The Gathering, Part One: Tabor
TAP BOOM BOOOMM
Tipper rolled over and sat up in her bed listening to the echoing rattle of her windows from the sound that had awakened her.
TAP BOOOM BOOOMM
She felt the bed shake under her as she grasped the covers. The sound was nothing she had heard before.
Placing her hands over her ears she closed her eyes to shut out the sound as it roared around her. The glass of her windows shattered spraying fragments about the room the furniture danced with each sound as if possessed. Tipper opened her eyes to see her book case tip over, showering her with the objects and shelves from the case. She screamed.
With a jolt Tipper woke breathing hard. Flicking on the small touch lamp she looked about her room. The windows were intact, the book case was positioned against the wall- it had been just a dream.
But of what?
She lived far enough away from the cove that she only briefly would hear the boats going out in the morning. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes she swung her feet over the edge of the bed and lowered them down to the floor. She felt something under one of her feet and pulled up before she put her full weight down on it. Curious she
looked between her feet and saw ten inch long stick that had a ball at the end of it. She picked it up, noting that there was a leather thong loop at the other end. The stick had been hand carved, it was all in one piece and it shown signs of being well used, and worn. It hadn't been there the night before. She never had seen anything
like it before, but she knew someone who would.
Glancing at the clock she saw that it was five thirty in the morning. Tipper grinned.
Yes, they would be up. With five kids in the house and three on the way it was unlikely that Willie and Taylor would ever get a good night’s sleep again.
Ten minutes later Tipper was sitting across from Willie in his living room watching him turn the stick over in his hands. There was a rushing about around them. It was the first day of school and Ian was sporting new jeans that fit him just right and a snazzy crisp oxford shirt that made him look older. Patty was smoothing the fabric of her shirt with her hands, a far away look in her eyes. Shauna and Emily were turning about watching the folds of their skirts whirl with their movements.
"Will ye be seeing us off on the bus to school Dr Tipper?" asked Shauna. Tipper nodded, leaning forward to help Shauna with her coat. It was something that always warmed her heart, to see the children and the parents spending quality time together while they waited for the school bus. Taylor carried Oliver in her arms, Willie held Margaritas hand firmly as they walked to the curb watching the bus make a slow turn about the corner. Kisses were dispensed then hugs. Ian waited until his sisters were on before turning and giving Willie a nod. Somehow Tipper had the feeling Willie had told him to watch out for his sisters. She could see Frank on the bus waving to them. In the few days that he had moved away she had keenly felt his absence and was glad that she had a chance to wave back to him.
They waited until the bus was out of sight before returning into the warmth of the house. Taylor refilled Tipper’s cup of tea before sitting down in the chair across from where Willie and Tipper sat.
"I heard something - I thought I was awake, but it was one of those nightmarish dreams when you think your awake. I heard a Tap, Boom Booom- but it was very loud and got louder and shook my house- broke the windows and a book case fell on me. When I woke - I, well, I put my feet down on the floor and almost stepped on this... It looks like - a drum stick," she said waving her hand at it.
Willie nodded. "It is... to a very special drum sort, but this is old, older than my gram or her gram. You can tell that by the weight, as they grow older they get lighter- a curiosity about them that they also get stronger with age unlike your current drumsticks that the young people play.”
"Husband,” Taylor said, “you don’t have any drums in your shop, and its unlikely that something like this would just be found in Cabot Cove. We helped the children unpack, they didn’t bring over anything like that..."
Willie regarded Tipper.
"Lass, I don’t wish to alarm you- I know, we all feel safe here- but did you lock your door last night?"
Tipper nodded. "Who would be coming into my house anyways?"
For a moment Willie didn’t answer. He took a slow breath and then let it out before looking at the drum stick and then looking over at Tipper.
"There are a few reasons why the children are here. One, yes, their mother is having a time with her pregnancy, Mother Rosemary and Mither are overwhelmed with the people who are coming to stay at the bed and breakfast since the story of the treasure being found broke- Gram's been taking care of their mother- and Toot's doing what the court wishes to make amends. The older ones can mind themselves, but, there were some who saw the children as a curiosity. Margarita is a handful of herself... Things started to happen though... Guests at the bed and Breakfast having horrid dreams, and like you finding things in their rooms. Mither took to locking the kids in their rooms for their safety, but things still happened they couldn’t explain. Some said that the place was haunted, and that brought more people coming. Some said it was a Ghistie coming, and that brought even a more strange crowd.”
Tipper glanced at Margarita - she seemed to take in every word that Willie was saying, except for the few sounds that she made the child did not speak. There was an understanding though, in her eyes, that Tipper could see that spoke volumes.
Ian made sure the girls were seated in front of where Frank was before he slid next to Frank and placed his back pack on the floor. Leaning forward he said something softly to the girls then turned back to where Frank was grinning. The other children who got on the bus waved hi to them as they found their seats.
"Friendly lot, arn't they?" inquired Patty to Frank over the back of the seat.
Frank nodded. "Boothbay is the same. Mum had three offers to help with Ruth by the first day." Frank regarded the handsome upper classman who flashed Patty a wide grin and winked at her as he passed to the back of the bus. Patty blushed and lowered her head shyly while Ian whispered into Franks ear, "She’s Plug ugly and can’t cook water with out burnin’ it, why would he give her a look like that?"
Frank shrugged then thought for a moment. "Do you think Angela can cook?"
Ian was about to nod then tilted his head. "Didn't she burn her hand with the kettle?" he asked curiously. Frank nodded slowly. "Ah well, at least she has her vet practice to fall back on." Frank was about to become indignant then realized Ian was teasing him.
Frank had done his best to explain to the others how the schools signaled their periods, and what to expect. He watched both Patty and Ian flinch when the class bell rang, and hoped that Emily and Shauna faired better.
He groaned when a sudden WHOOOOPPHH WHOOOOPPHH WHOOOOPPHHH filled the air. He had forgotten about the fire drill they did on the first day. Patty let out a shriek and dove under her desk curled up in a ball. Ian was right beside her, urging her up. "Get her outside with the others." Frank groaned again hearing the laughing that came from the students, and with out asking, hurried down the hall to where Emily was. She was under the desk too shivering with tears coming down her cheeks. She clung to him as he offered her comfort, and the two of them fought against the sea of kids who were making their way outside to get to Shauna's room. The room was empty of the other students- save for the sniffing of Shauna under her desk. She came to him and followed as he lead them outside to rejoin Ian and Patty with their classmates.
"Proper little mother hen arn't you?" Frank heard a boy snide as they passed by the upper classman’s grade. With out turning he knew it had been the boy who had turned everyone’s head when he got on the bus. there was a snicker from the girls around the young man.
"Better than being a jackass," he said under his breath. A few of the others around him over heard him and started to snicker. "Called you a jackass," scoffed one of the others.
Frank heard a roar and ducked down to protect the girls as the young man charged him. at the last second he pulled the girls to the side and the young man went falling into the dirt.
Frank kept walking with the girls ignoring the shouts behind him. He wasn’t sure where Ian and Patty were but, judging that the oldest ones were the first they encountered, logically, going down the groups of children they found them shortly. Patty was still sobbing quietly in Ian's arms.
Something came back to Frank, something he had heard from Taylor recounting why storms had terrified Willie so- 'Pipe bombs tossed into the primary schools filled with nails and glass' he mused. The odds of Willie being the doctor on call... Frank’s mind was making leaps in connecting the time lines. It would stand to reason, as a doctor who practiced in the area of his home town that he would have become involved with taking care of the children after the bombings.
He didn’t ask the whys as the four of them clung together, the younger girls crying on their brother and sister’s shoulder. Frank heard an adult clear their throat behind him. he turned on his heal and faced Carol Murphy. "They were left behind in their classroom. The sirens mean bad things..." he said, then turned back to the girls and patted their shoulders.
Carol Murphy regarded Frank. He had known him for several years. When the upper classman had come to him saying the blond haired kid with black rimmed glasses had tripped him and ran, Carol knew the description fit Frank, but he also knew it wasn’t in Frank’s nature to do something like that. He could see the genuine concern in Frank’s eyes for the girls.
"I'm sorry they have found their first impression of the school distressing, I hope that we can have things under control soon?" he asked, gently pulling out a handkerchief for them. Frank nodded as the group began to move back into the buildings. He knew they were the new kids, and that there would be some curiosity regarding them. Until things settled in, Frank knew it would be prudent to stay in the open and away from the upper classmen.
He didn't realize Carol Murphy had followed them into the classroom until he heard the distinctive cough from the back of the room. Curious heads turned as he came forward to where the teacher Mrs. Shallot stood waiting with a raised eyebrow. Frank could tell this wasn't what she expected.
"Well its wonderful to see all of you this new year,” Mr. Murphy said. “I have a feeling it will be an exciting time. We have some new faces in our school, and I hope all of you will welcome them warmly. Would Molly Bishop come up and tell us a bit about yourself?"
Molly stood up and strode to the front. Frank watched as she gave Carol a shy smile then folded her hands to hold them. "My name is Molly and my dad and I moved up here this summer. My dad and my aunt Gretchen purchased the general store and I help him with the things that need to be done. My dad said Cabot Cove is a good place to raise kids and I am happy to be here," she said, flashing a smile to Mr. Murphy. Ian and Frank looked at each other. Frank had to do his best to prevent from bursting out with laughter. He swallowed his mirth as he heard his name called.
Sighing, he stood and went up to Mr Murphy and nodded. "I'm Frank, and Mr Murphy was my vice principal at my old school, so he knows all about me.” Frank threw him a look over his shoulder and grinned. Looking back at his classmates he saw a few of them shifted in their seats. "I didn’t do so well in English last year, so, my parents sent me up here to stay with my aunt to tutor me while dad and mum traveled for dad’s work. I found out that I needed to wear glasses to see things, and I had more family than I knew, and we found a house to buy in Boothbay, and I hope that my life gets back to normal pretty soon."
Mr Murphy was grinning when Frank turned back to him. It was no more than what he expected. Frank returned to his seat and gave a sigh of relief.
"Ian McAvery ..."
Ian gulped and wobbled to the front of the room. "Hullo. My name is Ian, an I was sent over to live with my uncle and aunt to live earlier this summer. I’m the oldest in my family, older than my sister Patty by 4 minutes... aye, we're twins, but ye canna tell it by looking at us, I'm the one who got the good looks and charm in the family..." he said with a wink to the girls in the front seats.
With a nod to Mr Murphy he returned to his seat and nudged Patty up front when she was called. For a moment she stood trying to calm herself. "I'm Patty, and my sisters and I followed over to stay with our aunt and uncle a few weeks after Ian came. I won't dispute tha my brother Ian has the charm... he's a rogue when it comes to manners, so lasses, don't lose your heart to his wiles na time soon."
“Ach, get on with ye!" Ian muttered under his breath as she passed by on her way back to her desk.
For the most part the day went like most of the other school days for Frank. Sitting in the front gave him the visual and auditory advantage that he had missed before. He noticed that Ian was giving him curious looks and when they broke for lunch Ian laid his hand on his arm.
"Your na ashamed of being related to us, are ye?"
Frank gave him a blank look. "Ashamed? Of what? What are you talking about?"
"Ye failed to mention that your great aunt is cousin to my grandmother."
"Ohhh. Well, I didn't mention who she was either. Sometimes things have to be kept simple or they sound like - I dunno, weird. Or that it’s more information than they needed to know. The teachers all know, as does Mr. Murphy. Ian, while there are some thing from this summer I don’t want to remember, having you in the family as well as your sisters and Margarita is seconds to having Ruth as a baby sister."
"Is that a good thing?" Ian asked, curious. "I was none too chuffed when Shauna came about with her green slimy poos that were worse than breathing factory smoke."
"It’s a great thing Ian," he said, giving the smaller boy a hug.
Ian sighed as they entered into the lunch room. There was a horrid smell coming from the kitchen but the kids seemed to be excited about what was on the menu. Patty came up behind them. "Aunt Taylor knew you would be feeling tha’ way, and packed lunches for us."
"Thats good, but what is it?" he asked, curious.
"Um... meatloaf, I think," said Frank, wrinkling his nose. He saw the puzzled expressions of Patty and Ian as Shauna and Emily came to join them. "What’s so wonderful about something that smells like boiled tail?" asked Shauna.
Frank let out a slow breath. "They don’t get moo very often. Mostly they get sea food. I guess it’s a treat for them, like cornbread. Dad packed for me today too.”
"Meatloaf? Of what?" persisted Shauna.
Frank looked at one of the kids with a tray as they passed by. "Its like, um ... Haggis? Except without the sheep’s stomach. It has oatmeal in it," he finished.
Ian gave a shudder. "Then Blessings to Aunt Taylor for knowing," he said at last.
Frank looked out the window at the front yard as the students chatted away and had their dinner. something that glinted in the sun caught his attention briefly before he was drawn back to the others talking amongst themselves. It wasn’t in English, but from the time he had spent with Willie and Taylor and then with Ian, he understood
what they were saying. He responded, and the group of them were laughing when Molly walked by giving them all a curious look. It prompted a peal of laughter from Shauna. Molly gave them a contemptuous look before storming away. She followed the throng of kids outside to the front where Frank saw her bending over and picking up something in the grass.
Molly sighed. Except for Ian and Frank, no one really knew or cared who she was. People waved to her, but she felt uncomfortable in joining in on the conversations. She hadn't cared before what people thought of her. She had her friends like Lydia, and she could do as she pleased around her mother knowing that her bad behavior would get her what she wanted. It was different now. Her aunt Gretchen had informed her that she had better straighten up because there were far worse places that she could be sent to. While her father had purchased the general store from the bank, he was very weak still and it fell to Gretchen to manage things until he recovered. Her mother had been allowed no contact with her since her arrest in Florida. She would never be able to work as a nurse again, as the theft of narcotics - or any drug, for that matter - was frowned upon. There was a turmoil that Molly felt inside. She missed being the princess. The words that Dr Henderson had said to Molly had shaken her to the core - not that she believed the thing about the dark shadows but that an adult would talk to her like that. No one had ever spoken to her in that tone, with that level of emotion in their voice. Her father’s family had always been guarded because anything they said would be dragged into court by her mother. Her father had told her mother that they would have been able to own everything had she not divorced him and taken him to court so many times. She sighed as she scuffed her feet in the grass. She knew what she had done was wrong. She was only out of the jail system because her aunt had said to the courts that she would take her in and work with her. She had probation hearings and meetings with the councilors and they had told her what reality was.
Her foot hit something in the grass. Bending over she saw a square object and picked it up. Some one had dropped their Razor phone. She looked at it blankly - she had one, but it was in her back pack that was still locked in the trunk of her father’s car. Cell phones were not allowed at school, and from what she had seen of this backwater town, no one could afford such a phone or the connection anyway. Molly’s breath came out in a slow hiss like a tire deflating. She knew her aunt’s telephone number, and her grandfather’s, and for a moment, looking at the phone, she wanted to call them just to hear their voices. No one would know that she did. She missed them, but she knew the terms of the probation both she and they were on stated that she have no contact with them at all.
The teachers had to know about her *past*. If she handed it in, she would be under suspicion for taking it. But she couldn’t keep it. Palming it she walked into the school and down the long row of lockers. ‘Let some one else deal with it,’ she thought. Hurrying but not so much as to draw attention to herself, she glanced both ways, randomly opened up a locker and thrust the phone into the back pack that hung on the hook.
Belatedly she realized that the other person would be in more trouble than if she had just let it lay or turned it in, but the call of the bell for classes commanded her to enter her classroom. 'I’m just staying out of it,' she thought, 'that’s all.' She frowned as she walked to the door. She had passed through metal detectors and they hadn't sounded when she went through them.
Frank took off his glasses and tucked them into his pocket. He had paused to get a sip of water before entering the classroom and water always splashed on them in the process. He felt himself being pulled back by the scruff of his neck and pinned against the lockers while coming nose to nose with the blond-haired upper classman.
"Where is it, shrimp?"
"Where is what?" he asked, looking the young man in the eye. Frank didn't flinch as the blow from a fist cracked across the bridge of his nose. He felt something run from his nose that was warm and wet.
"My Razor," the older boy hissed.
Frank gave him a blank look as he tried to clear his thoughts. "I’m not old enough to shave, what would I be doing with a razor?"
The older boy grasped Frank’s wrist and twisted it painfully, leaving a bright angry bruise as his sharp nails dug in and cut Frank’s skin. “Its my cell phone, idiot. What did you do with it?"
Frank saw something deep with in the young man’s eyes. There was no spark of
kindness or sincerity. This young man was the type of boy that mothers warned their daughters about. Belatedly Frank realized that this was the young man he’d tripped. There were no teachers about, no Mr Murphy to save him. He knew this young man was capable of anything, and feeling no remorse. Something boiled deep inside of Frank as he raised his foot and stamped hard on the upper classman’s foot.
"DAMNU AIR CLADHAIRE! LEANBH DIOMHAOINTIS! I'VE HAD ENOUGH TARBH CAC PEACACH FROM YOU!!" Frank thundered. Howling in pain the upper classman stepped back far enough to release Frank’s arms, giving Frank the chance to push the upperclassman back by the chest. It knocked the older boy back onto his backside, driving the wind from him. Frank stood over him with his hands on his hips. "You are NOTHING compared to what I went through this summer, so DON'T GO THERE! YOU WILL LEAVE ME AND MY COUSINS AND MY FAMILY ALONE, IS THAT UNDERSTOOD?? I DON'T KNOW OR CARE WHERE YOUR CELL PHONE IS, TRY THE LOST AND FOUND!" Frank turned and saw two other upper classmen coming closer to him to take him down. "BACK OFF!" he snapped. Startled, they stepped aside.
Breathing hard, Frank went into the classroom and sat down ignoring the curious glances he was given by his classmates. He tried to pick up his pencil and dropped it, unable to hold it due to his hands trembling. He heard Ian's voice far away, and Patty’s speaking in the background saying something to the teacher. Frank had
to sneeze. He closed his eyes to do it, and when he opened them he saw Willie. More precisely, he saw Willie beyond something cold and whitish. He realized that he couldn’t breath through his nose, there was something sticking to his cheeks.
