Come Across the Big Pond

Part One…


Tar ar an tAigéan


Disclaimer. I don’t own the characters that are found in the Murder She Wrote TV series, or in the book form. They are the property of someone else. I * do * own the characters that I created. The character of Dr. Tipper Henderson was created by Anne, and is used with her permission. To read more about the adventures of Tipper, Google Murder She Wrote and go to the “Definitive Guide to Murder She Wrote.” This story (Tabhairt Isteach Do ) is several stories within one, starting with A Picture Perfect Murder, then The Ghost of Preston Giles, Murder by Trust, and Till Deadly Do We Pact, and the ones that follow this adventure. It was broken up into chapters and placed on as such to make it easier to read.

Authors note & warning… This story has a warning of 13+ due to language, beliefs and customs that may offend some people’s sensibilities.

If you have traversed this far, please sign a review so that I know you have read it! Don’t be shy!!



© May 18th, 2006. Finished June 9th, 2006.


Frank leaned against the window of the bus and pulled out his pencil and note pad. He looked at Jessica, who had nodded off - It had been a lot of walking for her to go the two blocks, then up all of the stairs to the classroom, then to the diner and then back the two blocks where they caught the bus back to the bus station in time to make the trip back to Cabot Cove. They would arrive at midnight, and Sheriff Metzger would pick them up at the bus station and take them home. Frank didn’t know when they would be leaving for the wedding, but there were one or two things he had to do first.


Willie’s knuckles were a bit banged up, and Frank could see the bandages they had gotten at the corner drug store would have to be replaced when they got home. Aunt Jessica had said something about getting a tetanus shot, and Willie had mumbled something about rabies as well.


Flipping open the note pad, Frank licked the end of his pencil and began to write.


“Dear Mom and Dad,


Aunt Jessica says that I can send the company you work for this letter and they will forward it to you wherever you are. I wanted to let you know what was going on so that if you call and there is no answer at Aunt Jessica’s you won’t worry. You know that I met a man named Willie Mac, and I told you he had moved in next door to stay with Aunt Jessica’s neighbor Ms. Andrews. Well, when Aunt Jessica fell, I got to stay with them on the advice of Sheriff Metzger and we found out something very cool. Willie Mac is really a MacGill! Sheriff Metzger found a photo of Willie’s mum and it looks a lot like Aunt Jessica, but it’s not. Aunt Jessica says there are a lot of MacGills that look like her so it could be any of her cousins. Anyway, life here in Cabot Cove, Aunt Jessica says to tell you, is going “as usual.” She said that you would know what that meant and not to worry - everyone’s been taken care of.


A lot of things have happened. I don’t use the internet as much as I did before because I have been busy learning how to card wool and weave and dye materials with Willie. He is a really cool guy. Aunt Jessica says he is a Doctor of Biology, and he has his medical doctorate from Cambridge.


Mum, you know when you said you packed my passport and I asked you what I would be needing it for and you said, “you never know”? Well … I do now! I am going to be traveling to Ireland with Aunt Jessica, Willie Mac and Ms. Andrews and Dr. Henderson, if she can get away for a while. Willie Mac TOLD Ms. Andrews that they were getting married because he didn’t want to give her the chance to say no, and he asked me if I can be his best man because I helped to get the two of them together. I suggested that they get married. They don’t do the mushy kissy stuff like some people do when they are dating, but they keep looking at each other like, well, when you look in on me when I am sleeping just to watch me breathe. I don’t know when we are leaving, but Willie Mac says that the wedding will happen almost right away when we get to the village he lived in and then we are going to spend some time going over old records to investigate some things, like what Aunt Jessica does best. I know if I tell you not to worry, you will worry just because.


I have learned a lot while I am here and one of the things I learned was what it means when someone is disappointed in you. I understand it now. I really do. I feel like I am growing up a lot in the short time that I have been here. I promise not to disappoint you ever again (if I can possibly help it). The review by the school board that they didn’t tell you about went ok. They have agreed that I don’t have to come back for any more, I only have to have reports sent in when I have completed stuff. My new glasses are working out pretty well, and Willie MacGill gave them heck because where I was sitting in the class room - well, even he said he couldn’t hear or see what was going on, so I guess there will be some changes there.





He closed his note book and shoved it into his back pack. He knew when they got home there would be time enough for the stamp and the envelope. Looking over at Willie, Frank saw a five o’clock shadow on Willie’s face, and the concern that clouded his eyes. Frank reached over and took Willie’s hand in his.


Willie looked over at him, a bit surprised. “Something amiss, lad?”


Frank shook his head and shrugged. “I’m just glad that you’re a part of my family,” he said simply.



Donald Brook strode through the hospital hallway up to the nurses station and presented his ID to the nurse on charge. She glanced at it, then regarded the stout man with the salt and pepper hair and twinkling blue eyes. He could have been a movie star in another life - though being a lawyer was sometimes enough notice that anyone could want. She pressed the button to allow him entrance into the closed ward of ICU.


As he approached Anthony’s room he could hear voices that he recognized, Seth’s and Taylor’s, and one other he didn’t know, all behind a curtain. Clearing his throat he heard the conversation stop. Seth pulled the curtain back and regarded him, then with a nod allowed him to step into the cubical where Anthony lay swaddled in bandages. There was just a clump of his sandy red hair peeking out, his eyes were still closed and his swarthy complexion had the look of being scrubbed clean. Taylor looked up at Donald’s entrance and smiled. He walked over to her side and gave her a brief hug, then shook hands with Seth and regarded the administrator, who was fuming with anger. A low moan came from Donald as he gripped the edge of the bed for support. He had heard from Jessica that Anthony had been in an accident, but didn’t know the extent of his injuries. It was painful for him to see his old friend so close to death.


Donald felt a comforting hand on his shoulder. Taylor gave him a smile. “He is doing much better, Donald.”


“Exactly my point!” said Seth to the other man in the room. Donald turned and regarded the man, whose smock said “Dr. Geoffrey Marshall, Hospital Administration.” The man looked, in Donald’s opinion, just like a ferret. His bright beady eyes peered suspiciously at Donald, and then he turned back to Seth.


“The man is not licensed to practice medicine in the state of Maine. Bits of plants placed directly in the wound, disconnecting the prescribed IV’s - who knows what all!”


“I am his POA, and I authorized it. Two days ago, Anthony was dying from drug interactions. He has a chance now - more than he had before, and it’s no thanks to your medicine, which was nearly the death of him before.”


Donald looked quizzically at Taylor, then to Seth, and the administrator.  “Has his care been compromised by this treatment?” Donald asked Seth.


“No. There is no indication of detrimental effects to the current treatment plan. Dr. Razanur has helped to stabilize Anthony’s condition. I happen to agree with him regarding the side effects of some of the drugs that were given to Anthony, and if the result is that patches of poultice do much better than the chemical version, my vote would be to go with what is working. He is off the respirator, breathing on his own, and his blood gas levels are the best I have seen since his admittance …”


“The issue is, they want to charge for his care, but they can’t because it wasn’t their doctors who were treating him,” said Taylor with a bemused grin.


“Is he stable enough to travel?” inquired Donald as he went to his friend’s side and picked up his free hand. It was warm and soft and leathery feeling, and reminded him of kidskin gloves.


Seth regarded Donald, then looked at Taylor who was suddenly studying the pattern of the bed sheet beneath her hands. “Not for awhile. Where would you be taking him? Isn’t that a decision for his POA?” Seth saw Donald nod.


“It is. It is why I am here. The insurance carrier would like him closer to home as soon as possible and to be evaluated for long term care. I’ve already found someone to care for him and a facility that specializes in durational management.” Donald saw tears form in Taylor’s eyes. “Perhaps we might discuss this in a conference room?” he asked softly.


She straightened up and, escorted by Seth, went into the room behind the nurse’s station. Donald said to the hospital administrator, “This is a private matter for now. When we have reached a decision you will be notified.” He closed the door and went to sit across the table from where Taylor was sitting. Seth was beside her, holding her hand.


She had her eyes closed for a moment. “I suppose I should ask what gives you the right to change his treatment plan and where he is cured?”


“Until a month ago, I was his POA.”


Seth regarded Donald. “What changed?”


Donald let out a sigh. “The state changed his medical package a month ago, and some of the paperwork became scrambled. Taylor was his beneficiary, I was his POA. Now I am his beneficiary, and Taylor his POA. He was in the process of changing it back when he came here, but with him incapacitated, the changes won’t take effect, and we can’t finalize the changes until he recovers - not just his benefits package, but everyone else’s who worked at the court house.”


“A month ago … wasn’t that when they scheduled Kent Fordham’s hearing?” asked Taylor softly.


Donald nodded. “Yes. And, yes there were some manipulations of the accounts.”


“So, what do we have to do to get this straightened out?” she asked. She knew Donald from many years before - a lifetime away. She knew that Donald would do everything he could to protect Anthony, and that as a lawyer he would know all of the legalities.


“For now, just come to an agreement on his treatment plan,” Donald said gently.


Seth looked at him, then at Taylor. “Forgive the impertinence, but how would it have looked if something happened to Anthony and Donald had to make a life-or-death decision, and it was discovered that he would directly benefit from it?”


Donald let out a sigh. “As his lawyer, I can’t be his beneficiary.” He saw Taylor grip the table, her knuckles white from the pressure. Reaching over he took both of her hands in his own and held them. “All of this was put into place four years ago. He never changed it because he had hoped some day to be with you.”


“I tried to tell him - for years I tried. I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t live, not knowing if he would be taken out at any given moment. He was declared dead, and he still went back. Donald, you have to know. There is some one else in my life - he’s asked me to marry him, and I’ve said yes. And he has agreed to allow Anthony to be brought into our home to be cared for…” Taylor stopped for a moment and closed her eyes – “… to be cared for the rest of his life, how ever long that may be.”


“He is the same one who took over Anthony’s care?”


Taylor nodded. Donald looked at Seth who was sitting quietly. Seth reached over to Taylor and touched her arm gently.  “Dear, Anthony’s care won’t be that simple.”


For a long moment Taylor looked at Seth, then back to Donald. “Did he sign a DNR?” she asked in the smallest of voices.


“To my knowledge, no. They had to have been planning this for a long time,” Donald said softly.


Taylor looked at her hands. ”How do you know the person who is going to take care of him isn’t involved with all of this?”


“I’ve known Sondra for four years, and she has nothing to do with Kent Fordham. Anthony knows her too. He will receive excellent care, and be safe.”

Her sudden giggle threw him off. “That’s pretty much what Anthony said when he sent me here ahead of him.” Taylor took in a breath and then looked up at Donald. “Willie will be returning home tonight. I believe it would be prudent to wait until he returns to discuss the matter of his care, and if he can travel, with him. “


Seth furrowed his brows and regarded Donald. “Is that the same Sondra that Jessica and I know?” Donald nodded.


“Very well. I will be staying at the Hill House,” Donald said as he gave Seth a nod.


“You bloody well will not be staying there! Donald – that place is a den of iniquity! “


Donald was about to chide her for being an alarmist when Seth cleared his throat.  “I agree. Normally the place is safe enough, but in this regard we are not taking any chances. You’re coming home with me, and tomorrow we will meet with Willie and Taylor and discuss the options … Now, what’s this about you getting married to Willie?" asked Seth.


“He asked me yesterday, before they left, and I said yes ... he is going back home to settle some things, and we’ll be married over there. Frank is going to be his best man, Tipper as my maid of honor, and Jessica as a witness.”


She saw Seth’s eyes narrow. “That’s near Scotland, isn’t it?”


“A bit near … why?” Taylor asked, bemused. She could see Seth struggling with something internal. Finally Seth closed his eyes and sighed.  “Seth? What is it?”


He flushed a moment before saying, “George lives there.” He said it with a tinge of sadness in his voice. The look in his eyes was one that Taylor had seen in Anthony’s not long ago: acceptance that there was another man in the life of a woman that he loved and there wasn’t anything to be done for it.


“George?” asked Donald, curious.


“The chief inspector of Scotland Yard, Inspector George Sutherland He helped to do the paperwork for Willie to reclaim his sword. I dare say he might be there - Willie mentioned something about making things right, which will mean involvement with the law on something greater than a local level.” Taylor watched Seth’s shoulders go down just a bit. The thought of Jessica being at a wedding, dancing with George – being in his arms again – was a bit much for Seth. Taylor took Seth’s hand in hers and held it gently.


“Seth, I haven’t had the chance to ask you … if you’re free for a bit, would you be able to walk me down the aisle? You would be escorting Jessica back up the aisle after the ceremony.”


“Me??” he gasped.


“Well, I had considered Anthony, but that would probably not be something Emily Post would say is proper form."


Seth nodded. “I would be honored,” he said, giving her cheek a kiss. “I have rounds to do. If you wouldn’t mind waiting, Donald? “ Donald gave a nod as Seth strode from the room.


“So, tell me about this young man that you’re marrying. What do you know about him, and how long have you been acquainted?”




Jessica watched the icy blue clouds dance upon the horizon. It seemed odd that at one in the morning they were serving breakfast and that the sun was coming up - but flying east did that. Three days had past since the recapture of Kent Fordham and Willie’s return. He had been quiet about it, and about how his knuckles had been bashed up. Seth had given him a check-up and a few shots, and then the four of them sat down and had a long discussion regarding Anthony. His healing would take a long time. He had snatches of being awake, and during one of those times, Taylor told him about her planned marriage to Willie. For the longest time he didn’t say anything. She thought he had drifted off to sleep, but he took a breath, and managed to give her a smile.


“Good,” he said. “He loves you.” He nodded, then his eyes closed again and he fell asleep. She bent over and kissed his cheek, and when she left the room and faced Jessica, there were tears in her eyes.


There was a lot to the planning of the trip that Willie just took over. Willie insisted on going to the courthouse and filling out forms for his dual citizenship, and there were other papers that he had Taylor sign, that Jessica had been a witness to - things that, after a while, were just another form. Telling the others had been the next step. Tipper had jumped up and down in excitement at being asked to travel to Ireland for the wedding. Getting coverage for the hospital was a bit of a stretch - nether she nor Seth had any idea that the words “getting married soon” meant “leaving in two days.” Tipper had just renewed her passport on a fluke with the new laws going into effect that required one to get in and out of the States from Canada, and Taylor had to dig in several boxes to find hers. Getting the sword on the airplane as part of the carry-on took several calls and quite a bit of nail biting. Willie wasn’t going to risk putting it in the checked bag or having it shipped - not now, not when it had taken so long to reclaim it. Mort had been the one to discover that historical artifacts were given priority when it came to shipping, and owing to the age of the sword, it fell under that category. Getting it back through customs would be a trick, as they might not be so easily convinced of the concern he had for it.


Willie had spent a great deal of time in the shop, not telling Taylor what he was doing. He would come up to her and give her a hug, twirl her around, then he would be off again. It gave her time, she supposed, to manage things to get her house taken care of, and to make arrangements for Sydney and Lucky’s care. Jessica had been busy too, making calls overseas. Willie refused to open the sword until they got over to Ireland, and in the presence of officials who could validate whatever they found.


Frank had been wiggly the whole trip. He kept squirming in his seat, looking around and watching people. If any one else noticed it, they might think it was the normal high energy of the child that age, but Taylor knew that he was looking around, just to be on the safe side.


Tipper leaned back in her seat next to Jessica. Normally she would shy away from people-filled events. Animals were less judgmental, loving unconditionally. In the years that she had known Taylor, she had never pressed the young vet on why she hadn’t married, why she didn’t seek the company of men or others, preferring to live a life that was fulfilled with work and her animals. She had begged off getting involved with local plays and gatherings. She didn’t really see the faces of the people who brought in their animals; instead she saw their animals as the important part of the family. Jess owned a canary. Birds were all right, but being so small, if they became ill there wasn’t much that could be done for them anyway. Tipper was like her cats, independent, coming and going as she needed. Her relationship with Taylor had started by accident, and their friendship grew from there. Tipper knew that on any given day when it had been horrid in surgery, or if she had helped to birth half a dozen bunnies, that Taylor would be there with a cup of tea and fresh buttermilk biscuits, and maybe even that odd corn stuff she called mush. Willie MacGill was a kindred spirit, being alone most of his life. In a way their marriage was totally romantic - but in another way, Tipper viewed the pending event with sadness. Things would change.


She could hear Frank asking Willie a question about Ireland, for the umpteenth time. Willie answered in his same calm patient way that he had since the first question. She had tried to close her eyes, but there was just so much to see  and listen to, and of course there was the bright-eyed little girl who peeked over the seat at her and smiled.


“Zoe, eat your biscuit. There’s a good lambkin,” said a voice with an accent. Tipper realized that everyone on the plane except Jess, Seth, Frank and herself had an accent of one type or another, and then it occurred to her that it wasn’t they who had the accents, but that Seth, Jess, Taylor, Frank and herself were the ones who were speaking oddly.


