Saturday, September 19, 2015
Kevin stood glued to his spot, the panel of mirrors across from the weight machines reflecting his expression. He looked like one of those bewildered cartoon characters, his mouth and eyes perfect round circles that were supposed to covey a message of shock to the reader. In his case, shock wouldn't begin to cover what he was feeling. For a brief second, he waited for a punch line. Prayed for a punch line. Something...anything... to clarify that Beckett was joking. When the man remained silent, he was forced to go on a limb to attempt his own rescue.
"You're joking... right? Please tell me you set me up for a good laugh."
The bland expression was back, the mask of indifference settled firmly on his face. "No, Kevin. I am not joking."
How did one respond to a revelation like that? He was, after all, a servant of the Church. A priest who had been hearing confessions for nearly eight years. In all that time, he'd listened to countless people bare their souls. Listened as they spilled the awful truth of human existence into his lap, the one part of his vocation he found the most emotional draining. During his seminary schooling, he'd often wondered what he would do if someone confessed to the sin of murder. The Church had specific instruction as to how it was to be handled, but until this moment, he'd been spared that particular challenge. And now, here it was, the weight of it staring at him from a familiar face.
No words would come, the Spirit obviously letting him sweat this one out on his own. He turned instead, and marched back to the desk, pouring himself a double, and throwing it back without waiting for an invitation. The whiskey burned smooth and hot, the warmth spreading from his throat to his empty gut, churning in rhythm with the confusion in his head. An assassin. His sister's husband. Someone he considered a friend. The realization sucked the breath out of him, and the shock and uncertainty of a minute ago gave way to anger and hurt. "So...what you're telling me here is that you are a murderer. A killer for hire."
The expression on Beckett's face didn't change, but Kevin was sure he saw the tiniest bit of tightening around his jaw, a slight flicker to his eye lids. The Sheriff leaned against an exercise bike, resting his weight on the seat. "I don't like to think of it that way. I do what needs to be done for the safety of this country. For its people."
"Is that what you tell yourself? That you're a patriot? That what you do is for the greater good? Rah rah...raise the flag? You can't really believe that nonsense, so don't go trying to sell me some cart load of bullshit. You murder people! In cold blood. Then you come back here and pretend to be some honorable law man. A pillar of the community." He slammed the empty glass down on the desk, the force of it sending spider web cracks through the Waterford crystal. A thought came to him, like a sudden stabbing pain. "Does Maureen know this? Does my sister know that she's married a low life killer?"
This time he knew he'd hit a nerve. Beckett's eye's narrowed, and his posture, relaxed just seconds before, changed to stiff tension. "My wife is aware of my duties. I told her before we were married."
"And how does she feel about that? The idea that she sleeps every night next to a murderer?"
"Tread lightly, O'Kenney. You're on dangerous ground."
Kevin hesitated for a moment, his eyes taking in the assortment of weapons on the wall behind his brother-in-law. Tried to picture the Beckett he knew using them to snuff out some one's life. There had always been something hard about the man. A piece of him that seemed cold and aloof, emotionally keeping everybody at arm's length. But here was also the guy who coached little league every summer. Who not only built the town's no-kill animal shelter, but continually funded its upkeep, and spent hours there as a volunteer. The guy who sat at his table in the rectory for countless games of gin rummy and micro brews. Who without a bit of hesitation, suspended disbelief, and jumped into the unknown to rescue Maureen from the past. The same guy who made his sister's eyes light up the moment he walked into the room. He should have felt a sense of righteous indignation. Revulsion bubbling over with the reality of it all. But all he felt was a huge sense of disappointment. Of being tricked and made out as a fool. The thought shamed him, and it was for that reason he needed to escape the small confines of the strange garage.
Fr. O'Kenney headed toward the door, bent on just getting the hell out of the wretched place, when another thought came to mind. He stopped and turned toward the Sheriff, who stood in the center of the room, arms crossed, expressionless. "Why now, Ted? Why decide to drop this bomb on me now?"
And now the mask came down, grim weariness where once there was nothing. "Because of this, Kevin." He walked back toward the wall, and reaching under a ledge, pushed a hidden button. A wide drawer slid open, its contents nestled in yards of black material, an odd bluish light seemingly emanating from the item within.
At first, he couldn't believe what he was truly seeing, and so he took a few steps closer. The air in the room suddenly felt warmer, as if heat were somehow radiating from that opened drawer. Kevin blinked, the light almost too much for his eyes, as the dark jewel in the pommel flashed with tiny burst of white hot flashes. He put his hand out, and then quickly drew it back, suddenly filled with an overwhelming sense of apprehension. He made the sign of the cross out of habit, and the jewel flashed even brighter. His mouth felt dry, his tongue like lead, and the words were difficult to push out. "Holy Mother of God...what is that?"
Beckett lifted the sword out of the drawer, and laying it unafraid across his palms, said, "Fr. O'Kenney, I'd like to introduce you to Caladbolg.
It was hours before Kevin noticed that late afternoon had turned into late evening. It seemed like he had only phoned Maureen awhile ago to apologize for being held up by a needy parishioner, but the time on his cell phone was reading 10:00 PM. He had lost himself in the ancient parchment, the Gaelic words written in some type of long verse narrative. He and Beckett had been able to translate only half of the words, but the story was beginning to take shape. It told the story of the Fay, from their creation and beyond, of the first appearance of Caladbolg. When he had come to the first hint of the sword's orgins, his heart nearly stood still in his chest. Could it really have come from the hand of St. Michael, the warrior defender of Heaven? It was too much for an average human to take in, even a human who had built his life on faith alone.
But here it was, the blue stone crackling with energy, resting on the desk in front of him. He'd finally worked up enough courage to physically touch the thing, and when he had laid a hand on its hilt, the jolt of electric current ran clear up his arm and into his head. But it was when it was in Beckett's hands that the thing truly came alive, the metal glowing with pure light. It was the part of this whole thing that the priest could make the least sense of. If what was written here was true, and the sword was actual a divine gift from Heaven itself, why would it react so strongly to someone like his brother-in-law? A man who destroyed life? Who professed no belief in things of God?
If he'd truly possessed any sense of decorum, any spiritual logic at all, he would have walked out of that garage the minute Beckett had suggested that he, Fr. Kevin Seamus O'Kenney, Pastor and Shepard of Holy Family Church, dedicated Disciple of Christ, was destined to be the Black Knight's "second". He should have run from that place without ever looking back. But the draw of the Archangel's name, the possibility that he had within his reach a tangible relic of Heaven was too strong a temptation to resist. And so, with heads bent over the musty, browned parchment, Caladbolg flickering on the desk in front of them, he and the Ridre Dudh changed their lives forever.
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
All Rights Reserved