It wasn't as if he didn't have the time coming. In the two years since he'd come to Holy Family, he'd taken only four days off. One day to locate Maureen after the Marathon bombing, two, unofficially, for Mo and Beckett's wedding, and the fourth being the day he buried his infant nephew. Of course, there were the few lost days he had time traveled, but he wasn't counting those, as his body was officially here, even if his conscience wasn't. It was a gray area to say the least, and he had no intention of checking with the diocese's HR person on what to do regarding things of the supernatural nature.
No. He was entitled to some time off, but it would have been nice to have had a reasonable amount of time to prepare for all of this. He'd managed to arrange for a visiting priest to say the Masses, hear confessions, and officiate at any funerals that might arise while he was gone. There were no special events or weddings on the calendar, but the parish budget meeting had to be re-scheduled, and another chaperon found for the teen group's day trip into Boston. In addition, the repair to the roof would have to wait until he returned, making way for the possibility that if they had a heavy rain, there would be a mess waiting for him upon his return.
His brother-in-law had no clue as to the amount of planning that was involved in his leaving. And maybe that was a blessing. He'd been so busy, he'd had little time to think about where he was going. or what he was doing. No time to agonize over his decision to be part of this whole crazy, unbelievable scenario. No time to debate whether it was proper or fitting for a Shepherd of the Church to involve himself with the magical or mystical. He only knew that when he was near the Sword, he was close to something that defied all human logic, and it called to him like a heavenly Siren whose song he couldn't resist.
Her husband was crazy. Completely out of his mind. It was impossible to properly pack for two weeks away from home in less than 48 hours. Her suitcase was pulled out of the storage unit it was hastily shoved into after their chaotic honeymoon, only to find that an extended family of field mice had been using it as a rent free condominium. She was able to borrow a substitute from her gracious employer, but it wasn't nearly large enough to hold all the clothes she was sure she would need. She wasn't even confident she knew what one wore to an adventure of this sort. You couldn't really call it a vacation, because no one there would be lying around in a state of restful oblivion, a cocktail in one hand, and a good book in the other. In addition, the location itself, Ted's cabin up North, filled her with a mixed bag of emotions and memories.
The last visit to the place had been a strange chapter in their brief and challenging history as a couple. When she and Kevin had been invited to join Ted and that horrible woman for a Thanksgiving get-away, she'd been over the moon for the opportunity. From the moment she'd met him in the rectory kitchen, there was no denying she was sorely attracted to the handsome and charismatic town Sheriff, ignoring the fact he was clearly involved with another woman. Just the chance to spend time with the man was reason alone to go, and so she had pushed and cajoled her brother into accepting the invitation against his better judgement.
Like some Greek tragedy, the weekend had been a complete disaster. First the terrible weather, a storm that battered the walls of the cabin with hurricane strength winds and stinging, icy rain. Then came the discovery of a baby on the porch, implicating poor Kevin in some kind of torrid romance, followed by the gruesome discovery the following day of a dead girl in the woods, her still and frozen body lying in a pile of wet leaves, her cloudy blue eyes wide open and staring straight up. That sight had given her nightmares for weeks. And as if that alone hadn't been enough, there was the odd disappearance of Ted's "fiance" in the middle of the night, a phantom banshee slipping out the door and into the dark miserable night.
It should have been a memory packed away and best forgotten. But churned in was several moments she secretly held dear. The way in which the Sheriff had calmly handled each calamitous event as it happened, seeing to the welfare of all involved before his own. How he had handled her so gently after she had found dead girl, reassuring and calming her. And then there was that morning in the kitchen, after the girlfriend had slipped away. Them making pancakes together, she doing her best to cheer him up, he trying to make her laugh as well. It had seemed highly inappropriate for them to be flirting with each other after all that had happened. But she hadn't cared. She knew in that moment that she'd already lost a piece of her heart to him, and that memory stayed put long after the rest had faded.
Now here she was. Returning to the scene of the crime, so to speak. But this time, she was not going as invited guest, but as hostess. Lady of the Manor so to speak, as pretentious as that might have sounded. In that moment, a revelation came to her like a mental poke to the ribs. This time she'd be sharing the Master Suite. With her husband. A room last shared by he and that viper woman. That hideous, crazed psycho who was the cause of their baby's death. They had never been back since that Thanksgiving weekend, and no doubt everything would be as it had been. The thought that she would have to share the same bed he'd shared with that creature from hell suddenly making her sweaty and queasy. She pulled out her cell phone to call him, then slid it back into her pocket. They had promised each other that they would move on from the accident and the buried child. Not forget, but forgive. It hadn't been easy, but they had found some common ground in their marriage, a full sense of contentment that wasn't there before. Would a return visit to the cabin bring an end to all of that?
There was no time for her to be sitting around staring into space. Sheriff Beckett had driven her home, and helped her up the stairs to her rented room for the specific purpose of getting things together for the two weeks at the cabin. He had offered to stay and help, but his close presence in the room made her a nervous wreck, and so she had convinced him she was able to handle it on her own with the promise that he'd be back in two hours to pick her up. That had been nearly an hour ago. In that time, she hadn't packed one item, choosing instead to sit propped up in her bed, her head a battle zone for opposing views, and her stomach an enemy to both sides.
This was the first time she had been in her room since the afternoon she and Beckett had time traveled to Colonial Boston. It was weird seeing the scissors on the dresser, next to the hank of pony tail she'd cut off in preparation for her role as boy. So much had happened since then. Strange things. Things that made her heart race and her stomach do flip-flops. What she really needed was time to just sit down and take it all in. Time to weigh the options facing her. Time to decide what it really was she wanted, and in what direction she wanted to move.
