For those who believe in the impossible ...
© Jan 20 2007
The rustle of old tissue paper drew Walt Trudy into the upstairs attic of his home. For a moment he watched his wife Elisa's bobbing wispy red hair as she worked at shifting boxes in an old steamers trunk until she paused. For most of the summer she had been acting oddly - taking long walks into town and spending them sipping tea from her thermos on the benches that were along Oak Street. She just sat there - from everything he could gather. She never explained why. In the evening she would return to make dinner for him then spend the rest of the daylight hours searching for something. She had worked her way from the basement up. Most often his practice kept him later and he wasn't aware of what she was doing until by accident he came upon her digging through the storage boxes in the basement. She didn't say why. She would just shrug and move on to the next box, then put everything away until the next day. Walt couldn't prevent her, couldn't say for her not to do it. The house was always clean, the food hot on the table, the bills paid, the laundry done. At first he thought that she was simply spring cleaning. It wasn't until he realized nothing was being discarded and that she had moved to the ground floor that he knew she was searching for something.
By the dates of the things she was looking through he knew it had to have been when they were first married, or before. Once in a while her fingers would linger over something, as if lost in her memories. Twice she came across things that he had placed away from common sight, and when he came home they were carefully placed where they should be. Today though, the digging and shifting had come to a stop. Not to alarm her he walked softly across the wood floor boards to gaze into the trunk and at the object of her search. It was an old cedar jewelry box that was carved along the sides with ivy and some other leaf. He could see her hands were shaking as she worked the hook clasp to open it. Walt's eyebrow flicked upward. He had known the box was there all along. He had taken the time to sort and pack everything that had been sent to his wife when her grandmother had died. There wasn't anything of value or interest in that particular box, all the gem stones were paste. There were a few odd rings that were now black from tarnish. Elisa withdrew the box and straightening her back, stood up properly.
"It wasn't where I had left it before," she said blinking at her husband.
Walt waved his hand at the trunk. "It was just easier to put everything together, Elisa. That's all."
Clutching the box to her chest she closed the lid of the trunk and made her way past her husband down the steps to the second floor. Walt knew she would be absorbed with the box for hours, as she had before when it first came. He was about to follow her when his cell phone rang. Glancing at the number he knew who was calling. It was time to go to work and earn some money. Sighing he strode down the steps and grabbed his jacket on the way out of the front door. He saw his wife sitting on their bed as he passed the bedroom door, and knew she would be there when he came back.
Three hours later he returned, nursing a few cuts on his fingers. Elisa was at the stove stirring the tomato sauce for their dinner that night. He nodded to her then took the steps two at a time to the upstairs washroom. Returning downstairs, he paused at their bedroom expecting to see the old jewelry box on the bed, or dresser. There was no sign of it, and he reflected later that she had stopped her searching.
Ten-year-old Molly Bishop sat in the back seat of her father's car flicking her long red curly hair around as she wore a frown upon her face. The last thing she wanted to do this summer was to go on vacation with her Father to a tiny backwater town like Cabot Cove when she could be down in Florida with her mother and her cousins and her aunt Di. Molly popped her gum and looked out the window. Shared custody, court-ordered visitations and annulments were terms she had learned at a young age. Her grandfather had promised to take them all to the resort in Florida. She would be on the plane right now going there if a little thing hadn't stopped her from going: her father was allowed ten days' vacation time with her. He had informed the court on January 1st that he was going to take her to Maine on that particular week. He had as a thank you gift from a friend of the family access to their time share home for that time. As the dates became closer, her mother's father made the decision to take them all to Florida, and in her mothers Julia's eyes, that was more important. It had taken three letters back and forth to the lawyers to clear up the matter. Molly, by the order of the court, was to spend the time with her father.
Just because she had to go didn't mean that she was going to make it a vacation for him, she thought with a smirk.
"Do they have any water parks or beaches in Maine, Daddy?" she asked as she looked down at her back pack that held her electronic games. Flicking through them she saw the medication her mother said her father needed every night before he went to bed. Her mother was a nurse, she knew what was best for her father. The divorce was something though that was best for her mother. She slipped the bottle into her coat pocket. She had no clue why her father wanted her to bring her winter coat - wherever they were going they weren't going to need it and he wouldn't accidentally find it tucked away between dirty tissues.
"In the lower part of the state you can sometimes swim in the ocean, but it's a bit too cold this time of year where we are going, Cupcake," he said briefly, glancing in the rear view mirror at her.
"Why do you keep calling me that? My name's Molly," she said, stamping her foot on the floor of the car.
Harrison Bishop sighed softly. A good thwap on the bottom or time out in the corner was what she needed more than the electronic games her mother kept plying her with to behave. He discovered that he couldn't correct his daughter or make her do anything without it being reported by his ex-wife to her lawyer. He loved his ex-wife and daughter with all of his heart. Love, though, couldn't keep up with her mother's desire of a high lifestyle and when she left him taking his daughter with her she had left a note: "Left, don't bother finding us."
He had panicked and called the police, who tracked her to a motel through their credit cards. The police came back with a PFA against him. He spent the night in a jail cell waiting for everything to be straightened out. While there were no charges against him that were ever pressed, his ex-wife made it a point to tell everyone that he had been in jail and that if he ever came near her again, she would see him dead.
He informed the judge the next day that his wife had made some decisions in her life regarding her health, and suffered from periods of manic depression. Because of the HIPPA laws he was not able to access the records to prove this, however the courts children's and youth service worker had witnessed a manic episode while she was waiting in the hall for the judge to return from chambers.
Until that point his wife had held the upper hand. She had played the pitiful damsel in distress perfectly. Medical records withstanding, the CYS worker took the time to have the judge review the security tapes. Harrison had been sitting waiting quietly - no one else had been in the hall when she approached him and began a tirade that made him look up at his wife. He did nothing to provoke it, and the only thing he said was, "Whatever." When court resumed, the judge ordered psychiatric evaluation for Julie, which she refused stating they were favoring her ex-husband. Leaning over the bench the judge reminded Julie that it wasn't optional. It was then Julie happened to snap, "Don't tell me what to do!" in such a way that the judge gave her a curious look and then regarding his decision that he had made in chambers, raised an eyebrow at Harrison and called the lawyers to the bench.
"My decision may not be popular, however, it will stand."
To Julie's dismay, the judge informed her that Harrison had every right to see his daughter, and that he was revoking the PFA on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Citing she was in contempt of court, he reminded her that should she attempt to disappear with her daughter again, she would face criminal charges of child endangerment.
She left him with 90% of the marital debt and demanded the maximum child support the state would allow. Harrison found the joint bank account empty, and with the forced sale of his house, if it had not been for the kindness of his sister he would have become homeless. Struggling to make ends meet he had informed his sister the only reason why he was working so hard to be in his daughter's life was because he had hoped she would someday come around. He knew his daughter was spiteful and manipulative - he also knew that his family's influence was the only positive thing in his daughter's life as family went.
The time share condo was nestled within the outskirts of the town. Everything was within walking distance and from what his friend said it was one of the nicest places you could ever raise a child in. Harrison knew Molly would probably hate it. Perversely that fact didn't bother him in the least. Everything didn't have to go her way.
"What a dump!" were the first words from Molly's mouth as they entered into the time share condo.
Harrison gazed about the room. It was comfortably furnished, the floors were newly carpeted, and the walls had a fresh coat of paint on it. Compared to where he had spent several months, living in the back stock room of his company sleeping on a futon sofa before his sister took him in, this was paradise.
Molly walked over to the sofa and climbed on it balancing on the two cushions. She bent her knees and began to bounce.
"Stop that, Molly," he said as gently as he could.
"No way, Dude," she said, putting her weight in the bounce to go higher.
"Do you do that at your mother's?"
She stopped bouncing and thought about it. "Nope. First time for everything, I guess."
"Fine. Bounce," he said, picking up her knapsack that held her electronic games and heading for the car.
She got off the sofa and followed him out. "Where are you going with that?"
"Until you begin to behave, your games are getting locked up," he said, gritting his teeth. He knew it would be difficult at best to control her temper tantrums that would follow.
"You can't do that!" she said, shocked.
He tossed the bag in. "Watch me!" he said, slamming the lid of the trunk closed.
Molly picked up a rock in her fist. Harrison looked at her. "Understand this, young lady: if there is any damage done to this place, the grounds, or the car, or anywhere in this town, it's coming out of your savings account."
"That's NOT FAIR!" she shouted, flinging the rock at him. Her aim was off and it bounced harmlessly on the ground, but the murderous look in her eye didn't diminish. He knew that look well. Her mother had it in her eyes the night she came after him with a butcher knife. Since they were married, he had gently teased her that the barbecue sauce that she used wasn't like what his mother had made. Finally after months of trying to please him, she went to his mother, asked for the recipe and informed her of what her son had said. His mother had given her a jar of the sauce. The night she had used it he said the same thing. It wasn't like what his mother had made. He heard the snick of the knife off of the counter and turned as she charged him with murder in her eyes and the knife in her hand. Had the knife not stuck in the table with the first attempted blow, he had few doubts that he would have lived to see the morning.
Nothing was ever good enough for her after that. The first apartment they lived in was too small; the next one, the neighbor was always outside sitting on the porch and would speak to her if even in a friendly way, every day. He bought her a house, and that wasn't good because a black snake made its way into the basement. She was never happy with her jobs, and moved from one office to another while she was in nurses' training.
Patiently he paid for her education, and whatever else she wanted. Even having Molly fourteen years into the marriage: with no children, she refused to consider adoption, even of an older child. Harrison had been raised in a loving, extended family. Taking in someone else's child was something that warmed his heart. After fifteen tries with medical intervention and 14 miscarriages, Julia became pregnant with twins. The doctor. had informed her that as a high risk pregnancy she was advised to stay in bed. Each day after work he would arrive home to kiss his wife, and then sit down with her and watch the videos of the sonograms until the tape would wear out and he would ask the hospital for another. Julia resisted the doctor's advice and five months into the pregnancy one of the twins died, leaving Molly to be born several months later.
Harrison's family noticed the change in Julia shortly after. Without a word of explanation, Harrison found his things moved into the spare room and his daughter's crib in what was once their bedroom. He knew the marriage was over. It came to a head when she had planned a Florida vacation with her family, that he was expected to pay the bill, but wasn't able to go due to managing the business. Putting his foot down, he informed her that they didn't have the money to do that. The majority of the debt came from having a triple mortgage, the money spent on having his precious daughter that his ex-wife had spoilt. The custody battle came later. When the house was sold, Julia took the money from the sale, all of it, and spent it on the planned trip. Harrison found himself facing the IRS to explain that the money that they had made from the sale of the house was gone, and that his wife had stated that if he didn't take on the debt he would never see his daughter again. It would be three years later that he was granted the rights to see his daughter - time that could never be replaced. He found that she had changed from the innocent child that had been snatched from his arms into a bitter, spiteful being that his family worked very hard at teaching social skills as well as proper eating habits to.
Knowing that he could never match a vacation that her mother entertained Molly with, his friends and family did what they could to make sure that she would have some memories of what a family could and should be like. Family that said "I love you" when they came and went, Family that supported and cared for each other.
In actuality Harrison had planned to find a way to separate his daughter from her electronic games the moment the bag had been placed in the car by her smirking mother. He had been specific: the games were to stay at home. One more reason for Molly to ignore him was the games. He could see the look of fury on her face as she stomped her foot. She was too big to throw herself to the ground and scream. The first time that she'd done that in front of his sister, Gretchen had tossed a dust cloth down onto her and said, "While you're down there could you do the base boards?" Molly was not amused.
He sighed grimly. Sometimes he wondered if it was worth it.
Molly made a face at her father and then crossing her arms began to walk away from him. "Fine!" she said, stomping off down the street.
Harrison knew that if he tried to stop her, she would start to scream and there would be problems later. He sat on the steps of the porch and watched as she went down a block into the mini mart. She had her own money - she had waved it around in the car until he had told her to put it back. For the life of him, he couldn't see how this could continue.
Ye Olde Tyme Mini Mart's doors were propped open to allow the sea breeze to flow through to the back door. Earl Shapp was in the far corner of the store with the outdate code book and glanced up at the chirp of someone entering the store. Near the entrance was the boy he knew to be Grady Fletcher's son, and with him just getting off of a bike was a smaller boy with dark hair. The Fletcher kid was explaining money to the smaller boy who was saying things with a heavy accent. Several people came and went after purchasing things, and he saw Tipper come in just after the boys had made their way to the pantry area of the store. Frank had a dog squeaky toy in his hand and was giving it a squeeze to see if Lucky would like the sound of it.
Molly reached down as she came to the door and with a bump of her leg, knocked the small sensor unit that made the chime off of its path, disabling it. She had learned that from Lydia, a friend of hers that her father had forbidden her to associate with, as if that was going to stop her from choosing her friends! As expected, with the sensor off its track, the chime didn't sound when she entered. She saw the old man sitting reading the notebook and flipping over packages as she ducked into where the candy isle was. Glancing both ways, she went to where the trading cards were - Lydia had shown her how to check on the back to see which ones had the holographic cards inside, cards that during school were worth good money. She had always had Lydia be the look out when she did this before, but the shop was small enough that she would just have to risk it. Slipping her right hand into her pocket she extracted the letter opener. Grinning she slid the small clip blade across the bottom of the pack and tipped out the cards. If she was right the six packs in the box that held the cards were at her fingertips. Absentmindedly she opened a king sized Snicker's and took a bite as she sorted through the cards.
Ian stood in front of the shelves that held cereal. He had several of them turned around and was reading the ingredients. Curious, he turned to Frank. "Is it any good, these things? I heard from Patty that some of the odd ones taste like cardboard, or are so rough it puts sores in your mouth. Where is that stuff that we had that Dr. Seth made when we were at Mither's?"
Stepping over to another part of the isle Frank pointed at the round container. "They have cinnamon oatmeal too," he said with a grin to his cousin.
Ian shuddered. "I be liking the cinnamon, but the rest you can keep." Ian walked up to the box of corn meal and gave it a sniff.
"What are you doing?" Frank asked.
Ian gave a shrug. "Mum does it when she is shopping, she will pick something up, and smell it, and if it's pleasing to her, she will buy it." he said with certainty. "How much does this cost, and do I have enough?"
Frank looked on the shelf. "I don't know. Let me ask …"
Ian handed him the container and watched as he went around to where the front of the store was. Hearing something in the next isle he became curious. He could hear Tipper saying hello to Frank and the noise in the next isle caught his attention again. Hobbling over he saw a young girl stuffing the last of the candy bar into her mouth. She looked up as he came to her and saw the shock on his face when he realized what she was doing. Grinning she handed him the wrappers, and then with her hand free she placed the sticky palm across his mouth wiping the chocolate over his lips. She bolted, being sure to push him backwards into the shelves as she ran.
Ian heard a roar in his head as Earl loomed over him dragging him upwards by his shoulders. He could dimly hear Frank's voice insisting that Ian hadn't done anything. He could hear Frank's voice, and the sound of someone singing. A tear came down his cheek as his eyes closed and his body went limp.
Earl shook Ian by the shoulders roughly as he dragged him upward. "Caught you red-handed, you stinking thief!"
"Let go of him!" gasped Frank, grabbing Earl's arm to stop him from giving Ian another hard shake. Frank didn't know what scared him more, the fact that Ian was limp, or the look of fury on Tipper's face as she came around the corner of the aisle and strode to where Earl was still shaking Ian.
Her fist cracked Earl across the cheek bone, sending him backwards into the shelves. Frank caught Ian as he slumped to the floor then looked back up at Tipper.
"If I ever hear that you have even touched either of these boys, I will kill you Earl Shapp!" Tipper said as a crowd of shoppers gathered in the store, drawn by the commotion.
Kneeling beside Ian she picked up his wrist and tried to find a pulse. It was there, fluttering wildly beneath her finger tips. "Come on Ian - stay with us," she murmured, lifting the small boy in her arms and holding him close to her chest.
"He just wanted to find something to buy for breakfast ..." said Frank softly. "I helped him down here on Aunt Jessica's bike, I didn't think that it would be too much for him with me pushing it, he just had to sit there …"
Molly stood against the row of cars a half block away from the Mini Mart slowly chewing on the second candy bar she had taken . She knew she should get away, but the shouting and mayhem that followed her exit of the store with no one after her or accusing her was too delicious to pass up. She hadn't been seen. Excellent. No one would believe that scrawny little brat anyway. She knew that she could get a couple more times in before they had to go. She saw the police car pull up and the chunky sheriff hurry into the Mini Mart.
A thrill went through her body as she glanced down at the Honda Civic parked at the meter. There was something in the front seat. Looking both ways she ducked in and snagged the bag off of the seat through the open windows. Whatever it was, the people would miss it. If it was found in her father's possession … well. Her mother would thank her - yes, she would be happy that Molly had figured out how to take care of the problem once and for all.
"And when Sheriff Metzger had Ian open his mouth up and stick out his tongue, there wasn't any chocolate in him at all. He did find something he said old people use to open up letters, and there was what he called a partial print on it. It wasn't Ian's, though - Mr. Shapp wasn't too happy about it. Oh, and the door alarm was de-activated. Dunno how. Tipper said it beeped when she came in, and it did when we came in because it scared Ian. Willie said they are taking Ian to the hospital for some tests while he takes his - clinicky something."
Donna entered into the kitchen and opened up the cupboard door looking for a glass. She went to the sink and let the water run, testing it with her finger before filling the glass.
"His Clinical," she began, being interrupted by the sound of the door bell.
The front porch door bell rang for the third time as Jessica crossed from the kitchen where they had been sitting to the living room. Glancing out she saw Mr. Carol Murphy and Gordon Charles, Vice Principal and Principal of the Joshua Peabody Elementary School of Cabot Cove. She opened the door for them and invited them inside.
"It's a bit of a surprise to see you here, Mr. Murphy. Won't you gentlemen have a seat?" she asked, leading them to the parlor where they waited until she had sat before taking a seat on the sofa.
"We understand if this may seem as an imposition, Mrs. Fletcher, but we do hope that you may be able to help us," said Gordon Charles, smiling as he spoke. Jessica knew the man by reputation - he was honest, and fair with the students, but the budget had been very tight, and she had an idea why they were there. She was a bit surprised at what she heard, though .
"We have been contacted by a Mr. Andrews, who has proposed to give the Joshua Peabody Elementary school a substantial grant for education with the contingency that the money is spent on quality educators, " began Mr. Charles. "Mr. Eliot's death leaves an unfortunate gap in our teaching staff and we've gone over the records for the state of Maine, and have only come up with one name of an English teacher who has not been committed to a educational institution " continued Mr. Charles.
"We would say yes to the money, but we are not quite sure what sort of a man Mr. Andrews is precisely, and if using the money would be in the best interest of the school …"
"I'm afraid that I may not be the person to discuss this with. You would be able to gather more information from discussing that with Taylor," Jessica stated, trying to avoid the issues that could arise.
Mr. Murphy nodded. "We will be going their shortly. We were wondering if you would please consider returning to teaching We would like very much if you could be our English teacher, taking over Mr. Eliot's position. We understand it's not about the money that you would be working for, but to help the community, and the next generation of writers …" he said with a congenial smile.
Jessica regarded both the men as they shifted where they stood. She could tell somehow that they had informed Mr. Andrews the vacancy in the position would probably be filled by her already. It was a monumental decision.
"Your offer is very kind gentlemen," she began.
"Then, you will be joining us in a few weeks – splendid," sighed Mr. Charles.
Jessica shook her head. "However, I must decline."
She saw both men look at each other then back to her, waiting for an explanation. She was saved from saying anything by the arrival of Frank, rushing from the kitchen saying breathlessly, "Aunt Jessica, Mom's sick again and she says she needs you …"
"If you would excuse me, gentlemen. Frank, could you see these gentlemen to the door?" Jessica said politely before she hurried to the back of the house.
Frank regarded the two men as he opened the front door, and Mr. Murphy beamed at him. "Mr. Fletcher, how wonderful it is to see you again. I trust that your studies are going well?"
Frank nodded, then taking a breath asked, "Is that why you're here? We haven't been back very long and I know that I am a bit late in sending them in, but Aunt Jessica said that I am ahead of schedule so they will be going out tomorrow, and by next week I should be ready for the final."
"Oh, that is quite good to know. I will let them know at the school to expect the arrival of the materials shortly. Your aunt is an excellent teacher - I wish there were more like her," said Mr. Murphy pleasantly. "We were in the neighborhood, and decided to drop in to have a chat with your aunt regarding another matter, though the outcome wasn't what we had hoped," he said with a shrug. "We were hoping that she might join our teaching staff."
Running his hand through his sandy blond hair Frank regarded the two men then shook his head. "I don't think she would have time for the students with everything going on. Mom's been really sick, and she has been taking care of her – Dad's in Ireland again, and we will be moving soon, but we don't know where yet or when."
Mr. Murphy regarded the young man before him. Since the time school let out, Frank Fletcher had changed, matured. "I hope the matters in Ireland won't keep your father away too long?" he asked politely. He saw Frank shrug.
"That's really hard to say. I hope you are able to find what you're looking for, gentlemen, good day," Frank said in his best way as he walked to the door and opened it for them.
Mr. Charles and Mr. Murphy nodded polity to Frank and then went out onto the porch. Frank closed the door and stood back, behind the curtained window. It wasn't as if he was eavesdropping, he was just a bit curious as to why they stood there. Snatches of their conversation filtered through the screened window.
"Miss Samantha could teach English …" began Mr. Murphy with some hope in his voice.
"What would we do for an art teacher?" asked Mr. Charles, sighing. "If the school board hadn't insisted on cutting the budget last year, this wouldn't be such an issue. We don't have enough teachers for every subject, or grade …"
Their voices faded as they left the porch and walked to Taylor and Willie's home. Frank moved back to the kitchen window and looked through the porch. He could hear Aunt Jessica and his mother upstairs now. He was surprised to see that Ian was sitting on the steps of the porch with Willie working over the plants in the pots, giving them a sprinkle of water and turning them. Ian looked through the slats of the porch and saw something below. Their voices floated through the window.
"You missed one, uncle," he said, pointing through the slats.
"Did I? I've all the vessels here." Willie said, counting them again.
"Aye, look, it's just a seedling I suppose. What is it?" asked Ian, leaning against the rail.
Willie bent over, and using a small pocket flash light peaked under the slats of the deck. His eyebrows raised slightly as he straightened up. "Nothing we are going to deal with this morning," he said, dusting his hands off. "Your aunt would pull me by my ear for a proper scrub again if I went climbing under there just now." He sighed then dusted off his hands again.
"It's quite lovely - do you think I could have it to tend? It looks very much like a tomato. Might I raise it, Uncle?"
Willie took a breath and was about to tell Ian no when Mr. Charles and Mr. Murphy came around the corner.
Mr. Charles regarded the young boy that sat upon the steps. The cast on his leg was only evident by the absence of the shoe. There was a weariness upon the child's face, as if it took all of his energy to just manage to sit up. There was also acceptance, a knowledge in the child's eyes that spoke of a wisdom beyond mortal man's comprehension. He didn't duck away to be shy, telling Mr. Charles that this child was older than what he appeared to be.
