, apparently a grand amount in this time period.  From somewhere in his psyche, he could feel annoyance, and guessing it might be his host's thoughts, pushed it aside.  Generosity to the less fortunate trumped anything else.  "Yes, young man.  For you.  Enjoy."

             The boy pumped Kevin's hand like a water spigot, his glee unhindered.  "Many thanks, Sir.  I
mean it, rightly."  He stopped for a minute, and looked at the coin curiously.  "You seem grand chipper this morning, Father Murphy.  Guess the Lady Bones were kind to ya last night, Sir?"

            "Lady Bones?"  Fr. Kevin felt a prickle at the back of his conscience. He hoped to hell the boy wasn't referring to a woman.  That kind of trouble he most surely did not not need."

            "Aye, Father.  Lady Bones.  I'm gathern' that the dice rolled in your favor, Sir.  To be handn' the likes of me such a grand tip will surely cotton Lady Luck's favor toward ya again."

              It took a few milliseconds for his frozen brain to add two and two, finally realizing that the boy was referring to some type of gambling game.  When there was a glimmer of recognition somewhere in his gray matter, he sighed.  It appeared the illustrious Father Murphy was a bit of a gambler, an issue he deducted might give reason to the mean state of his appearance and property.

             Leaving the kid's comment unanswered, he offered him a wave, and started back towards the church.  Unrolling the newspaper, he stared at the date...Saturday, November 30, 1849, and then in horror at the glaring headline...Parkman's Body Found in Gruesome Murder! 

The Dr. George Parkman Murder, November, 1849

Copyright  2014 Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved





Saturday, February 1, 2014

The "Eyes" Have It


An Important Notice to Readers...

     Although this fiction blog is illustrated with photos of dolls, and dollhouse miniatures, the language and content of the storyline is intended for an adult audience.  Please be advised.

Thank You,

The Author

Maureen watches as Ted scopes out the air strip

      The sun beat the crown of her head like a tropical bludgeon, and she could feel the skin on the back of her neck move from "medium well" to "well done".  She scooted over to the furthest corner of the jeep, next to the driver's door, to covet the tiny bit of shade the pile of rocks afforded.  According to the watch he had put in her hand, Ted had been gone nearly 45 minutes.  That meant that if he didn't return soon, she was on her own.  By herself.  Solo.

          She had argued bitterly over the course of his plan to no result.  Begged to go with him to check out the lay of the small airstrip she could see in the distance.  But he would hear none of it, calmly going over the steps he wanted her to follow should the need arise.

         "Look, baby.  I need for you to do what I tell you." She had opened her mouth to protest, but
he silenced her with a firm finger to her lips.   "No arguments.  I have to know that you'll follow my instructions to the letter.  Can you do that?"

        "But, Ted...why can't I just go with you?"

       "We went over this, sweetheart.  It's too much ground to cover in this heat.  Harsh and rocky...not to mention the unwanted advances of rattlers and scorpions.  I have no idea what might be waiting for us there.  If somehow they've discovered that Arroyo is dead, then it's possible there's already a welcoming committee placed here for our arrival.  I'm not going to risk it.  I need to scope out the place beforehand.  On my own.  If I see that everything is quiet, then I'll come back to get you, and we'll be on our way home." He leaned in, and had pushed an errant red curl behind her ear.  "You trust me to do what's best for you, don't you baby?"

       She hated that when he said things like that, everything in her stomach, and below, went warm and squishy.  She found herself nodding, when in fact, she wanted to scream and rant.  He took hold of her chin, and kissed her lightly on the lips.  "Good girl.  Now, go over all the instructions for me one last time."

        Maureen sighed, and repeated what he had told her earlier.  "I am to stay here and wait for you.  If you are not back in 60 minutes, then I am to follow the coordinates you set in the GPS, and drive back to Playa Del Carmen.  Find "La Fresca" restaurant, and ask for Senoir Garza.  When I find him, I'm supposed to say that I need a package shipped promptly.   And whatever he tells me."  She folded her arms across her chest, and stared him down.  "You do realize how crazy that sounds.  Like bad dialogue from an old spy movie."

       Beckett smiled.  'Yeah, Garza has an odd sense of humor.  But he's one of the good guys.  He'll get you back home safely, one way or the other."

        "You said the same thing about Arroyo.  And look how he turned out."

        "It's different with Garza.  You're gonna have to trust me on that.  Besides, it might turn out that
the air strip is deserted, and I'll be back here in no time.  You be my brave girl for just a little longer.  Then it's right back home with the two of us.  I promise.   Plan B is just a worse case scenario."

         There was no changing his mind.  Ever.  And so she had watched him walk off across the dry terrain in the direction of the air strip.  Watched him walk further and further, until she could no longer make him out amongst the landscape.  That had been over 45 minutes ago, and the hands on the expensive wristwatch continued their march toward the one hour mark.  Despite the heat of the day, a slight chill ran from the top of her head, to the soles of her feet.  Not having anyone else to turn to, she began all the prayers she knew in heart, not sure that God was willing to negotiate over someone like Ted Beckett.


          It turned out that the mysterious Fr. Murphy, whose body he seemed to be inhabiting at the moment, enjoyed a hardy breakfast.  While he searched the room for additional information on his current location, Mrs. McBride returned with a large covered tray that she plopped on a rickety table near the window.

         "We be low on a number of items in the larder, Father.  If you be wantn' me to attend to the market, you'll have to be partn' with a coin or two.  There's but a spot or two of tea left in the jar, and  not a crumb left of brown bread after you be finishn' the mornin' meal.  I know me ways aroun' a kitchen, I do.  But there's no makin' a meal without the necessaries."

