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.
|Boston, November, 1849|
Upon finishing, he began a cursory examination of the room, hoping to find some clues as to his present whereabouts, and a possible explanation regarding the situation. There was no doubt that the place had seen better days. The paint was peeling in several locations, and the wainscoting hung away from the wall where it met the window on both sides. There were a few pieces of furniture scattered about, all mismatched, and in need of a good cleaning, while the walls were covered in dusty framed prints. Warming his hands over the dying embers, he examined the collection nearest the fireplace. Above the mantel hung a faded, but recognizable print of the Vatican. He squinted to try and make out the tiny date in the corner, but could only make out the first two numbers..."18". The wooden ledge held a myriad odd odd items. In addition to several grimy candle holders, there was a handful of dried nuts, some with the shells empty, an old pipe, its end thoroughly chewed, four specimen jars containing things of unknown nature, and a framed picture of the both the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Mother.
It was logical that the owner of the room was surely Catholic, as the pictures attested. For some odd reason, that piece of information gave him additional courage, as he crossed the room to examine the old writing desk in the farthest most corner. Its lack of dust revealed that it was used on a regular basis, a stack of papers and a quill tipped pen laid out awaiting its owner's return. Kevin stared at the words, but couldn't make them out amid the exaggerated slant and flourish of the penmanship. It appeared to be some type of discourse on a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke, but it shed little light on the hows and whys of his location.
Next to the desk was an oak washstand, its bowl and pitcher chipped, but of good quality porcelain. Above it hung a gilt mirror, the gold tint more green than yellow. The face looking back at him was a shock. The man was tall and gaunt, a mop of curly black hair nesting messily on the top of his head. The startled priest ran a hand over the two days growth of stubbled beard, and pulled his hand away in shock. The reflection in the mirror was obviously his, but looked nothing like the face that had greeted him earlier that morning. This face was older, harder and decidedly in need of a shave. The only thing he recognized of himself were the eyes, the same shade of meadow green, the ends tilted up in permanent wonder. They were his eyes, and those of his late grandmother and sister. That recognition gave him a shred of hope. It reinforced that he, Kevin Seamus O'Kenney, was still in that strange body somewhere.
He lifted the pitcher to take a closer look, when a knock at the door caused him to jump. The porcelain slipped from his hands, and went crashing to the floor, shattering into a million tiny shards. There was silence, and then a woman's voice called from the other side.
"Father Murphy? Sainted Bridget, are you alright in there?"
For a second, he thought with unabashed hope that the voice belonged to Roxanne, but his heart sank fast. The woman sounded older, lower pitched, and the accent was heavy with the brogue he remembered from his grandparents. And then the words sank in. Father Murphy. It appeared he was still a clergyman, a Catholic priest, where ever "here" might be. And he pondered, not for the first time, what a jolly jokester the Almighty might be.
Kevin cleared his throat, concerned how the words would sound when they tripped out of his mouth. "I'm fine. Just fine. I...I seemed to have dropped the water pitcher." To his ear the timber sounded the same way it always did. But here now, in this, place, he couldn't be sure of anything.
There was a grunt, followed by what sounded like a deep sigh of long suffrage. "I've come to fix the fire, Father. And to see about your breakfast. May I come in?"
The thought crossed his mind that she might somehow notice he wasn't this Fr. Murphy. Read it in his eyes. Hear it in his voice. But he needed to connect with another human being. Needed help in figuring out where he was, why he was here, and how he could make it all go away. She might even aid him in locating Roxanne if she were somehow in this strange place with him. He ran a hand through the dark curls, and rubbed at the blood shot eyes. Blood shot, yes. But still, gratefully, his own eyes. "Yes. Please come in in."
With a turn of the knob, the door creaked open, and in stepped a woman as wide as she was tall.
Her cheeks sat like two large ripe apples on the bones of her face, and where her neck should have been, were several layers of chin. Despite her size, she moved with stringent efficiency, kneeling in front of the fire place, and poking at the ashes. In a matter of minutes, she had the flames crackling, and he was grateful for the bit of warmth they spread through the room. Finished with her chore, she turned back, hands on hip and an odd expression settled on her face. For a moment, she simply stared at him, tilting her head to the side as if she needed a different perspective. Then with a shrug, she wiped her hands in her apron, and began to bundle up the dingy bedding, chatting away as she did so.
"Will ya be wantn' your breakfast before, or after Mass, Sir?"
He had not a single clue as to what the right answer might be, but for a reason he could not explain, he was hungry beyond belief, his stomach growling in rumbles over the mention of breakfast.
"I think I will have it before Mass. If it isn't too much trouble for you."
She looked at him sharply. "There be no need for curt wit, Father. I fixed a fine stew last night fer yar supper. Tis not my fault ya were too much in yar cups to eat it, if ya need to be hearn' the truth."
The whole conversation confused the hell out of him. To his mind, he was exhibiting common courtesy, but she had, for some inexplicable reason, thought he was being sarcastic. Trying again, he choose his words carefully. "I did not intend to offend, Ma'am. If it is easier to prepare breakfast after Mass, then I would be most happy to have it then." To his own ear, his language sounded stilted and formal, from a time not his own. He worried he was getting it all wrong. That the woman would run shrieking from the room, claiming an imposter had taken Fr. Murphy's place in this house.
She narrowed her eyes, and looked at him shrewdly. "Ya got the fey in ya this mornin', Father Murphy. I mean no disrespect, Sir, but no good can come from the company ya keep. I hear the talk. You best keep your nose to the business of the church, and leave the the ungodly to those that know best how ta handle it."
Sensing an opportunity for more information, he coaxed her into further conversation. "Ungodly,
Mistress? I'm not sure what you mean by that."
With a huff, she dropped the dirty linen back on the bed, and wagged a thick finger towards his face. "As sure as the day dawns, Father, ya not be fooln' me a bit. Nothing goes on in the North End that hasn't met the ear of Birdie McBride. I pride me self on the knowing of things." Patting her ample bosom, she boasted. "I keep the blarney to mine own self, but I knows what I know. And good folk, 'specially a man of God like Himself, don't belong attendn' to the likes of John Webster, he bein' the sorts to be mixed up in the devil's work."
Somewhere in the back of his brain, the name John Webster rang a tiny bell of recognition, but he was hard pressed to understand why. Reaching for answers, he replied, "My call is to minister to all God's children, Ma'am. It is not for us to sit in judgement." Again, the syntax of the words, and his queer inflections, sounded odd in his head, and he assumed, that like the body, they belonged to the mysterious Father Murphy.
Birdie McBride, it seemed, was hardly the type to be easily silenced. She continued her self-righteous tirade against her Pastor. "Ministern' to the man's soul is one thing, Father, but doin' the work of the police is another. I hear on the streets and in the market about your business at the jail. Pokin' round askn' questions that be none of your business. Yar concern should be on the good people of St. Mary's, and not the defense of a common killer. If the police think Webster killed poor Dr. Parkman, then that be reason enough for the rest of us, includn' Himself." Being done with the conversation, Mrs. McBride gathered up the laundry, and waddled to the door. "I best get busy with your breakfast, Father, if Mass is to be on time today. Will ya be having the usual, Sir?
He nodded, hoping that "the usual" was nothing of a disgusting nature. His mind was swimming, the word "murder" banging around his head like a marble in a brass bowl. Here and now, lost in time, it seemed trouble was always destined to find him.
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2014
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