"Ah, Dr. Razanur. We were hoping to find you at home, we were in the neighborhood calling on Mrs. Fletcher to assist at the school as an English teacher, and were wondering if you had time to consider the position of science teacher at the school. Naturally there are tests to be arranged, and verification as well …"
Mr. Murphy saw Willie hesitate. "If you need more time to think about this, please say so rather than saying no. And if you have any ideas of whom we could hire as an art teacher, that would be appreciated as well."
"You lost your art teacher as well? Aunt Taylor is a lovely artist, she's her degree in it," piped up Ian.
Willie sighed. "Aye she does, and she would be a bonnie teacher for your students, but I would na be allowing her to do that "
A polite cough from Mr. Charles drew their attention to him. "Wives have been working for many decades without approval from their husbands in America, Dr. Razanur."
Willie straightened his spine slightly. "My wife is expecting, Mr. Charles. The welfare of them will always be paramount in any decisions that I would consider. While you may feel it would be easy for her to do, there are certain things artist use that would harm the unborn. This affects my decision to teach at your establishment as well. I hope you understand."
Taylor stepped out on to the back porch with her purse and keys in her hand. She came up short when she saw the two men. "Hello."
Mr. Murphy noted how pale she looked, yet there was a peaceful happiness upon her face.
"If you would excuse us, gentlemen, we must leave for an appointment." Taylor extended a wet cloth to Willie to wash his hands with. Her tone was friendly, but dismissing them at the same time. She watched as Willie placed his jacket on over his shirt. It wasn't that he wouldn't wear anything else, it was just finding it in his size. Ian had faired better. He had arrived with two pair of pants three shirts, one for play, one for Sunday, and one for best, one pair of shoes, and a nightshirt. Frank had chosen to grow, and the day that Grady had returned from packing he had brought a box full of things that were too small for Frank that could fit over Ian's cast.
Ian stood wobblily. "There is a plant that I've asked uncle if I may have. It's quite lovely, " he said conversationally to Taylor. Taylor looked at Ian then at Willie, who was busy wiping his hands still on the cloth. She knew his hands weren't that dirty, but that he was trying to be spared explaining something.
"Really? Well, that will have to wait until we return," she said, walking towards the car.
Mr. Charles and Mr. Murphy had no choice but to follow them out of the back yard. Willie took his time in getting Ian comfortable in the back seat, Taylor didn't hurry him; she knew they had time before they had to go, but there was something that was bothering Willie, something that he would rather not discuss with Mr. Charles or Mr. Murphy there.
As the car pulled away Mr. Murphy looked back and saw Willie give Ian a kiss on the forehead before closing the door. "I don t know if it would be proper to continue to ask him to take the position, with everything he has going on. Not that he wouldn't be a wonderful teacher, there just - seems to be much more that he is dealing with …"
Mr. Charles nodded. "It's up to him, or if the school board has any other ideas."
Jessica discovered Frank still standing at the window after Taylor's car and Mr. Murphy's car had pulled away from the curb and driven down the street. He had been devoting every moment he could to finishing up the work and studying for the final exam. She knew he would do very well. Something was troubling him though. She could tell by the way his hands gripped the counter, the sadness in his eyes.
"Frank? What is it, what's wrong?"
He shook his head. "It's not important," he said softly.
Jessica walked over to the chair by the kitchen table and sat down. "I'm worried about Ian too," she said softly. "I worry when your baby brother, or sister will be born, if things will be ok, and I have concerns about where you and your family will live - is that about the measure of things?"
Frank shook his head. "I'm worried about Mom. She's been sick a lot, more than before, and she hasn't been herself and that sandwich she ate earlier, marshmallow fluff, peanut butter and pickles, was disgusting. She knows she's not to have the pickles, and she wouldn't give them up … I feel like I am the parent now."
Lucky lifted her head up from the floor and scrambling to her feet she walked over to Frank, nudging his hand with her head. Whining softly she lifted her paw up and touched his leg.
"Lucky seems to think that there is something else that is bothering you," Jessica said gently.
"There are three more weeks left of summer, Aunt Jessica, and I will be done with the final in a few days. Dad will be back by the end of this week, and Mum still wants to go live with Grandma and Grandpa Mayberry. If the summer school is up, then, that means I have to go with them. I don't want to."
"You have your friends at school, but, besides Ian, you haven't made any up here - younger ones that is." Jessica said correcting herself. "Did you want to stay the rest of the summer?"
Frank sat down. Lucky came to him wagging her tail and letting it thump against the table.
"I would have to leave Lucky behind. Even if my glasses do help when they put me in the back of the class room, I still cant hear anything. Wouldn't I do better in a smaller school?
"You would do well wherever you put your mind to it," Jessica said, lifting Frank's chin up. "Lucky will always have a home here."
She saw his eyes fill with tears as he bent over and kissed Lucky's head. "I can't help but to remember what you said Cal's father told you, that it would only be for the summer that she would be here," Frank said softly.
"Well, it may be that the home that your parents will move into will allow dogs," Jessica said, trying to encourage him to a more positive mood, "That would explain why she wouldn't be here - he was aware that you were arriving."
Frank said nothing for a moment. "You don't believe in ghosts. You don't remember when he told you that, and Tipper did find the quill in the tooth …"
Jessica regarded her nephew. "I have to believe that when people die, they find their resting place in heaven. That sometimes a face that seems familiar is because we've seen a photograph of that person and our mind makes a connection due to similarities."
He looked at his Aunt Jessica. "Uh huh. And a healthy imagination is good to have until it gets you into trouble."
Harrison regarded his daughter as she stood at the vanity scrubbing her face and hands. He could see the remains of brown in the toothpaste bubbles in the sink. He had seen the police car arrive at the Mini Mart, and his daughter's movements back up the street from the upstairs window of the condo. Curious he had opened the knapsack and found her wallet with her money in it. He could feel the burn of acid that built in his gut. If she had anything at the store, he knew that she had no money to buy it. He had finished opening the condo windows up, and saw several candy wrappers in the trash.
"Have a good time?" he asked in an even tone.
"Mu-huh," she said, scrubbing her face with the cloth.
She saw him hold the wrappers in his hand. "Five of them is a lot to eat before dinner. How much were they? They look good." Harrison saw a flicker in his daughter's eyes. "Did your mother teach you to lie as well?" His face echoed sadness at the thought. She took a breath to speak then saw him shake his head.
"Your money is in your wallet, in your back pack. I saw the police car down at the Mini Mart - I would have hoped that your mother instilled better values in you."
She strode towards him and lashed out furious at his leg with her foot. He side stepped the blow so that instead she came in contact with the side of the baseboard , kicking it hard enough to bend the metal back, and in the process, doing the unthinkable to herself. Her eyes widened in shock as she dropped to the floor screaming in pain.
Harrison looked down at his daughter. She was holding her foot, bright blood seeping between her fingers. He could see the trace of the cut run across the top of her foot, and while it wasn't deep, she would need a tetanus shot. Even with the doors open, no one would bother anything. Harrison left her on the floor still screaming. He didn't doubt that it hurt, she just tended to increase the volume to get attention. Going to his room he retrieved his wallet and a map of the town and getting a plastic bag with paper towels he returned to her. It was a bloody cut - the paper towels would only be a temporary measure. Slipping her foot in the bag wrapped in the towels he used a strip of tape to secure it around her leg then carried her to the car.
Dinner was going to be late.
The pages of the exam book ruffled in the soft breeze from the open window as Willie sat for the second part of the exam. Glancing at the pages he scanned them quickly then standing up, walked to where the instructor sat.
Mr. Gibbon looked up at Willie. "Yes?"
Willie took a breath. "This one won't do, Mr. Gibbons," he said softly.
Mr. Gibbon's eyebrows went up. "Pardon?"
"This test, it won't do at all," Willie said placing the book down with the back page face down.
"And why would that be?" Mr. Gibbons asked dryly.
Letting a second breath out slowly Willie answered him honestly. "During my time of practice, I wrote a great many papers, Some that are being used apparently for things that I didn't know about. This is one of them."
"You're suggesting that you wrote this test?" stated Mr. Gibbons with a forced calm as he watched Willie nod, then flip to the back of the booklet before turning it around for Mr. Gibbons to see before extracting his identification card and placing it beside the booklet.
Sighing Mr. Gibbons picked up the second test and flipped open the booklet, then a third. He gave a groan, then closed them. Sitting back in his chair he regarded Willie. "You could have just taken the exam and not said anything."
"I would know that it wouldn't be a fair test." Willie said simply.
Mr. Gibbons regarded the four others in the room who were deep into the test. "Wait here," he said, standing up and striding across the room. In a moment he returned with Dr. Norris who held a folder in his hand.
"This way please," Dr. Norris said, leading his way out the door to another room. He leaned against the desk in the room and placed the folder down.
"I did as you suggested and ran a search on your works, and on you. I'm impressed. I do have to ask, why you wish to practice - you don't have to work, your research skills would be better served at a research institute. I understand you have your reasons. The booklets were an oversight, we could reschedule the exam, but, from my understanding from your interview, there isn't time to do that, is there?"
Willie closed his eyes for a moment, shaking his head. "No, there isn't, Dr. Norris."
For a long while the two men looked at each other in silence before Dr. Norris said, "I am convinced that you have exceeded the requirements to be a doctor in the state of Maine, however, I do have to have something on paper to present as a passing, or failing grade to the medical review board."
"What do you suggest, Dr. Norris?" inquired Willie, tilting his head slightly watching him as he picked up the folder and looking down at it.
"Book learning is fine, and many pass their boards from the book. But we haven't seen how you practice medicine." Dr. Norris handed a thin folder to Willie. "This is just the information that the nurse took and her observations noted on the side. Let's see what you can do with this one."
Willie flipped open the folder and glanced into its contents. Reviewing it, he sat down. "Ah, well. There is a wee bit of a difficulty with treating this young man, if we are to go by the nurse's notes - they are inaccurate."
"You haven't even seen the young man yet," said Dr. Norris, exasperated.
Willie closed the folder. "He's my nephew, and he was brought here so that what's going on can be discovered. From what we've learned, his eating patterns changed two years ago, he began sharing his meals with his younger sisters so that the food would nae go to waste. His mother noticed that his twin sister had outgrown him, and that he still fit into the same clothes as he did when he was younger. He does eat, now, not in large amounts at a meal, but in smaller bits."
"Why wasn't he taken to a hospital when it was first discovered?" inquired Dr. Norris.
"He was, and they had no answer for my sister except to feed him more porridge in the morning. He would eat what she served him, but it didn't change his weight, or his height. I do understand the nurse questioning if there was abuse done to Ian, an aye, he has been harmed, but not by his mother or father. His step-uncle was the one who broke his leg, though by accident or design we will never know, Flynn's not in this world any longer. The bruises on his shoulders came from an altercation with a shop owner this morning, and there is a police report that has been filed. Ian has times of strength and weakness that can not be explained. "
For a moment Dr. Norris stood contemplating Willie's words before inquiring, "What would be the course of diagnosis?"
"Full exam, CBC to detect anemia, electrolytes, urinalysis. Thyroid function tests, hormonal studies, hemoglobin electrophoresis, though it's unlikely that he would have sickle cell disease, and an X-ray to determine bone age."
There was an unearthly wailing coming from the waiting room as Willie and Dr. Norris approached. Opening the door Willie looked into the room where he saw Taylor holding Ian on her lap, his head nestled on her chest. There was a bright red mark on his cheek. The source of the noise was coming from a plump red-headed girl who was holding a foot that was in a plastic bag with bloody paper towels inside around her foot.
Willie pulled up a chair beside Ian and sat down. "What's all this?" he asked gently. Ian didn't answer, only turning his head to hide against Taylor. Willie looked up to Taylor. "I was coming back from the ladies' room, and words were being exchanged between those two - it came to blows," she said softly. "He won't say what was said."
"Ni scéal cinn chroim é," Willie said gently to Ian.
Standing up, he carefully lifted Ian into his arms and held out his hand to Taylor to help her up. "Come along," he said softly, escorting them back to an exam room.
As they passed through the door, the wailing stopped, followed by a snarled, "I was here before that - " A string of descriptive nouns issued from Molly's mouth. Willie felt Ian tense in his arms.
Ian felt Willie sigh before he heard soft words come from his uncle: "A wise person once said, 'No question is stupid. Only people are stupid. Some are rude, and the rest are unlearned … anyone can learn, ignorance can be cured, but stupidity and rudeness are permanent.' Does that about sum it up?"
Mort sipped from the coffee mug as he paced in Jessica's kitchen. "Don't know whether to laugh about this or cry, Mrs. F. Earl Shapp is one of those who needs a good thumping for years, just never thought it would come from Tipper. More paperwork than I want to deal with, and he has half a mind to press charges against her. She was clearly protecting Ian, though. Wasn't too happy when I reminded him he was facing charges for what he put Ian through. He closed up his store for today, it's a shambles right now. He said that he was going to call his insurance agent and see if they would help with the repairs to the store. No word yet from Taylor? She said she would let us know as soon as they found out anything."
Jessica shook her head. It had been several hours since the three of them left, and she was beginning to be worried about what was happening. Sliding the plate of homemade cookies over to Mort she took a sip of coffee herself. "Taylor said that it may take a while. Any news on the prints that were found?"
Mort shrugged. "Kids handle those cards all the time. Several were found on the discarded cards, and one matched the partial print on the letter opener, and we are running that set to see what comes up. No one saw anyone else in the store except Ian. I know all of the kids in the neighborhood, and none of them that are Frank's size have red hair. Given that the chocolate was on the outside of his face, and he didn't have the holo cards on him - the local kids just aren't into that, not here. Where is Frank, by the way?"
"With Donna, while she takes a nap. He said he can watch over her, and study at the same time. His final is as soon as he finishes the last section, and he wants it done with. " Jessica said with a smile.
Mort saw the lingering sadness in her eyes. "So, Donna has decided to move back with her parents?"
For the longest time Jessica didn't say anything. Finally she placed her coffee cup down and sighed. "There are three things that will break up marriages - death, money, and illness. Grady and Frank wish to stay in Cabot Cove, Donna wishes to be with her parents. I understand the conflict that she is going through, and I feel as much a parent to Grady, and as much a grandmother to Frank, as they would be my own flesh and blood. Frank being here has been delightful. I've become used to him, and all the excitement that children bring. I would love to have him see Cabot Cove decorated for Christmas, and the excitement on his face opening the packages on Christmas day. Maybe I would be selfish to hope that they would stay, Mort. I know it won't be easy for Donna no matter what she decides. Goodness knows the excitement that will happen when Taylor has her children. I … I just feel that if they go I will never see them again." Jessica shivered.
"When will you know?" he asked, gently reaching over to take her hand in his. It was ice cold. She closed her eyes for a moment, willing back the tears.
"Grady is due home at the end of the week. Donna has agreed to allow Frank to stay for the rest of the summer, and if the doctors that she saw before the wedding are correct, the baby should be born mid-September. If Willie is correct, the baby would be born in November …"
The sound of a car pulling into the driveway next door interrupted Jessica. She looked over Mort's shoulder and saw Willie get out of the car and open the door for Taylor, and then go back and open the door for Ian, who sported a new bright neon green cast on his leg. He swept him up into his arms and carried him to Jessica's place with Taylor in tow. Jessica opened the door and was greeted by smiling, tired faces. Mort saw Willie regard him curiously before settling Ian down on Taylor's lap.
"Ah, Mort, before it gets dark, I would like a word with you outside," Willie said before turning to Taylor and raising an eyebrow to her.
Willie excused the two of them and led Mort to the back of the house before pulling out his pen light and handing it to him. "Ian found it this morning, before we were going to leave. I know that it was not on the seeds that my gram gave to me, I've asked Wife, and its nae from her. I spoke with Jordan, and she assures me that Joshua is not into tha', though with him anything is possible."
Mort bent over and using the flash light regarded the plant that was growing under the back porch.
"Is that, what I think it is?" inquired Mort with a fair bit of surprise.
Willie faced Mort with a steady eye. "Aye. The Hebrews called it qìnçh boúem - reed of balm. Ian has asked if he may have it to grow he says it's pretty … he doesn't ask for anything Mort, what do I tell him?"
Moving to the porch step Mort sat and folded his hands. "I am going to be honest with you, Willie. The laws in Maine are specific. Given that the planting of it was accidental, there would be no charges pressed. A bird could have dropped a seed from a feeder. The plant should be destroyed. However, I heard of a case where a man's girlfriend was found murdered, and the only evidence there was, was a single leaf that had been caught in her hair. The tree itself was common, but the same leaf type was found in the trunk of his car. He had the same type of trees in his back yard. They found using DNA technology that the leaf from her hair matched the place where she was found, but didn't match the leaves in the back yard - but there was a leaf under the back seat of his car that did match it, and tied him to the crime."
Mort sat quietly for a moment, his eyes thoughtful. Looking back up at Willie he continued, "You had belladonna take over the town where you lived, you understand the dangers of the youth being addicted. The plants that they are using now are more potent, and dangerous that they were thirty years ago, and even for this town, it scares the daylights from me to know that somehow, it may make its way here. What would it take to be able to do that type of testing? To see if we could identify if its from the same *reed of Balm* family or if its from different sources? Everything we have is sent to Portland's lab, and they don't have time to help keep a data base. It's not that I don't trust the lab. But - seeing how easy it was for that nightshade group to weave into Cabot Cove, well, my level of trust has been stretched. What would it take?"
Sighing, Willie leaned against the rail. "You would need an area that was clean, one of those sanitary rooms. You would need a location that was secure, and you would need approval from the state to run the facilities at the very least. If you had that, and someone that was licensed to do the testing, it would soon become a full time job."
"If all of that could be done - would you help with it?" Mort asked with his eyes studying the struggle upon Willie's face.
"You know I will help organize it, Mort, even without asking. I've held too many that died from overdoses in my arms to let another perish from the greed of men. You should know, too, that if that Reed of Balm was the only way to bring comfort to one who was dying, I would prescribe it to stop the suffering."
Drawing in a long breath Mort nodded. "I will start making phone calls to see what we can do. I know the others are waiting. After that, you and I will have a discussion with Ian about this plant."
Willie nodded. "It will have to wait until tomorrow. He doesn't have the strength right now to even wobble properly."
Mort led the way back to Jessica's house where everyone was in the living room. Ian was snuggled against Taylor, his eyes closed with a smile on his face. The others were discussing the plans for dinner and stopped when Willie and Mort came into the room. Eyes turned to Willie, who offered a chair to Mort before sitting down next to Taylor and taking her hand.
"We can't keep them in suspense much longer, uncle," said Ian, still with his eyes closed.
"Ah, well then. I couldn't take the paper tests they had for me because all of those tests had been based on cases that I had researched years ago. Dr. Norris picked a file at random from the patients at the facility and the one he happened to pick was Ian, who was there for testing anyway. We knew Ian was anemic, and we found his cholesterol level was extremely high. There were some other puzzles in the mix as well. We began a discussion regarding the porridge that the doctor told Sara to give him to eat, and he said he only could eat it if it had plenty of sugar on it. Therein lies the key. Ian has a copper deficiency. The amount of sugar that he was eating was blocking the copper from being absorbed. Iron anemia and copper anemia test the same, but are treated differently. So, it's no more sugar, and copper with zinc supplements and things should improve fairly quickly. He might grow a wee bit taller and most defiantly a bit wider - we will know the difference in about two months."
"You passed, then," said Mort, smiling.
"Don't know that officially, they have to turn it over to the state. There was a second case that I saw, the one the staff named the wailer - Ian and she had a meeting of the minds in the waiting room, though he hasn't explained his dealings of it, I heard her side, and more," said Willie, casting a side long glance in Ian's direction.
Sitting with his eyes still closed snuggled against Taylor, Ian said nothing. His mouth opened and a gentle snore came from it.
"I believe that explanation will have to wait until another time," said Jessica gently. She looked at Willie, then Taylor who had exchanged glances for the longest time. "What else did you find out?" Jessica inquired.
Taylor gently lifted Ian's hand and as it slipped down unresisting. A single tear slid down her face. "Ian has been having auditory hallucinations, and according to the tests that were run, he has impairment of his mental processes. We don't know if the impairment is permanent, but the auditory hallucinations should disappear with treatment. Some children have imaginary friends, but they usually forgo them when they begin to socialize properly with other children. We spoke with Sara before we took him to the hospital, and Ian has had the same imaginary friend for as long as she can remember. They did what they could to humor the situation when he was younger but if it continues, it could mean mental retardation. It might be because of the copper deficiency. At this point the state of Maine probably won't accept Ian in the school for the regular courses. He will have to be home schooled."
Jessica saw Willie sigh before murmuring softly, "It may not be all as bad as that. I didn't see what the written tests were, and I have asked for copies of them to see where his education would be lacking. 'Twas a long day for him, with more on his mind that the bits of paper before him. His grades in school last year were exceptional, so there is no understanding beyond the advancement of the deficiency to explain it."
For a moment there was silence in the room as all eyes rested upon Ian. Willie turned back to Mort. "Oh, the young lass that Ian said took the candy and cards may well be one known as Molly Bishop, she and her father are staying at the Parkers' for the next two weeks. She was at the hospital today getting her foot tended too, an while she fits the description that Ian gave earlier, that no one saw, she had quite forgotten one of the holo cards in her pocket that fell out when she was getting dressed after the exam. She left it behind." Willie extracted a plastic bag that held the card, in the middle of it was a dried chocolate thumb print.
Mort's eyes danced with amusement. "I take it you learned from Mrs. F regarding criminology? I will run the prints, and if there is a match, let Earl know."
Shrugging Jessica smiled herself. "It runs in the family, Mort."
Jessica saw the look of sadness in Willie's eyes as Mort walked out of the room. Frank did too, and taking Donna by the hand he said, "Let's get dinner started, Mum." Donna allowed herself to be led out. Frank closed the door between them discretely.
Willie waited until the steps were well away before saying to Jessica. "Aunt Jessica, I have informed Mr. Murphy that I would na be teaching at the school, though I was able to find some one who would. Mort has asked me to help with something and I will - I will, as much as I can. Ian has asked that we take him back home to be with his family if we feel the treatments that he will be receiving are not effective. If we go … we won't be coming back. Taylor won't be able to fly much longer, and the children when they are born won't be able to travel for ages. If it would come to going, we don't want Frank to know all of it. Only that Ian would go peacefully to sleep, not the dying by the inches."
Jessica blinked back tears. She could see Ian stirring a bit, and didn't want to break down completely.
Willie stood and went to her. "No tears now. He is still with us," he said bending over and giving her cheek a kiss. "I have an errand to run, may be a bit, would you mind if Taylor and Ian took supper with you?"
"Not at all."
Harrison Bishop sighed. It was late by the time they returned home, and he somehow knew the person on the porch was someone that could explain what his daughter's involvement was earlier. He looked back to where his daughter was scrunched down trying not to be seen. "Molly. You are old enough to know this. If you do something wrong, there is a punishment for it."
She hardened her glare at him. "You did plenty of things wrong to end up in jail."
"I ended up there because your mother lied," said Harrison firmly as he got out of the car. He went around to the side of the car. He had switched the back locks as child safety locks so she couldn't bolt from the car at a stop sign. She had, once, then screamed that he was kidnapping her. He wondered how something so sweet that had laid in his arms could have been raised to become so bitter.
Earl waited until they came up to the house. Molly took her time limping as Harrison refused to carry her. "Mr. Bishop? Sheriff Metzger mentioned that you were the person that I needed to speak with. May I come inside?"