           Fr. Kevin uncovered the tray, revealing a steaming plate containing all the ingredients of a traditional Irish breakfast.  Two fried eggs rested in a pool of warm, yellow butter, while the aroma of the fatty Irish bacon made his mouth water.  The plate also held a combination of both black and white pudding, a mound of fried potatoes, two crispy sausages, and a round slice of fried tomato, with a small pot of fragrant tea resting along side.  His stomach growled in celebration, and he thanked the good Lord he and Murphy apparently had similar tastes in food.

       "This looks delicious, Mrs. McBride.  Thank you."  He spread his lips in what he hoped was a passing smile, and it felt stiff and awkward on his face.

        The woman tilted her head, and looked at him oddly.  "You be queerer than a three legged cat
this day, Father.  You sure ya be feeln' fine?"

          Kevin felt a warm flush come over him.  It was obvious whatever he was doing was putting the poor woman at unease.  "I feel...quite well, thank you.  Why do you ask?"

          The woman put her hands on her well-padded hips, and stared at him, looking him over from head to toe.  "Is odd, is all.  I've been fixn' that same breakfast for goin' on three years now.  Ya naught said a word in return.  Catchin' me un-awares with all the polite chatter,  ya is.  Ya no banged your head stubbln' about last night, did ya?"

           He rubbed a self-concious hand over his head, feeling for any lumps and bumps, and finding none, shook his head.  "I assure you, I am fine.  I just...just thought I'd mind my manners, is all."

           The housekeeper grunted.  "Hmmph.  Is strange, for sure"  She crossed herself, and made the sign for what he could only guess might be the evil eye.   "You best be puttn' a fork to that meal if you intend to begin Mass anywheres close on time.  I'll be up with the laundry as soon as that soul-less
washer woman decides she might deliver it.  The Good Lord save me soul, but it be a mystery to me why you use a Guinea instead of a solid Irish lass."  She shuffled to the door, giving him one last look over then shoulder, than closing it softly behind her.

             Breakfast secure in his belly, Fr Kevin made his way down the stairs.  The rest of the rectory seemed in no better shape than the bedroom above, and he made the deduction that Father Murphy didn't seem to put a lot of effort in the maintenance of his home.  Although the rooms were clean and dusted, the furnishings were faded with age, the rugs worn thin in several places.  The wind blow in from a large crack in the window that faced the street, and the paint was peeling around what was obviously a leak under the sill.

       There was a large oval mirror set over the granite fireplace, and he stopped in front of it, taking inventory of all he saw.  The somber dark suit was one of two he had found in the closet upstairs, this being the newer of them.  He ran a finger inside the collar, and tugged.  His neck felt too large for the restraint of it, and the back chafed at his hairline, but he was grateful to be fully dressed, the suit giving him some sort of feel of control he had lacked in the dressing gown.
      From what he could figure from his surroundings and attire, he had ended up somewhere in the mid 1800's.  Even thinking that notion freaked him out.  Logic demanded that there was no such thing as time travel,  Stuff like that was left to the plot line of some science fiction story.  Pure make-believe.  But it was hard to argue with the fact that here he was, fully conscious of being Kevin O'Kenney, stuck in the physical body that wasn't his, in a time period not his own.  To the how and why of it all, he had no clue, but figured it had something to do with the strange pocket watch he and Roxanne had discovered in the safety deposit box.

       Thinking about Roxanne made him instantly queasy.  He was filled with a growing anxiety about her whereabouts, and prayed that she had stayed safely behind in Boston.  The Boston in 2013, and not this one 150 years in the past.  As a man of faith, he assumed, as with all things, that his Creator was in control, and he said a silent prayer that the Spirit might see fit to help him find away out of all of this.  The thought instantly crossed his mind that he might never escape.  Never get back to the life and body he called his own.  Never see those he loved, who wouldn't be born for years and years in the future. But he forced the fear from his mind, and planted it firmly on figuring out what his next step should be.

      As he stared at the mirror and pondered these questions, there was a knock at the front door.  Turning to answer it, he was pushed to the side by the efficient Birdie McBride, who flung the door open with the force of two men.  A young woman with long dark hair stood at the door, gaunt and weary, a large bundle of folded linen in her arms.

      "It be about time, missy!  It gets later and later each and every day.  You tell your folks that if they can't be more timely in their work, the good Father will be takn' his business somewheres else."

      The woman nodded her head nervously, her eyes darting back and forth, and resting on Kevin, who stood behind his housekeeper.  Her accent was heavy, speaking to her Italian heritage.  "So sorry, Father.  The broke...and papa...he needed to fix it.  So sorry."  She focused her attention on his face, staring intently into his eyes, as if searching for answers.  He knew that feeling, and stared back.  The oval, brown eyes, heavy lidded with long lashes spoke to him of something familiar.  Something he should know, but couldn't quite grasp.

       "Himself is not given' a care to the workins' of your tools, miss.  If you be wantn' his business, then you get the linens here on time.  Ya hear what I'm sayn, lass?

        The woman nodded, her eyes never leaving Kevin.  She backed out of the doorway, and Mrs. McBride slammed the door with a heavy thud, muttering under her breath.  "Damn Guineas!  Not a trustworthy bone ins their bodies."  She thumped off in the direction of the kitchen, leaving Kevin alone with more questions then answers.

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2014
All Rights Reserved