"How are you feeling, laddie?" asked Willie softly.
"My head hurts," Frank murmured.
"For good reason. You’ve a busted nose and a cracked cheek bone. Who did this to you, laddie?" Willie brushed Franks short hair with his fingers as Frank looked around. Frank realized he was in the hospital, and the white thing was a latex glove that had ice in it. Shrugging even hurt. "Got away by stepping on his foot," he murmured. The warmth and softness of the covers was too inviting to ignore. Closing his eyes, Frank allowed the bliss to envelope him.
Tipper opened the door to her house and placed the bag of groceries on the table with a wide grin on her face. She had managed for an entire week to not spill any of her groceries on hapless tourists. It had been a long day, seven pets had come in from being sprayed by a family of skunks. Her co-workers found it funny to sing ‘Attack of the Killer Tomato” and “Puberty Love” while she helped the owners wash them in tomato juice. While she had rinsed off as much as she could, she knew she had it imbedded in her hair. She was out of cat food, the lads needed their kibble, and the new owners of the grocery store were understanding. A quick shower, fluffy jammies and some instant noodles were called for.
Getting a towel she picked up a fresh bottle of her favorite jasmine shampoo, and strode with purpose into the shower. She could stand under the hot water for a very long time if she could afford the water bills and if her hot water tank would heat enough water. She heard her phone ring as she worked the second lather up in her
hair. She would never eat another tomato again. Sighing she heard the answering machine click on, then as the last of the lather swished down the drain she pulled her warm towel off of the curtain bar and wrapped in it before pulling the curtain aside.
Fighting the urge to scream she grasped the shower bar to keep from falling backwards. On the sink rested a slender silver cell phone that was open and
scrolling through a series of photos in a slide show.
Tipper sat on the edge of the tub trying to breath. The images were of guns and things she could only guess to be worse than guns. Bags of things, white stuff, and plants that she recognized from her herbology studies. She wasn’t sure what terrified her the most- the danger that the items were presenting, or the fact that someone was in her bathroom when she was vulnerable. She knew she had locked the doors and had the alarms set on the windows, and had locked the bathroom door just from shear nervousness.
"Fingerprints!" she breathed as she made her way to the hall phone. Her shaky fingers dialed Mort’s number and in a few minutes she heard his car pull up to her house.
Mort let out a long breath. He had been at Jessica's letting her know what had happened to Frank at school when the call came in. The kids at Taylor & Willie's had been home bombarding Taylor with the day’s events. He heard first hand from Patty how they had heard Frank yelling things in the hallway at someone, and seen him come in bloodied. When he had sneezed and pitched forward Ian had prevented him from hitting his face and had held him when he had fallen out of the chair in a position so he wouldn’t choke on his blood. Taylor reassured Patty that the blood would come out of the clothing, and for the girls to get their homework
done before dinner. Mort could see that Margarita had helped the girls unpack their bags and had their books open on the table. They were in and out of the lower area of the house- Margarita took delight in racing about with Shauna and Emily giggling madly, then Shauna and Emily were wound up, and it was all Patty could do to prevent them from stepping on the dog. Taking in a breath Mort had thanked Taylor and went over to Jessica's to let her know what had happened.
He hadn’t been there long - well, long enough to calm her down and have her wait
until Willie called to let them know that Frank had been admitted to the hospital. They had packed his nose and sinus area and were waiting for him to wake up. She found it hard to stay put and asked Mort what the children had said Frank had said.
"As far as the children would tell me, it was words that he had been told not to say- that they had been told not to say. The only word that they would repeat was ‘Coward.’"
His cell phone rang. Mort sighed as he listened to Tipper tensely saying that a cell phone had shown up while she was in the shower. Sighing, he informed Jessica that he had to go, and that he would keep her updated.
Mort opened his billfold and retrieved the key from the change pouch. Adelle had seen the wisdom of him having a key to Tipper’s place. He walked about the perimeter of the house and saw she had a second story window open, but no real access to the window. Walking around again, he did see that the trellises that leaned against the porch was snug enough that a person might climb it to gain access to the porch roof, but they would have to climb up the steep slate roof over and then slide down, and hope they didn’t fall to get access to that window. Getting out again would require the balance of a mountain goat. Sighing, he dusted and pulled off two prints from the door and the handle, both which he suspected were Tipper’s. Picking the phone up with a pair of latex gloves he slipped it into a plastic evidence bag.
Tipper came into the hallway dressed now in jeans and a plain white t-shirt. She had placed her feet with out socks into Convers tennis shoes and was wiggling into a fleece sweatshirt while Mort dusted the frame for fingerprints.
"Angela, you need to know - Frank was admitted to the hospital about half an hour ago. Someone took a punch at him and busted his nose and his cheek. Willie is with him now."
"Who would do that to him?" she gasped.
Mort shrugged. "Shauna said that an older boy tried to cause problems for Frank this morning during the fire drill. In the mean time, I don’t think its a good idea for you to be spending the night here until we have this sorted out. Normally I would suggest Taylor’s, or Jessica’s, but I don’t know how much sleep you would get at Taylor’s with all of the kids running about..."
"And Jessica has company for this week..." sighed Tipper.
"Company? Who? I didn’t see any one when I was there a while ago."
Tipper bit her lip and closed her eyes. She hadn't meant to let that bit of information slip.
"Inspector Sutherland was to return home after escorting the children to Willie’s but was delayed by another issue. Jessica has him staying there while he finishes what he needs to do."
Mort felt himself bristling. "We have the inspector from Scotland Yard fussing about MY Cabot Cove without MY knowledge and YOU knew about it and DIDN'T see FIT to TELL ME?"
"I only found out by accident! It’s not to be common knowledge because it can compromise too many things!" she said in a rush of soft words, trying to calm Mort’s feelings. It didn't work.
"Mort, its NOT about you. You need to be just the same Mort as yesterday and the day before, just like I have to be the same klutzy vet. Don't go looking for him or for answers. You don't know him, you don't know why he is here and you don't go looking for anything else except the Sunday paper under the mat."
"Okay, fine, but what if this -” he held up the cell phone - “has anything to do with what is going on?"
Tipper ran her fingers through her damp hair. "Then our world has ended, Mort."
"Fine. Get a bag, I’m taking you to Seth's."
Tipper shook her head. "To the hospital - you can drop me off there and I can get a ride back."
"Angela, they are only letting family and the doctors in to see him."
"I'm a doctor!" she said, placing her hands on her hips.
"You’re a vet!" Mort saw her press her lips together. "All right," he sighed. "I need to speak with him too and see if he can shed some light on what happened."
Tipper and Mort found Willie standing outside of Frank’s room regarding an open chart. In the room were Grady and Donna, who was holding Ruth in her arms. Mort had dusted the cell phone for fingerprints, then laid strips of tape over the prints to secure them. He glanced passed Willie and saw Frank was swaddled so that his head wasn’t going to move. Willie inclined his head to the side and opened the door to a conference room. He closed the door and began placing x-rays on the light boxes.
"We were able to get a fair number of photos of the damage done to his wrist, and there was an impression of a signet ring in the bone of his cheek," said Willie to both of them as they regarded them. He saw Tipper flinch at the damage that had been done to him.
"How bad is it, Willie?" asked Mort.
For a moment Willie didn’t answer. Tipper turned and looked at Mort.
"It looks like the shattered bone punctured the tissue in the brain cavity. He's in danger of infection, and if it had been much more, we wouldn't be in this part of the hospital."
"What kid would do this to another kid?" Mort wondered out loud.
Willie shook his head. "I don't think this was a child that did this to him, Mort. None of the lads at that school weigh more than most angels. There had to be
tremendous energy behind those blows, and a child couldn’t do that either. Angela, I understand that you’re his friend, but you know the risks of him being exposed to germs at this point. I'd say no to you going in to see him even though I know you wouldn’t get any sleep tonight. I also know you've helped Mort in the past, and as this is a crime against a child, any information gathered has to be kept sensitive... the rules and all... I can only allow medical and police staff in his room at this point."
"She's with me,” Mort said. “Angela is an acting deputy on this case. If anyone can get Frank to talk about what happened, she can."
Willie regarded the expression on her face before nodding. "All right, just you, and Mort, you will have to wait outside. I will arrange it so you can hear what he is saying at the nurse’s desk - we have headsets and recorders."
Dressed in a yellow gown with gloves and her hair up, Tipper entered the room and sat on Frank’s bedside. The paper mask was almost too big for her, and it absorbed the tears that slid down her cheeks as she watched him try to move under the restraints they had placed upon him. His wrist was bandaged, his left arm had an IV and a glance informed her that they were giving him something to keep him calm and for the pain. Bending over she lifted a corner of the ice bag on his face and studied the bruise on his cheek. His eye opened up and he focused on her for a moment before he murmured, "Can you cook?"
"I haven't starved to death yet. Instant Noodles au Tipper is the specialty of the house." Wrapping her fingers about his hand her voice dropped. "Who hurt you like this, Frank?"
Frank shrugged. "I don't know. I remember going for some water, and someone talking about shaving, and I don’t remember getting hit at all, just feeling- wet. And I remember swearing at him, words that I heard from Willie when he smacked his thumb. I think I stepped on him... and Ian's voice was far away...and I’m here... its pretty bad, isn’t it? Mum and dad and you are all crying... am I going to die?"
"We are crying because it hurts us that you have been hurt so. We all die too, you know. We’re just not planning on letting you go so soon, okay?"
"Shaving?" mused Willie. He saw Mort shake his head.
"I have to run some prints, Willie. Can you make sure Angela makes it to Seth's tonight? She had someone come into her home while she was there and leave something that is scaring the bejeebers out of both of us."
Willie gave a quick nod. "Aye, and if I learn anything about this person, I will let you know."
George strode into the kitchen bearing twin bags of groceries and placed them on the table. He saw Jessica pacing in the front room with her cell phone tucked to her ear. When she turned he saw the tears on her face. Thoughts of a romantic candlelight dinner slipped from his mind as he went to her and gathered her in his arms. He could feel the soundless sobbing coming from her as she thanked the person and hung up. For the longest time he just held her before she looked up and
said, "Someone hurt Frank, he's in the hospital. All they know is that this person has a signet ring, and that Frank may have injured his foot and he recalls someone saying something about shaving."
"Shaving? Franks not old enough to shave..." he said, puzzled. He felt Jessica place her hand upon his arm. "I know you have other concerns, here in Cabot Cove, but could you help find this person and bring them to justice?" she asked softly.
George had a sinking feeling in his gut that he couldn’t explain. Nodding to Jessica he pulled her back in to his arms. His eyes fell upon Jessica's cell phone that she had placed upon the side board.
“Shaving ... indeed..." he mused.
Molly Bishop sat during dinner regarding the stuffed shells on her plate. It was one of her favorite meals, but, she didn’t have much of an appetite. Harrison and Gretchen sat across the table talking to each other about how well the store was doing. There were some odd invoices in the files that Gretchen had discovered. She didn’t know what they were, but it was a third payment party - the store address was used as a middle man for the transaction, not selling them as product, but receiving income of a modest nature for the use of the address. While it was legal, Gretchen hadn't found the entry for the money in any of the books. Molly knew when the two of them started talking like that any thing she would say would be given a polite look and then they would resume what they were saying.
There were other reasons why she didn't feel like eating. Her seat at school had been by the door and had heard what had been going on in the hall when Frank was hurt. She knew that the older kid was the one who had lost his cell phone was the same cell phone she had found. Frank had been totally innocent of it, and had left a bloodily trail across the class room floor.
"... or for weddings, they would happen infrequently enough, maybe it’s something as simple as the fondant for the cakes..."
Molly took a small bite of the shell on her plate before blurting out, "Maybe they were smuggling something and were paying him to keep it in his back room. The shop up the street has a secret area that goes to the basement in it and that was used a couple of years ago for some really bad stuff. I heard about it in school today at lunch time. Maybe there is a secret tunnel that connects all the shops in Cabot Cove that pirates used a long time ago, and they are using them now..."
"Molly, there were no pirates in Cabot Cove..." began Gretchen.
"Why not? they had them in Boothbay. a couple of the islands had Blackbeard the Pirate’s treasure buried there, and there is a Spanish galleon in the second harbor of Boothbay just rotting away still where it ran aground. Boothbay is only three miles more up the coast from us so they would have to pass by here..."
“Honestly, Molly! Where on earth do you think of these stories?" said Gretchen, shaking her head.
Molly shrugged. "I have a healthy imagination that I get from my Dad," she said finally. Molly looked between the two adults. She saw Gretchen was puzzled, and Harrison was pressing his lips together and regarding her in a particular fashion. "How else could Dad be able to take nothing worth much and make all those things that sit around in museums ?.. May I finish this later? I'm really not that hungry now.” she said as her hand went to her seat to push it back. Harrison nodded. Molly sighed then slid out of the chair and went to the kitchen where she wrapped the plate and slid it into the refrigerator. She could hear the low murmurs in the dining room. They hadn't ignored her. That was interesting. The idea of smugglers or pirates intrigued her, and while she had spent some time at the shop, she hadn’t really done any thing to really look around. Looking around the kitchen she went back into the dining room with the pot of coffee and two cups for them, and then took the plates out to wash them in the kitchen sink. Her homework was done; with the dishes and her chores done there would be just a bit of daylight to go down to that shop on Oak Street and see if she could find out anything more about the hidden room.
Maybe time in Cabot Cove wouldn’t be as dull as she thought...
Molly walked onto the front porch and looked down at the hollow sound her feet made as she crossed to the steps. She stopped. She didn’t remember seeing steps down to any cellar, but they had to have one. She went down the steps and around the exterior of the building. Yes, there were several windows that just peaked above the line of the land - the large glass blocked ones. Once around she noticed there was no storm cellar door, though there were stone rails as if there had been one it looked like it was filled in with dirt or something.
Coming around to the front of the house she saw Mort get out of his car and begin up the walk way. She froze. She thought about bolting for the cover of the bushes. Something compelled her to stand her ground as he came up to her and sighed.
"Am I in trouble?" she asked softly.
Mort sighed again. "That remains to be determined. What can you tell me about this?" he asked, pulling the phone still in the plastic evidence bag out of his pocket to hold in front of her.
"I didn't use the phone to call my aunt or grandpa. I just found it, and I knew that if I turned it in the person who it belonged to would get in trouble because we aren’t allowed to have cell phones in school, so I just - I just put it in somebody’s book bag and walked away. I didn't want to get involved."
"You weren’t tempted to keep it yourself?" he asked, curious.
Molly gave him a blank look. "I have my own pink Razor, why would I want an old silver one? You can’t get any signal with them up here, only the reds and the indigos have the best range."
"A pink what?" inquired Mort, perplexed.
"A pink Razor. They call them that because they are thin. Mine’s locked up in the trunk of my dad's car along with my video games until he feels its the proper time for me to have them."
"You know that Frank Fletcher was hurt today after lunch," Mort began. He watched as Molly swallowed and nodded. Her eyes became troubled. "Anything you want to tell me about what happened?"
"I sit by the door, and I heard him at the water fountain, and some older guys came up and asked Frank about the Razor, and he didn’t have it. And Frank starts saying things - weird like and he is yelling them at the guys, and he comes in and blood is going everywhere and he sits down, and then he doubles over and Ian catches him before he falls and Patty is helping Ian to try and stop the blood... he didn’t
do anything to that kid. Why were they so mean about it? And what are they going to do to me?"
" Molly, where did you find it?" Mort asked gently.
"It was after lunch, I went out onto the front lawn and I saw something in the grass and I went to it and picked it up. I put it in the kids back pack and walked away. "
"Do you know which kid, or the grade they were in?" Mort pressed.
Molly shook her head. "They were the littler lockers though, for the first and second graders, and the back pack was pink.” Molly heard the click of the screen door as Gretchen came out.
"Hello Sheriff, would you like to come in? You’re in time for dessert..."
"Ah, that sounds tempting, Ms. Bishop, but I have to get back to the station house. Molly was just answering a few questions about school today. One of her classmates was hurt."
"Oh, I hope they will be all right," Gretchen said sincerely.
"So do I... Good evening," he said, tipping his hat to Molly and nodding to Gretchen.
Molly watched him walk away, then yelled "WAIT!" and began to run after
Mort paused. "Yes?"
He saw Molly hesitate. "Look, I don’t know if this is important or not, but, the metal detectors that we walk through on the door near the gym didn't go off when I went through them with that thing. They should have, because at my other school we had the same thing and they would know when we were bringing our cell phones in- they weren’t allowed there either."
Mort took a deep breath as he remembered the images that had been in the phone's memory. He looked at Molly then up at Harrison and Gretchen. "Mr. Harrison, would you allow your daughter access to her pink Razor so she can show me how they work?"
Harrison nodded and got the key for the car.
Tipper tossed her bag on the spare bed at Seth's house before bending over and using a flashlight to peek under the bed itself. She jumped slightly when she heard Seth say behind her, "No monsters under there for a good forty years, Tipper."
"Really? How did you get rid of them?" she asked, straightening up and turning to sit on the bed. She saw the look of bemusement in his eyes.
"Gave them all names. Had my daughter draw them if she could remember
what they looked like, and that made them easier to manage." Seth handed her a mug of tea. "Willie was telling me about some of the odd things that were happening at Mithers, why the girls came... I'm not saying its one of them. It could be an escaped monkey from the traveling circus that is the intruder. Mort did find odd small finger smudges on your door that matched the phone, but not fingerprints. Look, I know you’re pretty wired up, but we both need our sleep. It’s
almost nine, and dawn will come in about seven hours."
"I know... I just feel- twitchy,” she said, taking a sip of the tea. Surprised at the taste she looked up at Seth.
"A hot toddy seemed the best thing to have. I would suggest that you change for bed before you finish it.”