Harrison nodded. "You're the shop owner. I have a fair idea why you're here." He looked at Molly. "Could you please bring glasses and the pitcher of lemonade from the refrigerator, Molly?"
She was about to refuse, but something told her not to make things worse for herself than they already were. She nodded and then clumped off to the kitchen, pausing at the closet for a moment on the way there. They needed ice of course. She put different color straws in each of the glasses, and then with a satisfied smirk she carried the tray into the living room where her father was sitting. She had filled the glasses, and shoved one with a blue straw towards her father. "I get the pink one, and you get the green one, and you get the blue," she said giving the drink a swirl. She noticed that her father's grim expression didn't go away. Picking up her drink she sat back on the sofa and waited. Nether of the men touched their drinks. Earl regarded her and she could see that he was very upset with her. Her father was as well.
"As I was saying, Mr. Bishop, it's not so much the money to replace the broken shelves, or replacing the stock on the shelves, it's, well, being closed the entire day losing those sales during tourist season is the real blow."
"I absolutely agree, Mr. Shapp. I am a self-employed business man myself, and I understand during peak times the loss can be substantial. I had informed Molly earlier that if any damage was done by her actions that reparations would come from her savings account. While the local banks are closed right now, I can make arrangements tonight to have the cash delivered to you tonight about nine thirty. Would seven thousand be sufficient?" Harrison asked, reaching for the phone.
Earl nodded. He wasn't expecting it to be this easy. Most out of staters were adamant that their children were innocent. He knew that Molly hadn't done all the damage - some of it had been done when Tipper had reacted. He knew she had a house, he could put a claim in against her and her home owners' insurance would probably cover it with out blinking and if anything, Mort's police report would allow the insurance company to cover his loss as well. He'd placed a call with his agent and left a message. Elisa Trudy had said she was going to be there later to see the damage. She was sweet eye candy. Reaching forward he grasped the glass with the blue straw and took a deep sip. It was bitter and sweet at the same time, yet soothing. He felt himself relax and agree that Molly would come down the next day to help with the clean up. Perhaps an honest day's work would give her a greater understanding for how money was made.
"You can't prove it was me! I wasn't even there!" she shouted, jumping up from the sofa.
"Now see here, I wouldn't be here if I didn't have proof!" said Earl a bit thickly.
"That snot gob is lying! I didn't take anything, he did!"
Earl pulled something from his pocket. It was a copy of the holo card with her fingerprint, the copy of the letter opener with the finger print, and the Child Find records that her mother had provided to CYS just incase something would happen and she would have to trace her daughter.
"I could believe that the letter opener would be coincidental, but you left this behind, and it matches the prints and the cards left behind. Mr. Bishop, the sheriff was kind enough to tell me that your reputation is outstanding. I will take your word that this will be resolved as you suggest tomorrow. I trust there will not be a repeat of this?" Earl said looking at Molly.
She swallowed and didn't say anything. Earl saw a flicker in her eyes. Contempt. No doubt there would be a repeat, until she was caught and old enough to be taken into police custody. She watched as he stood, and drained the glass of lemonade with the green straw. The bell at the tavern began to ring as the two men shook hands.
For the longest time Harrison watched as Earl walked down the street to where the tavern was. Molly had picked up the tray and carried it back into the kitchen to dump out the ice from glasses of lemonade that they had been drinking from. He saw her scrubbing one of them in particular, taking care to rinse the remains down the sink then slipping the cups into the dishwasher. She started, as a rabbit would when come upon unexpectedly.
"What's for supper?" she asked trying to hide her surprise.
"I ate at the cafeteria earlier. You said you weren't hungry then, and seeing how you have had eight candy bars today, I would say you had more than enough calories for the day. You're going to bed without supper."
"And if I hear another word from you I will find out who that little boy was that you hit at the hospital and give him every thing that is in your back pack. In fact, its best you go to your room now, and get ready for bed."
Molly was about to protest further but knew that she better not press her luck. Sighing she limped off to her bedroom and closed the door. Glancing about she sighed. From what her mother said, it wouldn't take long for her father's medicine to take effect. Leaving her games behind locked in the trunk was a wrench. She pulled out her over night bag and opened it. She had kicked it under the bed already packed with everything she was going to need. It felt lighter. Blinking several times she wrenched it open and found her father had unpacked everything. Panicking, she looked for the diary her mother had given her. It was gone. She burst from the room and stormed into the living room where her father was calmly sipping another glass of lemonade.
"Give it back!" she demanded.
"Give what back?" he asked, curious, leaning forward to look at her.
"My diary! You took it from my over night bag! "
Harrison sighed. "No, you had it on your night stand back home upstairs the last time that I saw it. You wanted me to run the steps to get it and I told you to get it yourself. If it's anywhere, it's at home," he said evenly.
Molly turned and stormed back to her room. Her mother had given her an open ended ticket; she had placed it in her diary along with the cab fair money that would take her to the airport.
There was only one thing to be done. She knew the money - her money - would be arriving at the store in a few hours. She would have to pretend to go to sleep, and then sneak out and get the money from the shop keeper to get home. Grimly she smirked. She had a fair idea of what the medicine was that her mother had given her - she wasn't stupid. "Give this to your father and when he falls asleep, call a cab, and go to the air port. By the time he wakes up, you will be with us, and he won't be able to do anything about it." The rub had been that Mr. Shapp had taken some of her father's drink instead of her father. There was enough to give him a second dose tomorrow night if she had to. Then she could call her mother and be with her.
Molly hadn't thought about the fingerprints. She knew there were rubber gloves under the sink in her bathroom, and she would use them when she went to see Mr. Shapp about the money. There was also the matter regarding that snot-nosed snitch. She would have to see about him and make him pay for giving the police her description.
Tipper walked into where Willie was working the large loom. She knew that when he needed to think he wove. He had called her on his cell, asking if she could meet him down at the shop a bit later as he had something to discuss with her. She could see his shirt sleeve was torn, and there was a dark area under his chin.
"Willie! What happened?"
He looked at her with a wisp of sadness. "Ah, well, found Earl Shapp at my doorstep here drunk as a skunk as you say, and he took a swing at me because I had sent his good friend Kent Fordham to prison. He's due to go to the chair in two days and Earl was in a right state. Said he would see me and mine dead before Kent was, and he grabbed my shirt when I turned about and he swung. I may be short, but I am nae helpless when it comes to defending mine. Dumped a bucket of water for the dogs over his head and left him outside his shop nursing a headache."
Tipper took Willie's hands in hers. The knuckles were split open again. "Let me get something for those," she said, withdrawing.
He caught her hand in his. "No, let them be. Angela, I need to ask a favor and you're the only one that I trust to do this."
"Sounds serious," she said, pulling up a chair beside the loom and regarding him.
"Mort is wanting a way to set up a lab to test certain things, the DNA structure of plants that people are nae supposed to be having, and he wants me to help with it. I can help set it up, but the work required to run it, well, with everything, life is going to be very busy for us for a while."
Tipper nodded, understanding.
"I feel as if I have failed Ian. That if I had not been so concerned about other things, his diagnosis could have been sooner. I should have seen the signs straight away. His mother never told the doctors that he was hallucinating. She just thought that he was having fun with a make believe friend, but it went on too long."
"A make-believe friend? Ian? Really? He never mentioned one … wait, he did mention someone a while back. Some one he called 'Aurth.' He said that Aurth was friends with his parents, that she told Sara not to go into work the day that the explosion happened - and about a Dr. Buhmer that was across the way that might help Ian get better. Are you saying that he made it all up? That he hallucinated this person and what they had said?"
Willie didn't say anything for a while. He looked down at his hands and then up at Tipper. "Sara mentioned about the mysterious Dr, Buhmer. Ian just came up with that out of the blue one morning and drove them to distraction until they looked up every single doctor that began with a B, both, at home and everywhere they could think away was. He wasn't found. It's made him schizophrenic."
"Oh," Tipper said closing her eyes.
Willie sat in silence for a moment before beginning again. "Angela, Ian has asked us to take him home, to be able to die with his family, and we won't be coming back. The pregnancy isn't going well for Taylor. She's made her wishes known that the children will come first, but there is little hope that she will live through the spring. I've willed the shop and contents over to you. You're the nearest family that we have. With your permission, I will teach you what Mort wants to learn, and if your choosing, to, to run it and prevent others from being harmed by drugs."
Numb, Tipper nodded then asked, "Willie, what if Aurth is like Adam, or Gabe? That only Ian can see her?"
She saw Willie shake his head slowly. "I asked Adam. There's no one like him that he knows named Aurth." For a moment he sat in silence before the tears came spilling down his cheeks. Tipper gathered Willie into her arms as the sobs overcame him.
"She called me a snot nog, that I was a smelly odd beggar's son and when I told her to get on with herself, she called Mum an old flah-bag. Then I told her she was a miserable sot and she popped me one. Well, I did her back and she got this look in her eye and she kicked me - had to be her sore foot of course, and she screamed and popped me again. I ducked it and drew on her chin and she went down like a sack of potatoes down the hamper. Her da was quiet like the whole time, like there wasn't anything he could do to make her behave. She's the same one this morning, who was in the shop and pushed me down," said Ian quietly as he lay on the sofa with his head on Taylor's lap.
Jessica raised her eyebrows at his statement. "Ah, well, if your uncle would have known that I would imagine he would have used a larger needle for the shot she needed. Not that it would be sweetening her disposition though, not even a wallop. Your mother and father should have taught you better not to hit girls, though."
"They said I couldn't hit my sisters - they didn't say I couldn't to other girls."
Taylor looked up at Jessica, who was trying to cover a smirk.
Closing her eyes for a brief moment to compose herself she drew in a breath. "While I haven't known your uncle long, I have only seen him strike a man once, and that was to save Franks life. Healers do no harm. It's part of the vow they take."
The door opened. "Dinner is ready," said Frank, regarding Ian with concern. "Do you want me to bring in a plate for you here?" he asked gently.
"I can manage to take it at the table, Zookie," said Ian softly. "What are we having?" he asked, testing the smells coming from the kitchen. "Smells good."
"Corn bread, greens, and chicken soup," Jessica answered for Frank as he went to the younger child and helped him stand up slowly. Jessica saw Ian perk up.
"Is there a lot of corn bread?" he asked, curious.
Frank nodded. "We made up a couple of batches."
"That's a lovely smell, I could eat that corn stuff every day," Ian said breathing in, a smile to his face.
"You wouldn't get tired of it?" asked Jessica curiously.
Ian shook his head as he clumped to the kitchen. "Oh no. It's easy going down and sets well, and on the coldest of days it wraps me up like a fluffy blanket all inside. I particularly like the grits that Dr. Seth made when we were at Mither's - I would like to have that every meal if I could."
Exchanging glances with Jessica, Taylor ruffled Ian's hair. "Maybe we can arrange that."
Frank looked between Jessica and Taylor then to Ian as he settled into his chair. He was going to ask Ian if he was daft or something, and to go for something substantial - like a thick steak. Nether Jessica or Taylor or his mother said anything when Ian helped himself to his fourth muffin. He watched Ian spread the fluffy butter over each one carefully then savor each bite as if it was the grandest thing he had ever eaten. After dinner was done, Frank watched Taylor carry Ian to the front parlor and with dimming the lights, knew she had tucked him in on the sofa. There were quiet words between the two women before Taylor went out the front of the house to her own. He slid the last dish into place and heard that Jessica had helped his mother upstairs. Going to the living room Frank picked up his book bag and withdrew his note book. With shaking hands he turned on the dim lamp and began to write:
"Lesson 20, Pre Final Summary.
This is the next to the last summary of my English summer schooling taught by Mrs. Jessica Fletcher.
In the past weeks I have written regarding the changes that I have encountered during my time here. I've learned about growing up, dealing with issues that adults do, and come to an understanding regarding a mature approach to events, even those that you can't control. I know the adults want to keep worry from kids. A healthy dose of worry is good to deal with once in a while, but the concerns that I have are far beyond what anyone should have. I worry about Mum, and the baby. Sometimes she is fine, other times, I am the grown up, taking care of her. Dad won't be back from Ireland until the end of this week, and I don't know if he will need to leave again.
Summer is almost over. Up here the leaves are beginning to change already. Leaf peepers have begun to arrive, and there is an entirely different feel in the air. A briskness, one of concerns that adults have exchanged, and I wonder if my cousin Ian will be seeing the snow's first fall. I know that the adults are worried about him. I am worried, and I can see it in my Aunt Jessica's eyes as she looks at him. There are things that they learned today when he was at the hospital, things about him that they don't want to share just yet, and I see how ill he is, how, weak he is, and I know he is facing the end if he doesn't get better soon.
I never knew Cal. I only have known Lucky, his dog - my dog now. I worry about her, and what Aunt Jessica said about how Lucky would only be with her for the summer. I never knew any child who had died before, as a friend, or relative. I mean, I had known Faraday briefly, but to lose some one very young, younger than me, how can that happen? How can that be allowed to happen?
Tipper wrung out the scrap of cloth again and handed it to Willie. Pulling aside the chair she had been sitting on, she straddled it and then waited as he wiped his face, and then sat back as he pressed it to the back of his neck.
"I know you too well, Willie - you left Ireland behind to come to the States to find the sword, and to clean up the mess, but you also made the States your home. Why are you giving all of that up to go back?"
"You know the answer to that," he said sighing.
Poking him in the shoulder she shook her head. "An answer that I half believe."
She watched him tilt his head. "What would you believe? Do you really want to know the truth in all of this? Truth that no one would listen to if you told them, or if they did, you would be locked away for speaking it? Do you want to really know, do you really feel that when you do know, that you can believe it to be the truth about what I am? What Ian is, and what Wife will bring into the world?"
"I read the books - I know all about your family history …" She watched as he shook his head.
"That's only the side that the world wanted to believe. You know, they spoke of a gathering - that this place here had an energy that would bring it all together, and the sword would be what drew them. I don't know if Kent had a look inside and put the connection with Jessica and my mother together or that he just happened to pick Cabot Cove to build the last shop. I always knew that my grandfather was small, and his father even shorter. I had the chance to look at Ian's blood today, and I knew what my gran's blood and my blood look like under a microscope. There are things that are the same, and things that are different. Ian does have a copper deficiency, but there is something else. He has a recessive gene. The girls don't show theirs, but no doubt they have it as well. The children that will be born for our family are only going to keep getting smaller - until they are the way they were hundreds of years before, the size that is known as the wee folk. If he doesn't die, then, well, it's best the world doesn't start wondering about him, or the children that Wife will have, or the girls when they are old enough. We have to go back, and go into a different kind of hiding."
"Things aren't the way they were a hundred years ago, Willie! They don't toss dwarves to the lions any more," Tipper said, trying to hold in her frustration. She saw something in Willie's eyes - fear. She saw him swallow. "Why are you telling me this?"
"You have to know - when your children are born, they may be smaller - they may be like us …" he began before falling silent at the sound of her pager going off.
Tipper groaned. She wasn't on call. She hadn't had a night off in the longest time. She glanced at the number on the pager and frowned.
"Who is it?" Willie asked, seeing her expression.
"Earl from Ye Olde Tyme Mini Mart - well his pay phone at least. Don't know why he would be calling me, I made it clear he was to take Hefei to the vet in Portland, and I cleared my sheet at the store." Frowning she checked the voice mail box, there was nothing.
Sighing she slipped her pager back in the holster and took a step to the door. Willie stopped her. "Angela, I'm nae your father, but I wouldn't let you go alone to the likes of Earl tonight alone. Let me get my coat upstairs," he said as he took the steps two at a time. Tipper heard the bell of the shop ring and turned. A slender older woman with wispy reddish grey hair and twinkling blue eyes peaked in.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I was looking for a young friend of mine's uncle - I thought I might find him here. Never could pronounce his first or last name. I have a message for him, but you can pass it on just the same? 'Ivy will grow most everywhere, as does clover. A bird will only nest when it is safe; it's safe to nest now,'" she said as she turned to go out the door.
"Wait, I don't even know your name!" Tipper called as the woman closed the door behind her. She rushed to the door and opened it up, there was no one on the steps, no one on the porch, no one on the street, and she didn't think that a woman that age could move fast.
"Who are you calling after?" asked Willie behind her. Tipper nearly jumped out of her skin. She hadn't heard him come down the steps, or up behind her.
"A lady came with a message for you." Groaning with frustration Tipper heard her pager go off again.
Molly stood outside Ye Old Tyme Mini Mart with the number that was on the shipping invoice wedged where she could read it and dial at the same time. It had seemed like it took forever for her father to fall asleep. It wasn't hard to wipe off her fingerprints from the plastic wrapping and put his hand print on it then carefully, wearing rubber gloves, she tore the bag and carried it to the shop. She didn't know what she was going to do with it at first, but after finding Earl sprawled blue faced in a corner of the store, she fought the urge to scream, then wrapped it around his neck and tied it with a bow. It wasn't tight, but they wouldn't look to see what else killed him then. She dropped the bag that held her father's prints, and looking around, she saw the envelope that held her money from her account. It wasn't open. It had fallen to the side with some other envelopes and invoices.
Carefully she ripped that open, and then stuffed the folded cash in her pocket. She was going to crumple the envelope and toss it, but thought better of it. She could leave it behind at the condo for them to find with her father's prints on it, and she would have nothing to worry about ever again. She took the invoice and dialed the number again. She wanted someone to find him and she knew that she would have to hurry home to get into bed for her alibi. There was one other thing she had to get. She should have done it first, and the dim light from the coolers weren't much help as she went to the automotive section to pick up the half gallon container. It was heavy. She knew she didn't need all of it, and she could dump some of it out later once she was away.
She had looked up the airport and called them from her room. There were no more flights out that night to where she wanted to go. The earliest would be at 11 in the morning and she was sure she could slip out with her father's habit of sleeping in and catch a cab elsewhere to go to the airport.
A noise up the street caused her to jump. She hurried down the street to the safety of a clump of trees. Hunching down she didn't see anything, but heard a man speaking to someone else, and a woman answering him. In the light from the street lamp she was able to make out the street signs. She had over heard the woman with the snot-nosed kid saying where he lived. She knew he had a dog, and she had heard something from Lydia regarding what she carried up the street. Too bad he wouldn't be able to get a refund on the squeaky toy,
Peering in the dark she found the house and went up onto the back porch. Silly them to leave dog dishes outside. She gave the child proof lid a twist. No kid she ever knew was deterred by one of them. The rubber gloves were hot and sweaty. Resisting the urge to take them off she gave lid a twist again and tossed it aside. The container slipped from her hands and thudded to the porch splashing everywhere. Molly jumped back away from the path of the spilling liquid and fell backwards off the steps. She saw a light flick on in the upstairs window. Scrambling to her feet she fled down the street, going down a different way to where the time share was. Panting she gave the door handle a twist to open it. It wouldn't budge. She knew she had left the door unlocked as she slipped out - no one ever locks their doors in back water towns! There was a slip of paper tucked under the mat. Curious she gave it a tug and in the light from the street she saw the word "Busted." Wrinkling her face up she crumpled the note.
She knew that if she wanted a bed that night she would have to knock on the door. Frowning Molly replaced the slip of paper the way she found it under the mat and stomped to the car. She had left her side unlocked, just in case she had to plant something later. She had tossed the rubber gloves into a garbage bin behind one of the shops - no one would notice them there. She reached in her pocket for the envelope using the corner of her shirt to protect against her fingerprints getting on it. Numbly she realized - it was gone. Fine. That just made things better. She hadn't touched it. No one would make the connection to her until she was long gone. She had seen the bus station in town, and it wasn't that far. She would get a ticket to Portland and be gone in a short time. At least she had the sense to hide her bag in the bushes. It was still there, along with her spending money which her mother made sure she had enough to get to the airport even if it was by a cab. Brushing off the leaves, she slung the strap over her shoulder and began the walk to where she knew she would be getting the bus. At least it wasn't anywhere near the mini mart. She could see the flashing of lights from the police car, and the ambulance.
Striding grimly to his car Mort sighed. He hated to be the one to tell relatives that someone had died, even if it was someone like Earl Shapp. He knew Earl had some uncle somewhere out west, someone who cared for him. Willie had come down with Tipper, and both tried to do their best to revive Earl. There was a long latex thing that Tipper had said was hers, but it didn't explain how it had happened to end up wrapped about Earls throat. Willie had admitted to defending himself against Earl, and Elisa Trudy had said Earl was in a weird mood. She had arrived after Willie, and she had been there when a courier arrived with a thick envelope. Earl had laughed, waving an envelope around and saying it was pay back for every snot-nosed brat who had stolen from him. She had taken photos of the damage, and then left him as he opened a bottle from the top shelf. He said he was in the mood to celebrate. Politely she had refused his offer to join him.
The envelope from the courier wasn't there, though it was possible he had taken the money and put it in his safe, or the bank's night deposit box. He had consumed a fair amount from the bottle. Glancing back at the long latex thing Mort raised an eyebrow. He knew he would find Tipper's prints on the thing, and on the bag. He would have to trace who the courier service was and find out if he could what was in the delivery. The banks wouldn't be open until morning, and his brain was working in overdrive.
Andy came out of the back room with a prescription bottle that was almost empty. He glanced at the date, and the label. Taking a breath he went back in and faced Tipper.
"Do you know anything about this?" he asked trying to keep his voice calm. "You know, this makes how bad it looks for you even worse …"
"I'm his dog's vet, of course I know about that. I don't know why there are so few pills in it, and yes, dogs can have chronic pain requiring narcotics. But it's a baby dose," she said as her pager went off again. Sighing exasperated she pulled it out of her pocket and glanced at the number, pressing a button, she read the text message that was attached.
"Who is it?" asked Mort, curious. He knew from Tipper's statement that she wasn't on call.
"It's Taylor, someone's poisoned Sydney," she said, looking at Willie.
Mort swore under his breath. "Andy, stay with this. Come on," he said taking Tipper by the elbow. "Its faster if I drive you there."
Taylor had the front door open, and as the three of them entered the house they could see her standing at the counter with Sydney in the sink shivering from retching.
"Antifreeze – it's all over the back porch. I let her out and I saw her licking the deck, and I turned on the light … She'd just eaten - I don't know how much she was able to get into her before I got her up off of the deck. I ... I made her vomit then gave her charcoal and egg whites - I didn't know what else to do."
Willie went behind Taylor and guided her backwards as Tipper moved to the sink. Mort went out the side door and they could see him walking carefully around with his flashlight playing on the ground.
"Who would do such a thing? She's never hurt any one," Taylor asked, shivering in Willies arms.
Willie watched Tipper work over the sink, listening to her soft words of encouragement to Sydney. "Well, we are lucky we got to her as soon as we did. That stuff takes a while to get in to their systems, though she is a small dog. You did all the right things too - do you have any Vodka on hand?" asked Tipper.
Mort regarded her with some surprise. She saw his look and explained, "It gives the organs that would be affected something else to work on …"
Mort held up his hands. "You're the doctor," he said, raising an eyebrow as he watched Willie go to the cabinet and withdraw a bottle.
"Irish whiskey is what we have," Willie said, handing it to her.
Striding out the front door Mort pulled out his flash light and began to sweep the yard with it looking for clues. He saw Jessica's door open, and in a moment she was beside him with a two foot long bar. "Perhaps this will help?" she asked as she handed it to him.