When she had relocated to Dollyville permanently, it was with the goal of furthering her objective to become a police offer, and in the future, a private investigator. But now that seemed a lifetime ago. Before she'd experienced time travel. Before she'd been shot. Before Ian had appeared in her life. Before he gave up everything on her account. Things were different. Changed. And she wasn't quite sure where it all would all go from here. Part of her wanted to stay hidden in this room until she could work it all out, but that didn't seem to be an option. Beckett had decreed that she would travel with them, and there'd be no discussion.
Even if he could be persuaded to listen, Roxanne had no argument to convince him otherwise. These people were the closest thing she had to family, and if they said they needed her...wanted her...she would be by their side for better or worse. Opening the suitcase on the bed, she began to transfer items from the drawer to her luggage.
It was barely dawn when the Yukon Denali pulled up in front of the rectory. It was a vehicle Fr Kevin had never seen before, and he wondered when Beckett had found time to purchase a new car. It might have been rented, but he doubted it. The man never rented anything. If he needed something, he went ahead and purchased it, paying little mind to comparing prices or looking for a better deal. It was that way with everything he did. A decision was made and followed through without wasting time on second guessing his choices. Maybe it was the exact reason he was the Ridre Dubh, and Kevin was the Second.
Both the Sheriff and Maureen looked tense, and he desperately hoped the two of them weren't arguing before this trip even started. He expected that his sister was as apprehensive about returning to the cabin as he was, though his focus was on the quest in front of them, and not what had happened in the past. He could physically feel the sword before he saw it, his heart beating faster in his chest, his hands tingling, and as he wondered if things could get any more challenging, he caught sight of Ian and Roxanne coming up the walkway, hand in hand.
Roxie looked pale and fatigued, and seeing her this way, he was pricked with anger at Beckett's insistence she come along with them. She was surely in no shape to travel, looking as if she needed several more weeks of bed rest and healing. On the other hand, leaving her behind was not a viable option either. They would worry about her, and she would worry about them, and neither group would get very much accomplished. At least together, they could offer one another other the support that was needed.
He had a hard time not staring at Ian, whose attire was more than a bit unusual. The young man was dressed in jeans so washed out they were more gray then blue, the knees almost threadbare and the hem ragged and torn. On top, over bare skin, he wore the vest to a man's black business suit, and his sock less feet were covered by a scuffed up pair of Doc Martens. His long blonde hair was pulled back and braided into a neat tail, and for a second, Fr. Kevin let himself wonder if it was Roxie who had fixed it.
He should have probably kept his mouth shut, but it was the kind of morning where everything hung out there. "Uhmmm...that's quite some outfit you got there, Ian."
The young man smiled at him, his pride genuine, making Fr. Kevin feel almost guilty about the sarcasm. "Aye...you like it, Reverend? Madame was kind enough to take me to a most reasonable establishment. I was more than able to furnish my entire wardrobe."
From the front seat, Maureen blushed. "Ian, we talked about this before. My name is Maureen. My friends call me Mo. I wish you would do the same."
"Oh, I couldn't do that, Madame. You are the Black Knight's Lady. I shan't be feeling free enough to address you by your Christian name. At least not until I have established myself in your circle."
Beckett began loading their luggage into the back of the SUV, adding, "I thought 'Madame' was going to take Ian to the mall for some present day clothing?"
"I tried. Everything we looked at he claimed was too expensive. After wasting the entire day without buying anything, I took him over to the charity thrift shop on Quentin Avenue."
Ian helped Roxanne into the vehicle, then slid in next to her before Kevin could protest.
"Quite right, Sir Knight. I will not be a burden to anyone, and I am not a man who takes advantage of Madame's generosity. I have kept a rightful accounting of the money I have borrowed, and I will see to full payment when I am payed for my labor at the church."
There was little Fr. Kevin could do but slide into the last row of seats by himself, jammed against several boxes of Maureen's favorite cookware, and a black case belonging to Beckett, the contents of which he was sure he'd rather not know about. After a quick slide through a fast food drive up window for coffee and breakfast, they were road bound, heading toward the Sheriff's cabin estate up North.
It appeared each traveler was lost in their own thoughts, and conversation was limited to occasional chit chat about the scenery or weather. Kevin was happy for the opportunity to calm himself and pray, and the others seemed to appreciate the silence as well. He could feel the energy of the sword behind him, an almost buzzing sensation that ran from the top of his head to his toes, and it was all he could do not to drag the thing into his lap, so he prayed harder.
The two hours flow by faster than imagined, and soon they found themselves turning down the private road leading toward the property. As they pulled up to the gate, they were met with the sight of such overgrowth it was hard to see where the metal of the gate began, and the foliage ended.
Kevin thought it odd, the abandoned feel of the property, as Beckett had always appeared fanatical about proper maintenance of anything belonging to him. A quick look at his brother-in-law's shocked face was proof he found the sight strange as well.
Trying to be polite, Ian spoke first. "This is surely a most private retreat, Sir Knight. One can't even begin to see where the property begins."
Beckett shook his head slowly. "I'm not sure what to make of this. It's very...well...weird."
"Weird, Ted? How? It's just a little over grown. We haven't been here...well...in a long time." Maureen's voice trailed off on the last few words.
Beckett shut the engine off, and turned to look at them. "I have a regular maintenance and landscaping service. They routinely take care of the property, and send me the bill, as well as digital
photos of the work they completed. I had a new gate with a security system put in yesterday." He opened his phone and brought up a photo to show them. "This was was how the gate looked 24 hours ago." The metal gate was foremost in the picture, shiny modern and new, and without a single leaf or branch covering it.
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
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