Mort felt very cross-eyed by the time the lesson was finished with Molly. There were terms that he did understand like the GPS location system, and phantoms- Bluetooth, the ability to link two phones together and have both phones get the same information. The phones could talk to each other as well - they were, in effect, computers. She showed him how to send files, and then how to erase the sent files record. For a moment she looked at her phone, and remembered what Frank looked like. She was involved. She could have just ignored the phone and he
would be okay. It wasn't that she owed him anything- She was suddenly concerned about her own self preservation. She slid the phone over to Mort.
"Look, you need one, like this, and you need it right away. I'm not using it, and I don't want to end up like Frank. What I don't understand is why he said he had had enough. Enough what?"
Studying her upturned face Mort, said softly. "My guess is that he’d had enough of his life being placed in what he calls ‘Mortal Peril.’” He saw Molly give him a curious look before continuing. "Maybe when he gets out of the hospital you can ask him yourself."
Back peddling Molly shook her head "Oh, no. He wouldn't want to talk to me. They hate me."
Reaching over to her Mort caught her chin in the cup of his hand. "I know both of the boys pretty well. They are not the type to hold grudges, nor have they ever said they hated you, or anyone. Its not in their nature."
"That's too weird," she said raising her eyebrow. Looking at him straight in the eye she asked, "You can't promise me that I will be safe, can you?" Mort shook his head.
"Thank you," he said, pocketing both of the phones. Taking a breath he stood up. "I have to run some things, to get this sorted out. If you think of any thing else let me know." Mort nodded to both Gretchen and Harrison before Harrison walked him to the front door.
“You will let us know if you hear anything about the Fletcher boy, won't you Sheriff? "
Mort nodded. He had one more place to go before he would head home. Frowning, he wondered if the advice Tipper gave him was related to his current investigations. He knew what he had was evidence, and tampering with it was something that would blow the case if it was what he suspected. There was way too much spy gadgetry in the world, things that could track phones and their users, things that could listen in on conversations. The amount of weapons seen in the photos could blow away Cabot Cove. He knew George wasn't there on official business that he could speak about. Mort had to get his concerns known to him one way or the other. If he couldn't trust George…" Mort sighed and shook his head. Using the edge of his thumb he pushed the power button on the cell phone. If these people didn't stop at harming a child to get the phone… they wouldn't care about harming whom ever got in their way. Laying the phones end to end he keyed in the command to copy the files and photos from the other cell phone on to Molly's. Taking a breath he pulled out his pocket knife and opened the back of the silver phones battery. A flick of his wrist made the blade come in contact with the battery shorting it out. That would buy them some time…
Knowing that Willie was still at the hospital made the trip to Taylor's an opportunity for him to reflect on what he was going to say in a way that Jessica couldn't say no.
Ten minutes later his car was snuggled along Taylor's house and he was explaining to Jessica that he needed to borrow Taylor and Oliver for a few hours and would she mind watching the children until Willie came home? Jessica looked down at the earnest faces of the children.
"You have a lead?" she asked, curious.
Mort shrugged. "We are going back to the school to see if we can find what Frank was talking about. It gives Oliver a chance to be trained with out distractions
as well. "
Jessica's eyes spoke for her - `You owe me, Mort,' they said. Mort leaned in and gave Jessica's cheek a kiss. "Brandied rhubarb," he murmured. Her eyebrows raised before giving him a nod. She realized he knew more than he could say.
Mort and Taylor were at the school before Mr. Murphy was. Taking a breath he took the silver Razor from his pocket and paced off to where Molly said she had found it. He had removed and carded all of the fingerprints and slid them in an envelope with the pink Razor then cleaned all traces of fingerprints off of the phone. With his handkerchief he dropped it, then gave it a kick so that it would be
found further away, as if it had been kicked by accident by the students after the assembly.
Taylor gave him a curious look. "Its going to rain, you know…" she said, looking up at the sky.
Mort nodded. "Yeah. From what I learned, you can dry these things out by keeping them for two days in instant rice- and then recharge them, which is what I am hoping these kids think when they get the phone back, but the battery they have is shot, and that will take another day for them to figure out. It buys us time, even if it gets us only a day more."
"What if this is bigger than what a day will bring us?"
"That scares me as much as it does you Taylor… Now, lets see what this little lady can do…"
Tipper looked down at her bunny slippers and slipped them on her feet. While Seth had said she needed her sleep, and she knew she did, she just didn't feel ready. She had stayed away from the lads before and they normally would hide if there were strangers there - it was just odd. Pulling her fluffy robe about her thin shoulders she
sighed and took the mug with her down to where she knew Seth was – sitting with his feet propped up in his recliner.
His eyebrows rose at her entry to his library. "You are too big for me to carry you to bed, young lady…"
"I'm too wired Seth, you know that. You are too or you would be in bed as well. Mort didn't find any fingerprints on the doors, or the windows or the door knobs, and even on that thing. How is that possible?"
Flipping his book over onto his lap, Seth regarded her. "You don't go fishing, do you?" Tipper shook her head. "Well, one of the things I learned when I was taking my daughter fishing was, to always let them tie the lines and hook the bait on. They tend to catch the biggest fish as well, because of this singular fact. Children, very small children, don't have the oils in their hands that the adults do, and while they do have finger prints, they tend not to leave any. My guess is your intruder is a very small child."
"But how are they getting in? Everything is locked up!" Tipper said, sipping her tea slowly. She watched as Seth gave her a cat-who-ate-the-canary grin.
"Everything except the cat door that you had put in last spring. Adults who go into caves practice climbing through tennis rackets that have no strings on them. They can fit in holes that are 18 inches across. A very small child can fit in a hole that is 6 inches across, about the size of you cat door."
"Why?" Why me?" Tipper asked feeling the effects of the toddy making her body feel heavy. She yawned and looked down at her mug.
"That I can't answer. But what you have been going through hasn't just been about these last few nights, has it?"
Tipper regarded him a long time. Her eyes dropped down to the cup before she spoke. "I'm not going mad if that's what you mean. By accounts the three of us should be in therapy for ages…I keep having dreams I can't explain. Dreams that terrify me and that I can't remember exactly what is going on later.”
Taylor watched as Mr. Murphy opened up the doors to the school. While it was true that she had only had Oliver for a short time, the little dog was very bright and needed to - do – things all the time. The search game was something that Oliver enjoyed the most- Sydney had been more- general in what she could search for, even with out having the special collar on. Some dogs, could do that- search for anything that was in the range of what they had been trained for. Some dogs were specific, like Oliver - you had to show them what you were looking for and they would find it. In the time that she had been training Oliver, she had only managed to find two things at the same time. Three or more she sat back and gave Taylor the look of "you have got to be kidding."
George had been very helpful with acquiring small samples of the scents for her. It wasn't often that one had access to C4 or some of the opiate scents. There were two things to consider in regards to what Mort was doing. One he didn't have a search warrant. Anything that he might find, in asking to search the building would be inadmissible in court. The second was, by approaching this as an innocent trial for what her dog could be trained to do with out distractions and then finding the items by accident could be admitted into the courts as a "in plain sight" rule as they would have Mr. Murphy there to open the lockers or where ever to see why Oliver would be responding. The janitor, Mr. McKee, wouldn't be at the school until about 2 am.
Hiding her grin Taylor noticed right away that Mort caught the metal detector didn't sound when they walked through the door. Opening up a panel on the side with his key, Mr. Murphy frowned. Some of the wires had been disconnected. His upward glance at Mort spoke volumes. It took a moment to re attach the wires, and to recalibrate the system for that alarm. A quick check of the other metal sensors showed that two others of the eight had been deactivated in the same way.
"These all worked a week ago," Mr. Murphy said grimly.
"Who all has a key like that to access the panel?" inquired Taylor curiously.
Mr. Murphy sighed. "They are all standard. Every shop or business that uses this type of sensor array has the same key as far as I know. There may even be a reason why they were deactivated, sometimes they do when they are cleaning the floors because the power cord sets them off continually. " He fixed Mort with an even look "Though, I suppose it won't hurt to be prudent," he said finally. The three of them moved to the gymnasium.
Oliver was instantly alert when the little rubber ducky squeaked. She sat back for a moment, and then went to Mort and barked twice. Perplexed, Mort looked at Taylor, who was giggling. "She says you have gun oil on you. Give her a pat and tell her she's a good girl." Mort bent over and was rewarded by a tongue lick deep into his nose.
"Errph… Good girl," Mort managed, wiping his face. Taylor squeaked the rubber duck again. Oliver returned to her, then circled about her feet as if to say "Lets go then!" With a swish of her tiny backside she lead the way into the locker rooms and to where the weight lifting area was. This didn't surprise Taylor as many of the machines had the same oil on them as the guns would. The switchblade that she dragged out from an open corner of a kick plate did surprise Mr. Murphy though, who dutifully placed it in a plastic bag and then tagged it before dumping it in the evidence box. They knew, as every student used all of the lockers, finding something in them would be remote. To Mr Murphy's relief the classrooms and the hall lockers were clear. Once in a while Oliver would stop and sneeze, tilt her head with a puzzled expression then continue. It was only after reminding Oliver what she was looking for (being delighted that she smelt the kids she knew in the classes, their seats verified by Mr. Murphy) that she came to the spot where Frank had been hurt. Oliver backed away a few times, shivering, then sitting back on her
haunches gave a mournful howl. Her nose positively pressed into the tile before she started off in a different direction leading back the way they had come. She doubled back, then returned to a locker and stopped before giving a unusually deep growl in her throat.
"Mr. Murphy, who's locker is this?" asked Mor,t curious, watching as Mr. Murphy flipped through the pages was an agonizingly slow process.
"Brad Jamison," he said softly, then noticed that Oliver was pulling at her lead to go further down the hall to come to a stop at a set of lockers that had small screws through the opening for the locks so they were made fast. She gave the same unusual deep growl in her throat. Mort stopped Mr. Murphy from touching the locker until he had a chance to pull out a fingerprint kit and go over the locker on the outside and secured the prints that he found. It took a second for Mr. Murphy to open it and lift the latch to open the door. Oliver sneezed.
"Oh my," Mr. Murphy gasped at the sight of the locker filled with plastic totes containing all sizes of guns and ammunition.
Mort regarded Taylor "Why didn't Oliver find these? We were passed this locker a few times already…" Oliver sneezed again.
"Good girl!" Taylor said, patting her head. "She did, Mort. She's sneezed quite a few times in our travels. She smelt something she couldn't identify, and that it irritated her nose. You tell me, though - we were testing on gun oil, and she passed even in things that were triple sealed. What would make these guns any different?"
Mort looked at the containers. "Graphite. They are new, and haven't been cleaned yet, they were packed in graphite. The dogs are trained to search for oils, and explosives. Because machine parts are packed in graphite too, the dogs don't search those containers, its difficult for them to smell for a rock. Its used in pencils, in art
supplies…" he said shrugging.
"She only sneezed at certain places though," said Mr. Murphy thoughtfully.
Mort glanced at Mr. Murphy as he flipped open his cell phone. " Hello dear… yes, still at the school… I need you to call dispatch, and let them know there won't be school tomorrow- we've a problem with the electrical system… yes, they will let the parents know. Thank you dearest… No, I don't know when I will be back…Love you." He closed his phone and sighed. "She once pointed out to me that the school has enough light from the windows for the children to do their home work. Finding, things like this on school property isn't new to me Sheriff, it's the first time though that the reason of seeing what a new dog can do though has been used to voice concern. You knew that there was something here…"
"I suspected we might find something. The thing is, this isn't school age kids doing this. Frank trusts you, and that's good enough for me. I've seen things happen in this town where I have learned to question who to trust, and when. "
"Well, you now have probable cause to search the school Sheriff, with my permission."
A delightful warmth enveloped Tipper as she slid her toes in the sandy beach. The sun warmed her shoulders and she felt incredibly lazy as she strolled among the dunes. She could hear low notes flittering across the sand and with curiosity followed it. Giggles came from behind her. She stopped and turned to see the children running, playing tag as they came down the path to the beach. "We're
going to swim in the water and look for pirate treasure," said Ian as he passed by her. It took a second for what he had said to register in her brain. "NO WAIT!" Tipper yelled. "COME BACK!! COME BACK! THE TIDE'S TOO STRONG!!" It felt like she was running in quick sand but she managed to follow them over the dune to stand in shock. The warmth of the day had changed to bitter cold, so cold that the sea water had frozen solid in mid-wave.
Only Margarita stood on the beach holding a small three holed reed flute in her hand. Tipper raced to her and scooped her into her arms. "Where are the others?" she asked. Margarita turned and pointed towards a cliff face that had replaced the dunes.
Tipper turned her head back to Margarita who offered her the flute. There was a resounding crack as the sea broke through the ice. Tipper clung to Margarita and screamed as the wave came crashing down upon them.
Strong arms caught her, pulled her up, held onto her as she clung to Margarita. Someone shook her gently and the pain behind her eyes lessened as the lights dimmed slightly. She was able to open her eyes and make out Seth's face. He was sitting on her bed holding her as she sat up in bed clutching her pillow and blanket in her fists.
"You left your window open child and the rain came in." he gently, brushing her damp hair to the side. "I heard you call out, and scream…" He saw Tipper shake her head.
"No – no I didn't, Seth…" she said softly. Opening her hand up she lifted it to him. In her palm lay a small three hole flute made from a reed.
`This is not the evening I had in mind,' thought George as he watched the girls and Jessica wash the dishes from the evening meal. Even the littlest one, Margarita, was focused enough to dry the silver ware as she sat on the counter. It had taken just one call to the hospital for George to know that the events that he had so carefully planned for were just a fleeting dream. He had already had to admonish the smallest of the sisters for using his pipe to blow bubbles and the littlest one was finding every single cubby hole to hide in when they weren't watching her.
"It’s just ONE CHILD, George, you're the chief inspector for Scotland Yard, how hard is it to keep an eye on her?”
They would run the kids through their bath, and then as there was no hope of `sigh' evening tallies – tucking them in. With the exhaustion of watching them, Jessica would be asleep in a thrice. Settling with his newspaper in front of him the children mingled while Jessica told them stories about the cove.
"We could be staying back at our own house, Aunt Jessica if your not wanting us here," said Ian, folding the last of the laundry for her.
"Good heavens, why would you think that?" Jessica said perplexed. She watched as Ian turned and glanced over his shoulder at George who was sipping his coffee.
"Well, its plain to us that the inspector would rather be on the box with you than listen to the girls singing their letters."
Jessica looked between George who had spat a fountain of coffee unexpectedly from his lips projecting it to the newspaper, then back to Ian.
George was about to admonish Ian for such language in front of his aunt when the back door opened and Emily came in soaking wet.
"My goodness, child! What were you doing out there?" asked Jessica.
Emily cast a glance at Ian then Jessica.
"I heard my Da calling me," she said simply. George watched as Jessica fussed over Emily and knew, with a pang, that Jessica would have made a wonderful mother.
He was about to re light his pipe when Patty came in and pulled the newspaper down from where he was hiding behind it. "Where is Margarita?" she asked him, fixing him with a gaze that spoke volumes.
"Hiding no doubt," he said with a twitch of the paper to remove it from her grasp.
"She's not, I've checked all the places that she should be and the front door is unlatched. Didn't aunt Jessica say for you to keep an eye on her while we dried off Emmie?"
George blinked several times - yes, Jessica had. The evening was shot- and he knew Jessica would be most unhappy.
"She can't be far away," he said, trying to keep the irritation from his voice as he shrugging giving the paper a tug again.
"Ye never ha to chase after her when she bolts, she could be three miles from here and into anything. She doesn't know any better of what not to do! She could be on the docks right this instant or near the train tracks or up a tree – or worse. What if she fell into one of your gutter openings with this rain?"
A flicker of a conversation that he had with Mither came back floating in George’s head. Leaning forward he came nose to nose with Patty before asking softly. "There are things that your not telling me. You do have a fair idea of why she does this- it’s not a game to her, is it? "
Patty gave his shoulders a push back. `SHE IS A WEE CHILD! SHE DOESN'T KNOW BETTER THAN NOT TO RUN AWAY!"
Jessica entered into the room and glanced between Patty and George. "Good gracious, what's all this about?"
She saw Patty turn and give her an exasperated look. "The inspector let Margarita out of his sight an now she's gone outside somewhere, and he is disinclined to look for her."
George saw Jessica's back stiffen as she straightened up. `Damn,' he thought. `The Hill House would have been a safer place to be just then.'
Patty's hand covered Jessica's as she reached for the phone to notify Mort of the missing child. "Na, the met would be saying tha’ we can't care for our own if we let them know she's missing.”
Jessica looked again at George who had moved from his seat in one motion and was striding across the living room in three steps to get his trench coat. Jessica stopped him. "No George, you don't know the town, even in the dark, and she won't come to you. You stay with the children and I will go out to look for her."
George sighed, and handed his trench coat to Jessica. "It’s large enough to cover both of you…" he said, eyeing the other children.
Ian came forward with a flash light. "She likes to go up things, and down things. Do you want me to come with you?" He watched as Jessica shook her head. "Stay with your sisters." Stepping onto the front porch Jessica looked into the pouring rain. She didn't have a clue to start with of where this child would have gone off to. Closing her eyes she listened to the rain , and any other sounds that were not familiar. In the distance she heard the low tones of some wind instrument. She knew it wasn't the wind blowing across the top of the chimneys, it was something else. Holding her breath, she listened. `I know that song,' she thought to herself as she turned into the direction that the wind was blowing. Panting at the top of the hill Jessica looked around. She didn't see anyone, and the mysterious tones of the wind instrument had ended. She stopped under the shelter of a tree and turned off her flash light. She could hear the faint bells signaling midnight in the cove. The tones could have been from anything- some one practicing for the school band, a radio, anything. Somehow though, her gut feeling told her to follow the tones, that she would find her answer. Her breathing was ragged. She wasn't young, and she had the return trip home - thankfully it was down hill, but it didn't answer where Margarita was. If there was a place to sit down, Jessica would have done it, just to
have a good cry. `If anything happened to that child…'
Something touched her arm. Jessica fought the urge to scream and jump back – her eyes flew open and focused on Willie standing regarding her with a patent look on his face.