"What is it?" Mort inquired, curious.
Jessica reached down and switched a button on the side of the bar making Mort wince from the odd purple light. "It's ultraviolet light, a portable one. The younger generation called it 'black light' because it doesn't really illuminate anything except certain things - things with sodium. The reason I use it is to find something that has been moved, or damaged."
"Really?" said Mort eyeing the bar. "Stay right here." He went to the door of Taylor's house. Jessica saw the back porch light flick off, then Mort came back to her and with both the flash light and the black light, Mort followed the splatter of the antifreeze. For a moment he gazed down on the ground. He could see a small foot print, and a hand print. There was evidence that someone had fallen backwards.
"Ian has been with you this evening, hasn't he?" Mort inquired softly.
Jessica nodded. "We tucked him in on the parlor sofa not too long ago. Taylor came over to let Sydney out, and then this happened. What's that?" Jessica asked, pointing to something white and crumpled that had tumbled under the bushes.
Mort slipped on a pair of gloves and carefully picked it up. "Something that makes it more complicated by the moment. From what Elisa Trudy said, Earl had a delivery from a courier service, and this looks like the envelope - no money though. Makes it looks like robbery was the motive, but this is the only thing that was missing," replied Mort.
"Who was the person who sent the envelope? And why?"
Mort directed the beam of the flash light onto the envelope. Jessica could hear him sigh as he flicked the flash light off and clipped it to his belt.
"Molly Bishop. She's the child that stole from Earl today. The same one who started something with Ian at the hospital. An unpleasant child if there ever was one."
Jessica glanced at her watch. "It's probably past her bed time - but some how I have a feeling that she is still up. While the evidence to this is circumstantial at best, it would warrant a discussion with her, and perhaps something to shed some light on things?" she said, nodding to the light bar.
Mort nodded as he gave the area a final sweep before going to the trunk of his car. Not that Cabot Cove was a hot bed of crime, and Sam Booth had questioned why getting the pallet of Redi Pour Plaster for cast making was a good idea - but it had been. Not only did it add weight to the car during the winter months, with a few squeezes and a zip of the seal he could have enough plaster to track bigfoot to Alaska in a matter of moments. It set quickly, stayed where it was poured with out the use of support forms and held an incredible amount of detail It would also attach itself to a second mix with out seams. Not that he ever had to do multiple castings, but the knowledge that he could …
Withdrawing half a dozen packets he handed five of them to Jessica, before striding back to where the hand prints were. He'd had enough of Molly Bishop. If she was even partially responsible for the evenings activities … Mort sighed as he poured the thick plaster in the impression of the hand then wrote the date and location with the stylus pen that came with it in the rapid setting plaster.
His father would have walloped his back side. Whoever did this had to have known what they were doing. Somehow the thought of incarcerating someone like her didn't bother him. Seemed almost too easy, and he doubted if it would change who they were.
With the last one poured he dusted off his hands and returned to the open trunk. The other thing he had purchased in large amounts was kitty litter. He knew washing it into the soil would cause problems. Sighing he shrugged the bag over his shoulder and carried it to the porch where he sifted it over the spilt antifreeze. There was nothing to be done for the area where the container had been dumped, it was already in the soil, but he could at least mark where it was for removal later. Grinning he went back to the plaster casts and tipped up a corner. They had hardened in a matter of moments. He slid them into evidence bags and placed them in a secured box in the trunk before turning to see Jessica sweeping the ground with the black light bar looking for more clues as he went around to the front of the house.
There was the sound of quiet sobbing from Taylor as Willie held her. Tipper was still by the sink softly stroking Sydney's fur as the little dog lay on its side shivering. He had seen other dogs and cats suffer from antifreeze poisoning, While Sydney had been full, and they caught it right away, the stress that she had been put under at her age might be too much for her to handle.
"If your ready to go to the clinic?" Mort asked gently. Tipper nodded, wrapping Sydney in a large towel. "We have a fair idea who did this, and were able to gather several plaster casts. I've placed absorbent material down, we'll figure out how to get it neutralized later."
It wasn't much of a bus station, thought Molly as she swung her back pack over her shoulder and tromped to the bench at the curb. She had three hours to wait for the bus to Portland. She was tired, and belatedly she realized had the opportunity to snag some traveling snacks but - who would have guessed the back water town wouldn't have vending machines at the bus station? Her belly rumbled again. She would get to Portland's airport, and then fly to where her mother would be waiting for her and everything would be perfect once more. Even if her dad would make a big deal about her being with her mother, she would tell the judge that her father was responsible for killing a man. Yes. He had a criminal record already. She could be just as innocent on the stand as her mother. A perverse thought crossed her mind as she remembered how Earl looked, blue in the face - her father had to have had some of that medicine – maybe he was dead, right now. That would make things MUCH simpler. She didn't know why that other man had died. That wasn't her fault - those things just happened.
A shadow crossed over her as an older woman sat down next to her.
"Things just don't happen, dearie, they are caused for reasons."
Molly turned her head and regarded the slender older woman with wispy reddish grey hair and twinkling blue eyes. She knew better than to even begin to start a conversation with this woman.
"For example, that young man who walloped you today at the hospital. He had been told not to hit his sisters, but your not related to him, and you rather did need it… though most adults would say you needed a bit more sometimes… You should know - he doesn't have a dog."
"What? Who the hell are you?"
"He doesn't have a dog. Someone totally innocent has been hurt tonight because you wanted revenge. She may even lose her unborn children because of the shock she has had, because of your actions tonight. No, the dog you poisoned tonight has never harmed anyone, Sweet little thing, well mannered. Her owner would sometimes take her to the children's ward for the little ones to snuggle next to when they are very ill and have no hope. That won't happen now," the old woman said sadly.
"Lady, I don't know what you are talking about!" Molly said, edging back. She saw the woman blink once and sigh, resigned.
"As careful as you were in preventing your finger prints from getting on the envelope, and other places, you forgot one thing… you left them on the inside of the gloves. Careless of you to leave them where you did as well, they will be found you know."
"Get away from me!" said Molly, standing up and snatching her bag from the floor. She stumbled back, her heart pounding in her chest. She should have tossed the gloves in the water. There was only one thing to do, Molly thought - play 'child in distress…'
"Hey, she's bothering me!" she said, hurrying to the counter where the slim young ticket man stood speaking on the phone. Turning he looked in the direction that she was pointed to.
"Who is?" he asked, curious.
"That smelly old woman! Over there!…"
She saw the puzzled look on his face. "You're the only fare for tonight, no one else is up at this hour around here."
Molly whirled. The woman was gone, but the frantic pounding of her heart didn't stop.
The clock chimed on the corner of the building. She knew she still had an hour to spend there, and if that old lady knew what she had done, if she had seen her … She shook her head. No one had seen her. If they had, then the police would have been there sooner. Snagging her bag she went back to where the chairs were and sat in one where she could watch the comings and goings of the door. Maybe the old woman had snuck in, and was in the ladies' room. Her belly grumbled again. The phone rang at the ticket desk making Molly jump. She was tired too, and had a headache from all the goings-on. Stretching a bit, she heard the ticket counter person say, "Yes, There is one to Portland in an hour …Will do. Thanks for calling."
Yawning Molly pulled her back pack onto her lap; she knew that the man would make sure she would get onto the bus on time. It was late, and she was over tired. Yawning again, she told herself that just closing her eyes for a moment wouldn't hurt.
She thought she heard the screaming of an ambulance rushing by in the sleep world she had entered. Half awake, she heard the man answer the phone again, and say something. None of it mattered. All of this would be forgotten once she was on the sands of the resort with her mother and grandfather. Her lips curled in a smile as she thought about it. Her dreaming was interrupted by the sound of a woman's voice saying to the ticket counter man, "Well, She's quite young to be traveling by herself…"
"She said she does it all the time. Glad you were able to call when you did. The line called and said the bus was nearly full tonight."
Jessica nodded, then placed her bag on the counter to be checked in. Sighing she went over where Molly was sitting up eyeing Jessica with wary interest, and tucked under her arm was the portable black light bar. The clerk came over to Jessica and said conversationally. "Saw one of those on an antique show. Do they really work like they say? Can you show me? We've got a while till the bus comes …"
Nodding, Jessica turned on the black light bar, then said to him, "It works better if the lights are turned off…" Grinning he strode to the light switch and flicked them off. Jessica moved it over the bench where she sat. "See here? It's from someone who scraped the wood, probably with one of those rolling back packs by accident. You can see here where the wood is cracking, you may want to get that repaired…"
"Is that all it picks up, wood cracks and scrapes?" he asked, curious.
Jessica kept her voice light. "Oh, anything that has a high salt content, like sea water, or certain fluids will show up. Not like a soda, or milk, but heaver things, like car fluids." She was careful when she raised the black light to bathe Molly in its glow. It illuminated the antifreeze splashes on her shoes and on her pants, all the way up, and even some splashes on her sleeves.
Jessica heard Molly gasp.
"Like antifreeze." Jessica said, finally breaking the silence. Even in the black light's glow, Jessica could see the look of defiance upon Molly's face and that Molly had opened her mouth to deny it. The light switched on across the room. Mort stood there next to the light holding a plastic bag with the gloves in it. One of them was turned inside out, and she could see, once her eyes adjusted to the light, the trace of black powder that had been used to dust for fingerprints.
"Already had your prints on my desk. It was Mrs. F's idea to check the dumpster lids for traces of the antifreeze … It's all over the gloves, and some of it got on the envelope that you dropped when you fell when you put it on Taylor's deck. I will bet a dollar to a dime that the mud on your pants will match the soil of their yard, and the grass stains as well. We've a few plaster casts of your shoes, too."
Molly picked up her bag and swung it in an arc at Mort, who stepped back as she bolted from the room to the exit. Mort didn't give chase, he only looked at Jessica and sighed as the sound of a THUMP and Molly's cursing echoed in the room. Turning he walked calmly where she sat on the floor rubbing the palm of her hand.
"We took the precaution of securing the exits before we woke you up. I understand you may be a minor, but there is something you should know," said Mort as he reached behind to unclip his cuffs. "We take murder seriously. Molly Bishop, you're under arrest for animal cruelty, the murder of Earl Shapp, abuse of a corpse and conspiracy to commit the murder of Harrison Bishop. We found the medicine bottle that you left behind, the one your mother faked the prescription for. You may also be interested to know that a warrant has been served against your mother as a co-conspirator. You have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney, if you can not afford an attorney one will be provided for you by the state of Maine. You have the right to wave these rights at any time. Do you understand them?"
Shrugging then giving him a nod, she felt him pull her to her feet then put the cuffs on him. "So, I get remanded to the custody of my family and pay a fine … I have money," she said coldly.
Mort tilted his head as he slipped her bag into a large plastic bag and sealed it, writing his initials on the seal. "I guess you didn't understand what I said - we take murder very seriously here. Your mother will be charged separately, as such with her incarceration, her wishes for your care are superceded by your father's. You mother will be spending the next thirty years in prison. You, on the other hand, won't be seeing the outside of a prison cell until the day they you are taken out in a body bag. Nor will you be able to see any of your mother's family due to the nature of your crime. If your father's family wishes to see you, they may. I wouldn't count on it, though. This isn't something that is going to go away with a check book, young lady. Which reminds me: according to the bank records that were provided, there was $7000 that was in that envelope. The bank did record the serial numbers of every single one of those bills. If they happen to show up in anything that you have, you will be facing additional charges of theft as well. Why on earth would you want to poison your own father?"
Her eyes flashed as they narrowed. "I hate him," she said simply. "Mom wanted him out of the way, and I was happy to help her."
"That's a shame," said Jessica softly. "Because the entire time the EMT's were working on your father, his only concern was for you. He said to tell you that he loves you."
Jessica watched as Molly's face twisted as if she had handled something repugnant. "I'm not one bit sorry for what I did. That – Earl was trying to take MY money for something I didn't even do! Stupid dorkkie Daddy GAVE him MY MONEY to make thing right! He was already dead when I got there anyway! I didn't kill him. And I don't believe that the dog didn't belong to that snot-nosed kid from the hospital. He was buying a doggy squeak toy for it yesterday. No one just buys a toy for a dog if they don't have one!"
Shaking her head Jessica corrected Molly. "Ian was helping my great nephew Frank pick one out for Frank's dog. The dog you happened to poison belonged to my neighbor, who owns a very special little dog who didn't deserve any harm come to her."
"Like I would want to care?" answered Molly with deep sarcasm.
Mort shook his head, sighing "Lets go, 'Princess," he said, sighing.
Molly balked. Bending her knees she sat back on the floor. If there was one thing that she learned, it was how to become an immovable object when her father wanted her to go some where. Clamping her mouth shut she knew one other thing that had always gotten her way. Mort raised an eyebrow as she turned purple and slumped to the side. In a few seconds her color returned, accompanied by the sound of soft snoring.
"What the …?" said Mort softly.
Jessica stifled a giggle. "Exhaustion, no doubt. Something she didn't count on happening… Well, it looks like your job has just become easier, Mort… though I have a better place in mind to keep sleeping beauty."
"Oh? And where would that be?"
Taylor paced in her kitchen glancing at the phone. Willie came from the back of the house with his knuckles bandaged and regarded his wife.
"Dearest Wife, Angela knows her craft. She will hook her up to fluids and stay with her for the night. I know it's natural to fret so, but you're here because of the fret - and our little ones. You need to be calm now…"
"I am calm … I just need to – walk a bit before I find the person who did this and beat them senseless. She's been a part of my life – she's saved me… and if it wasn't for her curiosity, we might never have met. I'm angry and I'm scared, and I can't relax, I keep feeling the night won't let me sleep because the evening isn't done yet. I feel as if I should be there - I know I can't be holding her paw, but, in case…"
The brisk ring of the phone interrupted her. Willie stepped back picking it up off of the cradle. Taylor could hear the panicked voice at the other end and was striding across the kitchen to the dining room where Willie's medical bag was. Willie hung up the phone and clutched the bag.
"Come along, you'll need to know," he said, leading her across the back through Jessica's rose garden to the back porch. It wasn't locked - Jessica never locked her back door except when she was away.
Frank came flying halfway down the steps. "She's up here!" he exclaimed then ran back up to his mother's room.
Willie took the steps two at a time. Taylor hesitated, stepping into the parlor for a moment she went to Ian and stood in the door watching him sleep with a peaceful smile on his face. She was about to turn when she saw movement at the front door. Curious, she went and opened the door. A slender older woman with wispy reddish grey hair and twinkling blue eyes regarded her.
"I saw the lights on, I'm an old friend, is there anything I can do? Would you wish for me to sit with Ian while you help your husband?" Taylor found herself nodding and allowing the woman to come in. There was a thudding of footsteps behind them.
"Willie needs some bath towels and I can't reach them."
Taylor looked back at the elderly woman. "Go on dear. Everything will be fine."
Nodding, Taylor followed Frank up the steps to the linen closet then into the bedroom where Donna lay drenched in sweat.
"I called the emergency number and told them it was time for the baby, but, they said that both of the ambulances were in use, and Dr. Hazlitt is at the hospital. She didn't want you to be the one, you know … but I do."
"Frank, you, know it's much too early for all of this," said Taylor gently.
She saw Frank take Donna's hand and sit on her bedside. "I know."
Ian's nose twitched as he drew in a gentle breath. Something smelt familiar, of home, of his mothers embrace. Rubbing away the sleep in his eyes he saw someone sitting on the side of the sofa, holding his other hand. His face broke into a grin, then a puzzled frown.
"It's lovely to see you again, but what are you doing here?"
"I had a bit of a word, with your gram the other day, and she said there was a need, so I came," Aurth stated in a matter-of-fact tone. She didn't let go of his hand as she sat waiting for him to absorb what she had said. For a moment Ian puzzled over her words turning his face curious he regarded her before looking up to the room where Donna was.
"Isn't that why I am here?" he asked, curious.
Bending over Aurth kissed Ian's forehead. "Someday, after a long journey, you may take that path again. But not today."
"But they haven't found that doctor you told me about… and nae what they are doing has made a difference. I know what they speak of Aurth. Let it be me an ye can go on helping people. I'm na important enough to fret over. I'm only another mouth to feed for the family…" he said, touching her thin arm with his hand.
"Ian. We spoke of this before… "
Ian flung his arms around her and clung to her for a moment. "Whereever my path leads, I wish it to cross yours many times," he said.
She gave him a kiss on the head, then slipping from his arms she disappeared into the darkness. Ian laid back down on the sofa, tears spilling over his cheeks. He could hear the voices upstairs - Frank's, urgent, choked with emotion, Willie's guiding, scolding, Taylor's voice he couldn't make out. He knew the walk up the steps would nearly finish him. He had to know though. Struggling to sit up he grabbed the edge of the sofa and saw Jessica's cane leaning against the arm of it. It was agony, each step sending a jolt through him as he clumped up the steps. For a moment he thought he saw Aurth standing at the side of the bed, with her hand on Frank's shoulder.
A rushing silence filled the room. Ian saw Willie lift a tiny bundle upward , then lay it down, bending over it, Willie raised his head, blood was on his mouth and he lowered his head again for a moment, then raised it. Ian walked around to the foot of the bed and touched Donna's foot with his small hand. He held onto her big toe as the rushing noise filled his head allowing him to hear a heart beat not so far away.
There was a sound in the silence. A mewling sound reached Ian's ears as his tears splashed down onto Donna's cold foot. Willie looked up, there were tears on his face as he lifted the tiny bundle into his arms wrapping it in the fluffy towels. Donna's foot jerked beneath Ian's hand. A moan issued from her as she stirred.
Carefully Willie placed the tiny baby in her arms. "It's a wee lass. She's beautiful. She has red hair and the bluest eyes I ha ever seen," said Willie to Donna, who was craning her neck about to see her newborn child.
"She's so tiny…" said Donna softly as the wail of the ambulance sirens came closer to the house. She regarded Willie curiously. "It happened just like in my dream, but, why didn't I die?"
Ian spoke softly from the end of the bed. "It wasn't your time to follow that path, Mum."
Donna glanced down at him - he was still holding onto her toe. For a moment their eyes met, and then she nodded.
Mort drained the old coffee into the sink and with a slow swish of warm water rinsed out the pot before placing cold water in it to refill the machine. Letting it brew a while he dug into his pocket and withdrew several quarters, plunking them into the hospital vending machine. They had been in the emergency waiting room when the ambulance with Donna and Willie had arrived. Taylor had followed in her car with Ian and Frank, and waited with Jessica while Seth and Willie went up to the nursery floor with Donna and baby Fletcher. Mort had been there when the baby had opened her eyes and fixed Seth with such a look - and then made a cooing noise followed by a sigh, and a sleepy smile. He had never seen a child that small - yet, the doctors who had peeked in on her had said everything seemed fine thanks to the resuscitation Willie had given her when she was born.
The hospital had placed the baby in an incubator in Donna's room and for a while Ian sat next to the incubator before placing his hand in. The nurse was about to scold him when they saw the most remarkable thing. The baby wrapped her tiny hand around his pinky, and sighed. Her vital signs improved and she breathed easier. They could hear him speaking to the baby, but only Willie could understand what he was saying. When asked, Willie smiled. "A bed time story…" he said then gave Ian a once over with a raised eyebrow.
After washing his hands Frank walked over to the incubator and shoved a chair beside it, sat and placed his hand in the waldo on the other side. Following what Ian had done, he felt his little sister wrap her hand around his finger as well.
Willie could see the nurse beginning to bristle. Such things were not done on her ward. It was only at the request of Dr. Hazlitt that the child had been brought into Donna's room instead of the nursery with the other babies. Baby Fletcher had been born at home, had been exposed to germs already, had had to be resuscitated. Nothing that would be done at this point could change what Baby Fletcher's chances would be.
"Mom? What are we going to name her?" asked Frank, playing his thumb over her tiny fingers. Not getting a response he looked up. Donna was curled up on her side watching the two boys, a sadness on her face.
"I … we will wait until your father comes home. It has to be a family decision," she said at last.
Jessica watched as Donna clutched the blanket fabric, needing something to hold on to. She stood from the chair in the corner she had been sitting in and said softly, "I'm going to stretch my legs for a bit, I'll be back shortly."
Outside the room Jessica walked down the hall to where the window looked out over the parking lot. A warm hand touched her shoulder. She turned into Seth's arms and laid her head on his chest.
"The baby doesn't seem real to her, Jessica. Donna understands the odds, and she is distancing herself from her child because she knows if she gives the baby a name, Baby Fletcher becomes real, and losing her is that much harder."
Squeezing away the tears Jessica said firmly, "We are not going to lose her! We can't… We can't lose her." Balling up her fists she placed them on his shoulders. "We have to do everything we can, and then some to… to…" Words failed her as she opened her eyes and saw the sorrow on Seth's face as he shook his head slowly.
"She's too young, Jessica. Too underweight. Donna knows that. We can provide hydration, and nutrition and comfort measures, but it's only a matter of …"
Seth saw anger in Jessica's eyes as his voice faltered. She stepped back from him, distancing herself. "I am tired of losing friends, and family members just because doctors give up and refuse to try! If traditional medicine will fail, then isn't it time that something nontraditional is used? Look what happened when Ian reached in the incubator and she took his finger! Didn't her vitals improve? I've read where the youngest preemie responds to touch far better than any medication or treatment protocol, where they had given up on the children - holding them and the physical touch heals …"
Sighing, Seth lowered his head. "Dear, even if Baby Fletcher survives the night, and tomorrow, and grows up… there are hundreds of birth defects she may face that we don't know about now… mental challenges."
"Then we will face them Seth. I need to know right now if you're just going to do nothing, or will you help?" Jessica demanded. She saw the look on Seth's face.
"You know I will do everything I can, Jessica, and that this baby is as dear to me as my own," Seth said softly, using the palm of his hand to wipe away her tears. "Now if you are quite done, I think its time that Taylor and Willie get Ian back to his own bed. I know I won't be able to budge Frank away from her side, so perhaps you can take Ian's place and tell her some bed time stories, or at least about the people who love her. Maybe Donna needs to hear that, too."
They passed Willie who was speaking to a nurse at the station as they went in. He nodded to them and took a breath before heading for the elevator and walking down the hall towards the sound of someone speaking in a very loud demanding voice. There was no easy way to do this. Gathering up himself he strode into the room where Jordan was wide awake and glaring at the orderly who had pushed her bed to one side and was bringing in another bed.
"I'm to always have a private room!" she snarled to the hapless orderly.
"Ah, well, Deirfiúr
, that's because no one here wishes to be your room mate, and I am sure the young lass who is going to be moved in here will be wishing the same soon enough. But it's the only empty bed that the hospital has that's available, and perhaps some good may come of it after all."
Willie closed the doors as the orderlies went out, shaking their heads. He knew that Molly was downstairs getting evaluated and admitted, and run through the tests that CYS had required from what Seth had told him. She would be a bit
"I don't care if the young lady sleeps in the hall!" said Jordan, glaring at him, her voice shaking in fury.
"Hold your gab, Jordan. It's nae by much choice that she is here or you – an' it's either here or a jail cell. She's nae even ten and she's just like you, save that she hates her father enough to wish him harm, and she's killed a man tonight. She doesn't see anything wrong with how she feels, or what she did."
"So? That has nothing to do with me."
