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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Home is Where your Heart Is

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 tries to bribe her "brother" with a home-cooked breakfast
      It was, without a doubt, his fear and guilt that made the papers seem as if they burned inside his coat pocket.  Despite the frigid wind, Kevin felt sweaty, and more than a bit nauseous.  He set his mind to acting calm, giving the menacing old man no reason to be suspicious of his presence in the privy.  "Of course not, good Sir.  No debauchery.  Or anything of such nature.  Was to meet a gentleman front of the chemistry building."  He waved in his hand in the correct direction.  "But alas, it appears that he has been detained."  He stuck out his hand in an attempt to offer a greeting, but the man made no move to reciprocate, in fact tightening his grip on the wooden stick.  "The name's Murphy.  Father Sean Murphy.  I've come on a...spiritual manner."

        Littlefield looked at him, his frown deepening, if that was even possible.  "A Papist, and a shanty one to boost."  He let loose a second round of spittle, this one catching the side of Kevin's pant leg.  "No surprise that your man didn't show.  Probably came to his senses, and thought better of it."  He thrust the lantern closer to the priest's face.  "Might I suggest then, Murphy, that ya get to the business of moving on along.  No sense bein' about on a night like this."  Swinging the stick over his shoulder, he added, "Surprised you ain't a mite worried 'bout bein' out all alone this late, what with Dr. Parkman missing as he is.  Seems there's definitely evil work moving about the Harvard grounds.  The papers all say he's been murdered for sure, and the police have gone and hauled off Dr. Webster to the jail.  A body's not safe 'round here it seems."

          Kevin shoved his hands into his coat pocket, and stepped backwards, away from the man's lantern glow.  "Yes, a tragedy that is.  Poor Dr. Parkman.  His family must be fraught with worry.  But of course, I don't have much knowledge of the case.  Unseemly for a man of the cloth to be involved in the likes of that."

           Littlefield seemed to accept his reasoning, lessening the grip on the club, and relaxing his posture.  "Aye, it most certainly is.  Unseemly...indeed.  Well have yourself a fine evening, Fr. Murphy.  I suggest you keep your wits about ya on your return home."  Then pulling his wool cap further down on his forehead, the janitor turned, and headed in the direction of the chemistry building, his lantern bobbing back and forth like a buoy in a sea of darkness.

             Fr. Kevin watched him go, and than burying his face in the collar of his overcoat, headed back toward the North End, this time with the wind at his back, and a solid reason to hurry his return to the rectory.


         From her spot in the kitchen, Maureen could hear the force of the shower running and running through the pipes that ran above her head, and behind the room's sink.  He had been at it for nearly 40 minutes, and she wondered if there was even any hot water left in the tank.  Though, considering what an awful mess he'd looked, she supposed it was a good thing he was obviously doing a thorough job.  Congratulating herself on having the foresight to just show up on his door, she turned down the heat under the skillet to avoid burning the bacon.

         It was usually the other way around, she being in a state of upheaval, and Kevin being the one to come to her rescue.  It felt rather nice this time, to have him be the one who needed assistance, and she in the position to offer it.  Still, it was worrisome to see him in such a state.  She wondered if it had anything to do with Roxanne's sudden disappearance.  It didn't take a licensed psychologist to notice that there was unfinished business between the two them.  At that possibility, she felt a stab of guilt.  It was her fault the two of them were forced to come face to face.  She had invited Roxanne Spinelli to her wedding knowing full well that her brother would be aghast at the idea.  But at the time, she had been lost in her desire to plan the happiest of days, and had given little concern to how Kevin might react.   Roxanne was a good friend, and it was not unreasonable for she as the bride to want her in attendance.

      That's why her flight from Dollyville, without a single note of explanation, seemed so odd.  The Roxanne she knew would never go back on a promise to a friend.  She had committed to taking Maureen's place at the deli, and to keeping an eye on things at the rectory, and the apartment, while she was on her honeymoon.  The newlywed had returned home, expecting to find her buddy behind the counter of the shop, but instead, received a lengthy tirade from Mrs. Schiller on how they had been short-handed for several days.  In addition, it appeared that Rox had left town with an assortment of clothing out of Maureen's closet.  Two pairs of Levi's, a few of her favorite tops, and a pair of new, leather wedge sandals, all seemed to have gone the way of the missing girl.  It wasn't that she cared about the loss of her clothes.  Rather, it was the strange behavior that had her worried.  All she could figure is that Roxie and her brother had gotten into a heated argument, and that her dear friend had left town to avoid any further unpleasantness.