Jessica felt Seth take her hand beneath the blanket as they both tried to get a bit of sleep between the meals that were served. Since the last time Seth had encountered George the feelings between them had simmered. She knew that Seth was very fond of her, and the disclosure of the relationship between the two of them had been unsettling. Seth, though, didn’t push, and didn’t pout. He had shown George in his own way that he was there for Jessica, as a friend, every day of the year. There were two types of relationships – the one she had with George that had all of the fireworks, and the other, the steady friendship she had with Seth. If there was a way that the two men could be merged together … well, the result might be worth getting married again for. There was a twinge inside of her for a moment, remembering everything that Seth did for her - the storm windows, and the plumbing, and she wondered if in a way she was using their friendship for that. Inside, though, she knew that they were the dearest of friends, no matter what transpired. Seth had taken the news of the relationship between George and her very maturely. There was no way he would ever think of being with Jessica that way.


Willie saw Frank look out the window, then back at Taylor who was snuggled next to Willie, a blanket over the three of them. “That story that you started, well, I only heard the beginning of it when Aunt Jessica was in the hospital. Could you tell me the story now?”


“It was a Dark and Stormy Night,” Taylor began.


“The rain and wind lashed the branches in a frightful display of the elements. The skies were split by earth-shattering blasts of fierce lightning and the booming thunder that rattled the depths of the ancient willow that was once a terrible wizard who had cursed the small seaside cove. His name was …”


Willie interrupted her. “Lass, don’t say it, we’re on a plane a long way up, remember?”


“Yeah, I remember last time when you said it. Its ok, I know his name,” said Frank with a grin on his face.


“Very well, we will call him Alnan,” said Taylor. She continued:


“You may wonder how a terrible wizard had become a willow tree that would curse the small sea side cove. It happened as this. Alnan had once been a lowly wizard who studied hard, and was an apprentice to a very powerful wizard named Lakaran who had quite forgotten the feelings of the lowly wizard who worked under him. No matter how hard Alnan worked, it was never good enough, or worthy of the powerful wizard’s attention. Feeling very dejected, Alnan went down to the cove every day after his master went to bed where he would watch the stars come out over the water. It was there he first caught the eye of a beautiful young girl named Harama who had raven black hair so long they could have woven a fishing net from it.


“Together the two of them would spend their nights walking up and down the shore of the cove and falling in love. Alnan wouldn’t tell her where he lived, or what he did, for he was afraid that the powerful wizard Lakaran would punish him for falling in love. One day, in secret Harama followed Alnan home, and learned where he lived, and that he was the wizard’s apprentice. It was that same day that Lakaran decided that Alnan was not paying attention to what he was teaching, and he redoubled the lessons he was giving the young wizard so that he had no time to meet with the beautiful Harama by the cove shores. Wondering where he was, she crept to the wizard’s home, and seeing him by the cauldron she tapped lightly on the window. He opened the door and tried to warn her away because of the danger, but she wouldn’t listen. Her voice woke Lakaran, and as Alnan shooed her away Lakaran caught sight of the two young lovers.


“The next day Lakaran came to the village leaders and said that he was to have as his own a young girl of the village by the cove, and if they did not make it so, the curse that he would bring down upon the village by the cove would be terrible and mighty. The village leaders didn’t question why he wanted a bride so quickly, or who, and it wasn’t until later that Alnan learned that the person chosen was his beloved Harama.


“Alnan went to the town leaders and begged them not to allow the wedding. It wasn‘t right - Harama was only a young lass, and Lakaran was older than the hills. But they were too afraid of Lakaran, and wouldn‘t listen to Alnan. So he cursed them, saying, “No longer will your nets bring the fish home to your wives and family. No longer will the sea be warm and gentle as a mother’s arm to those who venture from your shores. Hard will be the wind that blows and deep the snows that cover your land. Summer shall flee from your shores and all you will know is mud for thrice the time as was before.” Alnan went in search of Harama, and found her crying by the shore of the cove. She had heard that he had cursed the cove, and it had broken her heart. Alnan, not knowing what else to do, and not being able to explain to her why he had cursed the town, changed her into a little bird to hide her, hoping that if Lakaran couldn’t find her, then perhaps they could escape later.


“Well, the townspeople didn’t know what to do, so they went to Lakaran and told him that Alnan had cursed the town because he wanted to marry Harama. Lakaran became angry and demanded that Harama be brought forward so he could have her as his own. The townspeople searched for her, but couldn’t find her and Lakaran became even angrier. He called Alnan forward and demanded to know where Harama was. Alnan wouldn’t tell Lakaran, and they began to battle as only wizards could. In the end Lakaran turned Alnan into the seed of a willow tree, and was going to place him in an iron box where he would not see light or be able to escape for all the days of the earth. But a little bird flew down and seized the seed from Lakaran’s hand. She flew as far away as she could and laid the seed down between two rocks and hid it when Lakaran came after her. He cast a spell, freezing her on the spot. Her body covered the seed, and when the rains came, the seed sprouted and grew into a mighty willow.


“One day Lakaran was looking for a particular herb to place into his collection when he came to where the Willow was growing. In its bark he saw the face of his apprentice Alnan. Alnan saw him, and before Lakaran could do anything, Alnan’s branches wrapped around him and flung him into the sea where he quickly perished. The spell that had frozen Harama was broken, but Alnan was still a willow, and she did not recognize him. She flew away in search of the man she loved, not realizing he was the willow tree. All that Alnan had cursed had come true - the nets would not work in the cove, and the town was in despair …”


Taylor stopped her story. Willie, who was following it, looked at her questioningly. She inclined her head in Frank’s direction. He had fallen fast asleep. “For another time then,” he said, kissing her gently.


It was misty as the plane settled on to the runway at Dublin’s airport. They had made the flight in good time, and while the line was long going through customs, Tipper saw a familiar face at the end of it. Frank, who had awakened as the plane was touching down, was the first to march up to the custom’s counter in their group.


“Do you have anything to declare?” he was asked by the portly agent.


Frank thought a moment. “I always wondered - do they really make that Irish soap here? - Oh! You mean like if I was bringing something in to the country? No,“ he said, shaking his head. He missed the agents’ bemused grins.


George stepped forward as Willie laid the sword in its carrier on the counter and untied the bindings for it. The agents regarded it, then the documents that he presented, and nodded to George who took the sword from the counter and walked with Willie to a small room. The door closed between them and the others, and for a moment the two men spoke. Tipper waited, watching them as the others made it through customs. When it was her turn she stepped up to the counter and presented her passport to be stamped. For the longest time they held it, looking at it, and her, then flicked it under the barcode scanner. She found herself being frowned at by the customs agent.


“Have you had contact with ill animals with in the last three months?”


Tipper blinked then realized what they were asking. “Physical contact, as in bitten or scratched? No. No infestations, either.”


“Will you be coming into contact with any animals during your stay here?”


“Lord love a duck, I certainly hope not … no matter how cute the lad may think he is,” she said, not being able to help herself. She was a vet, for crying out loud - of course she had come into contact with sick animals! She understood their caution, but removing quills from the nose of a dog wasn’t the same as dealing with bird flu, and they didn’t have any cases of foot-and-mouth, not among the lobsters, anyway.


She saw the customs agents’ eyebrows raise and wondered just how much of a sense of humor they had. It was possible that they could deny her entry into Ireland for whatever reason. Tipper didn’t breathe for a second. Then the agent handed back her passport and reached for the next person’s passport in line. By the time all of them were through, Willie and George were coming out of the room, the sword wrapped back up in the case that Willie had made to transport it safely.


Jessica looked at George. He was uncharacteristically formal about everything. No hugs, no greetings, just nods to them, not even looking her in the eye. He walked with them down to the baggage claim area where their things were just beginning to come down the ramp. Jessica considered giving him a good nudge to see if he would react, then thought better as she saw another customs agent had fallen into step behind them. “What is going on?” she thought to herself. She noticed that some of the bags had been pulled aside and by the bright pink straps on them, they were theirs. She saw the agents waving a wand over one, and nodding to another to cut the lock. Willie groaned beside her and strode forward, asking something of the agents who were poised over the lock.


Taylor look at the bag, puzzled. It was one of their bags, but she didn’t remember it being unloaded from the trunk of the car when they had arrived at the airport. Willie sighed and went to them, bent over and whispered something in the agent’s ear. Jessica saw the agent look at them, then lifting the bag and bade Willie to come into a room away from them where once again the door was closed. In a moment he came out with the bag in his hand and the lock replaced on it along with a paper sticker that was put on the outside of the bag. There was no sign of the sword, but from the increase of weigh in the bag, it was apparent that it had been placed within the bag that had just been inspected.


Frank regarded the car that awaited them. He had overheard that Inspector Sutherland had personally checked out the car to be sure nothing had been tampered with, and that the tank was full. He just didn’t see how six people with their luggage could fit in such a thing, but then he saw the trunk. He realized with the way they had packed, yes, a few things would have to be held on their laps, but it was doable. It surprised him more when Willie got behind the wheel of the car and made his first turn onto the street.


It wasn’t more than forty-five minuets later that they pulled into a small village that lay nestled among the verdant pastures. There was a worn sign that proudly stated, “MITHER MCGEE’S THE ROOSTING HEN BED AND BREAKFAST” tacked to the fence post that was surrounded by ivy and clover. Willie turned the car into its drive and brought it into the parking lot near the garage.


Willie breathed a sigh of relief as he brought the car to a stop and turned off the engine.

“Just so you’re knowing, the registers here carry sound - even a mouse can’t cough without everyone knowing in the whole village. I don’t know the accommodations that they will be having for us, but at least we will be having beds, so that’s a comfort. Flynn and his misses still run the place - it’s a bit off the beaten path, but it’s where we want to be right now.“  Willie regarded Tipper and gave her a wink. “Oh, ye might be wary of the local lads, they tend to grow them a mite handsome this part of the world. Wouldn’t be surprised if your dance card is filled for the wedding in half a heart beat. Be mindful of them if they ask if they can hang their laundry next to yours.”


Wiggling about, Frank saw a few curtains move as people looked out to see who had arrived in their village. “Is this where you grew up?” he asked.


Willie nodded down the street. “Gram’s house is a bit down that way, and the market shops are over that way. Mind that it may not be the warmest of welcomes … but I never met an Irishman who didna love to step out for the wedding of a bonny lass,” he said with a grin at Taylor. He got out of the car and went around to open the door for Jessica and helped her out, then Taylor, and Tipper. Frank helped Seth out, who regarded the quiet farming village. It was a lot like Cabot Cove, in more ways than he could put into words. While it was inland, it still held the quiet charm, and the close knit community spirit.


Seth suspected that the road that led to this town, before Willie had put it on the map, had been a dirt one that the residents would have liked to have forgotten. He picked up his bag and Jessica’s, directed Frank to take a few then followed Willie up the steps of the front porch where Mither McGee was waiting by the door to usher them inside. When the car was unloaded, she handed Willie a key and in a moment he came back after moving the car into the garage. He sighed. He would have rather stayed in another town, perhaps, rather than coming directly into the fray that he knew would soon erupt, but Mither McGee’s was the only place that he knew he could trust, and that would have a garage where he could secure the car safely. It also was one of the few places that had three bathrooms, though when the bed and breakfast became full, there was often a wait for the tub.


“Mind the tins,” Willie muttered under his breath as he led Taylor up the back staircase to where the bedrooms were. It took Taylor a full minute to understand that the tins were by the chairs, and that they were used as spittoons for the guests that came, or, more notably, for Mither McGee herself, who was in a proper state once they arrived up at their rooms.


Willie was right. They did have their own beds. Frank had always wanted to sleep top bunk, and upon the advice of Willie, Tipper was the other top bunker. They had two rooms, one for the men, the other for the ladies, each room sleeping four with two sets of bunk beds. She saw he had the sword in its case as he escorted her down the steps for proper introductions to Mither.


“Seven calls in two days, Willie, I had - seven!!! Had to triple-bunk some and I don’t know how the floors in the attic will be taking so many traipsing up there! Who would ha know ye would marry into such a large family! Would have lodged ye all together but it didna seem proper to put ye in the same room with your bride before the wedding, though I might have to after if people are staying over, seeing how there will be two empty beds the night of your wedding …” she said with a sly wink to him.


Willie smiled. “Na, there are two coming who will be taking the place in the cots that night, and you did leave one room open, didna ye?”


“Aye. I did. But ye haven’t told me how many are staying in it.”


Willie shrugged. “Won’t know until they come. Thank ye, Mither,” he said, kissing her cheek gently.


Surprisingly, she blushed then waved him away. “Go on, off with ye, Gram is waiting for you to come home. Faraday can show you about the town while you’re waiting for the rest of your group to arrive.”


Tipper turned at the sound of footsteps. She knew from Willie’s description that Flynn had to be older. The man who came into the room was younger, fit, and had curly black hair with a dimpled chin. He wore a crisp blue oxford shirt that had the cuffs rolled three-quarters of the way up and dark Dockers. When he smiled, it was with his whole face - the dimples got deeper, and even his sky blue eyes crinkled. His voice was mellow and even as he held out his hand. “Might I show you about?” he asked, speaking in near perfect English.


“I … yes, thank you, that would be lovely,” said Tipper with a shy smile on her face, which was touched with a pink blush. She could hear Frank clear his throat behind her as she tucked her hand in the crook of Faraday’s arm.


Mither called after Faraday: “Don’t forget to hitch the team to the hay wagon later for ye father!” Faraday waved backwards at her, letting her know he had heard her.


Walking over to Taylor, Willie held out his free hand and escorted her down the lane to where a small cottage was nestled behind large spreading oaks. A thin wisp of smoke rose from the chimney signaling someone was within. Willie took a breath, then after knocking once, opened the door and led Taylor inside


It was the same as Willie had described it the night Cal had died. Taylor saw Gram, a diminutive woman wrapped in a soft blue shawl that she knew had to have come from Willie’s hand. On the table near the hearth lay her pipe and a tin of tobacco. Something made Taylor go to her and kneel at her feet, and taking her withered hands in her own, kiss the backs of them softly before laying her cheek against them. For the longest time Gram didn’t move or acknowledge that she had even felt Taylor taking her hands in hers, or the kiss that Willie put upon her cheek. Finally she looked at him and sighed.


“Is it done?” she said softly.


“It has started. Gram, why couldn’t you tell me?” he asked, taking her by the arm gently.


“Better to keep a secret if not known. Only the sword could tell … ‘tis the key, ye know,” she stated.


Taylor looked at Willie, a bit confused, yet trusting that he would tell her what was going on.




George Sutherland looked down at the address that was scrawled on the scrap of paper, then at the numbers on the bottom of the door. Looking around he saw that where he was standing wasn’t the best or the safest of neighborhoods. The yellow house before him was a post war construction, single story with thin walls and perhaps at the most two bedrooms. While the neighborhood may not be the safest, he could see that care had been taken, and pride, in how the house was kept. Taking a breath, he stepped up to the door and knocked. A young girl, perhaps five years old, opened the inside door and looked up at him with a frown on her face. He heard voices inside scolding her for opening up the door. In the dimness of the small hallway he saw a younger woman coming forward, and in a heartbeat George knew what Jessica had to have looked like forty years before - beautiful. What was even more breathtaking was the woman who followed the younger woman down the hall, a mousy grey-haired lady who held all of the poise and grace that Jessica did – albeit a life of sadness in her eyes.


“Yes?” the older woman asked.


George drew a breath and said softly, “Mrs. Rosemary MacGill Razanur, I am Chief Inspector George Sutherland of Scotland Yard, and I have been asked to transport you and your family safely to your son Dr. Thaladirith Razanur’s wedding to Miss Taylor Andrews, which is being held in two days’ time in the town where your children were born. Tabhairt isteach do.”


George saw Rosemary raise her hand to her chest. It had to be a shock, to hear about a son whom she had given up years before come forward and acknowledge her, and even more to hear uttered the Razanur’s family motto of ‘Tabhairt isteach do‘. She didn’t budge, though. There was still fear in her eyes until he said softly, “You may contact your sister Emma. She will describe me, and tell you that I am known to your cousin Jessica MacGill Fletcher.” Reaching in his pocket he withdrew a small photograph and held it up for her to see. “You do understand there isn’t much time. Bring what you need.”


She nodded, and then turning to her daughter said something to her softly. In short order, Rosemary, her daughter and her four children, and two suitcases were loaded into his car. He closed the car boot then looked around. Nary a curtain dropped. Either the neighbors didn’t care, didn’t want to be involved in what had the potential to be a blood bath, or that which was feared was already put into motion.