"Deirfiúr, your mother never taught you anger or hate or greed, you had that all on your own. Consider this a chance to look into a mirror of a younger self, and maybe make a decision of what's right and good for a change."
"Excuse me, but you've mistaken me for someone who cares," Jordan said dryly.
"She poisoned Sydney just to hurt Ian - she harmed an innocent creature. She poisoned a total stranger, and her own father, and then tried to incriminate someone else. She did it because her mother told her to. "
"What do you expect ME to do about it? Wag my finger and tell her no?"
"I would, expect, Deirfiúr, that you would enlighten her as to what is ahead for her. Her father didn't deserve any of this. From what I know of him, he is a good man. An' we know that nothing coming out of her mouth would shock, or offend you. You're well suited for each other."
Fixing him with a glare Jordan fell silent for a moment "You owe me," she said at last.
Willie crossed over to her bedside, bent over and pressed his lips softly to her lips giving her a kiss. "Debt's paid," he said simply before striding to the door and out to where his wife waited.
"Let's gather kin and go home, wife," he said softly.
Jessica settled in where Ian had been sitting and with Baby Fletcher, holding her small finger she softly told her about her uncle Frank and the Fletchers, and the McGills, speaking until her voice was only a whisper. Frank had fallen asleep where he was. Donna lay still curled on her side watching Jessica.
"None of this seems real, Aunt Jessica…" Donna said at last in a soft voice. "I feel different inside. Like I've never know what its like to know love."
The knock on the front door was insistent waking Willie from the tendrils of bliss as Taylor snuggled next to him gathering warmth from him on the cool summer's morning. He kissed his wife softly before rising watching her smile.
"Pants, husband…" she said grinning.
"It could well be Tipper, she doesn't care. She's a doctor herself," he said reaching for just his robe.
"She said she would call first, she knows where the key is under the flower pot. Might be a reporter. Pants, Husband."
"Ahch, alright then, but no shoes… just would have to take them off again when I climb back in with you," he said, reaching over to the chair and grabbing the first thing his hand came in contact with. He heard Taylor's soft chuckle.
Sighing he strode from the room taking a moment to glance through Ian's door to see him still curled up under the covers. The wooden steps were cold under his feet as he scurried down them sideways. They would need an addition, or a change of design, he thought as he crossed the living room. Perhaps the lofts over the kitchen with a door …
His thoughts came to a halt as he opened up the door. A tall, well dressed thin woman with graying hair and hazel eyes regarded him as he stood bare foot with the robe about his shoulders and his wife's powder blue with daisy sweat pants on.
"Good morning, may I help you?" he asked as she blinked rapidly.
"I'm looking for Grady Fletcher. I - I have his address as the place next door, but no one seems to be home. Would you happen to know where he is? I'm Gretchen Bishop."
"Mister Fletcher is in Ireland assisting on a matter for my family. He's nae due until the end of the week, but we've tried to get him on the nearest flight home. From my understanding, he wasn't working with any other clients. What would your interest in him be?"
Gretchen blinked several more times. "I … I don't quite know how to say what I have been told. Grady managed many of my family accounts for years, and while his leaving of the firm was said to be of his choosing, well, he still had access to all of the accounts for my family. Last night a large sum was removed after hours from my niece's account and delivered to Cabot Cove by a special courier. The bank called me right after it happened and I drove all night to get here this morning." She shivered in the brisk morning air that went through her stylish coat as she saw him furrow his eyebrows.
Taking in a breath he opened the door. "Come in out of the cold, lass, I'll make you a cuppa. There are things you might well to be knowing."
Gretchen hesitated, then nodding, entered into the house and glanced about. Offering her a place on the sofa, he started the water for the tea and returned to where she was sitting. He let out a breath and pulled up a chair next to her.
"First, Mister Fletcher was not involved with the funds transfer, your brother did to pay for damages that he was told your niece Molly did to a local shop. An' that's known to the police because the shop owner was found dead last night after the money was delivered. I have only just met your brother Harrison briefly, yesterday. He seems a nice enough chap, though, I am sorry to say your niece's nae the best of children. "
Rolling her eyes, Gretchen groaned. "Oh what's she done now?"
Leaning forward he took her hand in his. "Miss Bishop, there is no easy way to say this except directly: she's been taken into police custody for murder, and conspiracy to commit murder against your brother. Her mother's been arrested as well for it."
"Is Harrison all right? Where is he? What did she do to him?" asked Gretchen with a rising sense of panic.
Willie held onto her hand and placed his other hand on her shoulder to keep her from bolting out the door. "He will be fine in a few days. She's admitted that on her mothers instructions she was to give him a medication to make him sleep, and then she was to join them where they were. Molly decided to, make the arrangement permanent. She placed some in his lemonade, while Earl Shapp was calling on them – he was the shop owner that she destroyed shelves and merchandise in yesterday. Earl got some of the medication ether by accident, or design, and it killed him. Your brother had at least a full meal in him and when he was found, he was alive, and coherent. She snuck out after he had fallen asleep and went to get her money, took it, and then came up here to do more mischief. If she hadn't, there wouldn't have been evidence to connect her to the crime."
"More mischief? What did she do?" Gretchen asked, puzzled.
Ian's voice came from the foot of the steps. "She put down green stuff that poisoned Sydney because she called me names, and I told her to get on with herself, and it came to blows."
Gretchen saw him lean against the wall. Patting the seat beside her she indicated for him to come and sit down beside her. Shyly Ian walked over and sat looking up at her as the whistle for the tea kettle called Willie into the kitchen. Leaning against the counter while the tea brewed he heard Gretchen say to Ian,
"I am very sorry, that she has caused you distress. Her upbringing wasn't by our choice, and we have tried everything we can to change her behavior. Molly's mother married my brother because she believed he was wealthy. Harrison has a talent, a gift, in what he does and he does it very well. He just doesn't have any business sense, and the only thing Julia knows how to do with money is spend it. Harrison did have the sense, though, to insist the bank account of his daughter not have her mothers name on it, and that part of the child support be placed into it. You said she was taken into police custody - where is she now?"
"At the hospital. Na wrong with her, but Aunt Jessica felt it would be a better place for her to spend a few nights. She has very special room mate." Willie saw the curious glance Gretchen gave him.
Molly woke and tried to sit up. Frowning she opened her eyes to find herself in bed and something on her wrists that were wrapped with lambs wool. She gave a tug to free herself and found that she couldn't move.
"HEY! WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?" Molly shouted. She heard a creak of springs to her left and turned her head. "HEY GET ME OUT OF THIS ******* THING!"
"Shut up," said a tired voice behind the curtain near the source of the creak.
"What? How ****** DARE you tell me to shut up!" Molly snapped.
"I said SHUT UP!" said the voice.
"Who the **** do you think you are?" demanded Molly.
There was a chuckle of grim satisfaction from behind the curtain. "More trouble than your worth." A long gripper hand poked at the edge of the curtain and moved it out of the way. Jordan turned her head and looked directly at Molly as the child continued to try to escape. Frustrated, Molly turned at the sound of the curtain pulling and gasped in shock. Jordan's bandages had been removed showing the angry burns on her face and her eye, sunken back in the socket.
"I'm you, in about thirty years, if you live that long. Selfish, manipulative - you name a commandment, I've broken it more than once. You might think I got what I deserved… and you may be right. But when I look at you, I don't see a pretty little girl, I see a monster, like me…"
"I'M NOT A MONSTER!" snarled Molly. She saw Jordan begin to laugh, and watched, puzzled, as the laughter continued. "What's so funny, bitch?"
Jordan regarded Molly still smiling. "You…" she said with a grin. "You don't even recognize what you are. Not even a proper monster at that. I always knew I was a monster, and I was proud of it. There are times when its good, and times when its bad… You're bad at it because you don't know when to stop. You don't know the difference between hurt, and harm… Hurt, you can get away with for years… Harm, you get caught at, which you did. And then its game over."
Molly regarded Jordan with an icy glare. "You got caught because you were stupid you mean," she said contemptuously. She saw Jordan sigh.
"I got caught, because I did something very selfish. I forgot that others loved me for myself. I did learn that family is often more forgiving than strangers are, and that, in the end, there are all kinds of hurt in the world, you end up hurting yourself, more than others."
"I don't care. He was mean to my mother, and I hate him." Molly spat back at her. "I don't want to have him a part of my life at all."
"Did you ever see him being mean to her?" Jordan asked curious. She saw Molly's hesitation.
"My mom said he was mean to her," Molly said finally.
"Ohhhh, I see. And was he ever mean to you?"
Molly snorted. It was half a laugh, and half an exclamation of contempt. "Lots of times. He would take my things away from me and lock them up so that I would have to do things with him, Like stupid lame ass trip. And he sent me to bed with out supper last night. I'd say that was mean."
"You had nothing to eat all day?" pressed Jordan.
"Well … I did have a couple candy bars …" Molly admitted.
"That you stole," said Jordan, raising an eyebrow as she watched the young girl pull back, startled that Jordan would know that.
Jessica looked up at the sound of footsteps entering into the room. She hadn't realized that she had dozed off with her hand still in the waldo, still having Baby Fletcher holding tightly onto her finger. Donna was asleep, finally. Frank was awake, humming a nameless lullaby. She turned her head and focused on Seth who was regarding the incubator, and the baby within – watching the even breathing of the child. From the hour, she knew his shift was done. His voice was low as he approached them.
"I've been able to get a hold of Grady, he is on his way home … and I was able to take a peek at Earls autopsy report. There wasn't enough Phenobarbital in his system to kill him, even with the mixture of alcohol and anti-depressants in his bloodstream. There was, however, enough of a certain tranquilizer in his blood to stop a bull elephant from charging at Macy's and several round puncture marks on his chest from darts that delivered it. The type that Tipper uses. Two of them that close to the heart, in that dose would have killed him with in seconds."
"Seth, she was with Willie – she wouldn't have!" Jessica saw the struggle on Seth's face.
"Andy found them, and when he did he got a search warrant, and looked into Tipper's car, and found the case under the back seat with two of them missing - her prints are on them, on the case, and no one else's. Mort's asleep now, so Andy took it upon himself to do it, Mort doesn't know … Andy is going to wait until Mort is awake before serving the warrant for her arrest," Seth explained with a sigh.
"You don't believe Angela would do that!" said Frank with worry in his voice. Frank saw Jessica regard him, pressing her lips together.
She allowed herself to breath. "No, we don't. Though she was in the area prior to his death, just a few doors up from where he was found, and she did say she went to see him to clear her sheet, and if the prints are on the darts, it – complicates things," Seth replied.
Shaking her head Jessica tried to keep the panic out of her voice. She could see Baby Fletcher was regarding her, and panic was not something that she wanted to relay to this precious bundle. "There has to be another reason for all of it… Seth, do you know where she is at right now?"
She saw Seth nodding. "She's still at her clinic- spent the night there. You're thinking of interfering with a police investigation, aren't you?" he inquired with a bit of scolding in his voice.
Frank looked at Jessica, a silent pleading in his eyes. She gave him a small unexpected wink then looked back to Seth.
"Not at all. I would be appreciative, though, if you would take me to the clinic to see how Sydney is doing, and if she is well enough, perhaps transport her back to Taylor's house. I know that Willie will be coming here later, and that it would be great relief for Taylor to have Sydney home again."
Sighing, Seth nodded then watched as Jessica murmured something to Baby Fletcher and Frank. She extracted her hands from the waldo and slowly stood up. He knew that from all of those hours here Jessica needed sleep in her own bed, but she wouldn't rest until she knew all was well with her family. And Tipper was family. The notion that she would use the tranqs on Earl was ridiculous. She had threatened to kill him, though… Seth let out a slow and steady breath. He hoped Andy was wrong.
Jessica noticed that the sign on the door to the animal clinic said CLOSED and the hours of the clinic notified people that it would open at ten. Seth took a breath and withdrew a key from his key ring and inserted it into the lock and knocked on the door as he opened it. There was no answer from with in. Jessica regarded Seth, who shrugged.
"Shared pharmacy. Walt Trudy and that new dentist have one too. It makes more sense to have a centralized pharmacy to keep extras in a pinch than to wake up someone over in Portland."
Closing the door behind them and latching it, Jessica followed Seth through the waiting room back to where the animals were kept if they were staying over night. The walls around the door were covered with small needle-sized holes working their way up from the base of the door frame to just above at shoulder length. In a small doggie bed that had been placed on the desk lay Sydney hooked up to an IV. She was covered with a square of a blanket and they could see Tipper sitting at the desk with her head down on the keyboard. Jessica touched Tipper's shoulder waking her up. With a groan Tipper sat up and looked around with a foggy expression.
"Good morning," Seth said to her, trying to hide a grin.
"What?" Tipper asked, narrowing her eyes at him
"I believe the medical term is known as Keyboarditis," Jessica murmured.
"Hmm? Oh, yeah. What time is it?" she asked, blinking as she leaned over Sydney and checked the flow rate of the IV.
"A bit after 8. Tipper, tell me about the darts for your tranq gun?" asked Jessica.
She saw Tipper yawn, and cover her mouth, then shrug. "Not much to them, they have two types, one that are pre-loaded, but those are for when we have to go after larger animals, say a moose or bear wanders into town, the others are loaded here, and then tagged with the right dosage, if we know were going after a porcupine. When we get a shipment in, they are counted and weighed - sometimes they get under dosed by accident then they are repacked in the box. We keep both here/ I carry a few in my trunk as well as one of the tranq guns. We have three for this practice, and the game commission has two - we load the darts for them too. When they are spent, or if they are duds, we turn them in for their brass, and the CO2 cartridges get reloaded."
"Who did the CO2 re loading?" asked Seth, curious.
"Earl at the mini mart. He had the permit to handle the gas as a side to his bait and tackle corner. They were shipped to him too sometimes, there was a bunch of tree huggers who were tagging the white tail deer population a week ago. Earl had me load a few dozen for them. Why?" inquired Tipper curiously.
A familiar cough in the door caused them all to turn their heads to see a very tired Mort standing in the door frame.
"The stuff in the darts - your darts to be specific - was what killed Earl," Mort sighed
"What? No way! How?" gasped Tipper, shocked.
For a moment Mort just looked at Tipper. It was evident from the shock on her face she didn't have any idea about the darts. He knew he should have been furious with Doc Hazlitt and Mrs. F for coming over to question Tipper before he could - but in a way, he wanted in his heart to believe that the young woman he knew, respected and cared for would be incapable of such a deed.
"When the blood work came back on Earl, they found a lethal dose in his system, and Andy went back to the store and found two of them with your prints on that had Earl's blood on the tip, He obtained a search warrant for your car and discovered the box that had the serial numbers from the darts, and two of them were missing on the back seat covered with a coat," Mort finished as he watched Tipper shake her head with disbelief.
"But I don't secure my darts in the car area - they have a case that's locked in the trunk with the tranq gun - and that one's full. You know that, Mort - ever since that deer hit my car I can't get the door to lock and I wouldn't keep anything like that in the car," Tipper said with exasperation.
Mort found Seth, Jessica and even Sydney regard him as he leaned against the door frame. "How do you explain only your fingerprints were found on the darts, and the box?" he inquired, raising his eyebrow as he studied the young woman before him. He watched as her eyebrows furrowed as she struggled to answer.
"I've probably handled every single dart that's come into this county, Mort, but the thing is, once they get loaded into the gun and fired, the energy exchange as they go through the barrels would destroy any of the prints. When I last signed off on the ones that Earl had, he had sixteen boxes of brass waiting to be dosed, three for the tree huggers. I have six boxes, four for small animals, and two for larger. I've got two of the small in my trunk and one for the larger, and the other three are in the back pharmacy area. There is a log book that lists each of the darts and that's with them in the pharmacy area - anyone that uses them has to sign off on when they were removed. The only reason why my car is parked still in the community lot is that after I went to see Earl yesterday after dinner I checked in on Millie's kittens and had dessert with them. I went to Willie's shop, and talked to him. He had seen Earl after I did, and he was alive enough to try to pick a fight with Willie, then I got two calls on my pager both from Earls pay phone, Willie went with me and we found him dead. A good twenty minutes had passed between the time that I arrived at the shop and when we found him. Then we got the call that Sydney had been poisoned and you drove us up to the house and you brought me here."
"Mind if I check your inventory?" Mort inquired, looking in the direction of the pharmacy. He saw Tipper wave her hand in its direction.
Seth drew in a breath. "I'll go with you, I know where they are." Leading the way, he opened the lock with practiced ease and swung the door open, holding it for Mort. Seth hesitated fighting an irresistible urge to lock the door with Mort inside and to encourage Tipper to run for it. Mort had the knack of dragging the wrong people into jail for half-baked notions. Sighing, he followed Mort in and closed the door between them. He had seen a look in Jessica's eyes when Tipper had been explaining, and he had a notion Jessica had a few quick questions for their favorite vet.
Jessica watched as Tipper checked the IV and bent her head low to murmur in Tippers ear. "When you said that Willie saw Earl after you did, was that when they fought?"
Tipper glanced up at Jessica. Just as softly she said with worry in her voice "He said that Earl was at his door step drunk as a skunk and he took a swing at him because he had sent Kent Fordham to prison - he's due to go to the chair in two days and that Earl was in a state - that he said he would see Willie and his family dead before Kent was, and that Earl started the fight when he turned about. He said he dumped a bucket of water for the dogs over his head and left him outside his shop nursing a headache. Jess - the Mini Mart is three blocks away. No one said they saw the two of them fighting the length of the street, and Willie wouldn't have escorted him back to the Mini Mart…"
Pulling her desk chair over, Tipper guided Jessica to sit down in it and watched her as she saw her face pale. "Jessica?" What is it?"
The sound of the men returning from the pharmacy area made Jessica shake her head as she tried to digest what Tipper had said. She had seen Willie before as he fought Kent, the righteous anger against him for what Kent's family had done to Willie's. The sole comfort she had was that the beating Earl had from illie wasn't what had killed him. She couldn't shake though the cold feeling that something more had happened.
"Well, yours are all accounted for, and now that we know how many boxes we are dealing with, we can figure out where they came from." Mort waved the clip board that had the serial numbers "Why do you do all of these numbers anyway - they are just darts…" he asked curious.
Tipper didn't answer at first as she carefully withdrew the IV from Sydney's neck. "We treat them just like we do the syringes that have medication in them. They have a shelf life, and it's easier to know the date by the serial number than rely on guessing or a number scrawled on the side of the box. If they get too old, it may not work and if you need to drop a bull moose, you have to be sure to do it in one shot."
"What about that group, the one you called the tree huggers, they would have to have a permit then… how does that work?" pressed Mort. He watched as she took great care to swab the area and tape a square of gauze to Sydney's neck.
She waved a hand to the clip board. "Each one they buy would be logged and they have a deposit they pay if they aren't returned. When they do return the spent ones, they get the deposit back. They don't travel that far and they are easy to find. We've only lost about five of them to damage over the last four years. That happens when they hit a tree instead of the animal." Tipper moved the blanket that covered Sydney and checked the bag that was hooked to her.
Both Mort and Jessica heard Seth say, "Damn" and looked at him in surprise.
Tipper emptied the bag, sealed it then removed the tubing before recovered Sydney with the blanket. "Syd's had other health issues. The antifreeze and everything else, just made it worse. There is nothing more that I can do for her," she said simply, tears coming to her eyes. Pressing her eyes tightly for a moment she opened them and then looked at Mort.
"How did you get a copy of my prints anyway?" she asked her eyes narrowing with suspicion.
Mort hesitated. When he first had acquired them he had been pleased with how he had done it. Now he found himself swallowing, his mouth dry. Anyway that he would say it, she would become angry with him, at the very least, demonstrate the use of that sleeve she had.
"After you ducked out on him twice when he tried to fingerprint you the time that this Nightshade nonsense broke, Mort followed up on your gun permit, and obtained a copy of them from the state. They've been framed behind his desk on the wall for the last couple of years. He used them as a teaching aid for Andy and Floyd – its probably how they were able to make a match so fast with the darts and the box," supplied Seth.
Holding his breath, Mort waited for an explosion from her that didn't come.
"What now?" asked Mort finally to Jessica as Tipper bundled Sydney in her blanket and lifted her into her arms.
"I think a few hours sleep in familiar surroundings would be an excellent idea. If Sydney is well enough to be released, we can take Tipper to Willie's with us when Seth drops me off, and then to her home. Things may be come clearer then," stated Jessica. She saw Mort's eyebrows flick upward. She could tell he knew perfectly well there was something she had learned from Tipper when the two of them were checking the darts. He knew he could make an issue of it. He knew, just as simply, he could let Jessica come to him when she had it all figured out. There was more to the evenings events, more to what every one was saying. In all the years that he had worked with Jessica, she had always been honest with him, never doing it just to get publicity for the books or to show him up. There was an element of trust that he held for her. She didn't flinch as he looked her in the eye. What ever she knew involved someone she deeply cared about.
"Pecan Pie" he said at last folding his arms over his chest. Jessica made the best Pecan pie he had ever had. If he was going to wait on what she knew, it at least had to be worth his while. He watched as Tipper bit her bottom lip and looked down at Sydney. "and a mince meat…" he nodded. "And I won't think of it as a bribe."
The two women glanced at each other. Seth chimed in. "I'll do the peach pear pie…" Mort turned and regarded Seth. He couldn't help but to blurt out "What makes you think Willie did it Doc? Because that it the only person left in the mix that Mrs. F would want to have time to talk with before deciding what to do. You don't even make your peach pear pies for the hospital charity events- so it had to be someone in the family and you have a fair idea why or you wouldn't offer." Mort eyed Tipper as she looked down at Sydney. She couldn't meet his gaze. He sighed and pulled up another chair for her and sat on the edge of the desk. "You'd better tell me everything."
Sighing Tipper sat down still holding Sydney in her arms, She didn't speak for a moment as she weighed her words. "He called me from his cell, and asked if I could meet him at his shop. When I arrived he was working on his loom, he does that when he has to think. His knuckles were bashed up from the fight with Earl, he said that Earl was waiting for him at the shop door and that he left him at the door after dumping a bucket of dog water on his head. He said Earl went on about Kent, and that he would see Willie and his family dead before Kent was. I wanted to get them cleaned up and he said to leave it. He… he told me that you had asked him to help establish the testing center and he wanted me to help at it… he said that, Ian, wanted to go home, back to Ireland because he knew he was going to die and that when they would go, they wouldn't be coming back, that, Taylor wouldn't be able to make the return flight. He knew how close Ian and Frank have become, and that it would be best for Frank to only know that Ian went quietly in his sleep, not, dieing by the inches. "
Letting out a long slow breath Mort shifted on the corner of the desk. "The timing is off. We have a statement from Elisa Trudy, we found the insurance claim for the damages on his counter and called her. She arrived after Willie and Earl got into it, and he was very much alive when the currier came with the envelope. Unless you have other reason to think he was involved after she left? Willie doesn't seem like the type to be skulking in the bushes…"
Mort watched Tipper shake her head before glancing over to Jessica. Her face still held the same pale expression. Jessica noticed that Mort was looking at her.
"Brandied Rhubarb," she said at last. Mort almost fell off of the desk.
"Mrs. F, that's a bribe." He had heard about that pie from the last Cabot Cove Fall Festival, heard that it went so fast at twenty-five dollars for a very thin slice that even the pie pan had been snatched up by Sam and he had been found in the closet of the kitchen area licking the juice from the bottom. That one pie had brought in almost five hundred dollars for the Theater renovation fund.