"The others told me that you had gone after Margarita, and I know what your hearing, and feeling Jessica. She is close. We just have to call her in." Willie smiled and then putting his hand up to his lips he cupped it and then blew through it. A pure tone issued from him trilling in the night and joining the rain in a dance across the street. Jessica realized that it was the song of a night bird. She was about to ask him what he meant about calling her in, when an answering trill came from high above them and down the street. She was about to step out into the rain again to go after her when Willie held her back and shook his head. He blew out another trill of
notes, and after a silence, the answering trill was closer.
If Jessica had blinked, she would have missed Margarita stepping out from the trees and walking barefoot across the grass keeping to the bushes. She stopped and regarded Jessica, then Willie who lowered his hand and held one out to her. Willie's words were gentle, and after a backwards glance down the street, she went to him. Willie opened his coat and as he lifted her up, she wrapped her thin arms and legs about him so that he could wrap his woolen coat about her small frame.
"She only knows what she has heard all her life- the songs of the animals outside. She is trying to communicate the only way she knows how, and we haven't got the grasp of it yet. If by chance she speaks a word, it will only be as a parrot would, with no meaning behind it," murmured Willie softly.
Jessica regarded the young child. "She's almost as muddy as when we first found her…Willie, why were the children sent over? Surely they knew Taylor would be having her own time with her triplets…"
In silence Willie walked down the street, not answering Jessica's question. He finally stopped and looked at Jessica. "I don't know the workings of a woman's mind, that's all I can say."
They walked in silence to the house where George opened the door. The children had their baths, and were waiting up, or trying to, in the front room. Ian had such a serious look on his face, Jessica was about to ask him what was wrong, but the bustle of getting Margarita into the tub to wash her up, and then into bed cloths took her attention. George marched the children up to the spare room where the girls slipped in under the covers in a pile, and Ian curled on the far side of the bed with Margarita snugged in beside him. Glancing at the clock Jessica saw that it was 2 am. She stood in the door frame watching the children one by one submit to the slumbers of sleep.
George leaned in and kissed her shoulder. If anything could be salvaged of this night, he would have to be in her good graces. She looked back at him as his arm snuck around her thin waist. She was cold, and tired and wrung out from worry. Her delicate eyebrow rose slowly as her eyes looked for answers in his.
`Brandied Ruebarb,' Mort had said to her. She had offered that as a bribe to him to give her time to talk with Taylor when Earl had been found murdered. Mort's message to her was clear. He suspected something of a man that she dearly loved, and was asking her for the chance to clear his name, with out interruption. If this was Charlie Garrett or Denise Stanton, she could have understood. She longed to
cup George’s face in her hands and ask him, "What aren't you telling me," but she knew that if it was an investigation that he couldn't, and if it wasn't, if it was because he had turned out to be a scoundrel, she would have to have the strength within to, well, be strong as she had been with Preston, as much as it would break her heart.
She laid her hand on his and said softly "I'm going to duck through the shower to get warm, and then I will be down. Could you make some tea for Willie and me? I didn't get a chance to speak with him about Frank, and it looks like it may be a while before Taylor is home…" George nodded and kissed her cheek.
Jessica stepped into her room and then gathering her things went into the bathroom where she closed the door and saw George’s trench coat fall with a thud. She sighed. Willie had taken George’s trench coat and hung it on the back door. Bending over she picked it up and re hung it on the hanger as something fell to the floor by her feet.
Ian wiggled his toes in the bed. They had been allowed to sleep themselves out - the girls weren't up yet, and he didn't want to get up. He knew, from the call that George had taken, that there was a problem with the electrical system at the school, and they had the day off. He thought that odd. If there was, then Aunt Taylor would be home in a thrice, unless they are working Oliver in the dark.
He could just be lazy and sleep in bed all day. He had heard George speaking to Willie, though, while they waited for Aunt Jessica to get out of the shower. The `I'll have a word with him' told Ian that he had skirted on shear ice.
Tucking the covers about Margarita he slid out of the bed and lowered his feet to the floor. The cold wood made him curl his toes about as he walked silently across the floor to where his cloths were. He needed time to think. Dressing quickly he went down the steps as light as he could and glanced about. Every one was asleep. He knew he had to tell them where he was going, there would be hell to pay if he
didn't. Taking Jessica's note pad he wrote. "Gone to think," then left it on the table and went out the back door down the path to where the shop was.
The floors needed a proper sweeping, and the looms dusted off. Ian did that as their chores every week, and with school it would have had to wait to a Saturday. Grasping the broom he began to make quick work of it while nibbling on a square of traveling bread that Willie kept in a tin. He had no idea how he would be punished. He knew they wouldn't deprive him of food, and he didn't think they were the sort to whip children. They might shun him. He had seen that happen with many families back home, the invisible child. Ian closed his eyes and fought back
blurred tears. Putting the broom aside he sat down on the steps and hugged himself as sobs shook through his body.
Molly woke early. The call that her dad got the night before let her know she had one day of freedom to explore the thoughts that had come to her so suddenly. Snatching her back pack she emptied out the books and went to the bathroom where she found the flash light, and a small first aid kit. The kitchen yielded food, and several water bottles. She had no idea how long she was going to be away
exploring. She knew to leave a note, then left it on the table she went out closing the door behind her and walked up the street to where the shop was she had read about having the secret room. Maybe she could convince the shop owners for her to see it; at the very least she could find out what she could and then see if it applied to the shop her dad owned.
She was a bit out of breath when she reached the front porch and the sign said closed. But there was a light on inside. Taking a breath, she reached out and turned the knob. It opened and with a gentle creak allowed her in. She had never been in that shop before and it came as a shock to see the giant looms and the displays. She closed the door behind her and heard quiet sobbing coming from the corner. Curious, she went over and recognized Ian. She was about to blurt out "Cry baby!" when she realized she didn't see any adult about, the shop was supposed to be closed, and the abject misery that he was going through was very real. Molly dug in her pocket and pulled out a wadded up tissue and pushed it in his hand. When he glanced up she saw fear, and sorrow and the greatest pain in the world.
"What's wrong?" she asked curiously. `Know others weaknesses' her mother had told her once.
"Nothing you would understand." He said gulping back his tears.
"Try me." She said fixing him with a steady gaze.
"You wouldn't." he said shaking his head. "Your mum an da both love you, so much that they both are fighting the world for you to be with them. My da's dead, and my mum couldn't wait to be rid of me an the girls so that she could have a new family. Widows with a brood never are married off, but a tragic widow, with a wee new babe … ‘Ian,’ she said, ‘you're a right man now, and your old enough to take your work place in the world and not be hanging on my skirt. You'll go to your uncles, and mind him for your craft, or it will be the work house for you.' Well, off I was packed and now I've said some wrong things, and there is ether shunning or the work houses for me."
Molly shook her head. "They have child labor laws here, they don't make you go to work houses. The most parents do here is ground their children," she said with a shrug.
"They bury them in the ground??" sputtered Ian backing away.
Molly giggled. "No, they take away toys, or send them to their room to think about
what they have done. Your only ten."
Ian let out a gusty sigh. "I'm still a man."
"Do you hate your mum for packing you off here?" Molly asked, sitting down on the steps beside him and cracking open a water bottle before handing it to him. "Drink- your body chemistry gets funny after you cry, and it helps," she said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Ian nodded, took a few sips of the water and handed the bottle back to her. "Drink yourself too, your drenched in perspiration.”
Molly was about to refuse on the ground of germs and cooties, but she also understood his wisdom. She saw him let out some air.
"No, I don't hate her, I understand why she did it. In her heart, deep down, it’s probably breaking every day as much as ours are. I sometimes think after da died she went a bit mad with grief. Emmie keeps going outside, saying she hears Da calling, like he did when he was coming home from work. She doesn't believe he's gone. They never were able to sort through the bodies to find everyone – the factory burned for four days before they could get the fire under control. "
Blinking a few times and trying to digest this information Molly blurted, "Well, they must not have had safe conditions if it just caught on fire." She turned to look at him and saw a pained look on his face as he sighed.
"Na, lass, the factory was safe enough, they just stitched up knickers. Some one put several bombs in the factory in a shipment and rigged the place to go up at the same time at every corner. They locked the doors with chains so the workers couldn't get out. Mum would ha been there too if she hadn't been ill with the baby. When the sirens went off, and we heard the explosion, something broke in her. She went down like a load of coal and started to scream. She knew what it was.”
Molly handed him the water bottle again, nodding for him to drink from it. "Who would do that?" she inquired in a hushed voice.
Ian swallowed some of the water then pushed the cap back down on it. "The same people who stuff nails and bits of glass in pipe bombs to toss into our playground while we were out at recess.” For a moment she thought he was joking, then she remembered how Shauna and Emily looked when Frank brought them together. Compressing her lips she waited for a moment letting him breath more at an even rate.
She saw he was puzzled by something and he looked at her. "So, why are you in here? The shop sign said closed."
`Come right out and tell the truth- ` she thought to herself. "Well, I was reading that some of the old buildings here in Cabot Cove have secret rooms, this building has one that the former shop owner had used to hid really bad stuff until they were caught, and I know the shop where my dad owns is pretty close in age and almost identical in construction, and I was wondering if I could see where its at, and then I could see if the shop had one as well. My Aunt Gretchen found some invoices and they have that the other owner had been getting money for something that wasn't sold, just delivered, and well I was thinking maybe he was a smuggler or something, or if the pirates used them to hide their gold when they docked here. Wouldn't you like to find some pirate's treasure?"
She saw Ian shake his head. "Na. Gold is not what makes the world, nor keeps families together. I will show you what you ask, and as well, what I learned from my cousin on finding hidden walls. Then I ha’ to go back to my aunt and uncle and face what is coming to me."
Ian stood up and walked to the back of the store. Molly could see that there were steps to the basement off on one side of where they had the kitchen, and with interest watched as he ran his fingers about the wall until it came to a thin vertical seam where the two sections of wood joined. Giving it a push inward with his fingertips there was an audible click and the door swung open.
"You should know, the person to have unraveled what you read about was my Aunt Taylor, and Sydney," he said as he reached in for the light switch. Ian saw the puzzled expression on her face.
Ian let the air out from his lungs in a soft sigh. "Sydney was her dog, the one that died. When my aunt knew the district attorney in California, Sydney was trained to sniff out all sorts of things, and was trained as not only a police dog, but as a companion dog – she used to take her about to the hospital children's wards. Aunt
Taylor's training a new dog now, but the dog is a bit of a silly git. It digs through its food bowl thinking there's something better at the bottom of it."
Flicking on the light Ian was about to go down the steps when he heard something. Curious, he looked down ward and blocked the way for Molly to follow as he went down a few steps to look into the area below.
He had heard water. As his eyes adjusted to the different light he saw that the area of the floor below had a fair amount of water in it and that it was coming from a section of the wall on the far side near the hill. "This isn't good," he said, taking a breath before backing up and going to the door where the cellar was. It took a quick glance down there to show that the cellar, a room that was higher than the second cellar, was still dry. "I have to let my uncle know about this," he said, going back up the steps. He looked around for Molly and found her in the second cellar looking at the wall where the water was coming from. "What is it?" he asked,
curious. "Come up here, its not safe down there, you don't know where the water's from an’ it can make you sick if it’s got odd things in it."
"I was looking at the wall, where its coming in - it looks like a door."
"One that has a lot of water behind it. Come back up here you silly goose," he sighed.
Reluctantly Molly returned up the steps. Ian saw a look come over her face and raised his eyebrow. "I know what your thinking lass, an you need to think about this. If your Da's shop is anything like this one, aye, it will have the same second basement as this one. But it will also have more water in it than you can deal with because its lower than this one on the hill from all of the rain that we had last night. Aye, there may be a hidden tunnel, or a door where your thinking, but some things, should be left buried. I know my Aunt doesn't ha enough towels to take up all of this water, he mumbled, shaking his head. "Best you be waiting outside when my uncle comes down here. Your too young to hear what he will be saying by a long
"Can't be worse than anything that *I* have ever said," she giggled. She gave him a nod then went out to the main area with him. "Doesn't the fire company use water? They would know how to get it out of that area," she said.
Striding to the phone Ian picked it up, his slim fingers worked the dial and he waited until he heard a voice on the other end. "Hullo, I'm Ian McAvery, an I'm at my uncles shop on Oak Street, the one that does the loom weaving, an’ we have more than my height of water in our second basement an’ mores coming in from the wall. Canna ye help us get it out?"
Molly saw Ian nod, his face troubled. "Aye, I can do that.. thank ye." He hung up the phone and turned to her. "They said there is bound to be more water coming. We aren't the only ones that have it going wrong this morning and they will be here when they can."
"Then we have to let your uncle know, and get what ever is in the first basement up don't we? If the water is up past you, and that second basement is only six feet higher than the other one, you have two feet of time before it goes into the other space."
Closing his eyes for a second Ian took in a deep breath and picked up the phone. It picked up on the third ring. In a way, Ian was relieved it was Patty who answered it.
"Where are ye? Uncle was in a right state when he found your note an he had to go back to the hospital. Frank's na doing well an he took Aunt Jessica with him. The inspector ha to go out for a tich and I'm dealing with Shauna an’ Emmie an’ Margarita by myself. Your in for it ye know…"
"Patty, shut up an’ listen. Ye need to bring everyone down to the shop an’ let them know we are here, the second basements been flooded an’ in a short time its going to get up to the first basement where all uncles supplies are, we have to move things up to safety an I've called the fire company but it will be a while before they can get here. I don't ha uncles cell number to let him know, but Frank's more important. Hurry yer arse down here!"
Molly wiped a trickle of sweat from her brow before passing another box up the steps to Ian who passed it on to Shauna. She could have left Ian to deal with everything, and she had no idea how much work work was. She had no idea what was in the boxes, but she understood the haste that they needed, by the time they had a good part of the boxes taken upstairs, the water was beginning to seep through the floor along the walls and bubble forth. There were things that were too big to move just then, they would have to be dragged up when they could. Ian made sure to prioritize what was important, what could be salvaged later and what they could do with out if they couldn't shift everything. The dyes were important- those were the first things that he had them remove. The sacks of wool could be replaced, or washed , and pulling them up with the pulley system got them off the floor to give them time for the other things. He had no idea what was in some boxes that were sealed. Rather than risk losing something important, they took them up as well. He looked at the work bench - the tools were next, some of them long and sharp. They were careful as they passed them up, and by the time that they were down to the heavy things to drag up, the water was knee deep. Just as Ian was about to tell everyone to go up, that the water was getting too deep he saw
something hanging above the work bench
"How the bloody… did that get here?" he gasped gazing at the family sword.
"Ian, NO - you can't - its coming up too fast and none of us can't swim!" gasped Patty as she watched her brother work his way down the steps.
"I have to!" he said, plunging into the icy water surging forward to the work bench where he pulled himself up just as the shop was plunged into darkness.
"IAN!" screamed Patty.
"I'm okay! I've got it!” gasped Ian as the water surged about his feet. He struggled to lift the heavy sword, then, realizing that he couldn't hold it for long, he pulled several nails from the container that was nestled against the pegboard and pushed them into the holes before lifting the sword up to rest on them. He felt the water
become higher. "Patty, I have it up some, but I canna carry it above my head to get it to safety," Ian said with a trembling voice. "The water is near above my head now if I am on the floor.”
"What are we going to do?" asked Shauna as she clung to Emily.
"My dad!" said Molly, making her way out the door she ran as fast as she could to where her father was just opening up the mini mart. "DAD!! DAD! " She saw Harrison turn and look at her. Breathless she came to a stop "COME QUICKLY! HURRY!" she said, turning and running back up the street to where the shop was.
Harrison realized several things at one time. Molly had run - something she had never done. While she was prone to pranks, this didn't seem like one of them from the look on her face. Her pants and shirt up to her chest were soaking wet. The other was she had called him dad. Pocketing his keys he hurried up the hill into the shop that she had gone into and stumbled into near darkness, He could hear children in the back and following the sound of their voices he heard his daughter say, "He's coming Ian, hang on!" Molly looked up at him as she held the flash light to illuminate Ian – the water was past his knees. Harrison nodded to his daughter before going down the steps.
"I'm coming, Ian," he said as he crossed the distance to the work bench.
"The sword, ye need to take the sword across first," said Ian with chattering teeth.
"There won't be time," said Harrison, reaching for Ian who pulled back from him.
"I won't leave with out it, its worth more than my life," he said, lifting it down.
Harrison reached out again and scooped Ian into his arms. The water was chest high for him as he waded across the room. He heard a groan from the floor beneath him and kept walking as fast as he could with out losing his balance. "Off the stairs, everyone, and to the outside!” he gasped, reaching for the stair railing. There was a creaking groan as they started up the steps and a whoosh as the wooden floor of the first basement gave away. The stairs shifted beneath them as they reached the top.
Patty had the sense to have brought down blankets from the upstairs and wrapped them around the children and Mr. Bishop as they sat on the front steps of the shop.
"We have to let some one know about this, but they are all away," said Shauna softly as she hugged Ian.
"Dr. Tipper wouldn't be away, its her day off though - I don't know where she would be staying," Ian murmured. "She does have one of those pagers, though I never learned her number."
Taking in a breath Molly swallowed. "I know it," she said. She noticed that her father's eyebrow went up, then down again as he handed her his cell phone. Flipping the phone open Molly dialed Tipper’s number then handed it to Ian.
Tipper pushed through the crowd that had gathered with the arrival of the fire company, past the Chief to where the children were huddled under the blankets. Patty was keeping a firm hold on Margarita, keeping her tucked in the blanket with her, while Emily and Shauna were together in a blanket, and Harrison, Molly and Ian were together, trying to bring some warmth to Ian's thin bones. She gathered him into her arms and felt the sword press between them.
"What happened?" she demanded of Ian, her eyes glancing at the sword. "How..?" There was a jumble of explanation from the children. Her eyes flickered with anger as she learned that George had left the children on their own to go off.
"What I would like to know is where all that water came from," inquired Harrison of the Fire Chief, who shrugged.