As he drove along the narrow roads he stole a glance at the woman who sat next to him so quietly. He could afford himself a smile. There had been talk about Jessica being a witch in his village of Wick. After meeting Emma and now Rosemary, truth be told, if the three women ever entered into the village together the faint of heart would perish. He had never seen such as strong family resemblance in all of his lifetime. The children sat in the back with their hands folded in their laps. Either they were very well behaved, or they were terrified of any reasons why a chief inspector of Scotland Yard would be coming to pick them up.


There was another truth that needed to be told. He had been uncharacteristically formal to Jessica since her arrival - he had to be. There were several concerns regarding her safety and that of the others - no one was quite sure how deep the roots of the organization Furhdaham had created were. The other issue was the sword. Yes, it was an ancient artifact, steeped in mystery. But had he shown any favoritism to Jessica upon her arrival, and then it be learned that she was traveling with Willie, the customs agents would have seized the sword and prevented Willie from gaining access to its secrets, secrets that George hoped would help end the blood feud between the two families. The last thing they needed was for rumor to get out that all of this was arbitrated because he and Jessica were lovers, and that it had been accomplished because of that favoritism. He sighed. It wasn’t fair really to classify what was going on as a blood feud - rather, it was a one-sided slaughter of the innocent. He looked in the rear view mirror at the children again. Yes, it was fear that kept them quiet.


He knew they couldn’t go back to where they had lived, and how they had lived. Willie had known that, and at least was in a position to help them, if everything went well.  Willie, despite having to endure questions regarding his parentage, had been fortunate. He was brilliant, he had the advantage of education, and he was able to use that education to research breakthroughs for immune treatment using autoantigens found in nature. He was a skilled healer, an apothecary, a biologist, and an entomologist. It was said, during his time on the wards, that he could look into your eyes, and know not only what ailed you, but the cure as well. The hospital took care of his salary. He had little use for money, though, and chose to let the money they had paid him build up in his accounts. He wore the same homespun suits to black tie affairs as he did coming and going on the wards. After the sword had been stolen, Willie began to crumble. Not that the sword had directly to do anything with it; rather, it was the series of bombings and accidents around him that Willie had managed to survive. They never could determine if Willie had been the target, or if it had been politically and religiously motivated. The people George had interviewed regarding Willie found him a gentle soul incapable of hate, or revenge. He had informed George once that he didn’t pick fights, and he was hopelessly out of that element because of his size. The success of Willie’s book was staggering until the issues with the Nightshade Company came to light, raised by Willie himself.


Once the photo had been found Jessica had made a call to her cousin Emma, who had walked into his office a few days ago seeking his help. The only one of their family that fit the description in the photo was her sister Rosemary, who had withdrawn from the family four decades before to live a quiet life. She had only an address that was many years old. George’s research on Rosemary had shown that she had very little money when, several decades before, she had been granted a land allotment for widows of the war. She raised her daughter in the same house, working seven days a week as a mender for the local laundry, and when her daughter had married ten years before, kept the family together under the same roof and took care of the children while the two parents worked in the factories.


Her daughter Sara had been home ill when the accident at the factory happened four months before. The illness was unspecified in the report that was filed, but after the accident the factory closed. Sara kept to herself then, not seeking work. Having a letter from her doctor stating that she was not able to work, Sara went on the dole to support herself and her four children. All that they had were in those two battered cardboard suitcases.


Research into Sara’s husband yielded very little. John McAvery was an honest man with few faults. Honesty didn’t make you richer, or less prone to temptation. If he drank it was the brew that most made in their own pantry, or in the root stock area of the home. There was no connection to him with the Furhdahams, although the accident that took his life and others in the factory could be claimed as suspicious. Too many people died that were unknowns that might possibly have a link back. George was smart enough to realize that one man could not have possibly arranged everything. He had a gnawing fear that something larger was at hand, something far more deadly. He glanced at Sara again. She still looked ill, without obvious cause. Musing to himself, he wondered if Willie could help her.


Keeping himself focused, George let out a slowly drawn breath. It was a terrible risk that was being taken. The people who they were dealing with didn’t care who they hurt, not in the hundreds, or the thousands. The customs agent who had found the extra bag had almost brought things out hours ahead of time.


They were nearing their turn when Sara reached over and took him by the arm, squeezing it. He saw she was ghastly white and pulled the car over to the side of the road out of the way of traffic. The moment the car had come to a stop she was out the door and kneeling in the grass. George dug a small bottle out of the glove compartment, opened the car door, and went over to where she was still kneeling, supporting herself with her hands clenching the grass.


“Rinse your mouth out and then take a swallow. We mustn’t linger here. It’s not far now.”


It was a few moments later that they were back on the road again. When they turned into the village road George looked in his rear view mirror, and to his relief there were no cars behind him. He heard one of the children gasp when they pulled past Mither’s place - there were people milling about the front lawn, hugging each other, and children giggling and playing. Streamers were being hung from the trees and tents erected for the festivities. It was a far cry from the place they had left a few hours before. He drove down the lane and parked the car in front of another house.


Rosemary shot him a look. “She’s alive, then?”


George nodded, then got out, went about the other side of the car, and opened the door for her. For a moment Rosemary hesitated, but then she allowed George to escort her to the door with Sara behind her as well as the children. He knocked on the door with his knuckle, then stepped back as Taylor swung the door open for them and looked into the eyes of Willie’s mother. George stepped back. This was their moment, their time to heal. He could see through the window as he closed his car door Willie embracing his mother and his sister and then the children.




Sitting on the front porch swing with Frank, Jessica regarded the coming and goings of the people. In some way or another all the people were related to the MacGills. It had taken a few quick calls, and things grew from there. Tomorrow the media would arrive for the beginning of the festivities. It wasn’t often that most of the MacGills, some of them very famous, were in the same town, and a family reunion, along with a wedding seemed appropriate.


The other children were playing and laughing on the front yard. Frank sat with Jessica - not because the children were younger than he, or that he wasn’t sure about the game that they were playing, just that he had noticed the people looking at Jessica and Seth strangely when they spoke. He had realized that he would sound odd to them as well. A breeze caught the flowered cotton skirt Jessica wore and it was with a quick hand that she caught it and tucked it down under her legs. They all had changed into something more comfortable after the flight, and for some reason, the skirt seemed like a good idea.


The front door opened and Tipper came out with a tea tray and biscuits for them. She wore a faint blush on her cheeks as she handed the biscuit tray to Frank to pass about. He eyed her and inquired, “So what did that man want?”


Tipper cleared her throat. Somehow word gotten out that she was a doctor. She knew that Faraday had introduced her to several people, and had told her about most of the neighbors that had grown up with Willie. He was a nice lad who hadn’t found the girl he wanted to marry yet. One of his friends had commented that once they leave for the university, that they can’t be contented with the locals to find a wife or a husband. Faraday had been very polite, and she found she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. Mither had given him a look when they returned, and then sent him off to the barn to hitch up the horses for the afternoon. Hay needed to be brought in from the fields.


Tipper had slipped into the kitchen to put the kettle on for afternoon tea when one of the locals came in through the back door and asked if she was a doctor, and just as she said yes, the kettle began to whistle. She turned to remove the kettle from the stove and heard him say something about his knee. When she turned back, he had dropped his pants to his ankles and sat in the chair with his legs apart as he pointed out the knobby pus-filled growths on his knee. Seth and Frank had come in to the kitchen at that moment. Seth had the presence to turn Frank about and tell him to wait on the front porch. He could hear the man saying something about being bitten by his goat clean through the trousers.


Tipper cleared her throat and averted her eyes. She saw Seth and her eyes pleaded, “Help me!”


Clearing her throat again, she said, “Well … amputation, wouldn’t you say, Dr. Hazlitt?”


The man jumped to his feet. “Amputation? Oh na, it’s na tha' bad!!” he gasped, bending over to pull up his trousers. It was then that Seth saw the reason for her distress.


“Well, the table’s almost clean and there is a fair selection of knives on the board…” Seth said dryly. It was enough to send the man hobbling out of the kitchen as fast as he could.


“We give discounts for seniors!” Tipper called after him. She couldn’t look at Seth - her cheeks were flamed red and she kept her eyes closed trying to rid herself of that particular memory.


Tipper saw that Frank was waiting for an answer. “It … was about his goat.” She saw Frank raise his eyebrow. She knew he was pretty smart, and he had to have noticed that something was amiss.


“Guess it was pretty baaad?” he asked with a smirk.


She took a biscuit off of the plate and popped it in her mouth. From the look on her face he knew he shouldn’t push any more.


“What was?” asked Willie as he climbed up the porch steps with Taylor holding the crook of his elbow. He saw Seth and Taylor exchange glances, then looking at Frank he said gently, “There is a gentleman who will be pulling in soon from down the street. He has some bags that need to be carried up to the room next to ours on the second floor. Be a good lad and help him.” Frank nodded and took the steps down. He could see the car pulling up the lane, and went to wait for it.


“What was?” Willie asked again when he had gone.


He saw the flush on Tippers cheeks. “One of the gents came to the kitchen with a goat bite to the knee, and was seeking professional advice ... from me. I, um, dissuaded him by suggesting amputation. He, um, left in rather a hurry, when Seth suggested the knives and the table in Mither’s kitchen. We’ll need to get word to the regular doctor here …”


“What did he look like?” asked Willie with a sigh.


“Stumpy older gent, had a blue flannel shirt on and gray pants. Scruffy, big ears and brown suspenders. Why?” she asked, curious.


“Ah, that’s Toot,” said Mither as she came out of the house with another plate of biscuits.


“No regular healer here since Gran retired four years ago. Na many will go to the city for things like bites an’ such.“ She stopped and gave Tipper an odd look. Willie saw it, and knew what she was thinking.


“Mither, she’s na trained for people, just animals. The cures are different,” Willie said with a resigned sigh. Seth saw the sigh and stood up. “I’ve got my bag in the room,” he said simply.


Willie turned to Taylor and kissed her softly. “One of three things will happen. Either we will be right back, or back in a half an hour…”


She covered his lips with hers to prevent what he was going to say. “Or I will come looking for you,” she said softly.


Toot looked up from where he sat on his back porch holding his knee. There were several jugs beside him, one of which was uncorked and near his hand. He tried to scramble away when he saw Seth, then hardened his jaw when he saw Willie.


“Wha’ business do ye have here?” Toot said, his voice tinged with anger.


Willie stopped. “I’ve come to make things right.”


“’Ave ye? Without running away? Or ‘ave your friends do the dirty work tae lame a man for life?” he sneered.


“Well, a least I don’t go wavin’ my private proper about in front of an unmarried lass who was getting tea biscuits for the children!” Willie said, waving his hand toward Mither’s house.


“Did na such thing. She’s a doctor!”


“She’s a vet. The closest she gets tae that is removing them on animals, which you’re very lucky she didna do to you for how you came upon her like tha’,” he said, approaching Toot and pushing him back onto the steps of the porch as he pulled out a knife from his pocket. Toot gasped then cried out as he slit the inseam of the pants and folded it around his leg.


Seth grimaced. It was a nasty bite, left to fester over a few days. Willie took the jug from where it rested, sniffed it, then dumped some of it over Toot’s leg. Seth almost staggered back. He knew exactly what was in the jug.


“You will go blind if you don’t cut that more,” he said, putting his doctor’s bag down on the step and opening it. He dug through it and found several lancers, then handed one part way opened to Willie. Deft fingers worked it into the largest pus sack. Toot yipped with pain, then gagged at the smell. Willie was very careful to keep the area clean, and to remove the infected tissue. Every once in a while Toot would let out a yip as Willie poked another pus sac. Seth kept a careful eye on what Willie was doing, not that he was doing anything wrong, but knowing that if something did go wrong, he could give account that it was done properly.


It was twenty minutes later that Willie finished with the leg and wrapped it properly. The dangling pant leg was wrapped about on top to protect the bandage and then secured. There were no offered thanks, just a grumble about using most of his best stuff on the wound.


They walked back to the house, looking ahead in the lane at the children playing under the tree. Willie looked at Seth. “How did you get your bag through customs?” he asked, curious.


“Oh, just had it with my things, and declared it. Jessica is one of my patents, and I have to be prepared if something should happen to her,” he said with a shrug.


Willie saw the seriousness in Seth’s eyes. “You think something is going to happen, do you?”


Seth drew in a breath and stopped walking. “Tell me why you left. Forget the sword, and the book, because you could have handled things from here, seeing that you knew where the sword was all the time, and the sheath. Why did you leave a village full of people who need a good doctor to come to America? You had been practicing here before. What changed? What is going on here Willie? If any other person came home to Cabot Cove after being gone for years and they were getting married, the whole town would be out trying to get a glimpse of the new bride and asking questions. The only one who has ventured to ask anything was Toot.”


Seth saw the struggle on Willie’s face.  “I became a target, and those around me, those whom I loved and wished to help, were getting in the way. I left to keep them alive. Good people died, and it was my fault that they were in harm’s way. Those who came to me for healing were marked, and found their barns torn down, their animals dead. The curious came after the book was written, and the people felt on display. Some adapted to it, like Mither. Look around, Dr. Hazlitt - you see simple farming folk, some would say a quaint life. It hasn’t changed here for several hundred years, yet we have power lines under the ground, with the telephone lines so that they can’t be disabled. The water comes pumped in from the river two towns over and not a common well. Some of the homes have the internet, but few have use for it. Aye, I could have left closing up the shops to others. I had to know it was done properly, though, and end it properly. It was my way of severing the connection Furhdaham had built up across your country. I didn’t know, when I chose Cabot Cove to be the end place for it, that I would find my life, which had been so empty for all those years, to be made whole again, and given a reason to live.”


“The end place for it? You expected to die?“ said Seth, shocked.


“Yes, I expected to die there. Kent would try to escape and I was being watched by his followers, and if any one of them had the word given it would have been over. I knew, though, that Kent would want to do it himself. He understood I had the sword and the sheath and that I was destroying what he built. It was my way of waging war against his family. Then Taylor came into my shop. She gave me life, Seth, and my heart told me I had found the lady I wanted to hang my wash with. Not a handfast, but a proper marriage.”




Jessica waited on the porch while George helped Sara out of the car, and then Rosemary. She could see the two women were trying to fathom the events that had so recently unfolded before them. The children tumbled out of the back seat and looked around, uncertain of what exactly was going on. Some of the children in the front yard stopped playing long enough to wave to them, but Sara’s stayed close to her. Frank walked up to them and as George opened the trunk and placed one of the suitcases down on the ground, he picked it up. He could only manage one. George regarded him and then saw Jessica looking on. She nodded to him, but kept the excitement of seeing him close in her heart so her face could betray no emotion.


George escorted the women up the walkway to the front porch, where Jessica stepped forward and smiled.  “Hello, Rosemary,” she said, then gave her cousin a hug, her eyes bright with tears.


When the two women parted Rosemary stepped back and held out her hand to her daughter. “This is my daughter Sara, and my grandchildren: the twins, Ian and Patricia, Shauna, and wee Emily. Children, this is your cousin Jessica from across the pond.”


The children looked at Jessica, and then at their grandmother. “We have kin then?” said Ian in a low voice.


Jessica placed her hand on his shoulder and bent over saying softly in his ear. “Nearly everyone here is your kin.”  She placed a kiss on his cheek then straightened up. She turned and saw Frank returning from taking the bags up to their room for them. “Thank you, Frank.”


Frank regarded Ian as he stood by his mother’s side. He didn’t look like the other children. His hair curled in the same way that Willie Mac’s did, and he had the same eyes. Frank understood at once, after seeing the others that Ian and Willie Mac had to have taken after their grandfather. Patricia and Shauna looked like their mother, and would look like Jessica when they grew up. Emily, while young, looked like her father, Frank hazarded to guess. He saw the fear in their eyes as people walked by, how they stayed close to their mother, and the wary glances that they gave.


A taxi pulled up just as Willie and Seth returned from helping Toot. Seth got the door of the taxi and helped Emma out. For a moment his breath was taken away by her resemblance to Jessica. She had a small bag with her as well as a plain brown wrapped package that she pressed into Willie’s hands after giving him a kiss on the cheek.


“You can open that later,” she said with a smile. She saw her sister and Jessica and waved to them before taking Seth’s offered arm to walk slowly with him across the lawn to the front porch.


Frank eyed Willie’s actions carefully. He found it odd that after being parted from his mother and his sister all of his life, Willie should take their presence so casually. He knew that they had to have had some private time at Gram’s home, but, even still - it was the caution that was being taken that was so telling. To the people who were looking out of their doors, or had found some excuse to sweep their walks or weed the grass in front of their houses, it just looked like a mingling of an extended family at Mither’s. Taylor was the one who was hugging and greeting people as long lost relatives would, as did Jessica, who took the time to introduce her to everyone. Ian and the others were still with their mother and grandmother when Frank walked over to them.