       Hearing the water finally come to a stop, she plopped two more slices of bread in the toaster, and cracked a half dozen eggs in the mixing bowl.  Kevin's tongue always loosened with a fork near it, and her plan was to fill his belly, while pumping him for information.  Had she known ahead of time how ornery her brother had become, she surely would not have bothered adding fresh chives to the eggs, nor would she have squeezed all those dozen oranges by hand.

      Somehow, knowing what was hidden inside his coat, made the long, miserable walk back to the North End more manageable.  That's not to say that by the time he returned to the shelter of the rectory, he wasn't in bad shape.  If Mrs. McBride's reaction was any level of measure, he was a frightful sight.  He face was windburned and chapped a raw red, and there were actual icicles hanging about his sideburns.  His fingers were numb with cold, almost devoid of any feeling, and the foot in the shoe with the hole hadn't fared much better.  Upon seeing him, the rotund housekeeper crossed herself, calling upon a host of saints to shower down their heavenly mercy.

      His foremost goal was to head to the solitude of his room, and to pour over the contents of the papers.  If they held the key to any of this mess, he needed to figure it all out with the utmost of speed.
But the formidable Birdie stood between he and his privacy.  She insisted that his thawing out was to be her project for the evening, and though he tried to convince her otherwise, he found himself wrapped in several blankets in front of the parlor stove, his feet soaking in a pan of warm water, and his hands and cheeks thoroughly rubbed down with what he guessed was left over bacon grease.

     It wasn't until she had made him drink several cups of what she described as "medicinal tea", and rubbed his head so briskly with a warm towel that his teeth rattled in his mouth, that she finally released him to the peace and quiet of his room, with the promise that he should head directly to his bed before he caught himself a death of a cold.  While she bustled about the kitchen, he managed to maneuver the papers out of his coat, squirreling them away in the waistband of his long johns where he was certain she wouldn't explore.

     His room was cold and drafty, and taking her advice, he threw the dingy night shirt over his head, and climbed under the pile of covers, glad for both the warmth and seclusion.  Pulling the table with the lamp closer to his bed, he unwrapped the leather covering, and unrolled the papers atop his quilt.  It didn't take long for confusion to bloom, and disappointment to set in.  The pages held nothing but a series of equations, long, complicated, and totally foreign to him.  He tried to make sense of the symbols, numbers and charts, but it was if he were trying to read letters in a made-up alphabet.  Frustrated, he shoved the papers to the foot of the bed,  despair closing in, followed in time by weariness, fatigue, and eventually the weightless pull of deep, heavy sleep.

Mr Belkins, from the Archdiocese of Boston, pays another visit
      After all that time in the bathroom, she was surprised when he came down the stairs, unshaven, and still in the rumpled clothes he had on earlier.  He did, however, smell a whole lot better, and it was obvious he had managed to at least shampoo his hair back to a presentable state.  Sliding the chair away from the table, she motioned for him to sit.  He complied without a word, settling himself on the seat, and propping his head up with one hand, he began to shovel the food on his plate into his mouth, while perusing the pages of the newspaper she had left on the table.

    Maureen poured herself a cup of coffee, and took the seat across from her brother.  "So, Kev.  Now that you're looking a bit...perkier, maybe you can explain what's been going on here since I've been gone?  Why did Roxie leave before I got home?  She had promised to stay, ya know.  It's so not like her to go back on her word."

     He simply ignored her question, cramming a whole piece of toast into his mouth, and focusing his attention on a weather map of the United States, in between long slurps from his cup of coffee.

     "Seriously, Kev.  I'm worried about her.  You didn't have argument, did you?  Some kind of falling out that might cause her to leave so suddenly."

       His mouth full, he answered without looking up from the paper.  "Undoubtedly, she left because she had other places to be.  More than that I can not say."

      "Can't...or won't say, Kevin?  What the hell is wrong with you?  You're acting...well...weird.  The way you're talking and's just not like you.  I'm concerned you're ill.  You're not depressed, are you?  Maybe having some kind of mental issue?  You Aunt Edna had that one summer when we all went to the Cape.  A nervous breakdown, mama called it.  Oh Kevin, you poor thing!  You must be suffering terribly."