Jessica pinched her lips together making a thin line. She couldn't look at Mort for a moment.
He gripped the edge of the desk and for a moment he regarded her. "What time did Taylor leave your house to let Sydney out? We have it on Tipper's pager for the time that she called. She went over to feed her, and then to let her out but only you would be able to tell us the time that she went over to her house. She was alone, and I don't see her as the type to stand there watching her dog eat. She doesn't have an alibi for that time, does she? And that occurred to you – when?"
Ian opened the door for Tipper and Mort. He could see that Jessica had a sad look on her face and that Seth was somber as well.
"The wee lass is alright, isn't she?" he asked, allowing them to enter. "Ohh, is Sydney better then? Aunt's still in distress with na having her. Uncle's gone up to see why she didn't come down when company was here." He watched as Tipper placed Sydney on the floor and she slowly made her way to the steps and the clatter of her little toenails informed them she was on her way up them. "You just missed Ms Bishop, Tha's Molly's aunt, she's on the way to the hospital to sort things out for her brother Harrison."
From upstairs a loud howl echoed off of the walls. Ian gave a start and crossed himself "Banshees!" he gasped, stepping to Jessica for protection.
Faint words of memory came to Tipper as she heard Sydney howl.
"Why didn't you let go?"
"I was told not to…"
Upstairs the howls stopped, then Willie came down stairs and saw Mort and Seth looking concerned. "Everything is fine. Wife was getting dressed and Miss Sydney didn't like the door to be closed between them. Why are you all looking so somber?" he asked, curious as Taylor's footsteps were heard coming down the stairway slowly.
"Mort's reasoned that Tipper doesn't have an alibi," said Seth a bit gruffly.
Willie blinked in surprise. "Oh. I expect she doesn't but would she be needing it? She wouldn't risk the children for a squabble with Earl, nor did she have a way of knowing anything was amiss. She was with Jessica until she came to feed Sydney."
Mort blinked a few times. "Fine. We will leave your statement as that unless I find something else. I understand taking her in won't do her health any good. In the meantime, perhaps it would be a good idea if Doc escorts Mrs. F. and Tipper over to Mrs. F.'s house and tuck them in while Willie has a brief discussion with Ian regarding horticulture."
Opening her mouth and then closing it, Tipper was about to say she didn't need tucked in and drawing in a breath said to Mort. "I'm okay. I will do better in my own bed. I just have a message for Willie and Taylor before I head home."
Mort gave a curt nod then escorted the three out the side door and after instructing Ian to stay on the back porch, he helped Seth take Jessica home.
Tipper took a breath and bent her head low so that she wouldn't be over heard as she whispered to both Willie and Taylor, "The woman last night - the one who came to the shop, she had a message for you … at least I – she said she could never pronounce your name properly - I guess it must be you …. 'that ivy and clover may grow anywhere, but a bird will only nest when its safe, and that it is now safe to nest.' I don't have a clue as to what it means…"
"What did she look like?" Taylor asked, curious.
"She was older, her hair had to be red at one time, and she had twinkling blue eyes. I know most everyone in town, and she's not a resident." She watched as Willie drew in a breath and for a moment he said nothing. Giving a nod to her he thanked her for taking care of Sydney then went out on the back porch and closed the door between them. Her attention was drawn to the serious look upon his face.
"What's he on about?" Tipper watched as Willie's brow furrowed.
"Something's been planted that shouldn't have been," Taylor answered. In silence they watched Willie walk around to the outside of the deck until he stood level with Ian who listened to what Willie was saying. There was a curious expression on Ian's face as he looked between the slats of the deck then back to Willie, clearly paying attention. She watched as Ian's shoulders sagged slightly then tearing her gaze away from what was happening outside she glanced back at Taylor.
"Do you have any idea what that woman meant?" Tipper asked, curious. "Willie said last night that, well, you were leaving to take Ian back home to ... to die and that you wouldn't be coming back." Tipper's closed her eyes for a moment.
She heard Taylor sigh before saying, "Willie is afraid."
"Of what? He was going on about the children being born smaller - something about a recessive gene. With triplets they will be smaller of course, but – still …"
"Willie always believed that each generation was taller than the next, but finding his father, he realized that it wasn't so. Toot's taller than Willie, Ian is the next generation. They are getting, smaller," explained Taylor carefully.
"Size doesn't matter! What is he so afraid of? Being teased? And I don't believe Ian is going to die, I can't believe it. He is doing better now. He looks better. I've never known you to be the one to give up or in, Taylor, let alone give up on something you have fought so hard for. Tell me what is going on!" Tipper demanded. She watched as a sad expression came over Taylor's face.
"Every myth has some grain of truth in it - it's what you believe in, actually. If you can believe in something just on faith, anything is possible," began Taylor. She saw Tipper shake her head, not understanding. Taking a breath Taylor took Tipper's hands in hers. "Ivy will grow anywhere, as will clover, but they don't grow together. It has something to do with the soil - either the ivy chokes out the clover, or the clover overruns the ivy. It's a give and take process. Ivy lives on the dying, but clover is different, it puts life back into the soil."
Taylor turned her head looking to where Ian was listening to his Willie. "We can chose, which part we are - do we bring life or death by our hands? We have to decide that you know, every day," she murmured softly. For a moment she was distracted then she looked back into Tipper's eyes.
For a moment the two of them stood in silence before Tipper looked down at Taylor's hands that held her own. It was in that moment that she saw the wedding band. She blinked away the sleep in her eyes and then looked again at the weave upon the band. "Taylor – you're clover and ivy. Your hands bring life, and death. You're guided though by something else and that's Muinin – confidence, reliance, trust, and faith. The bird is a symbol of the one who will lead some one who makes the life and death decisions, someone who has power over others that they can bend them to their will, and they will do anything, to protect that which is theirs.
"That's' – That's – what she was talking about." Tipper gasped. "The bird, and the nest thing … I thought it was a reference to the babies, but its bigger than that." Tipper tried to pull her hands from Taylor but she was held fast by the expression on Taylor's face and the soft words that followed.
"Will it harm anything to let it grow a wee bit more?" inquired Ian as he watched a taxi pull up next to the curb.
Willie didn't say anything for a moment. He had seen the acceptance on Ian's face when he told him about the nature of the plant and how it had been abused by people. He had been resigned to the fact that Mort would want it removed and destroyed or at the very least, used in research.
"It will go to seed soon enough, and then there will be more of it growing next spring and how would I be able to explain that to the sheriff? You're old enough to want for things, and with that comes the responsibility of them. What should be done?" Willie asked, watching Ian look down on the plant.
For a moment Ian regarded it, his small shoulders slumping down. In a breath how ever he looked up at Willie. "There are all and many ways of studying a plant, Uncle. If the thoughts that the sheriff have about studying this plant to see where it comes from are true, then it needs to grow, and seed and grow more. You can' t know if the soil will change what makes up the plant itself in as much as changing the house that a child may live in to see if they become better. Am I just a plant as well to you, Uncle? One that you've placed in the ground to see what grows, or withers away? I'm a far cry different than Zookie and I know what shadows have been in your heart since I came. I'm na going around the twist. I know what I see, and hear to be true, and it's been too long since you have known that in your heart."
Willie grasped the rail of the porch. "Ian lad, I know the path you're looking down. I can take you back, and hide you from the others, or I can hide you in plain sight as Gram did for me. It would do the family no good to lock you in a box to keep you forever safe. There are things that need saying, and things that need be kept with out saying. We are what we are, and some are lucky enough to find people like your aunt who pay no never mind to what others say. Your mothers determined that you hands and path do better than most…"
"Uncle, you can't change my path. I've know for ages what I see an others don't. I speak with Na Mairbh. They haven't burnt any of us for a good, forty years now. I canna be what mum wants or what you want me to be. I have to follow the way that I was born to and you canna turn it," insisted Ian.
"You have to, Ian. You have to work through what you are and work with the path to turn it in the other direction. I know you may not see the harm in following it for a while, but those who see Na Mairbh and speak with them too long become one of them before their time," said Willie as gently as he could.
"You don't know tha' …" Ian's voice faltered as he saw the sadness on Willie's face. "How much ha you told Aunt Taylor? Does she know?"
"I'd na ha brought her into the family blindly," murmured Willie.
Ian placed his small hands over Willies covering the broken skin of his knuckles. "He found out, didn't he. That Earl knew - he was a follower and he knew. Would he have told any one that they would have believed him?" Ian watched as Willie shrugged and shook his head sadly.
"Only three saw him after I did, Tipper, the insurance lady and the person who killed him. He'd not be the type to write that thing down. If he discovered it though, what's to say others haven't? You know now, and you're of age. What would you have me do?" asked Willie gently.
For the longest time Ian looked down through the slats of the deck then he glanced up. "I've something that I've started here, and have to finish before I can answer that. I did something with out knowing and I have to set it right. It may well finish me. I'm like that plant below. Lovely to look at, good for some things, bad for others that want to rip me up by my roots, to burn me and put an end to the nonsense." Ian drew in a breath. "Right then, Zook will be done speaking to Aunt Bea Bea, and will be too tired to drive in to the hospital safely. We can drop Aunt Tipper off at her home for a rest up, and then take him to see the wee lass and it will be done then. She's due to have her first diaper changed and it's time Zookie learns to do it from a professional, though I'll let him handle the gooie part with out the gas mask. Aunt Taylor said she was wanting words with Aunt Jordan today. I will let Aunts know, you tell Zook," Ian said pragmatically nodding to the door
Ian watched from the door of the hospital room as Frank launched himself into his father's arms and clung to him tightly. "Oh Dad," Frank began before the tears came.
For a moment Grady held his son tightly. "Where is your mother?" Grady asked, looking about the room.
"The nurse is taking her for a walk down the hall and she had some test they wanted to do, they said she had to get up for a bit, I told them I would stay with my little sister. Mom's not herself, Dad. She – she doesn't care about the baby. She hasn't even looked once at her, and she doesn't want to give her a name." Frank shook his head sadly.
Glancing at Ian and Willie, Grady returned his gaze down to his son. "Why don't we let Ian and Willie stay with our newest family member, and we can go find your mother. Naming our baby isn't something that just one person can do. All of this was a bit early, and your mother may be tired. If what the doctor has your mother doing will take a while, we can grab some breakfast at the cafeteria."
For a moment Grady stood rooted to the spot as he saw Ian move to the incubator after washing his hands, and then reaching in. Right away a tiny fist wrapped around Ian's finger, holding on.
"She's beautiful," breathed Grady.
Ian looked up bemused. "Ah, ye never know though, unless it experience you've had, Zook, if a wee one will be lovely when they grow up, or plug ugly like my sisters.. Na a pretty one in the bunch. Now, I on the other hand got all of my parents' good looks, an' charm. Go on with ye, I can hear Zookie's belly rumbling from here."
For a moment Ian listened to the footsteps fade down the hallway. Drawing in a breath he glanced up at Willie. "If it's to be done, tell mum an the others I will wait for them."
Willie walked forward and cupped Ian's chin in his hand. "Do you want me to stay?" he asked gently.
Ian let his breath out. "No. Aunt Taylor will be needing you, an if you're here there would be questions you can't answer."
Donna entered into her room and found Ian sitting on her bed holding the baby in his arms. The monitors had been turned off, and all that was on her were the IV tubes and the tiny tube wafting oxygen into her lungs.
"Come here, Mum" he said softly.
With slow steps she walked to the bed and sat on the other side, lifting her feet up to stretch out. She studied Ian as he crooned softly to the baby. "Uncle explained to the nurses that none of those fancy wires will make a difference, an' tha' she should be made comfortable, so they took them off. There is something though, that will make a difference." He said looking into Donna's face, "Here," and handed the baby to Donna, who glanced at it confused and held her daughter stiffly in her arms.
"No, she needs to be cuddled," he chided, pushing her back to lay on the bed and guiding her arms around her daughters tiny frame. For a moment he sighed, then laid his head on Donna's shoulder as he curled next to her. "There are things you should know Mum, about your wee one, an you. It's best to start where you might understand better. When a man marries a woman, well, she's left her family, and she hasn't been bound long to her husband - so – there is a time when she is considered free to chose her path. It's traditional when the bride an' groom are dancing that she keep one foot on the ground at all times so that the wee folk don't ha a chance to take her soul away."
"Her Soul?" she asked, puzzled. She watched him nod.
"Aye. Didn't you know that's where it is? Or the hands of the young ones before they learn to walk on their own feet because they use their hands to reach for the path they chose. Your soul directs you on the path you will follow - your feet carry you there. Why do you think they call the bottoms of feet and shoes Soles?" he explained to her. "The eyes are windows to the soul, too, but not where the soul is found, and all parts of you lead to it. When you're young, you know these things for certain, like the creatures in the closets, and under the bed and how to scare them away with silly names. We hear and see things that adults have forgotten. Some at least - Aunt Tipper's nae forgotten how. It's why she bumps so. She's seeing both worlds, an' it can makes her wonder which way to step. Zookie sees things too." Ian saw the look of sadness in Donna's eyes. "I'm nae addled."
For a moment Ian regarded Donna, his hand touching the blanket that wrapped the tiny baby in her arms. "When she was born, I held onto your soul so you wouldn't go, but I held on too long, an' part of it made a journey. I ha' to give it back to you so you're a proper mother to the lass."
"She's not going to make it," Donna stated in a soft voice. She was surprised to hear Ian giggle.
"Oh, the lass will do fine. She will give you a merry chase an all the love in her heart at that I have that on good authority. Now give me your hand Mum an close your eyes for a tic. You will be back to yourself soon enough."
Jessica had stifled a yawn as she watched from her parlor windows the departure of Grady and the others, then watched as Tipper worked her way back home. While sleep would be welcomed, she was too keyed up to fall asleep so easily. There was a wisdom that Seth had held, that they wouldn't be any use if they were sleep deprived. She stood debating if she should have hot tea or steamed milk when a movement down her walkway caught her attention. The wind blew the wispy red hair about the chubby face of a short woman as she walked with hesitation towards the house half way up the walk, then pausing to look into the contents of the briefcase bag she was carrying she continued to the porch with the wind playing around the legs of her gray pants suit.
"What would Elisa want at this hour?" Jessica wondered out loud as she saw the younger woman come to the front porch and knock on the door. Letting out a gusty sigh Jessica opened the door to see Elisa shuffling papers from her brown portfolio.
"Oh, good morning Jessica, I will only take a moment of your time. It's in regard to the claim that Earl Shapp filed against your nephews, well more precisely your great nephew and cousin's child, but there is still blood relation and custodial merit with the boys. I've checked your policy and such damage is covered under your home owners policy, I just need your signature to release the check to him to pay for the damages."
Clearing her throat Jessica regarded Elisa. "I'm sorry, but I believe Earl will have a difficult time endorsing the check." The young woman glanced up from the papers and regarded Jessica over the rim of her glasses. Her wispy red hair fringed her brow. The girls at the beauty shop had giggled when they first saw Elisa's hair – she had tried to have a perm to straighten it. Their giggles had ended in shock as the hair had begun to break off. It had taken Elisa almost a year to grow it this long, and her gentle curls had all but disappeared leaving a wispy dusting upon her head. She had refused to go to Loretta's ever again. The experience had prompted Elisa to go into insurance claims and over all, she had been an advocate to get the full amount the people were due. Jessica saw Elisa struggle with her next words.
"The money is part of his estate. Earl is survived by a wife who has lost her husband and the source of income. The insurance company intends to pursue this matter so that they are not left holding the brunt of the claim if there are others that are at fault."
"I suggest, Elisa, that you contact the sheriff for a copy of the police report. Earl attacked Ian with out provocation. If your insurance company insists on pursuing this matter, they will find a counter claim filed against the estate for fraud. I am aware that Earl extorted payment from Harrison Bishop, and the police report states you saw the courier arrive with the money, which has been recovered. I'm also aware that Earl demanded payment from Dr. Henderson, and Ian's uncle, and that Earl started a fight that was finished by Dr Razanur. As for losing the source of her income, the store is still there. She chose a long time ago not to be bothered in helping her husband run it. She can sell it if she wishes, or she can go back to work and run it herself. I believe you are sadly mistaken to feel my family and I are easy marks for these shenanigans."
Jessica saw Elisa blink several times with surprise. "Oh no! You don't understand, Jessica, I have to follow form here, I can't be see playing favorites. I have to show the home office and the others that I was following procedure the whole time. Its only been to protect them." Elisa's voice dropped to a whisper. "You see… I know the truth…"
Shaking her head with some confusion Jessica placed her hands on her hips. "The truth about what?"
She saw Elisa look both ways, before leaning forward. "I've known for years, since it first came out. My grandmother knew all sorts of things and she would tell me about them … what to do, incase I would meet someone like him. How to know them …"
"Who are you talking about?" asked Jessica, still puzzled.
"Your Dr. Razanur. I've know all about him, and his kin since I was a little girl. I learned that I would have to treat them the same as I would any other person, even if they are …well … special. My grandmother told me if a good turn was done, then it would come about again ten fold." Abruptly Elisa stopped speaking and clamped her lips together and looked down at her hands where she twisted a ring that had an ivy leaf pattern wrapped around it.
Jessica regarded the young woman and saw the struggle upon her face, as if there was more to say on the matter. "Elisa, I'm sorry. I won't be signing any papers and I have had a rather long day. If you would excuse me, I do need to catch up on my sleep before afternoon visiting hours." She saw Elisa nod.
"Mrs. Fletcher, the world won't miss people like Earl. Well, maybe his friends the tree huggers who use those darts to hunt will, but not any one in Cabot Cove, or even that awful man who's scheduled to die tonight would pay any mind to his passing. The shame of it is, I have to do what I'm told to do."
Suddenly Jessica felt completely awake. "Tree hugger hunting with darts?" she gasped, watching Elisa nod again.
"They got permits for tagging the elk and moose, but Earl said they would hit the animal with a dart, and it would be knocked out. When they found a large animal they would transport it under the guise of thinning the herd and moving it to another location, but the only place that the animal ended up is on some one's table with the rack above the mantle. Sometimes they would say the animal had a bad reaction and would die from the dose. My husband said that the drug breaks down and only works on suppressing the heart and breathing – they faint. In a few minutes it's out of the system all together and it travels with the blood, so, if the blood is gone, the drug trace is gone and the meat is safe to eat. They were after one near Pirates Peek the night of the bus accident - a moose. Earl said they shot at any thing that moved and they didn't care if it was day or night." She gave her ring a twist with her other hand.
"You seem well informed on the darts," Jessica said, trying to fight back a yawn as she watched Elisa struggle with something she wanted to say. She saw Elisa frown slightly and become sad.
"My husband loads most of the darts; he told me they tell him how much they need for each one. Sometimes Earl had no choice but to have Dr. Henderson load them, and it's odd, because hers work the way they are supposed to. They don't want hers if they can help it. Earl gets stuck with them unless he can switch boxes, but then the numbers don't match. Not that the tree huggers pay attention, they just get miffed when the first shot doesn't kill the animal."
"If you knew they were doing something wrong, why didn't you tell Mort? Or call the game commissioner?" Jessica watched Elisa Trudy's eyes grow wide.
"Oh, I couldn't do that. I only had Earl's word that it was what they were doing, and it wasn't my place to question what my husband was doing. He was in a right state when he came to the store to pick me up. He doesn't believe as I do you see." Elisa took a breath then laid the papers on the edge of the sideboard. "I will just leave these here for you to look over when you have had some rest. I … I have to go. My husband will wonder where I am. "
Walking her to the door Jessica held it open and said briefly, "I don't think I will be signing them Elisa." She watched as the younger woman nodded, a bit distracted, turning just before Jessica closed the door.
"You have to take care of them, you see. No matter how they come into your life, with out them, the world, loses something." Blinking twice Elisa turned back and walked down the side walk to where her car was parked.
Jessica sighed and closed the door, making sure to lock it. She didn't know why she did that - she knew Grady and Frank had their own keys. She just felt a chill, as if something had changed in the world, and she couldn't put her finger on it. A beeping from her study caught her attention, and she realized it was her fax telling her she had an incoming hard copy and that it was out of paper. Sighing she reached up and took the key off of the ledge and opened the door. She didn't prop it open, rather let it close and latch again. She groaned as she picked up the three pages from her publisher - it was the contract for her new book and she would have to read each page then send them back and there were over forty-seven pages to the new contract. She glanced at the short sofa in the study as she loaded the paper into the machine. It and the contract would be enough to lull her to sleep in a heart beat. She felt the chill again, as if there was a window open. Sighing she pulled the coverlet off of the back of the short sofa and swung her legs up. Even though the windows were closed, and she knew Grady would help to put the storm windows in soon, the blustery pre days of fall would make her home quite drafty. She picked up the first few pages of the contract and began to read feeling her eyes grow heavy with each heart beat.
Tipper stretched as she got out of her small car and strode along the path that ran along the shore of Pirates Peak. She really could use a long sleep but it wasn't going to happen. She could see the people ahead of her, milling about. One of them had called the emergency dispatch, and the call was forwarded to her as the others at the vet clinic were elbow deep in surgery. Some large animal had died and had been found by a group of children as they scrambled over the rocks. It was the ninth one found this summer, and there were always no trace of how it happened. Sometimes they would just find the legs, and internal organs, with the trophy heads taken- other times it was just the guts.
She saw some of the kids were crying and hurried her steps coming closer to the smell that told her what ever it had been had been there at least a week or so. She would have to identify what animal it was, and then determine the death, and if there were any illnesses that were in the animal. Tipper saw as she rounded the bend that all that remained were the internal organs of the animal and a great deal of blood. From the size, and the bits of fur she knew it to be a moose.
"Huh… maybe Jordan did see it after all," she thought, holding her breath for a moment. "We were all over these hills, why didn't we see it then?" Something glinted in the sunlight. Tipper let out her breath and stepped back pulling her cell phone from her pocket.
The strident call of code rang through the halls of the hospital maternity ward. Grady and Frank looked at each other then bolted from the table leaving their meal half eaten. There was a flurry of nurses and doctors entering into the room blocking Frank and Grady from going in. Frank moved around to where the window was, he could see his mom holding a bundle and she was crying, but it was something else that caught his eye: Ian was the one laying on the gurney with everyone crowded about him.
"I woke up and he wasn't breathing," he heard Donna say. Frank ran down the hall and up the steps to the room where he knew Willie and Taylor would be. He burst in to an argument between Molly and Jordan and gasped breathlessly to Willie, "Its Ian - Mum's room – hurry!"
Taylor caught Frank in her arms and held him as he fell to his knees sobbing. "Its not fair – its not fair!" he whispered as Willie hurried from the room and took the steps two at a time.
Molly looked over the edge of the bed. "Cry baby!" she scoffed before shrieking as a tissue box was flung at her from Jordan's side of the room.
"Hey!" she snapped irritably. She looked at Jordan. Molly really didn't want to have another lecture from her regarding feelings for others. She loved her mother and her aunt and grandparents just fine. Who would need a looser like her father any way?
Willie was breathing hard when he pushed past to Ian's side. He stopped one of the nurses from giving Ian an injection and pushed her hand away. For a moment he placed his hand on Ian's thin chest then gathered Ian into his arms and lifted him up.