“I’m Frank Fletcher - Aunt Jessica is tending to me this summer. You can stay in my room if you would like, Ian; that way Cousin Emma can be with your mum and sisters. It would just be us guys then.” Frank saw Ian look at his mother, uncertain. With a pang, Frank realized that he had never been away from his family and the thought was probably pretty terrifying. “If you don’t mind the snoring between Dr. Hazlitt and Willie,” he added.


“You do a fair bit of snoring yourself, lad,” said Willie, regarding his sister’s expression at the offer. It was a struggle for her to accept. She had never been parted from her child, and the worries that had lasted a lifetime - to keep hidden, to keep safe - were things she had instilled in her children. This marriage, this gathering - in a way it was a challenge to Furhdaham’s family, something that would bring it all into the open and end it, though the end could only come one way or another. She saw the look on her son’s face. He was of age, he would willingly stay with his mother, his sisters, and grandmother in the same room to protect them, sleeping on the floor - this offer said to them, ‘it’s safe.’ She nodded and saw the shy smile on Ian’s face, accepting that he was no longer a child.


Willie led them into the house, and as the door closed behind them George heard Tipper ask, “Inspector Sutherland, will you be staying on for supper?”


“Sadly, I have other duties to attend to.” He took a breath and dropped his voice. “However, Mrs. Fletcher, I might ask if I may borrow some of your time to assist in a matter which I have neglected ...” He floundered with his words as his hands made the shape of a box, and shrugged.


Frank looked at George. He didn’t seem like the type to put off something like buying a wedding present until the last moment. He saw the faint flush on Jessica’s cheeks, and took a breath. “I will be fine Aunt Jessica,” he said. “Tipper’s here if I need anything.”


“I think I might be able to help you with that, then,” Jessica said, smiling. George escorted her to the car and helped her into the back seat, then went around to the front and after starting the car pulled it out of the slot gently. They were turning onto the main road when Jessica leaned forward. “What is going on, George?” she asked. “Do you really need a wedding gift for them?”


Smiling, George looked in the rear view mirror at her. “Picked up a set of Waterford flutes yesterday. I do owe you an explanation, dear lady. Things are going to unfold that will turn this community upside down. If it was seen that a chief inspector had a relationship with a relation of one of the parties, it could jeopardize the entire investigation. Furhdaham has been under scrutiny for decades, but we could never catch him at anything. We started this when one of the people from the village came forward making inquiries regarding her daughter. Furhdaham had given her a scholarship to go to the university, and when the mother made inquiries about her daughter at that school they didn’t have her listed. They didn’t have any record of her at all, and we discovered the letter from the university was forged.”


George pulled down another lane and into a wooded spot where he turned and regarded her.  “I have missed you, Jessica. It was horrid being so close to you and not being able to welcome you,” he said softly before getting out of the car and getting into the back seat with her.


“What type of welcome did you have in mind?” she asked, curious.


He saw the mischief in her eyes as he bent forward. “A proper one that would have shocked the customs officials and had me banned from the airport forever, perhaps even tossed out of Scotland Yard …”


It was an hour and a half later that George pulled the car back into the slot and helped Jessica out of the back seat. The others could see something on the seat as she slid out and he closed the door. He escorted her back up to the porch and then bowed his head formally at everyone.


“It was a pleasure meeting you all,” he said, then bid them good-bye and returned to his car. Jessica watched with some sadness as his car backed out and he drove down the lane.


She felt Mither at her elbow, and heard her ask, “Inspector Sutherland? Ye have met him before?”


“Yes,” Jessica said as if he was someone she had known as a casual acquaintance.


Willie glanced at Jessica and then inclined his head to her as she followed him inside. He looked at her, his eyebrow raised, then he stepped forward in the alcove and unbuttoned three of her buttons and set them right again. She saw a twinkle in his eye. She returned his gaze without a blush and was surprised when he took her hand in his and led her to where the back porch was. No one was back there, no one was around.


He took her to where the flower trellises were and said softly, “If I gave ye a lecture on what’s proper you’d be right to smack me silly so I won’t. I’ve known the Inspector a long time, and he is trustworthy, but nae everyone here is. Ye might be able to do tha once an’ not be followed, but twice could lead to far worse than misplaced buttons. I canna even say tha’ we are safe here, but it’s safer than other places we could be.”




Frank sat between Jessica and Tipper on the swing and watched as Tipper studied a chain of flowers that Faraday had given her. They had taken a long walk about the village and Frank had seen Faraday pushing Tipper on the park swing down the street and her giggling like a school girl. The flowers were a lovely shade of pink that matched the flush of her cheeks. He couldn’t explain exactly how he felt at that moment. Perhaps the word he was looking for was - longing.


It was exciting to be in a different country. Everything here was different than what he expected - it took a bit to follow what people were saying, and to take in everything. All the pictures he had seen of Ireland before were of what his mother would call quaint thatched-roof cottages. But this was different. The roofs were of slate, and while the homes were of stone, it didn’t look much different from some of the places that he had seen when his parents took him for a drive in the country. People wore jeans and tennis shoes, and t-shirts under sweaters. The only notable oddity was that when he was looking for a barn in a field, as he was used to the huge red or white or black pitch barns that dotted the Pennsylvania Dutch area, that he was pointed to small lumps in the field that had doors. He realized they had made their barns into the ground itself.


He stole a glace at Tipper, who opened her small purse and sorted around for some mints. Frank glanced down and saw her driver’s license photograph upside down. Her hair was shorter then, and her eyes looked larger. She found the small tin of mints and offered him one. He nodded his thanks and returned the smile to her. He knew something about Tipper that Faraday didn’t, and oddly, that pleased him.


“Is this the lot of you then?” he heard Flynn ask curiously as he poured Taylor a spot more tea in her cup to heat it up. Seth had come out of the house after putting his bag away.


“Oh, no. This is just a small part of the family,” he said, nodding to Jessica. “Mrs. Fletcher’s husband had seven other siblings, and from what I remember, you have a fair amount of nieces and nephews from those siblings, don’t you?” Jessica nodded, watching Flynn take in this information.


“Must be lovely having a large family,” Flynn said to Tipper as Taylor and Willie walked over to join Jessica.


Taylor was saved from answering by the arrival of a crowd of people led by Toot up to the front lawn of the bed and breakfast. The crowd parted to reveal several who were dressed up in straw. Their masks were woven in straw, as were their skirts and shirts. Willie took Taylor by the hand and led her down the steps and walk way to where the Straw Men were. They formed a circle about Willie and Taylor, and using a small hand drum and lute, began to dance wordlessly around them while playing their instruments. The others came down off of the porch to watch. Ian moved in closer to Frank and Tipper, who stood near the side of the bed and breakfast watching what was going on. Tipper wasn’t comfortable with the crush of people, and Frank sensed it. The villagers began to come out of their homes to watch the straw men dance, and as the crowd grew, Tipper and the two boys found themselves backing up a bit to the corner of the house to stay out of the way of the people who were clapping and cheering at the dancing men.


The flower chain slipped from Tipper’s fingers and fell to the ground as the drums began to play a cadence. It bounced on the grass twice before it came to rest near the side of the bed and breakfast. Careful weathered hands picked up the woven chain of flowers and wove a thin gold chain amongst the blossoms, then hooked it onto a branch of a nearby tree.


The town watched as the bride and groom to be were lead to the center of the circle, where they stood as the Straw Men danced. Jessica knew that it was a tradition - she had heard about them, but something puzzled her as to the why they came. She kept her place at the top of the porch and leaned against the rail as she watched things unfold. She saw Toot standing off to the side leaning against a walking stick, his pants leg wrapped about his knee. She turned and saw Mither walk across the front of the yard to the steps and then sit down on them. There was such a milling and mixing of people that she couldn’t get a clear view of who was in the crowd. She saw a horse drawn wagon with a load of hay being led onto the lane behind the house, then the driver who wore a cap over his head nodded, got into the seat and set the horses off down the lane to the outside road. Jessica’s attention was brought back to the circle. She saw Taylor grasp Willie’s arm and turn to him, whispering something in his ear before her knees buckled. He caught her in his arms and eased her to the ground.


Jessica lost sight of them amongst the milling people. Stepping into the house and down the hall to the kitchen Jessica pushed aside the empty warm tea pot and ran water until it was cool over a cloth. She watched the tea leaves swirl in the water as it went down the drain, then turning off the water she wrung the rag and hurried outside to where the people were watching what Willie was doing. Jessica pushed through the crowd and the straw men and found Seth kneeling beside Willie. Taylor was across Willie’s knees heaving into the grass, drenched in sweat and shivering. Jessica offered the cloth to Willie, who nodded thanks to her and wiped Taylor’s brow with it. When the heaves stopped she lay limp in Willie’s arms. He rolled her over carefully and looked into her eyes as she winced against the bright sunlight filtering in amongst the branches.


Taylor felt Willie place his hand on her chest and regarded him. “Being a bit free an’ easy with wh …” she began softly. Jessica watched as Willie gently kissed Taylor, interrupting what she was saying. He used the cloth then to wipe the inside of her mouth and with Seth’s help got her to her feet and into the house. The crowd milled around for a while and then dispersed back to their homes.


Jessica watched as Seth and Willie helped Taylor into her bed and tended to her. She couldn’t help feeling as if something was very wrong. Seth straightened up and regarded her.  “Jess? What is it?”


“I don’t know … something isn’t quite right.”


Willie crossed the room and placed his fingers over Jessica’s lips, and then led her to where Taylor was. He reached over and pulled Seth’s pen flashlight out of his pocket and flicked it over Taylor’s eyes. Jessica drew in a sharp breath and shot an anxious glance at Willie, then Seth.


“How?” she whispered. Willie shrugged. Jessica sat on the edge of the bed and looked over at the bags sitting at the foot of the bunk bed. “Where’s Tipper and Frank?” she asked softly.


The two men exchanged glances. “With Ian,” said Seth.




Tipper woke in the most undignified position. She now knew, not by choice, what a trussed up lobster felt like. Not that it was something that she ever wanted to know, but in the future she knew she would have a bit more sympathy for them. Her head hurt, her eyes hurt, and she knew that the ropes that bound her wrists and feet would leave nasty bruises. She heard a soft moan beside her and managed to turn her head to see that it was Ian beside her waking up. She lifted her head. There was an unmoving lump beyond Ian. It smelt horrid where she lay. With effort, Tipper managed to twist around and came face to face with something that she’d rather not ever see in her life. She couldn’t help but to scream. She heard laughter above her and managed to make out that the light shining above them was about forty feet up.


“Survived the fall, did you? No matter,” the voice said. Tipper gasped. She knew that voice - one she had heard four years ago. Somehow Tipper didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of her asking “What do you want,” or “Why are you doing this?”


She heard an unexpected laugh coming from behind her followed by Frank yelling, “Yeah, well, your son is a coward just like you are!”


There was a chuckle from above. “Perhaps you don’t realize the danger that you’re in, young man. No doubt your companion may recognize where you are, in a composition chamber. While this cap is open, there is air. Should I choose to close it, the methane gas will build up, and in short order, you will suffocate. Or, I could chose to drop a flare down into the mix, and, well, you can figure it out from there … It’s often done to clean the area when it gets a bit full. By now your family will have realized that you’re missing, and, of course, they will be given false hope that somehow you might be rescued, or bartered for with the release of my son …”


“You mean the one who murders innocent five year olds? Did you know he dresses in women’s cloths?” yelled Frank back to the man. “You really ought to have a discussion with him about it. Green is not his color. He makes a pretty ugly woman at that. And FYI? Willie so beat the crap out of him.”


Tipper caught her breath. For a moment she thought Furhdaham Sr. was going to close them in there, but after a long pause he said finally, “You can yell if you want, but there is no one here to hear you except me, and I would especially love to hear you beg for your lives as you slowly die. It’s a toss-up, you see, if you will suffocate, starve to death, or be eaten by the rats. I hope you enjoy your stay in Ireland - you will be here for a very, long time.” The stones echoed the retreating footsteps as Furhdaham Sr. walked out of the room and locked the door.


Tipper heard another groan from Ian. “You ok?” she asked out loud.


“I, my leg is broken.” he managed to gasp. “Though it won’t matter, I guess…”


“Well, you won’t do a lot of dancing at the wedding, but who wants their foot trod on every third step?” she quipped.


She heard Frank take a long breath then say, “It really stinks down here.” For some reason it seemed very funny at that moment, and it sent the three of them giggling before Frank asked “What made you scream, Tipper? Did you see a rat?”


She shook her head. “Do you remember the story Willie told about the sword? And how his great grandfather fled and why? Well. I think we are in the same place as the missing maid.”


“Oh… the fall killed her, then?” asked Frank.


“No … a knife to the ribs did. Unless it is someone else who just happened to disappear.”


“A knife? Well, that’s good because then we can use it to cut ourselves free, and get out of here,” said Frank confidently.




Jessica waved away the offered mug of tea from Mither then said softly, “No thank you” as George strode into the bedroom. She was sitting on the love seat in the bedroom beside Rosemary, who was trying to remain calm. Willie had explained to her softly that while there was danger, if they wanted them dead, they would have killed them on the spot. He had kissed Rosemary on the cheek and told her not to worry before standing up and going out of the room. Emma sat next to Taylor who lay quietly on her bed. Sara was laying down, her daughters beside her on the other bunk bed and sitting on the floor keeping watch on her. There was a knock on the door, then George entered and held out a bag containing the flower chain, with the gold chain wrapped around it. The twisted triangle and hourglass charm hung from the chain.


“Right then, I’ll call the others,” said Emma, standing up. “We’ll storm the estate and have his scrawny hide on the wall …”


Mither stood in the doorframe coming in behind. “Such noble plans for one who is not yet kin to ye.”


Emma regarded Mither. “Ian is my sister’s grandson, and nephew to Willie. Frank is great nephew to my cousin. It doesn’t take blood to make family, and Tipper is as dear to Taylor and Jessica their own sister and daughter.”


The news stunned Mither. “Your kin?” she said softly, glancing at Rosemary. “They claim him?”


“And why not? Properly married I was, only to have my beloved taken from me six months later and them birthed five after that,” replied Rosemary.


Turning, George heard Willie’s voice behind him. “If you’re ready, Inspector?”


Taylor gasped. Willie had removed his coat and had girded the sword to his waist and tied off on the leg. His face bore a terrifying expression and she knew that for this, the anger in his heart was great enough to use the sword to finish it once and for all. She sat up and regarded him. “Thaladirith Razanur, you will return to me and we will be wed, or I will call upon he who dwells within the cove willow to bring you back, splitting sea and sky - is that understood?”


“Aye,” he said.


There was a noise behind them. Faraday stepped up to them and said honestly as he brushed hay from the seat of his pants, “I am coming with you. I cannot just stay here and not, not while she is in danger.”


“Faraday, you don’t know what your doing!” gasped Mither.


 There was a quiet look of resignation in Faraday’s eyes. “Aye, I do Mother. “ Then with George and Willie he strode down the hall outside where George’s car awaited.




The skull and bones that had the knife plunged within didn’t seem to bother Frank as he crawled over to where it lay. Tipper had no idea how he managed to squirm his arms under his body then crawl with both hands tied as well as his ankles. She heard the snick of the blade being removed from the ribs, and then he nudged her over.


“Yell if I cut you,” he said, working the knife between the twines of the rope. The acids from the compost pile had dulled the blade, but not the spirit of the young boy as he sawed at the ropes.


“Frank, there isn’t any real way out of here, except the way that we came,” said Ian softly.


“Of course there is. We just have to find it, and then from there, find our way out,” he said as he worked the blade a bit closer to her skin. “The worst part of it is, we are a long way away from a proper bath, and I think we may have to bury our cloths from pity, though the shame of it is that I’m quite fond of these jeans … There we go,” he said as Tipper’s hands were suddenly free.


Tipper turned, and after untying Frank’s hands, she undid the ropes on her feet, then both of them untied Ian.


“We will have to splint that leg somehow,” she said to him as she carefully moved his leg into position. He groaned in pain as she straightened it. “Sorry,” she said softly.


“Would these do?” Frank asked holding up two long objects.


Tipper looked. In his hands were the two leg bones from the skeleton. “Frank, when we get out of here, you and I have to have a long talk regarding your nerves, and mine.”


“But there is no way out!” said Ian as Tipper used the bones and the rope to splint his leg.


“Course there is,” repeated Frank. “Has to be, because the one in the park has a door so they can shovel out the compost.”


“The what?”