"Darned if I know how, but something took out a section of the storm drain and the
water that would have been diverted to the back harbor ended up following the old system that people used 200 years ago. Some of the lower houses that have the second basements would be bound to have some water in them from the rains, and normally the submersible pumps take care of it. This shops one of the few that were at the lowest point, everything came in at once. We were busy with another house when the call came in, and didn't make the connection until the second call came in for this address. We thought it was a case of hydrostatics pressure, and was just putting it back into the same broken system. That's why it filled so quickly."
"Is my dad's shop okay?" Molly asked, curious. The fire chief looked down to the mini mart. "It’s on the other side of the street, each side of main street had their own system, so it should be alright.”
George walked swiftly up the road towards Seth's house. He knew belatedly that he had left his cell in his trench coat pocket, and that Jessica had worn it while she was searching for Margarita. When he had come down stairs, the trench coat was on a hanger over the kitchen door getting a final drying, there was no sign of his cell, and he knew that if Jessica would have found it, she would have placed it with his wallet as she had done when he first arrived. He had tried to call the number from Jessica's phone, but realized that he must have turned it off when he slipped it in the pocket.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he muttered to himself, hoping to see it laying along the roadside. He knew every number in it by heart, there were just some other things in it of questionable nature that he would have difficulty explaining if it was discovered. He had searched every place that the coat may have been, and when Jessica had said she was going out, and to watch the kids, he had taken the opportunity to take a walk to see if he could recover the phone. He knew the kids were very good at taking care of themselves, and the half hour that he was gone, they wouldn't even miss him. He gritted his teeth for a moment. If he had spoken to his aunt as Ian had the night before his father would have flogged him. Laws prevented that now, especially in America. There was something to be said to restrain the cheeky nature of the young – molding them into manageable adults. It wasn't that Ian was a bad child. It was just that as he regained his strength he was showing a side of defiance that would be difficult to contain in a few years. There was an unbridled emotion that boiled beneath the surface – one that George knew would manifest someday at the most In opportune time.
Panting for breath when he got to the tree that Jessica said she had waited under, George found himself seeking a bench further down the road to sit on while he studied his options. If it was out in the rain, the battery would have perhaps shorted, or at the very least, gone to shut down mode where he would have to dry it out. The phone had a unique serial number etched on to the area behind the battery. When he had first been issued the phone, it had been registered with the Yard. The moment that the numbers were traced, they would know…
The hardest thing had been looking Jessica in the eye and pretending nothing had been wrong- that it was her he wanted to see all along when he brought the children over. That had been plausible for everyone in the Yard. `Going to see my lady friend while I drop off the little ones who are related to her.’ Those who knew him well enough to knew he didn't do well with children would understand what a particular horror the cover story would be for him.
Tipper had seen right through him, when Jessica did not. `People will die if others believe I have any other reason to be here than just visiting,' he had managed to hiss to her when she had caught him in a conversation on his cell phone in the garden late one night as she was coming out of Willie's house. He had tried to keep his voice soft, but he knew when the person on the other end of the phone started shouting, and he had seen the look in her eyes- the pause waiting for answers – he knew. Knew of all the people he had to trust some one if something should go wrong.
This was a different type of wrong. This was all wrong. Sleepy little sweet towns like Cabot Cove should not be hot beds of international crimes. The photos sent Interpol as the demand for ransom had been traced with sophisticated technology. They had serial numbers and images of a frightening arsenal – enough to supply most of the radical groups to overthrow a few governments. It had only been because he had been to Cabot Cove’s docks before that he recognized the splashed colors of the plastic lobster trap that the one gun was resting on. People used that particular lobster trap, with its over sized plastic lobster, to have their photos taken. George sighed. While most of the officers of the Yard would be told to bring the gang down who was arranging this, George had been told the opposite. They wanted this particular group to succeed in what they were doing. There would always be pockets of militants about the world. Knowing where they were at- knowing who was in charge and where the money was coming from and who controlled it was a better battle than endlessly bringing one down , and then another that sprang up in its place. If it went bad, then, he would be charged
with being an accessory to it, and punished. Those that charged him with doing this task would deny everything. It had to be that way. As long as he knew where the guns were- who was doing the work, and seeing that the plans they had were delayed in every way, he was a success to the mission. He sighed. He had questioned the wisdom of the orders, but they were his orders. If by chance the powers that be who made those orders were on the side of wrong, then the world was lost and there would be no hope of finding it safe again. George closed his eyes blocking out the thought of looking into Jessica's disappointed eyes. At least if he was to lose her, he would have had this time with her.
Obey without question. He had his life's work dedicated to that. Right now, though, he was doing a lot of questioning. He had no doubt at this moment that things were going horribly wrong and everything was coming to an end. Why did Cabot Cove have to be the gathering place for this group? He sighed then stood up from the bench. Perhaps the phone would turn up in the house- he would have to search again. It took less time to go down the hill than it did to go up it and for a moment he breathed in the silent bliss of the house before realizing that the house * was * silent. He went about the house looking for answers then went across to Taylor's house and knocked thinking they had gone over. Getting no answer he returned back to see the fluttered paper that had slipped off the table in perfect cursive
"Ian called and said the second basement is flooded, and rising to the first one. Going down with the others to help him clear it out. Please let the others know if you can find them."
"Buggers," George breathed out before picking up the phone to dial the fire company.
Harrison regarded Tipper as she held Ian snuggled in her arms against her chest. ‘She’d make a good step mother,' he found himself thinking. "Look, I have hot cocoa and hot tea at the Mart, and some things the kids can change into and there is a dryer there so that they can start to get warmer. It's just right there," he said pointing, yet knowing Tipper had been a frequent customer of his shop and knew what he had. He didn't know what made him offer that. Gretchen would yell at him later about giving things away, but, this was the right thing to do. `She is pretty too' he thought to himself, not wanting to part company with her. Tipper looked at the
fire chief - if any one showed up, he could tell them where they were. She nodded then lifted Ian up into her arms and followed them down to the Mini Mart.
Molly noticed at once the girls had taken the clothing, gone to a corner of the back room and slipped out of their wet things with out even waiting for her father or Ian to leave the room. Ian was having his own problems. He had placed the sword down on a chair and was struggling to remove his wet shirt, then stopped. Tipper looked at him then knelt down in front of him. "My fingers are too frozen to work," he mumbled. Ruffling his hair Tipper indicated for him to raise his arms up while she pulled his shirt off up over his head. Molly saw the deep puckered marks on Ian's back and gasped softly. Not know what else to do she turned, and noticed similar markings on Patty's back. Patty turned hearing Molly's gasp, and saw the horror on her face. Shrugging she said in a matter of fact tone "Ah, just from shrapnel, tha's all. It mostly itches sometimes." Molly was about to turn back to Ian when Patty stopped her. "Your na kin yet to see his bare backside," she giggled.
Harrison came into the back room "The hot coco is ready…" He extended his hand to help Tipper up. Rising she found a shy smile looking at her with interest.
Ian regarded what he was seeing. Tipper had taken Harrison's hand, and was standing. His sisters were moving to the door to get some hot chocolate. Feeling a bit odd inside of his belly, Ian hung back. "I'll just put the cloths in the dryer," he said, raising his eyebrow at Tipper, who was blushing. Tipper needed to get out and
about more. Harrison was a likable chap, but the thought of Tipper becoming a wife to anyone was – well, it would be a sad day for the rest of the lads who had lost their heart to her and never said.
"I'll help Ian," Molly heard herself saying. Harrison nodded, wondering just what this young man had about him that had changed his daughter so. He placed his hand in the small of Tipper’s back and guided her to the store area with the rest of the children.
Brad Jamison sat on his bed looking at the small pile of money beside him. It was all he could find in the house, even after looking through his mothers purse. He needed to get another Razor phone, and get the number put into it before it was found out that he had lost it. At least he had the sense to place the photos and uploaded the files up on the web on the library computer so he could down load them later into his phone. Even if that twerp did take it, the battery on the phone would be near dead, and he had set it up that after a power failure you needed a password to access the files.
Brad had no desire to end up as bait in a lobster trap. That foreign gent was specific to be normal, act normal, and if things went wrong, he was on his own. He didn't know where the gent was staying, and he never said what his name was, but his accent was one that was too proper – too refined – and would be easy to nail in a police line up. Brad had already made up his mind to tell everything if he got caught and ask for a plea bargain. He didn't want to spend the rest of his life stuck in the backwater town- he wanted the excitement and glamour of the big city where no one knew you or cared if you washed behind your ears and made your bed. Brad listened for sounds from his mother’s room. She worked the late shift at the ship building yards and would sleep for hours. Glancing down at the money pile again he saw the scrapes on his knuckles from hitting that twerp. No one had seen him do it except his buddies, who were forming a new type of respect for him. He chuckled to himself. He hadn't told them what he was into, what money that the things would bring. He knew exactly where every single one of the totes were, and, he knew, from several thousand that two or three missing wouldn't be noticed. He had made sure that by accident he had dropped a tote or two when they were carrying them and in the darkness it was easy to kick one aside and get it later. He knew how to clean the gun and to oil it and Earl had been kind enough to sell him some shells for them as well during hunting season. Earl’s death had put a cramp in things and the new owners of the Mini Mart had changed the locks after the sale- the padlock on the door with the chains had prevented him from getting what else he needed- the drop lock box of cash that Earl had kept from the transactions he couldn't ring on the register in the back room. Brad had palmed the keys of the shop one day and returned a short time later leaving them in the same spot. It would be enough. It would have to be enough.
The side of his mouth twitched as he screwed on the gun’s silencer. If he couldn't find the phone, or replace it, he would have to run. He knew there was enough money in the drop box to get him away and keep him comfortable and the only thing that prevented him from taking the money before was that Earl would have come after him himself and killed him . It was early enough that the tourists wouldn't be about. He could be in and out with out anyone knowing and then be
gone. His mouth twitched again as he slid the one gun into the boot holster, and the other in the small of his back covered by his shirt.
"I'm going shopping, ma," he called into his mothers bedroom. He saw her nod then roll back over to sleep. Closing the door behind him he strode with confidence along the back alleys that would take him to his destination.
Tipper had been kind enough to pay for some snacks for the kids while they waited and got warmer She knew that it wasn't the best diet in the world for them, but she also knew that if George had been left in charge of them he wouldn't think to feed them properly. His idea of breakfast was a cup of coffee and a cigar, neither of which were good for the children. She had noticed that Ian was struggling with his
energy – the icy waters had sapped what reserves he had. Snagging a bag of corn chips she gave Harrison the money and then gave them to Shauna to take back to Ian.
Ian was sitting on the dryer letting the warmth of it seep into his thin body his hand resting on the sword in the sheath beside him. Molly had brought him hot chocolate and sipped at her cup while she went about the back room looking for the same type of panel that Ian had shown her. She had quickly found the basement door, but with the door to the shop, there wasn't really any room beside it. A quick
peak down below showed that it was dry as the Fire Chief had said. It was filled with dusty boxes that held all the old souvenirs that Earl could never sell and had huge spiders that Molly had been told by him they would suck her face right off. Molly was convinced that there was some secret passage in the store back room somewhere, despite the threat of the huge spiders, had all of the children down in the basement tapping the walls to see if there was a space behind them. Tipper had been dragged down there as the "great spider hunter" and he could hear the shrieks and the steady WHAP WHAP of a very useless fly swatter against the spiders.
Ian leaned to the side and called down the steps, "I could do for some more hot chocolate please.” He heard the girls giggle below and the exasperated "Again?" from Patty. The thudding up the steps told him more than one of them were coming up. Margarita was first out of the door grinning at him, followed by Molly who raised her eyebrow at his empty cup. Margarita had bonded to Molly following her everywhere. Molly was about to call him a piggy person but she saw his lips and fingers were still flushed with blue. "Maybe we should put you IN the dryer to warm up!" she said, grinning.
He handed her his cup, and nodded thanks. "I'd thought of tha’, but I'd be dizzy and throw up all over the clothes.”
Sighing she went to the wash sink to rinse it out as the door chime tinkled. She was
about to say something when she heard someone talking to her father. Ian noticed that where she had been relaxed a moment before, now there was tension in her face, and the struggle to say something.
"Stay here," she said finally.
Ian nodded, not comprehending quite what she was saying. She swallowed and put down the cup then went out into the shop area behind the counter. She didn't see her dad or the person the voice had been coming from. She knew her dad had been rotating stock by the freezer area and carefully she edged her way about. He was still there, his hands slightly raised up, and his back to her. She took a step to the side and saw the tall good looking kid from the bus talking to her father, and it took a moment to process that he had a gun in his hand pointed at her father.
"This isn't the way, son, whatever you need …" Harrison said, trying to buy time. He knew that he had to stay calm, he knew that the children were in the back room and if he could distract the young man long enough, there was a chance he could perhaps be disarmed.
"Daddy?" gasped Molly, taking a step closer to her father. Harrison saw the young man swing the gun in Molly's direction and pull the trigger.
Below Tipper was just about to kill a particularly large spider who was challenging her when the sound of shattering glass clattered above her. Glancing about she saw that Molly and Margarita were missing. Groaning she sighed. "Oh no…sounds like cleanup in isle five."
Curious as to what had alarmed Molly so that she had forgotten his hot cocoa cup he slid off of the dryer and made his way across the floor stubbing his toe on a metal ring that was sunk into the floor. Rubbing away the pain he glanced up at the sound of the softened bang and the shattering glass. The smoke from the gun barrel swirled in the air telling Ian everything he needed to know. Ian scrambled back and shoved the door to the basement closed then looked around for something to defend his family with. It was with out hesitation that he drew the sword and held it in trembling arms as the footsteps to the backroom grew closer. He could hear the basement door swing open and the pause of the footsteps, the click of the hammer and the bullet slipping into the chamber. Pressing back against the dryer Ian tried to make himself invisible. He heard Shauna gasp at the top of the steps . Soundlessly Ian stepped forward as Brad approached where Shauna was frozen to the spot. With the strength he had he held the sword steady and stepped forward into Brad's path driving the blade deep.
There was a roar in his ears, one of hate, and anger and passion as he kept pushing deeper, pushing Brad away from his sister and on to the floor. Brad was screaming in pain as he fell, dropping the gun in the process. His eyes widened as he felt something press against his wind pipe- Ian had placed his foot there with his hand on the sword for balance.
"Ian, no… don't," he heard Patty say behind him trying to pull him away.
"He is no different than the ones who killed our Da, Patty, or the ones who killed our friends last fall."
"An we become no better than them if we kill them," she insisted.
"I am no better," he said grimly.
Tipper strode across the backroom and picked up the gun. Taking a breath she handed it to Patty. "If that twerp moves, blow his brains out. But don't shoot your brothers foot off." Patty took the gun from Tipper and with renewed firmness went to Brad and held it to his temple. Glancing down at the sword that was still lodged above Brad's hip she knew it hadn't hit any major organs. "Leave that in, and he won't bleed out."
Tipper went out into the shop and rolled Harrison over. He had a gash on his forehead and bright blood seeping from an exit wound on his upper shoulder. She saw Molly laying very still, blood on her shirt, but no entry wound. Giving her a shake Tipper saw Molly's eyes open as she gasped. Tipper helped Molly sit up and going to the first aid aisle she grabbed a hand full of packing material then returned to where Molly was shaking like a leaf. She had at least moved her father’s head into her lap. Tipper ripped open a packet of gauze and folded it, pressing it in Molly's hand she guided it to Harrison's forehead and urged her to press down to help stop the bleeding. Cutting open the shirt in that area she saw that the bullet had entered and exited at the shoulder. High enough that the lungs weren't involved, but ether it had passed just by the shoulder bone, or had gone through it. Close range most bullets would have stopped at the bone. The newer bullets, though, would go through the concrete of several buildings.
Margarita ran up the street unmindful of the tourists who didn’t give the small child in just a long t-shirt a second glance. The Fire Chief was still with the others overseeing pumping the water out of the shop and checking the stability of the building that had some of the foundation damaged. Reaching up she grabbed onto his over coat and began to pull on it. He regarded her and saw her face was tear streaked.
"Well, hello little lady- what are you doing here?" For a second he saw struggle on her face then she opened her mouth: " Daddy? Thwap Chresshhhhsss Daddy? Thwap Chresshhhssss ..."
The fire chief regarded her still puzzled until a voice behind him said, "That sound she is making- sounds a lot like a gun with a silencer on it." Realizing that what ever was wrong, it was enough to be upsetting to the child the chief gathered her into his arms and strode down the hill as he dialed the police station on his cell. Without even going in he saw the prone figure of Harrison, with some one bending over him. He could hear the sobbing of someone, and the moans of pain further in.
Andy Broom regarded the children as the ambulance medics slid Harrison onto a gurney. He had cuffed Brad and found the other guns. The medics had informed him Brad was in no medical danger and would recover to stand trial. Andy eyed the sword. Taking a breath he said, "Best you clean that. The sheriff will want a word with your uncle about it later, but you can take it home." Sighing Andy
looked down at Brad. "You, young man, are in serious trouble." Andy saw a smug look on Brad's face.
"I have information that the sheriff will want to know- I want to do a plea bargain," Brad said, wincing in pain from the Medic packing the wound. Brad watched as Andy's eyebrow went up. In half a day he would be out and he would wait til night to get back into the shop and get the money. He would have to go into hiding, or, the witness protection program- they would pay to keep him safe. His smug look
increased to a grin. As the medics lifted the gurney up it tilted. Brad heard the distinctive clatter of keys falling onto a hard surface. He cursed to himself. He couldn't call attention to them- and it was with renewed hope that as the medic took a step, he came upon the keys. He saw Patty pick them up and lay them on the dryer as Andy herded the children out the door to the main area of the store.
George was out of breath by the time he reached the shop, and saw the amount of water that was being pumped into a tanker to take it away. They didn't want to put any further stress on the already over taxed water system.
"The children- where are the children?" he asked one of the firemen who wore the name McKee on his jacket as he came out of the building. Too tired to speak McKee pointed down the street where the Mini Mart was and the twin ambulances were parked with flashing lights.