         Her brother looked up from his plate, and that's when she noticed it.  His eyes.  They weren't quite right.  They were, of course, still green, matching hers, but yet, appeared entirely different.  They were surely closer together, deep set under brows the same color as his hair.  Appearing more intense and calculating then she had remembered.  And at this moment, they were zeroed in on her, looking, for lack of a better word, rather perturbed.  "Woman, I have no idea why you insist on interrupting my meal.  You invite me to eat, then blather on the whole time about nonsense.  As I already explained, this Roxanne has left town of her own free will.  It was, I assure you, all for the best.  Now, if you will allow me to finish this breakfast in peace, I would be ever so grateful."

        He went back to his shoveling, ignoring the scowl that had replaced concern. "You are being a total jerk, Kevin O'Kenney.  I have no idea what the hell is making you act this way, but so help me, I'm going to find out, even if I have to get Ted down here to help me drag you to the emergency room.  If you think for one minute, I'm going just stand by and let you..."

        The conversation was halted by the front door bell, it being pushed by someone with a very insistent hand.  She heard it ring once, then twice, and yet a third time before asking, "Aren't you going to answer that?"

         Without raising his eyes from the news paper, he replied , "During my breakfast?  I think not."

          She listened to it ring two more times, before rising to answer the door, slamming the chair into the table as she left.  He could hear the back and forth of conversation, and in a few minutes, she returned, concern once again dressing her demeanor.

          "Kevin...there's a Mr. Belkins in the parlor.  From the Archdiocese.  He says he's here about some accounting discrepancies in the parish books.  Claims you had an appointment today.  I told him that I was your sister, and that you were under the weather, but he insists on meeting with you anyway.  Is that going to be a problem?"

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Double Trouble


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 has an uncomfortable discussion with her "brother".
       Maureen grabbed him by the shoulder, and shook.  "Kevin...Kev...get up.  It's me...Maureen."

        The priest grunted, and then rolled on his side, testing several methods of tucking his lanky 6' plus frame on the narrow sofa, and burying his head under a worn throw pillow.

       Partly alarmed, but mostly annoyed, his sister shook him again, this time giving his shoulder a pinching squeeze, and ripping the pillow off his face. "You need to sit up, Kevin.  I can't believe your in this shape!  And so early in the morning!  What the hell is going on here?  You didn't say Mass this way, did you?"

        One blood shot eye creeped open and stared at her, followed by the other.  Pushing himself to an upright position, the man growled.  "Damn, woman.  You needn't shout.  I can hear you just fine.  That shrill cawing cuts through my head like a rusty knife."" His jacket was rumpled, and his collar open and askew.  A smattering of fine ginger colored whiskers blanketed his cheeks and chin, and he reeked of alcohol and sweat, as he ran a hand through short greasy, hair.

       "Good for you then!  That's just what you deserve!  I hope you have yourself a monster of a hangover!  What the hell were you thinking?  Drinking like this on a...on a weekday morning, no less!"  A thought crossed Maureen's mind, and her anger turned to worry.  "Oh no...something's not wrong, is it?  No one's...ill...or worse?"
She grabbed at him, gathering him in an awkward embrace.  "Oh Kevin!  Is it Mama?  It's not Patrick, is it? Tell me he didn't have another heart attack?  He's not dead, is he?  Oh...I knew I should have called home!  Please Kev, tell me Patrick's okay."

        The priest peeled her fingers from his forearms, and pushed her into a spot next to him, moving himself a few dignified spaces away.  He appeared to be searching for answers among inebriated brain cells, and a slew of seconds passed before he could rightfully answer. "Ah, Patrick.  The oldest one.  To the best of my knowledge, he is fine." He tilted his head a bit to the left, and added, "Yes.  They all appear to be fine.  The whole noisy lot of them."

         She stared at him oddly before replying, her disgust at finding him in this state quickly changing to apprehension.  "Are you sure you're alright, Kev.  You seem...different.  Not yourself.  Is something the matter?  You know you can always come to me, right?"

         Her brother seemed to examine her face, staring not just at her, but through her.  His eyes were the same moss green color, but yet, appeared harder, and without the calm she had sensed from them as long as she could remember.  There had been a change in her brother while she had been gone, of that she was sure.  But the hows, and whats and whys of the whole thing were a total mystery.