“The one at the park. Mum and Dad took me to this state park that was pretty much like a bunch of rocks pushed around by the glaciers and they had a rest room that was made like this, and it had been there a real long time, as long as the park had been there, and they had a door that they were able to access the area to shovel out the compost. The park ranger said it was a good thing because people were always losing their wallets and money clips and stuff when they weren’t careful. Now, I know that this area probably serves one side of the estate, or both, and it would stand to reason that they would have a door, just cause, well, how many times have you lost something down the drain? He” (he pointed upward) “may not know about it, but it’s got to be here somewhere, and it is a safe bet that it is at either the highest point, or the lowest, or maybe both. The lowest point would be used to drain off moisture, and the highest point may be the access back up to the estate. Maybe even to the kitchen - I’m starved!”


“How can you think about food at a time like this?” asked Ian with a note of incredulousness in his voice.


In the dim light that filtered down they saw Frank shrug. "Keeps me from thinking too much about the girl I want to marry,” he said with a sigh.


“Is she pretty?” Tipper asked.


For a moment Frank didn’t say anything, then, softly, he said, “Yeah, she is, and Angela is smart too, and kind, and funny sometimes. She’s shy and doesn’t want to get involved, though. Not with anyone … Willie says those types can be heart breakers.”


Tipper was at a loss for words. Not sure of exactly what to say, she looked down at the skull that gleamed in the light and noticed something. “Oh …dear,” she said, carefully picking up the skull.


“What is it?” asked Ian, curious.


“They didn’t have fillings a hundred years ago. If the maid is here, her bones would be buried. This is a more recent death - the bones were gnawed clean,” she said in a hushed voice.


“Okay, so if we have a knife, we can tap the walls to see if there is an air space behind them,” said Frank. “I saw that on tv, where they were looking into getting into a pyramid, they tapped the walls …” Taking the knife he walked to the edge of the pile. Carefully he tapped as he went. They heard a crunch as he stopped after a few minutes. “Guess that person wasn’t the only one who came down here,” he said softly.


Frank leaned against the wall to catch his breath. Moving around he was finding that the air was very bad, and that he was getting tired. The ground wasn’t the most firm, and in some areas it was a gooey mess that sucked at his shoes. Tipper stayed with Ian. She knew it was likely that he had other injuries and was in shock. She heard the Tink Tink Tink of the handle of the knife against the stone. She knew that the light of the day would be fading soon, and chances were, no night light would be left on for them.


Tink Tink Tink Tunk went the knife handle. Tunk Tunk. There was silence from Frank for a moment. “Damnú air.”


“Frank?” called out Ian, concerned.


“I found it … but, well, there may be a down side to this …”


Tipper took a breath. “Yes, a lot of air is going to come into the chamber and the methane gas will ignite into a fireball. The good news is, we will have a few seconds to get through the door because the air is coming in, not going out … so it will be like a huge burp.”


Frank heard Ian say softly, “O ta brokn win tha blows down te ban.”


“Broken wind? What’s that?” asked Frank, curious.


Tipper closed her eyes. She could say the word for it, the improper rude word for it, but somehow, in the middle of everything they were standing in, it would just make matters worse. “Uh, I think there is a book on it, called, “The gas we pass?”


There was a pause from Frank, then, “Oh, why didn’t he just say f-”


“Frank!” Tipper began, then felt Ian lean against her. “Okay, look. Chances are there are stairs. Remember in fire safety class they said not to take stairs? It’s because you can’t hold your breath long enough to go up or down them. The thing is, the fire is going to rise up and travel along the roof of the stairwell, so we need to go up it as close to the steps as possible, and that’s going to be difficult. We can’t outrun the fire, and we don’t know what’s at the other side of the door.” Tipper tucked the skull under her shirt and then tied her top together to hold it. If they got out of here, the person who had died needed to have family notified. She tucked the knife into her back pocket and together she and Frank pushed on the section of wall that had a hollow space behind it.




“You can’t just go barging in on Furhdaham,” Faraday said from the back seat.  “Scotland Yard has no jurisdiction here.”


“He doesn’t need it,” Willie said. “Furhdaham’s being evicted. He never held the property, he only stole it, as well as other things that belong to the family.”


The wrought iron gate that was formed in the shape of ivy and clover, and the massive wooden door that had the same pattern carved into the wood with twin birds on either side of the panels were open to the estate when they pulled up into the long drive. The estate stood in mute testament to the horrors that had happened within its walls. Willie kicked at a piece of straw that lay on the front porch before crossing the threshold, his sword drawn. Faraday looked about nervously. Something wasn’t right. There was an odd smell coming from somewhere in the house and the silence was unnerving. At the main entry way they separated - Faraday went to the left down to the kitchen area, and George and Willie went to the right where it opened to the den and the sitting room.


He was there. Nodding off in his great chair by the cold fireplace, a china setting for tea at his elbow. The tea was still steaming gently in the pot as they approached him quietly. Willie stopped and held George back. Something wasn’t quite right. He sheathed his sword, and George placed his gun back into the holster.


Faraday heard something as he walked down the hallway. He rolled back the sleeves of his gray oxford shirt and listened again. A low moan. He started for the door to the kitchen area only to have it thrown open as three filthy figures came shambling out of the area as fast as they could move. “It’s gonna blow!” he heard a raspy voice say. Not knowing what else to do, he swept the one figure that seemed to be dragging the most over his shoulder, then he swept the two others under his arms and headed back to where George and Willie stood looking at what was in the living room.


“OUT- GET OUT!” Faraday commanded as he hurried past the sitting room door. Willie felt something - a vibration. Looking at George the two men grasped the still figure that sat quietly in the chair and hauled him outside with the others. They had just cleared the outside door when the fire that had been building from the methane in the compost area took the opportunity to expand to every open area it could, belching fire upward and lifting the estate up from its foundations.


Willie and George laid the still figure on the grass. Willie knelt beside him and lifted a wrist for a pulse.


“Is he dead?” Faraday asked softly.


Willie opened Furhdaham’s shirt and listened to his heart. “He’s still alive,” he said, rolling the old man over to his side. In the distance there was the wail of sirens approaching the estate.


Willie tilted Furhdaham’s head back and pressed their mouths together, pushing air into the old man’s lungs.


“Why is he trying to save him?” Faraday asked Tipper.


She looked at Faraday. “Because that is what his heart tells him to do.”


Faraday looked at Tipper. Raising his hand he brushed away the muck from her face and gazed into her eyes. “Then it’s proper to follow your heart?” She nodded slowly. He was bending over her when he was bumped from the side by Frank.


“Sorry,” he mumbled. When Faraday looked back, Tipper hand turned away to regard the approaching police cars. She realized they made an unexpected sight. At first it looked like they had their guns drawn before the cars stopped then cautiously they exited the cars and came forward. George took a breath, holding up his gold badge.


“We need two ambulances,” he called to them.


“And a coroner’s wagon,” said Tipper, pulling the skull out from under her shirt. She handed both the skull and the knife to the inspector. “There were more down there as well, but seeing how this fella helped get us out of there, the least we could do was bring him with us,” she said.


George beamed at Tipper. “Well done,” he said softly, looking back at the house. Methane burned different. Once it was consumed, the fire extinguished itself unless it happened to have a ready source. Trapped inside a methane explosion, the oxygen would be depleted causing death. He regarded the sodden trio. He was very glad that he would be able to give good news to Jessica this evening.




Tipper sat on the exam table watching the nurse inject her arm with the tetanus and hepatitis vaccines. She and the boys had been given the chance to use the showers then dressed in soft flannel exam gowns and placed in different cubicles. Ian was having his leg set. George had called in a few favors, and by the time the ambulances arrived, some of his friends had come to help excavate the chamber where they had been held. The local police had informed him they had received a call regarding a breaking and entering, and that the person was concerned for his safety. Something hadn’t gone right, though, and he now lay in a coma. Without Willie’s intervention, he would have died. She looked up as the door opened. Willie came in with a t shirt and pants for her, and laid them on the bed. She saw he had borrowed a stethoscope from someone and she saw the weariness on his face as he approached the exam table.


“Faraday’s wearing a hole in the carpeting outside worrying about you,” he said as he picked up her hand and extended her arm outward. She saw him frown as he examined the tiny red spots on her arms. Reaching up he pushed back her hair and looked at her neck, then stepping behind her undid the strings to the gown and opened it. He ran a finger down her ribs and said over her shoulder, “You’re a bit thinner than I’d like to see to stay healthy. It’s a wonder that you didn’t break any bones in the fall.”


“I’m fine as I am … I don’t think Ian’s leg was broken in the fall. Yes, we dropped a distance, and we all went down the same way, feet first, but, well, that would telescope the bone, and his leg, well, it was like it was stepped on, and broken on purpose. Furhdaham is an old man. Pretty frail at that. He couldn’t …” Tipper stopped. She realized Willie already knew what she was going to say.


“The whole village would have willingly helped him do it, Tipper, out of fear and misplaced loyalty.” She felt the chill of the stethoscope against her ribs. “Now breathe in,” he said gently.


George’s car pulled into Mither’s just as the sun was setting. Faraday and Willie got out of the front seat; Faraday had taken off his green oxford and had it folded over his arm. It would have to be washed, or buried. He looked at it. “Wasn’t one of my favorites,” he said, shrugging. Tipper stayed in the back with the two boys. Both had fallen asleep and were leaning against her. Willie opened the back door and carefully picked Ian up in his arms and carried him inside. She nudged Frank, who woke up and looked around sleepily, then looked at her.


 “What I said before, in that place …” he began.


“You’re not taking it back, are you?”


He drew in a breath and picked up her hand in his. “No … but being practical, there are a lot of years’ difference between us, and while I am willing to wait, I know it’s not fair for me to expect you to wait until I am old enough to marry you.”


“Oh Frank,” she said simply. “To be honest with you, there isn’t anyone else in my life that I would even think about getting married to. Being very good friends is the best that we can do right now, and if you happen to meet someone you find gets along with you when you’re older, then I will understand.”


“What about Faraday?” he asked, curious. He saw the flush on her cheeks.


“I can’t talk properly around him, or think straight or breathe or even know how to begin to do anything with him. I don’t think that - that is what love is about … do you?” she asked.


“Sounds more like how I feel during gym class after they make us run laps. Thinking and breathing are important though. You have to be able to do them at all times,” he said seriously. He gave her hand a squeeze. “Come on, I want to get this hospital soap smell off of me. You didn’t bring any thing that smells like lavender, did you?”


“No, just Jasmine,” she said as she pushed open her side of the door.


Frank stayed right next to Tipper as they walked into the bed and breakfast’s main hall. She paused when she heard Faraday speaking about how he’d rescued them, carrying all three to safety. She could feel Frank looking up at her, a puzzled expression on his face. It was almost like Faraday had done the complete rescue, instead of just getting them at the kitchen door and yelling through the doorway. “Nice as ye please he’s takin’ a snooze in his best chair after his afternoon tea,” she heard him say.


Frank felt Tipper sigh. “Lets, see how Ian is doing…” he said softly, and Tipper nodded. Frank walked with her upstairs and carefully opened up the door to his room. Ian was still asleep. The doctor had given him something for the pain, and said he would sleep himself out. Tipper gently raised Ian’s broken leg on a pillow, and then Frank saw her shoulders slump as they heard Faraday’s laughter downstairs with the others.


“I don’t think there’s anything that’s been funny this entire stay,” she mumbled under her breath.


“Sure there has been … Since I came to stay with Aunt Jessica, I’ve been in what the gamers would call Mortal Peril at least once a week. I’m actually getting used to it. We spent an afternoon rolling about in, well, you know. And what about the expression on the ambulance people’s faces when they had to ride an hour with us in the back of the ambulance?” He screwed up his face in imitation of how the guy looked as he hung out the window. Tipper found herself smiling at his antics.


Both of them looked up as the door opened and Jessica entered. “Oh Frank!” she said from the door frame. Frank saw she had tears in her eyes as she moved across the room and gathered him up in her arms.


“We are okay, Aunt Jessica. I was just telling Tipper how I am getting used to being in Mortal Peril anyway.” His voice was muffled from her hug. He pulled away and escorted her to one of the beds where she sat looking at Tipper.


“I’ve heard Faraday’s version of your rescue … but I want to know everything that happened that you remember. Something isn’t right.”


“It was Frank who figured out how to escape,” Tipper began as she recounted the events. Jessica listened to what she was describing with rapt attention. By the time she had finished, Taylor, Emma, Willie and Seth had come up the steps, each of them holding trays for Tipper, Frank and Ian that had something to eat. Taylor sat on the other side of Tipper and took her hand when she shook her head at the offered food.


“You cannot remain captive to the fear, my dear,“ said Jessica softly.


“I think I would feel better if I could have brought my tranquilizer gun with me,” she said while regarding Taylor. “Whoever grabbed us didn’t give us a chance to see them, or to call out. No one noticed us being carried off, or if they did, they didn’t say anything. Those Straw Men were keeping everyone occupied. That’s the last thing I remember until I woke up in that hole.“




Waking early the next morning Taylor glanced about. Tipper was still curled up with her pillow hugged to her chest, and Jessica and Emma were both snoring softly. Giving a glance to the men’s room she didn’t hear anyone up. It was just 5:30 am as she slipped into the shower and dashed the dust of the day before off of her and dressed quickly. She wasn’t hungry. She had things to do while the morning was still young.


Slipping on her shoes once she reached the living room she went out confidently and walked down the lane to the church yard. The sky was incredibly blue for a land that it rained on every day, and the sunlight danced through the leaves of the trees making patterns on the ground. For awhile she walked in the grave area, and frowned. There weren’t any graves for Willie’s family - she would have thought the father and grandfather at least were there. A gnarled oak stood watch over the graves, its leaves twisting in the wind as she strode up the steps into the church. For a moment she waited in the back of the church, not seeing any movement at all in the inside of the building. She began to read the notices on the back wall and smiled at some of them. Markets and churches were two places where business was conducted at all levels. One notice caught her eye and made her sit down in the pew. She hadn’t moved in some time, not noticing the time at all until she felt a gentle touch to her shoulder.


“May I help you, miss?” asked a distinctly cultured voice.


“I don’t know - I had a question, but I guess it’s been answered in its own way.”


“And you don’t like the answer that you have found?” he asked. She turned to look at him and realized she was speaking to the parish priest, who looked to be as old as the church. “Father Dania at your service,” he said smiling.


“Father Dania? I know that name … I don’t remember where, though, that I had seen it … It will come to me though, in time…”


“Well, until then, how may I help you?” he asked as he sat down on the pew next to her.


“I am to be married, tomorrow, but I see that here the church does not marry unless there is a three month waiting period…”


“Yes, that is true. With whom were you marrying?” he asked, curious.


“Thaladirith Razanur,” she said, watching his expression carefully. She saw the smile on his face freeze. “I see you have heard of him.”


“Yes. His grandmother brought him here to be baptized while I was on sabbatical. I would never have allowed a bastard child to receive such blessings,” he said darkly.


Taylor looked beyond him out the stained glass windows to where the oak stirred in the morning light. “I remember now, where I saw your name … it was on a marriage certificate for Thaladirith’s parents. His father may be dead, but his mother is here, and could say as much if she wished. You knew he did not bear that stigma, yet were willing to keep that silence. I would wonder why, except I know with out you saying. Your church betrays you,” she said, pointing to the stained glass window on the cemetery side. “How much did they pay you to foster the hate upon an innocent child and his family?”


She saw the old priest take a sharp breath in as he frowned. “Furhdaham is a respectable family…”


“A family of thieves, murderers and traitors!” she said, watching him as he began to fume.


“You have no right to say that!! Whatever you have been told by that miscreant is untrue…”


“People have died at Kent Furhdaham’s hand. Gram was raped by his brother Stephen, and their father was responsible for the kidnapping of two eleven year old boys and a dear friend of mine who are only alive right now due to God’s will. What God-fearing family would have a motto of ‘Vengeance Comes’?”


“There is none that is more heathen than that of the family you wish to marry into. ‘Belief in Ghosts’ indeed!” he snorted.


Taylor stood. She wasn’t angry at him, and her smile was one that echoed an unknown mystery. “Perhaps then for you believing in the Holy Ghost is wrong?” she asked, curious. “Have you not read that the dead may walk among you? “ she said as she began to walk to the stained glass window that held the Furhdaham family crest as a water mark. She stopped and turned. “I was dead, once, for a very long time. Willie brought me back to life. He even saved Furhdaham’s life yesterday. Something that the family you hold so much faith in would never do.”


There were steps up to the front door, then Willie entered inside and came to where she was standing. He reached out and took her hand in his. “What are you doing in here, lass?” he asked softly.


“Making some discoveries. Father Dania married your parents, but he won’t be marrying us, will he?”


Willie shook his head. Then taking her other hand in his asked, softer: “Do you have faith in me?” as he led her out of the church and on to the front yard. Father Dania followed, curious as to what her answer was.


She kissed him gently on the mouth, then said, “Yes.”


“True faith that is absolute?” he said seriously.