He wasn't allowed inside. The medic didn't care who he was, or where he was from, there were just too many people inside. Frustrated, George could only cool his heals as he paced out side near the phones. He saw a thin lovely woman come up and rush to the side of the gurney that was being carried out. "Harrison!" she gasped. Molly was the next out the door and went to her. She was covered in her father’s blood and beyond tears.
"Aunt Gretchen!" she sobbed going into Gretchen's outstretched arms. "Daddy shielded me from… from... why would he do that?" she gasped through her tears.
"He loves you more than his own life Molly… its why he has always fought to be a part of your life, no matter how hard your mother tried to keep you two apart."
"The children have been through a lot today, Ma'am , Might be best if they were taken to the hospital to be checked out as well," said McKee before he turned to the Fire Chief who stood beside the ambulance as the medics prepared to load Brad into it. "The crew's almost done up there sir, it's the last of the reported floodings and they were wondering what your orders were."
Ian regarded McKee and the Fire Chief. Crossing his arms across his thin chest he shook his head. "Ach no, we're fine an’ ha’ been through far worse on a simple day back home. We will stay an’ clean up for him so when he comes back home he won't ha’ melted ice cream everywhere. Our uncle's a doctor as is Dr. Tipper an’ if we need medical help we can get it from them as well. We're na’ hurt an we can lock up for him when were done." Seeing George standing next to the wall waiting
Ian wagged his finger at him. "An’ he will help Dr. Tipper keep an eye on the littlest one."
There was a buzzer inside that went off making everyone jump. Shauna looked over her shoulder and shrugged. "Ach, our cloths are dry - we can change." She took Molly's hand and said, "You will feel better if you’re in that warm sweatshirt you were wearing afore. Come along, they won't leave with out you. Let’s get you into them. "
Wordlessly Molly went in followed by the other girls. Ian was the last to turn to go in when he sensed someone behind him. Turning he saw it was McKee and stood his ground. "You'll na be entering while the girls are changing. Ye are na kin, nor a doctor, an’ I see no fire here. Out with ye!"
McKee felt a tap at his shoulder. Turning he found himself face to face with George.
"I believe the lad has a point," said George, who stepped in front of McKee and folded his arms across his chest, blocking the way into the store. Ian gave George a curt nod then went back where the others were changing. Molly had just finished pulling her hair out from the back of her shirt when Ian came behind her and whispered, "I found ye second basement I think, but it can wait till there are less people to see it found."
She turned, He saw her face was tear streaked and that, in a way, she was prettier than his sisters would ever hope to be. Picking up her hand he gave it a squeeze. "Things will work out all right, lass. Your da will be fine."
Molly sniffed. "Oh Ian!" She gave a gaspy sob before throwing herself into his arms. Awkwardly Ian patted her shoulder while he stood, rather uncomfortable. He saw Patty hide a bit of a smile. He would have to have words with her later.
Taylor wiggled her toes in her stocking feet and sipped the strong tea Mort had made for her. They had uncovered a frightening hoard of weapons. Mort had a list that he had placed in her care to check off the serial numbers as they were unpacked, then repacked. There were some pages that were complete and then set aside, and others that had one or two missing. She knew Mort was resisting the urge to go out and look for the cell phone laying in the grass. Dawn had come and while she had taken brief naps, she was still tired and knew she had a full day with the children ahead. Mort had sent her to the office and given her tea to drink as well as some things from the vending machines to munch on. He knew enough to ensure her rest and to keep her hydration up while they worked or that there would be hell to pay when he returned her to Willie. They had recovered a fair few prints from the boxes, and were careful to wear gloves when handling the items. Once the tote was inventoried, it was sealed and moved to the other side of the hall and another one brought in. The sound of a police cruiser pulling into the lot was enough to shake the rest of the thoughts of slumber from Taylor.
`The sheriff isn't going to like this' thought Andy as he strode into the school. Rounding the corner Andy came into the principal’s office and saw Taylor. Tipping his hat he drew in a breath. "Ma'am, there was a bit of trouble this morning at your husband’s shop, and then later at the Mini Mart. The children are fine and Dr. Henderson is with them now."
Leaning forward Taylor shifted the direction her spine was leaning to take pressure off of her hip. "A bit of trouble? What sort? How are the children involved in all of this and why wasn't Willie with them? Is he alright?"
"Your husband is at the hospital with Mrs. Fletcher - young Frank took a turn early this morning and Mr. Fletcher called him to help if he could. From what I understand, young Mr. McAvery went to the shop to do his chores and was joined by young Miss Bishop. They discovered that the cellars were flooding in and with the others were able to clear things out and notify the fire company. The company has been working all night clearing the waters out, one of the old main sewers gave way, and was sending water into the lower basements. One thing they did bring out of the shop was your husband’s family sword. Young Mr. McAvery took custody of it, and Mr. Harrison had the children come down to the mini mart to get their cloths dried and warm them up. They were in the water a while. We're not sure what all happened, but when I arrived the paramedics were removing the sword from Mr. Jamison's hip and had loaded Mr. Bishop into the first ambulance."
Nearly falling off of her chair as she sat up Taylor choked on her tea. "Who was stabbed?" she managed to gasp.
"Mr. Brad Jamison. Though he and the others have said young Mr. McAvery was defending his sisters. It's not clear, but we believe Mr. Jamison was trying to rob the Mini Mart, and was responsible for shooting Mr. Bishop. We recovered two guns from Mr. Jamison, and I've brought them. We will speak with his mother, but under the circumstances, there won't be any charges filed for the stabbing."
Andy placed the evidence bag containing the two guns on the desk beside Taylor. Turning them over she saw where the serial numbers were and checked the list. She circled them, then sighed as Mort strode into the room with another tote. Andy regarded the tote, and had seen Taylor circle the number. Before Mort had a chance to say anything he spoke up.
"Sheriff, there's still another one missing on that list that has the numbers from these guns."
Mort stiffened. "Where did you recover these?"
Taylor's breath was trembling when she answered "Brad Jamison tried to rob the Mini Mart."
Andy shook his head. "I don't think that was the reason he was there, Ma'am. The mart had just opened up and they only had a few dollars in sales. He hadn't had a chance to get his change from the bank that morning. The shops don't do that until the bank opens at 10. The most that he would have hoped to get was about twenty dollars. I have a feeling there was something else there that he wanted. He also said that he wanted to cut a deal with you sheriff."
For a long time Mort stood in silence. " No deals. Everyone involved in this is going down." He said grimly watching Taylor close her eyes to hold back tears.
Mort sighed before extending his hand to Taylor. "Come on. Let’s get you and Oliver home. Mr. Murphy is going to lock the doors from the inside with chains until the transport comes to take these away. Andy can stay with him, and I will be back to supervise the transfer. You, though, need sleep while you can get it."
Exhausted, Taylor stood and wobbled a bit. Nodding to Andy she leaned on Mort while he picked up Oliver and walked with Mort down the hall to the gymnasium where they took the one way doors outside. For a moment Mort leaned against the door frame as he gave final instructions to Andy and took her to his car. Once the door was closed he took a slow turn about and saw, to his satisfaction that the cell phone was gone. Starting the cruiser Mort pulled ahead of the parking space and into the main drive of the school. He waited until they were on the way about the building before asking "So, why the tears?"
Taylor didn't answer him for a moment.
"Guns like those, are more than what a high school kid could afford. Granted, Earl may have had his hand in it, which might connect him to Brad, but, let’s face it Mort, there are really just two other men in this town that could afford a stash like that, or to have a reason to do it. I think you may suspect the first one, so I won't mention names, but have you thought that it may also be Willie?"
Mort nearly drove off the road as he glanced at her for more than a brief second. He pulled over to the side and put the brake on before looking at her.
"Willie? Why would you suspect him? You're his wife, - your not – well, the law allows you to keep your silence in regard- -- Willie? "
Taylor shrugged. Her eye became distant before closing again. "There are things I am still learning about him. A large chunk of the money we found disappeared and he won't say where it went to, and perhaps, it might *be* like him to do it, if he knew the guns were to be used to save the innocents who had no way of fighting back. Would you lock him up for trying to save lives that way?"
"I don't know any more," he said honestly. "You’re talking like it’s a freedom fighter movement. I understand from what Scotland Yard’s file said on him, he was right in the middle of a lot of those clashes - he always came across as someone who tried to save lives, not help people take them. What could have changed in him that he would have that type of anger?" wondered Mort.
Waving her hand dismissively she sighed. "It was when the children first came- that night, when he was helping the girls get settled in, and he happened to see the marks on Patty and Shauna. We had known Ian had some injuries that he wouldn't speak of, scars, but the same were on the girls, except for Emmie, she was too young to be in school when the pipe bomb came through the window and blasted out part of the building. It was two years ago. A year later the factory where their father worked was bombed. Mort- the people who did it locked them in the building and set it off. There was no reason except, well, the same people who were in that building had children in the school that had the bombs tossed in. Some feel the poor are a blight upon the earth. That the land they use could be better served in high rises, and resorts- that they have no value any more than cattle that are sent to the glue factories. Yes, if there was a way to help them fight back, Willie would do it. Hell, I've held Shauna at night time when her night terrors come, and I would give guns to stop what is happening to the children." She looked down at Oliver who yawned before stretching her neck over to Mort tilting her head and made a deep yowling noise in her throat. Mort saw Taylor's expression change as he began to pull away. Her hand went out and laid on his arm stopping him. "When did you come into contact with C4?" she asked.
Mort shook his head. "No time that I knew of… Damn," he said, turning the cruiser about. "Why didn't she pick up on that before?"
"She's only a pup Mort! She was lucky to find the graphite, we didn't tell her to look for C4, though she was pretty good about finding some of the other things. Why, though? When could it have happened? You were fine before."
"The cell phone was gone. Someone came and got it- This isn't good…" he said turning the car around and driving back towards the school. "Who ever got the cell had to have done something that we didn't see"
"When, though? No one came!"
Mort swallowed. "That would leave Mr. Murphy then, wouldn't it? And Andy is in there with him."
"I don't believe that, Mort!" Taylor insisted. "He wouldn't have had any contact with any of the kids until the beginning of the school year, and it would have taken most of the summer to get them all in if they were doing it at night. He wasn't even at the school until a month ago! Who else had access to the building?"
"The principal, half the teachers, and the janitor." Mort said, bringing the car to a stop. Taylor sighed as she unbuckled her side and waited until Mort came around to open the door. Placing Oliver on a leash, she set the pup down and let her wander a bit around the entrance where she stopped at the door and gave the same deep yowling noise in her throat. Blinking twice Mort regarded the thin line of gray that worked around the frame of the door. The impression of his sleeve was still visible. "This wasn't here last night- who ever got the cell, put this in place and this is one of the few one way doors- you cant get in from the outside unless some one lets you in. The tape over the key hole hasn't been punctured though," said
Mort, running his finger over the thin layer of cellophane that he had put over all the external key holes before they had started their search. "Its on a blind side too., but they had to have come with in camera range to find the cell… wonder if the cameras were able to see anything last night?"
Taylor looked at Mort. "No one came last night that we saw, Mort- what's to say that the person wasn't already here when we came?”
“The other doors we chained so people could not get in. We didn't do this one because you can't get in from the outside.”
Willie stretched his arms upward trying to get some feeling back into his shoulders. It had been a grueling night, and he had finally convinced Jessica, Grady and Donna to use the side room and close their eyes for a bit. Frank was out of danger now, the bleeding that he had begun was stopped and he was resting comfortable. He knew the vending machines in the emergency room dispensed a lovely strong
cuppa tea and he knew he needed what they referred to as the extra large grand to get his body sorted out. It was blazing hot, sweet and lovely going down as he finished it in four gulps. He was considering getting another cup when twin ambulances pulled into the hospital emergency room unloading area. A driver came up to the desk and placed his clip board down as the people in the ambulance were
"What do you have for me, Sam?" asked Shelia the night ER nurse. Shelia had been making eyes at Willie all night, and had said she thought his accent was the sexiest thing she had ever heard. That had made Willie blush .
"Gunshot wound to the shoulder, and a stab wound to the lower abdomen with of all things an old sword. Kid was trying to rob the mini mart and when he went into the back room, the little kids that were playing in there – well, one – ran the perp through with the sword. Good thing too, he had a nine millimeter berretta with armor piercing bullets. Little ones that small wouldn't have a chance. Had to have been bad aim that saved the mini mart owner."
Willie saw Gretchen and Molly hurry along side of the gurney into the ER. Molly saw Willie ahead, and left her aunt’s side to run to him. "Please help my Dad!" she said through her tears.
Willie glanced over his mask to the window of the observation room beside the operating theater. He could see Gretchen holding Molly on her lap as they waited for news on Harrison. Tipper had done a good job in stabilizing him, it was just a matter of cleaning out the debris that had been pushed into the wound. While it wasn't totally life threatening, it was closer to the heart, with arteries involved. The work on the young man would wait while they closed up on Harrison, then he and
Seth, and another surgeon would take their time to sew up the cuts and nicks that the sword would have done to the small and large intestines, and if it was very bad, remove the affected lengths, shorten it, and resects the remaining tissue. Brad was in better shape than Harrison - the half hour that he would have to cool his heels would do him good, Willie thought with a small amount of perverse pleasure. If the time that Brad laid and moaned in agony would ever teach him not to do something, now would be the time for him to learn. Molly hadn't told him much, only that she had come around the corner and heard them talking. Her father had shielded her from the gun shot and the next thing she knew Tipper was beside her
trying to stop the bleeding. She had seen all of the kids, they were okay and Tipper had stayed with them.
They didn't get a lot of gun shot wounds there, nor stabbings - the most the hospital had treated were broken bones, births, frost bite, the occasional fish hook imbedded in the hapless tourist and car accidents. Now certified as a medical doctor, while he didn't have a practice, it allowed him to assist at the hospital when there was a need. He knew Seth welcomed the extra help. There was so much that
the hospital needed- so much that the small towns could use for medical help that could save lives right away, rather than the half hour drive to Portland. The waiting for word was the hardest for the family. He knew Molly had been through a traumatic time, but viewing the healing of her father was something that she needed to see to begin her own healing. Finishing the last stitch Willie nodded to the anesthesiologist to begin bringing Harrison back up. Willie watched as the vitals improved and with a thankful sigh, he nodded to Molly, his smile hidden behind his mask. There was a lot of healing that child had to do. This was only the beginning.
Brad shifted on the narrow cot while he waited in the tiny exam room. He was still handcuffed to the gurney, they hadn't prepped him for surgery, and every time he moved he could feel the pain in his side, and the small gun tucked in his left boot. They had found the one he had tucked in the base of his back when they had rolled him over, but when he went down the gun in his boot had shifted further down making an uncomfortable lump. They had placed an IV butterfly in the back of his hand, but that would be an easy thing to take out- all he needed was to wiggle a bit more for the pocket knife in his watch pocket. Handcuffs were not new to him. He had played with them with his friends when they were younger, the cops and robbers, and curious, he had learned how to pick the locks on them with just his pocket knife. He knew each type was different, and he knew the chances of him being able to get both of them off and out the door with out collapsing was slim. He had to, though. He knew, even if the sheriff would agree to cut a deal, the person who had got him into all of this knew exactly where he was. It wasn't a matter of pretending the phone never disappeared, it was a matter of his survival. He knew he only had the few dollars from his mothers purse, but it would be enough to get him away though. Some place that they wouldn't be able to get to him. He had a gun, he was a bright boy - he knew now, shoot and grab. Talking only had lead to trouble. He never expected some one to be waiting around the corner with a sword, though - that only happened in the movies, and on television.
Forcing himself to relax so that he wouldn't drop the pen knife Brad twisted his hand about flicking open the blade, angling it to the lock opening. As many times that he had done it at home for practice, those were still just the kid’s style, not the police. His hands were sweating and his grip unsteady as he felt the lock give under pressure and click the bracelet open to clatter against the railings. He froze, waiting for someone to come in to investigate the noise, but happily they seemed to be ignoring him. It was with some discomfort that he was able to roll over and attend the other set of cuffs before sitting up and nearly passing out as he retrieved the snubbed nose revolver from his boot. He closed his eyes against the pain as he held his gut. Turning to the side he dropped his legs down and held onto the edge to prevent himself from screaming. He was about to see if he could find the floor when he heard Mort's voice say from the doorway, "Don't bother, son, you won't get far in your condition."
Brad turned lifting up his arm and holding the gun at an angle. "I don't have to - just - far enough…" he gasped.
Mort sighed. "Fine, you can shoot me, but, you need to know, you will make an ash of yourself. The hospital’s pumping oxygen into the air, your gun will set it off around you sending you up in a fire ball."
Brad regarded him with a look of disbelief. "Duh, that only happens in the movies," he chuckled cocking the trigger. A new wave of pain caused him to lurch forward. Mort took that moment to step back out of the direct line of fire, but was surprised when Willie came to the door frame and leaned against it with extraordinary confidence.
"Ach , let him go Mort, he's dead anyways if he leaves with out treatment. I was using Bitter Elm on the blade to try and bring out some of the old etchings. Didn't know until just a tich that it was that particular blade that ran him through. With treatment, he may have half a chance against the poison, but seeing how he is
determined to leave the hospital under his own power, there na much we can do for him. He'll no doubt be feeling a bit of numbness near the site, that's the Elm working already. If the poison didn't get him in an hour the peritonitis will undoubtedly finish him in two."
Mort held Willie with a steady gaze. "The Peritowatis?" he asked, engaging him in conversational tone. If they talked long enough, and ignored Brad, as bad as he was, he would be passing out any time now.