"Ye will only do harm if you don't know what ails him," he said softly carrying Ian to the chair where he sat down holding him against his chest. "And want of your medicines won't heal him properly." For a moment Willie regarded Ian and kissed his forehead. "Frank would grieve for you too deeply should you part from us. I canna allow that you know. Patti too- she would feel lost with out you in her life, every day. You know that lad. 'Tis not your time to take this path."
Frank half dragged Taylor from the elevator down the hall to his mother's room and inside – he knew with her there it might be the only way that he could get in to see Ian, if even to say the words he couldn't say. The gurney had been pushed out of the room as well as the crash cart - Willie had made it clear it wasn't to be used. Frank wiggled in to stand at Ian's feet and he grabbed one of them in his hand. "You can't go, I won't allow it!" he gasped through his tears.
Grady moved to Frank and placed his hand on Frank's shoulder "We can't …" Grady said, then stopped as Frank looked up at him with his tear streaked face. Taking a breath Grady said more firmly, "We can't allow you to leave us."
Silent tears fell upon Ian's cheek as his eyes fluttered. His mouth opened for a second, then closed before murmuring, "Zook, Bea Bea's in need," before his body relaxed in Willie's arms.
Taylor looked questioningly at Willie, looking for an answer.
Grady gasped. "Aunt Jessica!"
Things sounded far off for Jessica as she curled up under the blanket on the short sofa. There was the sound of a dog barking and a woman's screams. The shrill sirens and voices pounding on the door, the sharp smell of something that dragged her deeper into bliss. She tried to shrug it off, she tried to wake herself and knew that she must. Jessica couldn't move when she felt things fall around her or strong arms lift her up to carry her into the chilling damp of the front porch. She needed sleep – didn't they know that? Tender lips pressed against her own - lips that she remembered – lips that she yearned for.
"Frank," she murmured softly. Something wet licked her face again before the smell of plastic and cold oxygen filled her mind. She coughed, and then tried to sit up. Firm hands held her down, and for a moment she thought she saw Frank again, but the face blurred to Mort who looked exhausted, yet rather pleased with himself.
"Easy, Mrs. F," he cautioned. pulling the cover over her shoulders before patting Lucky's head.
"What happened?" she asked, surprised at how weak her voice sounded.
"You left the gas on your stove and your house was filling up with it - must have turned it on to make tea and forgot to turn it off all of the way before you took a nap. Lucky was out in the back yard, she's ok. Grady called me from the hospital and asked for me to check up on you. Your phone didn't ring, figured that you were on the computer or something. Sorry about your door," he said, looking at her befuddled expression past the oxygen mask that was on her face. "I had to kick it in to get to you. The key wasn't on the ledge."
For a moment Jessica took deep breaths of the sweet oxygen before sitting up and removing the mask. "I never had a chance to make tea, Mort, and Lucky was still in the house when I came in here to add paper to my fax machine."
She saw Mort stiffen. "Someone did this to you?" he asked as the paramedic took Jessica's blood pressure.
"Yes. And I have a fair idea who … and why," she said, regarding Lucky's muzzle. Cupping her hand under it she turned Lucky's nose towards Mort. There was a splash of blood on the side of the dog's cheek. "My guess is that Lucky escaped when the back door was open, knew the person was doing something wrong, and left a lasting impression on the person."
Mort patted Lucky on the head. "Good girl!" Lucky's tail thumped on the floor as her long tongue licked Jessica's face once more.
Grady nodded as he hung up the phone at the nurse's desk and breathed a sigh of relief. For a moment he closed his eyes, willing back tears. Somehow, after all of this, I need a vacation… he thought to himself. Turning, he looked back into the room that held his wife and children. Donna was showing Frank how to change a diaper, a particularly foul smelling one with green slimy stuff. He wished Jessica could be there to see Frank's expression, and for a moment, he leaned against the nurses desk listening to Ian tell Frank that there was a way not to breathe when doing it. The color had returned to Ian's cheeks and he was still in his uncle's lap nestled safe in his arms.
Safe? Why wouldn't he be safe? wondered Grady to himself. The look Frank had given Ian, and then Willie told Grady that Frank knew Ian's spells would only get worse. There was so much he had to tell Willie about the decisions that Gram had made, about Toot, and his sister and their children. Taking a breath he pushed away from the desk and started back towards the door when he noticed a woman coming down the hall heading in the direction of the room. Grady caught up with her as she was about to enter and gently pulled her back.
"I'm sorry, the room is closed except for family members."
Elisa turned and regarded Grady. "I need to see him, just for a moment, I need to speak with him," she said softly.
"Him?" asked Grady curiously.
For the longest time Elisa didn't say anything.
"Sainmhíniú," she said in a whisper. Her eyes flicked inward to where Ian was giggling and had his arms up, behind his head hugging his uncle from behind.
Grady saw her swallow before her hand closed in on his, pressing something into it. "He is of age," she said before going down the hall as if she had just stopped to ask for directions. Grady watched her go, Her face went pale as she stepped back into the elevator, and for a moment their eyes met silently before the doors closed.
Grady felt his knees go weak. 'Sainmhíniú' - he had heard Gram mention that term with a quietness. It meant Seeker. He knew that much. Glancing down at what she had pressed into his hand he saw it was a silver ring with ivy wrapped around it. It was old - he somehow knew that by the style, and weight of it. Drawing in his breath he entered into the room. He went to Ian and regarded him then handed the ring to Willie. "She said he is of age. She said, 'Sainmhíniú.'" He sat on the bedside as Donna lifted their daughter up into her arms. The baby's head turned towards her mother.
For a moment Willie didn't say anything. He nodded then, and stood up, lifting Ian with him. "Come along Frank, Mum and daughter need a bit of time together with dad. "
Frank followed Willie and Ian through the doors of the private waiting room. He could tell there was something that worried Willie with the way that he exchanged glances with Ian. Closing the door he sat down across them and then leaned forward.
"Okay. I know everyone else sees me as a kid, but, after what I have been through this summer - as I call it, 'Mortal Peril' - more than the average person should ever have in their life time, I think I have the right to know what is going on, and what Sainmhíniú means just in case…" Frank didn't expect an answer that would satisfy him. Most adults gave just the basic information on a need to know.
He watched as Ian cringed back into Willie's arms. It was Ian who spoke softly as Willie wrapped his arms about him.
"Sainmhíniú means Seeker."
Turning the word over in his mind Frank looked between Willie and Ian. "So, why does that worry my dad, and you? She's just a nutty old lady. You're just a kid still with a whole life time ahead."
There was only a soft sigh from Ian as he nestled back into Willie's arms. Frank saw something in Ian's eyes. An acceptance of the end. Hot tears forced their way out and down his cheeks as Frank backed up.
"You're not a quitter," Frank said, wiping the back of his hand against the tears.
"Grant me acceptance for this path, Zookie, " Ian said softly, studying the ring that Willie held on the palm of his hand. .
"NO!" shouted Frank. For a moment he stood trembling before Ian and Willie. "No," he said again. "If that nutty old lady wants a Seeker she has to find another one," he said, snatching the ring from Willie and bolting out the door.
"Frank! Wait!" called Willie.
"It's no use, Uncle. He has to find out on his own. 'Tisn't the ring that makes the path, only illuminates it to the one who holds it."
Frank ran up the steps two at a time. He had to find that woman - he had to. He stopped, gasping for air after five flights of steps. He wasn't even sure what she looked like. He had only caught a glimpse of her as she stood next to his dad. She was short wearing gray and looked a bit bald. She was fat, too. Well, 'fat' would be something his mother would say was unkind … chunky? Plump? She had left his father and he had heard a ding.
The elevator! She'd gone to the elevator! There was something odd, though. Something missing … Frank drew in a breath and ran up the steps with renewed energy. Flinging the door to the ward open he panted as he rushed to his mother's room past the elevator. He could hear a man's voice in the room with them. It wasn't any one he knew.
"… with her when I get home. I'm sorry she bothered you … Elisa is a tad obsessive sometimes when it comes to those things… Where is it, by the way?"
Pulling back into the next room, Frank watched as the tall man in a white doctor's coat strode from his mother's room across the hall past the elevators. He paused at the trash recepticle,l dropping a wad of tissues into the pail. There was a clunk as he continued walking to go to the steps. Opening the door with a mighty swing, Frank heard the man's footsteps travel down in a run.
Going to the trash Frank peeked in. For a second he didn't see anything. He felt a rising sense of urgency as he drew back and hammered his finger on the button of the elevator. He could hear the faint Ding Ding Ding, of the elevator being out of service several floors below.
"Damnú air," grumbled Frank under his breath.
He could hear his parents discussing things in his mum's room as the weight of the ring grew heavy in his hand. Drawing a deep breath in he wrenched open the door to the stairwell and rushed in. It was said by adults that kids have no sense of fear until they are over 22, but Frank knew fear as he took a few running steps and vaulted out into space feeling the world rush up to meet him as he grabbed the rail to brake his decent. Bungieing is what his peers called it, when your feet didn't touch any of the steps all the way down. They had been informed that if they were caught doing it they would face detention. Of course the plan was not to be caught, and if lucky, the school nurse who treated their twisted ankles wouldn't tell. Not that Frank made it a habit. He had seen it done, tried it a few times and ended up landing on his backside with his books everywhere.
The summer's activities had changed him, though, the grass cutting and the space that he had to ride his Aunt Jessica's bike. He knew his ankles would never be the same as he reached the last landing and saw the door slowly begin to close behind the person exiting. To whom ever it was, he was just a silly kid coming down the steps. He hadn't been seen with any one. Frank jumped down the last step and caught the door with his finger tips just before it was going to click shut. Pulling it back far enough that he could squeeze through it he saw the man stride with purpose to the vending area where Willie and Ian were. The man paused. Frank saw him frown as he half stepped inside and glanced in the room, then stepped back and continued down the hall. Curious, Frank waited until he was well away before going to the room himself. Looking in he saw the chairs were the way they had left them, but there wasn't any one in the room.
What the heck was going on? Frank had a heart beat to ask himself that before he felt a hand cover his mouth and pull him backwards. He didn't struggle. He was familiar with the smell that was in his nose and he didn't cry out when the hand let go. Turning he saw Willie with Ian riding piggy back. Inclining his head, Willie lead him back in the direction of the stair well where Frank saw it had never really closed, past it and down the hall to a darkened room. Once inside Willie closed the door properly. In the dim light Frank saw benches, and some candles lit in a corner. Willie guided Frank to one of the benches and motioned for him to sit while he caught his breath.
"Listen carefully to me, lad – we need to get both of you to a safe place and none are at the moment for sure," whispered Willie.
"I know. He dropped two darts in the trash can up by the elevator, they were wrapped in a tissue… he's the murderer, isn't he? He has more in his pocket," gasped Frank.
"Does your heart tell you that?" asked Ian softly, looking over Willie's shoulder watching the struggle on Frank's face.
"Ether he is, or he knows who the murderer is," Frank said with a nod. "And your heart is telling you that too or you wouldn't be hiding here and whispering," Frank murmured.
"We'd made up our minds to come after you when we heard the footsteps down, and felt something was amiss when you came down after him like a bull elephant. People don't look to the side when they are in a hurry, both of you passed by us in your haste. But, aye, you're right. There is something very wrong out there," stated Willie tilting his head to the door.
Reaching in his pocket Frank withdrew the ring and held it out. "It has something to do with this, doesn't it? You've almost the same pattern on your wedding ring, and so does Aunt Taylor. And I saw the same pattern on the rings at Mither's - its part of your family crest. I know what a Seeker is. Well, at least in the gaming world a Seeker is a hunter - some one who tracks and kills the opposition. I looked up Ivy too when I got back – it lives off of the things that are dying. I learned along time ago that the stories we hear are based some how in fact, and I can't think of one good thing that a seeker could be. Ian has too much to deal with right now, and it's not fair to expect him to take it on …or you for that matter. She's just got to have to find some one else to do it … and it will be over soon, right? The news said that Fordham is going to be punished for good soon enough. Why would there be hunters in your family when all along you are all healers?"
"The ring is what people make of it. Some would see it as those who protect the family at all cost, yet, once they have broken away from the family to do this there is no going back. We all have our paths to follow, and some are given to us early on. Toot followed that path. There is a bit of death in all of the healing that has been done, Frank. Each part of the cure is a bit of poison to that which ails us. It's not by the hand of the healer which brings us back to life, but by what is in our own hearts, and what we believe to be true. This needs to be set right, but its best that one so young as you should not be burdened with the choice that has to be made."
Willie held out his hand as he set Ian down on the bench beside Frank. Sighing, Frank placed the ring in Willie's hand as he glanced about where they were. "Stay in here, until someone comes for you. Most likely whomever it is is looking for a man, and a boy, na two boys in meditation."
The door closed behind Willie as he made his way down the hallway. Ian struggled to his feet and hobbled his way to the corner of the room where the candles were. "Tis an odd thing, how people see something like this to grant what they wish for. As if a bit of tallow would be the answer." Gazing down at the stubby candles Ian fell into a brief silence before turning back to Frank. "It isn't how faith is, you know. Faith isn't something grand and mysterious. Its something that you accept and live with every day of your life."
"How do you know? Ian… I heard Aunt Jessica and Dr. Seth talking. They said you didn't do well on your test to place you in school. How do you know these things, and not something – well, that they expect you to know at your age?" blurted Frank.
Sighing gustily Ian plopped down on the end of the bench. Frank moved from his seat and sat on the bench across from him, his hands fidgeting in his lap.
"Was wondering that myself, and can only conclude its from when they were asking me things like how many people are in the house. As if it's their concern that there are three of us here, but there were more back home. And some of the neighbors had up to fifteen under one roof." Ian watched as Frank blinked a few times.
"Um, it's four hundred and thirty-five," Frank said finally
"Fifty people living under one roof in a house? Get on with ye!"
"Well, there are some for each of the fifty states. And there is another one hundred for the Senate," replied Frank as he watched the expression of puzzlement on Ian's face spread.
"Oh, then it can't be right that I said all of the Senate had passed on long ago, was thinking of the roman senate. An' I suppose a minister doesn't govern the area where you live?" Ian closed his eyes for a moment and hung his head.
Frank shook his head, sighing. "Not here. It's sometimes a Mayor, or a council of some sort. You shouldn't be expected to know that though, it's not the same where you live."
"You shouldn't be in here … It isn't right for you to be in here … None of your kind should have left the woods and white rocks where you sprang from, and we've paid for the barter ever since." A voice interrupted them from the back of the room in the darkness as the sliver of light from the door closed behind it in silence.
Frank caught a glimpse on Ian's face. A certain knowledge. The same he had seen in the dark bowels of the Fordham estate. There was a wistful longing as well.
Woods and white rocks? thought Frank. The graves? That's where this person is talking about? But - only family has seen it…or .. Franks thoughts were cut short by the sight of Elisa stepping from the shadows, the struggle on her face evident. Her hands were clenched at her side, something heavy rested in her pockets.
"The barter?" asked Frank, curiosity getting the better of him.
Elisa's gaze shifted to him as her head jerked in a stiff nod. "Yes. The Barter. They came from the white rocks and woods sitting along the streams that ran pure, the ones that healed men of their suffering, men who paid them in the best gold. Soon they came and asked for the hands of the winsome lass's in hand fasting, and the children born spread across the land exacting the barter from others as well. And the people paid gladly to be healed … then learned they must continue to pay and pay to stay well, or all of the ills would return. The folk took the water by force, taking it away, and the waters stilled at the source, but when it was spilled to the ground from the vessel it ran blood. A new barter was made, to protect and find those who harmed those of wood and stone. They heal anyone, but never their own kind. The weak always fail and they had to be kept safe from harm so that the barter would continue and the waters would run again to heal. But if you find one and give them the task and they accept the charge, the barter may be ended. I've done what I could – I've seen the signs, I know this place, this town is the place of gathering … of a new stream that will heal again. The old debt must be laid aside once and for all. I've given the bond back - I've done what I could to protect - lay aside the debt now!"
"Are you nuts, lady?" Frank blurted. Belatedly he realized it was probably true as her eyes gleamed in the candle light.
"He has too! I've given back the bond to him - I've paid my task! Once they are given the ring, they take charge of it! He can not refuse!" she snarled, clenching her hands tighter.
"He doesn't have the ring, he never held it. I took it before he could and I gave it to someone else." Frank heard Ian gasp softly as he gazed into Elisa's eyes. That was probably not the best thing in the world to tell her, he mused. Eyes that captured him and distracted the blur of movement in the darkness.
Frank felt his body being bumped and in a tumble fell between the benches. "Owww …" he groaned. He felt Ian's hand cover his mouth shushing him before the weight of Ian shifted off. "Stay," Ian had whispered.
Leaning wobbly against the bench Ian regarded Elisa.
"What's been done was not for debt, or barter, but for the greed of men. In a thousand years you all have not learned that. Don't look for healing, or waters that make the blind see and the lame walk," said Ian, holding onto the bench back for support.
Frank tried to see what was happening, but all he could manage from where he was at was something brassy with a red tag sticking out of Ian's lower leg. It was a shock to Frank to realize that it was a dart, imbedded in something, and meant for him. He could hear Elisa say something – but it was muffled from where he lay. Gathering himself up he crawled under the benches toward the back of the room in the darkness. Elisa's voice was sounding a bit strained – becoming higher as she waved her arms about demanding things from Ian.
Who the heck does she think he is? Or what, for that matter? When I get out of this, I'm going to need some serious therapy… Frank wormed his way past where she stood then looked back. He could see Ian still standing but he was getting wobbly. It was with a shock that he saw the brass thing had been a dart. Scooting back until he was beside her he considered his options. Chances were she had more darts. Her shoes were the slip on type, not tied, so he couldn't tie her laces. Ian couldn't run - heck, he was looking like he couldn't stand much longer. He could have made it to the door and be out, but he knew that he shouldn't leave Ian alone. He wasn't tall enough to swing any thing that would hit her and there wasn't anything in there that he could have hit her with.
Shifting his weight to his knees he lunged …
Dr. Walt Trudy sighed as he limped rounded the corner. He knew there were a few places that people could be in the lower area of the hospital. He had checked each of them carefully. Shaking his head he wondered how a man who dressed oddly carrying a little boy could have eluded anyone. He'd used his passkey to lock the elevators between floors before he went to see the Fletchers. The keys were all the same and the one that belonged to the hospital would be untouched. He listened. There wasn't any sound of voices, no footsteps. Letting out another gust of air Walt turned and found himself face to face with Willie, who was sitting up on the side of the desk for the empty waiting area regarding him with a calmness.
"Did ye lose somethin', lad?" a gentle Irish burred voice asked behind him, watching Walt blink in surprise as Walt turned with a jump at Willie's voice
"Answers," Walt blurted as Willie leaned forward and slapped the tops of his own legs with the palms of his hands.
"Fair enough, I'll give you two with out charge," stated Willie, dusting off his hands.
There was a struggle on Walt's face as it turned a particular color of pink. "My wife has been going on about you and yours since the story broke regarding that treasure. Things that I don't understand - for that matter, I'm not sure if I want to… she's gone a bit odd recently, saying she and her family deserved more for what they've done. That it was owed to them. I don't know why she would, really … her family has money, I've my own practice, and I do rather well with it. She wants for nothing. She says too much sometimes, though, and I have to fix it right, don't I? To tie up loose ends or others would know she's quite mad, capable of doing, 'most anything and take her away. Sometimes, I wonder if they should. She would be happier and well cared for."
"Your duty to your wife is to keep her from harm, aye, but na to fix her actions – as what you see – mistakes. She won't learn if you do everything for her or take back what she feels is her duty."
"I want that ring that she gave to you," Walt said, lowering his voice. "She never knew how valuable it was. She always kept it locked in her show case. She was babbling last evening, how all the signs were there. She said it had to be returned to the rightful heir. I couldn't allow that ether."
Quiet footsteps came down the hall, with voices that brought both men to look up at the source - Jessica's voice, as well as Franks and Ian's. The trio stopped short of entering into the area.
Willie saw that Walt paled and wobbled back a step. Sighing softly Willie withdrew the ring from his pocket and held it in the palm of his hand. "Sad that something so small has lead to such grief in life. You asked for answers young man, and I will give you two. One has been granted. As for the second, you have a choice, to know the truth - but it is a bitter truth that will be ash in your mouth. Do you want to know it? Aye, you do. Well, then … this ring is just a ring carved long ago, not cast, from solid silver. It was given as a band of a promise, but not as one that has been given to it. It was simply a wedding band given to a bride long ago. The promise was to protect and love the bride and her children forever. Much like the wedding band given to your wife so many years ago."
Frank moved to Jessica's side and curled his hand into hers. Looking at the ring Willie spoke quietly from where he sat not glancing at Jessica and Frank but holding his gaze on Walt. "Ian helped me understand that something, changed over time in that love, and that vow. A feeling that more was owed than just love. Greed. The want for more, and larger and better outweighed the simple love promise given on that day. And, as most have happened, there was a parting of the two of them, perhaps by choice or reason, and the other made a vow to find them even if it meant going to the ends of the earth. The value of this ring for the weight of its silver is about five dollars. The promise of that ring was twisted… as has been the promise of the ring you wear."
"What ails you, Dr. Trudy, that you wobble about so?" inquired Ian innocently from the wheelchair they had found for him.
Jessica drew in her breath. "He was bitten by Lucky after he turned the gas on in my kitchen without lighting the pilot. You were afraid that Elisa would tell me the truth regarding your poaching activities, was that worth murdering Earl as well?""
"Elisa must have…" Walt stammered, shifting back from Willie to turn to Jessica. "She was the last one to speak with him when he was alive."
Sighing, Jessica shrugged slowly, holding her hand up to show a dart that she held in a handkerchief. "You were very careful not to touch the darts. But you made a mistake: Tipper's darts held the regular dose, and two of them wouldn't have killed Earl… Your wife wouldn't have known which of the darts were yours, or Tipper's, but you would simply by a glance of the numbers on the box. As Frank reminded me, throwing them isn't much different that throwing darts at a board…or at a wall. I noticed the holes in the door frame at the clinic, where you had been practicing. You'd been planning this a while, haven't you? You couldn't alter the records, but you could wait until some of the brass that Tipper had loaded was returned, and instead of changing the records to your name, you kept them under hers. It was just a simple matter of finding one of her boxes, removing two of them and planting it in her car. The two that Frank saw you drop in the trash by the elevator, perhaps? You'd ether forgotten them, or didn't have a place to discard them until now, and given that Tipper was on that floor, you thought that the blame would be shifted on to her again."
Frozen at the sight of the dart Walt's mouth opened and closed like a fish out of the water. "Where did you get that?" he gasped.
"Elisa threw it at Ian - her aim was off and it hit him in the leg. It's one of yours," Jessica began, to be interrupted by Walt's "Like I said, Elisa killed Earl!"
Frank shook his head and stepped up to Jessica. "No, she didn't. She only threw it because she was testing Ian - she said so. She said a lot of things too. People do that when they find themselves caught. Like, that the tree huggers were paying you a lot of money to triple dose the darts to kill the exotic animals – the trophy animals. That you picked her up after she saw Earl, and that you had ducked inside to have a word with him about being paid extra for the moose they had brought down a while back. She may have been the last one to speak with him, like you said, but you didn't say anything to him before you threw the darts that killed him. How else would you have know she was the last to speak with him before he died?"