He saw her eyes sparkle. She turned and looked at the old priest who had followed them outside into the sunshine. Lifting Willie’s hand she placed it on her chest.


“Tabhairt Isteach do,” she said simply.


“Your faith is misplaced, my child!” said the priest stiffly from the steps.


“Then may God strike us down, now - for I will not live without this man as my lawful husband. Yet, may he strike the ground of this church raising the dead in retributions if it has been defiled by your faith in those who’s hearts have brought evil.”


For a moment the old priest regarded them as Taylor closed her eyes and pressed her head into Willie’s shoulder. She looked over at the oak tree.  “In moment of need, I ask of thee in faith, truth and love,” she said softly.


Willie heard the sharp sizzle snap of air being parted not far from them. He pulled Taylor closer to him as a lightning bolt jumped from the center of the oak tree up to the sky and then back down again, splitting it in two. Several windows of the church shattered and the priest was knocked off of his feet down to the ground. They saw the priest roll over to his knees, and stay there with his hands holding his face. He looked at them, his eyes wide.


Taylor stopped him before he said anything. “Careful what you speak,” she said, then Willie took her by the hand and led her up to the bed and breakfast. Halfway there he stopped her and took her to the side of the path.


“All that matters in my life is you, beloved,” he said softly. She saw the worry on his face as he picked up her hand and kissed the back of it. She wrapped her hands about his.

“Willie, promise me, we will share in all things – it’s not the money I mean, but the things that are going on in our lives - our hopes, and dreams, and plans, and the truths in our hearts.”


He looked into her eyes. “I promise.”


He saw her study his face then ask plainly,  “If the church requires three months before marriage, how are we to be wed tomorrow?”


The sunlight made his eyes sparkle. For a moment, Taylor saw something that made her believe what Frank had seen on the plane the night he had flown in with Willie was true. “We filed for marriage in Maine, and there is no waiting period there. I let them know we would be married overseas, here, and they said that it was fine, as long as it was done within the week. It’s na the ceremony that makes marriages nowadays, it’s the paperwork. It’s been entered into the computer that we are to be wed tomorrow. It just takes some one who is allowed by law to say the ceremony to make it final. It is something that people do when they wish to be married on a ship, or in another country, but have it recognized by the country of their home. Does it concern you that it won’t be in the church?”


“I thought that if that was the church where you were baptized, and it’s the only one in the village, that it would be where we would be married. But I realized when I read the things on the back wall that it wasn’t going to be that way,” she said wistfully.




Jessica sat on the front porch of the bed and breakfast. No one else was up inside and she wanted a bit of space from people. While they were all her friends and relatives, being in such close quarters was a bit telling on the nerves of someone who had spent years living by themselves. She had closed the door behind her, and noticed that with the morning chill the windows were closed as well. She sipped her tea and watched Willie and Taylor as they spoke on the path.


A car turning down the lane distracted her for a moment before she realized that it was George. She sighed. He had been so formal to her and she didn’t have a chance to speak with him while he was there. There were times that she longed to feel his touch, to wake up beside him in bed. The pending marriage of Willie and Taylor had given her something to think about. He was wonderful in bed, but inept when it came to doing things about the house. Seth was still asleep. Had he known George was walking across the front lawn with an overnight bag and a smile on his face …


He came up on to the steps, and after giving a glance into the house he bent over and kissed Jessica firmly on the mouth. He wanted to plunder her sweetness right there and then, but a polite cough from behind him made him sigh and straighten up.


There was a curious expression on Willie’s face as he saw Jessica blush. Before he could say anything, Taylor turned him around and said softly, “Allow them a moment to say a proper hello, dearest.” She pulled him to a place on the porch that blocked the view from the village.


Willie used that moment to kiss Taylor good morning. After a bit, he heard the creak of the porch furniture as George sat down. Reluctantly he stepped away from Taylor and turned to them. Keeping his voice down he said, “Good morning Inspector, what brings you to the village so early?”


“It occurred to me that as this is a central location to investigate the goings on at the estate, and to search for information as to things going on here, it would be a time saver to check in here and stay awhile.”


“Well, Mither’s place has every room with some family in it, though I dare say there is a place for a cot if you wouldn’t mind sharing it with us,” said Willie with a twinkle in his eyes.


“What has your investigation uncovered?” Jessica asked curiously.


She watched as George closed his eyes for a moment before sighing deeply.


“It took a while to remove the compost, but we were able to uncover the remains of at least thirty people, some whom we were able to identify by personal artifacts and others by missing person reports. The person whose skull Dr. Henderson brought out died two years ago. Her name was Haddie, and she worked as a maid there until one day they said she didn’t return home.”


George saw Willie’s face fill with sorrow. “Little Haddie? I brought her into this world nae long ago… She wasn’t more than sixteen!“


George nodded. “Most of the bones that were found belonged to young people who vanished unexpectedly, from this village and others that are close to the estate. It was as if an attempt was made to kill everyone young, so that the village and the families would die off. As for Mr. Furhdaham, his doctor has determined that he suffered from a stroke. You helped to prevent more damage with your medical assistance, and there is hope that he will make a partial recovery so that he might stand trial for the murders of those young people.”


“George, I don’t think he committed every one of those murders” said Jessica softly.


“In as much as I value your wisdom, dear lady, I am very curious as to what would bring you to that decision?” inquired George.


“While you are young and physically fit, from Faraday’s description Furhdaham Sr. is a very small man. I don’t see him having the strength to lift people and tip them down into the compost area feet first - if they went head first they would have broken their necks. They had to have been lifted and guided down into the hole. He also wasn’t here to overpower Tipper, Frank and Ian, and from what the doctor said about how Ian’s leg was broken, someone of considerable weight had stepped on it.”


Taylor reached down and picked a piece of straw up from the seat beside her. She frowned as she looked at it.


“What is it, dear?” asked George “You have been very quiet with all of this.”


“Oh, well, it’s just that being from the city all of my life, as a child we would go to the zoo to see the farm animals, and we were told the difference between hay and straw. They are both grasses, but straw doesn’t have much nutritional value for the animal, like hay does. Straw is wider and yellow, and inexpensive hay is more slender. They would allow us to give handfuls of hay to the animals to eat, but I avoided it because it always gave me a rash from being poked by it. I guess the straw is from the Straw Men that came yesterday, but did they come to the front porch?”


“It gave you a rash?” asked Willie, curious.


“Yes. It looked like prickly heat, and the zoo person said that it was common if you didn’t have contact with it most every day. Some people got the rash even by being in the area, because of allergies.”


“Finding hay or straw about isn’t that uncommon when you have farms behind the village,” said George taking the straw from her and looking at it himself.


“Furhdaham does not have animals himself, but there was a straw on his porch,” said Willie with a note of concern in his voice.


Jessica became thoughtful. “It’s implying that someone here, or close to what is going on, is responsible for the kidnapping.”


“Well, it’s a heck of a coincidence,” said Taylor. “The Straw Men showing up to dance, finding straw here, and over at Fordham’s.”


“Wasn’t Faraday brushing a fair bit off of himself yesterday?” asked George softly.


Willie shook his head. “That was hay. Thinner stuff. Heard Mither asking him to hitch the wagon to get some for the animals. They keep it in rolls out in the fields. An’ he’s sweet on Tipper. He wouldn‘t let her come to harm,” he said with a glance between Jessica and George.


“Well, until we know for certain, we’re not releasing any information as to what has been discovered. In as much, the only thing else to do is to prepare for your wedding,” George said with a smile. “Has everyone arrived?”


“Just a few more that have said they would be here at noon,” mused Willie, looking at Taylor.


Jessica regarded them. “In light of everything, perhaps it might be best to have the wedding today, this afternoon, instead of tomorrow. Everything is prepared for it, isn’t it? The media will be arriving after lunch to set up.”


“What is it, Jessica? I’ve known you for years now, and I have come to know that look in your eyes…” said George


Withdrawing from the group, Taylor walked down the steps across the yard to sit under the willow tree, where she hugged her knees. It was all moving very quickly now, and there were things that needed to be addressed before the marriage There were important things that somehow she knew were missing, and the moment that was to be one of the happiest days of her life felt empty. She looked up into the blue sky and said to herself, “Be with us today, and forever, grant us your blessing and guide us in your way.” She heard quiet footsteps come up behind her. She didn’t need to turn to see that it was Willie. He sat down beside her and looked at her, curious.


“Dearest? What is it?” he asked as he brushed the tears from her cheeks with the palm of his hand.


“It’s not quite how I imagined my wedding to be, actually. Little girls dream of being wed in the place of their faith, or a place which is special to the two of them, in the eyes of God and man, and the union blessed. Being married is like a team of horses - they both work together, as partners, because if one is stronger than the other, the wagon will tip or the driver won’t be able to control the direction. That’s how I am feeling right now, Willie. I feel as if I have no control over what is to be one of the biggest decisions of my life.“


“One of them? And what would be another?” he inquired gently.


“Should we have children? I don’t know - and it’s something that we really never spoken of. By rights, it’s said that you’re entitled to want them. I don’t know if I can have any, and I don’t know if it’s fair to you to not be able to give you an heir. Frankly, I am terrified at the prospect of being a parent. I see the love parents have for their children, the demands that the children have on the parents, and I don’t know if I can do that. If I could survive that.”


Willie took her hand in both of his and for a moment she thought he was going to just hold her hand. She realized his finger playing over her wrist was carefully taking her pulse.


“There is no cathedral built by man that is more grand than the one built by the Almighty. That he and those in the heavens above may watch over us as we become one as our guests of honor. If they would grant us one gift, it would be of love, and from our love, if it be their decision, would be the birth of children who would bear their blessing,” he said to her solemnly as he gathered her into his arms. She clung to him for a moment, feeling very weary. Looking up at him she saw the sunlight behind him and thought him beautiful.


“Can ye manage to walk up for some tea and breakfast?” he asked gently. “And then after, I have something for ye.”




Seth turned at the sound of someone coming into the kitchen. Bemused, he noted that George looked ill-at-ease seeing him at the stove wearing one of Mither’s aprons as he whipped a few eggs in a metal bowl with a fork and the sizzle of the hot skillet as he poured the omelets out. Mither was kneading bread on the other side of the kitchen chatting to him about the grain that was used in the bread and how it was ground. She seemed pleased that he showed an interest in it. Wasn’t just any man that would be willing to put on a pink frilly apron to protect their cloths while they scrubbed the pots for the morning porridge. Nor one who was comfortable with one of the older stoves and had made himself useful to her. She was quite taken by his charm, and that he was single, and a doctor at that.


Willie gave Mither a kiss good morning, then went to where the tea kettle was, washed it out, and placed fresh water in it to boil. He carefully washed the mugs under hot water while the flames brought the water up to temperature, then removing a tea bag from a plastic pouch in his pocket he placed it into the cup and poured hot water over it, steeping it a moment and removing the tea bag before giving it to Taylor. She held the mug to her nose, smelling it, then took a sip of the tea and relaxed against Willie as he stood behind her with his hand on her shoulder.


“I’ve missed this,” she said, looking up at him.


Seth looked back and saw her sip again, closing her eyes and relaxing. He caught the sadness in Willie’s eyes as he gazed across the room at the woman kneading the bread. Carefully so not to attract attention to himself he reached over and picked up the discarded tea bag, and gave it a pinch to tear open the pouch. Carefully he held it to his nose, then tasted a drop on his finger before discarding it to the trash. No one noticed as he did this, though he found Jessica looking at him after he turned around. She didn’t say anything then, but after the breakfast was cooked for everyone and the dishes done she said to him privately, as they moved to the back yard of the bed and breakfast to oversee the setting up of the decorations, “Willie made that tea specifically for Taylor, and it’s done her a world of good.”


“Wouldn’t doubt it … Jess, Taylor wasn’t doing so well this morning when Willie brought her into the kitchen, but she got better right after she drank that tea. With all of the tea that’s been brewed here, you would think that some of it would have been that blend before today. He gave Mither a look, like he was disappointed in her. My guess is that he gave her some to be sure Taylor was served it to keep her well. She has enough tea pots she could keep it all straight.”


Jessica blinked, then looked back at the bed and breakfast.


“Tea pots!” she gasped.


“Woman, would you stop doing that!” growled Seth.




Willie led Taylor up to her bedroom and sat her on her bed. “Close your eyes!” he said, starting for the door. She looked at him and then smiled when he said “No peaking,” sighed and closed them, covering them with her hands. She heard a scrape of something, and then the sound of a zipper being pulled. In a moment his footsteps came back into the room and she heard him say, “Hold out your arms.”


She felt something heavy being placed in them, soft, yielding, and when he said “Open them,” she did. Looking down she gasped.


“Oh my!” She had to blink a few times. “It’s beautiful,” she said, gazing down at the wedding dress in her arms. She looked at it, then looked at him. “The material that you had - that bolt – oh, Willie!” she said with tears in her eyes.


She saw he had something else in his arms. Holding it by the top he let the rest of it cascade down. “An’ this is for the wedding night.”


She reached out and touched the lacy top. “You will look lovely in it,” he said, causing her to blush. “I want you to promise me something dearest,” he said, kissing her gently. She looked up at him and tilted her head, curious.


Hobbling across the dining room Ian looked out the window at the goings-on in the back yard. Frank was right beside him, helping to steady him as he wasn’t used to hopping with one foot everywhere even with crutches. “You don’t have to do this for me,” he said a bit impatiently.


Frank regarded him owlishly over the rims of his glasses. “I know, but it’s been a few weeks since I have been around anyone my age, and while I love my Aunt Jessica, and Willie and Taylor and Tipper and Seth, it’s not the same. It‘s like, dinner time there? All we have is seafood, because everything that walks on land is bloody expensive. While I really do like seafood, after two weeks I wanted anything that mooed.”


“So you’re saying I’m like a steer?” Ian said a bit defensively as he wobbled.


Frank grabbed him by the back of his pants and steadied him. “I happen to really like the Moo. More than I like seafood.”


Frank moved a chair out of the way of Ian as he wobbled by the table and saw a piece of straw on it. He managed to get Ian into the front room where the hassocks were and get him into a chair with his foot up and braced with pillows. From that location they could see the comings and goings of everything, be out of the way, and still be comfortable.


“What’s it like to have sisters?” asked Frank suddenly.


The younger boy regarded him, realizing that Frank was serious. “A bit of a pain, actually,” he mumbled. “Pattie’s all right most of the time. Can’t do much without her knowing before I do it.  Shauna been a bit daft when it comes to being a middle one. She’s seven an’ mum says that’s a difficult age. Still young, but old enough to be knowing better. Emily’s just five. She’s na much on reason either. The teachers at school dote on her because she’s cute, they say. Cute doesn’t put stock in the pot, though. I hope the new one’s going to be a boy. Don’t know if I can do much with another girl in the family.” He regarded Frank and blurted, “Must be weird being an only.”


Regarding the young boy’s earnest face, Frank nodded. He knew they had come with everything they owned, in two suitcases for all of them, and that they had left everything else behind. Sharing the room with him, he had seen Ian’s eyes widen when he saw that Seth had three suits, and that Frank had more than one pair of jeans. Ian was wearing one of Frank’s pair now, as his own had been cut away when he had been taken to the hospital and so filthy that they weren’t fit even to be washed. Frank’s pants fit over the cast and a belt kept the jeans from falling. He was much thinner than Frank was at that age.


“New one? What new one?” Frank asked, coming back to the current conversation suddenly.


“It’s why mum has been so sick every time food’s waved around, and that she’s taken to resting a lot. Didna ye see how large she’s getting? Didna they teach ye where the wee ones come from or do ye think the stork places them under the cabbage?”


“I never really had a need to think about it,” said Frank, shrugging. He saw Ian’s bemused grin.


“So, you live in a large house in the States?” Ian asked.


Frank shook his head. “No, in an apartment. The neighbors are always fighting upstairs, and when I left, the water was leaking so bad that they turned it off. Mum was in a right state about that, the landlord called the police on her, and well, it wasn’t good. Gets a bit scary when she gets up a head of steam. She‘s been doing that a lot lately, or crying. When she‘s off crying, then dad has to take over things.”


“An’ your dad allows it? The yelling and the crying jags?” Ian asked incredulously


“Oh, well yes. He’s a good man. She’s not always like that either. Aunt Jessica and my Uncle Frank raised my dad when my grandparents died in a car accident. My other grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa Mayberry, are okay, I just didn’t realize it until later. “


A silence fell between them. Frank saw that Ian was becoming sleepy. Frank heard quiet footsteps and looked over at the door. Ian’s sisters were there, peeking in. He saw Emily yawn and lean against Patricia. He motioned for them to come into the room. They really hadn’t seen Ian except briefly the night before, and he could see they were a bit anxious about him. Shauna and Patricia sat carefully on ether side of Ian and gave him a hug, then laid their heads on his shoulder. Emily wanted to sit on his lap after her hug, but it caused Ian distress. Frank lifted her up and placed her on his lap where he sat in the oversized chair next to the sofa.


