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.
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.
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...
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? Is...is that you?"
Copyright 2014 Victoria T. Rocus
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