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.
|The dinner party from hell|
Earlier this morning, accepting the dinner invitation had seemed like a good idea. This war between he and his brother-in-law had gone on long enough, and trying to avoid the man was taking more energy than he was happy using. For Father Kevin, it was about the little things. He missed stopping by the deli for coffee and a muffin, missed the weekly Gin Rummy marathons, and missed having someone to run with in the morning. Without Beckett to hold him to his commitment, he hadn't been out for nearly two weeks, and all the work on his time he had gained, was probably now a thing of the past.
Patching things up was the right thing to do, no doubt about it. But that decision had been made at 9:00 AM this morning, when his sister had caught him in a reflective mood after Mass. Since then, the air conditioning in the church had stopped working, the sink in the rectory kitchen was leaking a river, two of his best catechists had announced they were not returning for fall classes, and the Bishop had called, yet again, about meeting with him for his yearly Pastor evaluation. Now at 5:30, the last thing he wanted to do was sit across the table from Beckett's smug, smirking face and concede any fault in the whole fiasco. He was tired, cranky and in need of some kick back time on the sofa.
Kevin considered calling and canceling, explaining that some parish issues had come up. He technically wouldn't be lying, as he was still short two religious ed teachers, and hadn't yet gotten back to the Bishop. It was Maureen's face this morning, still vivid in his head, that forced him on his way. She'd been so cheerful and optimistic, so upbeat despite all the unhappiness of the past weeks, that disappointing her seemed mean-spirited, and so he found himself strolling down the block toward the peace pipe dinner that was sure to be a challenge.
Beckett's patrol car was already parked in front of the building, which he found strangely irritating. He had wanted a few minutes of time alone with Maureen before he had to start shadow boxing with her husband, but it was obvious the guy had made it home early. Now he'd be forced into a confrontation the moment he walked through the door. Looking for any excuse to avoid the unavoidable, he ducked inside the deli on the pretense of saying hello to the Schillers, who would surely keep him busy for a few extra minutes.
"So you see, Sheriff...it's not like I'm totally green. I do have had a little experience."
"I understand that, Roxanne. Really I do. But there's a whole set of protocol regarding hiring for county jobs, and the Deputy position is a county job. And please...here at home, call me Ted."
Call him Ted? Was he kidding her? Being in the same room with the man made her hinky, especially a small space like this. There was just something about the guy. The vibes he gave off. It was a combination of charm and intimidation, all in one package. A very fine looking package at that. She prided herself on the ability to get a good handle on people, to see behind the false fronts they presented to the world. It was what was going to make her a damn successful P.I. someday. But in the case of Maureen's new husband, it was like it was he eyeing her up, trying to read her, rather than the other way around. When he spoke to you, he stared so intently, you thought he was trying to look as if he possessed xray vision, the idea that he could see right through the bone and flesh, and into what really made you tick. It was more than a bit unnerving, and she wondered if he used that look on Maureen in their more intimate moments. She'd have to work up the nerve to ask her.
That thought made her lips turn up in a smile, and when she looked across the table, she realized that the Sheriff was watching her. Seeing her smile, he gave her a wink and smiled back, as if he knew exactly what she was thinking, and which got her to all kinds of blushing. She wished that Kevin would finally show up, so the focus would be on general conversation and the meal, and not on what was going on in her head.
Maureen must have thought the same thing, as she paced back and forth across the kitchen area, peering out the side window. "I can't imagine what's keeping Kevin. He's usually early. I'm ready to put dinner on the table...like right now."
"Hmmm...maybe he's out saving the world? Feeding the hungry with one multiplying Happy Meal."
"Geez, Ted...you promised you'd try and be polite. This fighting between the two of you has to stop already. I'm tired of you both putting me in the middle."
From her side of the table, Roxanne worked at keeping her face blank. Mo had clued her in on the whole awful story before her husband had arrived home. If nothing else, she was glad to hear that the crazy bitch was in custody, and no longer a threat. She had been dying to ask her friend what had gone down in the empty warehouse, but Maureen seemed less than inclined to offer details, and so she had dropped that line of questioning. Maybe Kevin would be more forthcoming.