Walt clamped his lips tightly shut for a moment as he glared at first Frank then Jessica. "I want to speak with my lawyer!" he said finally as Mort stepped into the waiting room area with hand cuffs dangling from his hand.
"Why can't that stupid dog shut up? I'm trying to sleep here," grumbled Molly. "Why is that smelly thing even allowed in here anyway?"
Taylor looked down at Sydney who lay shivering in her arms. She'd sent a text message to Tipper, though she knew there was very little that the young vet could do. It just seemed to come upon Sydney for a while she was fine, then she had whimpered and now her entire body shivered and had intermittent spasms. She would not give this child the satisfaction of knowing the pain she had caused, nor rise to a match of wits between them. Soft footsteps coming down the hall and into the room made Taylor lift her head up. She saw the look on her friends face. Exhausted, Tipper had called a cab rather than risk driving. The cabby was about to make a wise remark regarding house calls for a vet at the hospital, but saw the look on her face and accepted the fee with out comment.
Tipper pulled up a chair beside Taylor and placed her vet bag on the floor. "We knew, Taylor, we've known for a while," she murmured watching her friend nod. "I can make her more comfortable, and give you a day, maybe two…"
"Just … just a day. Just through this day…" Taylor said with her eyes brimming. Tipper nodded, then withdrew a small syringe that she had preloaded and slipped it into the muscle tissue near Sydney's neck. It was enough to relax Sydney and cause her to yawn before slipping into a blissful sleep.
"FINALLY that stupid rat's been shut up!" Molly snorted.
Tipper rose from her chair and strode to Molly's bedside where she placed her hands on Molly's shoulders and gave her a sound shake. "You just don't get it do you? You hurt an innocent animal! You are the lowest of the lowest scum that ever has crawled out of the gene pool and when you die your evil hearts going to call the shadows that will drag your soul to hell."
Letting Molly's shoulders go, Tipper took a breath and stepped back. She saw Molly blinking with shock over what she had said. Turning away she strode back to her chair, bent over and snapped her bag closed then as she straightened up, she offered a hand to Taylor. "Come on. Let's go down to where the others are," she said gently. Taylor nodded and with Sydney curled up in her arms she walked with her to the elevator.
For the longest time Molly was too shocked to say anything. She finally blurted, "Who the hell does she think she is?"
Molly heard a tired sigh from Jordan, not really expecting an answer from her - so she was stunned when Jordan said softly, "She's someone who's seen them take someone down… She's a good person though. Good people may see them… but…only the bad hear the shadows scream…"
Seth closed Donna's door to muffle the sound of so many people inside of it as he met Jessica's eyes across the room. Frank was sitting at the bottom of the bed, Ian was snuggled in Willie's lap, Grady and Donna were together holding their daughter. Jessica was sitting in the chair beside the bed looking very tired, yet pleased with Frank. Tipper was sitting on the window sill, and Taylor was in the corner next to Willie and Ian as she still cradled Sydney who was softly snoring in her arms.
"… Once she was down Ian went over to her and told her to speak up, or else and she started saying some really – weird things. A real nuttier. And then Sheriff Metzger came in with Floyd and Aunt Jessica and took her away, then we went in search of Willie. If the dart she had thrown wouldn't have landed in his pants leg over his cast, he wouldn't be here. Lucky, I guess," Frank finished.
"Ah Zookie, luck is what you make of it," Ian said softly as he grinned from where he sat.
Grady regarded Ian, and drew a breath as he turned back to his wife who was handing their daughter up to Seth to hold.
"What have you named her?" Seth asked, lost in her blue eyes.
"We haven't yet…" said Donna wistfully.
Grady took his wife's hand and kissed it. "We've decided… to let Ian name her."
All eyes regarded Grady, and saw Donna cast him a curious glance before nodding herself. "If Ian hadn't have warned us, Aunt Jessica wouldn't be here."
Ian shrugged. "The path to follow isn't ready for Bea Bea… as for naming the wee lass, I can only think of one that will fit her. It's from the good book. Of a lass who was faithful and did what was needed in the proper time. Aurth."
Donna blinked several times. "Euroot? How, would that be spelt exactly?" she asked a bit pensively as Ian giggled and shook his head.
"Na, mum. Aurth. AR as in Aurabbit…"
"He means Ruth," breathed Grady softly. Looking to Ian for confirmation, Grady watched as a wise look came over Ian's face. He knew bright tears would be in Seth's eyes as he heard Seth say, "Oh my… Thank you."
"Someone you know, Boomer?" asked Tipper, curious.
"Ruth was Seth's wife. She died a few years after Uncle Frank … hang on," Grady said, leaning to the one side to withdraw his wallet from his hip pocket. He sorted through the photos and then slid one out. "That's from my first summer here," he said handing her the photo. "She was born in Ireland and came over before the war."
Ian didn't miss the soft gasp from Tipper as she gazed down at the wallet. "Ohhh," she breathed at last, then saw Ian regarding her.
"What?" she asked, lowering her voice so that the others didn't hear her.
"The name you have for Dr. Seth, what was it from?" Ian whispered to her.
"Boomer? It's a nickname he got in college … why?" she answered.
"Oh … just something tha' I should ha known," he said sighing, happily then he looked down as his belly rumbled. "Do you think that the cafeteria would have any of that corn bread left over from lunch time? I'm near about half starved I am."
"I think so… How about I go down with you and get some of those banana bars for Donna?" Grady asked as he slid off of the bed and scooped Ian up in his arms. "We will be back in a bit," he said carrying Ian out of the room. Grady carried him to the elevator and had to blurt out, "How did you know?"
"Know what, Zook?" Ian asked, curious.
"That - calling me Zook, and Frank Zookie and Aunt Jessica Bea Bea. Only one other person knew those names… How did you know them? No ones ever heard them since… Since…" Grady found Ian's fingers laid gently over his lips.
"Zook, you know the family. How paths cross and weave about. I didn't know how connected things were til you showed her picture about. I know these things now, because I needed to know them. Though I reckon that you didn't need any more to understand what faith would carry you to."
Grady paced inside a bit before stopping and looking back at the door of the elevator. "My daughter…"
"What about her?" Ian asked curious. "She will be her own self, much like I am."
"But … you know the things that only Uncle Frank knew, or would say."
"Like the world spins about for everyone, even us, and we manage by what we believe in?" said Ian with a sigh as the doors opened.
Grady strode down through the hall and into the cafeteria where he set Ian down at a table and went through the line picking some things up to take back with them. Frank would need a proper lunch of course. Ian breathed in the corn bread and smiled.
"Things will manage alright Zook. I believe in that."
Taking a breath Grady bent over and kissed Ian on the forehead. "I believe that too, Ian."
It was a bit of a shock to discover upon the day that Ruth was brought home from the hospital and Ian had his cast removed that another arrival was waiting for Willie and Taylor on their doorstep with bags in hand and a note that was placed into Willie's hand the moment he placed Ian down beside his sisters and his cousin.
"Mum's taken to her bed on the advice of Gram, and Mither can't look after all of us. That gent that Aunt Jessica knows brought us over and he said he had a proper errand to run this afternoon before he sees her," piped up Patty as she hugged her brother in turn.
"Can we go over to see Aunt Jessica please?" asked Shauna, holding onto Emily's hand.
"Let's get your things inside," suggested Taylor, herding Margarita into the kitchen along with the other children.
It was later that afternoon that Taylor and Willie with the children arrived at Jessica's house, and as Patty minded the girls as they played tag in the front room, they joined Jessica, Frank Grady, Donna and Ruth in the parlor. Frank was sitting next to Jessica not speaking. He had discovered that morning that his father had taken away Lucky, telling him that he had found a better home for her than Grandma and Grandpa Mayberry who had said under no condition was that dog would be in their house with them. Frank hadn't said the words that were in his heart. He wanted to scream, to shout, to tell his parents he didn't want to be their son anymore. Closing his throat on his words, he remembered what Aunt Jessica had said - Lucky would only be there for the summer.
"So when we had a proper look over Ian's test results, we knew right away what had happened. There isn't many a proper lad from Ireland who cares about baseball, or who fathered your country… and they've agreed to let him attend the school in the year he is to be in as long as he gets caught up on their term of Social Studies. He will be in your grade, Frank," said Willie giving a nod to Frank before continuing. "And the research center that Mort's been wanting will be kept right in his own building, in one of the unused cells seeing how he can lock makes him keep it clean , and he can fuss over things as he sees the need to. One of the first cases he had was that wee bit o balm that was growing under the porch - seems it came from something left behind by one of Jordan's friends while they were smoking on our back porch. Mort has taken it away to be used as a control plant in the research center - mind you it will be trimmed back a bit so samples can be sent about to different labs, but its gone to a better home than where it can be dug up by the likes of the youngsters who recognize what it is. Ian has the duty to water it every third day. .. Hullo, we've company coming," said Willie, glancing behind his shoulder.
Gretchen Bishop strode across the front porch of Jessica's house and hesitated before shifting the box she held as she knocked twice. She had tried over at Taylor's but no one was home. Walking around to the back she had seen the fresh-tilled earth with a large stone laying in the middle of it. For a moment she closed her eyes. There would be changes in how Molly was going to be raised. No one, no animal was ever going to suffer again at that child's hand if Gretchen and her brother Harrison had any thing to say about it.
The white door swung open. Gretchen expected to see an adult, but instead saw a young girl with pigtails who smiled up at her. Inside the house was a rich riot of sound coming from the kitchen and among them, Gretchen recognized Willie calling things to order before the sounds began again.
"Good day Ma'am. Whom may I say is calling?"
"Gretchen Bishop - is Taylor Razanur receiving company?"
There was a steady thump clump as Ian waddled to the door frame of the parlor and looked toward his sister. "Let Mrs. Bishop in, Patty, she's known to Grady. Hello, come in and have tea with us," he said, waving her in.
A wild giggle and the running of feet came around the corner preceded mop-headed children who ran back with happy shrieks as their stocking feet slid upon the wood floors. Gretchen found herself smiling as she followed Patty to where the adults were sitting in the parlor. Ian swung another chair around for Gretchen who nodded to him, a bit shy of everyone and stayed in the door until Patty guided her in. to the where the chair was.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to intrude on your company…" she said to Jessica. "I have only a bit before I have to leave for the airport." Gretchen breathed in then looked down at the box. "I know there is nothing that can be done to make up for Molly's actions, or for the sorrow that the death of your dog brought… I know that nothing can replace her."
Maggie came skidding in to the room and stopped before Gretchen. Placing her hand on the box she leaned forward and sniffed at one of the holes that was at the side. "Arr Arr" she giggled, then was off again. Gretchen was distracted for a moment watching her work her way sliding her feet on the wood.
"My great nephew's daughter," said Willie briskly. "And my nieces… they've come to stay awhile with their brother while their mum has their littlest one."
Gretchen turned back to where Taylor and Willie sat, her mouth forming an O of surprise. Realizing they were waiting she closed her mouth and swallowed before beginning again. "The court has rescinded the joint custody of Molly under the current circumstances. Harrison has custody of her now, and he's decided to stay here, in Cabot Cove, with her… he felt it was a better environment for her to be raised. I'm not sure of exactly what was done to her while she was at the hospital, but she seems to be a different child… she's asked me to give you this…" she said, handing the box over to Taylor.
Curious, Taylor felt the weight in the box shift slightly as she opened it. In a pile of shredded newspapers shivered a tiny puppy with curly fawn colored hair and large crystal blue eyes.
"It was to be her back to school gift – bu, she said you would be better for it than she. she said its name is Oliver."
Taylor sat back in her chair, blinking rapidly at the tiny puppy. Willie leaned forward, scooping the pup into his hands and setting the box on the floor. "Well, Tipper will be able to tell for sure, but I think its an Olivia," he murmured, placing the pup on Taylor's lap where it snuffed a few times before pressing into the folds of her skirt and sighing.
"I have to go now - I'm to meet a real estate agent named Eve regarding property Harrison said to look into. Good day," Gretchen said, rising.
Patty followed her to the door and said, just as Gretchen was about to step off the porch, "Ma'am? Things will be better now, you'll see."
In the parlor Frank leaned against Jessica's shoulder and sighed. He knew the summer was coming to an end, and that his parents had made a decision, one that involved parting from Jessica – something he found almost painful. His father had said they had found a nice house and everything was moved in. Frank hadn't seen it, he had spent every moment he could with Jessica and Ian.
"Who's going to cut your grass and help you with your roses?" he asked her softly. Jessica placed a kiss on the top of his head. "Oh, I think I know of a few who may be able…" she said gently as she saw Ian pull Margarita onto his lap and give her a hug.
Grady was standing up, and helping Donna up. "I'll put Ruth into the car seat…" he said, giving Jessica a kiss. "Come on Sport," he said ruffling Franks hair.
Frank hugged Jessica tightly. "I don't want to go," he said into her shoulder.
"Goodness, it won't be forever, Frank." Jessica said with a smile. "I'll see you sooner than you know."
Frank could hear the goodbyes being said by the girls, and Ian. He clung to Jessica not wanting to let her go.
"Come along now, Frank, your sister will be needing her afternoon nap soon after dinner," said Willie from behind where Frank was as the telephone rang in the hallway.
Sniffing back his tears Frank cupped Jessica's face in his hands. "I love you, Aunt Jessica. I'm glad we had this summer together."
"So am I, Frank," she said, brushing away his tears. "I love you too."
Sighing Frank felt Willie's hand on his shoulder. "I'll walk ye to the car, Frank. Aunt Jessica, you've a call on the hall phone."
Frank let all of the air out of his lungs then breathed in the crisp sea air. Nothing was ever going to be as good as Cabot Cove, He had no idea where Boothbay was, it couldn't be as wonderful as where he stood right now. Willie felt Frank pause as he closed the door to the front and stepped beside him.
"I've an answer for you Frank. One I should ha given you a while back, but you were too young to understand what you were asking back at the time. You're a young man now, you've grown over the summer and knowing a great truth of an answer changes everything if you let it, or you may live with it as we do live with faith every day… its that total acceptance of faith that guides us. The motto of my family, you've heard it a fair few times. You understand what it means, don't you? Believing in faith?" Willie saw Frank nod, then wait.
"I am," Willie said finally with a twinkle in his eyes.
For a moment Frank didn't say anything. Wordlessly he stepped into Willie's arms and hugged him "Thank you…" he said before parting from him and climbing into the back seat with his sister. Willie kissed Donna through the window then closed Frank's door. Shaking hands with Grady he gave a nod to Frank then turned back to where the kids were standing with Jessica waving good-bye. Sighing he leaned back into his seat.
Willie watched the car pull away from the drive and returned to the children gathered on the porch. "Will we be taking supper with Aunt Jessica and her gentleman friend tonight?" Patty asked.
Willie looked at her then saw where she pointed to a long sleek car arriving. He recognized the man that stepped out of the car, and was going to shoo her back in the house when he saw that instead of going to Jessica's right away he was coming to where Willie stood, and he had a long package under his arm.
"Gram sent this back to you. She said, once the baby is born, and old enough to travel, that she and the others will be arriving to stay here. Said there was something inside you should see. Now, we've both gone over the documents, and I know your Gaelic is better than mine, but Gram said there were signs that this is the place now for all to be safe."
"Thank you inspector. I've been told that too."
George nodded, then made his way to Jessica's back door where he knocked twice. The door was opened and Willie could see Jessica cling to George for a moment before drawing him inside.
"I am," Willie had said. "Am what?" Frank asked himself, studying his tiny sister who laid swaddled in the hand woven blanket that Willie had made for her to keep her warm. Her little hand curled about his finger as she regarded him with her serious blue eyes.
"I am." Frank was absorbed in the weave of the cloth to the point the slowing down, then stopping of the car was a shock to him.
"Is something wrong dad?" he asked, looking at the slate gray house that was to their left.
"We're here," said Donna, smiling.
"Here where?" asked Frank, puzzled. He could see a bed and breakfast across the street, and a sign for one farther on down.
"Home," said Grady opening up the door to take his sister out of the car. Frank looked around as he got out then opened the door for his mother. "Willy told me this place was for sale before, it just took a bit to get the addition finished for the baby…" Frank offered his arm to his mother, she was still a bit wobbly from having his sister.
"But we aren't at Grandma and Grand pa Mayberry's. Where are we?" Frank asked, getting the door for his mother then standing on the back porch. He could see the ocean from where he stood. He could see the tall ships and hear the thrum of the boats coming and going and the wind whipping the flag against the pole and his father's footsteps behind him.
"I tried for a place in Cabot Cove, but, there weren't any that we could afford. But Boothbay is a nice town, much quieter than Cabot Cove … less of a crime rate. It's only about five miles that way if you take the bike trail to Aunt Jessica's house, and you will be going to the same school as Ian , so you will see all of them every day. In the meantime, sport, you have chores to do …"
"Yes, sir…" Frank said softly. It wasn't as if he had any thing else to do. He had no desire to roam the hills as he had before. Closing his eyes he leaned against the rail. He was too big to cry. He was a young man, as Willie had said. He had been told a great truth by Willie one that he didn't understand. It was something though that he had asked and he couldn't remember.
"Frank? Do you want to do your chores before dinner?" he heard his Father say behind him.
Frank nodded. "I am," he said softly.
"Okay, first chore is … this," said Grady as he pushed something into Frank's hand. Frank glanced down then turned around to face his dad with a puzzled expression on his face. It was a long lead that was new and went behind his dad who wore a grin.
"She's been in all day and needs a proper walk. Oh - here are the bags you will need." Grady said pushing them into Franks pocket.
"Lucky!" gasped Frank, falling to his knees and hugging her as she wiggled happily to see him.
"After she helped to catch the murderer and protect Aunt Jessica, I knew she was too much a part of our family to leave behind," said Grady gently.
The sea birds gamboled about Frank as they walked down the hill towards the small town. It was smaller than Cabot Cove, but just as friendly as people returned his wave and smile.
"I am." The words seemed to dance on the wind with the tantalizing familiarity of a whisper. Sighing Frank stopped to clean up after Lucky then gave her a pat on the head as he found a trash place to put it in. Willie had always answered his questions straight forward. "Race you home, Lucky," Frank said, turning back up the hill. With a yip Lucky followed him, allowing him to win by a nose before going to her dish and getting a drink before laying down next to the baby's bassinette.
Frank washed his hands then helped his mom make supper, then cleaned up the dishes while she fed his sister. It was later in the evening that he went to where his sister's car seat was and folded the woven blanket. It smelt of fresh clover and sweet flowers. For a moment he just sat, holding it. It was the same weave he had seen on Willie the first day they had met.
He didn't notice at first that there was someone in the seat next to him. He studied the man – at first he thought he was a kid, like him, for the man stood about four and a half feet tall. It was the presence of a stubble beard that was peaking through that convinced Frank that he was not a kid at all. The man's head was tucked against his chest and soft snores were coming from him. Frank looked at him again. The man's coat was rough dark blue linen, his shirt was – different. It had a woven pattern style that Frank had never seen before. The man had a silk scarf about his neck, and had a dark vest. In the vest pocket a slim chain lead to a gold pocket watch. Looking at the man's head again, he saw his hair was curly locks, as if it hadn't been cut for a long time.
"Frank honey, is something wrong?" Donna asked, concerned.
"Did ye lose somethin', lad?"
"Mom, do you ... do you believe in the impossible?"
"Did ye lose somethin', lad?"
Donna came over to where he was and pulled a chair up to sit on beside him. Her soft hand reached out and brushed away the tears on his face that he didn't know he had shed. Her hand reached out and covered his as it held the soft woven blanket.
"Yes," she said softly before giving him a hug. "Bed time now, we have a lot of unpacking to do tomorrow, and the next day is the first day of school. I know your father wants to show you the bike trail to Aunt Jessica's tomorrow as well."
Frank lay on his bed looking out his window at the stars. Lucky had curled up at the foot of the bed snoring gently. Knowing he couldn't sleep he pulled his note book journal from under his pillow and clicked on the small book light he had purchased with the money his dad had given him at the beginning of the summer.
In the time that has passed for this summer, I've changed. I started out not caring, and then learning what its like to be a parent, to be responsible, to know sorrow, and fear, and love of family. I've learned that truth comes in many forms. Some simple, some great. I've been told a great truth … I Am. I understand about faith, and death, and destiny. Sometimes. I don't know what will happen next, and sometimes I wish… I wished that I could have stayed home and not gone where I have. I'm glad though, that I did. I've met people that changed my life, and saved my family. I've fallen in love, and I know that she is always close to my heart, and I to hers.
Frank closed the journal and was about to turn off the light when he felt something slide from between the pages of the book to his bed. Using the light to search for what it was, he saw a glint of gold. "Hmm, that's where it went to," he thought to himself as he was about to replace the coin back with the pen. For a moment though, he hesitated. He had placed it in the book to make an impression of both sided of it, to study it closer.
"Did ye lose somethin', lad?" Willie's voice had asked him.
"I am …" The gold glinted and felt warm in his hand.
"Did ye lose somethin', lad?" a gentle Irish burred voice asked behind him.
Frank's eyes went wide and he pulled back to his seat and leaned against the window as he shook his head. Even the man's accent was right for one of the wee folk. Stories of what he should do flooded his mind as he could only gaze at this man with abject curiosity. Realizing the man wanted an answer Frank couldn't help but blurt out, "No. Sir, are you a leprechaun?"
The man gave him an appraising look then tilted his head. "Would ye be after m' gold if I was?" he asked with a twinkle in his hazel eyes.
Frank had to think a moment. He shook his head. "No. It would be too difficult to get it exchanged, and it wouldn't help matters in the long run."
"Ah, well, that's a wise decision then. Money isn't what the world was made for." He extended his hand. "My friends call me Willie Mac, the polite ones at least."
"I am," Frank said to the gold coin. It twinkled in the lamp light. For a moment he gazed at it, then as he placed it in the drawer next to his journal and the book light he saw the face of the coin again in the diffused light from the hall. Just for a moment his world went still.
"Whoa," he gasped, drawing his breath in quickly. He pulled out his journal and flipped open the last page. With shaking hands he wrote on the last page:
I understand it now what Willie told me today. I know the answer he gave me, and the question that I had asked of him. It is what we believe is possible, the unseen. The stories that we call fairy tales are based on some truths. I could believe in the gold, the wealth that turning the coin could bring, but that isn't what would bring the happiness into my life. I know why they buried the coins long ago, it wasn't to hide the truth that shows on the face of the coin – or the wealth that it would bring. There is a different wealth in family, in love and peace that money can not buy. If we are to accept that elves. fairies and leprechauns have walked the earth on faith alone, if that is the path that we believe and follow, even with proof, then we have not looked far enough. For there are also angels and the shadows as well that are out there. I thought that with all that I have seen over the summer that I had grown up, that I was mature, and had become an adult. I wanted to be a kid again. I needed to believe in something – great.
I am … too.
Forever young at heart.
While this * is * the end of the Tabhairt Isteach Do series, and the summer that Frank Fletcher spends with Jessica, it's not the end of the adventures of those who have been created with in these many pages. I don't know when the wild plot bunnies will wish to be woven into another tale, someday when I least expect I suppose. I have other projects to attend to this year, the writing of a book that is original fiction and getting prepared for my own wedding this August. I hope to make it, and the life I will share with the man I love as magical as Taylor's and Willie's and I know I have great friends to help along the way. Thanks to Anne for being my faithful beta.
Thanks all for believing,