       He patted her hand, and grimaced, looking even less like her brother, and more like a stranger.  "I assure you, Miss Maureen, that I am perfectly fine, if not still a bit in my cups.  I appreciate your concern, but I shall be right as rain when I've worn off the effects."   He rose off the sofa, and headed toward the door in an obvious hint toward leaving.  "There's no need to worry your pretty little head over my situation.  I shall be most fine in a few hours.  I suggest you run about to things that need your care, as I am surely not one of them."

      She felt her anger rise, but the sight of her brother, all disheveled and strange, tore at her heart.  This was her Kevin.  Her favorite sibling and best buddy since before she could remember anything else.  There was obviously something terribly wrong with him, whether he was willing, or able, to admit it himself, and there wasn't a chance in hell she was leaving him on his own to deal with it.  "I think not, Kev.  You look as if you could use one of my famous breakfast feasts.   Go jump in the shower while I see what I can whip up."

      He hesitated, trying again to motion toward the door.  "Really, that isn't at all necessary.  I shall be quite satisfied with a cup of coffee, or even tea for that matter.  No need to go to any type of trouble."

      "You know you hate tea.  Besides, it's no trouble at all."  She flung her arms around him, trying to hold her breath as she did.  "I missed you so much, Kev.  And I'm sorry I didn't  text or call or anything.  You know how Ted can be when he gets something in his head."  She considered telling him about her wild adventure in Mexico, but decided against it.  In the mood he was currently in, it was hard to tell how he'd react.  Instead, she took hold of his arms and lead him toward the stairs.  " you go.  Take a nice long, hot shower, and change your clothes.  It'll make you feel better. Honestly, you smell horrible.  And when you're done, we'll have a nice little breakfast, and a good long chat about what when on when I was gone...okay?"

     With destination in sight, and purpose in mind, Fr. Kevin O'Kenney, aka Fr. Murphy, noticed little of the bad weather.  He could see the chemistry building ahead, and assumed that the dark, stone shed standing 200 feet away must be the privy Webster described.  As he got closer, the horrid stench grew, lending credence to his hypothesis.  He was oddly gratefully for the biting cold, for in summer heat, the odor of the place was, without a doubt, unbearable.  In addition, the chill was surely the reason the campus byways were virtually deserted.  All around him, he could see the glow of lamps lights and hearths from scattered buildings, proof that the academia of Harvard was comfortably entrenched inside, allowing him the privacy to find what he came for.

        The heavy wooden door was iced shut, and it took more than one hard tug to pull open.  Even in the low temperatures, the smell made him want to gag, and ashamed, he realized how he had always taken the convenience of indoor plumbing for granted.  He thrust the lantern out in front of him, allowing the small spray of light to illuminate his surroundings.  It was as Webster had said.  A wooden shelf was built over the pit, the round hole allowing some modest sense of comfort.  High on the wall with the door, near the ceiling, were two holes, allowing light and air into the confined space.  He quickly located the left corner as per the chemist's instruction, and counted the correct number of stones up, until he came to the large loaf shaped brick the man had detailed.  Reaching it meant that he would have to crawl onto the wooden seat, and perch precariously over the large, stinking hole.

       Having no other recourse, he placed the lantern on the opposite side, sticking a small rock under it to angle the ray of light towards the intended spot.  The wood creaked under his weight, and he prayed the board was in good enough shape to hold him up, the alternative being an unintended bath in muck and shit.  He counted once again, starting in the corner level with the seat, and began wiggling and pulling at the unusual stone.  His fingers were numb from the cold, making the job a difficult one, but eventually, the brick began to move.  After what seemed like an eternity, his knees aching from kneeling on the hard plank, his fingers stinging with was sure to be frostbite, the stone slid from its place.  Inside the hole was a leather cylinder, tied tightly with a piece of black cording, the type used to hold packages together.
        With frozen fingers, Kevin retrieved Webster's papers, and sticking them into the waistband of his pants, he buttoned his coat tightly over it.  He was tempted to look at the contents, and the inner voice prodded him to do so.  But his ever prudent psyche won out, and he decided to hold off until he could guarantee both his safety, and that of the papers, much to the disgust of his host.  Jubilant over the success retrieval, he replaced the brick, and began to crawl backwards over the wooden seat.  In his attempt to remove the false stone, he had inadvertently loosened a few other bricks near the spot, and two of them rained down from above.  The first one caught the corner of his upper lip, splitting the soft flesh as it tumbled to the floor.  The second, a stone heavier and larger than than the first, missed him completely, instead landing directly into the hole, and splashing filth everywhere, including Kevin's chapped face and bleeding lip.