As if on her mental cue, the door in the hallway opened, followed by footsteps on the stairs. Maureen met her brother at the top of the last one, hands on hip.
"Kev...you're way late. I told you 5:30, and it's quarter after six. I was getting nervous you weren't going to come."
The priest opened his mouth to answer her, but caught sight of the additional guest at the table. "Roxanne? What are you doing here?" The skin around his collar turned bright pink, and the expression on his face changed from congenial sheepishness to shock.
Beckett leaned back in his chair, and folded his hands behind his head, his grin reminiscent of a tiger before he pounces on his weaker prey. "Hello Fr. Kevin. I'm so glad you could join us for dinner tonight. It's high time we bury the hatchet...don't you think?"
If the Pope had been sitting at his sister's kitchen table, he couldn't have been more shocked than he was at that moment. Roxanne? Here in Dollyville? A hundred thoughts hit the synapses of his brain all at once. The time in Boston. The gold watch, now carefully hidden in the rectory attic. The raging cholera, and the words he had spoken to her just before they'd traveled back. The last conversation they had. The one where they had decided it would be best if they kept their distance. At least until they both could come to terms with what had happened.
Now here she was. Across the table from his grinning brother-in-law, who was watching the two of them as if they were lab rats put through a maze. He wondered if Beckett knew everything. Had set this whole thing up as a way to get back at him. Even as he thought it, he knew it was a ridiculous notion. There was no way in hell the man had any clue about the whole time travel thing. His brother-in-law had sensed something was wrong when he had met the drunken host occupying his body here in 2014, but not in a million years could he have figured the truth behind the whole situation. Time travel. Switching bodies. It was the stuff of sci-fi novels and epic movies, not real life. A man like Beckett would never believe in the unbelievable. No. He didn't know the truth. But he sure as hell was enjoying the discomfort and shock he'd just witnessed. Somedays, he really disliked his sister's husband.
Maureen grabbed him by the arm, and led him to the table, a seat between she and Roxanne.
"We can talk more over dinner, as my roast is way past being ready. Kevin...would you lead us in grace?"
He mumbled his way through the prayer, pausing and adding extra lines, glad everyone's head was bowed. He needed a few seconds to compose himself. To put his head in order. When the "Amen" was over, Beckett was out of the gate first, firing the initial shot.
"So Fr. Kevin..." He stressed the word "Father", drawing it out for effect. "Have you heard the good news?" He laughed, and added, "And by good news...I mean the normal people kind...not the Holy Scriptures... of which, of course, you are an expert."
He refused to be bated, but attempted his own small zinger. "Why no...Theodore. I haven't heard the good news. I would be most appreciative if you could enlighten me...though I do admit we surely have two different definitions of 'good'."
If he was hoping for some kind of reaction from the Sheriff, who absolutely hated to be called by his entire first name, he was disappointed. The man gave no indication that he was in the least bit moved. In fact, his grin seemed to grow by the second, and Kevin began to sweat. Across the table, his sister narrowed her eyes at the two of them, but said nothing. It was obvious she was not willing to cross her husband at his own dinner table, a throw back to the traditions of the O'Kenney household and their own father.
Beckett nodded toward Roxie. "Do you want to tell him, Roxanne, or shall I?"
Roxie looked for a second like a deer in the headlights, not wishing to be drawn into taking sides between her old friend, and the man who she hoped would soon be her boss. She tried not to look at either the Sheriff or the priest, and instead worked frantically at buttering the roll on her plate. "Uhmmm...it's fine. You can tell him, Sher...I mean Ted."
Whatever the news was, it was obvious to Fr. Kevin that he wasn't going to like it. And if the smile on his brother-in-law's face was any clue, it appeared he wasn't going to like it a lot. "I would really like for someone to tell me."
"As you wish, Fr. O'Kenney." Beckett poured himself another glass of wine, then lifting the glass, he motioned for everyone else to do the same. "I'd like to propose a toast...to Roxanne Spinelli...the newest member of the Dollyville Sheriff's office. Congratulations, my dear."
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2014
All Rights Reserved