"Peritonitis occurs when the intestinal tract is punctured or torn or bursts. There have been rare cases where individuals have survived for up to a week with it, but after the second day gangrene begins to set in from the necromantic tissues. The body begins to rot from the inside out. At that stage, the only hope of survival is a resection of the intestinal tract and the placement of a colonoscopy bag at the juncture of the large and small intestines just out side the path of the stomach, but the sadness of that is since the body canna absorb the nutrients that it needs it prolongs the suffering as it starves to death, it has no way of digesting the nutrition that the intestines do as the food moves along the path. If he does manage to walk out of here under his own power and gets out the door I will ha my wife make you, seeing as you are so fond of the sweet, chilled pomegranate an’ red raspberry sorbet with a dash of my Da's summer whiskey.”
"You would just – let me go?" asked Brad, fighting not to fall off of the gurney. He saw both men turn their heads to look at him. Willie shrugged.
"I'm na an officer of the court, I can't hold you if you won't accept medical treatment. The fact tha’ your blow injured near to the point of death some one who is quite dear to me has made me disinclined to acceded to an argument with you that you would need care. Means No, I don't care if you live or die, an it would be up to Mort to convince me your worth keeping on the earth. Seeing how your more
trouble than your worth you can just pick your self up off of the gurney, go out the doors and die as the dog ye are in a back alley in abject misery for what ye ha done, seems proper enough punishment for ye an it would save the cost of your incarceration should ye sod off of the earth,” stated Willie as he dusted his hands together.
"You're a doctor, you - you have to…" stammered Brad as he watched Willie's eyes grow cold. "Look, I will tell you everything I know about who was planning all of this and…" Brad faltered as he saw disgust on Willie's face.
"Perhaps ye misunderstood me, lad. I don't care about what you know or any deals you may wish to make with the sheriff. They don't helpheal wha’ harm ye did already an’ I'm na seeing any remorse from you. You may find yourself hard pressed to find a doctor here who might even give enough of a damn to care for you, seeing how they are friends of the family and are greatly distressed over what has occurred. I would suggest that you keep your right to council before speaking as anything you would blurt out would be seen as coercion by the courts an made inadmissible. No means No." Taking a deep breath Willie turned to Mort. "He's all yours. If my wife's home, I'd like to spend some time with her afore the children come back from their chores."
"She's not, she's here. She came with me when the call came in," Mort stated as he glanced back at Brad, who was wavering on the gurney. When he turned back he saw Willie regarding him with a raised eyebrow.
"You kept Wife out all night without so much as a by-your-leave?" Willie watched Mort blink once under his scrutiny. What ever they had found had to have been far larger than what was expected. Folding his arms over his chest he leaned against the door frame. "You didna give in to her want of those pastry puffs pies they ha there, did ye? There will be no living with her if ye did." The guilty look upon
Mort’s face informed Willie all that he needed to know. "How many?" he demanded watching Mort glance down at the floor to avoid answering. "Mort?? How many?"
Mort closed his eyes sighing briefly. "She was getting odd. She said she was hungry and we were by the vending machines and ..."
"How many Mort?" Willie fixed Mort with a piercing gaze.
"Um… I lost count after seven. She said she felt better - what was I to do!"
"LOST COUNT??!! Ye could ha said I said that she wasn't allowed ta have them. No means NO."
Brad wavered on the gurney. "Hey, I'm dying in here!" he grumbled, watching the two men outside the room ignoring him. He saw both of them glance in with a look his mother gave their dog when it came in from rolling in the garbage before turning back to face each other.
"She said they were okay because they had fruit in them."
"An ye believed her? Mort, they have over 400 calories per serving and each of them serves two and you lost count after seven of them. What isn't fat is sugar. Are ye mad? She won't sleep for a week! She didna follow it with what she calls a chaser to take the sweet away ..." Willie saw Mort cringe. "OH FOR THE LOVE OF …" he waved his arms in the air.
Both of them heard a clatter as the gun slipped from Brads hands down to the floor. His eyes rolled back in his head and he slumped to his side.
Mort sighed. "Right, Guess he's ready for surgery," he said, striding in the room to retrieve the gun that had fallen. Using a pair of rubber gloves from a box Mort picked up the gun, then slipped it into the evidence bag before placing it into his pocket. When he straightened up, he saw Willie hadn't moved from the corner of the door frame.
"What are you waiting for?" Mort asked curious.
"To do what?" inquired Willie not moving.
"He's about as ready as he will ever be for surgery…" Mort saw Willie blink.
"I've said it before Mort, I'm not going to operate on the likes of him." Willie watched the astonishment cover Mort’s face.
"But, you – you have to- isn't there an oath that you took that puts aside the personal feelings you would have to do no harm… you were just playing him before ..." stammered Mort as he saw Willie pull away from the door frame to walk down the hall. Mort hurried from the room. "Willie, you're a doctor," he said, taking Willie by the elbow.
Willie stopped and regarded Mort, who let go. "Mort. If there is another reason for you to delay me, I will listen. For now I am going to retrieve my wife and see to her care. As I have said before I don't care what happens to that snot-nosed brat."
"Well, you should seeing how your wife believes your involved with him, and what he brought into this hospital and what we found – so before I pull you in for questioning, I need to know, where the money went that your not telling your wife about."
"Tha's hardly any of your concern Mort. I would suggest that you stay with tha’ young pup while he's under an remember he needs his counselor there before ye begin to learn anything from him," shrugged Willie in the direction of the room. He watched Mort hesitate as he looked towards Brad's room, when Mort turned back to where Willie was, he found the corridor empty.
"How does he keep doing that?" wondered Mort.
Having a fair idea where Taylor may be, Willie strode down the hall to the waiting room next to the vending machines. Taylor was there with Donna. Both of them had stains of blueberry on their faces and smudges of crumbs down the fronts of their shirts. Their tall caffeine rich drinks were huddled in a mass of wrappers, and from the number of them Willie could see that they had a fair few between them. Taylor's eyes were closed in bliss as she slowly chewed a bite from a fresh pie that she had just opened savoring every morsel. Willie crossed over the room to stand beside her and gently lay his hand on her shoulder as he bent over and snagged the next bite as she raised it to her lips. Taylor felt the tug of someone eating her pie and looked across to see Willie eating a part of her pie with a curious expression on his face. While he had forbidden her to eat them during her pregnancy, he had admitted that he had never had them, and that they were not something to cross his lips any time soon.
Willie found his senses overwhelmed with the sweetness of the blueberries. In that single bite, he understood why she had desired them so greatly. He saw the hidden remains of the dill pickles and the marshmallow fluff - her chasers, as she called them, the combination of salty sweetness to take away the after taste of the lard crust. Taking the pie from her fingers he placed it on the napkin and took her hands.
"Wife, I've something to discuss with you," he said, taking the moist towlette to wipe the blueberry from her face and hands. There was no scolding in his voice, just weariness. He saw her nod once then followed him after excusing them selves from the room. Willie led her to the elevator in silence, then pushed a button for one of the top floors after inserting a key. When the door opened, Willie handed her a paper air filter mask, and a hard hat that was in a box at the side of the elevator. He slipped one on his head as well, then escorted her past the draped plastics that kept the dust down.
"What is this place? Wasn't this area closed because of lack of funding for the hospital?" she inquired curiously. She saw Willie nod as he waved to one of the workmen.
"Oh, aye it was," he said, taking her to the far open end of the floor to look back on everything.
"What's this all about Willie?" She saw him draw in a breath before exhaling slowly. There was something that was troubling him greatly, she knew him too well.
"Don't ye know by now, Wife?" Willie took her hand in his lifting it to his lips he kissed the back of it. She shook her head not knowing what to expect.
"Well then, I'll tell you. It had always been a right concern of mine, an Gram’s to care for the wee ones who ha’ little to no chance at all. In time, they may ha’ managed something, but they would ha’ lost many innocents in the process. There was no way of keeping them warm after they were born save placin’ them near the ovens, no way to help them along on the first days of their life except by the way other babies had been cared for. When I first, started to look around at the hospitals near us, the closest one would ha to be Portland's for any type of care that our wee ones would need. If things went right, it would be a harrowing ride there, an if it all went wrong, I would lose ye all. I had a word with Seth, and he said that while the
hospital here had space, they didn't ha the funding for such a venture. There things were outdated, and people lived or died by what they managed to do on their own. Aye, they had a critical care unit, an they ha helped Jordan- but there were things – other things tha’ the hospital didn't ha that could have helped her better. So, I had a word with your grandfather, and together we came up with a plan to help out the hospital, an the community an give, our children a chance when they are born. He's matched the funds that I ha’ put into this project, an while this seems like a grand empty room now – it will be the new neonatal care center for the hospital. We've
already made purchases of new equipment…" he paused seeing the frown on her face.
"How long have you been doing this?" she inquired tilting her head. Her voice was low, and he couldn't read the emotions in it.
"Oh, since we got back. They've put some of the things that were purchased to use already, Ruthie spent her first few days of life in one of the new incubators, they ha’ one, an the chances are having two babies who may need one, well, aye, the other was in use when she came. Even Frank, when we needed to do the microsurgery last night. Imagine a pair of scissors that can be directed to where you need them to be with a tiny twist, an cut so small that the next thing it does is deliver a tiny drop of a type of sealer the body will absorb when it all heals up. That one pair of scissor would cost several thousand dollars, but it would help the person heal faster, and ha less trauma to the body an it could get to places that other scissors could never reach with out cutting through more tissue than what needed to be. I wanted all of this to be done afore I told you, but seeing how you had thoughts I was spending the money on things of a different battle, I thought you should know."
Taylor heard the hurt in his voice as he lowered his head to gaze at the floor. Glancing about she saw double doors to a balcony outside. Taking his hand she lead him outside and made sure they wouldn't be locked out, she closed the doors and leaned against the rails.
"Husband, Oliver found enough, weapons and C4 and, other things to outfit a small army. Mort found information, and on some of the pages of the files, were terms in Gaelic, cities in Ireland were where some of the guns came from. The earliest date was from the time you arrived in the states to close up the shops. There was a massive amount of money that went into those things. At first – well, I thought it was Fordham’s connection with this town, or maybe Earl had something to do with it. The gun purchases continued after their deaths, though. There are only two people in Cabot cove that would have those types of connection, you, and George. There would be only one person, though, in Cabot Cove that could buy and bring in that many of them, and that's you… and the dates matched those on the account." Taylor stepped back as she saw Willie struggling to say something.
"How did you find them?" he asked finally.
"Oliver, found where Frank had been hurt, and tracked Brad to his locker, then to one of the lockers that held the gun, and she sneezed from the graphite. We went around to every place that she sneezed, and found them. You knew Sydney had been trained for gun oil, and that was the first thing I trained Oliver for. Most dogs wouldn't know it. Why, Willie? Help me understand."
"I can't, Wife…"
Taylor backed away holding her belly. "DON'T CALL ME THAT!" she gasped leaning against the rail. Gathering herself she continued "And don't come home."
Willie crossed the distance between them and placed both of his hands on her shoulders. "You will listen to me, Wife, before you decided that for certain. Aye, I purchased what you found there, have been for the last four years. I can't explain all of my reasons just now. I was sure to keep records of every purchase, and the numbers on the bills that were spent buying them. I've arranged with a number of banks to track that money, and to record the accounts that it goes to. Those who sold me the guns, aye, they saw me as a Mc who was going it alone to keep his clan safe. Did ye bother to look up, or ask what the gaelic meant? It says ‘disposed of.’ Once there was enough of them, there were arrangements made to put them in old crates and dump them into the deepest part of the ocean, an’ the salt water an’
graphite would cause the guns to become bits of rusty metal in a few hours. I was working to get the guns off of the streets and to a place where they couldn't harm any one anymore, an’ the C4 was there in case we had things so bad they needed to be destroyed in a hot fire."
Taylor tilted her head, not understanding.
"There are all sorts of weapons, wife. An’ I came across a fair few of them that couldn't be tossed in the water. C4 is a small hot blast that kills the bioorganics ."
"Who knew of this?" Taylor asked softly. Willie drew in a breath.
"Only the man helping me here in Cabot Cove, an’ his son. They made arrangements through Earl to gather any old crates - they told him it was for their bonfires on the beach, an he didna care. His son an he would take the guns out an’ dump them. They would ha’ been out of the school two weeks ago, but his son, was deployed after we were married, an’ then another order came in early. They were to be moved this weekend for sure. He was coming home an’ everything is prepared."
Closing her eyes she lowered her head then raised it to look him in the eye. "The guns that Brad had, that shot Harrison, came from that batch of guns. Mort followed the information that he found in the cell phone that was left in Tipper’s bathroom. That cell phone was owned by Brad, and the reason why Frank was beaten up. Willie, even though you didn't mean for this all to happen, it did. I don't know how you bought the guns, if there is a felony involved, but you could lose your license. I am suspecting there are things your not telling me ... still."
She saw Willie blink in confusion. "Cell phones? Ach na, we didn't use them. We ha our own tabors of communicating, through. It was our own, an even his son didna know the code we had made for when a shipment was ready, or when it was going to go out. If there was a cell phone involved, it wasn't of ours. An’ without speaking to the other one, I don't know about the person who started telling what was to be secret within the clan."
"Why didn't you tell me when I asked? " she said simply.
"If ye didna know, you couldn't be held for it, wife. Only the man who is helping me, his son, an’ … well Tipper knows. I had ta ask her about the effects of the metal and how to make the sea life take it over the fastest, an’ while I'm steady on much of the world there are things I wasn't sure of. She's of the clan."
For the longest time Taylor stood shivering in the brisk air. Finally she shook her head slowly. "For now, I think it best if you stayed at the shop, or a bed and breakfast. I'll give Donald a call later, and speak with him… and you will need to speak with Mort, or George ..."
Pushing Willie back she went into the neonatal unit and to the elevator. As she turned and the doors slid closed she saw his face, and the tears that fell from his eyes.
Tipper dusted off her hands and looked about. With George’s help they had managed to get a piece of plywood in the section where the freezer door had broken. While it wouldn't save the food behind it, it would preserve the unit’s integrity until another replacement could be obtained. George had dug the bullet out of the stone wall and packaged it for Mort. Seeing the keys on the dryer, she picked them up. "Ok, gang, we’re good here- I think its time to lock up, and head home. Who's hungry for pizza?"
Instead of a chorus of excited children she found herself looking at them as they exchanged glances. "What?" she asked. " Its past lunch and you need to eat something besides cocoa and chips."
"Uncle would have us eat something sensible for lunch," Emmie spoke up finally.
`Angela, I need a clan word with ye…' he had said as they walked along the path behind Mither's place to the barns to see the new kittens. Raising her eyebrow she nodded. She was still numb from the events, and something as normal as seeing newborn kittens was exactly what she needed.
`I'm listening,' she had said, curious as to how serious he was.
`I'm a bit involved in a project, an’ I want to be sure that it’s finished right. Sort of a reclamations back to the earth. I've great quantity's of steel that I want to reduce back to rust, an I've been using salt water to do it, but, its taking longer than I would like. What would aid it, an’ would it endanger the waters if, say, a ton or more went down in it?"
Shrugging, Tipper regarded him. "Any mineral, really. What's on the steel now?" She watched as Willie pressed his lips together. "High grade oil." It was said in such a way that Tipper knew what the oil covered. "Why?" she blurted at last.
"If I had my wits about me, an’ did this long ago perhaps …" he drew out a sigh. "I’m sorry, it’s wrong of me to ask this of you. I've taken a vow to protect life, an’ healing just doesn't seem to be all that I can do. Getting them off the streets, I can do that. Finding a deep hole where the sea tears them apart – I don't know of any other way to stop what happens Angela. I know I can't get every single one off of the face of the earth, but by the children that are to be, I want to lessen the chance that one will claim them."
"Graphite," Tipper said at last. “It gets over everything, and sticks to it. Not only will the steel rust, but things will grow from it as well." She sighed. "Are you sure about this?" she asked at last, watching Willie nod.
Mistaking her pause for lack of understanding what a sensible meal was, Patty patted Tippers hand. "Tis all right Dr. Tipper, Aunt Taylor has provisions in her cupboard that can see us through."
Nodding, Tipper counted heads, then shooed them out to lock up. She was puzzled when the keys on the ring didn't work.
"Maybe they were the old set? Or to his house?" inquired George. Tipper glanced at him nodding, then saw a set hanging behind the counter. That set fit.
"We can let Mort know we have these when we get to the house. Okay, you all know the drill, Patty, Ian up front and the rest climb in the back and strap in."
She looked at George who raised his eyebrow as he realized he would have to walk back up the hill. "I have some business to attend to here," he said with a small nod. Tipper glanced back through her rear view mirror and saw George looking long and hard at something he held in his hand. She knew it had to be the bullet that he had dug out of the wall. A fragmented memory came to the surface as she drove them up the hill to where Taylor's home was.
"No, I haven't found them yet, or who's responsible… Yes, this is a small town and three and a half tons of that type of weapons and the biohazards would be hard to hide… Yes sir, I understand the urgency with this, and it would have been a bit easier if the only contact that we had with this went overseas and out of our jurisdiction."
Exasperated. George turned to find Tipper regarding him with a slight raised eyebrow. "I will, as soon as I know." Even at the distance that she was at, Tipper could hear the sharp disconnect from the other side of Jessica's parlor. She had come to borrow a book on organic poisons she knew Jessica had. George had arrived unexpectedly with the children in tow for Willie and Taylor, but she didn't know he was still visiting.
"I have some business to attend to here," he said a bit stiffly. "And you would be well to handle this as if you knew nothing of the sorts.”
For a fleeting moment Tipper puzzled over what she had heard, not making the connection until George strode past her. Sitting down in the nearest chair she covered her face with her hands. She didn't know if to laugh, or scream. Willie said nothing of biohazards. No one from the town that she knew of was overseas- it couldn't be the same batch. From what Willie had said, he had been collecting the guns, and dumping them for years. She would have to get word to Willie that this would have to be the last batch- that they were on to him… But no one in the clan would tell. She didn't know where the guns were - she didn't want to know. She knew that if Willie was doing what he said then, well…Pressing her eyes closed she willed back tears. Faraday might still be alive. That had been the motivation she had had when Willie came to her for advice. She couldn't tell George. Willie would just have to finish this last one, and be done with it. With no trail to follow, he could wait, and maybe resume it in a few years. It couldn't be him though, it had to be the tree hugger group that they had encountered before. Willie just wasn't into that much, and it would cost a fortune.