        In horror, he wiped at the muck with the sleeve of his dirty coat.  He could smell the rotting waste under his nose, and he gagged at the thought of what it might possibly contain.  With an exposed wrist, he rubbed at his lip, desperate to keep God-knows-what away from the open cut.  All thoughts of Webster's papers diminished, Kevin's focus entirely on finding somewhere he could wash his face with  soap and hot water.  He worked at keeping down his panic, but was unable to shake lose the fear of cholera, which was striking most of Boston in epidemic proportions.  He remembered the tours of Boston he had taken with his dad, specifically the one to Granary Burying Ground, which offered headstone after headstone documenting the toll the disease had taken in 1849, and wondered whether there had been one there with Fr. Murphy's name etched on it.

       Shoving thoughts like that from his mind, he grabbed his lantern, debating whether the low temperatures would keep bacteria from multiplying on his skin.   Pulling open the door, his mind totally  elsewhere, he nearly ran into the body blocking his way.  The man stood as tall as he he, his face gaunt and bearded in the light from both their lanterns.   Hiding his panic, Kevin spoke first. "I do beg your pardon.  I little expected someone to be on the other side of the door."  He thought about offering the gentleman his hand, but realizing where it was he was leaving, thought better of it, and stuck it in his pocket instead.

      The man scowled.  "I should say not.  Heard all kinds of fuss and nonsense coming from the privy here.  Thought it best to investigate.  Never know what types of debauchery these damn hooligans might be about."  He cleared his throat, then spat a stream of mucus only inches from the hole in Kevin's boot. "I detest them all...the codfish aristocracy."  With menace, he waved a wooden club in his other hand.  "The name's Ephraim Littlefield.  I'm the janitor over at the Chemistry Building."  Tapping the ground with the club, he added, "I do hope your reasons for being about the place on a night like this are of a... sensible nature, Sir.   As I don't take kindly to those being here that don't belong."

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus
All Rights Reserved

A Note From The Author...

      Thanks for all your patience while I was working on our annual 8th Grade Live Mystery Event.  The one I wrote this year was based in Tombstone, Arizona in 1880, and featured real life people from that time period, characters such the likes of Wyatt Earp, Annie Oakley, and Buffalo Bill Cody.
It was loads of fun to write, but a real challenge due to the necessary research involved.  At times, I kept getting Boston in 1849 confused with Tombstone in 1880, thus the need for the missing post a few weeks ago.
    Have to say, it was a huge success.  The kids had a great time while really doing some hands on learning.  Two newspapers will be covering the story, and when they do, I will post the link in case any of you are interested.  The photo below, is of my teaching partner and I, in full costume.  She was the federal marshall, and I was the "Wicked Widow" who owned the saloon...the scene of the subsequent murder.  Nothing like being the author...and able to write yourself an awesome part..LOL

As always, I am grateful for your continued support.

Happy Easter and Passover to you all!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Welcome Home


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

    It wasn't as if she'd expected a welcome home parade down the center of main street.  Or even a party of any sorts just to say "glad you're back... safe and sound".  No.  She would have been satisfied just to have someone acknowledge the fact that she'd been missing for over a week, and was at last, where she was supposed to be.

      Maureen dried the last of the dishes, and stacked them in the cupboard, annoyed at having been left with the mess.  She appreciated the fact that Roxanne had offered to cover her hours in the deli while she was on her honeymoon, but damn, the girl was a real slob.  Every dish she owned had been used and left in dirty piles all over the flat, and it was obvious someone had rummaged through most of her clothes, trying them on, and then leaving them where they'd been dropped. Until now, she had always thought Roxanne Spinelli to be an organized, neat freak.  It went to prove that you didn't really know people until you were forced to share personal space.

      Plus, the way her friend rushed off without so much as a "How was your honeymoon, Moe?  It was awful, thanks for asking,"  conversation, left her feeling neglected.  And it wasn't only Roxie who was acting odd.  Kevin had seemed unusually distant, his answers to her queries chopped and terse.  Ted had brushed off Kev's cool demeanor as a reaction to the way the two of them had disappeared, a sign of his annoyance about not being kept in the loop.  But it wasn't like her brother to hold grudges.  When they hit the States, her husband had handed back her cell phone, and Kevin was the first person she tried to reach.  She'd sent a dozen text messages to him, notifying that they were in Florida, and hoped to return to Dollyville in the next 24 hours. They went unanswered.  Worried, she finally broke down and called him just before boarding a flight to Boston.  He spoke to her with hesitation, his answers phrased in general congeniality.