“Are naptime stories any different in America than Ireland?” asked Patricia, regarding Emily as she yawned again.


Frank looked down at Emily. She was cute, as kids go. Her curly hair and freckled up-turned nose reminded him of the child on the grape juice commercial.


“Well, we have the usual run of stories, the duckling one, and the ones with gingerbread houses. Mum said they came from Europe, so you have probably heard them … there is one though, that every kid in America knows about, even if it hasn’t been told to them by the parents. It comes, they say, from memories of long ago … Have you ever heard the story of the Monster Under the Bed?” The children shook their heads no.


“Right, then … Once upon a time there was a little girl who was cute as a button, and her parents loved her very much, but she didn’t do as she was told. She wouldn’t clean out under her bed or put away her toys when she was told, and when it came to nap times and bed times she would make her parents chase her all around the house many times. Each time they caught her and put her back into bed, she would get up and race across the room to go out her door again, and by the time they caught her for the umpteenth time that night her parents were exhausted. If they were able to get her to stay in bed she would wait until she heard them go down the steps and sit down before calling for them. She would want the light on, or a glass of water, and then she had to go to the - well, you know, after she drank so much water. Then she wanted more covers, or less covers, and her parents who loved her very much were becoming weary of all of this and told her that she would have to manage until the morning.


”She decided the night that they said that, that she was going to play after they sat down and they wouldn’t ever know. So she dangled her feet over the edge of the bed … and a big hairy hand reached up and grabbed at her ankles. Screaming, she lifted her feet up and looked over the edge of the bed. Looking back at her was a monster with fifteen eyes and three rows of very sharp teeth and a tongue that was all drooly that was long and snapped out and snatched one of her dirty socks that she had tossed in the corner. She screamed again, and her father came into the room, turning on the light. Well, the monster under the bed pulled in between her dirty pants and the shoes she hadn’t cleaned off and a stuffed teddy bear she had forgotten and closed all of his eyes. Her father wanted to know why she screamed and she told him there was a monster under her bed. The dad looked under there and said that he didn’t see any, but if there was, he would surely get lost in everything else that was under there! After scolding her about the fuss, he turned off the light and closed the door. The monster waited until the dad had gone downstairs and sat down before using his eight legs to bump up the mattress, where she lay in the middle trying to stay away from the monster’s reach… It was very late in the night before she was able to go to sleep, and when her mother suggested a nap after lunch, she thought it was a good idea … until the monster began to bump under her bed again.


“’What do you want?’ she asked the monster under the bed. ‘How did you get there and what do you eat?” She heard the monster chuckle. “I want to eat you,” he said. ‘I want to live forever here, and I eat dirty laundry then spit it back out and you have a lovely selection of dust bunnies here! I will grow bigger and soon I can swallow you up in a single gulp,” the monster chuckled.


“Well, of course the little girl didn’t get much sleep that night, she was thinking of what to do, and just when the morning dawn came, she knew what had to be done. She hurried down to eat her breakfast and then got a broom and dust bin and a laundry basket. She cleaned and scrubbed her room from top to bottom, but she saw the monster just slink into a dark corner of her cupboard. The monster tried to eat her broom and a few times was able to snatch the dust pan out of her hand. She had to keep dumping the trash basket into a bigger one because the monster wanted to tip it over and eat the dust she had swept up. Finally she saw that he had lost a lot of weight when he tried to avoid her hitting him with a broom. The morning sunlight was creeping into her room, chasing him into the furthest corner. He couldn’t find anything to eat and now she was more than a match for him. ‘Now what are you going to do?’ she asked the monster. ‘Find another bed,’ he said, then crept away out of her room forever …”


“Tha’ was a good one,” said Emily as she yawned. Her eyes closed on their own accord and she drifted off to sleep in his arms. For a moment Frank watched her as she breathed, then he heard a sigh from Ian.


“You’ve fallen for her cute too,” he said.


“You’re very lucky, Ian,” he said, regarding the other two girls who had fallen asleep next to him. Frank pulled the lap robe off of the back of the chair and covered Emily to keep off the chill.


He saw Ian look at his littlest sister. “Aye, that I am,” he said, doing the same with the afghan on the back of the sofa and covering his two sisters. “So they tell you bedtime stories with monsters in them to get you to sleep?” he asked.


“No. My parents wouldn’t do that. But I have found out that most every kid that I know has heard that story from another kid, so there might be something to it …”




The long car pulled into the driveway and snuggled next to the television station’s news truck parked under the tree in front of the bed and breakfast. The driver’s side door opened, then the driver went around and opened the door for its passengers. Bags were gathered, and the trio went up the steps and into the front room where they were met with hugs from their relatives. Quite footsteps entered into the front room and for a moment, two set of eyes gazed down at the sleeping children.


Frank felt something press against his head. His nose twitched. He smelt something very familiar as he opened up his eyes. He had to blink a few times to focus.


“Mom?” he said quietly.


“Hi, honey … Looks like you have had a busy morning already,” she said softly as she nodded to Emily, who was still fast asleep in his arms.


Emily didn’t even stir when Grady lifted her up and transferred her to her aunt Emma’s lap. When Grady straightened up, he found Frank in his arms holding him tightly. When Frank went to hug his mother, he found her sitting on the other sofa with her head between her knees. He put his arm over her shoulder and bent over to see if she was all right.


“Mom?” he asked gently. He heard a mumble from her. Blinking a few times he stepped back and then hurried from the room to the back yard where Willie was directing where the chairs should be set up. “Willie! Something is wrong with Mom!”

Willie handed the list over to another person and followed Frank in to the front room. Kneeling in front of Donna he lifted her head up with his fingertips and looked into her eyes.


“How long have ye been dizzy and had sick spells?” he asked gently.


“Five months,” said Grady, taking her hand in his.


Willie moved Donna’s feet around so that she was lying on the sofa and guided Frank to sit beside his mother’s legs. “Willie can make you better, Mom, I know he can,” Frank said to her. He missed the glance between Grady and Willie, but saw the look of concern on Willie’s face when he looked up at him. “You can, can’t you? She’s not going to die, is she?”


“Everyone dies in this lifetime, Frank. Your mother is ill for a different reason, one that your parents will discuss with you when it’s time. For now, it’s been a long journey for your mother, and she needs a spot of rest. Her blood pressure is off a bit, and I dare say she’s had a bit too much salt in her diet. The salt we can manage, the blood pressure is another matter.”


“Would it cause her headaches when she cries and gets upset, or was that just me being a pain?”


“Don’t take the weight of the world on your shoulders, lad. I can na give you the answer to that, but I do know, you’re not the same lad as before, and time changes everything. Now, stay with your mother, I have some things to speak to your father about.”


Frank watched as the two men went out of the room, then out of the house across the yard to stand under the tree. He couldn’t see what his dad was saying but the expression on Willie’s face was very serious. He saw the look of resignation on his father’s face, then saw his father take a breath to steady himself before coming back into the house with Willie.


Taylor was just coming down the steps when they came in, and the person who came with them out of the kitchen with a few crumbs about his mouth. He dusted off his hands and held one out to Willie. “Mr. Thaladirith Razanur, I am Gabe. Adam was delayed and asked me to fill in for him today.” Willie looked up at the tall flaxen haired young man with gentle blue eyes and took the offered hand to shake it solemnly.


Coming up to the men Taylor looked at Gabe. “Fill in?” she asked softly.


“Adam was to say the wedding, to marry us,” said Willie with concern in his voice.


Laying her hand on Willie’s arm Taylor smiled. “It’s wonderful that you could come, Gabriel. Thank you,” she said, stepping forward and giving Gabe a hug before kissing his cheek.


Willie turned and looked at her, puzzled. “You know him?”


She nodded as she stepped back to Willie’s side. “Yes. Tipper and Jessica have met him, too - four years ago when they helped to close down the Nightshade shop. I’ve known him longer than that, though.” She saw Willie breath out a sigh of relief.


“So, are you here just for the wedding?” she asked, brushing a few crumbs from the lapel of Gabe’s cream colored jacket.


“I don’t know,“ he said honestly. He tilted his head forward and kissed the top of her head. “Time for you to get ready … Jessica and Angela are upstairs already.”


She nodded, and was about to go when she stopped and looked at him. “You will stay awhile, won’t you? Tomorrow, Willie and I may be rebuilding some windows that were damaged this morning. And I’ve never done that before - I know you may have some insight about what should be done there.”


“I would be happy to help in any way,” Gabe said, smiling.


She stepped forward and kissed his other cheek. “Thank you, Gabe, for everything.”





Rosemary pinned the veil on to Taylor’s auburn hair that was braided about her head. Her green eyes sparkled with excitement as she caught her reflection in the mirror. The dress had almost fit, being a bit loose until Tipper pointed out that with the other garment that Willie had made for her, it should fit perfectly. The lace of the undergarment just peaked out of the top.


“Well, that’s a time saver. Less to pack for the honeymoon,” quipped Rosemary, taking a sip of water then placing the glass on the coaster next to a framed photo that sat on the dresser. She saw Taylor blush. Rosemary looked at Tipper. “Could you give me a moment with my new daughter?” she asked. Tipper nodded and stepped out of the room and closed the door.


Rosemary guided Taylor to the bed and sat down with her.  “I know you love my son. You would have married him even if he didn’t have family or a name, or money, and it didn’t matter that he is tall as a child. It didn’t matter to me either with his father, who may not have been tall, but he was not short either and my guess is he takes after his father, so you will have no complaints,” she said, giving Taylor a wink, and smiling as Taylor’s blush deepened. “Marriage is not always about love, or the fireworks that happen for a while that is only a small part of it.  Well, a wonderful part of it with the likes …” She paused for a moment. “Thaladirith’s father and I didn’t have long together, but it seemed a long time. Each day and night was more glorious than the next - until he was gone. Jessica has said to me that my son lives at your home already, but you have kept separate beds. That he looks at you with tenderness, and you to him with joy. You are both grown up enough to know what you want in life and to share with each other in all things …”


Taylor saw Rosemary pause, and struggle with something. She covered the older woman’s hand with her own. “What is it? Please, tell me,” Taylor asked softly.


Rosemary stood up and took the pillows off of the bed and placed them over the registers in the room. She sat down on the bed and faced Taylor.  “There is something you need to know about him, about his family line. He is my son, and I loved his father, but you should know …”


Taylor placed her finger over the older woman’s lips.  “I know. I think I have known since the moment that we first kissed. It’s why he is a healer, and a weaver, and will not take up the sword.”


Rosemary took a breath and whispered to her, “There is more, child. There are always twins that are born in the family, the first born to them. Gram has a brother, and Willie’s father has a sister, she is with him. It was not said where, because of the blood feud between the families, and the other half was always hidden to keep them safe. Each generation they become more like the others, taller, wiser … In order for the family line to survive, after the birth the father and mother separate and split the children between them so that one side may survive, while the other goes into hiding. “


“But Sara stayed with her husband - they had other children …”


“We were the hidden ones. We could. Willie’s aunt and great uncle are hidden, and no doubt she is married with a houseful that the world will never know.”


“You wanted to be found, though. You put your photograph in the sword, and the records. Gram didn’t know you did, did she?”


Tears came down upon her cheeks. “Aye, I wanted to be found. I wanted someday for my son to know I loved him and that it was the hardest thing for me to give him up, but I knew that to be safe for my daughter I would have to go. You may need to face that same decision, you know.”


“Why do they follow that man? Why don’t they see his family for what they are?” asked Taylor, waving her hand in the direction of where the estate lay.


“Because they believe he does good for the village. Donations to the church, sending the children who are bright off to the university. He was always in the papers of all the good he was doing. The children never came back from the university, though. Some of them did, but some of them became discontent with the village life and they moved on. There would be letters from them, to their parents, and after a while the letters would stop, and they were never seen or heard from again. There are very few in this town that have not benefited from that man’s money. For all of the good he seems to have done, it‘s robbed the village of its young people.”


“Has Mither benefited? Faraday went to the university …”


“I don’t know. But she has always had the bed and breakfast, and they have always done well turning the coin even since I was here, and I have never seen trace that she followed that family. So now you know the dangers in marrying my son. You know what is ahead, and what may need to be done. Would you still marry him?”


“You knew this before you married Willie’s father, and you did. Willie is my life. I cannot remember what it was like before I met him.”


Rosemary leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. “It is like that,” she said, smiling as she stood up. “Whenever you’re ready, it’s time …”


Taking a breath Taylor stood up and looked out the window. “I just need a minute,” she said, smiling. She watched the older woman stride from the room and sat on the bed for a moment, looking at the ring on her finger. For the first time, she noticed that it had a thin etching of a vine, and a clover with a small bird nestled in the branches. She looked at the vine and realized it was ivy. Her hand flew to her mouth, then moved down to her chest as she gasped for breath. She closed her eyes against the tears, then stood up. Walking about the room she lifted the pillows off of the registers and placed them on the beds, then paced around the room to come to a stop in front of a photograph of Mither holding baby Faraday with a man standing outside of the bed and breakfast that sat on the dresser. There was something that she saw in the photo. She picked up the water glass that Rosemary had been sipping from and held it over the framed image.


She saw something. Something tucked behind the photo with its edge peaking out. Carrying the frame over to the bed with her she sat down and with her fingers she pushed up the tabs that held the back of the photo to the frame. Carefully she lifted the back away and saw there were several photos that had been kept hidden. She flipped them over one by one studying them, and then, just as carefully, she placed them back in the frame, sealed it up and put it back on the dresser where it had been. It made perfect sense …


There was a knock on the door, and Seth came in. “Oh my…” he said in a hushed whisper. “You’re beautiful … Is everything alright?”


“Yes. It is now. I guess it’s time?” Seth held his hand out to her and escorted her down the steps to the back door where she saw everything set up. The camera men were away from everything, though she could tell they were wired for sound in every corner. She could see Willie waiting at the area they had chosen to be married at. He wore white, of the same material that she wore. At his side he wore the sword and sheath. Even Frank wore a white vest over his shirt, and though he looked a bit uncomfortable in it, he looked older. Taller as if this moment was the most important thing in his life to do. His parents were up front beaming. Emily was dressed in a simple frock with wild flowers that were tied with ribbons woven in her hair. She went up shyly scattering ivy leaves, clover and flower petals before her. Gram sat in the front next to Rosemary and her children. Flowers had been woven into wreaths about their heads.


Seth tucked Taylor’s arm under his, and then escorted her down the path between the rows of their friends and relatives who stood at her entrance. She glanced at Tipper, who had her hair wrapped upward. Faraday was watching Tipper’s every move, as if she was a delicate fairy princess. When they came to where Gabe and Willie were standing, Seth stopped and turned her to him. Gently he lifted the veil up and gave her a hug, then a tender kiss upon her forehead. Taking a deep breath they both faced Gabe, who was smiling at them,


“Children of the Father, we are gathered here today in celebration to join Thaladirith MacGill - Razanur and Taylor Rachael Andrews in the union of Holy Matrimony before their heavenly Father, and before his children. Whom the Father has brought together, let no one separate … Who gives Taylor Rachael to Thaladirith?”


Tipper, Seth, Jessica and Frank said seriously, “We do.” Seth gave her a last kiss upon her cheek, then stepped back to stand beside Jessica. He took Jessica’s hand in his and held it in his own.


Gabe looked at Frank. “The rings…” he said, prompting him. Frank reached in his pocket and pulled away the threads that held the rings secure.


“Repeat after me … Tha mise Thaladirith a-nis 'gad ghabhail-sa Collacarindo gu bhith 'nam chéile phòsda. Ann am fianais Dhé 's na tha seo de fhianaisean tha mise a' gealltainn a bhith 'nam fhear pòsda dìleas gràdhach agus tairis dhuitsa, cho fad's a bhios an dìthis againn beò gus an dèan Dia leis a' bhàs ar dealachadh.”

Willie turned and took her hand in his and repeated what Gabe had spoken. He looked down at the ring that had been handed to him and slipped it on her finger as he spoke again in English, “I, William, now take you Taylor Rachael to be my wife. In the presence of God and before these witnesses I promise to be a loving, faithful and loyal husband to you, for as long as we both shall live until God shall separate us by death.”


Gabe handed a ring to Taylor. For a moment she looked at it, and saw the ivy, the clover, and two birds on it, a band that matched her own now. Willie had practiced with her what would be said and as her heart beat a bit quicker in her chest she took a breath and followed what Gabe was saying.