`Damn, If I tell Willie what I over heard, then, what then? … I can't tell any one. Not til I figure this out."
Patty pulled out the key she wore about her neck, then saw Oliver on the other side of the door wagging her tiny tail. "Aunt Taylor must be home, but uncle must still have her car," she said, opening the door.
Tipper was the last to enter in the house, and saw the crumpled tissues that had missed the trash basket in the kitchen. Scooping them up to place them in the trash, Tipper felt they were still damp. "Patty, why don't you start that sensible lunch, the others can help," she said, moving through the living room then up the steps to the bedroom. She could see Taylor laying on her side through the open door and the shake of her shoulders informed Tipper that she was crying.
Closing the door she strode across the room and pulled up the chair to sit beside Taylor. Reaching over she gently placed her hand on Taylor's shoulder and squeezed it supportively. "Hey… Hey… You’ll just give the babies hiccups that way, you know…"
Taylor looked at Tipper, a coldness in her eyes. "Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you tell him it was a bad idea?"
Taking in a breath, Tipper knew exactly what Taylor was talking about. "Because I had just lost Faraday, and getting every gun off of the face of the earth was the only way I could feel hope again," Tipper blurted. Tipper saw the coldness leave Taylor's eyes to be replaced with a sadness. Tipper continued. "And Willie took steps to trace the money that was spent, and the accounts that it went into. The
government and Scotland Yard couldn't do what he managed to do - take over three and a half tons of weapons and get rid of them. I can't condemn him for that.”
"George knows about this?" Taylor asked, half sitting up in bed. She saw Tipper close her eyes.
"He… he doesn't know it’s Willie doing this. It could be the treehugger group that he is investigating, I don't know. How did you find out?"
Shrugging, Taylor laid back down again. "Mort and I found guns in the spare lockers at the school- they matched the information that was in the cell phone, but a good many of them are still unaccounted for. The guns that Brad used were from that list. I don't know if I want to hear how the sword ended up in Brad's belly, do I?"
"Not til you have something sensible to eat in you. So… what are you going to do?" Tipper asked carefully.
"I've put a call into Donald, and ... I've told Willie not to come home.”
Patrick McKee strode through the halls of the hospital, and used his key to access the upper floors where he knew the person he wished to see would be waiting. Pushing open the doors to the neonatal wing he watched Taylor come from the outside balcony, and saw the tears on both of their faces. The workmen nodded to
him. Inspections from the fire company were often about - there were many wires and systems that were exposed, and it was up to them to see that everything was meeting code.
Going out onto the balcony McKee saw the grief Willie was going through.
`Give a hand up,' the young intern had said to McKee as he worked his way through the rubble of the latest bombing. Reaching down McKee had pulled up a slight build fellow who wore a leather sack over his shoulder. McKee had recognized the sack as that belonging to a healer, one trained in the old ways. They were an odd team, one massively large, the other the size of a child, but between them they worked through the rubble and extracted one person after another. "I wish there was a way to end all of this, just- take them all and dump them into the deepest part of the ocean and let the waters do the rest," McKee had said as they folded the body bag over the shattered form of a young child. He found Willie looking at him oddly.
"Would ye help if there was a way, to protect you an yours?"
McKee thought of his sons, knowing the call to do the right thing, to serve was great in their blood. It was with a single nod of his head that he agreed, not knowing if Willie was a devil or an angel who had come on the earth.
They had worked out a silent code to communicate over lunch, in crowded buildings, and become so adept, like ladies who could knit in the dark, that they could be working the code and speaking about something totally different, and unless one knew to follow the workings of the fingers, it would go unnoticed. The first years were spent gathering information and contacts - it wasn't enough just to get the weapons off the streets, they needed a way to gather all of those involved in a large net, to prove where the money was being spent. At first there were a few dozen that they got, and renting a boat took them out to the farthest place they knew of, and tossed them over board. They had to change dumping places, and when Willie had discovered larger groups of weapons that could be purchased they knew they needed deeper waters. Colder waters so that the curious wouldn't find them on treasure hunting expeditions. They had used Cabot Cove because the old town had the type of old sewage pipes that a man could pass through. They could only move the guns during the summer, when there were a lot of boats coming and going and McKee with his sons on a fishing trip wouldn’t be noticed. His boat was small, yet, deep, and he would go out, dump the crates then bring back a few for the beach party that would follow. He had been at the school, finishing up preparations for the weekend’s dump when Mort and the others had arrived. He knew he could get out the door, but once it was locked he would have no way of getting back in. Taking a deep breath he gathered the pack of C4 and using gloves he placed it in the lock of the door. If necessary he would be able to go back later and get the guns, if he could, but he knew they would lock down the school. He was the janitor, he was allowed to be there- being a volunteer fireman too gave him access to other buildings, the emergency dispatch system, and access to the sewer lines that they used to go from the school down to the docks to get the weapons on the boat in the late night hours. He was careful to take all of the c4 with him, and to use the wipes Willie had created to get the smell off of his clothing. While they had no plans to do wrong with anything they had managed to find, people could think otherwise.
"(Bad?)” he tapped on the rail. He watched Willie nod once. "(How did Mort find out?)” he tapped.
"(Cell phone had pictures, and the records…)
"Damn." Breathed McKee. "Eric's phone." His oldest, Eric, had helped him without question to unload the guns, and to reload them on the boat. He wouldn't take his sons out though, too much of a risk if the boat was spotted. As for the last batch, he had been out at a fire, and Eric had just nodded, retrieving the guns from the sewer and bringing them up into the school with his brother Carl. Patrick had checked the next morning as he could, and all seemed in order. Eric had been called up to attend classes before being deployed. He was careful to go down the lockers with the wipes. His cell phone had been missing the next day, though he said he didn't know where it was, and when he had the chance McKee would check the lost and found and the grounds. He'd found it the night before, the battery dead on the lawn in the bushes. It had only been luck that he saw it shining in the moonlight, the night’s rains having made the surface reflective. It was by accident that the information even got on the phone. Eric had been showing him the wireless transfer of the unit, and it had downloaded the information from the computer they were using to keep the records on in a heartbeat. He said that he had deleted them. But the odd look his son gave him later- he didn't know. The cell would have to go down with the guns as well.
"(Brad Jamison… Did Eric know him?)” tapped Willie. McKee nearly fell to his knees. He felt the surprising strength of Willie’s hand catch him, support him and guide him to where there was a cinder block to sit on.
"Aye," he breathed, then realized why Brad was there, and the guns that had been found.
"(They haven't connected you. I will na give you up,)" Willie tapped on his knee. “(If we can, we move them this afternoon, the way they came in, if we can.)"
Mort followed the directions the staff nurse had given him, getting up to the neonatal ward in time to see Willie sitting on the balcony with a fireman on a cinder block. The men were deep in discussion, Willie's hand moving with a nervous twitching. Opening the door he heard Willie asking about the structural damage to the shop, and the repair options. The fireman nodded to Mort, then told Willie he would get the information for him and deliver it later. Mort watched as the burly man moved with quiet ease across the floor to the elevators before taking the same cinder block he had been sitting on.
"You could have told me that a team from Portland would be coming to work on Brad," he said dryly.
"You're a smart man, Mort. I'd been in surgery for the whole night an’ then just with Harrison. The resection that Brad needs would take half a day. I couldn't do that an’ not make mistakes.”
"Mmm… What does ‘Mill creach’ mean?”
Willie looked at him directly and said in a soft voice, “Diúscrófar iad trína milleadh ar mhodh a chinnteoidh nach ndéanfar difear dá rúnmhaireacht agus nach mbeidh a n-ábhar infhionnta; they shall be disposed of by being destroyed in a manner which ensures that their confidentiality is not affected and that their contents are not ascertainable."
"Are they?" Mort asked, tilting his head.
Willie didn't answer at first. "You'd want proof, an’ names, an’ I can only tell you that this is far larger than what you’re able to deal with. Even George can't help."
"Seeing how he's involved with your aunt, he would do what he could so they might not throw the book at you, I suppose. But…" Mort shrugged before he saw Willie shaking his head.
"George has his own reason for being here, and while it may tie into what you've uncovered, it will lead him on a path he won't want to follow. Aye, I'm involved, an’ if you take me in to make the law feel better it won't help matters. I'm na asking for favors in this, only time so that it can be completed. An’ the end did na come because it was found out - it came because of what was found out.”
There was no deception in his eyes, Mort had seen desperate men, men who had faced death, men who were cold blooded killers. Willie's eyes were unblinking, red rimmed and filled with a great sadness that he could only guess the depths of. Taylor had used a taxi to go home, not wanting Mort to take her - he had seen her leave, the evidence of her tears. Whatever Willie had said had broken her heart. She had discovered what he was doing, had been troubled enough by it to tell Mort and it placed him in a peculiar place.
"It goes beyond what any on of us can get to," he said to Willie at last. "Did you know when you started this?" He watched as Willie breathed out, then in slowly.
"Not specifics. Mort, I'm afraid for Taylor, and the children now, an’ for you an’ everyone else who has worked their way through this. It was thought if there was one less, perhaps the children could live another day."
"How did Brad get a hold of three of them? And armor piercing ammunition?"
The confusion on Willies face was genuine. "There were no ammunitions with them. We knew that we couldn't dispose of that with out harming something. This is far from a simple answer Mort. Will ye be locking me away tonight? If so, I still ha’ to stop an pick up a toothbrush. Wife no longer wants me to come home. I don't
know how she will manage the children on her own, or the triplets when they come. You can lock me up forever if you like, but, na seeing them again, not having her love in my life, is far worse than any court could do."
The library’s computers were by far the slowest things George had ever accessed. The only ones they had which had enough memory to handle the type of work he was doing were the ones on dial up. The high speed wireless ones had been taken down by a particular virus they couldn't isolate, one that had hit them so hard it left most of the main frame computers crippled. Things were slowly coming back up
on line. Glancing at the down load logs for the computer he was on, George saw something. A program had started to download, but because of the dial up connection it would be 2 hours and 50 minutes before it was completed. Peeking inside, he knew what it was.
Sighing George disconnected the modem. "Damn," he muttered to himself. Reconnecting the modem, he saw that the download of the program had been halted, and was trying to restart. Pulling out his thumb drive he placed it into the usb port and instructed it to download to that instead. Some one was making things difficult. The virus was a seeker - it would find any reference to certain information, and delete it. He had a fair idea that it had a connection to the Razor phone that Mort had mentioned. Accessing the records of the computer, he did his own search of the computer’s history and found a website url that was listed as Brad's Boogie Joint. Taking a breath he clicked it, and was taken to a page that said Parent Directory. There were hundreds of pages. Clicking one, he opened the picture and sat back. The only way that the site had been saved from the virus was that Brad had taken the time to change the names of the items to nonsense words. He clicked another link. This one caused him to lean forward and adjust his reading glasses. They were bank account numbers, with the listing of bills, the trace of where each of the bills went, and the names of the people that were connected with the accounts. George swallowed. The information terrified him
as a person, and outraged him as an officer of the law.
A quiet click on the computer informed him the download was complete, did he want to install? George removed the thumb drive and pocketed it. Rebooting the computer he used the virus removal tool to discard the exe codes for it, then sat back with a sigh. He needed to see to things. He knew who he could trust, but those people wouldn't be able to help at all. Involving them would only bring further difficulties.
Going back to Jessica's place he pulled his suitcase from the closet and began to fold his cloths. He heard a quiet footstep behind him, one so familiar that it hurt to turn around to face its owner.
Jessica stood in the doorway holding his cell phone. There was a look on her face that he couldn't read, beyond that she was disappointed in him.
"Ah, so you found it," he said, not moving.
Jessica nodded. "It fell out of your coat pocket when I went into the shower this morning. Thinking it was one of the children's toys I opened it up… and I saw the text messages. How long had you planned on using me to investigate this?"
"Jessica, that was never in the plan. My feelings for you are honest. It was by chance that this case lead me here, and I had no choice in the matter. I still don't. I can only tell you that you must forget what you have seen in there, and tell no one."
"That you're a gun smuggler?"
"Dearest, those aren't all of the files. I've only just learned of others that weren't in among those, and well, needless to say, you are in harm’s way from those who want the truth to be suppressed. If there is any clue as to what this all means, open the phone and try to access the photos."
Jessica blinked back her tears as she flipped open the phone and clicked the slide show button. A blue screen and NO IMAGES FOUND came up. She looked at him. "They were there…"
He nodded. "I know. If they exist again, its because the original name was changed." He held up the thumb drive. "This has the program used to wipe out the information. It was downloaded while I was researching the bullet that went through Harrison Bishop, and it has the IP address of the people who wrote and sent the virus out. While the information has been wiped out, someone took great pains to preserve it as well. Their lives are at risk as well."
Crossing the room he kissed her gently. "I don't want them to trace me here. They wouldn't care if you’re famous, you would be found in a way that natural causes would be listed on your death certificate, and I couldn't bear to know I was the cause of it."
Jessica leaned against him. " Before you go, you need to speak with Taylor," she said softly. "I… I will finish packing for you."
Ian sat on the steps of the deck regarding the plants that grew under the wide cheese cloth cover that protected them from the birds and the deer. He glanced up as a shadow fell over his path.
"Budge over," Willie said softly as he sat beside Ian.
Ian wiped his face with the back of his hand. "I suppose, ye need a word with me, about what I said to Aunt Jessica… I heard you telling George ye would."
"Ah, well, that… I won't scold you for speaking the truth, only that as a proper young man, those things are not spoken of to the lady folk. Molly told me what ye said to her this morning, an all that happened. Ye are very brave, to have done what you did. An’ I need to ask ye to be a bit more brave when I say what I must. I… I need to be traveling a bit, to finish things up. I don't know how long I will be, but I would ask it of you to take care of the Clan while I'm gone."
"The whole Clan?" Ian goggled.
Willie nodded. "Gram may be coming in a few days to help Wife. If I don't come back, Ian, it’s nae from lack of loving you all. It’s because I'm na able. I.. I did some things with good intentions, and it led down a path I couldn't get off of, an the end of the path isn't the safest of journeys."
"Do ye ha to go to the… the place where Granpa Toot is?" Ian asked.
Willie shook his head. "No," he said carefully, "but if I am able to finish this path right, those who are at the wrong end of it will be punished properly."
Ian studied him "Tha's brave of ye. Aunt Taylor doesn't understand, does she?"
Willie kissed Ian's forehead. "No, she doesn't. It's safer for ye if I go, and go I must."
Ian wrapped his arms about Willie's body and gave him a hug. For the longest time Willie held him then wiped away Ian's tears. "Men do cry," he said at last.
Standing up, Willie went into the house and up the steps to where Taylor was laying on the bed with Emmie and Margarita curled next to her.
"George was here," Taylor said softly, blinking back her tears. "He said he found the same lists that Mort had, and that he knows a lot of the people on the list. That your work uncovered some things that were …" She stopped, not able to continue.
"Wife, the last of the things hit the bottom of the sea half an hour ago. Save for three of them that Mort has, and maybe they would be enough as proof to tie things together. What started as a noble plan became something more that couldn't be stopped. I'm going back with George, to gather the rest of the proof. I don't know if my life will be done an’ over before I hit the shore, but I must go… I need you to know that I ha’ loved you from the moment I saw you, an’ I will always love you. If it comes to past, tha’ I canna walk on the earth with ye I will ask the Angels to let me walk beside ye for the rest of the time, if ye’ll have me."
Taylor gulped back her tears. "I will split sea and sky if you do not return to me," she said at last.
Willie gathered her up in his arms, hugging her as their tears mixed. Pressing his lips one last time to her belly he looked up at her. "I will be with ye when the wee ones come to this world," he said at last. He gave Emmie and Margarita a kiss, then hugged Patty and Shauna and Ian as they came into the room. Tipper stood in the doorway blocking his exit. She hugged him tightly then watched him go down the steps. She knew he had to travel fast and light, and as the door closed behind him she went to Taylor with the children and sat on the end of the bed. Taylor gave a wounded cry as George’s car left the curb. Tipper watched the children hug her as she let her grief go.
George’s call to his supervisor was brief. He had discovered the first physical proof of the weapons, and just as he was accessing the information to confirm it, a virus had wiped out all traces of it. He was waiting for instructions. There was a sigh at the other end, then, "Come home, then."
He looked at Willie. "Are you sure about this? There isn't any evidence link now…officially."
"Our paths crossed in this for a reason, George. It’s what we can do to make it right, and safe."
George nodded. The parting with Jessica had been bitter sweet. The words that he had with Taylor had informed her that Willie had done the extraordinary, but they would have to finish it in their own way. "Right, then," he said, closing his cell phone and dropping it into his pocket.
McKee sat back on the edge of his boats rail regarding the twilight, waiting. He knew Mort was a smart man. He knew that the tapes in the office would show him dropping the guns down the main drain . Lucky that they had taken the guns to the
Gym - it saved him time and trouble to locate them to get them on the cart they had constructed to get the things through the tunnel as fast as possible. Shame of it was, the cart was now in the bottom of the ocean, as was his son's cell phone. Even the gloves that he wore and the clothing he had used were all gone.
He saw Mort striding down the docks to his boat. Pausing, he regarded McKee. "No fish?" he asked, bemused.
McKee shrugged. "Not the right bait, I suppose."
For a moment Mort regarded him. "I pulled the tapes, when the guns went missing. All that I could see was a blob on the lens. Guess they need to be cleaned…"
"Good job for the Janitor to do." He nodded, watching Mort's expression.
For a moment Mort didn't say anything. "Four years ago, I found myself wondering who in this town I could trust with my life. Nightshade had taken over so deep, I didn't think that Cabot Cove would be the same. I learned about loyalty, and what was important to protect the children. I'm,glad to know, there are others who share that with me."
Tipping his cowboy hat slightly, Mort wished McKee goodnight and strolled down the docks whistling a nameless tune. McKee closed his eyes, feeling, suddenly glad himself.
End part One.