       And now, she'd been home nearly a day, and he had yet to stop bye and say hello, which in her mind. meant he was still angry with her.  Drying her hands in a towel, she went over the past two weeks in her head...the rehearsal dinner and Ted's extravagant gift, the wedding and her new husband's secrets, the shocking explosion and destruction of their home, and lastly, her crazy, dangerous honeymoon.  It was probably silly to worry about Kevin's attitude amongst the gravity of all of these other events, but she couldn't shake the feeling that something was just not right with him.  Grabbing her purse and keys, she headed down the street in the direction of Holy Family Church.

       He had never been much of a drinker.  That's not to say that he didn't enjoy an occasional sip or two of Irish whiskey, or bottle of great Cabernet over a fine meal.  But unlike some of his brothers and male friends, he didn't find alcohol a necessary ingredient to having a good time, so was unprepared for this sudden, overwhelming desire to snatch that flask from the offered hand.  The need to feel the burn of the whiskey down his throat, and the flush of spreading warmth startled him, and he realized with sudden clarity that it was a burden his host found himself living with.  Shaken and confused over this realization, Fr. Kevin let himself be pulled into the tight confines of the coach, shoved between a disheveled gentleman in expensive clothes, and a young woman who reeked of perfume. alcohol and    sweat.

     "Wise of you, old man.   The authorities would surely have found the remains of you frozen to the ground somewheres."  He handed Kevin the flask, and despite his better judgement, the priest took another hefty swallow.  "So what brings you to the hallowed halls of Harvard on a night like this, Reverend?"

    He'd never been much of a liar either, but found that in this body, and with the aid of the whiskey loosening his tongue, the falsehoods rolled out of his mouth with ease.  "I've been asked to give some advice...of a spiritual nature.  A good friend you a moral dilemma of sorts.  I, of course, could not refuse."

    The woman next to him giggled, her face flushed from the increasing body heat in the vehicle, and pointed to his worn shoes.  "Why, Reverend, that's hole-y of you." She laughed at her own joke, and added, "Holy...get it?"

      The two other passengers, a young man barely able to sit upright, and a woman with her eyes closed and head against the seat rest, ignored her, but Kevin's benefactor leaned over and gave the woman's ample bosom a two-handed squeeze.  "Witty...and beautiful, Estelle.  This is surely my lucky night."  He turned to Kevin, who with growing unease, tried to pull his body away from that of the woman.  "She is quite the catch, is she not, Padre?"

        He felt trapped and uncomfortable, but the thought of returning to the icy wind outside the carriage gave him the fortitude to remain calm.  "You are most correct, kind Sir.  She is most certainly a fetching temptation."

        It was the man's turn to laugh, his face turning red from the exertion of his guffaws.  "Well put, Padre.  Well put!"  He slapped Kevin on the back, nearly knocking him off the seat with the force of it.
"I like you, old man.  You're a good egg."  Then he lapsed into a drinking song, the type of which is almost never sung in the presence of ladies.  But if his bawdy humor bothered the women, it wasn't apparent, and Kevin was grateful for the opportunity not to have to make conversation.  It wasn't long before the carriage came to a stop, and stretching, the occupants gathered their belongings to disembark.

        The coachman came around and opened the door, and the party began to spill out into the bitter, night air.  The man identified as the group's champion, pumped his hand with genuine cordiality.
"I'm afraid this is as far as we go, Reverend.  Hopefully the building you want is within easy distance."

         The cold air hit Kevin in the face, and he felt slightly woozy, wishing he had not been so free with his sips from the flask.  He blinked twice, working at getting his bearings amid the darkness, the only light coming from gas lamps scattered across the campus ground.  "I beg your favor once more, kind Sir.  Could you possibly point me in the direction of the Chemistry Building?"

         The man squinted at him.  "You're surely not here to see Dr. Webster, are you?  "Cause if you are, you've come all this way for nothing.  The lunatic has been carried off by the police.  Murdered Dr. Parkman they say."  He leaned in toward Kevin, whispering much too loud in his drunkenness.  "It's all the scandal, you know.  All hush, hush here on the campus.  Very bad for he university's reputation, it is.  Has the chancellor's knickers all in a bunch."