“Tha mise Collacarindoa-nis 'gad ghabhail-sa Thaladirithgu bhith 'nam chéile pòsda. Ann am fianais Dhé 's na tha seo de fhianaisean tha mise a' gealltainn a bhith 'nam bhean phòsda dhìleas ghràdhach agus thairis dhuitsa, cho fad's a bhios an dìthis againn beò gus an dèan Dia leis a' bhàs ar dealachadh… I, Taylor Rachael now take you William to be my husband. In the presence of God and before these witnesses I promise to be a loving, faithful and loyal wife to you, for as long as we both shall live until God shall separate us by death.


Carefully she slipped the ring on the proper finger then looked up at him. Both of them looked at Gabe, who was smiling. “In the sight of the Father, I now bind your hearts together as husband and wife. May your union be blessed by the Father in all ways … You may kiss your bride,” he said to Willie.


Stepping up to Taylor, Willie took her into his arms and delivered a tender kiss upon her lips. When they parted he saw that she had a mischievous grin on her face. He was beginning to step back when she caught him by his tie and pulled him in for a kiss that left him breathless. Leaning back a bit their lips separated. She saw something in his eyes as his arms encircled her shoulders and pulled her in again. Taylor heard music, a far-off pipe that had a haunting melody. She felt something wet fall against her and she realized that it had begun to rain. It didn’t matter as he held her in his arms, his lips pressed to hers, their hearts beating as one. It seemed a long way away she heard Frank gasp, “LOOK! A RAINBOW!!!”


They would see it later in the tapes that were made of the event. A perfect miniature rainbow had formed above them, with Taylor and Willie at the end of it. She picked up his hands and kissed the palms of them softly. “I have found my treasure at the beginning and the end of the rainbow of this vow. My heart and love is yours.”


Still holding hands, Gabe turned them to face their friends and family.  “I present to the Father, and to his children, Mr. and Mrs. Thaladirith MacGill - Andrews Razanur. Let us celebrate today in this union of love and life.” He turned to them. “Congratulations,” he said solemnly, shaking their hands.


“Thank you,” she said, kissing his cheek.


Willie nodded to him the thanks for both of them before he took her hand and slipped it in the crook of his arm. “Are you ready, wife?”


She breathed in deeply. “I am, husband.”


He escorted her down between where their friends and relatives stood, followed by his mother and his sister, and her children, then Seth and Jessica, and then Tipper on the arm of Frank who looked just a bit more than smug when he passed by Faraday. Willie had informed him he would have the first dance with Tipper. Not that he knew much about dancing in the way that was required for the first dance. Seth had watched with some amusement as Willie demonstrated the dance the night before in their room, and when he realized that he would have that same dance with Jessica became more attentive to the process.


The relatives filed past them in the receiving line over to where the tables were set up, and while Taylor and Willie posed for photos they mingled with the people who had traveled a distance to witness the event.


Dancing. Tipper realized it wasn’t the same as when she danced on the table at her friend from Cornell’s wedding, but it was still dancing. Different dancing. For a brief moment she thought about teaching Faraday how to dirty dance, but there were going to be enough shocking events in the neighborhood in the next few days, and a scandal like that would wag tongues back in Cabot Cove where she was the nice, respectable vet. So far she had been (what she considered) lucky. She danced several sets with Frank, who was actually a pretty good dancer for an eleven year old. She danced with Seth, and then with Willie, and even had a dance with Gabe, who was an excellent dancer. She even managed a bit of a dance with Ian, who was looking a bit lost in all of the excitement. He could hobble about, and had to sit down. Then just before Faraday could make his move, Grady rescued her. She danced with Taylor, and then with Emily, and Jessica, and when George cut in to dance with Jessica, Faraday was there extending his hand to her. It was a slow dance and a misstep caused her to fall forward in his arms. She turned her head and found her ear next to his chest, hearing his heart beating within.


“Can ye hear what my heart is telling ye?” he asked softly, slipping into a brogue.


Tipper glanced up at him, realizing that they had stopped dancing, and that he was lowering his head down to her upturned one. Part of Tipper wanted to step away, while the other half was telling her that in a week’s time she would be back in America and probably never see or hear from him again. That part saddened her in a way. He had been sweet and kind to her, and he was an easy sight on the eyes.


“Oh Faraday …” she began, not knowing what to tell him. He kissed her forehead.


“I understand lass. I really do,” he said with a measure of sadness in his voice.


Tipper stood up on her tiptoes and brushed a soft kiss upon his mouth before she fled from the dance floor into the house, up to where their rooms were. She leaned against the dresser breathing hard. She felt gentle hands guide her to the bed and when she looked up, she realized it was Jessica who had seen her flee and had followed her.


“Tipper, I have known you a long time, and I have seen you face down formidable events. Tell me, what is it?”


“I can’t breathe, Jess, when I am near him. I don’t know why - or how - I feel dizzy and giddy, and I know it’s not love … not what I would think love would be. He is so beautiful and sweet and kind … most of my graduating class would trade their practice to be with him.”


“I take it you’re looking for someone dependable who can fix the plumbing, and put the storm windows in, and change the diapers?”


“Children? I’ve known him a day!” she said, a bit panicked. “Oh, why didn’t I bring my tranq gun?”


“You do care for him, though … otherwise your heart wouldn’t be so conflicted.” Jessica held out her hand to Tipper. “Come along, we should really be getting back to the reception.”


Sighing, she stood up, took Jessica’s hand, and followed the older woman back outside to where the people were still dancing. Faraday had moved off to the side and was sitting glumly, and looked at her when she came out. He stood up when she came over to him and she bid him to sit back down.


“Faraday, I have to be honest with you. My heart is terrified of the possibilities. I can’t breathe or think when I am around you. I - just, well, things like this - I’ve manage all my life avoiding things, because it means dealing with people, and I’m better at understanding animals. I know pretty much what goes on in their hearts. I just can’t tell what is going on in my own.”


“I understand,” he said, taking her hand in his.


“You do?” she said with surprise. She hadn’t expected, really, to blurt out what she had, and to have him understand it was a relief. He lifted her hand up and kissed the back of it.




“Yes, lass?” he asked, tilting his head to one side to gaze at her.


“I can’t breathe.”




Mither regarded the kitchen. One would think that after feasting all day, and the wedding, and the constant stream of people through her doors to attend the festivities, the place would be a shambles. People were dancing still under the stars, and she had come down to see to everything. It was all away. Every dish, spoon, even the leftover food was wrapped and placed away during the time that she had been helping to serve the wedding cake. She opened the drawers. Not a single spoon had been lost.


She heard a footstep behind her and when she turned, she saw it was Flynn. His face was unreadable as he came down to where she stood at the sink.  “A word with your son is in order,” he said softly.


Mither watched him turn and leave the kitchen. She leaned against the counter and lowered her head. It was the first time that she had seen Faraday like this. Flynn was a good man.  He had taken her as a wife when Faraday was two, and not many men would do that. The town could use a good vet. She knew what she wanted to say to her son, but she couldn’t. If she forbade him, she would lose him, if she told him to follow his heart, she would lose him again. She felt the burn of hot tears against her eyes and closed them. Mither didn’t hear the footsteps entering into the kitchen and only opened her watery eyes when a soft hand touched her own.


“Oh!” she said, seeing Willie and Taylor standing there. “I came down to do the dishes, and it was all done! ‘Tis na right for the guests to do the work! They might be makin’ the beds next!”


Reaching out Taylor took Mither’s hand. “We are all family now, Mither,” she said, then gave Mither a hug. “Thank you.”


Mither eyed Willie. “You’re off then?”


Willie nodded. The bags had been taken down to where they were staying shortly after the decision was made to be married that afternoon. She saw Willie’s eyes twinkle. Willie kissed Mither’s cheek, causing her to blush. He stepped close to her, and hugged her for a moment. “Thank you, Mither,” he said softly.


Fresh tears came to Mither’s eyes. “Well, don’t keep your bride waiting!” she said with a smile.


She watched them go out the back door of the kitchen, past where people were still dancing and celebrating. For a moment she watched them through the window as they walked down the lane, then her gaze was drawn to the window of the back door. She could see the people dancing. Faraday was with them, dancing with Tipper. She leaned against the counter. Somehow, she knew that it would be the last happy moment he would have.


Taylor’s eyes quickly adjusted to the moonlit path and as they rounded the bend, she saw that the light was on at Gram’s. She paused and regarded Willie, curious. “We’re staying at Gram’s tonight?”


“Aye. You know there are three rooms. One we use for guests or the ill, one mine, and one Gram’s.” He saw her lower her head. He lifted her chin with his finger tips. “Wife, are you concerned that we will be keeping her up?” He lifted his other hand and caressed her cheek, feeling her blush.


Taking a breath, she looked at him and said, “Well, yes husband, I am.” She watched his eyebrows furrow as he blinked several times, fathoming what she had said. His eyebrows went higher as the meaning occurred to him. She raised her hand to his cheek and felt his own blush.


Pre-dawn arrived with the sound of the song birds outside their bedroom window. Taylor felt a shift on the mattress as Willie sat up, then bent over retrieving something from the floor. “Get up,” he said softly, kissing her shoulder. Blinking the sleep from her eyes she sat up then stood, shivering slightly in the morning air. She turned and picked her robe off of the bed post and slipped it over her thin shoulders. She watched him as he took a bundled sheet out of the room and, curious, she followed him. Taylor was unprepared to see her husband in just his shorts and shoes walk out of the house and stride to the tree in the front yard. He eyed the branches, and giving himself a lift up, he slung himself up to the branch that ran parallel to the road and the village.


“Willie! What are you doing?” she hissed from the door frame. She saw him take something from the tree and realized they were pins that he had to have placed in the tree when he brought their bags down before. It wasn’t until he let the sheet unfurl that she saw his intent. Both of her hands clapped over her mouth and she turned beet red.


“WILLIE!” she said in a louder voice. He turned his head to where the village was and saw more than just a few curious heads glancing in their direction. He climbed down the tree and stepped back, regarding his handiwork as he brushed off the bits of bark from the tree from his hands. Nodding that he was satisfied, he turned to see her in the door frame, quite mortified.


He took her hands away from her mouth and held them. “It’s na about proving that I was your first. Look at it, wife. What do you see?”


For a moment she forced herself to look. He saw the realization come upon her as she raised her hand up to her mouth to gasp again.


“How? How did your family crest come to be made that way?”


She saw him shrug before he led her through the door back to their bedroom, and with his foot close the doors behind them.




Jessica sat in the kitchen at Mither’s regarding the selection of tea pots and the tea caddy. The back door opened and closed behind her. She turned her head and saw Flynn come in brushing off bits of things from his pants. She knew that the life of a farmer was much like that of those who fished for lobster out of the ocean.


“Where are you off to today?” Flynn asked pleasantly.


“To the estate. The inspector has organized a search party for more remains and more clues as to who is behind the kidnapping. We hope to take the afternoon to do it.”


She saw Flynn become somber as he scratched his scraggly beard.  “Good luck to ye, then,” he said before walking out of the kitchen. Jessica heard his footsteps go across the hall, and then heard a door close. She folded her hands in her lap and was studying her nails when George came in the back door and walked over to her.


“Are you ready, Jessica?“ he asked, kissing her cheek softy. He saw her expression. “Dear lady, what troubles your heart so?”


“I know who is behind all of this, George.”


“I know you know. I know you very well, Jessie MacGill Fletcher, and I have seen that look in your eye since yesterday. Our friends are in place - they know to touch nothing, only to observe. Shall we go?” he asked, extending his elbow in her direction. She walked with him out the back of the house to the back lane, where she saw the crowd of people and several cars that were ready to go.


Jessica walked into the study and watched as the man picking up the china on the tray turned and almost dropped everything.


“Why, Mrs. Fletcher, what a surprise. You will excuse me while I tidy up the place a bit,” he said, dropping the tray and the tea pot and letting them shatter on the floor.


Jessica took a breath as Flynn pulled out a small revolver from his pocket.


“Clumsy me,“ he said with a wintry smile. “Oh, please say, ‘It won’t work, Flynn,’ or, ‘You won’t get away with it.’ Because it already has worked … and I so love the melodramatics that Willie’s family has brought into our lives.”


“You mean, your effort to fake the stroke for Mr. Furhdaham? You weren’t here, and Faraday neglected to say that Willie gave Mr. Furhdaham mouth-to-mouth and could taste the same residue on his lips that was on Taylor’s after you slipped something into her tea two days ago. Being a healer, he knew exactly what it was. You were counting on Mr. Furhdaham dying here, weren’t you? The herb would be found, and Willie blamed because of the kidnapping. You even called the police to let them know Willie was going after Mr. Furhdaham by himself, and had no alibi. You didn’t count on Faraday losing his nerve when it came to murder and rescuing those he helped to kidnap. When we arrived he was wearing a blue oxford shirt, yet when he came back from the hospital, it had changed to green. It had to have taken two of you to lift them into the wagon as quickly as you did. Mither made sure Faraday knew you wanted the wagon hitched up to get hay, but this is the summer - the horses would be turned out to pasture to graze, and wouldn’t need to rely on hay for their sustenance.”


Flynn regarded her, his face no longer smiling. “A man can have someone hitch the wagon if he wants. An’ a man can change clothing midday if he wants as well. You have nothing except flights of fancy, Mrs. Fletcher.”


She sighed. “Well, we have the tea pot, and the tea residue that helped the doctors determine how much was put into his system. You might be distressed to know that after everyone was taken to the hospital, Inspector Southerland returned here with a warrant, and managed to exchange the tea pot and serving tray with one that I happened to have purchased in the village the day that we arrived. He was going to ship it back home for me, but seeing the need, he made the exchange before anyone knew. Your fingerprints were on the bottom of the original tray. That couldn’t be helped, I suppose - though you could wipe them off the tea pot and tea cups, they would still remain when you carried it in to Mr. Furhdaham. Faraday didn’t know that the intention was to kill Furhdaham and the others, did he? I knew, once you heard we were coming back here to collect evidence, that you would return to make sure that there was no connection to you. Innocent people have died.”


Flynn didn’t say anything for a moment. “There are no innocent people, Mrs. Fletcher,” he said, his voice becoming hard.


The door opened behind Flynn and Tipper and Faraday came through it. Faraday was a bit surprised to see the gun. “You said no one was to get hurt,” he said.


“I said ‘no one important,’” Flynn replied, swinging the gun point blank in Tipper’s direction.


“NO!” Tipper felt herself being spun around and then jolted backwards as she and Faraday fell to the floor. Tipper heard a scream, and felt a heavy wetness spread through the material of her top. She struggled a bit, unable to move and realized someone was on top of her. In a rush the weight lifted off. Some one helped her sit up. Tipper looked around and saw that it was Jessica, and that George had gently rolled Faraday off of her. She pushed George away. Bright blood bubbled from just under Faraday’s right arm. His eyes were wide and a trace of blood trickled down from his mouth. Tipper placed her hand over the gasping wound. From the sound of the air issuing from the hole she knew he had a punctured lung, and the amount of blood coming past her fingers told her there was more damage within.


“I’m sorry,” Faraday managed to say with great effort. Tipper put her arm under his head and raised his body, allowing his shattered lungs to work a bit better.


“WILLIE!!!” Tipper yelled, then looked down at Faraday as she cradled him in her arms, desperately trying to stop his life blood from leaving his body. She knew that Willie was close - they had been a few rooms over when Faraday had heard Flynn’s voice speaking with Jessica. Curious, she had taken Faradays hand and led him down the hall to the back entrance of the study. She knew George was in the front speaking to one of the officers who had come at his request. They hadn’t been sure exactly what or whom they would find.


Willie came through the door and glanced at Flynn. George’s bullet had taken care of keeping him where he could do no further harm. He hurried over to where Tipper held Faraday, and saw blood on his left arm. Ripping open the shirt, he saw bruising on the left side of his body.


“Faraday … please, don’t give up … Please … don’t give up …” Tipper said, holding him closer as Willie bunched a handkerchief under her hand to help with the pressure. He looked up at her and made a small shake of his head.


“Faraday - would you like to hang your wash next to mine?” asked Tipper urgently.


She saw him focus on her. “Aye ...“


Bending down she kissed his lips gently. When she straightened up Tipper saw Faraday blink and look beyond her.  “Myrna…” he said softly.


Turning her head she looked in the direction that he was. She saw a young girl who looked a lot like Mither standing next to a young man she didn’t recognize.  She felt Faraday take a breath, then it rustled out of his body. Tipper looked back, and saw him standing next to the young woman, hugging her. For a moment their eyes met, and then he walked out the door with the young woman between him and the other man.


Jessica watched as the police hauled Flynn to his feet and escorted him handcuffed out of the room. Taylor went to Tipper and held her as she sobbed over Faraday. The village would be unprepared for the amount of tragedy that it would soon face.


Taylor looked at Jessica.  “He was kin to Willie … Myrna was his twin. From Mither’s first marriage. There is a photo in the room of her holding Faraday, and someone else holding Myrna on the porch … Gram.”