         At the mention of John Webster and the Parkman murder, Kevin's stomach lurched.  It was imperative that no one connect him to any part of the sensational case, and so once again he was forced to lie through his teeth.  "Webster?  Of course not!  I'd have nothing to do with the likes of that.  Work of the devil, it is.  No, No.  My poor friend asked me to meet him in front of the chemistry building, and that we'd walk to his quarters together.  He mentioned that the building would be quite easy to find."

        The man seemed no much the wiser, and nodded in agreement.  "Aye.  It is quite the landmark with the rounded dome."  He pointed off into the darkness.  "It's about half mile that way, my friend.
Can't miss the likes of it."

        Fr. Kevin shook the man's sweaty palm, glad to be about the business he came for.  "Thank you for the lift, Sir.  It is most appreciated."

        "Not a problem, Reverend.  Best of luck to you."  He pumped Kevin's arm, shaking it up and down so hard he worried over his rotator cuff.

         Before he could turn around and take his leave, the busty woman thrust his lantern towards him.  "Don't want to forget this, Father.  You'll probably need it on a night of this sort."  Then she embraced him, pushing her spilling chest into his, and squeezing tight.  Giggling at his discomfort, she added,  "You certainly are a sweet one, Reverend.  Such a shame you've made a pact with God."

        Blushing in embarrassment, Kevin just offered a wave, and set off in the direction of the Chemistry Building, and subsequently, its privy.


      Oddly enough, Maureen found the church locked up tighter than a vault, and no signs of her brother on its grounds.  Most days,  Kevin left the church open while he worked around the property, and often the parishoners would stop in for a quick prayer or two.  But today, he apparently had broken with tradition, the church standing dark and empty.  The sight of several newspapers still thrown on the porch, and the mailbox stuffed to overflowing concerned her, and she knocked on the door with a new  sense of urgency.  When he didn't answer, she fought with her conscience, and erring on the side of caution, dug the emergency keys he had given her out of her purse.

        She pushed open the door, all the while calling out his name.  "Kevin?  You here?  It's me...Maureen.  Are you home?"

        A few steps into the parlor, and she had her answer.  There was her brother, passed out on the sofa in a drunken stupor, an empty bottle of Jameson laying next to him on the floor.

       For a second she was startled.  The Kevin she knew had never been much of a drinker. Saw him rip roaring drunk only once, and that was after their father's funeral.  But now, here he was, snoring away in oblivion.  How had he come to be totally smashed at 10:30 in the morning?  And just what the hell had been going on since she left on her honeymoon?

Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2014
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Taken for a Ride


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

    "I was able to meet with Dr. Webster.  But, honestly Rox, I'm not sure anything he told me is going to be useful.  At least not in our situation."

    "There's gotta be something, Kev.  I just can't believe our presence these this pure coincidence.  What did he tell you?"

    "Like I said...not much.  He seemed very concerned...panicky actually...about some papers he had stashed.   Acted as if I was supposed to know all about it.  The papers, and their hiding spot."

    "Well...did you?"

    "Did I what?"

     "Know what he was talking about."

     "Of course not, Rox.  How would I know?"

      "I dunno.  I figured maybe the voice in your head explained.  They sometimes do that."

     "Not in this case.  Left me hanging with no help at all."  He shifted in the wooden chair, his rear feeling the effects of several hours of cramped sitting. "It's not like I had a whole lot of options.  I kept him talking in hopes he'd say something that I could use."

      "And?  Get to the point out, Kevin!  Guido out there doesn't seem very patient.  Besides, the longer I stay in this box, the more I look like Susie Sinner.  Did you get any information at all?"

     "Yeah, I was able to put together that Webster, who is a chemistry professor, hid his all important research in a loose stone in a privy on the Harvard campus."

    "He put his research in a damn shit hole?  That's bizarre!"  There was a gap of silence, and even though the two had only been whispering, the lack of sound was deafening.  It took her only a moment to realize her blunder.  "I'm sorry, Kev.  I forgot for a second we were in church."  Embarrassed, she added,  "You have to admit though, that kind of thinking is...well...weird."

     "Yes and no.  He's right to believe that no one would ever think to look in such a gross spot for something that valuable.  On the other hand, it seems risky to put your life's work in a dank, damp location where it risks getting destroyed.  None the less, that's where he's apparently squirreled it, crazy or not."

     "You are planning to look for it, right?  I know you'll think I'm nuts, but I can't shake the feeling that  those papers have something to do with our situation.  The key to why we're here.  We just gotta find them, and figure this whole mess out." She worked at keeping the fear out of her voice, but the words came out in strained, breathy sighs.

     Fr. Kevin stretched his arms over his head, and yawned, the fatigue of the day creeping over him like thick morning fog.  He suddenly felt exhausted, too tired to even contemplate this adventure, but  the angst in Roxanne's whispers squeezed at his conscience, and moved him to make promises he prayed he could keep.  "Don't you worry.  I'm gonna find it, Rox.  You have my word.  And if you're right, and it helps us get home, than the sooner I locate them, the better."

    "Thanks, Kevin.  You know I'd go with you if I could, but that's simply not possible.  They watch me like a hawk."

    "No, I can handle it on my own.  It's best if we don't end up on anyone's radar."  Confidence he didn't really feel welled from somewhere inside his brain. "How hard can this be, Roxie?  It's not like it's brain surgery, or anything."

    She giggled, and the sound made him feel instantly better.  "That's the spirit, Kevin.  I'll try to contact you during the day tomorrow.  Not sure how, but I'll figure something out."

     He could hear her shuffling on the other side of the screen, preparing to leave.  As an after thought he added, "As long as you're here, you want me to hear your confession... for real?"

     There was an awkward silence that stretched far too long, wrapping itself around the confessional like the bark of a tree.   It was his turn to be embarrassed, but about what, he couldn't say.

   When the words finally fought their way out, they were sad and resigned.  "No, Father O'Kenney.  I think I'll pass on the opportunity."  There was a deep sigh, and he could hear her hand rattle the knob in an attempt to escape.  "Just find those we can go home.  Then everything will be just fine with my soul."  And then, without another word, she was gone.

       It was obvious from Mrs. McBride's bland reaction, that it was routine for Father Murphy to slip out in the evening, and not for the first time did the man's thoughts and actions give Kevin pause.  His host did seem to have more than his share of bad habits, a thought that earned him a cognitive scolding about the sins of judgement.  Still, the housekeeper's lack of interest made his escape from the rectory much easier than anticipated, and he was able to leave unnoticed, lantern and all.

      The rain and sleet had stopped hours ago, but the temperature had dropped at least ten degrees, and the biting wind off the Boston harbor sliced through his flimsy coat like a knife through butter.  In his own time, he had spent his entire life in this town, but didn't seem to recall the weather being as harsh and raw as it was now, at least not as early as the month of November.  Unable to find gloves, he wore an old, dirty sock on the hand carrying the lantern, the other shoved deep in his pocket for warmth.

     The streets were nearly deserted, most people having the sense to stay inside on a night as miserable as this one.  The occasional coach would pass, the inhabitants paying little mind to those unfortunates required to walk from one place to another.  Not owning a car himself, he was used to walking long distances, but in truth, at that very moment, wished with a fervent jealousy for the shelter of one of those covered coaches that rolled along the streets.   The feeling was so unlike him, that when one pulled near the curb next to him, it seemed more like temptation than divine providence.

      A flushed face peered through the cut away window, and called out to him.  "I say, you desire a lift?"

      A female face joined him, red and giggling.  " join us, poor man.  You look about to be blown over by the wind."

       The very last thing Kevin wished for was to draw the attention of anyone.  He waved in thanks.
  "That's very kind, but I am perfectly fine walking.  I do appreciate the offer, though."

      The gentleman called for the driver to stop, and the carriage rolled to the curb, the horses stomping in the muck, and splattering the cuffs of Kevin's pants.  "Don't be a fool, man.  At least let us take you some of the way.  The weather tonight is ghastly.  Simply not fit for man or beast. Where are you headed?"

       He hesitated for a moment, not sure if revealing his destination was the prudent thing to do.  But his hand, even with the sock, was achingly cold, and he was pretty sure that all ten of his toes were frozen solid inside his hole pocked shoes.  "Harvard.  I'm...I'm heading to Harvard."

      "Hell man!   That's near a 3 mile hike!  You'd freeze solid before ya even made it.  Besides, old man, that's where we're heading ourselves.  Returning to our rooms for a little night cap.  Be ever so easy for you to ride along.  No problem at all."  He swung out an arm holding an ornate silver flask.  "Here...have yourself a nip.  Just to warm up a bit.  Then join us in the coach."

Copyright  Victoria T. Rocus  2014
All Rights Reserved